Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pic of the Day

I think we are looking at the fuel injection system of a jet engine. I suspect that the blocky, aluminum looking thing in the lower right corner is the fuel pump, and all the brass colored lines are fuel lines.


Former police general Oleksiy Pukach on Jan. 29 after being convicted of the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000. Although Pukach implicated former President Leonid Kuchma and his former chief of staff Volodymyr Lytvyn in the murder, they have not been charged. Pukach was sentenced to life in prison. © AFP

    I got really depressed yesterday evening for no real good reason. I had come across a story about a murder trial in the Ukraine and no one had commented yet, so I thought I would comment. I mean it was a pretty good story and I thought it deserved a comment, but mostly because no one else had commented yet. Some big time web sites get hundreds of comments. I won't comment there, I mean who's going to read 300 hundred comments just to get to my pearl of wisdom? Shoot, I will seldom comment if there are more than a dozen comments. So anyway I commented on this story, and then a couple of trolls dumped all over me, and then I got really depressed. Like I said, no good reason. I hate trolls. If they identified themselves it would not be so bad, at least then I would have somewhere to focus my anger, but trolls by definition are anonymous. Stupid trolls, hiding behind their stupid handles, spewing insulting garbage. Death to trolls! Allah Akbar!
    Anyway. The story is about how a court in Kiev sentenced former Police General Oleksiy Pukach to life for murdering journalist Georgiy Gongadze. The General claims he did it under orders from higher ups, but the court wasn't interested in that part of the story. I thought it was pretty good that they persevered (13 years!) long enough to get this conviction. The trolls took exception to my comments, which, after I got over being depressed, got me to thinking.
    The higher ups never get caught, much less indicted, convicted or punished. That's the way it's always been and that's the way it probably always will be. Oh sometimes they suffer a fall from grace, but it is usually for some politically motivated nonsense, not a real crime.
    The thing is, the court, by convicting the actual perpetrators is sending a message to all those who might consider committing a similar crime on "orders from above". They might be loyal to the higher ups, and they might get paid well, but if they get caught they are going to suffer the consequences. Their superiors, protected as they may be, will not be able to help them. That should give the thugs a little something to think about. It might even dissuade them for committing a crime.
    Corruption is contagious. Western civilization operates as well as it does because it is constantly striving to stamp it out. That's why we come down hard on petty criminals. We need an honest base to build on. If you have an honest base, you can build on it. If your base is corrupt, well, you look like Haiti or Afghanistan. You can't build anything substantial on mud.
    The weird part is that when I went looking for the trolls comments just now they had disappeared. Did I imagine the whole thing?

Punch Cards

    E. B. Misfit's post prompted me to tell this old-ish story. It has been told many times before, perhaps even by me, but evidently it's worth repeating because every day there are new people showing up who have never heard of, much less seen, a punch card. So I'll tell it again.
    I studied Computer Science at the University of Texas in Austin from 1977 to 1980. This was in the days before the PC. All your programming assignments were run on the mainframe. The mainframe was a giant CDC machine in a glass walled basement room in the administration building. You had to search it out if you wanted to see it. You could do all your programming without ever knowing where it was. Everything ran on the mainframe: student programs as well as University business applications. Well, everything except for a few projects being done on a mini-computer by graduate students. Note that was a mini-computer. There were no micro-computers.

Not the Painter Hall keypunch room, but similar.
Student programs were run in batch mode. In the computer science building there were two rooms: a keypunch room and the I/O room. The keypunch room had maybe eight keypunch machines. They were usually busy, sometimes you had to wait for one to open up. In the I/O room was the card reader and the printer. The I/O room (I don't think that's what we called it, but for the life of me I can't remember just what we did call it) was divided roughly in two by a counter. You took your stack of punched cards to the counter and handed them to the operator, who fed them into the card reader, and when they had been read, handed them back. Then you stepped back and waited for your program to run. Actually, you waited for the results of your "job" to be printed.

Turn the volume way up to get the full effect.

    The printer was always busy, hammering away from dawn to bedtime, spitting out a continuous stream of green bar printer paper. The printer operator would watch for job headers to appear, tear off the preceding stack of paper and file the output in a folder hanging in a rack. The rack was accessible from two sides. The operator put the output files in on one side and the students pulled theirs out from the other side. The folders were arranged alphabetically by user code, so you waited and watched for your printout to be deposited in your folder.
    To run a program first you had to write it. This you printed by hand on paper. When you were satisfied, you took your hand written copy and a stack of blank punch cards to the keypunch room and found yourself a machine. Load your cards into the machine and then type your program in, one line to a card. If you made an error, the card went in the trash. Since programs in those days were about equal parts letters, numbers and punctuation, and errors meant the sacrifice of a card, it was slow going.
    In addition to your program you needed a job card. There may have been more than one, and there may have been an end-of-job card as well. These had a cryptic string of characters that the professor supplied at the beginning of the term. I never even tried to decipher their meaning. Writing my assigned programming tasks was enough of a challenge.
    So now you have your completed stack of punch cards, your "job", and you can hand it over to the operator and wait for it to run. When you get printout back you find out what became of your job. Most of the time it came back with an error of some sort. You forgot to put in a punctuation mark, or you misspelled GOTO. These were syntax errors, which meant your program did not actually run. Once you got all of these nitpicky little errors fixed, then you could move on to what happened when your program ran. Again, most of the time it didn't. The computer failed to understand your logic and tried to do what you told it instead of what you meant, which resulted in a crash or a nonsensical output. This is when it got interesting.
    Now you get to try and puzzle out what happened. Sometimes it was obvious. Once you had gotten to this point (no mean feat), and you actually looked at your program, it became perfectly obvious what you had done wrong. Sometimes you got to repeat this sequence several times:
  • run the program
  • read the output
  • start reading your program
  • exclaim "Oh!" when your foolish mistake jumps out at you
  • correct the program
    At this point sometimes you got lucky and the program ran as it was supposed to. This happened more in the early days, when your program was a stack of maybe 20 cards. As time went by and I stared taking more advanced classes my programs got longer. Now we start running into logic errors, things that might cause your program to go into an endless loop. This meant your program ran until your allowed time expired, which meant the only feedback you got was a notice that you ran out of time. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. My longest program was about a thousand cards which meant a thousand lines of code. It filled a box the size of a shoebox.

These cards are blank, just waiting for you to engrave the wisdom of the ages. 
I wonder how many boxes I went through. A dozen? Two dozen?

    The operations room in the Computer Science building (Painter Hall, maybe?) closed up in the early evening. If your program was due tomorrow and it still wasn't running, this meant going down to the street to the engineering building. Things were not quite so hospitable there. For one thing it was full of engineering students whose smallest programs were one box of cards. Some of these guys had programs that comprised a stack of boxes. Also, I don't think they were any keypunch machines there, but that doesn't make any sense. How could you get anything done? In any case, I can picture the operations room but I cannot picture any keypunches there.
    I had a couple of job interviews after I graduated with companies (defense contractors) that used punch cards. I was horrified. By this time I had been exposed to video terminals (text only CRT's) and punch cards were obviously going away. Fortunately neither one these companies offered me a job. Actually, one was even worse. You handed your program to the secretary who typed it in using a typewriter. The typewriter was connected to a modem, which was connected to mainframe on the other side of town via a phone line. I think it was an IBM electric typewriter. I think they mailed the results of your job back to you.

Update November 2017 replaced one dead link & deleted another. Fixed problems with picture and video.

Zimbabwe in the News

Zimbabwe's finance minister appealed to international donors to help pay for upcoming elections after revealing that the government had only $217 left in its accounts. - Foreign Policy newsletter.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Your Latest Computerized Time-Sink

A punch-card version of Google.

It'll return the first eight hits and then kick you over to a version that isn't fifty years old.
And if that isn't enough for you, try your hand at a virtual slide rule, with more of them here.

Stolen entire from E. B. Misfit.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I like this. It is a coherent, graphic representation of a over 50 years of atom bomb testing. The following note is found at the end of the video. I'm including it here because I knew I read something about a book, but I couldn't remember where I read it. I probably spent the better part of an hour looking for it before I realized it might be in the film itself.
The film was made based mostly on the data of
"Nuclear Explosions 1945-1998" by Nils-Olov Bergvist and Ragnhild Ferm
copublished by the Swedish Defence Research Establishment (FOI)
and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (PIORI)
in 2000. 
Isao Hashimoto 2003
The video shows the tests conducted by six countries:
  • United States of America
  • Soviet Union
  • Great Britain
  • France
  • India
  • Pakistan
The USA did over half of all tests. I was surprised by the number the French did.

North Korea is not included because the video stops at 1998, and North Korea's tests happened later. South Africa had a atom bomb program, but they gave it up. Israel might have an atom bomb program, but nobody who knows is telling. Same with Iran.

I remember learning about radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons when I was in elementary school. This was back in the days when people were actually building bomb shelters. I didn't think too much about it at the time. Atom bombs were very bad, but the adults seemed to have things all figured out, and besides, there wasn't anything I could do about it, so I soon stopped thinking about it. As time went by I heard less and less about it. Oh, every so often you would hear someone ranting about radiation poisoning the environment for the next zillion years. In general we seem to have a more rational view of the situation now. I had a hard time finding any information about radiation from old atom bomb tests. I finally found this bit on the World Nuclear Association website. I have no idea who they are, but their explanation seems to be coherent enough.

    Radiation can arise from human activities or from natural sources. Most radiation exposure is from natural sources. These include: radioactivity in rocks and soil of the Earth's crust; radon, a radioactive gas given out by many volcanic rocks and uranium ore; and cosmic radiation. The human environment has always been radioactive and accounts for up to 85% of the annual human radiation dose.
    Radiation arising from human activities typically accounts for up to 15% of the public's exposure every year. This radiation is no different from natural radiation except that it can be controlled. X-rays and other medical procedures account for most exposure from this quarter. Less than 1% of exposure is due to the fallout from past testing of nuclear weapons or the generation of electricity in nuclear, as well as coal and geothermal, power plants.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Profits of Blame

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina, at Mar Del Plata

Theodore Dalrymple has written a wonderful essay for the New English Review that starts with this:
W ho is more to blame, asked the seventeenth century Mexican nun, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz: he who sins for pay or he who pays for sin? It is not an easy question to answer.
It's mostly about a couple of big financial messes that have been in the news recently: Argentina and HP. It lays out the situation with the utmost clarity.

Moon Hoax Not

Entertaining on the surface, serious underneath. I don't agree with his technical arguments, I think all the movie trickery could have been done without too much trouble. What I wonder is whether slow motion video of people walking on earth would look anything like people walking on the moon. Via Tracy.

Update September 2016. Video is from sgcollins.
Update March 2019. Replaced missing video.


The presenter is a little annoying. The amount of actual information in the video is scant, but impressive. Somebody working for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has built a high resolution camera with a very wide field of view. It's intended for use on aircraft flying at an altitude of about 20,000 feet (4 miles). From that distance it can resolve a six inch object on the ground. Put all the numbers together and you get an image that is roughly 40,000 pixels by 40,000 pixels. The camera is made from 368 cell phone cameras. The thing is constantly recording video. That adds up to 100 terabytes a day. This thing is at least three years old, maybe older.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Guerrilla Marketing

     I didn't know who Daryl was, and I still don't know who Carl is, but this picture with its caption really caught my attention. It made me feel that Carl's location was of some importance, and I should probably acquaint myself with the situation.
     There was a flyer in the paper the other day advertising a deal on wine. Funny thing was there was no indication of what store was making this offer. At first I thought the advertiser just screwed up, but then I got to wondering if it was a deliberate ploy. I mean if you are a wine drinker it was a pretty good deal. Knowing that such a deal was out there, somewhere, might prompt some people to keep an eye out for the store that was making this offer. By engaging people in a bit of a treasure hunt the ad might generate more sales than it would otherwise.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pic of the Day

Near Marcola, Oregon, standing in a virgin forest, 1908. From Scott.

Rolls-Royce, How To Build A Jumbo Jet Engine

    I watched this show on YouTube yesterday evening. It's about 50% fluff, but the rest of it is pretty good. These engines sell for about $40 million each. The price is that high because Rolls Royce needs to recoup their investment if they are going to stay in business. The amount of work that went into developing the engine and the facilities to fabricate it is mind boggling. I suspect the cost of building the engine is probably less than half of the sales price.
    There are four videos in the series, each about 15 minutes long. At the end of each video YouTube provides a link to the next one.

Map of the Day


Michigan Mike reports: I may be old, cranky, crotchety, and eccentric, but I also have 3 pressure cookers.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Iran Builds A New Jet Fighter

I do not understand Iran. (Yes, yes, I know I am not alone.) All I hear is how the crazy Iranians are lying about trying to make an atomic bomb. Why are they even messing with nuclear fission? Aren't they sitting on top one of the biggest pools of crude oil in the world? Pollution in Tehran is very bad. Rumor has it that it is that way because of the poor quality of gasoline they get from their own refineries. They are using their own gas because they can't import gas because of the sanctions. Yet here they are spending zillions on nuclear power. Why not spend two dollars and upgrade the refineries?
    As California Bob says, when things don't make any sense, it's a good bet that somebody's lying. So here's my theory: somebody in Iran has been cut out of the oil money, so he's promoting this nuclear nonsense so he gets a big budget to spend on it, and when he buys stuff from the West he earns a bunch of brownie points and some big fat kickbacks. Not sure which would be more valuable.
    As for this jet fighter, they are probably not building their own jet engines. As near as I can tell making a jet engine is a bit of a trick. Might even be a state secret. I don't think anyone really knows how they are made.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Picture of the Day

TUBBATAHA REEF (Jan. 22, 2013) The mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) sits aground on the Tubbataha Reef. Operations to safely recover the ship while minimizing environmental effects are being conducted in close cooperation with allied Philippines Coast Guard and Navy.  (U.S. Navy photo by Geoffrey Trudell)
Tubbataha Reef is in the Philippines in the middle of the Sulu Sea, a hundred miles from land in any direction. I'm wondering how they managed to managed to get themselves in this fix.

Guns don’t kill people, spiders with guns in old rusted-out orange Camaros do.

I have dreams occasionally, but I haven't been writing about them because I don't remember what happened. But Laura remembers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pinky's In A Bind

All it needs is a V-8 soundtrack and it would be like totally believable, man.

Large Scale Scribblings Update

Petroglyph National Monument on the outskirts of Albuquerque

Syafolee visits Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico, and since I was looking at a satellite view of Colonel Stapp's test track near Alamogordo, I thought I would take a look at the park and I found this. I'm not quite sure what it is. It might be ancient large scale drawings, or it might be random tracks made by rednecks in pickup trucks. I think it's a little too something for it be done by rednecks, which makes me think it is ancient.

Update: I got an explanation back this morning from Mike Medrano at the National Park Service.
    The feature you identified is a motorcycle dirt track that pre-dates the establishment of the Monument. Based on historic aerial photography, the track was started sometime between 1967 and 1973 and was in active use until the mid-to-late 1980s. Petroglyph National Monument was established on June 27th, 1990. The area is currently open for hikers, but not for vehicles or motorcycles.
    It is in the intention of the National Park Service to reclaim the landscape at some point. There is a drainage that runs through the track (the dark line in the photo on your blog) that represents some challenges for reclamation. Currently, there is no time table for when the reclamation may take place, but it is included in our long-term planning and compliance efforts.
It didn't even occur to me then that it was a motocross track, but it's obvious now. A few years of abandonment is not much different than a few millennia in the desert.

Update July 2020 replaced discarded map.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gun of the Day

I just don't know what to say.

The Godfather, Part 4

Remember the movie The Godfather? Remember Part 3? About the big conspiracy involving the Vatican? Well, it's all true. At least that's the way I read it. Click on the pic for the story about the dead guy.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Somali Stadium - Astro Turf!

    Baanadir Stadium and of Mogadishu National Stadium in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

    In August 2011 the Al-Qaeda-allied extremist group Al Shabaab was driven from Mogadishu by the Somali National Army (SNA) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). After two decades of near-constant conflict, Somalia is enjoying a period of peace and growing security.
    Mogadishu National Stadium was formerly a main base for Al Shabaab. The group used the stadium as their headquarters and as a training ground for their fighters. Under the Shabaab's rule, social pastimes and sports such as football were banned.
    Baanadir Stadium has been re-surfaced with a new artificial playing surface. Funded by FIFA, the Somali Football Federation will soon begin repair work on seats, parking and other facilities that were damaged during the last 20 years.
    The contest for the African Cup of Nations began on January 19 in South Africa. Africa’s top football teams are competing. Until now Somalia has not been taking part due to the ban by Al Shabaab.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Obelisks for Everyone

The business cycle

In one sense there is no solution for our economic difficulties. We have a society full of mature adults who are illiterate, or innumerate, or both. They have all the skills they will ever acquire. They won’t be allowed to starve in the street. They won’t be denied the right to vote. When they get old and infirm they might me “euthanized,” but that’s a topic for another day.
In another sense, the solution to our economic difficulties could appear tomorrow. The economy crashed because people realized they had built a lot of useless stuff nobody needed – second McMansions for everyone! Then we realized we could only live in one house at a time, and came to see we could not sustain an economy in which people sell burgers to their childcare providers and the government taxes their employers to pay both an earned income credit. The recovery and then the next boom will happen in the same crazy way. One day people will simply decide they’re rich.

Maybe this time it will be, not McMansions, but obelisks. “Look at all these obelisks!” Paul Krugman will say. “Nobody has obelisks like America! We’re the greatest!” The economy will heat up as bankers loan money to build new obelisks out on the edge of town. The illiterate will get jobs counting obelisks for the government. The innumerate will write panegyrics to people’s obelisks, which people will post on the hot new app that’s gleebing all the frellbots. Apple will make a fortune selling easy-to-use Burlboxes to host the obelisk panegyrics. Thomas Friedman will explain how the economy has been fundamentally transformed.

Then one day people will look around and realize Finistere is a stupid waste of time and obelisks are useless. The market will crash, and we’ll all be broke again. 

Stolen entire from Monday Evening.

Update January 2024 changed format.

Secret Underground Airbases

I'm looking at the Military Photos dot net website this morning and there is a post talking about a military air base in Northwest Iraq, so I look it up on Google Maps and sure enough, there it is, until I zoom in for a closer look and then it disappears and is replaced by an image of the airport that was there before. Well, that's kind of curious, but not all that interesting. Let's see what else there is to see around here. I zoom out and notice a jag in the border with Jordan. Jordan is kind of a funny shaped country anyway, what with that "hatchet handle" (one of my school teachers' terms) sticking out to the East. Who knows why it is that way, but this jag is in the end of the handle, and it's not all that big, maybe 10 miles across. This is the middle of the desert. Why would anyone care where the fool border is way out here? Well, maybe there is something here worth quibbling over. Zoom in a bit and I find there is something, an old, abandoned air base. Look it up on Wikipedia and find that it is one of five built by the Yugoslavians 35 years ago. Okay, crazed despot has dreams of many giant airbases in the middle of nowhere. Why? No explanation for crazy. But in the Wikipedia article (and repeated in several similar articles on similar places) is this:
In addition, underground facilities that could shelter between four and ten aircraft on average were constructed. In order to build these the Yugoslavs used equipment and construction techniques identical to that use in underground oil-storage depots, additionally concealing the extension and the true purpose of the whole project. The underground facilities were all hardened to withstand a direct hit by a tactical nuclear bomb, buried up to 50 meters below the ground and consisted of the main aircraft "hangar" (consisting of two floors in several cases, connected by 40ts hydraulic lifts), connected with operations, maintenance, and logistical facilities via a net of underground corridors.
Well, that's just crazy, but when you are dealing with the military and paranoia, nothing is too far round the bend, so I go looking for confirmation. I don't find any, but I do find reports of underground airbases in Albania and China. Albania's look a little sad. Hard to tell about the Chinese. Well, they are inscrutable.

Annika Bengzton: Crime Reporter

    Watched the first episode of this Swedish crime drama on Netflix this evening. A fine show. We've got insidious villains, secret motives for revenge, and a whole raft of characters who might be the villain or maybe the villains' next victim. It's all in Swedish with subtitles and sometimes the timing on the subtitles was a little off, but that was okay. What we are watching for are the characters' expressions. That shifty eyed old fossil up on the podium, he's the villain, I'm sure of it. Oops, off the balcony he goes. Guess it wasn't him. Time to pick your next candidate for villain-of-the-night.
    There was an odd bit involving her son and a bully at school. Well, he might not be a bully, but he is rowdy and seemingly unaware of the problems he is causing. Her son gets pushed, gets a gash in his head and needs stitches. Nobody else seems concerned about this, not her significant other, nor the staff at the school, so she takes matters into her own hands and tells the rowdy eight year old that if he hurts her son again she will kill him. Seems a bit extreme, but then again, dammit, he's eight years old. Mind your manners you little reprobate.
    And what's with the significant other? She's living with a guy and her two kids, but is he her husband? Maybe not. Is he the kids' father? Maybe. My wife says this kind of half-assed arrangement is more common in Sweden. Maybe it is. Safely on the other side of world I express my disapproval.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Race You to the Ground

DO-28 - BEST - Music Video from Łukasz P on Vimeo.
Author: Adam Dzwonkowski from

Same plane from a different viewpoint, at least I think it is.

Copetition versus Competition

I didn't realize copetition was a word. I am still not sure whether it is or not. I was just looking over one of my post's from yesterday and I realized I had misspelled competition. Went in to fix it and Blogger did not hi-light it as being misspelled. Could it be a real word? I found one place where it was spelled CoPetition, which makes me think of two petitions being put forward simultaneously, but it seems to be more of a bit of computer programming jargon than a real word. All the other places looked like they had just misspelled competition.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cuba’s ideals failed. But at least it had them

Plaza de la Revolución, Havana, May 1963, Alberto Korda
Good, thoughtful story about ideals, politics and Cuba by Matthew Parris in The (London) Times.
Another interesting story about Co-ops in Cuba by John Restakis in The New Internationalist.

Update August 2015: Replaced missing picture. Linked story in the London Times has disappeared behind a paywall.


Elsbeth Tascioni

Just watched last Sunday's episode of The Good Wife - Je Ne Sais What? which revolved around an athlete being maliciously charged with doping, and then yesterday we have a real life episode of a person finally admitting doping after years of rumors and accusations. A coincidence? Yes, probably, that's what I think too.
    I totally believed Lance was innocent of the charges against him. I mean if he was as guilty as his accusers said you would think they would have been able to prove it. Of course, "proof" can be pretty iffy. Any time there is big money involved there is liable to be corruption. Not too long ago there was the whole Olympic siting scandal. This episode of The Good Wife played up the corrupt European angle, including the corrupt official and the kangaroo court rules, er, guidelines. Well, they are rules when we say they are rules and guidelines when we say they are guidelines. Weaselly Europeans.

Cyber Attack

The H Security has a good synopsis of a story on Defense News. They are talking about people messing about with radios, trying to inject code/data into stone walled computers. It sounds impossible, but then I never thought they would be able to use radar to look through walls. I understand that it is theoretically possible to figure out what somebody is typing by detecting the minute radio signals emanating from the wire that connects your keyboard to the computer. A wire is basically an antennae, and changes in voltage are going to produce radio frequency, well, maybe not signals, but some kind of noise. I imagine if you listen to enough of that noise, and you've got some whiz kids writing DSP (Digital Signal Processing) code, you could probably listen in on that wire and figure out what someone is typing without having to actually touch it. How close you would have to be is, well, maybe not unknown, but undoubtedly classified. Many moons ago, back during the cold war, the CIA had a project where they inserted a listening device underneath a Soviet undersea communication cable. They seem to be very happy about all the information they got from that program. I think it kept a large number of people very busy for a long time, which is always a good thing. Probably advanced the state of the art while they were at it.
    So they can listen to what you are typing and using similar techniques, they can also figure out what is being displayed on your monitor, but going the other way? That could be a bit of a trick. You can induce a signal in a wire. That's basically what radio and television broadcasting does, they are sending electromagnetic energy out through the air and wherever it impacts a metal object it is going to generate a small amount of electricity. Metal objects like radio and TV antennaes, which are connected to radio and TV receivers. These receivers are looking for a specific signal, teasing it out of all the surrounding noise, and then amplifying it enough so that it can be heard. But how much power would you need to induce a signal that would be strong enough to be detected by the transistors in a computer? Radio signals coming out of an antennae are measured in microvolts. Internal computer voltages are measured in, well, it used to be volts, but now it is more like tenths of a volt. Still, a tenth of a volt is a heck of a long way from a microvolt.

Arab News Competition Heating Up

Around 100 foreigners out of 132 hostages seized by a terrorist group that attacked the Tiguentourine gas plant on Wednesday have been freed APS reported. (Reuters)

Al Jazeera seems to be gaining a little traction in the news business in spite of Georgie's snide remarks a few years ago. Today I stumbled over an Al Arabiya story about the oil workers taken hostage in Algeria. Never heard of Al Arabiya before. Looks like Al Jazeera has got some competition. I am pretty sure this is a good thing. With the proliferation of the internet and the availability of cheap computers, maybe the Arab Spring will have a chance of making some significant, enduring changes in the Arab world.

Gas Site of Tiguentourine. View Larger Map

Update September 2018 replaced missing image.

Blast from the Past

Blast like the roar of a blast furnace. I am not sure what to say about this. OMG? WTF? It just boggles my mind. My dad used to sing this song, but he didn't get up on stage in blackface with a whole bunch of other folks in gaudy costumes. I've heard of  Al Jolson, but I don't recall any more than the name. Maybe I blocked it all out deliberately. Via California Bob.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Which Way Did the Taliban Go?

Good story in the NY Times about the ANA (Afghan National Army).

Thought for the Day

I found this clip in a Cracked story about a person's value. Be forewarned, the language in the story starts off a little strong, but David Wong makes some valid points. He uses a clip from Glengarry Glen Ross to emphasize some of them. I didn't like Glengarry Glen Ross. I didn't like the characters, their attitudes, or their language. I thought it was basically pretty sad all the way around. That's just my opinion of the movie. Many other people seem to think it was just great. But that's neither here nor there. It doesn't have any bearing on the value of David's essay. Don't forget to read the part about the buffalo.

Treasure Island

View January 2013 in a larger map

In case you were wondering just where it was. Isla de la Juventud, Cuba

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Early Soviet Paratroops

Oops. Oh, good thing you were wearing your parachute.
Excerpt from Wings Of The Red Star: Tu-95 "The Nuclear Bear", an old Discovery channel episode.
Update January 2019 replaced missing video.

Lester Lives On

The Count Five was a 1960s garage rock band from San Jose, California, best known for their Top 10 single "Psychotic Reaction"....
By 1969, the Count Five had broken up, but their memory was immortalized in a 1972 essay by rock journalist Lester Bangs, entitled "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung." In the essay, Bangs credited the band for having released several albums — Carburetor DungCartesian JetstreamAncient Lace and Wrought-Iron Railings, and Snowflakes Falling On the International Dateline — that displayed an increasing sense of artistry and refinement. However, none of these albums actually existed, except in Bangs' own imagination.
From the Wikipedia article on Count Five. This is the second time this week I have run into Lester. I vaguely remember reading some stuff by him a long time ago. It seems his ravings have a certain staying power. I know I'm amused.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


The sun sets over Ballidoogole Airbase in Lower Shabelle, Somalia, on January 9, 2013. 

I don't think I've ever seen a flatter horizon.

Death to Whirlpool, Part 3

January 15, 2013

Whirlpool Customer Service
553 Benson Road
Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Dear Person,

I am unhappy with the Whirlpool Gas Water Heater I bought a couple of years ago. I bought it to replace the A.O. Smith brand gas water heater that was installed in the house when we had it built 15 years earlier.

The old water heater was conventional in all respects, it had no electronic controls of any kind. It may not have been the most efficient, but it was reliable. It never failed to supply hot water. Even when it was on its’ last legs, leaking water all over the garage floor, it was still providing hot water.

I cannot say the same for my new, fancy, Whirlpool water heater with the electronic controls. Two, maybe three years old, and the electronic controller gives up the ghost. Two weeks later the water heater  flames out again. This is disappointing, to say the least.

I chose this particular model because it seemed like a good compromise between expected life time (estimated from the warranty) and price. I did not like the fact that it had an electronic controller, but it seemed that all of the gas water heaters available at Lowes had some kind of electronic controller. Lowes and Whirlpool seemed like good brand names, so I took a chance.

As I see the situation, there are three distinct problems here:

  1. Poor response to customer complaints.
  2. Failure to follow up on controller failures.
  3. Bad choice of connectors in implementing the design.

When I called the first time you were closed. When I called the second time I was on hold for a very long time. This tells me you were very busy, which means either that you are scrimping on customer service, or you are getting way more calls than you expected. As it was, my water heater failed on Friday and I did not get the replacement controller till Wednesday. A better response would have been “for $100 we can have that controller replaced before midnight”.

You sent me a new controller without asking for the old one back. This tells me that either

  • you don’t care why it failed, or
  • you have already examined enough failed controllers to know what the problem is, or
  • this is such a rare occurrence that it is statistically insignificant.
I’m thinking you already know what the problem is. The question then becomes why haven’t you done anything about it?

When my water heater flamed out a second time, you sent me a replacement sensor. Since unplugging and reconnecting the sensor was all that was required to get it running this time, I suspect that the problem was a tiny bit of corrosion on the contacts. Plug in connectors are fine for quick assembly, but if you are going that route perhaps you should have taken a lesson from the computer industry and used gold plated connectors. If using gold causes you grief, perhaps you should use a more positive method of connecting the sensors to the controller, like screws.

To correct this problem with the connectors, I suggest you spend a little time and money on R & D and develop a replacement connector that will not suffer from loss of contact due to corrosion.

The sensor replacement kit you sent me contains two instant connectors. I did not install it because it looks to me like installing it would simply introduce four new points of possible failure (two wires contacting a clip in each of two connectors).


Charles Pergiel

Whirpool Gas Water Heater particulars:
Model Number: SG1J5040T3NOV

Previous posts on this subject here and here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Philosophical Meditation On the Inate Strength and Intergrity Of Food Containers and the Security Devoted To the Inhuman Tightness of Lids

I didn’t want a fucking olive anyway.

Stolen entire from Look! A Baby Wolf!

Guillermo Martinez Ayme

Big fight coming up two weeks from today in Mar Del Plata Argentina.

Col. Stapp

The problem with View From The Porch, for me anyway, is that Tam knows way more history than I do so dang near every time I open her blog I find something new I have to look up. This morning it was Colonel Stapp. From the context I deduced it was probably the rocket sled guy, but with Tam you never know, so I checked. When I did I found this fine story about the Colonel's exploits.

More YouTube videos. 13 minutes each. Colonel Stapp is not an entertaining speaker, but they contain good information.

Rocket Sled: "Space Age Railroad" pt1-2 USAF John Stapp Holloman AFB

Satellite view of track in New Mexico.

The Old Rascal

Scott sent me a story today:
One of my high school buds had a very colorful grandfather named Golden Land who lived in Oroville. We went over and stayed with him on a fishing trip about 1970. He was in his 80s by then. We were in his office in what would have been a very opulent stucco home about 1935, and on his desk was a Colt revolver cylinder that he used as a pencil holder.
When the old gent saw my interest in it, he told this story:
When a boy in West Virginia, he was riding a train one day when none other than Devil Anse Hatfield boarded and took a seat across from him. The conductor -- and most folks in those parts -- knew him by sight. As the train got under way, the conductor walked up and said, "Now Devil Anse, I know you are carrying a Colt pistol. I must ask you for the cylinder to your gun while you are aboard this train." At this, Devil Anse reached into his suitcoat and produced a Colt Single Action Army, in caliber .38-40, and proceeded to pull out the cylinder pin, remove the cylinder, empty the cartridges into his coat pocket and hand the cylinder to the conductor, who then left, satisfied that he had defanged the famous Hatfield patriarch.
When the conductor had left the car, Devil Anse produced a second, loaded cylinder, replaced it in his Colt, slid the Colt back inside his suit coat and winked at young Golden, who saw the whole play.
Hatfield held his finger up to his lips to signal this was their secret. When it came time for Devil Anse to disembark, the conductor handed him his empty cylinder, and Devil Anse handed it to Golden Land as a memento of their shared friendly conspiracy.
I sure wish I had a tape of Golden Land telling this story, and the one about the train wreck that spilled several carloads of peanuts. People came from miles around with whellbarrows ...

Don't worry, it's just ESD! (Electrostatic Discharge)

I don't know whether to ridicule this guy for his foolishness or commend him for putting the video up anyway. It's very funny. Who knows? Some people might learn something from it.

From Are We Lumberjacks? via Monday Evening.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

the Shaggs

I do not know if the particular sequence is important, but I started with Dustbury, then followed his link to an old Lester Bangs column and finally tuned in to the Shaggs on YouTube. I haven't laughed that much since I don't know when. Maybe when Santa got run over by a reindeer back in aught nine. That would nineteen aught nine, you ninnies.

Mediæval Bæbes

Via Dustbury.

Quote of the Day

    "In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platform that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate.
    In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event.
    At almost the same moment in humanity’s broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened."
Now that would be scary. From Amazon's description of First Shift, a Science Fiction novel mentioned by Roberta X.

Zero Dark Thirty

Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad Pakistan
More pictures here
    A fine film. With all the spy books and movies I've consumed I think I'm beginning to get an idea how this surveillance business works. It's expensive, time consuming and horribly boring. It takes a certain kind of person to focus on so little for so long with so little to show for it. And then there's the logic you need in order to piece together what's happening from the most disparate of clues, or just as likely, the lack of clues.
    The movie makes a big deal of out how they used special "stealthy" helicopters for this mission. If they did, it's really a well kept secret. I suspect they were regular old Blackhawk helicopters. They may have had some special modifications, but they weren't completely different. The best description I found was on Shadow Spear dot com:
The SEALs flew into Pakistan from Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), an airborne unit of the United States Army Special Operations Command sometimes called the "Nighthawks," provided two modified Black Hawk helicopters, and two Chinooks as backups. The 160th SOAR helicopters were supported by multiple other aircraft, including fixed-wing fighter jets and drones. According to CNN, "The Air Force also had a full team of combat search-and-rescue helicopters available."
Kathryn Bigelow directs. I've heard of her before.
The practice compound in North Carolina (one of the pictures in the linked photo album) isn't there anymore.

Update November 2019 replaced dead Picasa slideshow with single image and link to Google Photos album.

Cash or Credit

$200 just doesn't go as far as it used to. I use my American Express card for gasoline and airline tickets, but for most everything else I prefer to use cash. Food especially, I bought it, I ate it, it's gone. Who needs a record of that? It's not like I'm going to return it or anything. Paying cash eliminates bookkeeping for all my trivial expenses.
    None of my kids use cash for anything. They have debit cards and they use them for everything. But what about the extra bookkeeping you ask? What bookkeeping? Balance a checkbook? Yeah, sure, later, dude.
    I have to admit I've gotten a bit slack myself lately. I will look at my bank and credit card statements to see if there is anything funny, but I haven't bothered to actually reconcile a statement in a while. This is why credit card fraud is so rampant. People who make a hundred purchases a month are not going to remember every single one, and since they haven't discovered an error in lo these last umpteen years, it is unlikely there is going to be an error this time, and you want me to spend an hour of my time checking to see if there might be a $20 fraudulent charge on my account? You're kidding, right?
    So nobody notices and card thieves get away with it. As long as they spread their fiscal mischief around it is unlikely they will get caught, and so a new industry is born.
    But $200 doesn't go very far anymore. $200 is what I can get from the ATM. I might be able to get $300, but 300 doesn't add up nicely. Five times 200 is a grand. To get to a grand in $300 increments you need three and a third. Last time I checked ATM's would not hand out $400. Too much money all in one spot. What I should really do is go to the bank and get a larger sum like $500 or $1000, but even though the value of the dollar has dropped I am still leery of carrying that much cash around with me. Losing my wallet with $200 cash would be unpleasant, but not the end of the world. $500 on the other hand, that's a chunk of change. I would be seriously perturbed if I lost that much money. Never mind that I haven't lost my wallet or a noticeable amount of money in, like, forever.

Ice Cold Concrete

Stockholm Ice Bar

Everyday I go out into the garage to feed and water the cat and clean the litter box, and I usually do this barefoot because feet can be washed. Step in something nasty with your shoes on and it can be the very devil to get them clean again, not to mention that you may not notice it right away and you may track nasty stuff all over the house, and then you've got an even bigger cleaning job. Plus I suspect that going barefoot makes me a little more alert to what's on the floor so I might be able to avoid the mess in the first place.
    Anyway, it's been getting colder outside (January in the Northern temperate zones) and I've been secretly feeling pretty tough, going outside in my bare feet. Until yesterday. Yesterday I noticed that my missing newspaper was under my truck, but after doing the kitty chores my feet were too cold to spend any more time outside. I've been doing this for weeks, why would I suddenly get a case of cold feet?
     My friend Jack has been working on his Martini project out in his garage, and while it was cool out there, up until a couple of weeks ago it was tolerable.
    What has happened is that the concrete floor in both our garages has cooled off. The concrete is a big heat sink and so while the temperature is fluctuating, it averages  it out. But once it gets cold and stays cold for a week, well, all that heat sunk into the concrete leaches out and you are left with a stone cold floor.

Update June 2018 replaced missing picture.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Soviet Yak-38 Vertical Take Off & Landing (VTOL) Jet Fighter

Yakovlev Yak-38 Soviet Naval Aviation

There are a couple of views of the Yak-38 sitting on the deck in the first part of this video. I'm watching this and I see the air inlet hatch open behind the pilot and I think that look's just like the F-35. Those dang Russians are pretty clever. They had a VTOL jet fighter 40 years ago, and we're just now getting around to building our own.
    Well, they were able to design one and make it work, but it was not what you would call a rousing success. Also they went broke and we didn't, so neener, neener, neener. I found this summary on Fiddler's Green, a paper model site.
Preceded by the Yak-36 'Freehand' and the barely related yak-36M, the USSR's first operational VTOL aircraft was the Yak-38 'Forger'. Superficially similar to the early Harrier, the 'Forger' was burdened with two extra lift engines, which increased the basic weight and reduced the fuel capacity. Payload was about one-third that of the Mk I Sea Harrier and endurance in hot weather about 15 minutes. A constant problem was ingestion of exhaust gases back into the engine, which caused power loss. Failure of one lift jet (which had an operating life of only about 22hours) would cause an immediate uncontrollable roll. The 'solution' to this was to fit a system that automatically ejected the pilot in the event of an engine failure. Unsurprisingly, as many as one-third of Russia's 'Forgers' were lost in accidents.
They only built 231 of them compared to more than 1600 MiG-29's.

Fiddler's Green has a several pictures of the Yak-38, including this one:

The YAk jumps!! by gollySeconds later , as you can see, two tiny turbines started to whirr and then the Yak 38 magically jumped from my hand and attacked the dog sitting under the kitchen table.

Update April 2022 replaced missing video with a different one.

New Sniper Rifle

Being able to hit the mark at long distances means holding very still while you are squeezing the trigger. People being built the way they are with finger bones connected to hand bones connected to arm bones, and muscles likewise, squeezing the trigger means your whole body is moving. The motion might be imperceptible, but an imperceptible movement can still throw your aim off enough to cause you to miss your target. Moving the tip of the barrel one thousandth of an inch translates to one inch at 500 yards. This gun is crazy. The scope is full of computerized video gear. Making a shot takes two steps. The first step is to "mark" the target. Basically, you tell the computer what you want to hit by selecting a spot on a video image. The second step is to make the shot, basically just like you would without all the fancy electronic gizmos. You try and hold the cross hairs on the target and you squeeze the trigger. For a human operated gun, the cross hairs are going to be bobbing and weaving all over the place. With a regular gun, you just keep squeezing the trigger and hope that when it goes off the crosshairs are on the target. With this gun, you squeeze the trigger and when the crosshairs coincide with the spot you previously marked, the gun goes off.
Story on ars technica dot com.