Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Friday, August 30, 2013

Fall In

Machine Guns

August 21, 2012. Rebels gather in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighbourhood in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.(Photo STR/AFP/GettyImages)

Reading a post by EB "Comrade" Misfit this morning reminded me of something I'd been thinking about Assad and gun running.
    I realized the reason machine guns are illegal is not because they are popular with criminals, but because they are popular with generals. An insurgency armed with automatic weapons is much more annoying than one armed with semi-automatic weapons.

North Korea in the News

Kinda sorta. Is rumor news?
Excellent Horse-Like Lady - Hyon Song-wol (a.k.a. "A Girl in the Saddle of a Steed")
Rumor has it Kim Jong-un's Ex-Girlfriend 'Shot by Firing Squad'. Comments on the forum seem to be about evenly divided between 'bullshit from a known rumor monger' and 'this is just the tip of the iceberg, you have no idea how effed up North Korea is'.
Hyon's band was responsible for a string of patriotic hits in North Korea, including "Footsteps of Soldiers," "I Love Pyongyang," "She is a Discharged Soldier" and "We are Troops of the Party." Her popularity reportedly peaked in 2005 with the song "Excellent Horse-Like Lady." 

The Telegraph repeats the story. Does that make it true?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Saddam Assad (So Damn Sad)

Every Country England Has Ever Invaded (all but 22 countries in the world).

The Onion has a guest op-ed piece by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad today. It's a great read, and because it's The Onion you know it's totally true.
     The only part I disagree with is Assad's argument that he is insane. Look back in history as to how rulers dealt with insurrection a thousand years ago. Assad's got nothing on all those dead white European kings and what not.
    Our problem is we have our culture and our values, and the Middle East / Central Asia have their culture and their values, and they are nothing alike. Back in the days of the British Empire the Brits knew how to deal with barbarians, they kicked their asses. Nowadays we want to play patty cake with the fiends.
    Since we can't engage in wholesale slaughter (that would be wrong), we are trying to track down the cockroaches one by one, and as any exterminator will tell you, that is a waste of time.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wrong Again

Everybody loves Tesla except me. They make the fancy electric car powered by laptop batteries. Nobody but me likes Mitsubishi. I don't understand.

Toyota sold almost 10 million cars last year. Divide the market value of the company by the number of cars and you get around $22,000 per car. Do the same calculation for Mitsubishi, who sold around 600,000 cars last year, and you get $10,000 per car. So people think the Toyota company is twice as good as Mitsubishi.

Do the same calculation for Tesla and you get nearly $1,000,000. That's one million dollars, 50 times as much as Toyota, and 100 times as much as Mitsubishi. Tesla may be in fashion now, but sooner or later they are going to take a fall, and it's going to be a big one.

Theory of Fat #43

I'm reading an op/ed piece in by Geraldine Kempler (a local pediatrician) in The Oregonian today. She wants to worry about being eaten by sharks, but she gets distracted by toddlers drinking apple juice. She thinks it's bad for them and they shouldn't be drinking it, or at least not by gallon jug. OK, fine, she might be very well right. No skin off my nose. But then she makes this comment:
Ideally, all babies would ... have flash-pasteurized local apple cider as a treat every fall.
Apple juice is a treat? Well, I suppose in healthy, whole-food-ish [tm] way, it kind of is. I mean it's certainly sweet enough. But here is the crux of the problem: this is America, the land of plenty, we can have treats whenever we want. If we want to have treats we can have them every day.

     Every time my friend Jack goes to a carnival or fair, or anyplace really, that has a stand selling corndogs, he will buy one and eat it. Not because he necessarily wants one, or because he is hungry, but because when he was a kid a and his parents took him to the fair they would NOT buy him any corn dogs, on account of they cost money, you know. So now he has money and he can buy a corn dog anytime he likes, so he does.
     Among my many vices is Reddi Wip whipped cream, the kind that comes in the aerosol cans. When I was a kid we would sometimes get a dollop of whipped cream on dish of something or other, could have been turnips for all I cared. But the dollop was all we got, no extra, no seconds, no piling on. I think economy was the purpose here as well. But now I can afford to buy all the whipped cream I want, so I will pile it on. It doesn't help that the resident food Nazi's make a big fuss about it. I think their argument is specious. The stuff is mostly air, even a football size serving isn't going to have more than a couple calories. Yeah, a couple zillion you mean.
     So sometime in the last 50 years the price of food fell to the point that the majority of folks could eat all they want, and after a billion years of evolving on a starvation diet, by gum we're gonna eat.

Previous Theories of Fat: #42, #10, #9, #8, #7.

Space War

Rumor has it that China is playing with anti-satellite weapons. This might prove to be unintentionally disastrous. China "shot down" one of their own satellites a few years ago by colliding a chunk of iron (or strawberries, anything would do) with the satellite. The collision vaporized both the target and the weapon. Okay, vaporized might not be quite accurate. The smash up broke both boxes into clouds of small pieces that essentially continued on their merry way: in orbit, where they will stay for the next umpteen years destroying anything they run into.

3/8" steel plate with 30 caliber bullet holes

Bullets can make mince meat out of iron plate, and rifle bullets only travel about 1/2 mile per second. Satellites are travelling 5 miles per second. Now you might think that is not such a big deal, I mean, velocity is directly related to altitude, and all the satellites are all going the same way, so anything close enough to collide should be going just about the same speed. Well, yes and no (my new favorite phrase). If all orbits were circular and going around the equator, then yes, there should be no problems. That's how we manage to keep so many geosynchronous communications satellites (over 200) in orbit simultaneously.

Not all orbits are at the equator. The one in the picture is a polar orbit, it goes over the poles. Not all orbits are circular. Spy satellites sometimes dip down as low as 70 miles in order to get a better view, then go back up to 100 or so where there is less air resistance (we're talking molecules per cubic foot here). Both the US and Russia use the Molniya orbit in order to get more hang time over Russia (the US for spy satellites, the Russians for communications). Geosynchronous orbits don't work so well for locations on Earth at high latitudes. The Molniya orbit varies in altitude from a high of 25,000 miles to a low of grazing the tops of the Andes Mountains. The velocity likewise varies from a low of one mile per second at apogee (that's the high point) to a high of six miles per second at perigee (that's the low point over South America).
    The Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope had a near miss (30 milliseconds, or less than 1,000 feet) with a derelict satellite a few years ago (the 4:37 mark in the video).

Government Underreach

Name Obama's New War

Via Tam. You might recognize this photo as the same one where the girls were photo-shopped out last year.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sound Engineer Lingo

I've been listening to this fine recording of Adele singing Rolling in the Deep. It looks like it was done in a recording studio. At the beginning and at the very end the sound engineer says a few words. What he says at the beginning is fairly clear, but no matter how many times I have played it I cannot make out what he says at the end. I don't know whether it is an accent, slang, jargon, a foreign language or speaking in tongues. It's just the weirdest thing.

Good Fellas

Russian President Vladimir Putin & US President Barrack Obama
WASHINGTON, August 27 (RIA Novosti) – While the United States and Russia might be engaging in a war of words over Syria, Edward Snowden, adoption and gay rights, the differences are not stopping the two countries from joining together with Canada in an anti-terror exercise this week.
I am not quite sure what to think about this. I mean fighting terrorism is good, right? But Russia was our enemy for so long it's hard to think we should be cooperating with them. And while they might not be our avowed enemy any longer, they certainly provide a counterweight to anything the USA is trying to pull. Maybe China's growing influence (especially among Buddhists) is pushing the USA and Russia closer together.


T-Rex Insect Killer

Tam & Roberta are having a good time imagining how they could outfit their cars with parts & accessories from the Browning FN Full Line Catalog, and then I turn the page and Laura is talking about her encounters with vicious local vermin, and presto, the Exterminator!

Volga–Don Canal

An Iranian Qadir light submarine and a hovercraft in Persian Gulf waters in late November, 2012.

Azerbaijan wants to buy a submarine or two. Azerbaijan? Isn't that one of those land locked countries over in Stan-land in Central Asia? Well, yes and no. It does have some water front property, but it's on the Caspian Sea, which everyone knows is just a big lake. Okay, it's a really big lake: 700 miles North to South, 200 miles East to West. It is five times as big (in area) as Lake Superior. Since they do have some waterfront, I can see them wanting to have some kind of Navy, but supposing they did buy a sub, how the devil would you get it delivered? The Caspian Sea is a closed system, it doesn't connect to any oceans. Well, yes and no. Paraphrasing Wikipedia:
Lenin Volga–Don Shipping Canal is a  canal which connects the Volga River and the Don River at their closest points. Opened in 1952, the length of the waterway is 63 miles.
The canal forms a part of the Unified Deep Water System of European Russia. Together with the lower Volga and the lower Don, the Volga–Don Canal provides the most direct navigable connection between the Caspian Sea and the Sea of Azov, and thus the world's oceans.
The actual construction of today's Volga–Don Canal began prior to WW2, which would interrupt the process. From 1948 to 1952, construction was completed; navigation was opened 1 June 1952. The canal and its facilities were predominantly built by prisoners detained in several specially organized  corrective labor camps. In 1952 the number of convicts employed in construction topped 100,000.
I sometimes forget the scale of the map I see using Google Maps. The section of the Volga River below Volgograd looks like a thin little line when in fact it is a half mile wide channel.
    As long as you are on good terms with Turkey and Russia, you can get big ships, including submarines, from the world's oceans into the Caspian Sea.
    This is the same part of the world where Peter the Great was fighting the Turks.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Army Gets New Boots

The new boot will be a moisture-wicking polymer/fiber blend with radar reflective coating and a pixelated weave invisible to night vision devices. It will have no sizes: each boot will mold itself to the feet of the first wearer, and thereafter be unable to be worn by anyone else, stopping barracks boot theft and of course denying footwear to the enemy. The boot will be waterproof, lighter than tennis shoes and its chameleon-like color scheme will blend instantly into any terrain, even the ocean floor. It will have a service life of ten years in the field and a lifetime guarantee for barracks duty or airsofters. The high-tensile flexible fabric can stop a PKM round and hover in supercruise. The cost will be $1499.95 per pair. Congress will debate it for 13 years. - budgie

Forest Fires

Forest Fire Season is in full swing. Scott sent me this clip taken from the cockpit of a water bomber as they are making a drop. See all those clouds along the left hand side? They aren't clouds, Bucky.
    Jack tried to drive to Missoula Montana this weekend but couldn't get through because of a fire. First the fire had closed the highway, then he needed gas and the fire had cut off the electric power to the nearby gas station, so getting gas meant backtracking 85 miles. He could have gotten through but it would have meant going 300 miles out his way.

He did get to see Goliath, the giant Sikorsky Skycrane, sucking up water out of a creek.

Looking around for more info I came across Global Incident Map dot comwhich lets you choose from a dozen different kinds of disasters to plot for your amusement. Some of them only cover the USA while others are in fact Global. Here's a portion of the Forest Fire Map. As you can see, except for one in Eastern Canada, they are all in the West.

Every year we have a boat load of forest fires, and every year our fire fighting resources are strained to the limit. You can be pretty sure that forest fires have been happening all along and that our attempts to fight them is a recent development. I mean we weren't fighting them before we were here. Some fires might be started by humans, but most are started by lightning. We aren't helping matters by fighting fires. All that does is preserve fuel so the next fire can be even bigger. This seems like a fairly straight forward problem. Why are we continuing to have so much trouble with it? Congressman DeFazio from Southwestern Oregon has a few choice words in a story in The Coos Bay World.


I'm listening to the 1985 tune Radioactive on YouTube and this map shows up in the video stream. Wait a minute, that looks like the area where the USS Pueblo was intercepted by the North Koreans back in 1968.
    The video is basically a slide show of all the wonderful things the atomic age brought us, like A-bombs, hazmat suits, geiger counters, etc. So how does this map fit in? There is a red and yellow radiation warning symbol in the lower left quadrant, and several skull & cross bone icons. I don't recognize the one with the vertical red bar on the black background. So maybe the North Koreans were playing with atomic energy, which would explain why the Pueblo was snooping around there in the first place, and why the Norkies were so persnickety about it.

Update from Jack: The Pueblo is the second oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy. The oldest is the USS Constitution (the square rigged sailing ship from the Revolutionary War era). The Pueblo is still commissioned since we haven't been able to get our hands on it to decommission it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope

You know, back when I was a boy, they weren't puttin' up a new satellite every 15 minutes. We put up one at a time and waited until it died before we put even thought about puttin' up another one. Now they are putting up so many you can't keep track of them.
    Last April I stole a post from E.B. Misfit about dark lightning. This satellite is how we found out about it.
     So this is all very cool, but how are they detecting these gamma rays? I mean gamma rays are pretty much undetectable, that's what makes them so dangerous. You don't know you've been exposed until you're dead. Basically what they do is put up some radiation shielding and wait for a gamma ray to impact an atom in the shield. Any such impact will cause a certain amount of excitement, like generating a positron and an electron which are detectable by ordinary stuff. Problem is you need a lot of shield material to be sure of stopping/detecting the gamma ray. Wikipedia puts it succinctlySpace-based pair-conversion detectors tend to make for rather expensive missions, since they unavoidably contain several hundred kilograms of lead or tungsten.

Quote of the Day - Tyrants

people of certain culture deserve to be ruled by tyrants. The world would will be safer knowing that they are on leash. - Jayron on a Pakistan Defence Forum
I am not sure that he is wrong.

Sunroof Fixit

A while back I took my wife's car (2006 Mitsubishi Endeavor) through the drive thru car wash and was shocked and dismayed when soapy water started running into the passenger compartment and all over me. Bah! Some nitwit left the sunroof open! Aside from being a knucklehead, I will attempt to excuse myself by noting that there is a retractable sunshade under the sunroof, it is totally opaque and it was deployed (is "deployed" the opposite of retracted?). Also the roof of the car is right at or even slightly above my eye level, so I would have not been able to see it when walking up to the car. And the car wash guys didn't warn me! Not my fault! Waaaa!
    This would not have been such a big deal, I mean there was a bit of a mess to clean up, but no permanent damage, or was there? Next time I went to the car wash I got a little bit of water dripping on the inside. I had made sure the sunroof was closed, so it looks like I have some kind of real problem. The Google warns me about plugged drain tubes connected to the mysterious inner channels of the sunroof. Cleaned them out, no help. But now there is also this annoying wind noise that we never used to have. Consult with Eric, and finally step up on the door sill and examine the outside and I can see that the back edge of the sunroof is sitting about a quarter of an inch lower than it should be.
    Can it be fixed? Well, yes it can, if you are willing to fork out a thousand dollars. Seems car washes break the mechanism (see above), and the sunroof and mechanism are one big assembly, called a cassette. Pulling it out means first removing the inner roof liner to gain access. Then there is the non-repairable cassette. It is non-repairable because anybody who is going to go to the trouble to replace it is not going to want to do it again because the repair to the sunroof mechanism failed.
   Eric's solution was to silicon seal the sunroof closed. It would be a little ugly from the outside because, well, silicon sealant. Not that you would ever see it, but it would still be tacky. So I delayed and stalled and my wife finally hit me with her rhythm stick and I went and cut a couple of short wood blocks from a piece of one by two and wedged them between the back corners of the glass and the rails of the mechanism. Took it for a drive and the wind noise seems to be gone and the blocks didn't fall out. The big test will be whether it makes it through the car wash without dripping.
    The weirdest part of all this is that for weeks I have had in mind a block I had used to wrap some string around and it turned out to be exactly the right size. Fortunately I had more of the same stock so I didn't have to find a new spindle for my bit of string.
    I've always liked convertibles, or maybe just the idea of a convertible. I have never owned one. I've seen too many that became ragtops because the owner wasn't willing to shell out the umpteen hundreds of dollars needed to keep it in good repair. Still like the way they look. My wife's car came with the sunroof. It wasn't a big selling point, it was more of a "oh nice, look, it's got a sunroof" kind of deal. I don't think we ever noticed it after that. Okay, maybe a couple of times when we had the whole family in the car and we were someplace new and different, we may have opened the sunroof for a minute, but it's really pretty useless. It isn't that big, so no matter what you want to see, you are pretty much guaranteed that you won't be able to see it. So, cute, but expensive and basically useless. Not for me.

P.S. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a decent picture of a girl in a convertible. I must of spent hours looking for the just the right one. Oh, how I suffer for my readers. Along the way I found some interesting websites:

Inertial Navigation

I just finished reading Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. Corey, part three of a grand space opera trilogy. At one point one of the characters (Melba/Clarrissa, maybe?) comments that it's nice to have gravity back, either gravity or its equivalent in the form of acceleration or centrifugal force. Einstein tells us that if we have no external clues, it is impossible to distinguish between equal forces produced by acceleration or gravity. For long term living in outer space, science fiction writers often propose spinning large wheel shaped space stations to simulate gravity. People have a zillion years of evolution behind them that has adapted us to living in a one gravity force field. Zero gravity might be fun for a bit, but it is not our normal environment. So, artificial gravity.
    The human inner ear is a remarkable sensitive piece of apparatus, witness the amazing feats of skill demonstrated by numerous athletes like acrobats, gymnasts and high divers. Shoot, just walking on two legs is a bit of a trick. So if you are moving about in a rotating space station you might very well be able to detect this rotation. If it was spinning quickly it might even have some unpleasant, perhaps even intolerable, side-effects, like vertigo. Using a longer radius and spinning slower could produce that same effective downward (outward) force and it might reduce the side effects. You should not be able to detect this rotation if you were sitting still. In the worse case you might sleep in the spinning section at full gravity, but spend your waking hours in a non-spinning section in zero gravity.
    One thing that comes up in science fiction stories set in rotating space habitats is that the floor curves upward in the distance. If you have a large structure, and a clear view of a large room or a long hallway, that would be true. But what if you only had a small room, say a ten by ten cell located a half a mile from axis of rotation? If you had a tape measure and a good level (or plumb bob) you might be able to measure the difference in angle between the apparent force of gravity at opposite walls, assuming you pick the right two walls, and they are crosswise to your direction of motion. The difference would only amount to half an inch. Given conventional building standards that is well within what you might expect to find in your average house here on Earth.
    Now imagine we have constructed a large rotating space station and have filled the rim of this structure with a warren of small interconnected rooms. The doorways are offset so you cannot see all the way across more than one room, so you would not be able to see "the floor curving upwards". Imagine walking all the way around the rim of this station and arriving back where you started. Never mind having to continually jog left and right to go through the offset doorways. Imagine not knowing you were in this rotating space station, doing all this walking and ending up where you started. Might be a little disconcerting, eh?
    Take this same ring shaped labyrinth of rooms and place it on the Earth, except instead of curving up and back over, curve around to the side. If you walked through this thing would you be able to tell that you were slowly being turned around?

Really Big Conspiracy Theory

I've been poking around on Military Photos dot net for about a year now, and the one thing that sticks in my mind is how similar everything the Russians build is to the stuff we (the USA) build. Now it may be that they have just been copying us, or it could be that form is defined by your design parameters and available technology, or perhaps everything I know is wrong (it wouldn't be the first time) and we have been copying them. Witness the latest jet fighters:



    The next part of this conspiracy theory is that all of our really big advances in technology happened because of the military:
  • cell phones
  • the internet
  • the Hubble space telescope
  • rockets into space
  • communications satellites
  • GPS
  • jet engines

The 5th Dimension Age of Aquarius 1969
Franklin Balluff

     So my theory is that left to our own devices, people would just putter along peacefully and we wouldn't have any fighting or conflict or war. It's only because some people want to go to the stars, and they want the rest of us to build a spaceship for them, and in order to build this spaceship, we need to develop all this technology, and what you need there is some motivation, and nothing motivates people more than the threat of someone trying to kill them. And just to make the threat authentic, you occasionally have to actually kill some people, which is why we have wars.
     Is this a great theory or what? Will it pass peer review? Will it pass Tam review?

Update April 2022 replaced missing Age of Aquarius music video.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ruskie Hovercraft

I like the way the Russian military likes to mix with the common people.
Here's a pic from earlier this year of one of these being loaded on a ship.
Here's a pic of a couple of US hovercraft inside the USS Bataan.

Update September 2017 replaced missing video.

Vending Machine

I don't know whether something like this would work in any kind of regular factory, i.e. one that wasn't constrained six ways from Sunday by a Federal Bureaucracy. However, since the biggest part of our manufacturing industry seems to be working in that kind of environment (i.e. aircraft and weapons for the DoD), maybe we don't care about regular industry anymore.

Exploding Tire!

Sorry, false advertising. Tire doesn't blow up. Two things I like about this video: authentic redneck diction TALKING OVER THE AIR COMPRESSOR, and the tiny amount of carb cleaner he uses to actually seat the tire. He sprays more in the air demonstrating the spray than he does in the tire. Actual exploding wheel barrow tire here.

Argentine Inflation

Dubious daughter sent me this price comparison this morning from Beunos Aires. From my limited Spanish it looks like the price of the bread in Argentina is now four times higher than what it was five years ago. (The increase was 300%, which is three times the original price, added to the original price. i.e. 4 times 2.5 equals 10.) The average price increase of the six items shown here is 270%, which translates to a rate of inflation of 22% per year (1.22^5 = 2.7).

22% is not hyper-inflation, but it's not good, and that's just a rough average. I don't know whether it has been getting worse or better. And it doesn't really matter if wages aren't keeping up, or you can't find a job.

Remember the Monroe Doctrine? The one where the USA kicked Europe out of South America? The result of our stewardship, is you want to call it that, is not all that impressive.

Outrageous, Mellowed

California Bob reports: John Lydon AKA Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, advertising butter.  Apparently these boosted Dairy Crest's sales some 85%.

Wikipedia amusesThere has been a recent revival of a 1980s movement to have Lydon knighted for his achievements with the Sex Pistols – even though he has since turned down an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his services to music. In 2002 he was named among the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide vote. Q Magazine remarked that "somehow he's assumed the status of national treasure.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What, Me Racist?

World Map of National IQ Scores

I like the way Central Africa and the Middle East are portrayed as being stupid. We can use that to explain why there is so much senseless violence there. Except that I am not sure there is any correlation between how smart you are and whether you are a good person or not. There are plenty of smart people who are ruthless shits, and plenty of dummies who are just the nicest people in the world.

Then we have this story from Duncan, Oklahoma, about some useless black teenagers killing a wonderful white man. Wait a minute, there are black people in Oklahoma? I thought Oklahoma was all white, like Oregon. You might wonder what makes the white man so wonderful. He was from Australia, duh. Duncan, Oklahoma, is a small town (about 23,000 people) down near the Texas border, about fifty miles Northeast of Wichita Falls. Blacks are a distinct minority, about 1% which means less than 250 persons. You think being black in the middle of some of the reddest redneck country in the US might warp your mind a little? I think it did.

Actually, I don't think I'm racist, I hate most everybody the same. Might hate white people more because that's what I get to deal with. Aren't any black people around here. Okay, I saw one once. I had to remember not to stare.

The best phrase I ever heard regarding race relations comes from Guess Who's Coming To Dinner: "You know what NAACP stands for? Niggers ain't always colored people." Could not find that quote anywhere on the net. I remember the scene distinctly: somebody dumped a tureen of soup over the head of someone else sitting at the dinner table. Do not remember the characters exactly.

My kids give me grief whenever I use the word "nigger", which I often use when I am driving. But I don't discriminate on the basis of skin color, I apply it to the useless drivers I encounter, which is pretty much all of them. To make up for this apparent racist remark I try and alternate with "honky", but it just doesn't have the same bite. "Jackass" might have similar bite, but it doesn't have a color associated with it. Too bad.

Sectarian Chauvinism

Buddhist monks light candles while chanting at Buddhamonthon. Photo by Pornchai Kittiwongsakul. I wanted a picture of a mob of monks rioting, but I couldn't find any. Yes, there's David Carradine, but he's only one guy,

Today's Bizzaro comic in the paper has a Buddhist monk haranging a group of his fellows with a bullhorn. He asks "What do we want?", and the group replies "Mindfulness". He asks "When do we want it?", and the group shouts "Now!", which reminded me of this story I read in Time magazine earlier this summer:

Straying From the Middle Way: Extremist Buddhist Monks Target Religious Minorities

These paywalls and copyright enthusiasts are cramping my style. Bizarro's website doesn't post his daily comics. I could have scanned my paper copy, but that would have meant more work, and who knows?, I might have gotten embroiled in copyright fight. The Time magazine story has a link to a longer story, but to get to it, you have to pay.

I tried to find a copy of Smuggler's Blues on YouTube yesterday, but Don Henley seems to have taken the ZZ Top route of issuing take down notices for each and every one of their recordings. Usually when you find a video where the audio has been removed there is a notice of alleged copyright infringement. Not the case for Smuggler's Blues, just no audio. I smell a conspiracy. Or maybe I just stepped in something yucky.

Sectarian Chauvinism indeed.

The Huffington Post has a story that is not behind a paywall.

I got the term "Sectarian Chauvinism" from the Time article. I have never heard it before. I think it means "jerk", or maybe "my stuff is better than your stuff, neener, neener, neener", or perhaps "die herectic scum".

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Hundred Mile Rule

Car interiors don't do much for me, but the colors in this one are a little odd. It's the same image found in the linked story.

Reading Dustbury led me to an old Jack Baruth story about test driving cars that is pretty entertaining and/or enlightening.

Oreo Versus Hydrox

Seems I'm not the only one who connected these dots. Inspired by Dustbury. Original here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


There's something wrong with me, at least I think there is. That might be the whole problem right there: I think I am sick, therefor I am. I have numerous minor maladies, but in spite of a steady diet of doctors and witches I don't have any explanation for while I feel like crap so much of the time. Maybe it was my white bread upbringing, maybe it's the mind control aerosols that the government is using jet airliners to spray into the atmosphere. Maybe it's allergies. Maybe it's bad luck. Maybe there's nothing wrong me except that I am bored and my mind just magnifies any little ache or pain until it becomes incapacitating.
    On the other hand whatever-it-is might be the reason I am not an alcoholic. There were times when alcohol was a substantial part of my diet, but eventually I would get an attack of whatever-it-is and I would feel so bad that I didn't care if I got another drink. So maybe it's some kind of survival mechanism.
    I recently finished reading Nemesis by Jo Nesbo, a Norwegian murder mystery. The hero, Harry Hole (Harry Hole? You're kidding, right? Unfortunately, no.), like all good storybook detectives has a drinking problem. My problem was that he didn't seem to have any problem turning his drinking off and on. From what I know about alcohol, that is virtually impossible, at least not without serious consequences, like the shakes. Seems I might be wrong about that:
High-functioning alcoholics also may not be physically addicted to alcohol, abstaining for days or weeks without suffering withdrawal symptoms.
    We've been watching Hell On Wheels and drinking whiskey seems to be everyone's main occupation. The whiskey has a brown tint, like good bourbon or scotch, but that's just artistic license. The labels say, plain as day, "Corn Whiskey", which you used to be able to buy at the liquor store, and it's clear as glass. The brown tint in good whiskey comes from aging it in charred oak barrels. Back in 1870, when they were building the railroad, whiskey was lucky if it got aged two weeks, and that was only because it took that long to haul it to the end of the railroad.
    Whiskey can substitute for food, at least for a while. It is not a good substitute, but it does provide calories and it can keep you going. Your body metabolizes alcohol into sugar, which can then be used to provide energy. You have the side effect of being drunk all the time, but evidently some people adapt. They're what we call functional alcoholics. Drink all day long but never appear drunk. Charge on regardless.
    Flight with Denzel Washington was about such a person. He is flying under the radar, so to speak, until there is a crisis and he heroically saves a planeload of people. But now he is under the media spotlight and all his sins are revealed. He isn't the only one.
    I tried to find some kind of estimate of how many alcoholics there are in the USA, or anywhere for that matter, and could not find any that were worth quoting. Things "like half of everyone has too much to drink at least once in their life" doesn't really tell me anything useful.
    So back in the 1800's everyone drank whiskey all the time. It was a good source of calories, didn't spoil, and disinfected everything it came in contact with. Whiskey probably saved a lot of lives. But by 1900 it was getting out of hand, and Carrie Nation and her ax swinging sisterhood was determined to put a stop to it, which is how we got prohibition.

Send Lawyers Guns & Money

Looking over some old stuff I came across a notice that Wes Skiles, a veteran underwater camerman, had died during a dive. His widow filed a shotgun patterned lawsuit against all and sundry, which is where I got the title.
Why do we tolerate these kinds of law suits where bullying, lying, and character assassination are so casually acceptable? Aside from victims like Richie, you and I pay for these crap lawsuits with higher insurance premiums and services. It is obviously unfair to just about any observer.
It looks like the lawsuit eventually died, though the last thing I read only talked about one specific case. Don't know if there are any others still outstanding, though at this point it seems unlikely.

I blame our post-modern era. Nobody has anything to do, but we all need money, so people dream up all kinds of schemes to try and collect. The problem is that some of them actually work. To paraphrase an old saying: our trial-by-jury system is the worst form of justice. Except for all the others.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jet Engines, Voronezh & Peter the Great

There are only six companies in the world who build full size jet engines:
  • Pratt & Whitney, USA
  • General Electric, USA
  • Rolls Royce, UK
  • CFM International, a joint venture between GE and SNECMA of France
  • Aviadvigatel, Russia
  • Ivchenko-Progress, Ukraine
China has recently committed a hundred billion yuan to developing their own.

I find it curious that any number of countries can build nuclear bombs and ICBM-s, but cannot build a decent jet engine, and by decent I just mean one that will hold together for some number of hours. The pumps used in liquid fuel rockets are essentially jet engines, but they only have to run for ten minutes or so. When the Germans introduced the Me-262 jet fighter towards the end of WW2, the engines only lasted 20 hours before they need to be overhauled. A duration of hundreds of hours, or even thousands of hours, would be preferable for an aircraft engine, but if 20 is all you've got, well, you make do. But nobody outside of the big six is even doing that, or if they are, they aren't telling anybody. I dunno, maybe they think 20 hours isn't anything to brag about.

If I built a jet engine that ran for 20 hours I would be pretty proud of myself. Of course my neighbors would probably have me shut down for disturbing the peace if I let it run more than about ten minutes.

Anyway, I decided to look up this Ukrainian outfit. There seem to be two of them, both in the same city (Zaporizhia), both building the same thing. I'm reading a short history of Lutsk Repair Plant "Motor" that lists four or five moves during WW2. Think maybe the invading Germans had something to do with that? In any case, they mention how they supplied aircraft for the battle at Voronezh, which I had never heard of. Seems the Germans used it as a big staging area for the battle of Stalingrad.

"Goto Predestination" 1701 Russia

Reading a little more I find that this is where Peter the Great built the first Russian Naval Fleet which he used to drive the Turks out of Azov around 1700. Pete also visited London to buy warships around this time, at least he did in Neal Stephenson's System of the World.

Voronezh is near the top center. Azov is not shown, but is just downstream from Rostov on the Sea of Azov. Google Maps does a poor job of showing rivers.

Voronezh looks like a really weird place to build big sailing ships being as there is no open water for hundreds of miles. All there is is the River Don, and it looks like you have pert near a thousand miles of river to traverse before you get to Azov and your fight with the Turks. One description of the battle mentions galleys, which are just big rowboats, which would make a lot more sense on a river. But hey, who am I to complain if Pete wants to sail giant square rigged sailing ships down the river?

C-130 Hercules Lands at Daulat Beg Oldi

Indian Air Force C-130J landing today at Daulat Beg Oldie in Kashmir, 10 miles South of China. At 16,700 feet above sea level it is the highest airstrip in the world.


Ursula Andress in the spoof James Bond adventure Casino Royale. 

"The rich save for four generations, the poor save for Saturday night."

I heard this somewhere and it stuck with me. Stu mentions the birthday paradox in his post about a math museum, which got me to thinking. Suppose you are at a gathering of people and someone offers you a bet on whether any two of the people here have the same birthday. Would you take the bet? Imagine that there are 23 people at this gathering, the odds are even, and the proposer of this bet is taking the position that no two people will have the same birthday. If we know nothing else, this makes the odds slightly in your favor. Would you take the bet? Would it matter how much the bet was? A dollar? Five? A thousand? All the money you have? You children's future? I mean the odds are in your favor.
    I wouldn't bet, or if the proposer persisted I would bet a dollar (remember Trading Places?) just to shut him up. If he insisted on more I would quickly become rude. Gambling does not interest me.
    I was talking to a friend about this subject and he mentioned an acquaintance who gambled, and this gambler said you weren't really gambling unless you were gambling with next month's rent. That would kind of focus your attention, especially if you had family-like obligations.
    Many moons ago, when I lived in Houston, we would get together on Friday nights to play a friendly game of poker and drink beer. We were playing for low stakes, quarter bets, five dollar pot maybe. I don't recall whether I won or lost, I suppose I came out about even, after all it was mostly about drinking beer. Then one night we had a new guy there. I want to say he was from Eastern Europe, but I am not sure. He had spent the winter driving an unheated produce truck in Chicago or Detroit. Sounded cold. Anyway, he played for real. Took $20 off me. That much I noticed. It hurt. I didn't play poker with him anymore.
    I don't get a big thrill from winning a bet. I won $200 in a football once and it was kind of nice windfall, but it was only $200. I was flush for a couple of weeks, but it wasn't going to change my life. 
    I suspect a big part of gambling is the facing off against a competitor, ala James Bond versus the villain at the Baccarat table. That never interested me either. It's like a game of chicken. I don't think it measures anything useful.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Soledad Prison, California

I stumbled over this photo and I thought it was pretty cool. Thought it might be some kind of military base maybe, but no, it's a California prison. Looking at the web page I thought some of the numbers were kind of interesting.
Institution Statistics

Correctional Training Facility was opened in 1946, and covers 680 acres. As of Fiscal Year 2006/2007, the following statistics apply:
Number of custody staff:            1,119
Number of support services staff:     524
Total number of staff:              1,643

Annual Budget General: $150 Million

Designed Bedspace & Count
Facility      Capacity   Count
 I - South        510    1,090
II - Central    1,391    3,027
II - North      1,400    2,880
Total           3,301    6,997
Looks like we have one guard for every six inmates, each inmate costs $20,000 a year, and there are twice as many inmates as the place was designed for. The place in the picture above looks big, but as you can see from the satellite image below, that's not the half of it. The portion in the above photograph only occupies the lower left corner of this satellite image.

View Larger Map

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Paper Bag King, er, Queen, er, Knight

Roberta X put up a post about Ms. Knight. I thought paper bags were a 20th century invention, but I was wrong. Again. This means that paper was invented even farther back than that, and not in 1957 when my kindergarten teacher invented it, or so I believed. Modern machines are a little more sophisticated (read "shiny") but they still do the same basic job.

LFD-350/450 Roll Feeding Square Bottom Paper Bag Making Machine. Made in China, of course.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fast Food

Ronald McDonald - Antonov An-2R - Budapest, Hungary, April 18, 2003. 

 Taco Time in downtown Hillsboro is closing, which is too bad. Today was their last day. Thank god for fast food, otherwise I might have to cook, and cooking implies dirty pots and pans, which means somebody should do the dishes, and since I will avoid my chores if at all possible, this leads to guilt, and I really don't need any more guilt. I have a hard enough time ignoring all the guilt I already have without piling on more. Fortunately there are a good half dozen fast food joints within about three miles, so it isn't too arduous to run out and get something.
    I like McDonald's for their breakfast burritos and their coffee, and their $1 menu when I am feeling cheap. My wife likes Black Rock coffee across from Shute Park. I like fresh brewed coffee. I like it even better when I don't have to make it. Black Rock wants $2.50 for a medium coffee, which is slightly larger than the McDonald's cup, but I know most of the people who work there even though I only stop by maybe a couple of times a month. I know one person at McDonald's. "Know" may be a bit strong, I recognize them, and they do a passable job of pretending to recognize me. I dunno, maybe they actually do. Some people are really good at that. I am not one of those people.
    I heard about McDonald's offering budget advice for their employees. I don't know that anyone aspires to make a career out of working at McDonald's. A manager might earn a living wage, but I doubt anyone else does. At best it's a temporary gig to cover your expenses until something better comes along. I wonder if the baristas who work in coffee kiosks make more than people working at McDonald's. I will tip them 50 cents when I get a cup there (or a dollar for two). There is no tip jar at McDonald's.
    I suppose that in the current economy there are people who would be glad to get a job at McDonald's. Sad state of affairs.
    Rumor has it that fast food restaurants could afford to pay people more money, possibly even a decent wage without having to raise their prices significantly, but in a cutthroat business in a cutthroat economy that would destroy you. Until we have fewer people looking for work wages aren't going anywhere. Some people might argue that if workers made more money, they would spend more money, which would stimulate the economy, which would mean more jobs, which would mean wages would go up. It's an interesting theory, but I doubt anyone is going to implement it. The last person to try something that radical was Henry Ford when he started paying his assembly line workers $5 a day, and look what happened to him: he grew old and died, and they are still using his name on cars. Is it doing him any good now that he's dead? No, it's not. Now you may argue that his generous wages had nothing to do with his demise, and you might be right. But are you willing to take that chance?

Buy It Now

The US Military has a boatload of stuff in Afghanistan that they need to dispose of. Unfortunately, being as there are no docks and no water, no boats dock there. Pakistan has water and docks, but for some reason transporting anything across our supposed ally's territory cannot be done, so everything has to be flown out. Evidently flying 8-ton MRAP's out costs more than they are worth, so they are being ground up into scrap.
    The US Federal Government has a website for selling off surplus stuff. You should go there and buy something. Something cool, something tactical, something glorious. Something useful, maybe.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sign of the Times

Saw this sign by the side of the road today:

Fear Free

I saw the words, but it was just a flash so at first it didn't make any sense. Thought about it for a second and decided it made even less sense. Is this from a dentist offering dental services that are free of pain (Fear-Free Dental)? Or is this some right-wing nut-job warning of the coming Obama-clypse (Fear Free-Dental)?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Conversion Error

I'm reading about kiln drying on Wikipedia and they give the density of wood in kilograms per cubic meter, which means nothing to me (or at least I pretend that it means nothing). I want my measurements in good old 'Merican standard: feet and pounds. Well Google does conversions, so I pick a big round number in the middle of the range, hand it to Google and I get back:
1000 (kg / m3) =
0.036127292 pound / ft3
That doesn't look right. Three hundredths of a pound? That's like half an ounce. Even lightweight balsa wood weighs more than that. So I put the calculation in a spreadsheet and I get 62.3 pounds per cubic foot. That's more like it.
    Wait a minute, that's like the density of water (a pint's a pound the world around, eight pints to a gallon, that's eight pounds, and roughly eight gallons a cubic foot, which comes to 64, which is pretty close to 62.3.
    One cc (cubic centimeter) of water weighs one gram. There are a hundred centimeters in a meter, and 100 times 100 times 100 is one million cc's per cubic meter, or 1,000,000 grams, which is one thousand kilograms. So wood has about the same density as water.
    So how does wood float? Well, density of wood ranges from 350 (kg / m3) to 1250 (kg /m3), so some of it is less dense than water and does float and some of it is denser than water and doesn't. They used to send logs from pine and fir trees to the mill via the rivers, so softwoods float. I remember being out at a fresh water marina where they had some floating logs tied to the dock to act as fenders, and they were barely breaking the surface. And then there are those stories about old logs being reclaimed from the bottom of lakes and rivers where they have been sitting for a hundred years or so and are perfectly preserved. They didn't float.
    I was going to complain to Google about their erroneous conversion, but navigating their help maze to get to the point where you can actually say something required more effort than I wanted to spend. Especially since I can make a blog post about it and make Google look dumb. Unless I made an error and I end up with egg on my face.

Ghost Ship by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Picture I found on Concept Ships

I thoroughly enjoyed Ghost Ship. It's got everything you could want in a space adventure: evil villains, talented heroes, internal and external conflicts, loyalties tested, protocols observed, plus your standard futuristic hardware like interstellar ships with warp drive. They also have books and bookstores, which adds a nice anachronistic touch. And giant turtles. Don't forget the giant turtles.
    I liked it so much I ordered three more books in the series. They came from bookstores that post their wares on Amazon. I try and buy somewhat locally, like the West Coast as opposed to New York City because it makes sense to my primitive brain to order things from places that are closer than farther away. It probably doesn't make any real difference, everything probably goes through Atlanta anyway. What's even odder is that I order books from one store and they show up with a shipping label from another. Last time I ordered a book from California and it came from a local store here in Hillsboro! This time I ordered one from Washington state and it came from somewhere in Great Britain (BN124QY). There must be some kind of underground railroad for used books.
    When you look at a book being sold by someone besides Amazon, Amazon lists the supposed shipping location, but if you look at the vendor page there is no "ship from" location.
    Another book I ordered originally came from the Multnomah County Library, which is Portland, which is just down the road from here.