Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Renault 4 CV

I saw this car in Branded to Kill, but I couldn't figure out what it was. Talking to older son about this today and he suggested that since there was an Internet Movie Firearms Database, there was probably an Internet Movie Cars Database, and lo and behold, there is one and it even has Branded to Kill, which is where I found this car. Of course the one in the movie was the Japanese version and one in this video is the French version, but they are the same car.

Quote of the Day

On the upside, at least CDBO is a PAC with a name that matches its mission: too many of them have designations like “Americans for a More American America,” or some similar tautological twaddle. - Dustbury
I mean twaddle is bad enough all by itself, but tautilogical twaddle, oooo, that's some nasty s**t there.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bristol Centaurus

Looking through some aircraft pictures, I came across these two of a Bristol Centaurus radial engine.

Now this is curious. All the radial engines I've heard about use a single cam ring to drive the valves. This engine looks like it is using an individual camshaft for each cylinder, or perhaps for each pair of cylinders. Huh, imagine that. It requires a lot more gears, but they are all small, not like the great big cam ring, and all the camshafts would be identical, so maybe that would be a viable alternative. This was news to me, so I sent a note to Simon at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, Somerset UK, and he tells me that the Bristol Centaurus was a sleeve-valve engine, which means it doesn't have a conventional valve train (camshafts, lifters, pushrods, rocker arms, poppet valves and springs). Sleeve-valve engines are insane. As I recall the Germans used sleeve-valve engines in their WWII torpedos. Not a bad application I suppose, you want maximum power, minimum weight, and it only has to last a couple of thousand yards. To use one in something you expect to last more than a couple of minutes, well, I am surprised they managed to make this one last as long as it did.

Bristol City Museum has (had?) a display model of the Centaurus's inner workings. You can see that on the back side of the timing gears instead of camshafts there are crank stubs. These stubs engage a socket in the base of the sleeve. The eccentric motion of the crank produces an oscillating motion in the sleeve that opens and closes the ports in the cylinder walls.

The large fan in the center is the supercharger. The gears in the foreground are for auxiliary equipment like oil pumps, magnetos, etc.

Update: More pictures here.

Folk Tale of the Day

According to local folklore, Muckle Flugga and nearby Out Stack were formed when two giants, Herma and Saxa, fell in love with the same mermaid. They fought over her by throwing large rocks at each other, one of which became Muckle Flugga. To get rid of them, the mermaid offered to marry whichever one would follow her to the North Pole. They both followed her and drowned, as neither could swim. - Wikipedia article on Muckle Flugga.
I just do not know what to say about this. Via Roberta X

Looking at Google's satellite image, since that's the kind of guy I am, I see a new block-edged pattern being used on the coastline.
Muckle Flugga is the small splotch in the topmost block, just off the Northern shore of Unst.

Also Muckle Flugga is about 200 miles due West of Bergen, Norway.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Poetry of Books

Library Thing ran a contest for poems made out of book titles. This one didn't win, but it made the best picture.

This one won a prize. Supposedly it is five lines (five book titles), but I think it is fine with just four, especially since I can't read the last one (How good do we have to be?)

Quote of the Day

P.S. Below is my impromptu, humble submittal of a song to (possibly) replace The Star Spangled Banner.
(To the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star")
We are great
We are grand
Oft our hubris's
Out of hand
P.P.S. It isn't that I'm not patriotic - I voluntarily served six years in the US Naval Reserves, for heaven's sake! - but, I think we humans carry nationalism entirely too far.
We are all in this life together." Except maybe Mittens, he seems to be on a different planet altogether ;-)

From a comment by Cop Car on Stu's Blog.

Mosquito Takes To The Air

Newly restored British WWII Wooden Fighter-Bomber takes to the air in New Zealand. Bunch of photos here.

And now for something completely different ...

For today's lesson class, I want you to compare and contrast the content of this video with the previous one about Holland & Holland. Yee Haw!

Holland & Holland

I don't know quite what to make of this, it is just so much concentrated ... something. From Scott.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quote of the Day

That wasn't just any ordinary "handling it in an unsafe manner", that was very nearly the Platonic Ideal of unsafe gun handling compared to which, all other unsafe gun handling is merely shadows on the cave wall. - Tam talking about a firearms accident (incident?).
The Queen of Snark strikes again. Two posts later (earlier?), she outdoes herself.

Rolling Thunder - 1977

Went to see Rolling Thunder at the Hollywood theater last night. It was a pretty sad story enlivened by a couple of happy bits. Movie starts off with a small group of military men in full dress uniform flying in a Lear Jet* to a biggish home town welcome in San Antonio, Texas. I say biggish because there are a couple of hundred people there, a high school band, and handful of people from the local TV stations. I think these guys are Viet Nam vets returning from the war and I'm wondering why the military is flying them in a Lear Jet. I always thought troops were transported on real military transports or else on commercial flights. What's going on that these guys rate their own business jet? Eventually I figure out that these guys are not just returning veterans, but returning POW's (Prisoners Of War) who have just been released by the North Vietnamese. As they are coming in the Sargent tells the major that he doesn't think he can face all those people. The major tells him to put his sunglasses on. When they arrive (on the red carpet, even) one of the presiding officials asks the Major to say a few words, and he does. He speaks a couple of sentences into the microphones and everyone is happy and they can have their family reunions. I'm thinking this is what separates officers from the enlisted men: knowing ahead of time that some knothead is going to ask you to say a few words, preparing those words, and then delivering them on cue. What a horrible thing to have happen to you if you weren't prepared for it.

Things go very badly for the major once he's home. You can read all about it elsewhere, or here, or here.

Linda Haynes as the groupie
A young woman, now approaching 30, has a crush on him. She's been wearing his ID bracelet for the seven years that he was locked  up. She's had at least one marriage go South, she's looking for a decent man, and she is hoping the major will be the one. Makes we wonder if there really is a shortage of decent men, or is it that we just don't know how to get along with each other? One of the lessons we constantly repeat to ourselves is that no one is perfect, everyone has some kind of flaws. Secretly I wonder if this is true. Are there really no perfect people? Well, if we were going to look for any we would need to agree on just what perfect means, and I kind of doubt that will ever happen, so I guess we just gonna have to be satisfied with a relative scale of good and bad. In any case our girl decided that the major measures up and she wants to be his. At this point, he is not a good choice.
Eventually the Major tracks down the bad guys whereupon he pays a visit to the Sargent, who is stuck in a wonderful American domestic nightmare. The Major apprises the Sargent of the situation and tells him to get his gear, whereupon Sargent glum comes alive. Oh, boy, we're going to go kill some people! That is something he understands, he is back in his element, he has been rescued from domestic bliss. Praise the Lord!

We get the patented Tommy Lee Jones smile just before they go into action. They manage to kill half the bad guys before they figure out what's going on, then we have a real gun fight. Bad guys die, good guys, wounded but alive, limp from the scene. Fade to black.

* I assume it was a Lear Jet. Was there any other kind of business jet back in 1973?

Update May 2020 replaced missing image.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nightclub of the Day

Southeast corner of the Brill Building at the corner of 49th and Broadway in New York City, 1944-1949. Rent for this location has just jumped to $5 million per month. Inconceivable. From the Wikipedia article:
The building has been described as "the most important generator of popular songs in the Western world."...The Brill Building approach ... was one way that professionals in the music business took control of things in the time after rock and roll's first wave. In the Brill building practice, there were no more unpredictable or rebellious singers; in fact, a specific singer in most cases could be easily replaced with another. These songs were written to order by pros who could custom fit the music and lyrics to the targeted teen audience. In a number of important ways, the Brill Building approach was a return to the way business had been done in the years before rock and roll, since it returned power to the publishers and record labels and made the performing artists themselves much less central to the music's production.
Via Scott.

Motorcycle of the Day

These guys look like they've been riding for a while. They were part of the Cannonball 2012: "On the 7th of September 2012, 50 riders will start a two week journey across the United States on motorcycles built before 1930."

Via Stu.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Another Trip to Eugene

About half way between Portland and Eugene there is this industrial establishment that used to have a big tall structure right next to freeway. It was a bit of a landmark. Now there's just a pile of scrap.

25 minutes later I saw a flock of birds wheeling about. Swallows, maybe. Must of been a zillion of them.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


I've been thinking about how to build a starship, and I'm thinking a linear accelerator sending iron particles out the back might be a viable method for obtaining a decent amount of thrust over a long period of time. I don't know how long it would need to be. SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center) is about two miles long and they get things going pretty quick. Of course, they are only accelerating sub-atomic particles, stuff with no appreciable mass. I suppose it depends on how strong your magnets are and how much electric power you can generate to power them. One advantage we would have is we are already operating in a darn near perfect vacuum, so we aren't going to need a sealed tube to keep the air out, or vacuum pumps to remove it. Matter of fact I think all we really need is a spiral of wire. At the front end the loops of the spiral would be very close together. As we move down the accelerator toward the aft end, the loops would get farther apart corresponding to the increasing velocity of our reaction mass. At the end, our wire would be pretty near straight, making one loop around the path of our stream of iron every couple of feet or so. We would launch a particle of iron down the center of this spiral and pump a jolt of electricity to the spiral itself. The power would flow down our accelerator at the same velocity as the iron. At the beginning, the particle's velocity would be low, but the current would be following the wire around and around the iron's path. The magnetic field produced by the current in the wire would propel the iron particle along it's path. As the loops in the spiral spread out, so would the velocity of the particle increase.

We would need some kind of framework to hold the wire in position, and absorb the reaction from the magnetic field pushing on the iron. Being as our accelerator might be fairly long (one mile? ten miles?) it would also need to be rigid enough to hold its shape. This could lead to it being fairly massive. Since we are going to be running this thing for several years, we are going to be sending a sizable amount of reaction mass out the back. Perhaps thousands or even millions of tons of iron. As we consume our reaction mass, our rate of acceleration will increase. In the later part of our journey we would not need as much thrust as in the beginning. Perhaps what we could do is build a bundle of these linear accelerators, perhaps a dozen, perhaps a hundred, perhaps more. We take off with all of them running. After the first fraction of our journey, we shut off one accelerator and start taking it apart. As we take it apart, we grind it up and use it as reaction mass for the remaining engines/accelerators. This way we maintain a relatively constant mass to thrust ratio, and if our thrust is high enough, a relatively comfortable environment for our crew.

Ramming Speed!

Philadelphia circa 1908. "Ships at League Island Navy Yard. Cruisers Minneapolis and Columbia (center) and armored ram Katahdin." View full size.

An armored ram. Somebody's big idea. If it worked for the Phoenicians, it ought to work for us, hey? Didn't work out. Shorpy picture, via Scott.

Knowledge Transfer

Iowa Andy has a new job. He's taking over a computer system that has been developed over the last 15 years by one guy, who is planning on spending the next year teaching him how it works. It got to be a bit much, so he enlisted some technological help. He reports:
    Day 35 of my work.  All is well, things are good [here], not awful. The knowledge transfer continues from the incumbent, Bob, to me. Sitting side by side at a computer going through each key click and the ramifications of each click became arduous. So I installed free Debut Video Capture,  put a mic'ed-headset on Bob and told him to go as fast as he could. My boss said Bobs not going to do that. But Bob liked it, and he is very good at uninterrupted explanation.
    Each session runs about 30 minutes. I then use Easy scribe set to 140% speed to review and transcribe Bobs dialogue. (haven't tried computer voice-text transcription,  son Nick says it took a while to train his Dragon Speak) The fast forward/reverse pause makes EasyScrib a nice tool for transcribing. 
     I append a time stamp and  important stuff to a Word Doc. I then go back though the video with Easypad and Snipit screen shots into the Word Doc, highlighting the options clicked. Finally I hyperlink the movie in the word doc. One of the 30 documents I have created, instructions for running a commissions report is 30 pages,  lots of screen shots, but still way too many steps.

Quote of the Day

 Yet they are both capable of callous viciousness, careless love, arrogant intellect, base stupidity. -  in a story about fancy Ford Mustangs on The Truth About Cars
He's talking about cars, but he could be talking about any human being on the planet. People are complex and unpredictable. Poke anyone of us hard enough and you will quickly find out just how viscious, careless, arrogant and stupid we are.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I'm gonna vote for Barack. You wanna know why? Cause he's serious. Being President is a serious job. I don't think Mittens understands that. You see him all smilin' and wavin' and bein' happy and all. That just ain't right, not for someone who wants a serious job like being President of these here United States of 'Merica.

Update March 2018 replaced missing picture of Romney.

Who Are You?

Are you sure? The one app that I want to see on my phone is the identity app. When I call the bank, or my insurance agent, or just about any business these days (like the phone company), they all want to know who I am, and we have to play 20 questions to prove it. I went through all this crap with my bank the other day only to find out that, no, they were not going to help me. Well FU bank. You could have told me that without going through all this other crap, but no, they've got protocols. Worthless slimeball protocols.

This is something people have been trying to do for a while, and every time somebody comes up with a mechanical solution, some screenwriter comes up with a technique to get around it. (Gattaca and Minority Report spring to mind).

Update: Just had to play this same game at the pharmacy, and I was right there. "Papers, please", is beginning to look less onerous all the time. This can't be a good thing.

Quote of the Day

Then again, every one of us knows someone who’s slightly less stable than a four-pack of Charmin. - Dustbury

Mouse Tweaks Lion's Nose

Mural on front of building in Corvallis, Oregon.

Heard about this story from my gang at lunch yesterday. Corvallis, Oregon is home to Oregon State University (Beavers, Orange & Black), the other state school, the one that teaches engineering. Students there have more in common with the Aggies from Texas A & M than they do with the hippies from Bezerkley North, aka the University of Oregon (Ducks, Green & Yellow) in Eugene. But Corvallis is where we find this mural that protests Red China's occupation of Tibet, and Corvallis is where two thugs from the PRC (People's Republic of China) came to try and get it removed. Julie Manning, the mayor, "told the Chinese officials she couldn't order the painting destroyed and she wouldn't even if she could." Three cheers for Julie! Oops, does this mean no more cheap T-shirts? Does this mean Oregon won't be getting any donations from Nike Phil?

Say What?

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center is the U.S. miliary agency responsible for issuing tropical storm warnings in the Pacific. - Geology in Motion
 Well, of course the military is in charge of Typhoon detection and tracking. You wouldn't expect us to leave this to a civilian agency, would you? Geology in Motion provided the picture for my Quote of the Day post.

Quote of the Day

All electrons are not created equal. - William Pentland
Silly William, you can't tell one electron from another. Shoot you can't even isolate an electron to try and identify it, much less tell whether it is a superior electron or a racist electron. But that's okay. It's the thought that counts.

This is part of William's signature on an article in Forbes about the latest and greatest source of petrochemical energy: Natural Gas from mineral deposits on the sea floor. I originally heard about this in John Barne's novel Mother of Storms (p.23):

A line from the story in Forbes:
The research that extracted gas from hydrates in April relied on a technology developed by ConocoPhillips and the University of Norway, Bergen, which injects a mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen into a hydrate formation to facilitate the flow of natural gas. 
This caught my eye because younger son is going to school in Bergen.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


You know how in science fiction movies radio transmissions are always garbled? That always bugged me. I mean, you would think that if they can build giant friggin' spaceships and send them shooting across the galaxy, they would be able to make a decent radio, and with digital technology there's no reason the sound shouldn't be crystal clear.

I just got off a call with Expedia that had the most amazing amount of cross talk. I swear I could hear three or four other conversations going on simultaneously. I'm not sure the woman I was talking to could even hear me, other than things like yes and no. We never seemed to have a conversation. She would say a whole bunch of stuff, mostly just corporate filler and I would grunt in response and somehow we worked our way through the problem.

Of course, it was probably all for naught. We are talking about a flight that is scheduled for December. I got an e-mail from them last month asking me to call immediately. I did, but I never got through. I just got another emergency e-mail. This time I got through. I expect I will be getting e-mails monthly until Christmas. I think I will wait until Thanksgiving to call them back. Three months in advance of flight day does not require an immediate response.

Space Shuttle Retirement

"Toyota to tow space shuttle!" scream the headlines. True Americans everywhere are outraged! How dare they use a furrin truck to tow our beloved icon of American gloriousness!

Is this even possible? I mean airplanes are light for their size, and space craft need to be really light, but the shuttle is really big. See the pretty picture below. Could you really tow it with a pickup truck?
The shuttle weighs 172,000 pounds, empty. That is like two fully loaded semi-trucks. Pulling that much weight with a pickup truck is a stunt on par with Charles Atlas pulling a railroad train with his teeth. You might be able to do it, but it is not something you are going to want to do every day.

The shuttle is going to travel 12 miles by road from LAX to the California Science Center. The pickup truck is only going to be used for the last quarter mile.

Shuttle trailer. I don't think I would want to try and tow this trailer with a pickup truck any distance, even without the shuttle aboard. It probably outweighs the pickup by a factor of ten to one.

Quote of the Day

Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon, p. 136

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Car of the Day

Nice little hot rod parked outside my gang's current lunch joint in Beaverton.

Wild, Wild, West

Junction of Green and Yampah Canyons, Utah, 1872

Last night I was looking through a collection of old photos taken by Timothy O'Sullivan. He took these photos while he was on an expedition exploring the Western portion of the United States shortly after the American Civil War (140 years ago). I noticed this one, and I said to myself "that looks familiar". I don't know if the caption triggered my memory, or whether it was just the image. I like to think it was just the image. In any case, it reminded me of this:

View from Echo Park Overlook in Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado

I took this photo last May on my way back from Denver. Turns out we are in exactly the same place! Never mind the different state names, we are right on the modern border. Back when O'Sullivan made his picture I'm pretty sure there was no well defined border.

View Denver Trip in a larger map

The shading looks all backwards because the light is coming from the Southeast instead of from the top of the picture. The road with the placemark is on top of a ridge. The gray green snake is the river.

Art Blart has a collection of some O'Sullivan photos.
O'Sullivan page on Flickr
Daily Mail story with a bunch of O'Sullivan photos.

Update January 2021 replaced missing map and dead map link.

Avast, Me Hearties!

Since it's talk like a pirate day again (didn't we just do this last year?) we've a Jolly Roger:

Or a Calico Jack, as in Calico Jack's Jolly Roger. Notice the crossed swords in place of the normal crossbones. Because Tam has more history in her little finger than I have in my teacup.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Old Timey Sea Monster

From: Louis Figuier, The Ocean World: Being a description of the sea and some of its inhabitants, 1872.
From Scientific American.

Bucket Wheel Excavators, Part 2

Some archaeologists have uncovered some really old stuff in this coal mine in Schöningen, Germany: spears from 300,000 years ago, which makes them the oldest weapons ever found. This predates homo-sapiens by 100,000 years. Not too long ago I read something about flint knapping (making arrowheads out of flint) being the fastest growing hobby in the world, which kind of makes sense, since people-like creatures have been making arrowheads for hundreds of thousands of years, I wouldn't be surprised if it was encoded in our DNA. But I haven't heard anymore about it, so maybe it was just a fad, like the pet rock.

Bucket Wheel Excavators, Part 1

Make Your Own Kitchen Appliance

Or not. From Michigan Mike.


Dustbury is talking about paintings this morning, and he's points to this one done by Erin Cooper of Oklahoma, formerly of Oregon. I like pictures, and I like this one, so here it is.

Zeolite Part 3

Lattice plane structure of Zeolite, with a 2nm spacing - Horizontal Field Width: 254 nm
Magnification: 5,000,000x

FEI is running a micrograph contest. They have quite a collection of images. This image is not that impressive on a visual basis, but it is on a technical one. The magnification factor is 5 million. The lighter areas in the image are gaps where some molecules can go, but others can't. That's pretty darn small.

Zeolite Part 1.
Zeolite Part 2.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Excitement in Argentina

A woman bangs pot lids during a "cacerolazo" (a form of civilian protest where pots are used to make noise) at the Plaza de Mayo square in Buenos Aires on June 7, 2012. Thousands of people gathered in middle and upper class neighbourhoods around the Argentine capital to protest against growing insecurity, corruption and restrictions on the purchasing of US dollars. - DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/GettyImages c/o Washington Post.
 The Argentine Peso seems to be headed for another melt down. Official exchange rate is under 5 Pesos to the dollar, the Blue rate is about 6, and the Green rate is even higher. Paypal has suspended domestic transactions in Argentina.

Sad State of Affairs

White rhino and friends. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Sunshine - Jonathan Edwards original song and lyrics

I hadn't heard this song in a long time. Michigan Mike brought it to my attention. He thinks Mr. Edwards is "preachy and no fun". Perhaps. I remember getting called up by the draft board for my physical (1970). I had just finished four years of being told what to do (high school) and I was not the least bit interested in signing up for anymore of that, so this song kind of resonated with me.

Dad burn commies. If it hadn't been for Stalin and Mao, our fearless leaders wouldn't have been panicked into fighting all these little stinking wars all over the world for the last 60 odd years. Or maybe I should blame Senator Joe, Robert MacNamara and Henry Kissinger, fear mongers all. Or maybe that's what you get with a democracy made out of ordinary people.

Update March 2019 replaced missing video.

Branded to Kill

Branded to Kill, 1967 Japanese yakuza film.

From the Criterion website: When Japanese New Wave bad boy Seijun Suzuki delivered this brutal, hilarious, and visually inspired masterpiece to the executives at his studio, he was promptly fired.

Japan is a strange place and this was a very strange movie. I don't think I really understood it, and I can't say as I enjoyed it. Very odd.

The last sequence includes some shots of an electric wall clock. The clock is a conventional round, Western style clock with Arabic numerals from one through twelve arranged around the perimeter. The name of the manufacturer is written in English on the face of the clock. No Japanese anywhere on the clock.

There were several Japanese cars in the film, but the most important cars were all foreign makes: a Dodge with big tail fins (or Plymouth, I'm not sure which), a Mercedes, an MGB and some kind of small European sedan. I know I've seen it before, but I can't remember the name.

Update: After talking with Jack about this I got to wondering if maybe it was supposed to be a comedy. I mean comedy is tricky. There were a couple of scenes that got a laugh from the audience (including me) but much of the action just struck me as either a) overwrought (the emotional reactions from the actors), or b) sloppy (the gun fights).

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Brain on Drugs

 OK, weirdo, what kind of drugs are you taking? If you guessed LSD you wouldn't be far off. Psilocybin mushrooms actually. More pictures here. Seems somehow familiar, I mean that sorta looks like how I feel everyday.

 Remember the old brain on drugs public service announcements? The egg frying in the pan? Here's one from that era that I didn't remember.

Partnership for a Drug-Free America PSA "Brain On Drugs" Original - (1987)

 I've been wondering about heroin. Supposedly it is highly addictive. If you even get any on you your life is ruined. I wonder what the truth really is. I mean billions of dollars worth of the stuff is imported into the US ever year. Somebody is using it. Seems like there isn't enough crime going on to support that much consumption. I mean if everyone who tried it became a worthless addict, we should have legions of zombies roaming the streets stealing everything that wasn't tied down.

 I suspect some people are more susceptible to it than others, and some people have money to burn, whether they are working or have inherited it, or they just came into a windfall. Some people buy it to use on the weekends, but go to work like regular joes during the week. Maybe that's why so many people are cranky on Mondays.

 Remember when the Russians finally had enough of the Taliban and pulled out of Afghanistan? Heroin production dropped to zero. Then we got involved, and heroin production took off again. Coincidence? Or Real-Politik in action?

Stability in an Unstable World

New silicon resonator compared to the size of a coin.
The wogs may be rioting all over the world, but some of our geeks have achieved unprecedented stability:
"The laser to which the silicon resonator is stabilized reaches a linewidth of less than 40 mHz . . ."
A linewidth of 40 mega-Hertz!?!? That means the highest frequency of the light being generated by this thing is 40 million cycles per second more than the lowest frequency. They call that stable? That's sloppy enough to cover the entire radio spectrum! Okay, maybe not the entire thing, but a big chunk of it.

Well, it would if it was in the radio spectrum, but it's not, it's light, which operates at a somewhat higher frequency. How high, you might well ask? How about 400 tera-Hertz? That's 400 trillion cycles per second for all right thinking people (or 400 billion for the wogs). When you look at it like that, it means the frequency is accurate to one part in ten million, which is pretty darn good. GOES data collection radios are freakishly narrow band and they only need to be accurate to one part in ten thousand.

The resonator is made from a single crystal of silicon, which is something they likely picked up from the semiconductor industry. The article blathers on about how they are going to be able to make more accurate atomic clocks now, but I suspect that is a useless side benefit. I haven't heard anyone complaining about the inaccuracy of their atomic clock lately. I think someone might find this useful if they were trying to understand the nature of light, which is still a pretty iffy concept.

Note: Red light has a frequency of about 400 tera-Hertz and a wavelength of 750 nanometers. The frequency of violet light is double that of red, or about 800 tera-Hertz, and the wavelength is half that of red, or about 375 nanometers. Multiply those two pairs of numbers together and you get 300 million meters per second, or 300,000 kilometers per second, which is the speed of light. Funny how that works.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

Update January 2017 replaced missing picture.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Veterans Jobs Corps

As our military operations wind down overseas, our men and women in uniform are coming home to a struggling job market. Recent veterans particularly struggle, experiencing an unemployment rate more than twice as high as the general population. During Senator Merkley's trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, the number one concern for our troops was if they could find a job when they get home. No member of our armed services serving overseas should have to worry about a job. Our servicemen and women stood up for us. And now we must stand up for them.
During August, Jeff called on Congress to pass a bill to create a new Veterans' Job Corps to put returning veterans to work. The Veterans' Job Corps Act of 2012 would do just that and provide funding to public organizations to establish training programs and job opportunities for unemployed veterans. The program would employ veterans in public works projects related to transportation, the protection and conservation of federal lands and water, and first responder work.
From Senator Jeff Merkley's (Democrat, Oregon) newsletter. It sounds like a good idea, but I am not sure it actually is a good idea, besides which I doubt it will gain any traction. Congress has never been particularly concerned about veterans.

Car of the Day

Jeff Brock's 1952 Bombshell Buick at Bonneville. This is just the coolest looking car. It has a straight 8 engine and hit 162 MPH this year.

Update June 2019 replaced one dead link and deleted another.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Excelsior Board Track Racer

Scott's email got me started looking at these old motorcycles. There's no end to it. One guy went to the trouble to recreate a complete working replica of an old Excelsior, essentially from scratch (beware: the story goes on for 40 pages). This first video explains a lot about the whole crazy business.

This video was made from film shot during that time period: the earlier 1900's.

What most impressed me about this was the size of these wooden tracks. I always imagined them as short and narrow, just big enough to fit a couple of bikes, but as you can see from the video, they weren't, they were huge. You might think that such a huge track would be enormously expensive, but compared to paving they were really cheap. They did have some problems. They only lasted a couple of years before the weather destroyed them. They were extremely dangerous for the riders because of splinters, not just if they crashed, but even just while riding their machines would kick up splinters. They required constant maintenance, sometimes there were even carpenters working underneath the track to reinforce it as the race was going on up above.

This page has good collection of pictures from the early days.


Tracy was at lunch today so we swapped rumors and lies about food.

If you are going to grind your own coffee and you are looking at a burr grinder, the "Rocky" at $300 is the cheapest one worth buying. Marc bought a different brand for something like $150 and it is not consistent. Sometimes the ground coffee is too coarse, and the water runs right through the grounds and barely picks up any flavor. Other times it is too fine and the grounds essentially form a plug and no water gets through at all. tells all.

Some people age vinegar, much like some people age wine. There is a store in downtown Portland than sells nothing but olive oil and vinegar. Tracy bought some 18 year old Balsamic vinegar and says there is a real difference in taste.

The olive oil you buy in the store is probably not olive oil. Back when olive oil got to be popular the Mafia got involved. Now what you get is canola oil colored with a little chlorophyll. You can tell the difference by putting it in the fridge. Real olive oil will coagulate, canola oil won't. There is an outfit in Australia that tests olive oil. They started up a few years ago and so far they have not found any real olive oil.

Two Buck Chuck (wine) has dropped their price from $2.95 a bottle to $2.50. They have added a premium line as well that sells for $3.50.

Update: Quick trick to picking out a bottle of wine: look for one with the highest alcohol content (excepting fortified wine like Mad Dog and Thunderbird). Most table wine is around 12% alcohol. To get any more than this requires mad wine making skills, so if a wine has 13% alcohol, it's probably pretty good.

Update November 2016 replaced missing picture.

Dispatch From The Trenches

From: Dr. Bob
Date: Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 1:04 PM
To:  Dr. Bob's Fan Club
Subject: another day in Paradise


So a guy walks in to see me today with a chief complaint of: "my girlfriend bit part of my finger off and then the bitch swallowed it...".

HPI  (HISTORY OF THE PRESENT ILLNESS) (this is the best part of my job, to ascertain who is truthful, and who is, well, a 'biting bitch off her meds').
The patient asserts that one week ago (of course) during a drunken escapade with his schizophrenic girlfriend, things got going in the wrong direction and she bit his left Tall Man.  This is the finger used alone to greet President George Bush all over the world.

She bit him on purpose on the middle finger,  midway between the distal interphalangeal joint and the fingernail. For non-CSI fans, the 'distal' term means  "the last joint going away from the heart and toward someone's mouth". This action by the girl effectively removed all tissue down to the bone;  skin, adipose, muscles, tendons, ligaments, small areteries and veins, nerve fibers of significant special function (fingertips and eyelids most heavily innervated dermal areas of our body).

Then, she swallowed it.  For me, this is the point at which the story finally became interesting.

Betsy, a pediatrician friend and I had the great fortune of seeing David Sedaris in Davenport, Iowa 2 years ago.  At performance end, he invited the audience to send him examples of 'people being mean to each other'.   I might finally have a suitable submission.  I don't want to blow this, Mr. Sedaris explains life for me and I abhor the thought of wasting his time.  And yet,....

My patient went to the local ER, around sunrise of the next day.  Why you might reasonably ask?   Because his self administered first round of analgesics (alcohol) and anesthetics (quien sabe?)  wore off,  no doubt causing him to call his girlfriend worse names than he offered up here today in clinic.

At the ER he was given antibiotics, had xrays showing a 'tuft fracture' of this tiny bone at the crown of Tall Man, and was sent home with instructions to find me next.....

Of course he finds me, and upon removing the dirty dressings I observed exposed bone poking out of the Tall Man's tip area

It reminded me of:
- anatomy lab
- my frat house Hell Week  in college and a shameful, frightening display of  machete handling by my drunken pledge father who had anger issues
-Omaha Beach and Saving Private Ryan, on a very tiny scale.
I also thought:  "buddy, you could take a grinder and convert that to a permanent, always handy, toothpick", but I could not actually see teeth in the oral cavity because any lone survivors were encrusted with a solid brown plaque.

I sent him back to the ER in hopes that a kind Dr. this time might take the trouble to ask a surgeon to FOR GOD"S SAKE ROTATE A FLAP OF TALL MAN'S DERMIS UP ONTO THE PART THAT GOES TOWARD SOMEBODY'S MOUTH. If interested, stand by for the next chapter, which will take time to unfold since the girlfriend sits in the county jail.  Is she mulling over new possibilities, such as after viewing on movie night the excellent film Silence of the Lambs. NO!! Bob, don't go there. One Hannibal Lector is one too many for Planet Earth.

None of this story weakens my faith in humanity, nor leads me to think other than, "today is just another day in Paradise". Instead, I am grateful yet another day has dawned in which I do not find myself in a four point restraint and I don't know how I got there.

Thanks for listening. Send me a fee and I will consider paying it.

From: Attorney Betsey
Date: Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 1:39 PM
To: Dr. Bob

I find this account horribly one-sided.  What did he do before she was forced to bite off Tall Man?  Was it to save her own life or the lives of others?  The unborn?  Until you have both sides of this story, I don’t think you can submit this as an example of “meanness” to David Sedaris.   I’m just saying….

From: Mr. Media
Date: Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 1:57 PM
To: Dr. Bob

Hillarious. If you have no objection I am forwarding to my Simba float crew who will get it one and all. I suspect these people are related to the woman found attempting to make meth in some fashion in the Walmart bathroom.

From: Dr. Bob
Sent: Friday, September 07, 2012 2:11 PM
To: Dr. Bob's Fan Club

    I am flattered that your Circle of Trust might enjoy these musings, fire it off into the ether.
    After I sent this I began to wonder  "where in the Hell are we as a species going?", toward self inflicted extinction, or to new frontiers of Ontogeny? What if, following global mass extinction of entire nations, what if this story is found, and a new version of Shepherd of the Hills is launched?  Would the mutants 400 years from now think this was a mating ritual?
    Betsy says that the story is 'horribly one-sided'  as in " was she fighting for her life, etc". That is what I would expect from a smart, smarmy, well seasoned female litigator, always seeking the Truth and Justice. And it is irrelevant that it may make the Man look like, well, a deranged pig , which in fact is what one finds when a Man is stripped down to his core being, his essence.  I just do not  like being reminded of this by a slick lawyer.
    Sadly I lack time to flesh out  (sorry)  these vignettes for sharing every day.  These moments serve as my Beacon to my True North.

Go Tigers, Badgers, Hawkeyes

Dr. Bob

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sportsman Flyer Motorbikes

Sportsman Flyer
Those motorheads in California have started another craze: board track racers from the early 1900's. It looks to me like they are using modern, tiny engines in old-timey style custom frames. There seem to be several companies building these things.

Sportsman Flyer Motorbikes
Pipeburn Motorcycles
Rat Rod Bikes Forum
Bonneville Salt Flats Record Attempt

Via Scott.

Update June 2019 replaced missing image.

ABC @ Home

I came across this story about prime numbers on Graham Hancock's website. Seems some dude has proven some conjecture about ABC Triples, whatever they are. The proof is only 500 pages long. I'm gonna sit down and read that just as soon as I win the lottery. The story doesn't do a good job of telling what an ABC Triple is, much less why we should care, so I fed it to Google and found some interesting stuff. The least interesting was this page that does a pretty good job of explaining what an ABC Triple is, and makes a pass at explaining why we might care.

A page on slashdot has an apparently endless discussion about how math articles in Wikipedia are only good for grad students, even the Wikipedia articles on algebra are of no help to any lesser beings, like a high school student who is trying to learn algebra.

I followed a link on another page and found that there are a whole bunch of these "@ home" projects going on. The idea behind "@ home" is there are some projects that might produce some useful results, if only enough computer power was available, so someone designs a program that can be run on a whole bunch of PC's independently, and encourages PC owners to download and run these programs. The programs run in the background and only when nothing else is going on, which for most computers is most of the time. So we are putting all those idle CPU cycles to use. I had heard that SETI was using this and there is a protein folding program floating around somewhere. There was even a program that was attempting to solve the Eternity II puzzle. This guy was running over a dozen. I don't even know what most of them are.

The picture comes from the original story. I thought it was an interesting take on prime numbers. Notice how most of the prime numbers line up on diagonals, or occupy corners. I wrote a simple prime number sieve some time ago and this prompted me to go look for it, but it seems to have vanished. No big loss, the prime number business has become a quagmire. I don't know how far they have gotten, but I imagine they are up into the hundreds of digits. With numbers up to a value of a million or so, it's kind of interesting, but once you've got a thousand prime numbers it's no longer fun. It's more like work.

Letter from Earl

September 12, 2012

U.S. intelligence gathering operations are endangering America’s civil liberties and our fiscal responsibilities. Today, the House voted to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act (FAA) for another 5 years. This legislation, which I opposed, is a misguided attempt to strengthen and protect the privacy of American citizens that actually imperils our essential freedoms.

The FAA authorizes the federal government to conduct electronic surveillance of persons “reasonably” believed to be outside the United States through June 1, 2017. That means that anyone inside the U.S. making a call or sending an email to someone outside of the U.S. could also be subject to surveillance. The degree to which this happens, how the information is used, or how long it’s stored is unknown, even to the National Security Agency.

I remain confident that the dedicated members of the intelligence community do not need to violate the rights of Americans in order to protect them. Some say that the enemies of America take on many forms. To them I say: Let us be sure one of those forms is not our own government.

Any gains in security that were achieved through a blanket extension of the FAA are temporary and are more than outweighed by the longer-term loss of civil liberties. The right approach would be refining this bill, and more broadly, taking a hard look at what, over the last decade, has become an intelligence community that’s too big and too powerful for its own good.

In the wake of 9/11, we correctly made reforms to our intelligence community, but we also opened funding floodgates and that need to be closed. We currently spend close to $80 billion a year on intelligence gathering in the U.S. That’s more than Russia spends in an entire year on its military. Congress needs to work harder to reverse this dangerous trend. Our civil liberties and our financial stability depend on it. Our country deserves better.

Thank you very much,

Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress
Earl is my personal emissary to Congress.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

One Man

I heard two stories today, both were about one man's outsized influence on society. The first one I heard from my doctor. It was about the "evils of fat" theory that swept across this country recently. When did it start? 30, 40 years ago? It has only recently been been refuted, and there are probably still pockets of resistance holding on to it. In any case, the spread of this "theory" was primarily the work of one man, who just kept repeating his story over and over again, telling it to anyone who would listen, and evidently a lot of people listened and almost no one bothered to check up on his story.

The second was a story I started reading in the October issue of Discover magazine. It was about the relationship between the ratio of men to women and the political climate in this country. On average, over the long term, the ratio of male to female babies is about even. There are slightly more men than women born, about 107 men to 100 women. However, this is the long term average. On a short term basis the ratio can vary as much as 30%. In some years you might only have 70 males born to every 100 females. Other years might be the opposite. Also, the number of births varies every year, sometimes fewer than 3 million, sometimes more than 4 million. What this means is that when it comes time to choose a marriage partner the ratio of available men to available women may be very far from even.

One guy was doing some research on this and he found that when the number of men exceeded the number of women, the country became more conservative. When the opposite happened, the country became more liberal.

This man was planning to write a book suitable for the public. Unfortunately, he died before he finished it. His son took up his work and eventually published his findings, but they were only published in an academic journal and did not receive wide publicity. The popular version of the book was never produced, so it is only now that his research is becoming common knowledge.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Michigan Mike reports:
I bought a Black & Decker workmate for $40 from a guy off craigslist.  
It is a great tool. It allows secure clamping of materials for fabricating, and gives a solid footrest to use your body weight to stabilize the project.  
I never used one before. I always thought they were toys. I was wrong. It will make my work safer and more accurate, but that is not the story....  
I decided I needed one when I had a metal job that needed clamping, and the choices were a vise and bench or a workmate. Or working on the floor.  
So I decided I didn't want a big heavy-ass workbench, and started shopping for a workmate.  
I looked online. They sell for $90-$150 through all the standard channels including Home Depot, Ace, Lowes. I thought great, drove over to HD, but all they had was the model 125, a cheap scissors leg rickety piece of junk. I needed the 225 or 425.  
I called around, and kept calling. There was not one new one for sale in Grand Rapids, a city of over a million people. Grainger promised one ovenight, but at $150.  
The B&D workmate has been sold since 1973. 10s of millions have been sold. 
And we wonder why our infrastructure is crumbling...
The links point to stories about Ron Hickman, the inventor of the workmate and designer of several cars for Lotus, including the Elan. So he was a talented guy. The part that I thought was interesting though was that he moved to New Jersey from England. New Jersey, the butt of every New York joke, the home of Snookie (reputed to be a fine example of a New Jerseyite). Something is really wrong with our country when people who actually make things are ridiculed and people who only sell stuff are worshiped. Well, I guess if I was selling stuff, I would be selling the idea that the people who sell stuff should be worshiped, not the rubes who actually make stuff.

Update August 2020 replaced missing image.