Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Best of Military Photos dot net 2013 June

53 Photos of Ships, Amphibious Assault Craft, Armor, Protests, Work, Ceremonies & Aircraft

Most of the photos have captions. Go to the online album to read them and to see larger versions of these images.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Victory Conditions by Elizabeth Moon

This is the cover to an audio edition, but I like it better than the one that actually got used on my copy. This is the last of Ms. Moon's tough-space-chick novels. After this she got into fantasy. I don't like fantasy, I like science. I want particle beam weapons and spaceships that can travel faster than light. It's all fantasy of course, you just get to believe in different imaginary stuff. I will probably start reading her fantasy at some point because I really like her writing.
    Her stories all seem to be about personal interactions, how people react to situations. The villains and heroes are painted in bright primary colors, there is no mistaking who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.
    One thing she glosses over is the gravity well problem. There are shuttles that carry people from a planet's surface to orbit, but they may as well be magic as there is no explanation of how they work. Of course, there is no explanation of how the faster-than-light travel works either, or the artificial gravity, so you just have to believe they have it under control.
    The gravity well problem is the first major problem in space travel. The second one is how to survive in space for a long period of time. Once you have mastered the survival part, and gotten into orbit, you really don't need to go back down to a planet's surface. You also wouldn't want to go back down because getting back into orbit is such an energy expensive undertaking.

What Watt? Watson-Watt!

Atmospheric Dynamics Group (ADG) Medium Frequency (MF) Radar, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Up on Andøya Island in Northern Norway, near the Andøya Rocket Range, is a MF (Medium Frequency) Radar installation, the largest in Europe. MF Radar seems to be mostly used for atmospheric research and/or weather prediction. I'm always interested in big government projects, so I spent some time looking for pictures of such a device, but I didn't find much. Basically you have a series of tall, thin, antennae towers. You can see shadows on satellite images, but that's about it. So now I'm reading up on radar and I find that Sir Robert Watson-Watt developed the first pulsed radar system in Great Britain in 1935. Watson-Watt? Would that be Watt, son of Watt? Yes it would:
Born in BrechinAngusScotland,on the 13 April 1892 Watson-Watt (the hyphenated name is used herein for consistency, although this was not adopted until he was knighted in 1942) was a descendant of James Watt, the famous engineer and inventor of the practical steam engine.
Knighted for his work on radar.


The USA's X-51A WaveRider has got some competition from Australia. Unlike the crap we get from NASA about New York to London in 15 seconds, these guys are talking about a space launch vehicle. The glib narrator wants his super-sonic airliner, but nobody else mentions it.
       They are planning a September launch from the Andøya Rocket Range in Norway, 200 miles North of the Arctic Circle, and 500 miles from Kristiansund, site of younger son's oil field adventure. There is also an airbase in Andøya. Back in 1982 an SR-71 had to divert there.

Friday, June 28, 2013


Found a couple of interesting things on the web:
  • Wikipedia:Reference desk/Science If you can't find what you want on your own, you can ask a question, and if you are one of the faithful, the godz may deign to answer. Presumably there are reference desks for other topics as well. They list all the questions they have answered recently, along with the answers.
  • PMC - PubMed Central A zillion articles on medicine. I dunno how useful it will be. I was looking at an article about sleep and I was quickly overwhelmed. The cool part is the way they display the articles. They fit the display to your screen, adjust the number of columns to suit, and the page down button takes you to the next page! All the web based text displays I have encountered do a real sloppy job of paging down, leaving you searching to find the place where you left off. 'Bout time someone got their act together on this. They also have a different method of displaying drawings. They will put up a thumbnail and if you mouse-over it, it will pop up the full image. It seemed to work okay for the few drawings I looked at, but I'm not sure it is the be-all and end-all of techniques. I've had bad experiences with mouse-over ads, so I'm a little skittish.

Pierre Borghi: How I gave the Taliban the slip

French aid worker and amateur photographer Pierre Borghi spent four months in shackles, imprisoned by the Taliban in a hole in the ground. But an opportunity to escape eventually came his way, thanks in part to the weight he had lost on the "Taliban diet".

Unusual story from Afghanistan: this one has a happy ending.

Ornette - Crazy

I don't think you could call this rock & roll. Jazz, maybe? In any case I like her voice. Kind of reminds me of The Girl from Ipanema singer. I don't think there is a bad tune on the entire album.
    This picture though, is a little disturbing. I mean there's basically nothing wrong with it, somebody's having some fun with a little face paint, but for some reason I find the resulting image just a little off putting, like whoever that is, really is crazy. Love can do that to people.

Social Security

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Social Security Act, on 14 August 1935. Found on The Contemporary Condition.

Social Security came up at lunch yesterday. I guess the new curmudgeons are getting old. Somebody mentioned that you can start drawing Social Security when you are 62. I didn't pay that little factoid any mind until I realized that I am going to be 62 in less than a week! OMG! Horrors! The world is coming to an end! We're all gonna die!
    Whatever, dude. You can choose when you want to start drawing Social Security. The longer you wait, the larger your monthly check, so the first thing you want to do is look at your life expectancy. If you are facing your imminent demise then it doesn't make much sense to wait. If all your ancestors lived to a ripe old age, you may want to wait a few years.
    There is a crossover point where the total payout from the larger payments overtakes the amount you would collect from the smaller payments, but started earlier. Somebody at lunch mentioned 82. My calculations show it to be about 78. In any case, it's basically the average age retired Americans live to.
     But simple addition does not take into account inflation or possible investment income. So if you have a retirement fund in addition to Social Security, any money you get from Social Security can reduce the amount you draw from your retirement fund, so that investment can continue to earn money. So I set up a spreadsheet to compare two examples, and depending on how much you think your retirement fund will make. From this I found the break even points:
  • 0% age 78
  • 1% age 79
  • 2% age 80
  • 3% age 82
  • 4% age 84
  • 5% age 87
  • 6% age 94
As you can see, the greater the return on investment the longer it takes to reach the break even point. This spreadsheet does not consider whether Social Security will make cost-of-living adjustments to your payments.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Coherent 40 Watt CO2 Laser

Not the laser we were working on, but a very similar one.

Dennis & Glenn have a desktop size, CNC laser cutting machine with a busted laser. Epilog, the maker of the machine wants $1500 for a rebuilt laser. That's a lot of scratch for a couple of guys fooling around in the garage. Let's take a look and see what we can find. What we find is a Coherent 40 Watt CO2 laser that is put together with about a hundred screws. I think the precision mind set that is needed to make a laser work got carried over into everything they did, so don't use one screw when 10 will do. The laser itself is a chunk of aluminum about 18 inches long and four inches square. Most of it is heat sink fins. Lasers are not very efficient, maybe 10% of the input gets converted to output. This laser produces 40 Watts of infrared radiation but consumes something over 500 Watts. All that other energy gets turned into heat.
    We were thinking that if we took it apart enough we would eventually get to the glass cylinder in the center, but 75 screws later all we had removed was the RF circuit board and it's solid aluminum case. We were down to an aluminum block with one electrical contact point in the top center, one sealed tube where the air was pumped out and CO2 pumped in, and one hole where the beam comes out. We stopped at the end caps.
    The end caps (see picture) are kind of odd. It looks like there are two small cylinders about a half an inch in diameter in two holes. There is an 1/8 inch gap between the cylinders and the holes all the way around. There are three screws arranged perpendicular to the center axis of the cylinders. This looks like the mirror adjustment. Looking at the end caps it occurs to me that the cylinders are not separate pieces but are integral parts of the end caps. The gap between the walls of the hole and the cylinder appears to have been machined out leaving just a thin piece connecting the plug in the center to rest of the cap. Adjusting those three screws will essentially bend the inner surface of end cap. Since the amount of adjustment needed is minuscule this could work. I'm thinking if we opened the end caps all we would have found would have been the RF antennae inside an empty box.
    To get it working, I think all that would need to be done would be to pump in some new gas.

Arn & The Dowry, Part 2

We finished watching Arn: The Knight Templar mini-series on Netflix last night, and I had another glorious economic insight. The whole deal about weddings and keeping women as chattel instead of giving them equal rights is all because women get pregnant and men don't. This might seem facile, obvious or sexist, but it's actually basic economics. Both men and women have strong sexual drives. For men there are no economic consequences of having sex unless they are legally bound by the chains of law. Women are very likely to be saddled with a child, a wonderful thing, unless you are on your own. Then it can be a bit of a struggle. Problem is people get swept away on a tide of emotion, think love will conquer all, but the world is a hard place, full of hard people, people who are more interested in their comfort than they are in your survival.

P.S. I kept seeing bits and pieces I remembered, but it wasn't until we got to the big battle at the end that I was sure I had seen this before. The movie portrays it as the Swedish version of Agincourt (ah-jin-koor), i.e. Swedish archers devastated the invading Danish army.
    The series also covers the battle at The Horns of Hattin in 1187 where Saladin crushed the Crusaders.


Tam mentions .79-caliber Pontiac revolvers this morning, so I have to go check 'em out, whereupon I find they were used on the F-101 Voodoo, which I haven't heard mentioned in a coon's age. Being a witch doctor and all, I felt I probably should know something about this good looking airplane.
  • Supersonic - 1100 MPH
  • Active from 1954 to 1984
  • 1500 mile range
  • Vietnam War before being replaced by the F-4 Phantom
  • Cuban Missile Crisis:
The U-2 gets top billing whenever we talk about spy planes, but as you can see the Voodoo was in there doing some of the grunt work.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I've come across some well done short videos. Some of them are music videos, but the tunes don't do much for me.

Biting Elbows - "Toothpick"  Biting Elbows is a Russian Band. The video shows some kind of life-or-death game being played in a concrete basement. I was curious about the game, I mean there's no telling what the Rooskies are up these days, so I dug around a little and found it was just a figment of the film makers imagination.

Portal: No Escape (Live Action Short Film by Dan Trachtenberg) Sci-Fi story.  Danielle Rayne wields the famous Portal Gun (from the Portal game). She's one tough cookie.

PacoVolume - "Wolves" Music video. A country gentleman raises and trains a horse.

Radio Control Model SR-71 Jet With Real Engines. Drones? I got a drone for ya. This video isn't anything special, but the fact that this guy went to the trouble to build this thing is pretty cool.

Monday, June 24, 2013


This is the 500 kV Eldorado Substation near Boulder City, Nevada. It shows a three-phase motorized air disconnect switcher attempting to open high voltage being supplied to a large three phase shunt line reactor. The line reactor is the huge gray transformer-like object behind the truck at the far right at the end of the clip. Line reactors are large iron core coils (inductors) which are used to counteract the effects of line capacitance on long Extra High Voltage (EHV) transmission lines. Internally, this line reactor has three coils, one for each phase in the three-phase system. Each coil within the reactor can provide 33.3 Million Volt Amperes of compensating inductive reactance (MVAR) at 290 kV between each phase to ground . The power company had previously encountered difficulty interrupting one of the three phases when trying to disconnect the line reactor. The substation maintenance crew set up a special test so that they could videotape the switching event, and they also made arrangements to "kill" the experiment, if necessary, by manually tripping upstream circuit breakers.

I don't understand everything in the above paragraph, but let me summarize the highlights:
  • 500,000 Volts
I've heard that some places will keep a tank of compressed air on hand and use it to shoot a blast of air at the arc when they open the switch to "blow it out".

Update February 2018 replaced missing video.

Arn & The Dowry

In Swedish, with subtitles

We started watching Arn: The Knight Templar this evening. It looks like somebody took this movie and its sequel and cut them up into a mini-series. Anne thinks we've seen it before. I think we have just seen so many medieval epics that they all begin to look alike, not that this isn't a fine movie on its own.
     In this story we have two sisters and their father can only afford a wedding/dowry for one of them, so the other will be doomed (DOOMED!) to life in a convent. The dowry has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Kind of sexist and unfair. Why should the father have to put up the money to marry off his daughters? What about his sons? And then it occurred to me that this is a capital investment. Back then it probably was much more difficult to raise the capital needed to start any kind of enterprise, and an enterprise is what you needed in order to maintain any kind of civilized lifestyle, like a roof over your head, a pot to cook in, clothes to keep you warm, and enough extra food to feed your growing brood of children.
    You probably didn't pay the dowry to just any John Doe. The son of a wealthy man is going to require a larger dowry than the son of a poor man. For some reason this was never made clear to me in any of classes I took, or maybe I just wasn't paying attention. Probably day dreaming about rocket ships and ray guns.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

trouble with coriander

sgcollins (S.G. Collins?) made this video. He also made one debunking the moon hoax conspiracy theory, which is how I got onto him. There isn't much to this video, just some people preparing dinner for a party. Well, there is a very sexy girl that we get to watch. And there's the drunk guy trying to explain the problem. And the scene with the two girls in the kitchen, but never mind that. Back to coriander: 
Cilantro (sih-LAHN-troh) is the Spanish word for coriander leaves. It is also sometimes called Chinese or Mexican parsley. Technically, coriander refers to the entire plant. It is a member of the carrot family. 
Okay, it's a plant, what's the problem?
Most people either LOVE IT or HATE IT. Taste experts aren't sure why, but for some people the smell of fresh coriander is fetid and the taste soapy. In other words, while most people love coriander, for some people, coriander just doesn't taste good.
My friend Jack has this problem with celery. Some people seem to actually like it. I don't much care one way or the other. It doesn't taste like much of anything to me. As for coriander/cilantro, I'm not sure I even know what it tastes like. Some people I know rave about it. Guess I'll try and pay attention next time I run into it.

Helicopter Altitude Record

SE 3150-001 F-ZWVB in altitude record configuration with a mini fuel tank and aluminum door panel.

Aircraft are so weird. People go to a great deal of trouble to build them and then when the engines have run for a magic amount of time, they throw them away. Okay, not always. There are some old timers who keep rebuilding old engines and keep flying old planes, but these guys are mostly hobbyists. I suppose there might be a few jet aircraft that get re-engined, but often by the time the engines have run out of time, the rest of the aircraft is obsolete and they get set out to bake in the desert sun. On one hand I can understand that. I mean you have a perfectly good aircraft that could probably fly another zillion hours. On the other hand you could buy a whole new aircraft for what it would cost to install new engines in the old one. You might as well scrap it, no one is going to do anything with the old hulks. I think there must be some kind of accounting sleight-of-hand going on here, otherwise they would have been scrapped.

Jean Boulet (1920–2011)

    A few days ago I put up a picture of some guys climbing up the last leg on the way to the peak of Mount Everest. I thought it was a cool picture, probably taken by someone in an airplane, because helicopters can't go that high. 20,000 feet is the practical limit for most helicopters. Then Stu makes a comment and I do some checking and I find that Jean Boulet flew a helicopter to the top of Mount Everest and landed there back in 1972. That was weird because a few years ago I saw a blurb from HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) that claimed they had flown over Mount Everest. I called bullshit because I had never heard of such a thing and checking on the internet revealed no such event ever occurring. I complained to the rep, and they never corrected me, so I assumed it was just typical Indian over-enthusiasm. (If you ever read any of the press from India you will know what I am talking about. Never say in one word what you can spend a paragraph on.)

Fred North on his record setting flight.

    Now I do some more checking and I discover that a new altitude record was set by Fred North in 2002 in South Africa. In both M. Boulet's flight in 1972 and Mr. North's flight in 2002 the turbine engine flamed out on the way down. M. Boulet set a second world record for longest auto-rotation. He coasted all the way to the ground. Mr. North employed auto-rotation until he had dropped to 12,000 feet where he was able to restart his engine.

Fred & gang celebrate successful flight.

The Boss Hoss - Don't Gimme That

The BossHoss Don`t Gimme That

Update January 2019. There used to be a very cool video that went with this song, but it has disappeared. I found it on a German site a while back and posted it, but the embedded version doesn't work any more. I kept the link in case anyone wants to try and track down the original video.

All the following is from the original post.

The BossHoss -- Don't Gimme That - MyVideo

WARNING: if you let this video play to the end, it will hijack your browser and take you to Germany. There is also an ad before the video starts. Because this band and this song are so great you should let it take you to Germany and buy some of whatever it is they are selling. Coffee or chocolate last time I played it.

The cool part: It starts (and ends) with a shot of the Continental Club, which is located on South Congress Avenue, on the South side of the river in Austin, Texas. That's the other side of the river from all the "important" stuff like the Capitol and UT (University of Texas). I know this because I used to frequent the joint 30 years ago. It was a dive back then, and it doesn't look like it has changed. One corner of the ceiling was falling in, and the carpet used to be some color other than black, but you couldn't tell what it was. If you wanted tunes it was the place to go. However, you wouldn't hear either of the kinds of music that are supposedly indigenous to Texas, Country or Western. I really, really, like this band.
    I had to dig around to locate this video. I could not find it on YouTube. You can find the tune, and a truncated version of this video, but not the whole thing. It is available on the band's website.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Marcel puts up a post this morning about the Wood of Ephraim. I've never heard of it, so off to Google I go, whereupon I am delivered a link to a Facebook page, which just has a one line summary, very similar to what Wikipedia has. Oh, they credit Wikipedia, and, hey, what's this?

Does this mean we have so much storage space available in the cloud that we can just waste it? Yes, I think it does. I wonder how long this page will persist, if it persists at all. If nobody writes on it, it could just be generated anew each time someone asks for it. God forbid anyone comments on it. It will become as graven in stone and persist until the very end of time itself.

Exercise Arctic Tiger

Aircraft painters are getting wild these days.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Cardigans - My Favorite game

The Cardigans - My Favourite Game “Stone Version”

I think the tattoo was a fake done only for this video. After watching this video umpteen times I believe that the smudge on the car seat confirms it. Why do I think that is important?

I got onto this from tracking down the originals of some Boss Hoss covers. I like the music for both versions equally well, but I like this video better.

Street View of signpost at the corner of Daggett-Yermo Rd. & 'A' St.
Update: This video is 15 years old. Shows how out of touch I am. It occured to me after I put up The Boss Hoss Don't Gimme That video that both videos had a Texas flavor: Cadillacs and cowboy boots. So I went back and watched this one a little more closely and found proof: the van at the end has a Texas license plate. There is also a street sign at the beginning that looks unique, and sure enough it is. You can find it in Daggett, California, just outside of Barstow. Humph. Not real Texas flavor, it's a California fake. Oh, well, Barstow probably has more in common with El Paso than Hollywood. Wasn't able to find the restaurant though, which was the only other clue I could find. P.S. I love the D.J.

Update 2: For some reason when I am watching this video, I don't notice all the car noises (roaring engines, skidding tires, collisions), but if I am just listening to it while doing something else (i.e. not watching the video portion) they are very prominent. Gives a completely different feel to it.

Update 3: April 2017 replaced missing video.

Prison Planet

Kyra  - The Chronicles of Riddick

Exporting convicted criminals to the moon or distant planets has been common theme in Science Fiction stories for years. I always pooh-poohed it because of the enormous cost of putting anything into orbit, but then I got to thinking (always a dangerous thing to do, I know). Looking back to the days of sail when Britain was sending convicts to Australia, a sailing ship was about the most expensive thing you could buy. Then you look at the cost of keeping someone locked up in a modern prison, one that doesn't violate any of their rights, and I begin to wonder if shipping them to the moon might be cheaper.
    There are a couple problems with this idea. The first is that it is still dreadfully expensive to put a man into orbit, much less send him to the moon. Another is that there are a whole bunch of people who claim they want to go into outer space. If we started exporting criminals, we might have a whole new bunch of criminals, people who commit crimes in order to get "transported". A third is that it is a whole lot easier to get back from the moon than it is to get there in the first place.

Tennis Racket Dream

My wife and I are tagging along with an athletic man on his way to play a tennis match. He has a racket, but he isn’t very happy with it.  When we get to the court, he grabs a handful of strings from his racket and pulls them up into a loop. Something else happens and now the strings are cut. He hands the racket to me and asks me to restring it using the old, now very stretched strings. I wonder if this isn’t going to make for an awkward delay in the game, but he seems unconcerned. I don’t know whether the audience, for there is an audience, is his entourage and he has just lost all respect for them, or whether this is a real match, and absurd delays like this are just accepted as normal. There is no mention, or appearance, of his opponent.

   I turn to the task of restringing the racket and right away I can tell it is not going to go smoothly. The strings are like wet noodles. Trying to push them through the holes is going to be a real pain. But never mind that, we have another problem. Seems the strings in the lower section of the racket have gotten individual black cloth covers, the strings themselves have turned to straps, and they have gotten somewhat misarranged. So before I can start with restringing the racket, I need to sort out the existing strings, er, straps, but the covers are in the way so I can’t see which ones are gray and which ones are red, which makes it a little difficult.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Stayed up late last night watching The Yellow Sea, a brutal, Korean crime thriller. Only the cops had guns, which they used ineffectually. The bad guys, and there were a lot of bad guys, used knives, hachets and clubs. The knives looked like the big kitchen knives you can pick up at any housewares department. The clubs were whatever was handy. It reminded me of Old Boy.
    Well, now I'm wound up, I'm not ready for bed, so let's see what we can find to amuse ourselves on the net.
I heard Clinton blamed for setting up the situation that led to the great economic disaster that happened during Bush's term. I didn't want to believe it then, I mean, Clinton was a good guy, and Bush was a bumbling fool. Except they are both part of the system. So all this made perfect sense at 2AM this morning. I'm afraid to look at it now.

Yellow Sea locations
Primary locations in the movie The Yellow SeaBusan and Ulsan, South Korea and Yanji, China. 500 miles of the Sea of Japan separate the two areas. The Yellow Sea itself is on the other side of the Korean Peninsula. Note that Yanji is right near the intersection of China, North Korea and Russia. There is a river along the border between Russia and North Korea, so it looks like China has access to the ocean there. Tenuous, but access. Ulsan is home to Hyundai, as in the biggest shipyard in the world and the biggest automobile factory in the world.
    So. A 500 mile sea voyage to get to South Korea, then sneak into the country in order to find work. That's a little thin. But Ulsan is a booming industrial town, so that makes it a little more believable. Update: Yanji is populated by ethnic Koreans so they would probably be able to fit in better in South Korea than they would in Japan, which is approximately the same distance away, but, well, Japanese.

Update October 2016. Adding a mention of Vladivostok here because it's the nearest Russian city to this intersection.
Update August 2020. Replaced missing map, added link to map of the intersection of the three countries.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Time To Get High

For Roberta. Via Jack.

Sukhoi Su-35 thrust vectoring at the 2013 Paris Air Show

Seems like I am putting up a lot of stuff from Russia lately. Maybe because Putin suppresses the media you don't have to scrape all the icing off to get to the cake. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I came across this photo the other day. I thought the nozzles looked a little special.

Valentina Tereshkova

Roberta X mentions a story about Valentina Tereshkova, but I didn't like the pictures, so I thought I would put one up.

Hey, hey, NSA!

Via Earth Bound Misfit

Beech 18 Turboprop Conversion

If this airplane looks a little odd it is because it is a little odd. Original designed and built during the WWII era and equipped with radial engines, it was converted to turboprops some 40 years ago. Presumably the nose job was done at the same time. Don't think I've ever seen a turboprop taildragger before. Interesting that they converted from piston engines to turboprops, especially since these days some people are trying to go the other way. I suspect maintenance costs are a big factor. With bigger, more expensive engines, manufacturers can spend the extra time and money figuring out how to extend the amount of time between overhauls. Radial engines were the powerhouses of their era, but they were a maintenance nightmare. Not a problem if you were made out of money, like the U.S. Government, but a real problem for any kind of commercial enterprise. Inspired by a link from Dustbury.

News Flash! NSA in League with Target!

We're doomed.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Boss Hoss Without Me

I'm not quite sure about this. I mean, I like the sound. This particular song has some crude bits, but  it is at least embeddable (is that even a real word?), unlike most of The Boss Hoss tunes on YouTube. 
    What we have here is a German band, singing covers of American popular music, in English, but with a Country-Western flavor. And hornsGiven the number of live concert videos posted on YouTube, they must be some kind of phenomena in Germany. It's just weird, man.

Motorola, er, Freescale 68HC11 Microcontroller Timer Diagram

Once upon a time I spent some time comparing Intel & Motorola microcontrollers. The little ones were fairly simple, but the bigger ones got pretty complicated. The 68HC11 has a whole slew of options involving timers, so I made up this drawing to try and illustrate the relationships between all the various parts that were connected to the timer. I originally drew it by hand and colored it with highlighters. I got this image by scanning an old black & white Xerox that I found sitting in a notebook on my bookshelf. Back in the early 1980's we didn't have color copiers.

Russian Submarine

Never mind the old tramp steamer in the background. Do mind the guy standing at the base of the fin.

Monday, June 17, 2013

X-56A: Breaking the Flutter Barrier

This is not an especially great video, but it has some interesting points, and it's only four and a half minutes long. Flutter in an airplane is kind of like speed wobbles on a motorcycle. Some vital part of your vehicle starts oscillating in an uncontrolled manner and if something isn't done quickly, there will be serious consequences. The start of the video shows some bad things happening, like the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapsing during a wind storm. This unmanned aircraft, the Mutt, uses a couple of itty bitty jet engines, similar to what Jet Man uses to make himself fly.

Brooks Goes to Guatemala

My wife, the teacher, sent me a link to a story about an Oregon kid working with an orphanage in Guatemala. I'm reading the story and I'm thinking, good, someone is trying to make things better. Then I see the name Brooks Baumgartner and I realize I know this kid. Well, I knew him 15 years ago when he and his family lived nearby. His pop was a high school baseball coach. Haven't seen them in forever, and here's Brooks charging off to Central America.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Self Defense

My wife spotted the story in the paper this morning about the school teacher in San Diego who was fired because her ex-husband is some kind of whack job. I can understand everyone's position in this mess, well, except for Mr. Wacko. From the way the story is told in the paper he sounds like he is seriously obsessed with his ex-wife. Of course we haven't heard his side of story. If you believe in Hollywood-esque conspiracy theories, he could be the very ideal of the perfect gentlemen and it's his ex-wife who is the psychotic, scheming nutcase.
    This really sounds like a case for a super-hero, someone who doesn't let little things like the law bother them. They will just step up and dispense the necessary justice. If the evil one simply vanished, there wouldn't be anything for reporters to write about, we wouldn't have a conundrum to puzzle over, and the legal profession wouldn't be tying itself in knots over who gets the blame. If anyone should get the blame it should be the partner who failed to shoot their attacker dead the first time it happened. Then it would have been a simple case of self defense, and they probably would have gotten eight years for manslaughter. But it would have been the end of that problem. We wouldn't still be worrying about this particular crazy 20 years later.


Grow Valley

I like simple games, games that I can play using only a mouse, games that don't require using the keyboard, games that only take five or ten minutes to play. It might be that my hand-eye coordination is not all that good. I have never liked any of the first person shooter games, probably because I never got the hang of manipulating the controls well enough to kill all of the zombies, which means I get killed in the first 30 seconds. I did have a heck of a basketball hook shot back in the 6th grade. So there.
    Mostly I play Spider Solitaire (two suits), 247 Mahjong, and an easy version of Sudoku. I always finish the Sudoku. The other two I win maybe one out of five. Of the three I like Spider Solitaire the best, but after playing nine thousand hands it gets kind of old.
     Recently I came across a game called Blocks. It is a ridiculously simple game that can be the very devil to solve. There are something like 100 puzzles. Each puzzle takes between one and three moves to solve. Some of them are ridiculous easy. Others are insanely difficult. I still have not solved them all. What's even weirder is that even after I have solved some of them, if I go back and try them again, I can't remember how I did it. It's like a brand new puzzle all over again. Bonus: the background music sounds a whole lot like Enya, who I enjoy sometimes.
    While out poking around I came across some new Grow puzzles. I played all there were a few years ago, but the author has been busy and produced some new ones. There are some small ones called Nano that are relatively easy to solve, and some more complex ones like Grow Valley that are more difficult. They are simplicity itself to play, just determine what order to pick the buttons at the bottom of the screen. With 3 buttons there are only 6 possibilities (3! = 3 Factorial = 3 x 2 x 1 = 6). With 7 buttons it's a little worse: 7! = 5,040. That wouldn't be so bad, except each selection starts an animation that runs for several seconds. Some of them are really long, so it could take a while to run through all the combinations.
    The picture shows the best result I have gotten with Grow Valley so far. I keep a record of my selection order so I can reproduce it. I got similar results once before. I maxed out the score on 4 or 5 of the selections, but when I went back to try and reproduce it some neanderthal had made chicken scratches over it and the original order was no longer obvious. I probably spent an hour trying to figure out my previous best guess without any luck. Finally I gave up and tried a new tack from scratch and shortly thereafter arrived at this "solution".
    I keep thinking that I should be able to devise a program to help me find the correct order, but so far I have not been able to come up with any kind of scheme. The general idea would be to record the order of your selections, and then enter the score that you ended up with for each one. The program would digest this and then offer up a new selection order. Problem is that I haven't been able to come up with any criteria for making a new selection that is amenable to being encoded in a computer program.

Elephant Ranch

Elephants are having a hard time these days. Every since the international ban on ivory eliminated all sources of legal ivory, the poachers and black-marketeers have been having a hay day. I'm thinking we need an elephant ranch, a place where elephants are protected from poachers. Of course being a ranch, they are going to come to a bad end, but all animals do eventually. Having a ranch might ensure the continuation of the species. I mean if your livelihood depends on having a constant supply of live elephants, you are going to make an effort to see that they do not go extinct. Likewise, if they are your property, you are not going to take kindly to anyone trying to make off with your elephant, dead or alive.
     My kids have all graduated from college, they are looking for work and not having much luck. I'm thinking that maybe I should start some kind of business, and an elephant ranch might be just the thing. Of course there is going to be some god awful politicking involved, but that's something my kids with their liberal arts degrees should excel at. Treasure Island is pretty empty looking, and much closer than Africa. I wonder how elephants would do there? I wonder what Castro's Party would think about such an enterprise. They might really like it, give 'em an opportunity to irritate good ol' Uncle Sam, who is being a king size jerk to pretty much everyone.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Prism: concerns over government tyranny are legitimate

Seems there is a brain behind Kim Dotcom's playboy facade. This is the guy who was behind Megaupload that famously got busted by the US Government something over a year ago. Stolen entire from The Guardian.

The post 9/11 security narrative has eroded our privacy rights in favour of government control. Prism should be discontinued immediately

Kim Dotcom, Thursday 13 June 2013 04.01 EDT

'Prism and its related practices should be discontinued immediately'. 
Nobody would be shocked to hear me admit that I have a problem with authority. During most of my adult life, I have resisted the notion that the government always acts in the best interests of its citizens. Edward Snowden’s recent interview with the Guardian underscores the possibility that those like me – who see the state as a potential threat to basic civil rights and liberties – may have been right all along.

Snowden’s leak of classified US government information acquired during his work for the National Security Agency (NSA) confirms that the US government is gathering and archiving online data and metadata on a massive scale. The data is stored at NSA data centers, where zettabytes of cloud storage are available to authorities. Snowden’s revelations have again framed the debate over the balance between our privacy rights and our need for security.

Some proponents of Prism assert that it is an essential tool against terrorism. They claim that only data belonging to foreigners (that is, non-US residents) is retained, and that content is not reviewed as a matter of course, only algorithmically analysed for suspicious patterns. They point out that a search warrant is still required from a secret court set up under the US. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) may be spun up so that content – accumulated over years of daily internet spooling – may be extracted and analysed, laying bare a suspect’s entire virtual life.

Those safeguards have limited value. According to congressional reporting, the FISA court received 1,789 applications for authority to conduct electronic surveillance in 2012, but not one application was denied. We cannot debate whether the FISA court is a rubber stamp, because its proceedings are secret. Further, any assurance to US citizens that the NSA will not gather and archive their data is suspect. The “Five Eyes” alliance between the intelligence agencies of the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK effectively permits those governments to circumvent the prohibition against gathering data on their own citizens by sharing information across the Five Eyes intelligence community. The UK for example can spy on Americans and make that information available to the US government on its massive spy cloud – one that the NSA operates and the Five Eyes share.

Prior to 9/11, the operative presumption in developed nations favoured privacy, but the security narrative has since reversed the presumption, eroding our privacy rights in favour of government control over our personal information. However, government is an instrument – sometimes a crude one – susceptible to abuse, as demonstrated by recent admissions that the US Internal Revenue Service has targeted specific groups based on ideology. When we empower the state, we empower those that hold sway over the state, and the state is subject to influence from a multitude of quarters.

I have personally been a victim of such abuses. The US government has indicted me, shut down my cloud storage company Megaupload and seized all of my assets because it claims I was complicit in copyright infringement by some of the people who used the Megaupload service. I have emphasised that I am being prosecuted not because the charges against me have some sound basis in US copyright law, but because the US justice department has been instrumentalised by certain private interests that have a financial stake in neutralising my business. That trend represents a danger not just to me, but to all of us.

Recent polls in the US suggest that the public is not much preoccupied with the fact that our data is being retained, so long as our own political party is in control of the government. That kind of fickle comfort is small-minded. The point we should derive from Snowden’s revelations – a point originally expressed in March 2013 by William Binney, a former senior NSA crypto-mathematician – is that the NSA’s Utah Data Center will amount to a “turnkey” system that, in the wrong hands, could transform the country into a totalitarian state virtually overnight. Every person who values personal freedom, human rights and the rule of law must recoil against such a possibility, regardless of their political preference. Others take a more cavalier approach, such as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in 2009: “If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.”

We should heed warnings from Snowden because the prospect of an Orwellian society outweighs whatever security benefits we derive from Prism or Five Eyes. Viewed through the long lens of human history, concerns over government tyranny are always legitimate. It is those concerns that underpin the constitutions of most developed countries, and inform international principles of human rights and the rule of law. Prism and its related practices should be discontinued immediately, and the Utah Data Center should be leased to cloud storage companies with encryption capabilities.

Death to the Infidels

So the Russians are sending arms to Assad and we'll be indirectly arming Al Qaeda again, because it worked out so well last time we did it. Did anybody here play the Third World War series of board games from GDW? Remember how their "tanks through the Fulda Gap" scenario got under way
Also, since when did Barack Obama and the Democrat Establishment start caring about dictators using poison gas on their own people? Didn't I just have to live through eight years of gum flapping and windbagging about how we were ogres for toppling a secular strongman and opening a power vacuum for radical Islamists because we got all squeamish and concern-troll-y about some nerve gassed Kurds? Seriously, didn't we just leave this movie?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Whittet Higgins

Michigan Mike is thinking about buying another Moto-Guzzi. This one is a little old. Old motorcycles need owner-mechanics. Owner-mechanics are well advised to have a shop manual on hand, especially for foreign weirdo mechanical contraptions. Fortunately for the uber-nerd we now have the internet and all the obscure knowledge in the world is now at our finger tips, including this random page I pulled up that talks about locknuts in the transmission, which leads to
Whittet-Higgins Company, 33 Higginson Ave., P.O. Box 8, Central Falls, RI 02863
Everything about the company sounds like it's in the USA, except for the RI part. What the heck is  RI? Oh, it's Rhode Island. Why didn't I recognize it? Maybe because I haven't had my coffee yet, or maybe because I HAVE NEVER RUN INTO ANY COMPANY WITH AN ADDRESS THERE. Or maybe I've never owned a Moto-Guzzi, and never needed any of these sooper-secret mechanical doo-dads. Actually, I have run into these kinds of parts before, but if I ever needed to replace fancy lockwashers, I would get them from the dealer. I'm thinking though, that if you needed to replace the locknut itself, and not just the custom lockwasher, that would imply serious damage to the mechanism, damage so serious as to make repair a dubious proposition. I dunno, maybe Moto-Guzzis eat their locknuts on regular basis. Sounds thin to me.

     Anyway, I run a search on Google for Whittet-Higgins, just to see what turns up, and, lo and behold, E-Bay pops up with 180 Whittet Higgens lockwashers, etc. Guess I shouldn't be surprised. I bought a timer for my dishwasher using the part number off of E-Bay a couple of weeks ago.

Mixed Messages

Navy sinks ALL CAPS in favor of friendlier mixed case

reads the headline on the MSN article quoted on Military Photos dot net. Supposedly it's a cost cutting measure, not that anyone really believes that, but then the question comes up as to how the Navy got started using ALL CAPS in the first place. I blamed the teletype - they just didn't have lowercase letters. Then someone pops up with some Morse Code:

-- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. . / -.. --- . ... / -. --- - / .... .- ...- . / .-.. --- .-- . .-. -.-. .- ... . / .- .. -. .----. - / -. --- -... --- -.. -.-- / --. --- - / - .. -- . / ..-. --- .-. / - .... .- -

I kinda, sorta used to know Morse, an E was one dot, a T was one dash, but shoot, I've got this whiz bang computer here, I'll bet someone has written a translator, and sure enough they have. So I feed it the Morse and got back a translation (highlight to read):


Doh! That reminds me that back in the days when 300 baud was high speed, there used to be 5-bit character codes

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Encryption, Part 2

The content of a message is not the only thing of value in an encrypted message. Sometimes the simple existence of a message is the most valuable bit of intelligence. There are several aspects to this.
    First is the subject. This is what got Private Manning in trouble. Near as I can tell there weren't any real "secrets" in the information that he gave to Wiki-Leaks, the whole point of the secrecy is that the "enemy" did not know what our intelligence people were studying. We may not know anything about our subject, but just knowing who or what the subject is would be valuable for the enemy. Do we even know who they are?
    Second is traffic. An outside observer might be able to detect an increase in message traffic, even if the content of the messages themselves are unreadable. Detection could be done by counting the number of carrier pigeons, or watching the electric meter at a computer facility, or if you have access to the actual channel, by counting the number of messages being sent. This one is fairly easy to subvert, all you need to do is to fill all channels with dummy messages all the time. Still, an increase in real message traffic is liable to cause an increase in real world activity somewhere, so just watching the comings and goings at military bases and embassies might tell you something. Yeah, like the ambassador is throwing a party tonight. Whoopie.
    Third is the content of the message. There are a multitude of methods for preventing messages from being read by unauthorized personnel, and there are just as many methods for cracking them. Computer encryption is subject to computerized decryption. It may take a while, but with enough computers on the job it becomes possible. Conversely, the more secure the method, the weaker it is. Only one person knows how to decrypt the message? Corrupt that one person and you have access to the message.
    Lastly, there is the network. This is what the NSA is after with all the phone records. Some people are worried that their phone calls are being monitored. Someone who has something to hide from the NSA is not going to be speaking "in the clear", they are going to use jargon and code words to communicate. No, what the NSA and most other intelligence agencies want to know is WHO you are talking to, not what you say. This one is difficult to foil, though I am sure it can be done. This is why people in the movies are always using "burner" (pre-paid) cell phones and replacing them on a regular basis. Bought with cash, there is no record of who buys a "burner" phone. Shoot, I wouldn't be surprised if the first thing the NSA did with all those phone records they got was to eliminate all the phone records for phones where they knew whose phone it was. No self respecting terrorist would use their own phone for any kind of operational communications.

Moving a 100 Ton Stationary Steam Engine

The part that got me was the 'one thousand horsepower'. Sounds impressive until you compare it to the weight. A modern car car easily have 200 horsepower, five cars would not even weigh ten tons, much less 100 tons. On the other hand, a car is not going to be able to run day-in and day-out for fifty years. At first I wondered why they were moving this thing at all. The steel mill where they found it is probably dead, why not just restore it in place? Then I realized the site is probably owned by a corporation, a steel corporation that is struggling to stay alive, and probably doesn't have any room in it's hard corporate heart for any kind of do-gooding. We can get a dollar and half for the metal if we scrap it? That's a dollar and a half more than we had this morning, scrap it!
    This video is from 2009, and they have made some progress since then, but like any volunteer organization, Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation always needs help. You can read more here, or watch more videos here.
    I guess I have a bit of a soft spot for the Ohio steel industry, after all I did spend 8 years there, and while I was never directly involved in the steel industry, I was certainly in thrall to the automobile, and the two have been marching hand in hand from the beginning. Ohio was never the big steel center like Detroit was, but we did have our own little successes. There was the steel railroad bridge that burned down in Cleveland when the Cuyahoga River caught fire, and for a while Steubenville, (50 miles South of Youngstown), had the dirtiest air in the country.
    Video link from Scott.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Substitute 'Democrat' for 'Insect' and you have a pretty fair summary of all the fuss about the NSA. I think just about all the blogs I read have weighed in on the subject. If I had my way the NSA would be out of business. Of course, if I had that kind of clout I would want my own security apparatus keeping an eye on the miscreants.
    One of the problems with a free and open internet is that, well, it's free and open, which means anyone who wants to do anything privately needs to set up a secure link. Seems to me it would be nice to have a secure internet connection, one where one logon ID and password would work for all your secure transactions, including e-mail. That would put a stop to the spammers. This would make things a little more difficult for the NSA, but I don't think it would stop them. They would just need another hundred billion dollars worth of computers to throw at the problem of decrypting everyone's email.
    As Stu points out, steganography can allow you to transmit secret messages while pretending to know nothing. What would be even better would be an encryption technique that turned your secret message into an innocuous one. Eliza used such a technique (in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle Trilogy) to send messages from Versailles. She would write horribly long letters full of the current gossip. The secret message was contained in the first letter of each word. Long to write, and somewhat long to read, but dead simple to use, and dead simple to break, if you have the wits to look for it.

Update March 2019 replaced missing video.

It's Not About The Nail

From Scott.

China Launches Another Manned Mission to Space

JIUQUAN, CHINA - JUNE 11: (CHINA OUT) The Long March-2F rocket carrying China's manned Shenzhou-10 spacecraft blasts off from launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 11, 2013 in Jiuquan, Gansu Province of China. China's latest manned spacecraft blasted off on a 15-day mission to dock with a space lab.

I'm always glad to see a successful space launch.


I got the link to Engineering Radio from Roberta X, and I'm finding all kinds of good stuff over there. A post about low power FM stations got me going.
    When I was younger I always had the FM radio in my car playing rock and roll. DJ's and ads were something you had to put up with to get the music. Nowadays whenever I turn on the radio, I seldom find any music, much less any music I want to listen to. The most reliable stations play classic rock and I have heard all of those songs to death.
    A while back there was a guy doing some work in the yard and he had a radio playing. It was tuned to some talk station, and whoever it was that was on the air sounded really angry. He just ranted on and on and on. I almost asked the guy how he could stand to listen to it, but I decided that maybe I didn't want to know.
    The only thing I like to listen to in the car anymore is audio books, but since I don't drive everyday, it makes it kind of difficult to maintain continuity, not to mention they want real money for audio books, I don't have a CD player in my truck, and the library doesn't have books on tape.

Suppression of Ideas

I found this video called Empire of Noise about broadcast radio jamming. It seems to be about ten years old and is a post cold war documentary about the jamming of radio signals by the USSR, Warsaw Pact counties and China.  It is an interesting look into the extent and expense that governments will go to to suppress counter thought and ideas.
The video is quite long, and there are stretches of jamming noise that can be annoying, but perhaps that is the point.  It is worth the time if interested in history and radio broadcasting.  You know what they say about history; those that do not understand history are destined to repeat it.
A few of the highlights:
  • The former Soviet Union had the most extensive jamming network of anyone on Earth.  There were groundwave jamming centers in eighty one Soviet cities which consisted of approximately 10-15 transmitters each in the 5 KW covering the medium and shortwave frequencies.
  • Each groundwave jamming station consisted of a transmitter site and a receiver/control site.  The receiver site possessed lists of frequencies to monitor, when objectionable material was heard, the jamming transmitters were turned on.
  • There was a skywave jamming network consisting of 13 jamming stations with 10 or more 100-200 KW transmitter in each.  There were some transmitters in the 1,000 KW power range.  These were located in Krasnodar, Lvov, Nikolaev, Yerevan, Alma-Ata, Grigoriopol, Sovieck, Novosibrisk, Tashkent, Khanbarovsk, Servdlosk and Moscow (some of these names may have changed).  These operated in a similar fashion to the groundwave jammers.
  • After sign off of government stations, Soviet jammers sent a blanketing signal on the IF frequency (most likely 455 KHz) of receivers to effectively block them from receiving any station while USSR government stations were off the air.
  • Baltic states had 11 jamming stations with approximately 140 transmitters
  • Ukraine had approximately 300 Jamming transmitter.
  • Warsaw Pact countries had extensive medium frequency jamming networks.
  • It is estimated it takes about 20 times the transmitted power to jam any one signal.
The entire jamming network was hugely expensive to equip and operate, costing several tens of millions of dollars per year.
It is interesting that the US position in all of this was:
Everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information through any media and regardless of frontiers.   Jamming of radio broadcasts is condemned as the denial of the right of persons to be fully informed concerning news, opinions and ideas.
Sounds perfectly reasonable.  The free exchange of ideas and information over the internet is something that should be guarded carefully and should not be restricted or censored.  Perhaps somebody should inform congress.

Stolen entire from Engineering Radio