Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Friday, August 31, 2012

Baikonur, Part 2

Progress M-65 processing at Baikonur at MIK-KA, MIK-112 and launch pad. September 2008.

This video contains some scenes similar to the photos I posted in Part 1. I like the way they only show short segments of things is motion. The segments are long enough to show how slowly things are moving, but not so long as to become tedious. If they showed the entire process we would be here till next Tuesday.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cayenne Pow, Part 2


CAYENNE is considered by HERBALISTS to be a "Muscle~Food", 

cleansing and strengthening - feeding - the muscles or areas it is applied to ...

This is footage concerning the application and effectiveness of this Herbal Tradition,...

Part I here. From Sharon.


I'm reading Starman - The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin, and they're talking about Baikonur, and I realized that this is where our astronauts are catching their rides to the ISS (International Space Station). Baikonur is in Kazakhstan, which isn't even part of the USSR anymore. The Russians lease the place. Desolate does not even begin to describe the landscape. I do a little Googling and I find this U2 photo of a launch pad from 1957 on Wikipedia.

I look the place up on Google Maps, and after a bit of poking around (the place it really big), I find the same launch pad, orientation is different, and there are more buildings, but it's the same place.

View Big Science in a larger map

I do some more Googling and come up with these pictures of the launch site, which give you a slightly different perspective.

And lastly, because I'm such a good guy, some pictures of a rocket. Okay, they aren't all of the very same rocket, just similar models.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Lethal Legacy of World War II, Part II

Uncovering unexploded bombs left over from WWII is just part of everyday life in Germany. This one was uncovered on Monday in Munich when they razed the Schwabinger 7 bar.

Usually they can be defused and then hauled off to someplace safe for disposal. This one had some kind of chemical fuse, the same kind of fuse that was on a similar bomb that blew up in 2010 and killed three people when they tried to defuse it. So no, we are not going to try and defuse it, we will just set it off right where it sits.

That's 500 pounds of TNT being turned into kinetic energy. Shrapnel was thrown 300 yards, several buildings were severely damaged, lots of small fires started, windows blown out for blocks around. Preliminary estimates of damage are in the millions. Left a big hole in the ground.

Via Scott.

Update February 2016 replaced missing pictures with ones from my backup files. Never trust somebody else to keep valuable documents for you.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ink Jet Printers

    I like Costco. I find they generally have a limited selection of good quality items. Their selection is limited, but for what they carry it is generally adequate. They don't carry much in the way of specialty items. For those things you need to go to a specialty store.
    Dutiful daughter needs ink cartridges for her HP printer. She has at least one more term of school and expects to use the heck out of her printer. My advice was to go to Office Depot. Every ink jet printer in the world is different and requires a different cartridge and Office Depot has an entire department stocked with all nine zillion varieties of ink jet cartridges. Costco wouldn't mess with something like that, would they? Turns out they would, and a little research on ye olde internet reveals that the ones from Costco do if fact contain more ink, which makes their higher price worthwhile, assuming you are going to print a bunch, which she is, so Costco it is.
    We get to Costco and find the ink jet cartridges, and as expected the selection is limited. I don't think they had more than about 10 different packages, and they were all combo packs, like two blacks and one color cartridge per package.
    We are walking away and I realize that I need cartridges for my ink jet printer, so we back track to check, and what do you know? They have cartridges for my Canon Pixma as well. Cool.
    We are checking out and the cashier tells us that their customer service desk offers refills for ink jet cartridges. I am a little suspicious of this. I bought a refill kit once upon a time and the refilled cartridge leaked, which made a mess, which had to be cleaned up, and then I had to go buy a new cartridge anyway. So I have an aversion to refills.
    We get home and find out that my wife needs refills for her Dell ink jet printer. Dell, in case you didn't know, has a lock on supplying cartridges for their printers. Kind of annoying, but when the printer gets low on ink, you can just point and click, and presto, new cartridges are on their way to you (along with a charge on your credit card). This printer doesn't get used much. It only needs cartridges once or twice a year, it's been reliable, and the order process is painless, so we stuck with it. Until today.
    Today we can't order new cartridges. Our printer isn't listed on their website. Get onto their online help and chat with Mr. Roboto. He goes away for a bit, but eventually comes back to tell us that Dell no longer supplies cartridges for that printer. What!?!? This printer isn't even ten years old. It's hardly gotten broken in, and you've quit making cartridges for it? Bad Dell. I guess we'll be trying out Costco's refill service.

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong was in the paper this morning. I am not a big sports fan, but I know who Lance is. Bicycle racing is not a sport like basketball or football or soccer. There is no ball, there are no goals, the ability to dance across the field, upside down and backwards is immaterial. Mostly all it requires is strength and endurance. I've done some cycling, though I was never a competitor, and I still enjoy it, so maybe that's why I know who Lance is.
    The reason Lance was in the paper this morning is that the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency)(Who? What? never heard of 'em) is threatening to take away the medals he got for winning the Tour de France (a really big bicycle race) 7 (!) times AND get him banned from a sport he has retired from. (Who? What?).
    Lance says it's a witch hunt, and I agree. These yahoos at the USADA (Who? What?) had years to prove their case. They tried and failed, but they are still trying to prove it long after the fact. Don't you guys have anything better to do? Well, maybe not. Maybe they have been so successful in stopping steroid use that they  are hurting for publicity. Gee, that sounds kind of political to me.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Long Range Artillery

M777 Lightweight Howitzer
Six inch, light weight howitzer can hurl a bullet 22 miles. Well, not exactly. Notice the extreme elevation of the barrel. What it does is hurl the bullet five miles into the air where it deploys its wings and then glides toward its target, where upon it takes a nose dive. "Lightweight" means it is light enough to be carried by a helicopter. Some parts of it had to be made from titanium in order to make it that light. The "wings" are kind of stubby.

Excalibur Guided Artillery Shell
This "gliding" is more like a guy in a wing suit than a sailplane. Even though it looks like it should fall like a rock, it still manages to travel at least 4 miles horizontally for every mile it falls. Since those little bitty wings are not going to do much to keep it from falling, it must have considerable horizontal velocity. With the extreme elevation of the gun, it is not going to get much horizontal velocity from being fired, which means that on the way up, the wings are going to have to alter it's trajectory from near vertical to horizontal.
     It has a guidance system that makes it very accurate, which means that if you know where your target is, you don't have to fire more than one shot to hit it. The Marines love this shell so much they ordered a thousand of the things at something like $85,000 each.

Thanks to Scott.

Update April 2015: Replaced the picture of the howitzer on account of the web site it came from lost it.

Mt. Tabor

    Mt. Tabor is a park in the center of Portland's East side. It's not much of a mountain, it's more of a hill. It's covered with big trees. There is a road that winds around and gets pretty near the top. Yesterday evening daring daughter and I found ourselves on the East side with some time to kill so we took a little drive and ended up driving up Mt. Tabor, which reminded me of a couple of incidents that happened twenty years ago with my parents.
    My wife and I were living in Beaverton at the time and my folks had come to visit. There was a big flowering plum tree growing in the tree lawn out by the curb. It was a beautiful tree in the spring when it blossomed, but then being a real plum tree and not an ornamental, it produced plums. By the time my parents arrived the ground was littered with ripe plums that had fallen off the tree. Yes, yes, we should have picked them and bottled them or something, but we were both working and we had little kids running around underfoot, so the plum tree was ignored and the plums fell unwanted on the ground.
    This wasn't normally a problem because there was a street light there so even if you were outside at night, the plums were easy to avoid because you could see them.
     My parents arrived after dark and when I opened the door I noticed it was pitch black outside. Our faithful street light had chosen this evening to quit. Unable to detect the purple landmines lying in their path, my folks had walked right over them and into my house and tracked smushed plums all over the living room carpet.
    A day or so later, my folks decided to go do a little exploring and ended up on Mt. Tabor where they parked their car and went for a walk. When they returned to the car, they found that someone had broken one of the windows of the car and taken my mom's purse.
    Until yesterday I had never been to Mt. Tabor. I mean it's on the East side. I seldom go over there. And what was it with my parents? I have never seen such a pile of bad luck as greeted them when they came to visit. It was like an unholy alignment of the planets or something. Just really weird.

Le Samouraï, Part Deux

We watched this movie once before many years ago. This time I noticed a couple of things that stuck with me.
     The first is why the police inspector picked on our man (Jef Costello). Only one witness out of six identifies him as the shooter. Supposedly they had rounded up ten of the usual suspects from all 40 districts. Now it could be that none of the witnesses picked any of the other suspects, but with six witnesses and 400 suspects I would think there would have to be some false positives. But the inspector is sure our man is the shooter and proceeds to try and prove it. 
    The girlfriend provided his alibi and inspector wants to break it, so he takes a couple of his coppers over to her apartment to search it. While they are searching it, he proceeds to attempt to intimidate the girl into giving up her boyfriend. He is very convincing, but she is one tough cookie. She doesn't even quiver, she sticks to her story and sends the cops packing.
    Then there is the caged bird in Jef's apartment. When Jef returns to his apartment after the cops had broken in to plant a bug, the bird seems to be missing some tail feathers, and seems a little agitated. Same thing again when Jef returns again and the errand boy is hiding in the kitchen with a gun. It's a little hard to tell because, I mean, it's a bird, it's tweeting and hopping around anyway. Is it tweeting and hopping more than it was? Is it really missing any feathers? I mean, I didn't pay that much attention to it the first time we saw it, other than to notice that the director seemed to be spending an awful lot of time looking at this stupid bird.
    At the end our hero falls on his sword. Not literally, but the effect is the same. The first time I saw it, this didn't make any sense to me, but then the title didn't make much sense either. Now I think I have an explanation. The nightclub singer sees him just after he has done the job he was hired to do, which was to kill the manager of the nightclub. She gets called as a witness but then denies seeing him. As the movie rolls along, our hero figures out that the guy who hired him, and then tried to kill him, is her keeper. He has a shootout with his client and the client ends up dead, which means the cops are going to connect her to this whole thing, which will put her in hot water for lying. So our hero lays down his life to deflect the ton of trouble that would come crashing down on her. That's the way I figure it anyway. Kind of a big sacrifice for such a small favor, but I guess that's why it's called Le Samouraï. Crazy nips.


     Driving in downtown Portland is good way to kill a couple of hours, and that's if you're only going a few blocks. Any farther than that and you may as well write off the whole week. There's all the usual problems with driving downtown: lots of traffic, narrow lanes, random road closures for construction, big trucks sitting in the middle of the street. In Portland we also have "bus only" routes. But the one thing that makes it really hopeless is that the traffic lights are set to accommodate bicycles, which means they are set to 12 MPH (miles per hour). At 12 MPH I will die of boredom in two blocks.
    Sometimes you just have to sacrifice part of your life to get where you want to go, which is what darling daughter and I were doing the other day when a couple of kids (meaning under 30) stepped into the crosswalk in front of us just as the light turned green for us. Yahoos. I've been learning to watch for pedestrians and stop for them, so I just sat and waited for them to finish crossing the street before I took off, where upon I stomped the gas just enough to squeak the tires at them.
    My daughter chastised me for being rude. I countered that those two hadn't been paying attention, and not paying attention when you are walking around downtown can be fatal, so I was doing them a favor by letting them know they had crossed the line. She didn't accept that, she recommended her response, which is to yell  at them (as long as the windows are rolled up) and then forget about it.
    I thought about this and I tried to think of a better method of communicating with our two yahoos. I could have yelled and/or cursed at them (with my window down), but somehow that doesn't seem like an improvement. I could have called out a pleasant hello as I drove by, but somehow I don't think that would have told them anything. I suppose I could have stopped and taken the time to explain how they had nearly gotten kilt. That might have worked, but then again they might have just blown me off as some old fart messin' wit dem. Or worse yet, they might have asked me for a ride.


    My wife and I are not foodies. For me a nice meal once a month is plenty. I am perfectly content to eat the same thing morning, noon and night for six months until I am totally sick of it. Then I will find something else. For me Kentucky Fried Chicken is gourmet cooking.
    Daring daughter on the other hand likes variety, and especially variety in vegetables. Today we went to the grocery store and Hank's isn't good enough, we have to go to New Seasons. I hate New Seasons. It's all bright and cheerful, full of happy, smiling people, all fussing over food. Christ on a crutch, get me out of here. But she's my daughter so I gritted my teeth and bore it.
     I have to admit their prices on some things are cheaper than Hank's. Not many mind you, especially since there isn't much overlap between Vegan Heaven and Vegan Hell.
    Chicken was the interesting part. We were looking at meat. For a neanderthal like me, grilling is the only method of cooking. I mean I have heard of other methods of cooking, like boiling and frying and baking or roasting, but that generally requires using pots and pans, which isn't a problem so much as having to wash them when you're done, and I hates me some dish washing. So then, grilling. But grilling means good cuts of meat. You can grill cheaper cuts, but you might live to regret it. Cheaper cuts are generally tougher (or so I've been told). If you want to go to the trouble of cooking them in a pot in the kitchen you could probably make them tender and delicious, but I'm not gonna do that. So I want steaks, and New Seasons wants $17 a pound for steaks. Even with my inflation adjusting divide-by-ten rule, that still a dollar seventy a pound, which is more than my standard cut off of a dollar and a half, so no steaks.
    Well, how about some hamburger? Hmmmm, no, oh, but look! We have cute little patties all ready made up, mixed with some kind of weeds and cheese. Okay, we'll get some of those. And how about some chicken?
    They've got cut up chickens and whole chickens and free range chickens and barn raised chickens (whatever that means) and, here's the one that caught my eye, a special on some kind of chicken for $2 a pound. I don't know how much raw chicken usually costs, like I said, I don't cook, but $2 a pound sure looks a heck of a lot better than $17 a pound, so we get one. It costs $12. Whoa! That chicken weighs six pounds, that's as much as a small child. You can buy a fully cooked chicken at Costco for like $5. Of course, Costco chickens don't weigh six pounds. If will be interesting to see how many meals we get out of this monster chicken.

Update: those funny hamburgers turned out to be pretty tasty. Not sure how I feel about that.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cosmic Pollution

    We are getting pretty good at sending probes to other planets. Voyager, Cassiopia, and now Curiosity, have shown we can build complex devices, launch them into space, have them survive for long periods of time and  function reliably.
   Sending a probe to another star is another matter.  The main problem is having a rocket engine that can provide thrust for a long period of time. Today's rocket engines burn out in a matter of minutes, or even seconds. They are designed to generate large amounts of thrust for short periods of time, which is necessary to get out of Earth's gravity well. But once you are in orbit, that is no longer a requirement.
    In order to to provide thrust for a long period of time, you need to meter out the mass you are expelling as a propellant, and in order to get any appreciable acceleration out of such a small amount of mass you need a very high exhaust velocity. Rockets are very impressive: they make a great big roar and shoot out huge flames and clouds of smoke, but their exhaust velocity, in cosmic terms, is pitiful. What we need is something that can accelerate matter to very high velocities. What we need is a particle accelerator. I mean they accelerate particles to pert near the speed of light. You really couldn't ask for anything faster. Of course they are big, cumbersome, heavy and have some kind of unknowable power requirements, but if we are operating in space and on a scale of years, I think we could manage.
    One of the draw backs of particle accelerators is that they only accelerate sub-atomic particles, in particular protons and/or electrons, because the magnets they use only act on charged particles. So you would have to be making a continuous supply of charged particles to feed them. And if you making protons (from hydrogen, say) where do all the electrons go? Wouldn't they leak out, and be drawn to the protons so they could recombine to make hydrogen? And what would that to your carefully created thrust? Hmmm.
    Then I had another thought. There are basically two kinds of cosmic rays: various sub-atomic particles, and very high velocity iron particles. Wait a minute! Iron is magnetic. Couldn't we feed our particle accelerator iron particles? Iron is heavy. We could generate a boat load of thrust from hardly any mass, providing we can get it going fast enough, and in a vacuum with enough electromagnets, we should be able to do that. Granted our linear accelerator might need to be really long. The ones here on Earth are sometimes miles in length, and they are only accelerating tiny bits of stuff. Building one to use for propulsion might need to be, I dunno, ten miles long?
    We have all the science we need to do this. We know how to build nuclear reactors that generate electricity, we know how to build linear accelerators, we know how to make little particles of iron, we know how to build really big things (like bridges and damns) and we know how to put stuff in orbit. All we need is the determination.
    As a bonus, I've figured out we aren't alone. All those cosmic rays I was talking about earlier? The ultra-high velocity iron particles? They are the exhaust from alien intersteller space craft!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Le Samouraï

Le Samouraï  starring Alain Delon as the uber-cool assassin & Nathalie Delon as his main squeeze. Wait a minute, Alain Delon & Nathalie Delon, they have the same last name! Could they be related? Oh yes, they could. Married in '64, made the movie in '67, divorced in '69, same year I got out of high school. Alain was born in '35, which was a long time before me, but he's still alive. He's a little older, but then I'm getting old too. Never occured to me that I might be grouped in with someone who was born in the 30's. Note please that Nathalie's name is not Natalie, it has an H in it, kind of like Mother Theresa.
   Because Jean-Pierre Melville is the director, the nightclub singer drives a Camaro, and the head gangster's errand boy rides around in his boss's Cadillac. This is in Paris where four coppers strain the seams of their ordinary, regular size French cars. Ross tells me Melville was famous for wearing a cowboy hat while driving around Paris in a Cadillac convertible.

Update October 2017 replaced missing picture. Squoze it a little vertically, it looked a little stretched.

Quote of the Day

"As with most heated debates, neither side in retrospect knew what it was talking about." - Kimble D. McCutcheon
This is from a brief overview of aircraft engine development, but it could be about anything.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Piston Power

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about airplanes. I don't fly much, mostly because I'm too cheap. When I fly commercial I like to complain about how uncivilized the whole ordeal is. When I fly in private planes, I complain (privately, to myself) that these things are noisy, expensive, inefficient antiques. In spite of that, I really like airplanes, all kinds of airplanes, and if I could ever get the kind of airplane I want (six passenger Cadillac, 400 MPH cruise, 5 GPH, buck and a half price tag) I'd buy one.

Airplane builders like turbine engines. I can understand why, they are pretty cool. They have a great power to weight ratio, which is the aircraft designers holy grail. They have only one moving part. They are simplicity itself, unless you try to build one, then you run into all kinds of problems, like complex shapes, high temperatures, difficult to work exotic alloys. They aren't something you can build from scratch in your garage. And then there is their high fuel consumption. That can be a bit of a problem, to put it mildly. So unless you are made of money, turbines are right out of the running for a private plane, which means you are going to be using a conventional piston engine.

When you are using a propeller to drive your aircraft, bigger is better, as in more efficient. Making them too big results in other problems, like ground clearance when taxiing. It also means they need to turn slower. You don't want the tip of the propeller to exceed the speed of sound or bad things happen, like they quit working, or your ears turn to mush. So if you are using a high speed engine to drive your prop, you need a speed reducing gearbox.

Gear reduction is a bit of a bug-a-boo. All the little Cessna and Piper single engine private planes you see at your local airport typically use large displacement Lycoming or Continental engines that drive the propeller directly, that is, without any gear reduction. It makes the powerplant simpler mechanically, but it's become a bit of a dead end. All these engines were designed a thousand years ago. Solid, reliable, but very much a niche market, with corresponding niche market prices.

Because of the prices, some experimental airplane builders have turned to using automobile engines. Automobiles have always used gear reduction, so their speed (RPM - Revolutions Per Minute) has not been constrained like the airplanes, but it means that, like the turboprop, you need some kind of gear reduction. This adds weight and complexity, but it also means you get a powerplant that costs less than half what a conventional Lycoming or Continental powerplant costs, and that can mean a chunk of change.

Funny thing is, military propeller driven planes have almost always used gear reducers. All those big radial engines you see on WWII bombers, and the big V-12's that were used in fighters, all had speed reducers built into them. The engines of that time were still big, slow turning monsters, but with those big ten to fifteen foot props, you still had to cut your RPM's down to something the props could handle.

Caproni Ca. 161bis

I'm out wandering around on the internet and I stumble across a page of aviation trivia and one of the items listed is the "highest flying propeller driven airplane", and I wonder what it is, imagining some WWII experimental job, or a Burt Rutan outer space special. So imagine my surprise when I find this:

An Italian biplane flown by one Mario Pezzi in 1938, encased in his own personal pressure chamber:

The 750 HP radial engine has two superchargers. I wonder whether they were operating in tandem or in parallel. I mean there isn't much air up at 56,000 feet. The blades on the prop look they were made for a paddle boat.

Special: 2 for 1 Quote of the Day

#1 OMG, or as the British call it, "a spanner." in a comment that Erin Palette left on Tam's blog.

#2 "You can't spell Barbie without an AR." -  McThag  quoted in a post Erin wrote about building an AR-15 rifle.

Special for Dustbury: "Note 1: I cannot tell you how disappointed I was that a post titled My Little AR Build had no references to ponies anywhere." from the same post.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Railroad Train of Justice

At lunch today the we were talking about Joe Paterno and and how much trouble he got in because of not reporting the sexual abuse he heard about at Penn State, and Barack mentioned he knew of a case where a female teacher had sex with a male student. Naturally we all gave him a bunch of grief along the lines of how lucky the kid was. Yeah, typical men, that's how we roll. Anyway, word somehow got out and the woman resigned her position, presumably to avoid prosecution. According to Barack, this constitutes sweeping it under the rug, which is an abuse of power, and dad-gum-it, something ought to be done. The question is what? The general consensus was that if you want something done about a crime, you call the police. However, be careful what you wish for, because once you get the police involved, well, they won't stop until they have steam-rollered all of the participants.

Mitt relates this tale. Husband and wife with a child are squabbling. Wife, being slightly wacko (Yeah, typical men, that's how we roll.), calls the cops and tells them some story that brings not just the cops, but the SWAT team to their door: machine guns, bullet proof vests, helmets, the whole nine yards. The cops show up and by-gum, they are going to arrest somebody. You led us to believe there was a real problem here, so we rounded up our squad, got our gear, got all pumped up, hustled our buns down here, and all we've got is a husband and wife yelling at each other? Goll-bless-America, somebody's goin' to jail! The husband has a black-eye, so they arrest the wife. There is a child in the house, so somehow this makes it a felony, so now the wife is facing felony assault charges. Justice will be served! Roasted, boiled, or pan fried, but somebody's gonna pay.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs, a Mercy Thompson novel.  I've read a couple other books in this series and I've enjoyed them. They aren't my usual fare as they are about werewolves and vampires and all sorts of mythical creatures. I suppose it's the style of the writing, more like an action-adventure story than spooky, emotion laden dreck. I don't think this one was as good as some of the earlier ones. Seems like the author is making up too much stuff on the fly, but then again, we are dealing with unusual creatures, so maybe sorting out just what they can and can't do is part of the story. The downside is that luck plays a big part in bringing the story to a positive end. Of course the story is under the author's control, but there are no indications of how things might possibly work out okay. I mean the situation is grim, and if the author wanted to make us miserable, she could just as easily have things end badly. There's no real rhyme or reason why things work out the way they do.
    Still, the story moves right along and every chapter or so there is a paragraph that really tells you something about the people involved, and those little bits make it all worthwhile.

What's in a name?

Went to see a new doc this morning. He has kind of an unusual name and we were talking about it. He tells me that he and his wife made up their surname. She was adopted when she was a baby, and he was using his stepfather's name, so neither one had any blood ties to the names they were using, and they were starting a family so they wanted to have the same name, so they decided to make one up. I thought that was pretty cool.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Frog Lights

Noticed these little bitty lights at the bike shop the other day. What you see is what you get: a little plastic gizmo that clamps around your handlebars. No wires, all self contained. It must run on a coin cell. Press on its back and it starts flashing. Press again and the flash cycle changes and eventually goes to full on. They are bright, but not really big enough to show you where you are going. They are more of an indicator so that other people can see you. Still, awfully small.

Spanner Flats

The day I picked up me new spanner from me cousin it got a flat. I had taken it for a short spin near his house and everything was fine. Later, when I went to load it in my truck, the front tire was dead flat. That's okay, flats are a normal part of life with bicycles, I'll fix it when I get home.

Pull out the tube and it's got a big stinking hole in it, and the rubber around the hole has been stretched out of shape. I didn't find anything wrong with the tire, no thorns or nails or anything. Had the tube somehow gotten pinched when it was installed last time, and it just happened to blow out now? I dunno. Put a new tube in and off we go.

Yesterday I went to go for a ride and that darn front tire is flat again, and it's not just low, it's dead flat. Put the air hose on it and it's like there is no tube connected to the valve stem: nothing happens at all, just a giant hiss of air. Pull the tire and tube, and looky here, there's a big stinking hole in the tube. You know, that looks suspiciously like the last hole. What's going on? I look all around the outside of the tire and find nothing. OK, fine, we'll look around the inside of the tire. Nothing, nothing, nothing, wait a minute, what's this?

Doesn't look like anything, but it does look different than the rest of tire. I poke at it, and, lo and behold! A great big stinking hole!

That's the tip of my finger pushing through the tire. I think that once upon a time someone ran over a railroad spike. Fortunately I had another tire from another old bike lying around and I was able to use it.

The weirdest part though is that the last flat was two months and 50 miles ago.

Money (That's What I Want)

Being a child of pop media culture, I always thought this song was original with The Beatles (1963). Silly me. Some dude by the name of Barrett Strong made it Motown's first hit way back in 1959. Back then my biggest (and only) monetary concern was raising seven cents so I could buy a Popsicle at the corner store.

Via ... and several butcher's aprons and

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cheap Disks

Took the Mitsubishi in to have the brakes checked. The front pads were worn out, which isn't surprising since it has 75,000 miles. The shop claimed the rotors were warped, so they replaced them as well. That's the third brake job I've had them do in the last few years where they replaced the rotors. On one hand it makes me a little suspicious, on the other hand the bill was only $24 (I divide all prices by ten in order to get something that looks reasonable. The dollar just isn't worth what it used to be.). Used to be brake shops would turn the rotors (machine a new, smooth face on them) whenever they replaced the pads. They would only replace the rotors if they were so badly worn that there wasn't enough metal left to reface the rotor and leave it strong enough to do it's job, but that was back when rotors cost $100 a piece. I checked rotor prices on the internet last time this happened and they were amazingly cheap, like $20, which I suspect is less than it costs to turn them. So I think what is happening is the shop has given up on turning the rotors and in the interest of speed, gone to just replacing them. Which would be okay if it only happened every 75,000 miles or so.

I had the front brakes done on my truck for the first time a couple of years ago when it had 95,000 miles on it. Rear brakes were fine. In the last year or so it developed this lumpiness in the brakes. I think it was the rear brakes, and I suspect it was a patch of rust. Comes from not being used as much, maybe. A couple of months ago I was looking at driving to Colorado and I decided that I had had enough of this lumpiness, and took it to the shop. They turned the rear drums and replaced the front rotors. I really thought the problem was confined to the rear brakes, but I asked them to fix it, and fix it they did. The lumpiness was all gone and the bill was only $200. They resurfaced the pads, but they did not replace them, or the shoes, either. There might have been rust on the rotors as well. I had the same problem with the Sebring a few years ago. So maybe this is just a feature of newer brakes: if you live someplace where it rains nine months of the year and you don't drive your car every day, your brakes will develop rusty patches that will make them lumpy.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Be A Star!

Or at least get your name in the credits by making a donation. A friend of mine has gotten involved in making the movie Socially Inept and they are trying to raise enough money to finish it.

Killer Elite

From Wikipedia - Killer Elite is a 2011 action film starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro, Yvonne Strahovski, and Dominic Purcell. The film is based on the 1991 novel The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and is directed by Gary McKendry.

I liked it. It was pretty well put together, no big plot holes, no dilly-dallying, you get the story, the whole story and nothing but the story. You can enjoy this film as a mindless action flick, I mean it's got three tough guys in it, but there are a couple of bits that might give you food for thought. First off is the message that comes on the screen at the beginning of the movie:

and you think, well, this is current events, but then they add the date: 1980, and you realize the story is pert near timeless.

Then there's the bit about Ranulph Fiennes (third cousin of Ralph Fiennes, and vaguely related to the British Royal family) claiming this was a true story. Seems the SAS men in the film were all real people, but other than that nobody seems to have done any checking, just a bunch of claims, counter-claims and, or course, denials. Ranulph spent some time in Oman helping the Sultan of Oman deal with a communist rebellion way back in the early 1960's, and naturally it was over oil. I mean there isn't anything else there, at least nothing that would make it worthwhile for the Brits to send troops.

And what is Robert DeNiro doing in this film? With his success I would think he could pick and choose the movies he wants to make, and I wouldn't think this is what he would pick. Or maybe they just offered him a boatload of money? Weird.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ape Man

Got me some ape-hangers for me new spanner. Well, semi-ape-hangers anyway. Big improvement over the old straight bars. Still not perfect. Cruiser bars would suit me better I think, but I don't know if I could get a handlebar stem long enough to make me happy. I'm gonna try adding the old bar ends and see how that works. I was gonna do the work myself, but these bars required new, extra long cables which would have to be cut to length, so I decided to just let the shop do it. Their price was ridiculously low.

We have a new bike shop in town: Hillsboro Bike Company. This makes two. Years ago when I was riding I used to frequent Bike N Hike, but now when I go in there and I see the large selection of fancy schmancy road bikes, I just cringe. My road bike has a seven speed cassette on the rear axle, and I thought that was excessive at the time. Now some bikes are up to ten speeds, ten speeds that aren't particularly useful, unless you are one of these maniacs who goes out for a 20 mile sprint before you go to work and then does a century with your bike club on the weekend. If you are one of those people, well, more power to you. I am not. I slog along as best I can. These days I am up to 3 miles a day. Pretty sad for someone won Cycle Oregon ( that was the year that the slogan was "Slowest One Wins". On the day we road over the mountain I was the last one picked up by the sag wagon, so that makes me the slowest and therefor the winner. Neener neener neener).

Strange Days, Part 2

Came across too much good stuff when I was looking up stuff about this movie, so I'm sharing.

Angela Bassett as Mace facing down a thug with a knife.

Mace stowing her gun away in a holster that wraps around her thigh under her mini-dress. 

Kathryn Bigelow, the director, was married to James Cameron (one of those guys who makes big, fancy movies like Avatar and Titanic), so maybe some of his techno-crazy rubbed off on her. Or maybe it was the other way around. In any case, she wanted a compact, light weight camera to shoot some of the POV (Point Of View) scenes. Nowadays you could use a digital camera, no problem, but this was in 1995, and digital wasn't up to snuff, so they had to do this with 35 mm film, which meant building a custom camera. So I went looking for some info on this miracle of modern technology and found...well, a swamp full of alligators and techno-jargon. 35 mm hasn't died completely, but it is going away fast. The big problem is the cost of film. It was bad enough when you were shooting snapshots with your Instamatic, but shooting movies is like shooting a machine gun. Only the truly crazy are willing to spend the money to keep the machine fed.

Got some clues about the camera, but did not manage to actually track it down. At least I don't think I did, kind of hard to tell at this point. Did come across this video that gives a pretty good rundown on just what's involved. It get's a little repetitious when he starts talking about the magazines, but it also serves to remind us just how arcane film technology is. Everything involving film has to be done in absolute darkness. Totally black, lights out. One little slip and a thousand bucks worth of film becomes worthless.

And the magazines are the problem, aren't they? You can miniaturize the camera all you want, but if you want to film somebody doing something, you are going to need a lot of film. You need about a hundred feet of film per minute of showtime, which means those 400 foot magazines are good for maybe four minutes, and the thousand foot magazines are good for ten. Admittedly the magazines shown here are not like the gi-gun-do ones you see on the studio cameras, but they are still more than a handful.

Since the truly crazy are so few in number, it has come to pass that movie cameras are a niche market, something like supercars, with corresponding price tags. Now would be a good time to pick one up for posterity's sake, before they find their way to the scrap heap like the printing presses did. They aren't dead yet, as this page shows, and Panavision and ARRI, whoever they are, are still fighting the good fight.

Film: a "two reeler" that runs for two hours is going to have a mile of film on each reel.
Steadicam Operators newsletter from 1995. The jargon is darn near impenetrable.
Story about the opening POV shot of this movie, along with hour long audio talk by the director.
STRANGE DAYS Scriptment by James Cameron

Friday, August 10, 2012

Strange Days

Angela Bassett as Lornette 'Mace' Mason
Strange Days is an OK semi-sci-fi movie. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow who also directed Hurt Locker. It's kind of old (1995) and kind of long. It's got every standard crime movie bit: Ex-cops, good cops, bad cops, thugs. It's like a warm up for Blade Runner, except it came afterwards. It predates eXistenZ, which has a lot of the same virtual reality "technology". It has a whole bunch of faces I recognized from other movies, though I didn't know all their names.

Angela BassettCan't say as I recognized her. I have known about her for what seems like forever, but I don't know why. Maybe someone mentioned her to me a thousand years ago.
Vincent D'Onofriorecently famous as Detective Robert Goren on Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Richard EdsonFerris Bueller's Day Off, Platoon
William FichtnerBlack Hawk Down, The Dark Knight, Armageddon, Crash
Ralph FiennesThe English Patient, The Constant Gardener, In Bruges, Maid in Manhattan, Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies.
Juliette LewisThe Way of the Gun, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, From Dusk to Dawn
Tom SizemoreBlack Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, Get Carter, Bringing Out the Dead, Saving Private Ryan, Enemy of the State.
Michael WincottThe Count of Monte Cristo, Seraphim Falls

Vincent gets around, and he plays some odd characters, most of which I didn't realize were him until somebody else (usually my older son) pointed them out to me. Characters like Edgar (the bug) in Men In Black, and Private Leonard Lawrence (can't do anything right thumb sucker) in Full Metal Jacket.

This makes three movies in a row that I watched this week had a white male lead and a non-white female lead. Must be the miscegenation week. Yee-haw!

Update March 2020 replaced missing picture, added labels.
Update June 2020. Here is a link to a later post about this movie.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Jodrell Bank Obervatory & the Lovell Radio Telescope

Sir Bernard Lovell Dies at 98, story in The NT Times, via Graham Hancock.

View Big Science in a larger map

From The Times story: ". . . trunnions to support the dish were created using racks and pinions from the gun turrets of the decommissioned battleships Royal Sovereign and Revenge."
Wikipedia article. Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics site.

25th Hour

25th Hour with Edward Norton and Philip Seymour Hoffman, directed by Spike Lee. Grim little story of a guy's last day before beginning a seven year stretch in the Otisville penitentiary. They bring in bits and pieces of the past to show how things came to this sorry pass. He spends some time with a couple of old friends from high school, or maybe even as far back as elementary school, his dad and his girlfriend. He visits his mob connections, we find out who tipped off the cops, though we don't really find out why. We can imagine any number of reasons, but we never find out. There's a bit of a fantasy at the end of not going to prison, but I suspect that never happens. Not a very happy story.

    We do have Rosario Dawson, who is certainly nice to look at. She's been in several other films that I've seen (Men in Black II, Death Proof and Sin City), not that I remember her, but then I'm kind of shallow that way. It was difficult to find a full length picture of her. Lots of pictures of her face and breasts, and a few that reached to her knees, but hardly any that went all the way to her toes. I am now officially impressed with Dustbury's ability to deliver cheesecake.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Tam is writing about her Kindle and Victory Gin, which leaves me lost, so I go look up Victory Gin, and low and behold, the fictional beverage has come to life. OK, so now I'm not lost, but I'm still dazed.

Bright and Early

    Ran the car down to the gas station this morning for its' weekly fill up. It's really amazing we aren't all dead. I'm following a little blue car down Jackson school road and they are all over their lane and the bike lane as well. Drunk? Or just putting on their makeup?
    I'm sitting in the gas station waiting for the tank to finish filling and a giant, tandem tanker truck pulls in in front of me. The driver has obviously done this before. In no time flat he is out of the truck, has deployed his set of orange warning cones and is busily prying open the lids to the underground tanks. Then I notice these fluorescent yellow indicators around the lugnuts on the tanker's wheels:

Huh, another new safety feature: Wheel Check. Beware: their website starts playing a news broadcast automatically.
    On my way home I'm driving past a row of diagonally parked cars. There are a couple of cyclists standing by the back of a pickup truck. It looks like they are getting ready to go for a ride. Their truck is the longest vehicle in this row of parked cars. The back corner reaches all the way to the lane I am driving in. One of the cyclists is standing in my travel lane, totally oblivious to the fact that his doom is rapidly approaching.    
Fortunately, I am at least semi-awake, traffic is sparse and I have no trouble avoiding him. Ignorant fool.
    Farther along I see another cyclist riding in the bike lane. He is weaving all over his lane just like the blue car I saw earlier. Fortunately he didn't try that while I was passing him. Ignorant fool.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ballistic Missiles

    Finally got around to watching Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol this weekend. The DVD from Netflix has been sitting on the table for at least a month. Well, we were busy with Damages. Can't watch everything all at once.
    There are some pretty realistic shots of an SLBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile) flight during the last part of the movie. Naturally, it is interlaced with the climatic fight scene between our hero and the really nasty-ass villain.
    During the missile's flight, it ignites a second stage, which surprised me. I thought all ICBM's, and especially SLBM's were single stage rockets. I figured Hollywood just added that to have something to show. I mean a missile just gliding along isn't that interesting. Turns out I'm wrong. All current US and Russian SLBM's use three stages.
    They did get the re-entry scene wrong. When these things re-enter the atmosphere they are hustling along at a pretty good clip, like several miles per second. At those speeds friction with the air is going to heat up the warhead until it is glowing bright red. No sign of any re-entry heating in the movie.

    Another thing was how long the final pursuit and fight lasted. You know how these scenes go in movies, they seem to go on forever. You know the hero will prevail, but they keep you on the edge of your seat for what seems like forever. You're pretty sure that if this was real life, the bomb would have gone off hours ago, and all this fighting would be for naught. Not quite the case. Ballistic missile flight times are on the order of 30 minutes from ignition to detonation, so in this case the time frame was plausible.
    Ethan (Tom Cruise) made the mistake of not finishing off the bad guy before attempting to abort the missile. If he had just concentrated on doing one thing at a time, the fight would have been over much sooner and he would have had plenty of time to deal with the missile. But then we wouldn't have been on the edge of our seats as long.
    SLBM's owe their existence to MAD, the policy of Mutually Asssured Destruction. MAD is just that: mad, as in insane. I can see where you might want to maintain the capability of building and delivering nuclear weapons, but keeping a whole arsenal of the things primed and ready for launch at a moments notice is just asking for trouble. Yes, someone could launch an attack and destroy every large city in our country and do it without fear of immediate retaliation. But what would that gain them? And how long would it be before the survivors, however few there were, found a method for exacting revenge? And how would the rest of the world treat someone who had unleashed a nuclear holocaust on us? Sure, a few nut cases might celebrate, but most nations would wonder who was next on the agressor's list. Having a bunch of nuclear missiles on hand, primed and ready to go, is a bad, bad, bad idea. If we removed all of our nuclear weapons from front line deployment, other nations might follow our lead.

Update: It occured to me that final impact sequence was wrong as well. Anything going as fast as it should have been would only have been a momentary streak and it's impact in S.F. bay would have created an explosion of steam and a mini-Tsunami that would have rocked every boat in the bay, at the least.

Update March 2016. Replaced missing video.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Quote of the Day

It’s just a diversion for the monkeys whilst the head monkeys steal the monkey biscuits. - Laura replying to a comment on her blog post about Chick-fil-A, but really it could be about anything you see in the newspaper or on TV.


Neighbor Roy has durn near completed restoring his 1965 Mercury Comet convertible. V-8 and four on the floor. More pictures when he rolls it out to a more picturesque setting.

Air Show

The Air Force Thunderbirds were in town this weekend for the air show. Splotches of dark blue in the picture are dirt on the lens. Don't know where that came from, I don't keep any dirt in my pockets. Oh, er, maybe that cookie I snagged...

Plenty of Whack

I was poking around on YouTube the other day and I realized there are whole bunch of people building all kinds of weird vehicles, mostly with wheels, but some not. Today I was looking for multi-wheel vehicles and I came across this site, which has more weird vehicles than you can shake a stick at. Many of them are failed prototypes, but many were also successful in their highly specific roles. Most are big machines for industrial or miltary applications. This one is a prototype built by John Deere. Reminds me of the Imperial walkers from Star Wars.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sunday! Be There!

Funny thing about these machines is they never show them with any people, so you can't tell how big they are. The first one (Sojourner)) was about as big as a shoe box and weighed about 20 pounds. The second ones (Spirit and Opportunity) were the size of a coffee table and weighed 400 pounds. This one, the third generation, is the size of a small car and weighs a ton (2,000 pounds). All you metricons divide those numbers by 2 to get your kilos.

Wheels from the three generations of Mars Rovers.

I looked but could not find a good set of dimensions. Typical populizers, all the flash and none of the facts.

Wonderful World of Drones

Christopher McDonald provides assurances that we have nothing to fear from unmanned drones. “A lot of people look at these modern marvels and see automated flying soulless death dealers that spy on all our private lives. But you can trust me when I say: ‘Those people are Communists.’” Coming from Shooter McGavin, that says a lot. H/T Funny or Die

Stolen entire from Call Me Stormy.

Update: Video available on YouTube.


I read something about a woman making the first flight of a human powered helicopter the other day, and I wondered a bit, but then Oh, look! Shiny! and it slid off my pate. Then today Dustbury is rambling on about someone singing a song about Gamera, and I wonder what the heck is a Gamera, which leads me to Alfred's webpage at the University of Maryland where I found this video.

This was a year ago and the flight only lasted a few seconds. It looks like it ended when it ran into the wall (or bumped into a spectator, hard to tell). They didn't give it much flying room. They tried again this year with a guy. He managed almost a minute. I think his flight ended when he ran out of steam.

I'm thinking the sitting position they are using might be good for long term endurance, but maybe not so good for short term, peak output. I remember seeing an old movie about guys fishing from dories out on the Grand Banks. Guy would stand up in the center of the boat and row facing forward. He was using his whole body to propel the boat, arms, legs, torso. Bicyclists climbing hills often stand up on the pedals and the bicycle frame will swing side to side as they pedal. Same sort of thing. But maybe I'm all wet. Maybe sitting down on the job and having a seat back to push against does allow you to deliver more power.

O Dark Thirty

Made an early morning run to PDX today. Going there, there were no problems. Coming back was another story.

  • Driving in the right lane of the three lane access road, there is a car 100 feet ahead of me in the middle lane. Suddenly a car comes out of a side street on the right hand side of the road, goes across both the right and center lanes before turning right into the leftmost lane. Nearly got clipped by the car in the center lane. Brake lights and horn. 3rd time in a week I have been witness to a near accident.
  • Getting on to I-205 Southbound I notice a car coming up behind me. Speed limit is 55, I'm going 60, and I'm in the slow lane. What are they thinking? They pass me on the left going 65 easy, followed half a second later by a copper with all of his red and blue lights flashing. Where did he come from?
  • On Highway 26 Westbound out of downtown, going through the tunnel we run into a big cloud of dust. Looks brownish, but smells like cement. Big cloud, persists for a couple of hundred yards, half of it is on the far side of the tunnel.
  • Still on 26, cruising along at 60, and we're getting passed by several (many?) cars going at least 70. I suspect an early morning shift change at Ronler Acres.