Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Car of the Day

May not be slick, may not be fancy, and I'm not sure about the colors, but at least it's not another silver Honda. I like the chrome tailpipes under the rear fenders, nice touch without a lot of work. I wonder why the purple is flat instead of gloss. Is that the new thing? The roof has some kind of complicated design, I didn't get a good look at it. The white streak across the middle is on my windshield. Sorry about that.

Graffiti Hits the Mean Streets of Jackson School

Isn't it nice here in the Pipeline? Well, I guess. Found written across a nearby intersection. Have no idea what they are talking about, but then I'm not up on the latest gang lingo.

Fast and Furious

Fortune has a story about the BATF's Operation Fast & Furious. It starts with the premise that we do not want guns smuggled into Mexico. That seems like Mexico's problem to me. If they don't want guns smuggled  into their country, then it is up to them to do something about it. Now as the USA and Mexico are nominally on good terms, they might ask for our assistance in this matter, and perhaps that is how Fast & Furious got started: as a favor to a friend. On the other hand, if we want to prevent guns from being smuggled out of the USA, then that's our problem, but that's not what people are saying. Everyone is saying "stop guns from being smuggled into Mexico".

I've read some of the gunnies rants about the BATF, and I wouldn't be surprised if the NRA (National Rifle Association) was aiming for the complete elimination of that agency. I dunno what the BATF does exactly, but how many police forces does this country need? I mean you have your local, county and state police, and then you have the alphabet soup of Federal agencies: the FBI, CIA, NSA, TSA, SS, BATF, and I imagine there may be couple of dozen others.

Then there are human rights. The right to bear arms is enshrined in our Bill of Rights, but the USA is one of the few countries in the world that allows ordinary citizens to own guns. What about all the other people in the world? Should they not also have that right? Take Mexico for instance. Presuming that guns are prohibited in Mexico (otherwise why would we even be having this discussion?), that prohibition has not done much to stop the bloody drug cartel warfare that is going on down there. Maybe Mexican citizens should be campaigning for their own second amendment.

And lastly there is whole business of illegal drugs. But I've already talked about that today.

Hat tip to Burro Hall.

Powers That Be

I'm reading the Christian Science Monitor's story about Obama Versus Aliens from other planets, and I suddenly realized that while democracy is a powerful force, it isn't the only force loose on this planet, or even in this country. I also started reading John Le Carre's Single & Single last night, which includes this little bit:

so that might have something to do with my revelation as well. The book dates from 1999, so the figures are a little obsolete. There are many areas that "public opinion" does not pay any mind, and when nobody is minding the store all kinds of criminal activity can flourish.

Hat tip to Tam for the Obama link.

A note about typographay: I used my camera to photograph the above passage, then Picassa and MSPaint to create the final image. I also found the passage using Google Books, but the typeface they used was funny:

I suppose it is readable, but I didn't like it, so I went with my hand cobbled version. I wonder if Google's choice of typeface is an attempt to foil OCR (Optical Character Recognition) programs.


A while back I saw a story about how the airlines have never made any money, except for Southwest. (Here's one story, not the one I remember, but it covers the main point.) Oh, some of them may make money some years, but overall the airlines have lost 60 billion dollars since deregulation.

I was talking to my daughter about airline ticket prices not too long ago, and she was concerned about a $100 price difference in a ticket to Argentina. The deal was something like $1800 if you fly direct, or $1700 if you have a 37 hour layover in out-of-way misery land. I explained to her that if airfares were still regulated the fare would be more like $5,000 and so she shouldn't quibble about the $100.

Then I got to thinking about it, and I realized it wouldn't take a 250% price increase to alleviate most of the petty annoyances of air travel. (I'm talking about things like leg room, sit width, decent food, free baggage checking. I'm not going to even touch airline security, I'll leave that to Jennifer.) 10% would probably be more than enough, and would probably allow the airlines to make a profit to boot.

This says something about the people in the airline business, though I am not sure what. Once upon a time I heard something along the lines of "airlines are sexy". I never understood that, except that stewardessess are usually young, attractive women, who I find sexy. Maybe it's the engineer part of me, or the part of me that doesn't like crowds, or maybe it's just that I don't like sitting still for hours on end, but there is nothing I like about being a passenger on a commercial flight.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chinese Astronauts Return to Earth

Chinese astronauts return to Earth

It isn't obvious at the beginning but the spacecraft is being supported by a parachute, it is just out of the camera frame for most of this clip. This happened about an hour ago. From MSNBC Via Google News.

Update March 2018 replaced missing video.

Cool, Cooler, Cooliest

Hey, look! It's a heat sink shaped like a fan, or it's a fan made like a heat sink! Yes, it's two devices in one! It's a combined heat sink and fan for personal computer CPU chips. Now wait a minute Bucky, if this thing is rotating, which it is, how do you get the heat from the CPU (which isn't rotating, being as it is connected to the motherboard by a couple hundred wires) to this fancy schmancy new combo heat sink and fan? That's the trick, isn't it? I read all about it, and I'm still not sure. This is what I got: there are two parts, the rotating heat sink and fan combo, and the stationary part, which is basically a flat heat pipe that sits on top of the CPU. The heat pipe is really flat, and the bottom on the impeller is also very flat. The two parts are separated by a very small gap, about one one-thousandth of an inch (0.001") and somehow the heat from the CPU is transferred across this gap. Whether it is by radiant energy or by convection I am not sure, but they seem pretty confident that it works. Might start seeing them in everyday computers before too long. From Scott.

National Tau Day

If Dustbury can flak for Rebecca Black, then I can do the same for Vi Hart. Meanwhile, I came across this little bit in Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World:

Of course, it isn't practical, you can't make a mark that exact with any existing technology, or for that matter any possible technology.  In about ten digits you are down to the size of an atom, after that you would be splitting atoms, which would pretty much destroy the toothpick.

This got me thinking about irrational numbers in general. No matter how many digits you have, you will never have the exact value, and any digits past ten are just a waste, you will never be able to translate them into a physical object. I suppose that is just one of the inherent limits of our linear model of numbers.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Drove down to Eugene yesterday to assist younger son in relocating to new digs. Took a couch down, brought a chair and desk back. Stowed them in the very front of the bed of the truck and tied them down. By the time I got home they had managed to slide back about a foot, still tied securely to the bed of the truck. 75 MPH for a couple of hours did the trick, even though the top of chair was just barely sticking up over the top of the cab.

Roberta put up a post about the Dorking Chicken the other day, so when I saw who made this mail box thingy by the front door of the new compartment, I had to take a picture.

I took they gang out for dinner at McMenamins, which is a pretty typical, except we usually go to the one near campus. Turns out they have another one that sits right on the river. Cheeseburgers are $10, but we sat out on the deck along the river which was pretty nice.

Why is it . . .

that whenever you drop the hose nozzle on the ground it always lands handle side down and sprays you?

Banksters = Criminals?

I flip flop on this issue, depending on my mood and whether I like the presenter or the presentation. Sometimes the banksters come off sounding like criminal scum, sometimes they come off sounding like heroes who managed to keep the economy running in spite of everyone else's gross incompetence. Could it be because some bankers are honest and some are crooks? Nah, that couldn't be the case. Whatever.

Then Scott sends me a link to this story in Rolling Stone:

This sounds kind of like the story I heard last month, but it's not. This one doesn't make any sense:
The banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes – from "virtually every state, district and territory in the United States," according to one settlement.
Towns don't earn interest on municipal bonds, they PAY interest on the bonds they sell, so on the face of it, it sounds like the banks were conspiring to save money for taxpayers all over the country. Well that can't be the case, because the government convicted them of being crooks. What is going on here?

The problem comes up AFTER the bonds have been sold. Say a town needs ten million dollars to build a school or a road or a water treatment plant. They sell the bonds to whoever wants to buy them. They take the ten million dollars they got from the sale and put in the bank until they need it to pay the people who are actually going to do the work. The problem is how much interest they are earning on their bond money while it is sitting in the bank, waiting to be paid out. Seems there is supposed to be an auction to determine who gets the deposit. Problem was that the banksters were rigging the auction. Took me half way through page two of the story to sort that part out. Bad Rolling Stone.

P.S. I somehow doubt that this bond business is worth $3.7 trillion dollars. That might be the value of all the bonds currently held, but the interest on that is only a few percent. Still, even one percent of $3.7 trillion dollars is a heck of a lot of money, like $37 billion a year. If you can shave one tenth of a point off of that you can still collect $3.7 billion dollars a year, which will pay at least a couple of executive bonuses.

Crazy Italians

Ducati makes high performance motorcycles. They are to bikes like Ferrari is to cars. They do things no one else would dream of doing, like using a whole bunch of bevel gears to drive the valves in their engine (picture). Note that the pair of gears in the center are your normal 45 degree bevel, but the angle of the three gears around the upper and right sides are more like half that, and helical cut to boot. Not something you are going to make in your high school shop class, if your high school had a shop class.

Hat tip to Stu, who posted a story about Tornax motorcycles, which switched from English JAP engines to German ILO engines after the Nazi's came to power. JAP I had heard of, but not ILO, so I had to go look it up, whereupon I stumbled across an ad for Phil Aynseley Photography, which led to this photo of the timing gears of a 1973 Ducati 750 Sport.

Giant Mechanical Man, Part 2

This one is just a static model, but Tam tell's me that they are going to animate it. Yee haw! Part 1 here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Optical Illusion

Hidden Text Optical Illusion

This amazed me. I could not see it until I squinted, and then it was obvious, and it was still obvious when I opened my eyes. For a second, and then it disappeared again. Weird.
Several other people on Facebook have reported back. Some were able to read it at first glance, others had a hard time. Jody wrote about her experience:
Yes, squinted the first time. Later the light changed, I walked into the room, squinted from afar and saw it at once. But today it had disappeared again for awhile. Then I moved back (more afar from the screen again) and the black text emerged. However, just this moment I looked again and only could see the white part. That's what it's about, seeing the white or the black. How this has to do with the brain, I can't imagine. Just now, I tried to focus on the black and couldn't get it again! Have I gone mad? (There's something eerily 3-D about it too. Recently I came across an Indian yantra that, when stared at, is said to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Maybe this exercise is jumbling my brain halves aound.)

Update February 2021 replaced missing image. Today the text in the image is obvious, I cannot not see it.

Books, Good & Bad

The Good

Last week I read The Black Tower by Louis Bayard. Detective story involving Vidocq, the French Revolution and Louis-Charles, maybe. Great story, hard to put down.

Now I'm reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami (warning: music starts playing automatically). After the crap I waded through earlier this week it is like a cloud of golden light.

The Bad

Downriver by Loren D. Estleman. It tries to be a hard-boiled detective story, but it just doesn't cut it. Not believable, and too much unrealistic dialog. I gave it up after a couple of chapters.

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill. Neurotic clap-trap. Meandering pointlessness. There is a murder, but I suspect he's going to take the whole book to get around to telling the story, and then I'll bet the protagonist is the killer. I gave up a third of the way through.

The Translator by Ward Just. Similar to Netherland, but there were a few bits of substance here. He does wander around a bit, and the wanderings are kind of interesting, and the story does seem to be going somewhere, but then at the end of the book he just falls in a hole. What the hell? Why would you write an entire book just to fall in a hole at the end? Fall in the hole in the first page and save us all a lot of grief.

General Tso's Chicken, Again

Does this stuff happen in waves or what? I wrote about this two weeks ago, and now Sarah Vowell is pointing me to the same story on n+1: Death by Degrees. The story makes a lot of sense, though there are a fair number of sentences that make no sense at all, but they do add to the entertainment value. The basic idea is that credentials have become more important than ability and are becoming a destructive force in our society.

I am wondering if maybe we are not just victims of our own success, and our ability to produce. Many people work 40, 50, 60 hours a week not because they need the money, but because they can and because they like the money. I suspect we could probably get along just fine if we were all only working 20 hours a week. Problem then would be finding something to do for all those people who used to be working 60 or 70 hours a week, something besides sitting around and cooking up trouble, which is what the unemployed do now, don't cha know?

Big Blue Bites

Many moons ago there was a saying that floated around business circles that "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM". Seems that's not the case anymore. IBM has been using their reputation to win service contracts and then not doing any servicing. Just take the money and run. Some dude by the name of Cringely writes all about it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Corpse Paint

File this under "things I did not really want to know". Younger son is headed to Bergen this fall. Bergen is in Norway, which is part of Scandinavia, which is home to a sub-genre of music know as "Black Metal". Some of the practitioners of this style of music paint their faces in a style know as "Corpse Paint". At least makeup washes off, not like tattoos, which seem to be becoming ever more popular, at least in this neck of the woods.

What American English sounds like to non-English speakers

"Prisecolinensinenciousol, a parody by Adriano Celentano for the Italian TV programme Mileluci is sung entirely in gibberish designed to sound like American English."
From daring daughter.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Back window of an SUV, complete with windshield wiper. Nothing odd about that, but what's that thing on the upper left corner of the window?
Another miniature windshield wiper? Older son suspects a backup sensor, or a TV camera hidden behind the tinted glass. I just think it's weird.

At the Lloyd center parking garage there are foot prints on the sides of the concrete beams holding up the next level. At first I was wondering whether kids (it had to be kids, right?) had been putting their feet up there, or whether they were left over from when the place was under construction and these beams were being cast on the  ground on their sides. That would make these footprints darn near paleolithic. I mean, Lloyd Center has been there a long time. Then I realized that the beams were cast in place, so we can blame it on kids.

Mysteries of the East

I found this wonderful device at my cousins house. The two round objects on top are brass cymbals, or gongs. The three pieces of carved wood fastened together in the form of an H lying on its' side are separate from the stand holding the cymbals, but are firmly attached to the base. If anyone has any idea what this contraption is, we would love to hear from you.

Friday, June 15, 2012


I spent a couple of days laying low in Denver. I did not mind, it gave me a chance to recover from the long drive. When I first got off the freeway, I'm driving up Lincoln and I see this impressive building. Someone went to some trouble to give it a little more character than your typical big city high-rise. There are no other tall buildings near it, so your're going to have a good view from any room. I take it for a hotel, one that I am too cheap to stay in. Later I find out it's not a hotel, but the Beauvallon condos.

Here's the the capital building, or at least the gold dome.

I saw this sign while walking around downtown. I thought it was kind of odd. Why do they have the name of a TV show plastered in big letters on that wall? And why did they add "as to be"?

This truck was parked in front of my room. I don't know why it was chained to the post. I am not sure I want to know. My room was at the Day's Inn on Federal Way, which is on the other side of the Interstate from the Capital and all the cool people. This motel is more of a residential type place. There are families living in some of the rooms, little kids riding bicycles and scooters in the parking lot during the day. One man has a limousine and he is repairing bicycles out of his trunk. 

Ross and I had breakfast at Tom's Diner one day. If really reminded me of the diner scene from Pulp Fiction, no crazy hold-up couple with guns though.

Across the street from Tom's was this Pizza joint. I took this picture just for Tam.

Danger Zone Sale

I've been going to Scott's Post Hip for quite a while and this pile of books has always been there. It may have grown a bit over the years, but it was there the first time I came in, and it's still there, and as far as I know it's never fallen over. On the other hand, I've never touched it.

Scott's getting ready to close up shop. The used CD and book market just isn't cutting it. Everything is on sale for half price, at least through the end of the month.

Post Hip Cd's Plus

Multnomah Village, Southwest Portland
7868 SW Capitol Hwy
Portland, OR 97219

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cabin Porn

Cabin on Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, Washington.

Scott sent me this link to page of pictures of cabins. Some are modest, some are serious.


Vi Hart put up a new video about Pythagoras and a flaw is his worldview.

When she gets excited she starts talking fast, which made it a little hard for me to follow her, especially when she gets to the nitty-gritty about how the square root of two is irrational, so I transcribed that bit, starting at the 5:38 mark (P is the Pythagoras voice and V is Vi playing the spoiler):
V: Just that you know an odd number like seven isn't going to be it without even trying. An odd number times itself gives an odd number of squares, so whatever this number is it can't be seven, it has to be even.
P: OK, so the hypotenuse is even. That's fine.
V: So what if I prove the leg is even too?
P: Then it's not in simplest form. Any ratio where both are even, you divide by two until you can't divide any more because one of them is odd and then that ratio is the best. I thought we assumed we were talking about the simplest form ratio.
V: We are. If there is a ratio in simplest form at least one of the numbers is odd and since the hypotenuse has to literally be divisible by two then the leg must be the odd one. So what if I proved the leg had to be even?
P: You just proved it's not. It can't be both.
V: Unless it doesn't exist! What you forget, Pythagoras, is that if this is the square then the two sides are the same. Just as this is divisible right down the center, so too is it divisible the other way. And the number of squares on this side, which are the number of squares in just one leg is an even number and for a number of squares to be even what does the number have to be, Pythagoras, oh my brother?
P: If leg squared is even then the leg is even, but it can't be even because it's already odd.
V: Unless it doesn't exist!
So there are numbers besides whole numbers and rational numbers, there are also irrational numbers, which says something about our worldview, but I'm not quite sure what.

P.S. Hippasus is the name of the spoiler who Pythagoras might have killed.

Quote of the Day

Day 14, aboard the Suburbia et Suborbia, somewhere over Lower Ohio - Every hour, the howling and grabbing becomes worse, and it is all over bacon grease. On the zeppelin's main deck this morning, two of them were fighting over a cooked sausage skin while neglecting essential work. I fear I have fallen into the hands of cheesemongers and incompetent monkey smugglers. I will never book a flight through Ed's Bait & Travel again. Never! - Roberta X in a post titled Diary Entry From A Parallel World
Not just cheesemongers, but incompetent monkey smugglers as well! Could things possibly be any worse?

Oil Stats

California Bob reports:
Interesting oil stats: US pumps 25% more oil than it did 4 years ago (thanks to fracking?); US has reduced oil imports from 60% to 42% over the past decade; North Dakota over past couple years has leapfrogged California and Alaska to become 2nd largest producing state -- no doubt an economic boom has happened there....
He attached a link to a Yahoo! news story: Relief At The Pump Hinges on Iran (Beware: video starts playing automatically.)

I responded with a local story that places the blame squarely on those Yahoo!s in California, like Bob:
Oregon, Washington gas prices continue to fall as report raises suspicions of market rigging

Tuesday's News

The downside of being able to cram a zillion lines of communication through one little fiber optic thread is that when it gets cut, the whole world gets disconnected. Our man on the spot reports:
A cut fiber optic cable south of Dubuque caused me to lose the ability to print to a printer 50 feet from my desk. All [company redacted] employees were sent home to work from their personal Mediacom cable connections, those with Qwest & ATT cable at home were outa luck and could not work. Also 911 & ATMs were down with all Qwest telephone and all [company redacted] connections to the outside world. I don't have at home cable so I stayed and cleaned out my desk, till service was restored 4 hours later.
Bonus: I got to use [redacted] just like the cool kids from the alphabet jungle (FBI, CIA, NSA, etc.).

Monday, June 11, 2012


A seamount if basically an underwater mountain. If it is tall enough to break the surface of the ocean we call it an island.

Tam got me started on this one. She's talking about geology and islands, which leads to the Great Meteor Seamount, which make me wonder how it got it's name. Did a meteor fall into sea nearby? Did someone see a meteor about the same time as they discovered this lump in the ocean floor? No, it was named after the ship that discovered it in the early 20th Century: the Meteor. More poking around leads to this really cool sonar recording of the Nashville Seamount, which is about 1700 miles to the WNW.

Note that the scales along both the X and Y axis are not in distance as you might expect, but in time. The horizontal axis is marked in hours of the ship's travel time. Each division of the horizontal scale is about 12 miles. The vertical axis is marked in the number of seconds it takes sound to make a round trip to that depth.

The speed of sound in seawater is about 1560 m/s (meters per second) which is not quite one mile per second. That is about four times as fast as it is in air. Since each division of the vertical scale represents one second, and we are talking about round trip time, this means the distance between index marks on the vertical scale is about one-half mile. The vertical scale is expanded relative to the horizontal scale by a factor of about 24 to one.

The difference between the top of the seamount and the base is a little over 4 intervals. At one-half mile per interval means this seamount is sticking up something more than two miles (or 10,000 feet) from the bottom of the ocean floor. I guesstimate the length of the rise is about one hour, or 20 kilometers, or about 12 miles. Which means the average slope of this underwater mountain is about one foot of rise for every six feet of travel.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fault Finding

I find it a little strange how some things will trigger a 47 tab Wiki-wander and eventually lead to a post like this one, while most stuff just slides off my plate (pate?) unnoticed. If anyone ever notices a pattern to my ramblings, be sure and let me know what it is. In any case, Dustbury got me started on this one with his post about a high school commencement speech.

The speech was given by some semi-famous, old, white guy at what must be some la-tee-da high school on the East Coast. I say semi-famous because when I first saw his name I thought of the blond guy on The Man from UNCLE, but when I looked him up I found that, no, that is not who we are talking about. David McCoullough Jr., the guy we are talking about has written several books, the first one was named The Johnstown Flood. Johnstown? There was a Johnstown near our farm in Ohio. Did they have a flood? Or maybe we are talking about Jonestown (drinking Kool-Aid has been on my mind today, and I'm still waking up, so you'll have to excuse me for getting the two confused). So I have to look it up.

Turns out we are talking about a flood that wiped out Johnstown, Pennsylvania back in 1889, when a dam 14 miles upstream failed. This led to a BIG change in how liability is interpreted:
After the flood, victims suffered a series of legal defeats in their attempt to recover damages from the dam's owners. Public indignation at that failure prompted a major development in American law—state courts' move from a fault-based regime to strict liability.
From the Wikipedia article on Strict Liablity
A rule specifying strict liability makes a person legally responsible for the damage and loss caused by his or her acts and omissions regardless of culpability . . . .
The law imputes strict liability to situations it considers to be inherently dangerous.
Which essentially means that if you do something inherently dangerous, and somebody gets hurt, it is your fault whether you intended for anyone to get hurt or not.

"Your intentions" are covered by the Latin term Mens rea, so I had to look that one up as well, where
I found this:
In Australia, for example, the elements of the federal offences are now designated as "fault elements" or "mental elements" (mens rea) and "physical elements" or "external elements" (actus reus). This terminology was adopted to replace the obscurity of the Latin terms with simple and accurate phrasing. 

That's the second time this week I've heard of something sensible coming out of Australia.


Went to a wedding reception last night where orange was a prominent color. The bride's older sister was wearing a bright orange skirt, the bride's father was wearing a bright orange tie, my wife was wearing a flowered blouse thing with several orange flowers, and the tables were decorated with large sheets of paper, the topmost of which was orange. I credit my noticing all this orangeness to Dustbury's continued posting of pictures of people wearing orange stuff, and what do I see when I open his blog this morning? More orange:

Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi Shankar

Friday, June 8, 2012

Bumper Sticker of the Day

OK, technically it's a window sticker, not a bumper sticker, still, I thought it was pretty nifty when I saw it. This isn't the one I saw, I didn't use zoom and by the time I got my pic blown up big enough to see the critters they were just big blobs of white pixels, so I stole this one from Furious Fanboys.

General Tso's Chicken

Dustbury has an interesting story about how this Chinese dish came to be Chinese. How the General his own self got to be famous is another story:
The Taiping Rebellion was a widespread civil war in southern China from 1850 to 1864, led by heterodox Christian convert Hong Xiuquan, who, having received visions, maintained that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ, against the ruling Manchu-led Qing Dynasty. About 20 million people died, mainly civilians, in one of the deadliest military conflicts in history. 
And here I thought the 20th Century had a lock on "deadliest".

Via Dustbury, Nancy and Wikipedia.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Because other people turned off word verification on comments, I thought I would try it. It worked, sort of. No spam comments appeared on this blog, but I was getting a dozen or so emails a day notifying me of Anonymous comments. That wasn't too bad, but I just went to clean out the spam trap and there were 250 spam comments in there. If you could delete them all at once it would be one thing, but you can't, you can only delete 50 at a time, and it takes a while, seconds, I tell you. So now I have turned on the stop-and-identify-yourself barrier, but word verification is still turned off. We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How to Make Friends and Influence Weasels

In the South Village,

on a domestic beef,

staring into the the eyes

of the aggressor

as she speaks,

I feel a series

of short, sharp pricks

racing up my right leg,

starting at my calf

and ending at my knee.

I glance down

to spot her pet ferret

trying to make

friends with me.

Stolen from Raindogblue, title and all.

Snow White and the Huntsman

The story was a little thin, but the visuals were stunning. The original is, what? Eleven pages in Grimm's fairy tales, there is no huntsman, but there is a sister and a dwarf. So it's been embellished, and it holds together pretty well. The dark forest with the poisonous and hallucinogenic fumes is properly wicked, as is Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna. The scene of her in the milk bath is entrancing, but I wonder if real milk would adhere that way? Or did they use some other liquid, like paint? I didn't care for the magic mirror, I think it could have been done better with a little voice inside her head.

The best part was a troop of mounted knights in armor. I don't know how many they actually had for the filming, but it looked like a hundred, and they were impressive. The castle was also very cool, but unlike the knights, it was computer generated. I would really like to see the plans for it, if anybody made any. It looks like it could be a very wonderful and complex structure.

Eastbound, Part II

You might think long drives across the American West would be boring, but there is always something to see. For instance:
  • John Day Dam. Those wires go clear across the river. Yes, those are windmills on top of the hills across the way.
  • Weyerhaeuser Poplar plantations. 
  • The aircraft radio beacon building. It's just the weirdest thing, this little white square building with the funny round tower on top, parked way out in the middle of a field. It's like a landmark. I saw another one somewhere else along the road.

  • Woodpecker Truck. The place has always been there. In years past it looked like it looked like a ne'r do well garage. Now it looks like a thriving enterprise stocked with hundreds of late model semi tractors.

  • The factory that looks like an alien installation out of a science fiction adventure, plopped down in the middle of nowhere. Actually a cement plant.
  • Snow fences. Miles upon miles of huge (8 to 10 feet tall) snow fences.
  • Road closed gates. Much like railroad crossing gates, but they go down right across the interstate, usually near an exit along with a warning sign to the effect that the Interstate is closed when the lights are flashing. Must have been one every 50 miles all the way across Wyoming and down into Colorado. 
  • Signs warning about high winds and light trailers. Might be why I didn't see many RV's. 
  • Speed limit signs in Wyoming have the number displayed in lights so they can change it as needed. They were all set to 75 when I went by.
  These roads must be a real adventure in the winter time.

Monday, June 4, 2012


I was thinking that an audio book would help pass the time on the road to Denver. I used to get audio books from the library and listen to them on my way to work. I did that until I had pretty much exhausted the Beaverton library's selection. But it's been a while, and besides I live in Hillsboro now, so they are liable to have some I haven't heard. When I find the audio books section in the new library I realize it's been more than a while, it's been an age. All their audio books are on CD's. They do not have a single one on cassette tape. Well, that's it for that plan.

Once I get out of Portland I set the cruise control for 75 MPH, which is ten over the limit, which is my standard cruising speed. I have gotten a few speeding tickets in my life, but they have all been for flagrant speeding. The last time I was going 75 in a 55 zone. I have never gotten stopped for going ten over the limit on the highway. I read somewhere once upon a time that cops won't bother you for ten over, it's within the realm of mechanical error, or it's arguable or something. City streets are another matter.

Blue Mountains in sight, Thursday May 24, 5 PM
All the way across Oregon and Idaho it's smooth sailing. Traffic is light. There isn't even any congestion going up the switchbacks into the Blue Mountains just past Pendleton, where things usually manage to get clogged up. I stop for the night in Twin Falls at a Days Inn.

Friday takes me South into Utah past Ogden and then East on Interstate 80 to Wyoming. That was two exits that I made just by the skin of my teeth (the other one was where I-84 turns into I-86 and if you want to stay on I-84, you need to take the exit). There may been warning signs miles ahead of time, but I missed them all. It wasn't until the exit was in my sights that I realized, oh! I better get over there. Fortunately I was aware enough that I was able to make it look smooth and well planned. It wasn't one of  those veer-across-six-lanes-of-traffic-and-clip-the-sign-post-on-your-way kind of deals.

Traffic was kind of heavy around Ogden, as you might expect. It lightened up a little as I approached Wyoming, but it never got as light as it was across Oregon and Utah. There weren't a lot of cars, and hardly any RV's, but there sure were a heck of a lot of trucks. I swear there were as many trucks as there were cars. And some of those truck drivers are a just a little inconsiderate. Back in the day I used to do a lot of cross country driving, and truckers seemed a little more on top of it. When one truck passed another, as soon as he was far enough ahead to pull in front of the passed truck, the passed truck would flash his lights to let him know there was room to pull back in. And it wasn't a lot of room, maybe 20 feet. Now they stay in the left lane, completely oblivious to the fact that they are holding up a whole line of cars. Okay, maybe just me. Still, it's rude. But that's nothing in comparison to these yahoos who take ten miles to pass another truck. They pull out and start to gain on the guy in front, but it's at the rate of a couple of feet per minute. Look dude, take my number and give me a call when you complete this maneuver. I'm just going to pull over and take a nap while you screw around for the next 20 minutes. Jughead.

And then there were the speed demons. About half of the cars were traveling upwards of 85 MPH. As the speed limit was 75, 85 should have been my normal speed. I must be getting old, or calm, because 75 suited me just fine. So now not only do I have to contend with ordinary trucks and rude trucks but I also need to watch out for speed demons. Don't want to pull out in front of one of those guys. One, it would be rude, and two, at these speeds it could be dangerous. I often found myself coming up on a truck, getting ready to pass, and then I look in the mirror and see a black dot rapidly getting larger, so I let off the gas and slow down till speedy flies by, and then we can go. So no more set-it-and-forget-it cruising.

Friday May 25, 3 PM Friday May 25, 5 PM
Wyoming was kind of depressing. The route the Interstate takes is the same route used by the Oregon trail pioneers, the Pony Express, the first transcontinental railroad, and the first cross-country highway. It's all at high elevation, over a mile high. The land is covered with sagebrush. There were the occasional oil and windmill installations, small towns and trains. I don't think I even saw any cows. I saw a couple of what looked like new housing developments. One was a small block of nearly cubical houses, what some people might call crackerboxes, another was just mobile homes. I suppose it's for the oil boom. I hope those people are making some money. It's certainly a grim looking location, but good pay could make it tolerable.

Two trains meet. 4 PM
Trains. Lots of trains, and not coal trains either. I probably passed a train going one way or the other every hour or so. Wyoming is so wide open there were places where you could see an entire mile long train at once.

I spent the second night at a Quality Inn in Laramie. It was a little spendy, but it was late and I was tired, and I didn't want to spend a bunch of time screwing around looking for a place that might only be 20 bucks cheaper. A little better planning might have saved me some money on lodging, but that planning ahead business, that's too much like work.

Friday, May 26, 10 AM
Once I got into Colorado traffic was thick and unpleasant. Downtown Denver appeared in a brown haze. Ross lived on Capital Hill, where there is no parking, much like any congested urban area: all the free on-street parking is taken, everything else is pay through the nose. Fortunately is was Saturday so I was able to find a place that was only a couple of blocks away.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Michael Moschen performs THE TRIANGLE

Roberta posted something that made no sense to me, so I tried to figure it out, which led me to this.

Windmills on the Way

I saw a bunch of windmills on my trip. I only took a couple of pictures because after you've seen a couple of thousand they all begin to look alike. I took these on the way to Denver. They are kind of grainy because they were taken at long distances without the benefit of zoom. What you see has been cropped from a much larger image. This first one is a bunch of windmills in the Columbia Gorge on the Washington side of the river.

This is a bigger bunch, much farther away in Wyoming. Yes, each of those little white sticks is a hundred foot tall windmill pylon. They were much more visible to my eyes. A camera is a poor substitute.

Installation is an ongoing process. Here is one blade being hauled down the road.