Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Yellow Journalism Fans The Flames of Anti-Govt Indignation

California Bob reports:

An LA news station ran a pretty titillating and damaging story about CalTrans employees driving expensive trucks, buying booze, running personal errands, etc.  The usual civil service fatcat expose'.

This at a time when the state is constantly poor-mouthing, "we don't have enough money, we need to raise taxes," etc.

Seems like the civil service has morphed from a modestly compensated but secure and meaningful job, to secure and lavishly compensated job with little or no accountability.

Here's the story, and my letter to the governor:

Dear Governor Brown:

CBS2 news in Los Angeles recently ran an “expose’-style” story on CalTrans, citing certain well-paid employees who were allowed to use state vehicles for personal business, and who were evidently conducting personal errands on  state time, etc.  You must realize how damaging this sort of story is to the public perceptions of state government.

On a daily basis, it seems, the State is bemoaning their poverty and budgetary woes, and pleading with the citizenry for more taxpayer funding.  When a story airs about state employees drawing six-figure salaries, driving expensive vehicles, and spending their working hours on shopping binges, we might say that voters begin to doubt the sincerity of the government’s case.  We might more accurately say that many voters feel a sickening sense of disgust and betrayal.

Obviously the behaviors reflected in the news story are not that egregious, and we know that the same conditions, or better, obtain in much of the private sector.  But one must realize that for most people – for MOST PEOPLE – six-figure salaries, health insurance, benefits, brand-new company vehicles, pensions, and so forth, are lavish indulgences of which they can only dream.  For people who are underpaid or unemployed, who have no health insurance, who have no benefits, who have no pension or savings, witnessing this lavishness is humiliation enough.  Having that lavishness funded by coerced taxation compounds that humiliation.

Dispensing the largesse, while simultaneously moaning and protesting that “the government just doesn’t have enough money,” fuels that humiliation with indignant rage.

Having this sort of story air precisely at a time when we have measures on the ballot asking for more funding is unfortunate timing indeed. 

My question is: what are your ideas for restoring a government culture of modest, dedicated service?  Civil service used to be a modestly compensated, but secure and meaningful career path.  It has morphed into a career path that is secure and lavishly compensated, but often with little or no substance or accountability.  I blame much of this on the recent “hero culture” which tends to glorify and hold few standards for many government workers simply because they wear a uniform. Regardless: I would think the current economic environment would both provide basis and be conducive to reaffirming a more dedicated, deliberate culture in the civil service.           


California Bob

There Be Dragons

This is the second time this week I've run into a three headed dragon. Flat is the new gloss.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Monster Saturn Storm Created Atmospheric Hotspots | NASA JPL ESA Cassini Infrared HD Video

The LA Times had a story about a storm on Saturn that was discovered by the Cassini probe.
It was an alien storm to dim memories of all others, wrapping all the way around a vast northern portion of Saturn, a planet that could hold about 750 Earths. And it brought with it a spike in temperature never observed before anywhere in the solar system. Think of a violent storm, NASA said, that covers all of North America and continues on around the planet -- a storm from which you could not escape for nine months. - Amy Hubbard
    The video uses false colors to show what was only visible in the infrared. That's understandable, watching a gray storm on a gray planet would be pretty boring. What I found interesting was the time stamp. It is on the left center of the image and a it's a little fuzzy. It's also in a strange format. Oh, that's not a time stamp, that's a calendar stamp. This video compresses a year of watching Saturn into 15 seconds. Geez. Talk about time lapse photography.

Cassini Today
    I got to looking for more info on the probe and I found it got there in 2004 so it's been going around and around Saturn for eight years. Moreover, it took seven years to get there. That took a little planning. One of the reasons it took so long, other than Saturn is a long stinking way from us, is that it had to swing by some planets to pick up enough velocity to make it all the way out there. This voyage is, to me, the most impressive part of this project. I am sure they are doing all kinds of fascinating science there, and the orbital mechanics involved in orbiting Saturn (see picture above) are pretty impressive, but it's the getting there that impresses me.

Rough graph of Cassini's speed (red) versus time. The vertical scale is miles per second. 
The jumps are where it swings by a planet. The vertices on the blue line are the planet's velocities.
The blue line itself is there because my Graphing Fu is weak.

    We start with the launch from Earth back in 1997. As it falls toward the Sun on its way to Venus it picks up a little speed, and then when it gets there it gets a boost of a couple miles per second. Then it goes into orbit for a year, swings by Venus again (1999), gets another boost and then heads out to Earth. The difference in transit times between Earth and Venus must be due to the difference in their relative positions. The velocity difference isn't that great.
    Now we are leaving Earth for the second time, but with about five miles per second more velocity. We coast for a year and a half until we get to Jupiter where we get another little boost, and then it's a long slow slide out to Saturn, three and a half years worth.
    This whole boost thing works because
  1. Planets are really big and massive and have strong gravitational fields.
  2. Planets have very high velocities. They range from 3 miles per second for outliers like Neptune and Pluto to 30 miles per second for Mercury.
  3. Your spacecraft is slower than the planet it is trying to get a boost from. You wouldn't do this if you were going faster, unless you wanted to slow down.
  4. Your path must take you very close to the planet as it comes barreling along, kind of like a bicyclist grabbing onto the back of a truck, except it's just the gravitational pull of the planet that is acting on you.
I don't know who was driving, but they were cutting it damn close. Cassini came to 210 miles from Venus and 375 from Earth. If you knew where to look, you probably could have seen it with binoculars. It gave  Jupiter a wide berth: six million miles.

Update November 2016 replaced missing picture, replaced video with similar one from YouTube.

Quote of the Day

I would rather eat a heaping bowl of fried rats’ asshole pudding than go through junior high again. - LeeAnn
From a comment on one of Dustbury's posts.

Titan Supercomputer

Oak Ridge got a new supercomputer this week. Actually they just got new guts for it. They had a similar supercomputer there before. They replaced all the computer bits, but all the infrastructure, like the building, powers supplies, cabling and cooling all remained the same. Oh, and they got some new, flashy graphics for the front panel.

Running simulations of complex processes (things like weather, nuclear reactions) is what makes this thing useful. It allows us to peer a little bit into the future. The more detail we can include, the more accurate our predictions and the farther into the future we can see. No, we still can't model financial markets, but we can do a heck of a job with fluid dynamics, which is where we get cool pictures of the power turbine from a GE jet engine.

NPR has a good story about that includes some solid information like :
  • Titan would not have been possible were it not for the massive market for video games.
  • The room is where it is housed is very large, about a half acre.
  • This machine cost $100 million. Its electric bill will total $9 million a year.

Rockets got Nose Art

The National Reconnaissance Office put up another spy satellite last June. This one has a three-headed dragon painted on the side of its launch fairing, which is 12 feet in diameter, the same size as the diameter of a 727 airliner. They used a Delta 4 Heavy rocket to launch it, the biggest rocket in our current arsenal. Must be a heck of a satellite. Via Two Eyes Watching.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

War On Drugs, Part 2

Scientist developing anti-suicide nasal spray

For soldiers. Alternate definition of War On Drugs.

Link from the Graham Hancock website.

Quote of the Day

The VA losers will never give up. Despite their mandate of care, a heavy percentage of VA staffers live far to the right of Genghis Khan. If they lose here, they will push this case all the way to The Supremoes, whose hit song, Fuck You, Billy Jack, plays well with close to fifty percent of the illiterate US masses, who show no sign of abandoning their nicotine and alcohol addictions. - W1GYF, 23 October 2012 7:33PM
Found in the comments on a story about medical marijuana in The Guardian. I don't know who's behind the War On Drugs. Normally I don't blame the people ('the masses'). The conspiracist part of me says it's the current drug vendors, legal and illegal. The legal drug vendors (prescription pain medication, alcohol & tobacco) don't want any competition. The illegal vendors know that legalization will cut into their profits. But sometimes I just get really tired of all the bullshit and stupidity and I just want to say Fuck You, you ignorant sons-of-bitches, whoever you are, who are promoting this incredibly stupid War On Drugs.

P.S. I'm looking for links and this pops up:
    Okay, I see this and I think 'somebody is keeping the Anti-Drug Warriors supplied with drugs'. We're stretching the boundaries of what we can get away with. But then I click on the link (how can I not?) and it goes to a website that belongs to a band called The War On Drugs. No mention of Soma or prescriptions or much of anything besides music. What's going on here?
    A couple of days ago I was looking to see if the ACLU was doing anything about the no-fly list and a couple of links to Stop The ACLU! pop up. I've run into these guys before, blood red commies as near as I can tell, but let's see what kind of nonsense they are spouting now, so I click on the link and it leads off into la-la-land. Somebody intercepted the URL and redirected it.
    Now I've had problems before with some kind of virus on my machine screwing with the URLs, but it's been quiescent for the last several months, except for slowing my machine down to a crawl. I only notice it when I am running videos, so I haven't bothered to root it out. All this makes me wonder what's going on. Is some hacker really trying to screw with these specific sites? Or are key word phrases triggering it? This is a level of sophistication above the old "jump random and destroy" virii of years past. It's not as sophisticated as that Worm that took out the Iranian centrifuges, but with all the bloatware running around now, you can't really tell whether you machine is infected or not. And I'm pretty sure the virus writers are a couple of steps ahead of the anti-virus people.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Grey

Opening line:
A job at the end of the world. A salaried killer for a big petroleum company. I don't know why I did half the things I've done, but I know this is where I belong, surrounded by my own. Ex-cons, fugitives, drifters, assholes. Men unfit for mankind.
That was the best part of the movie. It goes downhill from there. Okay, there is a plane crash and it was pretty well done, but after that it's pretty pitiful. A whole lot of caterwauling, but no real effective survival skills, but since the plot involves picking off the survivors one by one, there wouldn't be much point, would there? Too bad, since I usually like Liam.

Nothing New, Part 2

It took me a while to make the connection, but I finally got it. Seems to me that Mario Pezzi's own personal pressure chamber:

bears a striking resemblence to Kenji Yanobe's Survival Racing Car.

Okay, except for the wheels, and the color. And the lights. Whatever.

Nothing New

1906 Compound
Scott sent me a link to an article about this very pretty car. There are several things to note about this one. It got a "Gold Star" restoration when it was at Harrah's some time ago. That's why it looks so nice. It currently lives at a museum in Fairbanks, Alaska. I was surprised to hear that there was such an establishment in Fairbanks. Lastly it has a compound gas engine, which is where it got its name.

Overhead view of engine in the 1906 Compound

Compounding involves having a second cylinder to extract more work from the exhaust gas from the primary cylinder. Steam engines have been doing it forever. People experimented with it with gas engines for a few decades around 1900, but it didn't pan out economically. That is, a compound engine cost too much for the small amount of extra horsepower it delivered. Probably weighed too much to boot.

This cutaway drawing is of a different engine, but the principle is the same. The cylinders on either end operate like a conventional four stroke, internal combustion engine. When these primary cylinders complete their power stroke, the exhaust gas is piped to the center cylinder where the still expanding exhaust gases can do a bit more work.

Update February 2018. Added captions to pictures, which give the here-to-for unmentioned name of the car.

Get the Gringo

Get the Gringo, or how it was going to be named:

A fine film, most of which is set in a Mexican prison: El Pueblito in Tijuana. I had never heard of it until I saw it on Netflix. The Box Office report from IMDB confirms my suspicion that it was never released in the US:

Box Office


 $20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

 RUR 11,951,425 (Russia) (25 March 2012) (217 Screens)


 $7,378,034 (Non-USA) (2 August 2012)
See more »

Could this be backlash from Mel running off at the mouth a while back? Hmmm. We elect actors to important positions, we have actors selling all kinds of products and charities. Could it be that Americans can't tell the difference between truth and fiction? Which groups of people get more press coverage: professional athletes, politicians or actors? Just because someone is a jerk in real life does not mean he's not a good actor. I suppose he pissed some people off. That's what they get for listening to the news.

See the way Mel is holding the gun in the picture above? Mel holds the gun sideways like that in a couple of scenes in the movie as well. I've heard gun people decry this as foolishness, it's only done to look cool. Nobody who is serious about shooting would hold a gun like this. It seems to me that it would work just as well as holding it upright, you might need to practice a bit to be able to hit anything, but really there is no reason it couldn't work. I suppose I'll have to try it sometime, just to see.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

экстремальный взлет в Бодайбо

Title translates to "Extreme launch Bodaibo", or, as EB Misfit says, "A Hard Slog Down the Runway". Bobaido is really in the middle of nowhere.

Aerospace Home

Hillsboro Airplane Home

There is a guy here who is trying to make a home out of an old jetliner. It's an unusual project, shoot, it might even be unique. I think it's a fine idea, for him. Has very limited appeal to me. I imagine running out of headroom every time I turn around, or whenever I try to pass someone else going the other way. But maybe there is more room than I imagine. I mean, if you aren't using it as airliner, you can rip out all the seats,  the overhead luggage compartments and the ceiling, and if you do all that you might have standing headroom all the way to the edge of the floor. I mean the thing is twelve feet in diameter. That's pretty big.
     It reminds of an idea I was kicking around a while back. One of the big attractions of science fiction is really cool space ships. Another is adventures on alien planets. Not too alien though, we want to explore alien planets where we might possibly be able to live. In case you haven't noticed, Earth has some really alien environments, some might even call them hostile. Bone dry deserts, frozen wastelands, steaming jungles, fetid swamps, you name it, we've got it. So I got the idea of building a house in the shape of a spaceship. With some creative engineering and attention to detail, you could create something that looks like it just landed from outer space and was fully inhabitable. It need not be expensive, at least not like a real rocketship because it wouldn't be going anywhere. You could make it out of cheap, heavy materials like steel and concrete. You would have to pay attention to the fit and finish if you wanted to make it look real, but we have armies of artists who specialize in that kind of thing.

Seems like in the dawn of the space age, every Science Fiction magazine had a picture of a giant rocket on the cover. It would be perched on its tail, which always had three equally space fins, having just landed on an alien planet. I went looking for pictures, but I only found a couple. The one on the left shows how I would imagine how your rocketship would look when you got home after work, except the background would be spectacular vistas of mesas and mountians in the great Southwestern Desert. The one of the right with the cutaway of the interior illustrates how the interior could be laid out.

Jetliner home via Scott.

Update October 2020 replaced missing image.

Pictures de Google

    Looking at some my older posts, I realized that I have increased the size of the pictures I post. I suspect this might have something to do with the size of my screen. When looking for pictures online I now set the minimum size on Google to 640 x 480. That's like a quarter of my screen size (1600 x 900).
    Yesterday I was looking at Google's tour of its facilities and they were using my whole screen to display their pictures. It was great. OK, I have a broadband connection, so download time isn't a factor like it would be for a dial-up connection, but dang! It's like the difference between VHS and a DVD. VHS was fine when that was all we had, but once you see a high-definition picture, it's hard to go back.
    Yes, a broadband connection costs $50 a month, but compared to my $500 a month gasoline bill or my $300 a month beer bill, it's kind of small potatoes.

    Google's tour of its facilities impressed me on a couple of fronts. First off, it was really boring. Big warehouses full of racks of computers. Endless rows of equipment. Lots of pipes. I mean it's really clean and very high tech, and they've tried to brighten it up with bright colors and colored lights, but it doesn't really help much. The other thing is how big they are. I mean this is just Google, this isn't Yahoo, or Amazon, or AOL or anybody else, it's just Google. And it's all paid for with advertising. OK, not anymore, now they rent space and provide services to other companies, but they got their start with advertising, and advertising still pays a big portion of the bills.
    Lastly, I'm wondering what a data link to the outside world looks like. They've got a warehouse full of computers, they must have thousands of individual connections going on at any one time, maybe even a million. I know you can send a lot of data down a fiber optic cable, but I'm thinking that an entire data center is going to stretch the limits of fiber optics. I mean, they might need two.
    There was one picture of a satellite antennae, but I'm not sure a satellite link with its attendant delays would fit with Google's instant response model. I mean, have you ever tried to talk over a satellite link? You have change your speaking style to accommodate the delays or else you end up talking over each other. Round trip (out and back, twice) takes around 2/3 of a second, long enough to be noticable, at least when you are speaking. You run into delays on the net sometimes, but if they are long enough to notice they are usually much longer than that, like multiple seconds.

Big Black Sailboat of Doom

California Bob reports: "I was driving around the industrial area today shopping for stainless nails and I happened upon the yard where the Oracle America's Cup boat is being kept. Or repaired -- I hear they had some big mishap last week. Anyway it's gi-normous."

Yes, it's big: 72 feet long. Story with video, complete with annoying voice-over, here. They also capsized the boat earlier this month without any apparent damage.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Burma Railroads

    I've been reading about WWII in Burma, and I came across a couple interesting bits of railroad lore. This is the same part of the world as the "Railroad of Death" and The Bridge on the River Kwai, though those are more in Thailand.
    First we have Gokteik Viaduct, "the largest railway trestle in the world" at the time of its construction in 1900.

Next we have the Double Fairlie Locomotive. This engine became famous because of its success in navigating the twisting Welsh mine railways. Apparently some people thought the twisting railway lines running across mountainous Burma would be another good place for them. No, it's not a photoshopped image of a regular steam locomotive and its reflection, they really built them like this.

1907 #2200-2201 0-6-0-0-6-0, 3'3.3/8" (metre) gauge, Burma Railways (2 loco's) Double Fairlie Patent

The Goteik railway trestle is still in business. The large version of the map will show you where it is in relation to the rest of the world.

View Burma WWII in a larger map

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” - Bill Shankly

Monday, October 22, 2012

Two for One Quote of the Day

"Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy." - Jorge Luis Borges
    I am still looking for the current unofficial exchange rates for Argentine pesos. I have not found anything new since the end of August. I read something yesterday about some big shot down there (Minister of Finance, maybe?) making it a crime to discuss the exchange rate. I thought it was a joke, but maybe not.
    Anyway, I'm poking around on the net looking for info, and I come across a story about one Wade Hicks who got kicked off an airplane because he was on the no-fly list. This happened in the middle of his flight from Travis Air Force Base (55 miles Northeast of San Francisco) to Japan when the plane stopped to refuel in Hawaii. I was thinking about telling Jennifer about this, I mean this is her meat and potatoes, but then I came across the above quote on the same page and I said 'this is too good to pass up'.
    It gets better. A little farther on in the discussion I found this little story:
When governments become authoritarian I don't think they necessarily think logically, for example they don't care  that punishing someone for criticizing may create a more enraged enemy.  The man mentioned here may be the victim of a mistake or maybe someone with a little authority decided to exercise / abuse that authority.  Often these things are related to personality and a misuse of power by a petty official.  Long before 9/11 I had the worst airport immigration incident of my life.  I was polite, conservatively dressed with nothing to hide.   For some inexplicable reason the US official who took my passport at Toronto airport treated me like the worst criminal - threatning, arrogant and really gaestapo like.  Why?  Maybe I reminded him of someone he hated.  I'lll never know but it was so bad that I thought he might have me detained.  Now that these officials have post  9/11 security concerns to back them up they can be insufferable. - sergio
Which brings us back to the quote at the top.
    This story has one more weird angle. The date on the Russia Today story is October 14, 2012. The date of the forum post is October 17, 2012. Google Wade Hicks and the top news story is from Wired, two hours ago. What does is tell you when a Russian outfit scoops the American 'press' by over a week?

Update: Realized Google would show the most recent news first, not the oldest, but a new search turned up nothing older than a day or two.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Poking versus Cutting

    I don't recall exactly where I heard this, maybe talking to Jack, but there are basically two kinds of swords. There are cutting swords, like the Viking broadswords and Japanese Samurai Swords, and then there poking swords, like the ones used in fencing. The part that was new to me was that poking swords were developed to counter chain mail. Cutting through chain mail with the edge of a blade can be tough going. You have a much better chance with a thin, sharp point. If you can get the point into the gap between links, it will not take as much force to drive a narrow wedge between then and so open them up, which allows the point to sink farther in and do some damage.
    I found the picture on a blog from a person who was taking a course on medieval sword fighting.

Oil Prices

Crude Oil Price, Hourly for week of October 15, 2012

    Hourly, for the last week. Low of $89.80 per barrel at 11AM on Monday, high of $93 around 10AM on Friday, but mostly around $92. A barrel holds 42 gallons, so a price difference of one dollar per barrel translates to around two and half cents per gallon.This weeks maximum difference was $3.20, which translates to about 8 cents per gallon. Refineries can get about half a barrel of gasoline from each barrel of crude oil.
    Stumbled on this chart while I was looking at the Argentine Peso. Daring daughter wants to go back, but the situation is not looking good.

Update September 2018 replaced missing image.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Good Old Days

    I vaguely remember that shortly after I got out of school in 1980, there was some kind of personal computer available for around $5,000, and it only had a floppy drive. I drooled over it, as I had my first job that paid real money (right around $17,000 a year), but I didn't buy one. Rent, beer & gasoline still had higher priorities.
    We bought my wife a Leading Edge PC with a Silver Reed daisy wheel printer when she enrolled in graduate school in 1985. It was loaded, it came with the full 640KB of memory, dual floppy disk drives, a Hercules compatible graphics card, and a hi-res monochrome monitor, all for only $2800.
    The Texas Instrument mini-computers I was working with had five megabyte Winchester disks the size of record players. Yes, you could buy one, I suppose, if you were made of money. The last hard disk I bought holds 250GB and cost less than $100. That's 25,000 times the capacity for 1/34th of the money, or 1/200th of the money if you allow for inflation. That's like a five million to one increase in storage capacity per dollar in less than 30 years. Mass production is wonderful, isn't it?

Picture from Fail Desk via Scott.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Portland, D.C.

Watching an episode of Covert Affairs off the net this evening, and there is a brief shot of the entrance to a Washington D.C. area hospital:

Except it's not! It's our very own St. Vincent's right here in the Silicon Forest. It shows up right at the four minute mark, right after the first commercial break, which comes right after the credits. It's only on the screen for two seconds.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Boson de Coal

    I don't believe in the Higgs Boson. I suspect all those wackos at CERN have done is to wack some very small bits of matter with a really big hammer and then in the femtosecond after impact they saw a vision and said "God"!. But that's just my personal view of the thing and matters not one whit in the grand scheme of fund allocations.

Northern Hemisphere glaciation during the Last Glacial Maximum

     Anyway, I am reading through the news on Graham Hancock's website and I come across a story that claims the Indian civilization discovered this God particle 18,000 years ago. Of course this runs contrary to current Western thinking about the development of civilization, but just suppose there was an advanced civilization way back then. How much evidence would be left after the glaciers covered most of the Earth? Not much. Okay, the glaciers didn't make it to the tropics, but nothing lasts long down there. Heat, water, sunlight and life pretty much reduce everything to it's constituent particles in short order. So it could be our civilization is not the first one to attain this level of sophistication. It could be that there was another very advanced civilization a long time ago.
    A comment led me to Satyendra Nath Bose, an Indian Physicist and contemporary of Albert Einstein, who by all accounts was a pretty sharp character. Sharp enough that Bosons, the Higgs-Boson, and Bose-Einstein Condensate were all named after him.
    Bose-Einstein Condensate? I just read Spin State, a Science Fiction novel by Chris Moriarty, and Bose-Einstein Condensates play a major role. We have a colony planet where we have discovered some naturally occurring Bose-Einstein Condensate crystals that have enabled us to develop an intersteller transportation system and so an intersteller civilization. These crystals are found embedded in coal, which is being dug and used for fuel, much as we do now, with all the attendant problems of unions, strikes, malevolent coal companies, robber baron bosses and the whole panoply of coal mining troubles. Which reminds me of:

Lee Dorsey - Working In The Coal Mine (1966)

Which reminds me that DEVO did a version of this song, and when I go looking for it, I find this, which is, um, I don't know. Disturbing? Amusing? Scary? Great?

Freedom Of Choice (Original Version)

Freedom from Choice is one of the reasons I like Costco. I don't want to have to sort through 27 different varieties everytime I need something. Socks, butter, tea, whatever, just give me one. Which brings us to this story: Supermarkets Find that Less Inventory Means More Money. It seems DEVO were ahead of their time.

Update April 2015: The Lee Dorsey video had disappeared. I tracked it down by using the YouTube id from the embedded html, which is why I now add the given title under all my YouTube posts.
Update July 2019 replaced the DEVO 2.0 video. Unfortunately the replacement doesn't have any video. You can see the kids in action here.

Update October 2021 replaced both videos.

How the Dutch got their cycle paths

    I like riding my bike. I suppose the proliferation of bike lanes is a good thing. However, many of them are only marginally safer than no lane at all.
    Bicycles are good for commuting short distances, three or four miles. Any farther than that and it starts to seem more like work. Note in the video they mention an average daily travel distance of less than 4 kilometers. That's like two and a half miles. You also need to realize that the Netherlands is a very small, and very densely populated country. Some of our East Coast cities may approach the density and area of Holland. I am sure that anything West of the Appalachians is way more spread out and probably only a tenth as dense as Amsterdam. So while Amsterdam's solution might be good for small, densely populated areas, it is not going to work for the whole world.
    One of the popular places to put bike lanes is between a travel lane for cars and a parking lane for cars. This can work fine if everyone minds their P's and Q's, but when someone gets out of their parked car they are going to open their door, and that door is going to swing right into the bike lane. Any biker who happens along at that moment is going to get a nasty surprise. If they are really quick, they might have time to decide whether to run head on into the door, or swerve into the traffic lane where they can be run down by the electric car they did not hear coming up behind them. Running the bike lanes the other direction might alleviate this problem, but that would be sacrilege.
    Out here in the boonies, we have bike lanes alongside some high speed rural, two lane blacktop roads. I suppose there might be a couple of commuters that use them, but mostly they are for the spandex crowd that goes for a ride at lunch or on the weekends. I'm not sure I approve of spending tax payer dollars to give these muscle buns a place to play. On the other hand, it might save on cleaning bills. Dead Man's curve even has bike lanes. I am dreading the day I go through there and find a mess.

PA Yuzhmash

I've been looking at Sea Launch, the Los Angeles based outfit that puts communications satellites into geosynchronous orbit from the middle of the ocean using Zenit rockets made in the Ukraine. They've been in business for 17 years and have managed to put 30 satellites into orbit.

Wikipedia has an article about the company that makes the rockets, PA Yuzhmash, and they have a fine description of them:
The A.M. Makarov Yuzhny Machine-Building Plant, or PA Yuzhmash (...) is a Ukrainian manufacturer of space rockets, agricultural equipment, buses, trolley buses and trams, wind turbines, and satellites.
Rockets, satellites, plows and buses. That's a product mix you don't see every day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pyramids in the Sudan

View Larger Map

From a story by Andrew McCarthy in The New York Times.

Update July 2019 fixed map error, updated link.

Ready for my Close-Up

A Royal Air Force Typhoon pilot drives up to the back door of a C-130 (Hercules) for a photo opportunity.

He radios, "How much closer do you want me?"

They radio, "How much closer can you get?"

Pilot radios........."Close enough?"

". . . or do you want me to come in?"

You have to be a tad mad to be a fighter pilot in today's world but, even crazier to be a photographer looking into those big air intakes!

From Stu.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Crazy Bicycle People

This is from Australia. Found on Chirosangaku. Lot's of interesting pictures, many are bicycle related, but not all.

Update November 2016 replaced missing picture.

Quote of the Day

Researchers in Dr. Chirik’s lab are also hunting for ways to use catalysts to convert nitrogen from the air into forms used in various products, from fertilizer to carpet fiber. The current method, the Haber-Bosch process, is so energy-intensive it accounts for 1 percent of all global energy use. - Hillary Rosner in a story in The New York Times
One percent of all global energy use?!? One percent of all the coal, oil and uranium burned for fuel? Even if we don't count wood or food energy, that's a stink load of power. (And yes I know, we don't literally burn uranium, but we use it up none-the-less.)

Astana, Kazakhstan

Astana, Kazakhstan

This was a shock, especially after seeing the landscape around Baikonur. Who'd a thunk there would be a modern city in some out of the way desert country like Kazakhstan? National Geographic's Photo of the Day, via dutiful daughter. Astana is 500 miles Northeast of Baikonur.

Update January 2022 replaced missing picture.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Felix, Igor & Clyde

I'm watching Felix's space jump yesterday and I see this little white blob bouncing around on the screen. It's Felix on his way back down to Earth. He's 24 miles up and who knows how many miles downrange. I'm wondering what kind of camera are they using to get this shot?

A friggin' big one, that's what kind.

It's called the JLAIR and it used to be used to track space shuttle launches.

It's a direct descendant of IGOR developed by Clyde Tombaugh for the White Sands missile range when they were testing V2's after World War II. Later on, IGOR was used to track Nike missiles during their development. IGOR captured the Nike missile destroying the B-17.

This is the very same Clyde who discovered Pluto.

The Royal Prussian Telegraph Line

Stu has put up an extensive post about this pre-electric telegraph.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Power Chips?

Joe's Off Road Potato Chips. From Conneticut, via Iowa Andy. That's an old Dodge Power Wagon in the logo. I don't know why.

Felix Baumgartner - Space Man

Since Roberta X and Tam alerted me to this event this morning, I was able to watch it live along with 7 million of my closest friends. I wonder if this set some kind of YouTube record. I mean, that's more than one person out of a thousand on the entire planet. Red Bull, the energy (?) drink maker sponsored this event. Giant balloon made out of old sandwich bags which they had somehow split into five layers and then seamless glued them all together, filled with gas near Roswell, New Mexico, and then let go. It reached an altitude of 128,000 feet (24 miles) whereupon they began the step-off-edge checklist. First order of business was to depressurize the capsule. Don't do it all at once, want to make sure your pressure suit is holding before you give away all your air. By the time they got the door open, the balloon had dropped down to 127,000 and something. Felix sat there for a minute after he got the door open. The ground controller is telling him to step outside, but Felix isn't moving. I think he was taking in the view. I think I would have spent a couple of hours looking at the view. A few seconds later though, Felix stepped outside and then stepped off into nothing. 2 hours plus to go up, five minutes to come back down. Preliminary estimates of his speed exceed 700 MPH. He was tumbling pretty good for a while, not spinning, but definitely tumbling, but eventually he got down to where there was some air and he straightened out.


James May, that old commie, goes to Russia to test drive (fly?) the new, smaller version of the old Caspian Sea Monster. From Jack.

Giant Prehistoric Ground Drawing

View Larger Map

Picture is upside down here. Four faint legs sticking up and two antlers sticking down just to the right of the road. The road cuts diagonally through the body right behind the forelegs.

Russian Geoglyph
Might be a a long tailed deer or an elk, or it might be an anteater, if you go by the snout that shows up in the 2007 version. Anyway, it's really old, and it's right here in Google maps, direct from Zjuratkul Lake in Russia. Via Graham Hancock.

Update October 2016. Remove dead link, added image from Live Science, as the geoglyph no longer shows up on Google Maps. The Siberian Times has a more recent story with several more pictures.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hurricanes Since 1851

We are looking at the world from the bottom up. Antarctica is in the center. The larger semicircle follows the equator. The grayish bar graph in the lower left corner shows the number of hurricanes (above the axis) and tropical storms (below the axis) detected. Satellites have improved our detection rate, or at least those detections are now being recorded. All those guys who got caught in storms at sea before we had satellites, well, they detected the storm, but a lot of them didn't survive to report it.

Via How-To-Geek.

PSY performs "Gangnam Style" for a crowd of 80,000 fans

This song and the dancing are just silly. Maybe that is the appeal. I don't know, it seems to be taking on a life of its own. If you haven't heard the song, the original clip is here.

Citroen C5

Dustbury put up a post about how the Israelis are buying Citroen C5's instead of Beemers. I wonder what a C5 looks like, so I Google it and get this really weird ad. I don't understand it at all, unless it was just a setup to show the barmaids boobage, which I have to admit is pretty impressive. I mean, why would a French company want to compare themselves to a German one?

 Then I look at the Wikipedia article and I notice that Citroen has three assembly plants for this car. As you might expect, one is in France, a second is in China, which is understandable, but the third is in Tehran. That's in Iran. Well, then. Business before ideology, I suppose. Reminds me of some of the small bore auto-cannons from WWII.

I still don't know what this car looks like. Just like all the other expensive European Saloons I guess.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thrust, Part 2

GSI's linear accelerator UNILAC (UNIversal Linear ACcelerator) has a length of 120 meters. Ions, e.g. charged atoms of all chemical elements can be accelerated up to 20 percent of the speed of light (60,000 km/s) with this unit. Credits: GSI

The ESA (European Space Agency) is using the UNILAC to test materials for their suitability as radiation shielding for deep space expeditions. I'm thinking this could be a prototype of a reaction motor for an interstellar spacecraft. It they can reach 20% of the speed of light in just over 100 meters, how fast could they get going if they had a thousand meters to work with? Might be pretty quick.

Looks like it is made out of copper. Odd that. Once upon a time I was an apprentice machinist in the radiology department at the OSU (Ohio State University) Hospital. One of my projects there was to make a cyclotron target for irradiating gas. The device was made out of copper and some little bits of brass. I'm guessing we're using copper because it is less susceptible to becoming radioactive, though my little bit of Googling did not turn up any evidence along those lines.

GSI is the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research near Darmstadt, Germany.

Part 1 here.

Dyson Builds a Better Vacuum

I don't know whether Dyson vacuums are really any better than anybody else's, I've never tried one, and they are kind of expensive. But I am impressed that James not only invested the time and effort to try and build a better mousetrap, but persevered long enough to build a company that manufactures and sells his vacuum. Too often it seems a company will introduce a product that is good enough and then proceed to make and sell the same device for a hundred years without changing any more than the color of the paint or the style of the logo. All investment goes into marketing, none is spent on research and development. I suppose sex appeal has a lot to do with it. Isn't a vacuum cleaner just as sexy as a hot rod or a jet airplane? Well, maybe not.

Remember, there are two sides to the free market: on one hand customers are going to be looking for the highest quality product for the lowest possible price. On the other, in order to make a profit (i.e. make it worthwhile to continue in this line of work), the manufacturer will want to deliver the lowest quality product for the highest possible price.


Words - Everynone

WORDS from Everynone on Vimeo.

From Daring Daughter via The Long Now Foundation and

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Amii Stewart - Knock On Wood

I remember there was a guy in our high school that had a band and they used to play this song. Supposedly some guy by the name of Eddie Floyd made it a hit in 1966, but I never heard it anywhere else besides from Rod's band. Perhaps it passed from the radio station playlists before I got tuned in. This was ten years before Amii made it a hit, and boy, what a hit! There's a playlist on YouTube that has 19 versions of Amii singing this song.

The Political Circle

I first ran into the political circle in high school, the idea being that if you take any position to an extreme you end up looking like your opponent. I say I am a Democrat and a liberal, but in truth I am more like an opponent of both parties. Obama and Romney and their respective political machines are on opposite sides at the bottom of the circle, yelling their heads off about how evil the other side is because they are on the other side of the vertical line, when they are really closer to each other than anyone else. Me, with my contrary views, I am at the top of the circle, and I expect most of the people I talk to are also there.

I really can't stand to listen to talking heads on TV, it is such an inefficient way of passing information. Besides, you know what they say about politicians: if their lips are moving, they're lying.

I'll vote the Democratic ticket, not because I agree with anything they are saying or doing, but because I continue to belive the fantasy that the Democrats are for the working man, and the Republicans are for the bankers. The working man needs all the help he can get. The bankers don't need any help, they are already in the catbird seat.

On the same page as the above chart, I also found this quote from Ronald Reagan, whom I never liked. I suspected him of being the front man for the banker's mafia. Looked good, well spoken, an actor playing a part. The people in charge let him do a few flashy things (pull a battleship out of mothballs, send troops to Lebanon) but the political machine is too entrenched for anything to really change. Still, I have to give him credit for this:
You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down–up to a man’s age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order–or down to the ant heap totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course. - Ronald Reagan 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen

The animal on the cover?
That would be the Eager Beaver.
A friend of mine lent me Strip Tease. It's your basic murder mystery. It kind of reminds me of some of Elmore Leonard's stories. Matter of fact, it's a whole lot like Elmore's stories: it's about a wretched bunch of people being mean and stupid. Well, the heroine does seem to have something on the ball, now that life has slapped her upside the head. Still in all it's pretty sad. Just to show you the kind of low-lifes we are dealing with, her ex steals wheelchairs for a living. That's pretty low. Wait a minute, didn't I see a movie that had some guy stealing wheelchairs? What was it? I go poking around on Google for a bit and then it hits me: Striptease. Doh!

Update July 2015. Replaced missing movie photo.