Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Launch of Indian PSLV Rocket

Rocket Launch - ISRO PSLV-C20 (25 Feb 2013)
    An Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket successfully launched on February 25th 2013 at 12:31 UTC carrying Saral and 6 commercial secondary payloads into orbit from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
    The 409kg Saral is a joint ISRO (Indian) and CNES (France) satellite to study the oceans of Earth.
    Two of the secondary payloads are from Canada, the 148kg 'SAPPHIRE' and the 74kg 'NEOSSat'. Austria is launching two satellites at 14kg each called 'NLS 8.1' and 'NLS 8.2'. Denmark is also launching 'NLS 8.3' weighing 3kg. The 6th secondary payload is a UK satellite called 'STRaND-1' and weighs 6.5kg.

    This happened on Monday, so it's almost like real news. Everytime I hear Indians speaking English I am reminded of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. Some of their accents are a little thick. Some of our accents in the USA are a little thick as well, but it seems like all those thick American accents are screened out before they become official voices. Will we ever overthrow the cloying suffication of Disney-fa-cation?
    I can understand the guy speaking the time at regular intervals. That can be handy if you are busy watching what is going on and want to know where you are in the schedule, but I don't understand the guy periodically repeating "PS1 (2, 3, 4) performance normal". Do people really need constant reassurance that everything is going according to plan? Does this serve a real function, or is it just some Indian bureaucrat-eze that has crept into their procedures?
    The English may have treated the Indians poorly, but they did install railroads and they did teach them to speak a common language. I wonder if there is a connection. I mean, if the English had been all nice and politically correct, would they these two things have happened? Idle speculation, I know. It all happened over a hundred years ago. And then there is Rudyard Kipling. I'm getting off track.
    Notice the fancy and uncomfortable looking chairs they brought in for the VIP's. Whatever prompted someone to move those chairs in is the same motive that prompted our over-the-top inaugural celebration. In comparison these chairs are a venial sin. Notice the way the big cheese is so slumped in his chair he looks like he is going to slide right out onto the floor.
    The best part is the graphs they show, range versus altitude, ground trace (latitude versus longitude) and time versus velocity. Evidently this was a four stage rocket. The stage separations are marked by yellow dots on the graphs. I was disappointed that the video didn't go all the way to orbit, but that may have been asking for too much. There is a period of coasting after the third stage burns out. I suspect this allows the payload to reach the prescribed altitude for its orbit. The final burn from the fourth stage is to give it enough velocity to maintain that orbit.

Update July 2015: Replaced vanished video. I am pretty sure it is the same video, though it does incorporate a small watermark. Interesting bit: Zaran, the video poster, uses an avatar from the Kerbal Space Program. Fixed a typo.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

OREO Separator Machine #1

Dumb, but funny. Of course dumb and funny are blood brothers. Created by David Neevel. Via younger son.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Google+ Versus Picasa

I was having some trouble with Picasa earlier today. Perusing the help forums I discover that canceling your enrollment in Google+ will cause Picasa to forsake it's new social butterfly interface and revert to it's original, fairly straight forward interface, which I knew, understood and liked. Cool. So I do that and everything seems fine until I try and add a music video to a YouTube playlist this evening and then I get this.

which makes it sound like I would be going back to Google+. Gaaaaah! I wonder what's happened to my other playlists, not that it really matters, I hardly ever use them.

Expedia, Part 2

This song has just barest connection to this story, but hey, it's not a bad tune.

    You would think I should have learned my lesson last time, but no. I guess I'm just a sucker for the easy point-and-click buy-it-now and regret it later interface. Family emergency, need to fly to the middle of fly over country. Well, OK, it's not an emergency, but it's serious. So we plan on leaving in a week. Looks reasonable, so we buy tickets. Less than a day later things have gotten worse and we need to change at least one ticket. Anne puts in a call to Expedia and she gets a robo-cop that tells her they will call back in 26 to 39 hours. 26 to 39 hours!?!?! You're kidding, right? No, that was the message. Well, say good-bye to that $400 ticket.
    Then last night about midnight a string of miracles occurred:
  1. Expedia called back. 
  2. way down in my cave I heard the phone ring. 
  3. I managed to answer it before it went to voice mail. 
  4. I remembered my instructions and was able to communicate them to the woman on the other end.
    Being able to correctly remember my instructions was the most miraculous of all of these, being as I was about half in the bag. The upshot was that we now have a $250 credit for the next time we need to go somewhere, and being as someone in my family is always going somewhere, we will probably get to use it.

The Vogues - Five O'clock World

This song is very cool, but a little odd. The sound is, I don't know, heavy duty? Dramatic? But the topic is like totally mundane. Their voicings, the Hey! and the yodeling are what give this tune it's impact. The music is like a background addition. I wouldn't be surprised if these guys got started without any musical backup at all. Evidently this tune was used in the intro to the Drew Carey show, or else two people both decided to make the same mashup.

In the year 3131

Via Dustbury.

Git Along Little Doggie

Cattle walk alongside an Indian army tank during a military exercise at the Pokharan firing range in India state of Rajasthan March 19, 2008. REUTERS/B Mathur

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ukrainian Tank Farm

Ukrainian Tank Farm
The Ukranians have figured out how to grow tanks although it looks like somebody has not been keeping up with the weeding. See the small trees popping up in between the rows? It looks like such a big, stable collection that it ought to be visible from a satellite, and indeed it is.

View Larger Map

The icing on the cake is that you can drive (virtually) right up to the front gate. See all the green sticks poking up above the wall? I think they are the tanks' gun barrels. Of course, it could it a Potemkin village, and all the tanks have been shipped out to the Lesser Antilles, and somebody put up a bunch of green sticks to make us think the tanks are still there.

Update June 2019 replaced Picasa slide show with image and link to Google Drive album.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Russian Polikarpov Po-2 Biplane

Came across this while reading about the Korean War.
 It is perhaps the second most produced aircraft, and may be the most produced biplane, in the history of aviation. Some estimates put the number built at more than 40,000 between 1928 and 1953. Correct figures are hard to come by since low-rate production by small repair shops and air clubs continued until 1959. - paraphrased from Wikipedia.
During the Korean War:
Undoubtedly the most effective arm of the NKAF (North Korean Air Force) was the night harrassment units with Po-2 biplanes who kept up night bombing sorties over Korea for the whole war with biplanes and from time to time scored amazingly lucky hits. In fact, those biplanes destroyed more USAF planes on the ground than the entire NKAF destroyed in the air. JCR commenting on Military Photos dot net
More from Wikipedia about the PO-2 in the Korean War:
North Korean forces used the Po-2 in a similar role in the Korean War. A significant number of Po-2s were fielded by the Korean People's Air Force, inflicting serious damage during night raids on Allied bases. On 28 November, at 0300 hours, a lone Po-2 attacked Pyongyang airfield in northwestern Korea. Concentrating on the 8th Fighter-Bomber Group's parking ramp, the Po-2 dropped a string of fragmentation bombs squarely across the Group's lineup of P-51 Mustangs. Eleven Mustangs were damaged, three so badly that they were destroyed when Pyongyang was abandoned several days later.
On 17 June 1951, at 0130 hours, Suwon airfield was bombed by two Po-2s. Each biplane dropped a pair of fragmentation bombs. One scored a hit on the 802nd Engineer Aviation Battalion's motor pool, damaging some equipment. Two bombs burst on the flight line of the 335th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. One F-86A Sabre was struck on the wing and began burning. The fire took hold, gutting the aircraft. Prompt action by personnel who moved aircraft away from the burning Sabre preventing further loss. Yet eight other Sabres had been damaged in the brief attack, four seriously. One F-86 pilot was among the wounded. The North Koreans subsequently credited Lt. La Woon Yung with this damaging attack.
UN forces named the Po-2's nighttime appearance Bedcheck Charlie and had great difficulty in shooting it down — even though night fighters had radar as standard equipment in the 1950s, the wood-and-fabric-construction of the Po-2 gave only a minimal radar echo, making it hard for an opposing fighter pilot to acquire his target. As Korean war U.S. veteran Leo Fournier remarks about "Bedcheck Charlie" in his memoirs later on: "... no one could get at him. He just flew too low and too slow." On 16 June 1953, a USMC AD-4 from VMC-1 piloted by MajorGeorge H. Linnemeier and CWO Vernon S. Kramer shot down a Soviet-built Polikarpov Po-2 biplane, the only documented Skyraider air victory of the war. One Lockheed F-94 Starfire was lost while slowing to 110 mph during an intercept of a Po-2 biplane.
I saw a comic book once upon a time that repeated this story. At the time I put it down as a school boy fantasy. No biplane is going to take out a modern fighter. But this story tells me that maybe it wasn't a fantasy.

Hooker Stays Busy

Ernest Hooker, a carpenter of Forest Dale, works at his hobby of carving wooden bear traps.
From Holiday Magazine, November 1957, via Scott.

Mr. Hooker has found something to do that keeps him out of trouble. Since he has apparently carved a chain of links from one solid piece of wood, I wonder if he made the trap the same way, or if he carved the pieces of the trap separately and then assembled it. Somehow I think he carved the it all out of one piece of wood. There is a Forest Dale in Vermont. Whether that's the right one or not is debatable.


If you are squeamish you may want to skip this post.

    What we have here are a couple of horror stories. They come out all right in the end, but the middle part is kind of grisly. The weird part is I am not sure if they are true, or if I dreamed them. They happened a long time ago, I only heard each story once, and I haven't heard of anything similar before or since.
    Back on the farm in Ohio, the son of a neighbor went to work for the power company. He was working on a high tension line when he fell 80 feet to the ground. The ground was soft, and he landed on his feet, but it messed up his legs something awful. Doctors operated on his legs and were able to put him back together, only missing about four inches of height.
    A woman I know in the Midwest was in some kind of accident, automobile maybe. Her legs were damaged, doctors operated and took out about four inches of the lower leg bones. If her case this had the benefit of reducing her height from extraordinary to merely tall.
    I sometimes wonder whether the doctors also had to operate on the leg muscles to accommodate the shorter leg bones, but then I think, no, probably not. It would have taken months for the bones to heal, and the body would have adjusted the muscles all by itself. On the other hand, I don't really want to know. The whole thing is just too awful to bear thinking about.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Anchors Aweigh

EVERETT, Wash. (June 6, 2012) Sailors paint the starboard anchor of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in preparation for the ship’s 'Rim of the Pacific' cruise. U.S. Navy photo by Ian A. Cotter.

Al Capone @ Al Catraz

Band Alcatraz c 1955
Darlyne Sheppard Alcatraz Photo Collection
Music was another form of recreation at Alcatraz. Here, the inmate band prepares to deliver a concert. In the 1930s, Al Capone played the banjo in the inmate band.

From Scott. No, Al isn't in this picture.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

247 Mahjong

I think I found a bug in 247 Mahjong. I have been suspicious for a while. It seems like I can clear the board of all tiles only about half the time, so it's possible that some layouts are unsolvable, which is cheating. As you cannot see in the picture, because the message box is covering the remains of the board, there are only two tiles left, and they are not even of the same family, much less do they match. Bad Mahjong. I would complain but there does not seem to be any place to file a complaint, so I'm posting it here.

It is still the best online Mahjong game I have found so far in that it will use the entire screen, which means the tiles are large and easy to recognize. It has an undo button, which is good. There is no volume control, and it would be nice if there was a restart button and a redo button. On the other hand, if you care that much about this game, you are caring too much. It is just a time killer, not a worthwhile task.

Survial School, Thailand

The Shangri- Las - Remember ( Walking in the Sand)

I think something Dustbury posted led me to here. This song still gives me chills.


This RL10 engine is fueled by a mixture uber-cold liquid oxygen and hydrogen. The rocket nozzle contains hundreds of small passages, much like a radiator. The cryogenic liquids used to power this engine are pumped through these passages before being injected into the combustion chamber, simultaneously warming the liquids and cooling the nozzle. As CECE (Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine) burns its frigid fuels, gas composed of hot steam is produced and propelled out the nozzle creating thrust. The steam is cooled by the cold engine nozzle, condensing and eventually freezing at the nozzle exit to form icicles.

Liquid Oxygen:     -182.8° Celsius = 90.35 Kelvin = -297.04° Fahrenheit
Liquid Hyrdrogen:  -252.8° Celsius = 20.35 Kelvin = -423.04° Fahrenheit

Picture and some of the text from Pratt & Whitney.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Colored Lights, Part 2

Soldiers ride in a Patria Armored Vehicle illuminated by blue interior lights in Slunj, Croatia. 

A gunner adjusts a lightweight howitzer during a live-fire night exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C.  

I should be able to puzzle this out, but right now I'm just annoyed with the heretics who dared to use blue lights. Part 1 here.


Dutch Army Exercise

I don't think I've ever seen sky that color.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Military Fashion Week

For the style conscious Jihadist with money to burn.

From IDEX 2013, not IDEX 2013. You really need to click-to-embiggenate to get the full effect.


I have changed the comments section back to using word verification. I don't like word verification, the images are often too obscure to make out, but I don't comment on my own blog, so I did as Stu asked.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Eyes Have It

Russian Soldier

A Good Day to Die Hard

This was the silliest movie I have seen in I don't know how long. Lot's of action, plenty of funny bits and quips. There was a triple cross that had me fooled. It was the only intelligent part of the movie. Here's some related stuff I've run into recently.

Bruce Willis on the set during shooting of the movie "A Good Day to Die Hard" in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

Giant Frigging Russian Helicopter

The movie has a helicopter big enough to carry a truck inside. If I hadn't come across this picture of such a thing I would have thought it was a fake.

Dumb Luck

His noodley-ness, the great and powerful FSM, rendered in footprints by some true believers at Wayne State. I just lucked into it.

Wait, what?

Ohio's criminal gun law largely reactive

This criminal is a law. Or maybe "this law is a criminal". In either case I am glad to see the English language and the legal profession breaking new ground in their eternal struggle to obfuscate absolutely everything. Via Tam.


Once upon a time, whenever I was faced with a new bit of computerized something-or-other, I would sit down and study the animal until I understood it thoroughly. Then one day I took an introductory class in Windows programming and found that instead of it being a model of how-things-ought-to-be-done, it was a pile of social networking. Instead of nice orderly queues for things that needed to be done, there was a giant cluster of individuals all scheming on how they could run the show. I was so disgusted I removed myself from the Windows programming cult and have been hiding out in the hinterlands ever since.
    Since that time I have tried to avoid spending any time learning about Windows. I know enough to get it to do what I want, and that is mostly enough. Occasionally though, little bits of knowledge will make it past my barricades and I will learn something new. Here with are a couple of key combinations I have come across that might help you. Press the Control and/or Alt keys and hold them down while you press the remaining key to activate the magic.

  • Alt-Space pulls down a menu from the upper left corner of your current window. Among other things it allows you to minimize a Window without having to use the mouse. I find it very handy. Tina taught me this one.
  • Alt-Tab will take you to the next running program. Hold down the Alt key and each press of the Tab key will take you to the next program. The next time you use it, the first press of the Tab key will take you back to your previous program. Useful if you are cutting and pasting between two programs. I think this is the first shortcut I learned.
  • Ctl-Alt-Escape will interrupt a program that has gotten stuck in some kind of error condition. This one is new to me. Usually when I get in these kind of jams I end up resorting to the to switch on the power strip. Off, I said!
  • Ctl-Alt-Cursor key will change the orientation of the display on your screen. I discovered this one by accident. It could come in handy if I had a pivot monitor, and someday I might.


The opening of Chapter 17 of Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey, a most excellent hard Science Fiction novel of the coming war in the asteroid belt.

Windows is Still Wonderful

Even though it is totally obsolete and has been disavowed by Bill and his minions, Windows XP is still running on two computers in my house. I am sure Windows 7 and 8 are all fine and wonderful, but I am not quite sure what they would buy me, and I'm unwilling to shell out 500 bucks to buy them to find out.

The other computer started complaining about printing today. Supposedly it's been doing it for months, but today was the first time I heard about it, and today we need to print some movie tickets, so I take a look. I do the basics, like restarting the computer, to see if that fixes the problem. It doesn't, so I start typing the error message into Google. I don't get even half way done and the Google already knows what I want.

All roads lead to Rome, and in Rome they know all about this problem. There is even a (virtual) guy at the desk willing to come to my house and fix the problem for me. I drag him home, but as soon as he walks in the house he says "uh, I dunno nothing about these kind of houses", and *poof*, he vanishes. Well, thanks for nothing. I go back to Rome and pick up one of their DIY (Do It Yourself) pamphlets, take it home and read the instructions.

"Locate these files" it says. There are nine zillion files in this directory and eight zillion of them fit the basic pattern of the filename, i.e. DL*.DLL. Furthermore, they are all mixes of uppercase and lowercase, so you can't tell the ell's from the eye's. Fine, we'll use the bloody search function (with the cute little puppy. Oh, look at the little puppy, he's such a cute little puppy-wuppy. God I hate this dog). Punch in the first pattern. Nada. Punch in the 2nd pattern. Nada. This is not looking good. Punch in the 3rd pattern. Nada. This is looking grim. Last try, punch in the 4th pattern. Ah ha! One file found, copy it, as instructed, to the System32 directory and press the GO button. Voila! She prints!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Red Versus Black

You do understand that the professor here is simply a pawn of the black ants in their quest for world domination, don't you? From Marc.

"Our Rockets Always Blew Up"

Cropped this from a chart I found in Wikipedia's article about the Saturn V Moon Rocket. The round dots are successful launches. The X's are failures. There were a lot of failures in the early years.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Coca Cola Happiness Factory

I missed this ad when it came out. I must be better at avoiding ads than I thought. I am sorry to have missed this one, though it does allow me to appreciate it now.

Mostly I hate advertising. All advertising. Except for the ads I like. This one is just great. It would be even better in HD. As it is I had to look through a dozen to find one that wasn't in half-def. I would pay to watch ads like this one. I would pay to not have to watch the ones I don't like. I still think an all advertising channel would be viable business model. Even better would be a method where you get paid/not charged for watching ads. You sit down to watch a show. You watch the ads, the show is free. Each 10 second spot you watch gives you 10 cents credit. Ten minutes of ads would pay for a two hour movie.

Quote of the Day

The Star wants to hear what you have to say about it, but remember that the words you choose have a direct reflection on how people judge the merits of your opinions.
This is the Kansas City Star speaking. Many of the comments I see on Military Photos dot net are from trolls, i.e. anonymous people making rude and insulting remarks. Sometimes they make me angry. Sometimes I suspect it is someone young and foolish jumping to conclusions. People do that sometimes, some of them eventually learn not to do so. I try and let those go, but sometimes it requires a real effort of will not to lash out at the willfully ignorant, bigoted, stupid fools, but then I am not anonymous, so I attempt to restrain myself. I have been successful so far.


More Russian upper atmosphere antics. Scott sent me the link. Russian blog has a bunch of pictures and video. What's really weird is how this alien attack starts with one silent but showy warhead,

and then a few seconds/minutes later you hear huge explosions, but no visuals.
Update: video of sonic boom disappeared, so now we have this one that has the bright flash at the 47 second mark, and the sonic booms starting at 2:45.

Then I read in the BBC story that this thing had exploded in the upper atmosphere: "It would have shattered about 30-50km (18-32 miles) above ground, with most of the meteor burning up." That is way up there, not much air at that altitude, but then at those speeds it wouldn't take much air to make things exciting. Anyway, at 5 seconds a mile, it would take sound a minute and a half to two minutes to reach the ground. The Space Shuttle Columbia was at an altitude of 200,000 feet (38 miles) and traveling at Mach 20 (15,000 MPH) when it was destroyed.
Update: Thinking a little more about this, a meteor 30 miles up, traveling at 5 miles per second would be 750 miles downrange before you heard the sonic boom. Well, it would be 750 miles downrange if it didn't burn up first.
Update 2: Wikipedia: Chelyabinsk meteor

More Rockets, More Russia

The Engines That Came In From The Cold - And how The NK-33/RD-180 Came To The USA

This video is much longer than your typical 5 minute clip, but I found it entirely worthwhile. It tells the tale of a bunch of Soviet rocket engines that were moth-balled 35 years ago and recently restored to the land of the living. Pretty amazing story. The technical aspects of what makes these engines so wonderful is a little scary when you think about what's involved. And the explanation of how they got around the really big problem they presented is a little feeble. But they do make at least an attempt to explain what's going on, and it's more than I've heard anywhere else, so they deserve credit for that.

The science and technology of rocket engines is a field all it's own. Oh, it follows the same laws of physics as all other mechanical devices, but the requirements are unique. They are not like airplanes, or motor vehicles, or guns, or any other kind of device. Trying to compare them to any other kind of device is hopeless.

For instance, let's look at the rocket engine's fuel pumps. The pumps are driven by a gas turbine engine. On a Russian NK-33 rocket motor this turbine produces 46,000 horsepower. It probably only weighs a couple of hundred pounds. It does have the advantage of breathing pure oxygen, none of this watered down stuff us air breathers use, and it only has to run for ten minutes or so. It's not like we expect it to do this all day. Still and all, 46 thousand horsepower is a real stink load of power. Makes your nitro-methane burning drag racer look like a toy.

Rocket engines don't really make a lot of sense. You have this flimsy funnel shaped nozzle. You light a fire in the combustion chamber, pump a trainload of fuel into the engine in less time than it takes to shower, the fuel burns, creates a massive blowtorch, and this flimsy tin funnel does not disintegrate. We're really walking along the edge of the precipice here. One little screw up, and blooey, it all goes sky high.

Let's put the mind-boggling part of this aside for a minute and talk about a relatively simple mechanical problem.

Launching a large rocket is a bit like balancing a upright broomstick. As long as you are paying attention, and are quick enough, you can keep the broomstick standing up. Let your attention stray for a moment, or delay a corrective motion momentarily, and over she goes. There are a couple of ways to handle this, but in big rockets they use gimbals. The engines are mounted on pivots so they can be swiveled in any direction. They don't need to move very far. If you need to move them more than a few degrees it's probably too late to correct the rocket's direction anyway. But they do need to move.

Now we have big fat fuel lines (coming from the tanks that make up the body of the rocket) connected to the motor, and one of these lines contains liquid oxygen. Now if the motor is going to move, these fuel lines will need to flex, or swivel, or something. The only way I can see to do it is to run the fuel lines through the pivot points and install rotating seals at these locations, but I have never seen a picture or diagram that would confirm this.

Then you've got the actuators, the devices that will actually tilt the motor in response to control inputs. We're going to need some oomph here in order to muscle around this roaring blast furnace, and do it in a timely manner. We're talking on the order of milliseconds here. Where is this oomph coming from? Never seen any explanation of this either.

Guess it's time to do some more Googling.

Update April 2015: The original YouTube video vanished, so I dug around and found another copy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Just another day in the life of ‘Downton Abbey’ - A Satire

We watched Season 1 last week and are deep into Season 2 now. Great fun. My only complaint is with Bate's handling of his ex, but then maybe that would be asking for more than I should. Anyway, this appeared in the local paper this morning, stolen from John Kelly at the Washington Post

Did you miss last night’s “Downton Abbey”? Never fear. Here’s the script. Warning: spoiler alerts!
Open on Interior, the servants’ dining room in the basement of Downton Abbey. Mrs. Hughes is in conversation with Alfred, the footman.

Mrs. Hughes: Well, there’s nothing for it. We’ll just have to tell Mr. Carson.

Carson [walking by]: Tell me what, Mrs. Hughes?

Mrs. Hughes: It’s Buttercup, the Earl of Grantham’s yellow Labrador retriever. She’s pregnant.

Carson: A cause for celebration, surely, Mrs. Hughes.

Mrs. Hughes: Not quite. The father is the butcher’s dog.

Carson: The butcher’s dog! Never in all my years at Downton Abbey did I think I would see the day when the Earl’s pedigreed bitch would be impregnated by a common tradesman’s mutt.

Alfred: Ah, but Mr. Carson. Times is changin’.

Carson: Too fast, if you ask me.

Cut to Interior, Mrs. Crawley’s house. About 30 women are crammed into her drawing room.

Mrs. Crawley: I want to thank you all for coming here today, and I want to stress that I make no judgment about the choices you have made during your wretched lives. I know you are all prostitutes, but I also know you are good inside and that it is my job to find that goodness.

Male voice at the back: Can you speak up, ma’am? We can’t hear you at the back.

Mrs. Crawley: Is that a man’s voice I hear?

Male voice at the back: Yes it is, ma’am. I am a man.

Mrs. Crawley: A man and a prostitute? How can that be?

Male voice at the back: I am a male prostitute, ma’am. It’s 1922 and men are experimenting with new roles. Men can be anything they want now. Even prostitutes. My name is Adam.

Mrs. Crawley: Jolly good. You may have fallen from God’s grace, Adam, but you have not fallen from mine.

Cut to Interior, Downton Abbey library. A maid, Olive, is in the foreground, dusting an occasional table. [Occasionally, it’s a table; occasionally, it’s a chair.] Enter: Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary.

Lady Mary: Matthew, I just wanted to .?.?. Excuse me [she addresses Olive], what are you doing here?

Olive [curtsying]: I’m Olive, m’lady, the new table-dusting maid.

Lady Mary: I didn’t ask who you are, I asked what you are doing here. You are an extra. If you are going to be in this room at all, be in the background of the shot, over there with the bookcases or curtains. Do not get so close to the camera that viewers can discern your facial features. Do you understand me?

Olive [curtsying]: Yes, m’lady. [She retreats to a far corner.]

Lady Mary: Now, where was I? Ah yes, Matthew, I’m so grateful to you for sinking your fortune into Downton Abbey. I love you so much.

Matthew: I love you too, Mary.

Lady Mary: And yet I can’t help despising you. [She slaps him in the face and storms from the room.]

Cut to Interior, York Prison. It is visiting day and Anna Bates is sitting with her wrongfully incarcerated husband, John Bates.

Bates: How is everyone at Downton, Anna? Mrs. Hughes?

Anna Bates: It wasn’t cancer, after all.

Bates: Daisy?

Anna Bates: She loves Alfred, but Alfred doesn’t love her.

Bates: Mrs. Patmore?

Anna Bates: Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Bates: Lady Sybil?

Anna Bates: Dead, buried, reanimated as a zombie and now stalking the village feasting on brains.

Bates: Buttercup?

Anna Bates: Pregnant. [She buries her face in her hands and weeps.]

Cut to Interior, Downton Abbey dining room.

Robert, Earl of Grantham: Cora, may I have a word? Why are there 30 prostitutes living in tents in our back garden?

Cora, Countess of Grantham: Oh Robert, it’s Matthew’s mother’s idea. They need work, and she has them here at Downton learning to hunt voles.

Robert, Earl of Grantham: Well, I suppose times are changing and Downton must change with them.

Cora, Countess of Grantham: Oh Robert, I so hoped you would see it that way.

[The party sits for dinner. At dinner’s end, Cora stands.]

Cora, Countess of Grantham: Everyone, I have an announcement. You may have noticed a bulge in our under butler Thomas’s pocket. It’s because he has a new toy. Oh, Thomas, you’ve been playing with Adam’s yo-yo, haven’t you? Oh, please do show us.

Thomas: Of course, ma’am. [Thomas pulls a yo-yo from his trouser pocket and proceeds to demonstrate Around the World, Pop the Clutch and Walk the Dog.]

Cora, Countess of Grantham: Oh, isn’t that marvelous?

Dowager Countess: How perfectly ghastly. The only thing I’d like to see dangling at the end of a string is a suffragist. May I have that “yo-yo” please, Thomas.

Thomas: Of course, ma’am. [He hands the Dowager Countess the yo-yo. She takes it in her gloved hand, examines it as if it was a dead vole then deftly flings it at Lady Edith, striking her smartly in the brow.]

Lady Edith: Oww! Granny, that hurt! Why did you do that?

Dowager Countess: Because you’re ugly, and we hate you.

[Roll credits.]

More Old Rocket News

Roberta posted the link, I stole the spectacular hi-res photos. Armadillo Aerospace launched this rocket just over a year ago, about four months after the amateur launch and about ten months before Felix stepped out of his capsule. This one went higher than both of those. The amateur rocket made it to 121,000 feet. Felix jumped from 124,000 feet. This rocket almost doubled that: 239,000 feet, or 45 miles. That's almost outer space.

The New Economy

No matter how much we might pursue intellectual pursuits, we are basically animals with animal needs. Food, water and shelter are pretty basic requirements. There are two ways to get these things: wrest them from the environment yourself, or get them from someone else. Here's where it gets a bit sticky. You can get what you need from other people by trading, or maybe by asking nicely, or simply by taking it.

I sawPBS show recently that was talking about how productive the United States really was. For instance, we build more guns and bombs than any other planet in the known universe. Well, yes, how else would we be able to carpet bomb third world countries back into the stone age? You think God just makes those bombs fall out of the sky?

OK, I'm getting a little off track. I'll try and stick to the point, and that was another bit of information that fell out of that show. Yul Kwon quoted some number of billions of dollars invested in American business, which had generated some thousands of jobs. Well, isn't that nice. Then I divided out the investment by the number of jobs and I got $500,000. That means it takes a half million dollar investment in order to provide ONE job.

That's why McDonald's pays minimum wage. It only takes a couple of million dollars to open a McDonald's restaurant, and I'm guessing even a small one probably employs a couple of dozen people. We're looking at maybe $100K investment per employee, a pittance compared to some operations.

Intel (the computer chip manufacturer), for instance, has probably sunk close to $10 billion dollars into their plant at Ronler acres, and I suspect only a couple of thousand people work there. Divide that out and you get  $5 million invested per employee.

$5 million versus $100 thousand. I think that explains why Intel employees are making ten times as much as McDonald's employees.

Jobs are nice, but what people really need is something to do. If they don't have enough to do, they are susceptible to being recruited into a campaign to DO SOMETHING, like get out the vote, or march on Washington for some cause or other, or in much of the world, go to war against your neighbors. After all, providing a third world peasant with an AK-47, a case of ammo and a fifty pound bag of dried beans can't cost more than a few hundred dollars, and look how much havoc you can cause, and the glorious ransoms you can collect.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Amateur rocket reaches 121,000 ft

On September 30, 2011 at 11:08am, Derek Deville's Qu8k (pronounced "Quake") launched from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to an altitude of 121,000' before returning safely to earth. Above 99% of the atmosphere the sky turns black in the middle of the day and the curvature of the earth is clearly visible.

This happened back in the fall of 2011. Since then we had Felix jump from a balloon that reached  an altitude just a little higher than this rocket at 124,000 feet. The balloon took two hours to reach that altitude, the rocket took a minute and a half.
    This is a dumb rocket, it has no provisions for steering or course correction. All the electronics in the nose cone are simply recording instruments. You point it in the direction you want it to go, light the fuse, and get away.
    Since they were going for high altitude, and they were using a metal rocket, they must of had a special dispensation from the Pope, otherwise I suspect DoD would have been down on them like a ton of bricks.

Original website with a bunch of photographs. From Scott.

Marijuana: The Path Forward

February 7, 2013

It is time for the federal government to reform the failed marijuana policies that ruin lives and cost us billions of dollars every year.

To begin this process, I have authored a report “The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policies” that describes the history of marijuana in the United States, the current state of marijuana laws across the country, some of the current conflicts between state and federal law, and outlines several opportunities to reform and clarify marijuana law at the federal level. In addition to convening a congressional working group to hammer out the details, Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado and I have introduced legislation to end the federal prohibition of marijuana and set up a tax and regulatory framework to get the ball rolling.

The time could not be better to move on these reforms. Last November, Colorado and Washington voters chose to legalize small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use. Nineteen Jurisdictions already allow medical marijuana. Half of Americans have tried marijuana at some point in their lives, and about 18 million have used it in the past month. It has been here for years, and it is here to stay.

Instead of arresting two-thirds of a million people every year for using something that half of Americans feel should be legal, we should embark on a reasonable program allowing states to develop their own programs that the federal government should tax and regulate. This is a position that conservatives who respect states’ rights and liberals who respect individual rights should be able to get behind.

Once we have established this principle, we should finally institute a framework to tax and regulate marijuana that will save billions of dollars in enforcement-related costs and raise billions in new revenue for deficit reduction, substance abuse, and law enforcement.

I look forward to working with members of both parties to move this issue forward. It no longer makes sense to keep marijuana in a legal gray area, and it’s past time that we brought federal law and enforcement into line with the will of the majority of Americans. 


Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress


Something must be done
Remember that big asteroid that could hit Earth in 2036? Astronomers say never mind.” A smaller, but still potentially destructive object will pass near Earth this coming Friday. I’m afraid that’s just not acceptable. Something must be done to protect people. We should make our Earth-Moon system an asteroid-free zone right now, or at least ban asteroids more than 10 meters in diameter. Of course that would do no good, but it would be something.
Stolen entire from Monday Evening

Sunday, February 10, 2013

KLIMOV Aero Engine Design Company

I seem to be on a bit of a Russian kick the last couple of days. I thought this video is a nice counterpoint to the Rolls-Royce story I posted a couple of weeks ago. You don't need any Russian to understand the video, the soundtrack is entirely music, no speaking. Kilmov is in St. Petersburg.

Russian Combat "Art"

Not paintings, just colorized photographs, but I think the effect is kind of cool.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Colored Lights

Boeing B-52 Cockpit

At night the military uses red light to illuminate instruments on all kinds of equipment: aircraft, ships, vehicles, radar, what-have-you, the reason being that it has the least effect on your night vision. When we got our 2006 Mitsubishi Endeavor, I was disappointed to find that it had blue indicator lights on the dash. I suppose that was the fashion back then, and I guess it doesn't matter so much in a car, after all you've nice bright halogen bulbs to illuminate the road, so your night vision's probably worth shit anyway, so the color of the indicator lights isn't going to make any difference.

Audi S4 Cockpit

    Tonight I got a ride in a new Audi S4 and it had red marker lights all over the dash. They were not the kind of subdued red you see in military equipment, it was more of a a candy-apple, in-your-face, high fashion kind of red. Can't really tell from the difference from these pictures since they have been translated to bits and then reconstituted using the RGB pixels in your monitor. The original colors in the Audi are probably not even really red, probably made of ultraviolet crossed with infrared to give the illusion of red. The fashion in dashboard lights has changed. Imagine that.
    Recently someone was trying to justify using blue lights in the instruments. Our eyes have two kinds of cells that detect light: rods and cones. Cones are used for normal, daylight color vision. Rods are used for black and white, low light (nighttime) vision. Rods are sensitive to blue light, but insensitive to red light. So blue will work at night, and you should be able to get by with much dimmer blue lights than if you used red, but using red lights will not impact your night vision.

Giant Russian Rocket Truck

This is how they would refill missile silos, if the Russians even had missile silos. From Military Photos dot net. Includes bonus photo of train. Because trains.

Grandpa Dream

I had a short dream this morning in which my dad made a brief appearance. I am watching a couple of adults helping a kid practice batting. I am standing a little ways behind the catcher, in line with the pitcher, so I can't actually see the kid who is batting. The sun is low in the sky and shinning directly in my eyes. There are several beach umbrellas standing in the sand amongst the sparse audience. I manage to position myself so that my head is in the shadow of one of these umbrellas. It must be a very shallow umbrella because moving a foot forward or back puts the sun in my eyes. Now that I can comfortably see the players (well, the adults anyway), I look around for my dad. He's not in the audience, but wait, there he is on the field, standing maybe ten feet to right of the kid at bat, watching the kid. He's wearing a light brown suit, a color I don't think I've ever seen anywhere except in the movies. It's not tan, it might have a hint of orange. Typically it looks a little big on him.
    The catcher has had enough and wanders off, so my Dad takes up the catcher's duties. The pitcher lobs the ball in, my dad retrieves it and stands up to throw it back. He stands up easily, like I can never remember him doing. Well, heaven must be being good to him.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Girls with Guns

A Fairy Tale, Or How Did We Ever Get In This Mess?

Once upon a time there were two brothers. We'll call them Cain and Able, not because they are inherently good or bad, but just because we need a couple of names for this story, and everyone's heard of the brothers named Able and Cain, right? So we'll call them Cain and Able. Anyway, they have a pretty big farm and are doing well, well, as well as farmers ever do. There is a pond by their farm and on the other side of the pond is a small village. A little old woman lives in the village and the brothers are kind of partial to her. I mean every time they go to visit she serves them tea and cookies (except she calls them biscuits, there's just no accounting for people's quirks).
    One day Queenie, for that's what the boys call her, sends the boys a message saying that some punk kids are throwing rocks at her house and would they mind very much speaking to them. Well, the boys are a trifle irritated at this. Who do these kids think they are? Throwing rocks at people's houses. The nerve of them! The boys decide that Cain should go over to the village and talk to these kids, so he picks up his shotgun and heads on over. I mean, you never know what kind of trouble you're going to run into.
    Once he gets over there he finds the situation is a little more serious than Queenie let on. Seems that we don't just have a group of rowdy kids, we've got a well organized gang of thugs, and they aren't just throwing a few rocks, they are basically terrorizing the whole village. Cain realizes this might be more than he can handle by himself, so he calls up mean old Uncle Joe, who has a big farm on the other side of the village. He doesn't really get along with Joe, but Joe agrees that something needs to be done about these hooligans, so the two of them load up their shotguns and go to town. In short order the thugs are vanquished and peace returns to the village, more or less.
    Word of Cain's success spreads far and wide and now whenever anybody has any trouble with their local hooligans, they call on the brothers, and Cain, being an agreeable fellow, picks up his shotgun and goes to take a look at the problem.
    Problem is that now the problem isn't a well organized gang of thugs, or even a bunch of hooligans. It's more like an infestation of cockroaches, and everyone who has ever lived in the Southern United States knows cockroaches are just a fact of life. And in any case, a shotgun is not the weapon of choice for dealing with them. Too much collateral damage.
    But Cain has become attached to his shotgun. It worked well in cleaning out the thugs from the village, it ought to work well for exterminating any kind of vermin, so he goes to visit the people who have problems and he plies his shotgun with a free hand and everyone thinks this is just a great thing. Well, most everyone. Like I said, there is lot of collateral damage when you are hunting cockroaches with a shotgun. There's a few pets get knocked off, and few kids get hit by some stray pellets, nothing serious mind you, but it gets some people's hackles up, and they start playing tricks on Cain, like tying his bootlaces together so he falls on his face going down the stairs. Little things like that.
    A shotgun is the wrong weapon to use when trying to eradicate vermin like cockroaches.

Afghanistan Declared Gun-Free Zone

In multiple cities Afghans celebrated their new gun-free state by using old rifles to club several people to death.
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Following the latest green-on-blue attacks, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has formally announced today that the entire nation of Afghanistan had been declared a gun-free zone.
Read the whole thing here.


NSFW (Not Safe For Work), some foul language. An inspired bit of lunacy. From Iowa Andy, who's not in Kansas anymore.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Pig Farm

Last month I was apprised of an opportunity to buy a pig farm in Cuba. This is not my idea of a good time, but what I initially heard made it sound like a heck of a deal: $16,000 for 400 hectares. In Iowa $16,000 will buy you four or maybe five acres. This is 400 hectares. A hectare is like two and a half acres, so we're talking a thousand acres. That is more than a square mile. That is a heck of a lot of land. Of course there is the minor problem of it being in Cuba, but still, it's a heck of deal, and surely you could do something with that much land.
   But wait! There's more, though I'm not sure any of this makes the deal sound more or less attractive. The farmer who's been running this place had about 300 hogs. He was only using a small fraction of the land. Looking at a satellite view of the place it looks like there are only a few farms in the general area, and they all look like small operations. (I think farm #4 is the one.) There are big stretches of unused land between the farms. I thought Cuba was having a hard time producing enough food for their people, and here is all this land lying fallow. Plus one for Communism.
    The couple in Cuba who were looking at buying this farm are older, established professionals. One is a doctor and the other is a teacher. I'm thinking those should be at least satisfactory jobs, even in Cuba, but no, such is not the case. If they were able to swing this deal they would have thrown over their jobs and taken up pig farming. That's pretty damn serious. If you have ever been within a mile of a pig farm you know that they smell really bad. Basically, they smell like shit. I suppose people can get used to anything, but that is one smell I do not like being around. You know, maybe the Jews and Moslems are onto something (they both prohibit eating pork). On the other hand there's bacon. And ham. And sausages. Mmmmm. Hard decision here.
    Being an American citizen, I cannot buy land in Cuba. Actually, I'm not sure anyone can buy land in Cuba. What the $16 grand does is it transfers the right to farm the land to the buyer, and the seller promises to clear out. Not really much different than here, at least as long as everyone plays nice. When they don't, that's when the differences become apparent.
    Being an American citizen, I cannot send any money to Cuba, or if I go there I cannot spend any money. If I had relatives there, I could send money to them, and many people are. Any number of small businesses have sprung up since Cuba and the US both changed their rules (sometime in the last ten years). Things are slowly changing for the better. This current situation looks like a way for all those who got booted out of power (way back when) to get a head start on rebuilding their capitalistic structure.
    You can go visit Cuba directly from the US, but only if you sign up with an "approved" travel agency, which books you into "approved" destination resorts. You can get around these restrictions, but it requires a little misdirection, like flying to Canada or Mexico before you fly to Cuba.

P.S. Don't forget the alligators. There are two ponds on the farm and when it rains the second one fills up, and when it fills up with water, it attracts alligators. What a combo, pigs and gators, all on one farm.


Screw-Top Champagne

I had a heck of a time opening a bottle of cheap champagne the other day. I was expecting to have to first remove the foil, then the metal lock and lastly the cork, but the foil is being a real pain. Instead of coming off in one big piece I have to pick it off in little bits. It's like it's glued on. I finally get enough it off that I can see that the cap has to be unscrewed. Well, that's different, but okay, so I unscrew it and POP! Out comes the cork as well. It's just a plastic stopper really. It's only a $5 bottle of champagne. I probably could have skipped the whole foil picking business and just twisted right off the bat, but I had never seen this arrangement before.

This is a really good invention for people like me who never learned to properly open a bottle of champagne. I always thought the way to do it is push the cork up with your thumbs while pointing the bottle at someone you don't like. Oldest son showed me the correct way which is to twist the cork and let the pressure push it out. You have the cork in your hand so it's no going to fly anywhere. I guess I was always afraid that twisting the cork would just cause the knobby end to twist off and then you'd be left with a broken cork recessed in the bottle, and, well, let's just not go any farther.

Monday, February 4, 2013


From Military Photos dot net:
    British troops in Afghanistan are the first to use state-of-the-art handheld nano surveillance helicopters.
    The Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle measures around 4 inches by 1 inch (10cm x 2.5cm) and provides troops on the ground with vital situational awareness.
    The Black Hornet is equipped with a tiny camera which gives troops reliable full-motion video and still images. Soldiers are using it to peer around corners or over walls and other obstacles to identify any hidden dangers and the images are displayed on a handheld terminal.
    This revolutionary new system - the size of a child’s toy - is carried easily on patrol and is capable of performing in harsh environments and windy conditions.
    The Black Hornet weighs as little as 16 grams and has been developed by Prox Dynamics AS of Norway as part of a £20 million contract for 160 units with Marlborough Communications Ltd in Surrey.
Update September 2016 replaced missing picture.

Super Sunday

My neighbors hosted a Super Bowl party and being the party animal that I am, I had to go see what all the fuss was about. First of all we've got the team names: the San Francisco Giants and the Baltimore Ravens. Oh, wait, the Giants are a baseball team, they are not playing here today. Still, The Giants would be a much better name for the team than the 49-er's. I mean 1849 was over 150 years ago, nobody cares anymore. And what's with the Ravens? Where did they come from? There wasn't any team called the Ravens last year, and here they are in the Super Bowl. The world really has gone crazy. I inquire as to the source of this inequity, and my Sports Authority, Wayne, tells me that they used to be the Cleveland Browns, but they moved to Baltimore and took the name The Ravens because Edgar Allan Poe was from Baltimore and he wrote "The Raven". Nevermore.

Jacoby Jones runs 108 yards for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLVII

     I take a break from feeding my face and sit down to watch a bit of the game just in time to see a Raven catch the kickoff ball in his end zone and then run 110 yards to the other end of the field and score a touchdown. Wait a minute, did that really just happen? This is football, I'm pretty sure that was illegal. Nobody scores a touchdown in one play. You need to go out on the field of battle and struggle and fight and scramble and squabble. You don't just go out and run the length of the field all at once. But that's what the dude did. Whoa.
    The game looked like it was going to be a blowout. At half time The Ravens were ahead something like 50 to 3, but then something happened and all of a sudden San Francisco scored a bunch of points and now they are within striking distance. From then on it was interesting game, or I was drunk. The last quarter was captivating.
    My Sports Authority spouted some interesting numbers. Average price for a Super Bowl ticket: $3500. Number of people in the stadium: 60,000. Then he tells us "this is nothing". There was a golf game in Phoenix this weekend and 180,000 spectators showed up. There are places on the course where they have stadium-like facilities for the spectators, and sometimes the roar of the crowd can be deafening.
     I watched a bit of the half time show. It didn't make a lot of sense. Bunch of half-naked women dressed in black leather gyrating on the stage with some kind of noise in the background and glowering at the cameras. What is she so pissed about?
    Super bowl ads are supposed to be something special but the only thing I remember is the dog slobber landing on some dude's windshield. Boring!
     The food was good and the people were entertaining. Well, at least they didn't throw me out.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Iran's New Jet Fighter, Part 2

The forum on Military Photos dot net on this subject has turned into a troll fest - there is a fierce competition being waged to see who can make the snarkiest and/or most sarcastic comments, interspersed with the credulous/true believers who think it's the greatest thing in the world. The source of all this happiness is some photos released by the Iran Ministry of Defense. To me the aircraft in the photos looks like a less-than-full-size mock-up. It might only be half the size of the proposed full-size aircraft. One of the problems is that they tried to cram a full size cockpit into this half-size airplane, and it just doesn't fit. Once you get past all the blather (from both sides) and realize what it is, it's kind of a cool looking airplane. Would such a shape actually work? We'll have to wait for the real deal to find out, and given Iran's recent iffy record on actually producing stuff, we may have a long wait.

Iran's Jet Fighter
Part 1 here.

Update July 2020 replaced Picasa slideshow with image and link. Removed dead links.

Act of Valor

HALO jump, with oxygen masks, not from the movie.

Pretty crazy movie. The bad guy establishes his credentials right off the bat. He is a very bad man. Everybody should want him dead.

The movie was released almost a year ago, just a month after a real Seal Team rescued a couple of hostages from Somalia, very much like the first action sequence involving soldiers in the movie. Well, our guys used helicopters for the real rescue and the guys in the movie used a HALO jump to drop in on the bad guys. I was looking for a picture of HALO jumpers and I stumbled on the hostage rescue story.

For some reason I read a few reviews of this movie after I watched it. I'm not sure what I was looking for but I didn't find it. All I found was a bunch of whining about how it's all propaganda and bad and terrible and everyone should hate it. Get over yourselves you twits, it's a friggin' movie. Yes, it's full of propaganda, but so is all the news you read everyday.

You know, I am all for legalizing drugs. If drugs were legal, the criminals wouldn't be making a fortune off of them and we wouldn't be wasting a ton of money fighting them. But I just had a thought. What if drugs did become legal and corporations took over the drug business. What would prevent them from conspiring to keep prices artificially high? And what would happen to the economies of South America and Southeast Asia once the corporations took over? If the risk of arrest and imprisonment goes away, so does the reward. Somebody will be making money, but you can bet it won't be the farmers.

Roselyn Sanchez plays the kidnapped CIA operative. We've seen her numerous times before on Without A Trace. The kidnapping scene is brutal and fast. She manages to shoot one of the bad guys before the others overpower her. They weren't effin' around.

Update February 2021 corrected spelling of Valour.