Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

Lindsay Ell - Gibson Guitar @ NAMM 2013

This is what happens when I am left to my own devices. Grandpa Jack went in the hospital a week ago Thursday (almost two weeks ago) for hip joint replacement surgery. It's almost an outpatient procedure these days, but I  think they were going to keep him overnight, but something went wrong. He was awake and alert after the operation, but then something happened and he has been comatose ever since. My wife wanted to fly back to Iowa and she was all in a tizzy because it costs $300 to fly to Omaha and $1500 to fly to Sioux City via Houston but you don't have to rent a car and I told her not to worry about it, just book the quickest flight so she booked one through Chicago, but then she gets to Chicago and the flight to Sioux City is canceled, but she manages to get a flight to Omaha and her brother drives the 80 odd miles to pick her up so she got there okay. I guess they really don't want you to fly to Sioux City.
    The kids are all out celebrating with their friends and I am sitting at home finishing off a magnum of Champagne that I started the other night. A magnum from Costco costs as much as a regular bottle from Plaid Pantry / Seven Eleven and it comes with a plastic cork, which is easy enough to push back into the bottle but almost impossible to get out. We had to resort to Vise Grips [tm] the other night. Older son tells me there is some kind of $5 tool out there on the internet somewhere that makes short work of these stupid plastic corks, but I would have to point and click to find it and I'm really tired of pointing and clicking.
     So I'm listening to some tunes on YouTube and playing solitaire and this ad comes on, and I click over to it, and damn, that's a good looking woman, which is no big deal because the internet is full of good looking women, but I can stand to listen to these two talking, which is NOT something that happens very often. Even the fat chick is tolerable because she I can listen to her. Maybe it's the champagne, or maybe there is something to women besides pretty faces and sexy bodies. Fat women are, if not often, at least sometimes intelligent. Probably about as often as pretty women are talented (at things besides being pretty women). It's a little disturbing how easily I am captivated by a pretty face.

Update April 2016. Replaced missing video.

Oldest Trick in the Book

I howled when I saw this, so I just had to share.

Update October 2015 replaced missing video.

Monday, December 30, 2013

My, my, my, aren't we Special today.

Google found all kinds of special "Special Agent" badges, 
but no simple, straight-forward FBI Special Agent badges.

Poking around on the net and I stumble across an article on Forbes titled

Being as my three kids have all gotten their college degrees and have not found positions that fully exploit their talents (like anyone ever does), I thought they might be amused by this. Or not. Ten of these wonderful jobs are in the medical profession in one form or another, which means ten more years of your life sucked up by the educational system. I dunno, maybe it's worth it. I never liked school very much, the pay is shit. Anyway, there were three job titles that I found kind of interesting.
  • No. 6 Supervisory Special Agent (no explanation of what a "Special Agent" is or does)
  • No. 23 Senior Research Associate (I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Does this mean there is a market for people who know how to do research, regardless of topic?)
  • No. 25 Field Service Enginee (What's an "Enginee"? Someone who has been assigned to an engine?)
Okay, anyone who watches as many crime shows on TV as I do knows that a "Special Agent" is a copper from the FBI, but that's TV, not exactly the fount of reliable information. So I go to Wikipedia where I found this semi-confusing definition.
Within the U.S. government, the title of "special agent" designates a federal criminal investigator in the GS-1811 or Diplomatic Security Service FS-2501 job series,  ... They are usually empowered to carry firearms, make arrests, and investigate violations of federal laws. The title of "Agent", "Investigator", or "Background Investigator" refers to all other 1800 series job series designations...Although some federal agencies have recently defined certain background investigators and other non-1811 personnel as "special agents", this is purely an administrative title with a different meaning, and does not confer actual Special Agent status on them. Although some 1810-series investigators are empowered in some circumstances to carry firearms and investigate crimes, they are not empowered to make arrests. In general, arrest authority is what distinguishes a traditional Special Agent (1811) from most other 1800 series personnel. There are exceptions: some 1800 series positions, such as Border Patrol Agents, have the authority to enforce federal law, and thus have arrest authority. However, unlike the 1811 Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents, they do not have the authority to conduct major criminal investigations. In general, non-1811 personnel who have arrest authority are considered "Agents" while Criminal Investigators who carry a badge, gun, credentials, and have arrest authority are considered "Special Agents". All other 1800 personnel who conduct investigations (background or otherwise) are "Investigators", "Background Investigators", or "Compliance Officers", no matter what their administrative title may be. [emphasis mine]

So if you carry a gun, you're an agent, unless you can't arrest people, in which case you aren't. But if you are empowered to carry out investigations you are, unless you work for the TSA in which case you aren't. And if your admistrative title is "agent", well then, you obviously aren't special.
    You know, I probably got that all backwards, but you know what else? I don't care.

Update July 2015. Replaced spreadsheet embed code because only first five lines appeared when posted.


Bomb explodes at train station in Volgograd, Russia yesterday afternoon. 
More than a dozen people were killed.
I'm flipping channels on the TV and I come across a blind skier. I enjoy skiing, but I also like to see where I'm going, and here this woman is charging down this hill and she can't see shit. Okay, it's a groomed slope, and she has a guide, but still. I don't know how she does it. Anyway, she competes in the paralympics, and she is going to Sochi, because the paralympics are also going to be run there. So now I'm wondering just where is this place called Sochi? I'd never heard of it before they started talking about holding the Olympics there, so I go look it up and find it's on the Black Sea and about as far South as if is possible to get in Mother Russia (which I think says something about Russia's climate, like maybe it's really cold there, like in that movie Dr. Zhivago). Sochi is right near the border with Georgia and a couple hundred miles West of Chechnya where they have been fighting the Russians for the last twenty (or 500) years.

The Black Sea is on the left. The Caspian is on the right. View full size map.

And look what else is here: Volgograd, where the bomb went off yesterday afternoon. On the map it looks close, but it's actually over 400 miles from Sochi.

Update October 2021 replaced missing map.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saving Private Perez

It's a comedy, at least I hope it was supposed to be a comedy. On one hand it has a bunch of very realistic stuff, on the other much of it is over the top stereotypes. Or maybe it was the half bottle of Champagne I drank while consuming this movie. It's pretty light in the gruesome murder department, and then there's the scene where our hero's truck hits a land mine, gets blown sky high, and all that happens to our hapless heroes is they get a little scorched. So, yeah,. comedy. Very funny, with subtitles, if you drink enough.

Money Talks, Part 4

“The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalance and, above all, their lack of concern for human beings.” - Pope Francis quoted by Robert Scheer on truthdig
Outside of your immediate family and friends, people don't really care about other people. We say we care, but really who has time to do anything about the wars and slaughtering and famines that are devastating zillions of people as we speak? I mean that's why we have government emissaries and armies and pay taxes and make donations and all that. Nevermind that it often seems to cause more harm than good.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Different movie by Charles Ferguson, but a similar topic, and this image doesn't give any particular slimeball any publicity.

I read a review of the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, and I read about how some guy stood up and called it 'crap' or something at the premier. On one hand I think it's probably a pretty good movie, I mean this is Scorsese, and it might even have some kind of positive effect on the people of this country. But I didn't want to go see it. It might be a cathartic experience when the bad guys get their comeuppance, but having to watch their criminal behavior might be more than I can stand. And then I read this story by Christina McDowell in LA Weekly, so now I have an excuse to not go see it. She might be wrong about what kind of effect the movie will have on people. Then again, with the endless parade of douche-baggery that our modern world offers, maybe she's not.

Via Comrade Misfit

P.S. Charles Ferguson's story about why he isn't making a movie about Hillary Clinton, or Money Talks, Part 3.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Went to see this movie this evening with darling daughter. It's a great story and a fine film, but the bit about revolutions bothers me. Seems to me I heard something once upon a time about how revolutions never succeed, or always fail, which is the same thing. There must have been some caveat because our American Revolution succeeded, didn't it? Perhaps because we had the French helping us. In any case, this year (in the movie) marks the 75th year of the successful suppression of the last revolution, the one that resulted in the "destruction" of District 13. And here we are, starting another one. This can't be good, but maybe we'll get to beat up the bad guys.
    I'm beginning to think people just like to kill people. I was reading earlier today about Israel invading Lebanon some 30 years ago. I've always thought it was the Arabs against the Jews, but evidently there are multiple factions which are all against everyone else. In this stew-pot we call the Mideast, the Jews are just another faction, a faction that happens to have a large and vocal group of friends in the USA.
    I'm wondering if the reason the West has been so successful is because we took Christ's lessons about turning the other cheek to heart. As you go through life eventually everyone will piss you off in some way. You can hang onto that anger, nurse it along, let it fester, and save it up until it finally boils over and you pick a fight. Or you can let it go, forgive them their stupidity and pray that they will forgive yours, and try and do better next time.
    I don't like dragging Christ into this because I am not a particularly religious person, but I do wonder how it is that Christianity got to be such a powerful force. I think this might be part of it. People's emotions get the better of them and they do things they regret, and here's a guy telling you it's okay if you screw up, everybody does it, just try and do better in the future, that's all anyone can do.
    The Chinese had an empire that covered half the world a zillion years ago, but one day they stopped their exploring and pulled back to their original country. Something similar happened in the Arab world. They were going great guns and then for some reason they decided to just stop. I wonder if there is something fundamental in their philosophy that led to that.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Pic of the Day

Russian Nuclear Powered Icebreaker. Click to Embiggenate. Watch out for the teeth.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Shaper Moving

Helped Jack move his shaper on Monday. He and Scott had previously disassembled it but it was still a bit of a chore. The base and the cutting head were the worst. They each weighed something more than a hundred pounds. It took two of us to pick up the cutting head and set it on the floor. We tied it to a handtruck and I tried to pull it up the stairs, one step at a time, but I couldn't. It took both of us to get it up the stairs. It took both of us to carry the base upstairs as well, though it was big enough that it would have been awkward even if it didn't weigh a ton and a half.
     Since this is Oregon it rained all the way back to Jack's house, but all the parts were coated with oil and we got them inside once we got there, so I don't think they suffered any damage.

A bullet, a rescue and a long road home

Wounded Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputy Robin Hopkins shares a happy moment with her 22-month-old son Bronson in her rehabilitation hospital room. She has undergone nearly a dozen surgeries since being shot. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

A well written story about a shooting that happened in Albuquerque, New Mexico in October of this year. It covers the gamut of society, from the horribly bad to the amazingly good.

This story is liable to make you think that "something ought to be done", and there probably are many things that should be done. My choice would be to find a better way to deal with alcohol and alcoholics, but I doubt we are going to get serious about that anytime soon. Meanwhile, we at least need to keep an adequate number of cats (police) on hand to keep the vermin in check.

Via View From The Porch

Stamping Versus Machining

This is how we used to mass produce steel parts:

Factory of origin - TMP Voronezh, Russia, 1963 YOM
Table size -                  6.5 x 16.4 feet
Overall dimensions - 25.6 x 31.5 feet
Height above floor -              29.5 feet
Press weight -                    486 tons
This is how we do it now:
ABENE CNC universal milling machine
800 x 500 x 475 mm | VHF-680

Inspired by this comment:
It is curious that a stamped sheet metal design (like German designs and the American M3) was chosen before the CCCP had the production capability, so that early AK47's were machined from billet.
Almost the reverse of SIG going from stamped sheet metal to billet machined weapons now that CNC machining is so much less expensive. - Ed in a comment on one of Tam's posts.
I've read that bit about early AK-47's being machined rather than stamped, and it is pretty weird, but then there was a lot of strangeness going on back then, even in the parts of the world we knew about, and who knows what was going on in Russia.

Money Talks, Part 2

In the movie Top of the Lake, Holly Hunter plays a sort of guru to a group of women. One of her main points in talking is that your body is smarter than you are. The body has evolved over millions of years and it knows everything it needs to know in order to survive. Our vaunted higher mental abilities are just window dressing. They might help us out with some things, but we could get along perfectly well without them.
    I'm thinking we could draw an analogy between this model and our world. People talk about politics and decision making, but the world runs on money. We have all kinds of crackpot conspiracy theorists who are trying to tell us the that Bilderberg Group or the Jews or the Illuminati or the Masons secretly control the world. Our crackpots aren't exactly right, but they are not exactly wrong either. The world runs on money. Everything else, including newspapers, television, politics and, yes, even blogs, is simply a sideshow, something to keep people occupied so they won't go around burning down factories and other profit making operations.You can try and influence things with politics and campaigning, but money is a very strong argument and it is very hard to divert.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to Me

Look what Santa brought me: a big box of grade-A smack. Actually older son got me this CD (Compact Disc, not a Certificate of Deposit) based on my asking if he had ever heard of Lorde, which is pronounced Lord, which is the second bit of letteral confusion in three words. I mean, I've heard of heroines and I've heard of pure heroin, but I've never heard of pure heroines, or have I? Purity is one of those mythical qualities possessed by mythical girls, but I can't right off the top of my head think of a heroine who was classed as pure. Royals on YouTube.

This Video Will Hurt (Not)

Remember how I was asking how crazy can be contagious? Serendipity strikes again with this video. Some of the stuff in here makes me think I might not be far off in thinking that our brains our quantum state receivers.
As for hypersound giving you a headache: that part is true, at least if you are willing to call ultrasound hypersound. Problem here is that no audio equipment will produce ultrasonic signals nor will loudspeakers produce ultrasonic sounds. If you think there might be some pieces of audio equipment somewhere that would, well, I would fall back on the definition of audio: sound that can be heard by the human ear. If it is producing sound waves at frequencies above 20 KHz (Kilo-Hertz, or thousands of cycles per second), then it is more properly called ultrasound equipment, and not audio.
In any case, the audio channel on YouTube doesn't have enough bandwidth to carry ultrasound signals, and I seriously doubt whether the speakers you are using to listen to this YouTube video would be able to produce any ultrasound even if such a signal made it down the wire to them.
My friend Jack was working with an ultrasonic distance measuring device one time. Thinking that what they couldn't hear wouldn't hurt them they left it turned of for a couple of hours and were rewarded with serious headaches. Oh, you think that ultrasonic speaker might be causing that problem? Well, yes it was. After that they only turned it on for the occasional millisecond long pulse, and they didn't have any more problems with headaches.
Creator's web page with sources.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Life among family

by Marcel

"Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense."
This quote has been attributed to Phil Robertson. Rick Warren seems to have said it earlier, but I haven't found an authoritative source. Anyway, these are two lies that could only have broadly taken hold among people without much family.
The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing which is really narrow is the clique. The men of the clan live together because they all wear the same tartan or are all descended from the same sacred cow; but in their souls, by the divine luck of things, there will always be more colours than in any tartan. But the men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment, like that which exists in hell. A big society exists in order to form cliques. A big society is a society for the promotion of narrowness. G.K. Chesterton,Heretics, 1905

Stolen entire from Monday Evening. Phil Robertson might be the Duck Dynasty star in the center of the recent media brouhaha. Might not. I have no idea who Rick Warren is. I've heard of G.K. Chesterton many times. It's only since Marcel has started quoting him that I've actually read anything he wrote. I had no idea Duck Dynasty was such a popular show. Number one in the world or some such. Never seen it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Ballerina Stunt (Live Test 1)

Volvo Trucks The Ballerina Stunt Live Test 1
Civic Merchandising Videos

Faith Dickey walks a tight rope strung between two semi trucks while they are driving down a divided highway in Croatia. Stunt was sponsored by Volvo trucks. I was a little hesitant about posting this as it looks pretty insane. But she is wearing a safety line and the trucks do have brakes, so I dunno, it might not be any worse than the guy who walked the tight wire strung between the world trade center towers. Actually compared to Philipe Petit, Faith might just be the very model rational behavior.

Update August 2021 replaced missing video.

Covert action in Colombia

A Colombian Air Force member cleans an A-29 Super Tucano, a turboprop aircraft typically involved in strikes on FARC targets. (Raul Arboleda/AFP via Getty Images)

The Washington Post has a story by Dana Priest about the civil war in Columbia. The more I read about the war on drugs, the more I think it is being encouraged by the participants. I doubt that we will ever really know who is at the top of the food chain in the drug cartels, but they are the ones making the big bucks, and they wouldn't be making that much money if drugs were legal, so it is in their best interest to ensure that drugs remain verboten.
    The "war fighters" and their suppliers are all in favor of it because it keeps them busy doing what they have been trained to do. Plus it keeps them employed, which can't be discounted in these days of rampant unemployment.
    The pharmaceutical industry in the USA is in favor of it because illegal narcotics are undercutting the price of legal pain killers, which can't be good for their bottom line. Stamp out enough heroin so that price rises and Oxycontin becomes price competitive again.
    I am sure there are some people who believe that the war on drugs is the only way to 'save the children' and prevent people from ruining their lives with drug addiction. I don't think it will do either of those things. Oh, with draconian enforcement I suppose it could, but the impact on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness would be crushing.
    On the other hand what are we going to do with all those people fighting the war on drugs (from both sides) if we were to stop prosecuting this war? Put them on dole and have them sit around and watch daytime TV until it's time to pick up their daily ration of intoxicants?
    I know North Korea is a horrible example, but have you seen some of these mass dance performances they put on? Maybe we could stage something like that, just to give people something to do, keep them occupied. Kind of sad that we have all these people with all their talents and abilities just sitting around watching daytime TV. There has got to be a better solution, I mean a better solution than outfitting them with a gun and sending them out to kill other people. I just wish I knew what it was.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Kate Upton & Snoop Dogg - You Got What I Eat (Hot Pockets Music Video)

I tripped over this ad while looking for warehouse pictures for my previous post. At first I didn't know what to make of it, but the longer it went on the more astounded I was. I suppose that's how Snoop Dogg, or whatever his name is these days, made a name for hisself.
    Can't talk about hot pockets with mentioning Jim Gaffigan.

Update October 2015 replaced missing video.

Box Dream

Iconic warehouse scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, because nobody makes sets for what people dream about except movie makers.

For some reason I'm back on the farm, never mind that my folks sold it and moved to Grand Rapids 30 years ago. In my dream it's still in the family and I am there to deal with it. This farm, or rather orchard, had a large, barn size building. The ground floor was cold storage, the upper floor was used for grading and packing. My folks had grafted a retail store onto the front of the lower floor.
    In my dream the building is more like three stories tall and there is a section that is open all the way from the ground floor to the roof, kind of like an atrium, but it's more like a barn or a warehouse. Looking up I can see a bunch of used cardboard boxes stacked up on some supports projecting from the third floor. The supports appear to made of flattened cardboard boxes, very flimsy, which leads me to conclude that the boxes are empty. Being as my folks grew up during the depression they were parsimonious to a fault, so I concluded that they had stock piled these boxes to use for packing and shipping. Okay, I've worked at companies like that. Understandable when you are just getting by.
    There's a rope hanging down from above where it is connected to a couple of other ropes. What's this rope for? It looks like you are supposed to pull on it. I have a suspicion of what will happen when I do, but I pull on it anyway and as expected it triggers an avalanche of the empty boxes. Yes, that is exactly the kind of scheme my Dad would have come up with to replenish your supply of boxes when you ran low. No, you don't have to send someone outside, around the back and up the stairs to carry some more boxes down to the store, you just pull on this rope, and presto! All the boxes you need. Never mind that they've been sitting up there for 30 years waiting for someone to pull that rope.
    There are a couple of other people there with me and I tell them 'come see what I found'. My wife is one of the people and true to form she says she'll be there in a minute, she's in the middle of something. Doesn't really matter, the action, such as it was, is all over. I don't think I ever knew who the other person was.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Stewart Dean left an interesting comment on one of Comrade Misfit's posts, so I followed the links to his page. He seems to be a thoughtful, intelligent person. I'm reading one of his pages and I find this phrase:
Lesser Jihad (forgetting the Greater)..
which intrigues me because I still can't understand how crazy can be contagious. The phrase links to a page about Jihad on WikiIslam (which had to exist because Internet).
    Recently I've been hearing stuff that implies a Jihad can be just about any kind of quest or project and does not exclusively mean holy war. However, from reading this page it sounds to me like the only real definition of Jihad is holy war, and those people who are claiming other meanings for Jihad are heretics. Well, they'd be heretics if they were Christians. I imagine Musslemen have their own word for it. Maybe the heretics will prevail and force a change of meaning on the word, but right now it's kind of suspect.

P.S. The best endorsement for WikiIslam is that is has been blacklisted by the Saudis.
P.P.S. Yes, I know history is full of examples of the crazy contagion. Germany and Japan during WWII are my prime examples today. I still cannot understand how it can happen. Marcel quoted G.K.Chesterton the other day. He makes for some interesting reading.

The New Cold War

Dustbury writes about turmoil in Turkey. Seems the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sacked the Chief of Police Huseyin Capkin after he arrested 50 odd people in the the government. The BBC describes it as a a falling out between two former allies, the Prime Minister and Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic Scholar living in exile in the USA. Since he's a musselman, I'm wondering on which side of the crazy divide he falls on: with the Iranians, or the Saudis? (There are no rational Moslems, are there? Reminds me of the Middle Ages in Europe when it was Protestants versus the Catholics.) This is the New Cold War [tm]. It's still Russia (backing the Iranians) flexing their muscles versus the USA (backing the Saudis) scrounging for all the oil in the world to feed our insatiable appetite for the stuff. And don't forget that we are all pawns of the red ants and the black ants who have been fighting this war for eons.

Pic of the Day

Moscow, the Kremlin and Saint Basil's Cathedral (lower left). Click to embiggenate.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gustav Whitehead's Aeroplane #21

A replica of Gustave Whitehead’s No. 21, on display at the Connecticut Air and Space Center in Stratford. (Photo by John Kovach)

What we have here is a challenger to the claim of first man in the air on a self propelled airplane. The Wright brothers and Mr. Whitehead both have their supporters and detractors. It seems unlikely that it will ever be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. Gustav built a number of airplanes and engines but for one reason or another never made a success of it. A while back some people built and flew a replica, so the design could have flown. However, they used a modern engine, and being as building an engine that was powerful enough and light enough was the big stumbling block to getting your machine airborne, it doesn't really tell us much.

This machine has some interesting features. The wings are designed to fold. Their construction is similar to an oriental fan, and they fold the same way, i.e. the ribs fold back along the side. The compound engine burns acetylene (probably derived from calcium carbide, much like a miner's lamp) and (near as I can tell) the crankshafts are mounted out by the propellers, which means that those rods extending from the engine are not spinning driveshafts but reciprocating connecting rods.

More pictures here. Inspired by Stu.

Pic of the Day

An M1A2SEP Abrams Tank during the night portion of a gunnery exercise at Red Cloud Range in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The 2013 Jealousy List: The 41 Best Stories (and One Book) We Didn't Write

Illustration by 731
In this season of relentless kindness, envy is often sadly neglected. Which is why we bring you the First Annual Jealousy List, a compilation of the great pieces of journalism in 2013 that left Bloomberg Businessweek’s staff sick with resentment. Besides functioning as a very long “Bah, humbug,” it’s also a useful guide to the best work of the year by our peers at other news organizations. May they all receive a lump of coal—along with the satisfaction of a job well done. —Josh Tyrangiel
“Blood Spore”
Hamilton Morris’s great murder whodunit and character sketch for Harper’sincludes great paragraphs like this: “Undeterred, I moved on to Pollock’s girlfriend Mitzi, but her exact location was difficult to ascertain as she had just been released from prison after serving a ten-year sentence for intoxication manslaughter. Following Pollock’s death she had succumbed to opioid addiction, lost a suit against Pollock’s estate to recover kitchen utensils and stereo equipment she claimed were her rightful property as his common-law wife, and finally, while driving her Saturn under the influence of methadone and Xanax, decapitated a pedestrian.” Evan Applegate
“Arendt & Eichmann: The New Truth”
“The Defense of a Jewish Collaborator”
One of my favorite writers is Mark Lilla, a Columbia professor of the humanities, who writes for the New York Review of Books, among other outlets. His understated brilliance makes me jealous every time. His most recent pair of articles, on Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann, Jewish collaborators, and the nature of evil, are typical envy-provokers. How can one guy know so much about so many different things and write about them with such confidence, verve, and common sense? Paul M. Barrett
“Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie”
Stephen Rodrick’s New York Times Magazine story about the making of a trashy, microbudget film noir by writer Bret Easton Ellis, director Paul Schrader, and human train wreck Lindsay Lohan promises plenty of drama and dysfunction, and this story certainly delivers that. Schrader’s desperate ingenuity in dealing with disaster after disaster also, however, makes it read like a demented and particularly affecting entertainment-industry management case study. Drake Bennett [+1 from Jim Aley: "Shooting fish in a barrel so memorably and flawlessly is no small accomplishment."]
“Harper High School, Part One and Part Two”
In February, This American Life devoted two episodes to Chicago’s Harper High School, where 29 kids were shot last year—not in one mass shooting, but in a steady stream of violence. Three reporters spent five months inside the school, recording the lives of students and staff as they pay tribute to deceased friends, attend pep rallies, and explain why they try to stay inside as much as possible. It is a feat of immersive reporting. Emily Biuso
“Nick Saban: Sympathy for the Devil”
Warren St. John’s September profile of Alabama football coach Nick Saban in GQis a case of great access granted to the right person. The details are funny and sharp—”For breakfast, he eats two Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies”—and expertly arranged into a convincing, human portrait of a man usually painted as a cartoon hero or villain. Ira Boudway
“Rob Ford in ‘Crack Cocaine’ Video Scandal”
I’m jealous of Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan, who broke the Rob Ford story for the Toronto Star. Back in May, Ford was just a hard-drinking mayor who was prone to gaffes. Then they got the video of Ford smoking crack. That’s the kind of tip that should bring down a politician. The fact that it hasn’t is a story in itself. —Diane Brady
“Merchants of Meth: How Big Pharma Keeps the Cooks in Business”
Drug industry lobbyists are undercutting efforts by law enforcement and prosecutors in 25 states to make pseudoephedrine—a cold-and-allergy-medicine decongestant and key ingredient used by small-time shake-and-bake meth lab operators—a prescription drug. This is a great and richly reported dispatch from the war on meth addiction in Appalachia and the rural Midwest—and I resent Jonah Engle and Mother Jones for telling it. Brian Bremner
“Top Reviewers on Amazon Get Tons of Free Stuff”
Lisa Chow investigates the world of Amazon consumer reviews for Planet Moneyand finds that the top reviewers aren’t quite normal consumers: They are mini industries unto themselves, plied with small amounts of glory and tons of free merchandise. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Maybe. Joshua Brustein
“How Janet Yellen Should Embrace the Fed’s Dissenters”
I love almost everything Reuters’s Felix Salmon writes, so it was hard to pick just one. I chose this because it was on my beat and about the length of one of our posts, making it enviable for its content and its discipline. Peter Coy
Stolen entire from Bloomberg-Businessweek. Via Posthip Scott.

Update April 2016 replaced missing image.
Update April 2019 removed useless html.

Calling Mr. White

Dustubury tells us that Walter White has been busted for meth. Yes, life is imitating art. A real person with the same name as the chemistry teacher from Breaking Bad got busted for the same crimes as our TV character was committing.

Willard White, baritone

    But wait a minute, wasn't there a comic book character named Willard White? Some kind of big shot. We ask the Google and Google serves up the Jamaican born English Baritone by that name. Never heard of him before, but Willard White, that name sure rings a bell. Let's back up (and erase the last name) and see what else the Google can find, and lo and behold:

Willard Whyte, aka Jimmy Dean, as a stand in for Howard Hughes from Diamonds Are Forever

Just goes to show all roads lead to James Bond.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Jade Rabbit

Red China has landed a probe on the moon. I'm looking at all these pictures of the rover and I'm imagining something the size of a picnic basket, similar to our original Mars rover. It wasn't until I saw this picture that I realized how big it was. That's the trouble with these unmanned missions, there are never any people in the pictures so you have no idea how big anything is. Even though it's the size of a small car, it only weighs about 300 pounds. The combined mass of the lander, rover and fuel for descent was just over 4 tons. The fuel was the bigger half of that.

Photo of lunar surface taken during descent.

The descent and landing was autonomous, i.e. the lander did it all by itself without any control inputs from Earth. Along with a battery of cameras, the lander and rover are equipped with an impressive array of scientific instruments:

  • Ultraviolet Telescope
  • Extreme Ultraviolet Camera
  • Alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer
  • Ground penetrating radar
  • Soil probe

Maybe they'll find a good place to dig for ore so we can start building mechanical moon men.

The ESA (European Space Agency) provided communications for the mission, at least when it was out of sight of China.

Juno, Part 2

Each Dit lasted for 30sec, the full HI took 6.5min

I was talking to Jack about the Ham's transmitting Morse Code to Juno, and he told me that each dit lasted for 30 seconds, the audio track in the video was time compressed. Later on I got to wondering how he knew that, so I played the video back again, and this message (in the above picture) shows up. On my screen it looks like tiny little, dark gray letters. I have to do some image processing (Screen Cap > Picasa > I'm feeling lucky button) in order to make it legible.

Pocket Judge

It must be the giant guns from video games that is warping people's perceptions. I can understand how a hand cannon can sound like a neat idea, and if a hand cannon is a good idea, a pocket hand cannon is an even better one, right? Yes, I suppose, unless you actually have to shoot it, it which case I think I would prefer the original, cast iron 1911 Army 45. James Bond carried 25 caliber Beretta Automatic, which isn't much bigger than a pack of cigarettes and he managed to get the job done. Tam mentioned this gun using her 1337 gun-nut nomenclature, so I had to go look it up.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


This looks like a pair of hawks. I did see one flying earlier, swooping down on some wretched miscreant. I thought my camera had a higher zoom level than 3, but maybe that was my old camera, the one I took apart to clean. The one that's still lying in pieces in a box upstairs.

Beer bottle with a flaw! Don't think I've ever seen anything like this before. And, yes, it is a real glass bottle. I wonder if this might have something to do with the new high strength glass some people, like Budweiser, are using. A bottle made of regular old glass with this kind of flaw wouldn't have made it to our house - it would have shattered before it got out of the brewery. Not too long ago I picked up a couple of six packs of beer in bottles. One was a local craft brew and the other was Budweiser. The craft six pack was noticeably heavier. An ounce of glass probably doesn't make much difference in the local market, but if you are running a nationwide fleet of trucks each one carrying a thousand bottles of beer, you might save a couple of bucks in fuel. Whether that will pay for the lawsuits from the guys who claim they found a live mouse in their beer, well that's another matter.

Saw this bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild at Costco the other day. I was impressed that they let me in the same room with it. It was locked in a glass case. I wonder how many of the people who drink this wine appreciate it. I am sure it is very good, but it would be wasted on me with my barely functional nose. I bought a magnum of Cook's Champagne for $7.

Both boy's Apple (Mac) laptop computers that we got them for school have died. Being children of the modern age, they were bereft. Being young, they are broke. Then they found that somebody had hacked a Mac together out of PC parts, so for around $500 they were able to cobble together a computer that runs the Apple OS (Operating System). They actually have them running. I saw the Apple logo at the top of the screen.

Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang North Korea

That triangle in the background, apparently floating in the sky, is the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea
Jim Oberg got me started on this one as well. He put together a file about his 2012 visit to North Korea to witness a rocket launch  His introduction includes a picture of this hotel along with this bit of text:
Dominating the Pyongyang skyline & visible from a dozen miles outside the city is a giant futuristic building that NOBODY talks about, even as a joke or a curse. They just don’t SEE it.
Okay, that's weird, but this is North Korea, so understandable. But now my curiousity is piqued, so I go looking for more info. Seems the building has been under construction for a while, and some people have been making fun of it. Some other people are trying to finish it and put it into operation. We shall see how that goes. In that vein I found this description by Simon Parry, quoted in a story on CNN, more encouraging.
Despite the unfinished interior, Parry describes the hotel as “fantastic from the outside -- it's dazzling, coated in expensive glass tiles.”The juxtaposition of the spaceship-like building with its humble surroundings is dramatic, he adds.
"In the morning and evening the effect of the sun's reflection blazing down over the rest of the city is extraordinary," said Parry.


A couple of years ago we launched a probe to Jupiter. News to me, so we'll recap. We start with Bill "if you're like me, and I know I am" Nye.

Why with Nye (Ep. 2): Throwback to Juno's 2013 Earth Flyby, with Bill Nye
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Bill is a funny guy. I enjoy him. Jupiter is roughly 500 million miles from the sun, or five times as far as the Earth. So we could be as close as 400 million or as far as 600 million miles, depending on if we are on the same or opposite sides of the sun, not that that really matters, well, except for radio transmission time. You aren't going to drive there. You will be taking an orbital path measured in billions of miles.

When Juno flew by on October 9th, all the Ham Radio Operators in the world keyed up their transmitters and sent a brief Morse Code message. Okay, so maybe not quite all, but a few. How they managed to synchronize their transmissions is one of the unexplained mysteries of life. In any case, Juno was listening, and once the recorded signal was transmitted back to Earth and processed by audio gnomes deep in the bowels of JPL, we can hear the Morse.

Via The Los Angeles Times

When Juno started its approach to the Earth for the gravity assist, it started taking pictures of the Earth and the Moon. The Moon isn't very big. Might be a good idea to clean the dust off your monitor.At first I thought the apparent motion of the moon was because this was a time lapse movie taking place over a period of weeks and what we were seeing was the Moon moving around the Earth. Now that I've thought about it, I realize it's due to motion of Juno relative to Earth. The closest Juno came to Earth was 350 miles, which in space terms is like spitting distance from the ISS. Shoot, it might even have been in actual spitting distance. I mean you can spit pretty far in outer space, or you could if your faceplate wasn't in the way. This was enough to give it a boost of 8,800 MPH which is roughly 2.5 miles per second, which is significant. There is a claim that these are the first pictures of the Earth and the Moon from outside the Moon's orbit.

James Oberg got me started on this with a link to a story in Astronomy Magazine about whispers from space:
Researchers call these murmurs “meteor sounds” or “electrophonic noise.” Unlike the shock wave, which can take seconds or even minutes to reach witnesses, these meteor-created audible phenomena occur simultaneously with the fireball’s passage. People commonly describe them as hissing or whooshing sounds, and they have been reported for centuries.
Update October 2021 replaced missing video.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Google Buys Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics’ four-legged robot named WildCat can gallop at high speeds.

The great and benevolent Google has just purchased robot maker Boston Dynamics. The New York Times has the story. Why didn't I see this coming? Because Boston Dynamics is on the East Coast and Google is on the West Coast, or maybe because Boston Dynamics' biggest client is DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and Google's motto is, er, was, don't be evil? I no longer believe the defense industry is inherently evil, though I do suspect the USA of creating more problems than we need to by running roughshod over the rest of the world. But maybe that's just the way people and money act. Money is like a power unto itself, and people don't always act in their own best interests.

Partners in Crime

I'm watching YouTube and a Louis Vuitton ad pops up with these two characters who remind me of nothing so much as these two thugs from the James Bond flick Diamonds are Forever

Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd (played by Bruce Glover & Putter Smith)
Mr. Wint: “If at first you don’t succeed, Mr. Kidd ?”
Mr. Kidd: “Try, try again, Mr. Wint.”

Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandermaar were a similar pair from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. In the book, one was short and crafty, the other tall and not too bright. Both of them were dead (and smelled like it), but they still managed to be polite as they attempted to kill you in a painful and terrifying manner.

Mr. Vandemaar: ...without killing a few people.

Just remembered the Twins from The Matrix Reloaded
Twin #1: We are getting aggravated. 
Twin #2: Yes, we are. 
Not quite as polite as the others.