Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Special Delivery

It is 9:15PM here on the West Coast and UPS just delivered a package. Makes me wonder what's going on.

The Trials of Being a Brony

Story of modern life posted on Reddit (whatever that is): Whelp, I got fired yesterday for being a "Brony".

Dustbury, a Brony of the first order (I hope that is complimentary), posted an excerpt from this story of working life in modern America. I sort of understand the attraction of the My Little Pony storyline. It doesn't do much for me, but I don't see anything wrong with it, other than you might be persecuted by the ignorant and stupid, which goes for just about anything that requires any thinking.


An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump depicts an experiment performed by Robert Boyle in 1660 to test the effect of a vacuum on a living system. Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768.

I'm reading The Warrior's Apprecntice by Lois McMaster Bujold. It's part of the Sci-Fi series starring Miles "I'm not a mutant" Vorkosigan. Normally these are great fun. This one is little rough, possible because it's one of the first. Anyway, we've got soldiers in armored space suits attacking enemy forces holed up in an asteroid mining complex in an otherwise uninhabited star system, which got me to thinking about air.
    Given our present level of technology, any kind of trip to another planet is going to take years, and if you are going to survive, you will need air. Carrying enough air to breath will not be a problem, I think we can handle that. The problem is if you have a leak. I'm reminded of the mysterious crash of the business jet in South Dakota a few years ago. Nobody knows what happened, but investigators surmised that the plane lost pressurization and everyone passed out before anyone realized what had happened. The plane continued to fly on autopilot until it ran out of fuel.
    There are two kinds of leaks. There are big ones that you can detect and presumably stop, and then there are little ones that are undetectable, except for the fact that you are constantly losing air pressure. For a long duration voyage the second one is the more dangerous. Given your rate of loss, do you have enough reserves to keep replenishing it for the next umpteen months or years? And what if you have an accident (or two) where you lose a big bunch of air all at once? Things could get very sticky. How would you like to wake up and discover you have enough air to last eleven months when you know your mission is going to last twelve?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear

Sci-Fi thriller that grabs you and doesn't let go until you finish. It has some interesting concepts and it's thoroughly entertaining. The logic doesn't quite hang together at the end, but then we are dealing with people and people are never very good at logic.

We have a giant spaceship that has latched onto a ball of frozen ice (that would otherwise be a comet) and is using it as reaction mass. The ship is turning the ice to water and pumping it to the ship where it is fed to the  motors. The ship accelerated to twenty percent of the speed of light and now the journey is half over and it needs to turn around and start decelerating. The voyage is going to take hundreds of years. There are no people as such. Whenever the ship needs people, like now, when it needs to make a decision on which of several possible star systems to choose for a final destination, it grows them. While they are growing, it programs them with dreams about who they are, what they do, and where they are going.

But something has gone wrong and there are two factions fighting over which course to take. The fighting has gotten ugly and is beginning to look like a war. Our hero is woken from his pleasant dream of an idyllic life on an idyllic planet with an idyllic mate to a run for your life situation. The whole thing is crazy, but it's great fun to read.

My difficulty with the story comes when they start discussing how they are going to deal with whatever life forms they find on their new planet. One faction wants to wipe them out, make a clean slate for humanity to build on. I find that unbelievable. I doubt whether we are going to find any planets that humans could live on, and if we did and there was any life already there, it would be much better adapted to living on that planet than we could ever hope to be. In this story, the ship is busy growing monsters specifically designed to wipe out all life on the target planet. You might get all the big creatures, but you will never get all the microscopic critters, and those are the ones you would need to worry about, should you ever find such a place. I don't see it happening.

Sound Cloud

Vi Hart, my favorite video artist / mathematician, has posted some tunes over on SoundCloud. Looks like it could be really useful, especially since tunes don't really need any video to be enjoyed, and the bigger half of the music videos on YouTube would be improved by not having any video.

The link I followed from Dustbury gave me a 404, and clicking on the home button produced a warning that I was using the old version of SoundCloud, which was kind of weird because I don't recall ever installing any SoundCloud stuff. But a search for Vi Hart turned up a page of tunes and they all play just fine without having to download or install anything. Of course I am a neanderthal and I am still running Windows XP.

Charles Nelson Reilly

Never heard of this guy before Dustbury mentioned him this morning, but I sure got a kick out of this video by Weird Al.

BRRISON Balloon Launch

When Felix took that balloon ride last year, I got the impression that that was the biggest balloon in the world. Seems that is not the case. This one is 20% bigger in height, and one third bigger in volume. It doesn't look like much when it is launched, but then we have air down here near sea level. Get up there in the stratosphere and there is hardly any air, which means hardly any air pressure, which means the balloon is free to expand to its full glory.

This isn't the BRISSON launch, but a similar one done down in the antarctic. You can see the BRISSON Launch on this Facebook page.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Artifact of the Day

Persian silver drinking cup from the 7th century B.C., cast in the form of a griffin.

It's thought to be part of the Western Cave Treasure, a hoard of ancient silver that was found in a cave near the Iran-Iraq border in the late 1980s. Smugglers attempted to bring it to the U.S. back in 2000 where it was seized by Customs. This week it went back to Iran. Diplomacy at its finest. Blah, blah, blah.

I'm no expert on antiquities, but I'd say the workman ship on this piece is outstanding. I'm not quite sure whether I buy the "drinking cup" bit. I'm inclined to think it had some other purpose, a purpose that would have been obvious in 700 B.C., but which has been completely forgotten. Maybe it was used for something like collecting drool from three headed goats.

Crowded Earth: Where is everyone going to live?

People are moving to the cities, choosing to live in cramped conditions. Maybe they don't mind, maybe they enjoy it, maybe the alternative is starving to death. I don't think I could do it. I don't like being crowded in any way shape or form. Is that innate or conditioning?

National Security Study Memorandum 200

Key insights

Some of the key insights of report are controversial:
"The U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries [see National Commission on Materials Policy, Towards a National Materials Policy: Basic Data and Issues, April 1972]. That fact gives the U.S. enhanced interest in the political, economic, and social stability of the supplying countries. Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States. . . . The location of known reserves of higher grade ores of most minerals favors increasing dependence of all industrialized regions on imports from less developed countries. The real problems of mineral supplies lie, not in basic physical sufficiency, but in the politico-economic issues of access, terms for exploration and exploitation, and division of the benefits among producers, consumers, and host country governments" [Chapter III-Minerals and Fuel].
"Whether through government action, labor conflicts, sabotage, or civil disturbance, the smooth flow of needed materials will be jeopardized. Although population pressure is obviously not the only factor involved, these types of frustrations are much less likely under conditions of slow or zero population growth" [Chapter III-Minerals and Fuel].
"Populations with a high proportion of growth. The young people, who are in much higher proportions in many LDCs [Least developed countries], are likely to be more volatile, unstable, prone to extremes, alienation and violence than an older population. These young people can more readily be persuaded to attack the legal institutions of the government or real property of the ‘establishment,' ‘imperialists,' multinational corporations, or other-often foreign-influences blamed for their troubles" [Chapter V, "Implications of Population Pressures for National Security].
"We must take care that our activities should not give the appearance to the LDCs of an industrialized country policy directed against the LDCs. Caution must be taken that in any approaches in this field we support in the LDCs are ones we can support within this country. "Third World" leaders should be in the forefront and obtain the credit for successful programs. In this context it is important to demonstrate to LDC leaders that such family planning programs have worked and can work within a reasonable period of time." [Chapter I, World Demographic Trends]
The report advises, "In these sensitive relations, however, it is important in style as well as substance to avoid the appearance of coercion."
Abortion as a geopolitical strategy is mentioned several dozen times in the report with suggestive implications. These are some of the lines:
"No country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion."
"...under developing country conditions foresight methods not only are frequently unavailable but often fail because of ignorance, lack of preparation, misuse and non-use. Because of these latter conditions, increasing numbers of women in the developing world have been resorting to abortion..."
From the Wikipedia article. Kissinger had a hand in writing this memo. It's all Dustbury's fault, quoting that retired Doc in the Philippines. I am a little disturbed that Kissinger and I seem to be in agreement in that reducing population growth would be a good thing. That business about mineral rights is not such a hot idea. That's the kind of thinking that has gotten most of the rest of the world angry with us, the USA.

Roswell Boneyard

So I'm reading about the balloon launch scheduled to go off this morning in New Mexico, which reminds me of Felix's record setting jump from the Red Bull balloon last year about this time, which was also in New Mexico. Two balloon launches from New Mexico, gotta be the same place, right? Nope. One's in Fort Sumner, the other is in Roswell. Let's look at Roswell.

View Big Science in a larger map
Gee willickers, there are a whole lot of airplanes parked there. That's not an Air Force Base, is it? No, it was one once, but now it's a boneyard for airliners

I don't much care for TV news, but this one report managed to squeeze in a whole bunch of numbers, numbers that you don't usually hear about.

Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility

There's a balloon going up tomorrow morning, It's being launched from Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The story is a bit confusing because it says the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, which Google puts in Palestine, Texas. However, both the site in New Mexico and the one in Texas are both run by the University of New Mexico. The Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility lists both sites as well as some others.

View Larger Map
This is the one in Palestine. The big circle is about two thousand feet across. I find it gratifying when I look up a place on Google Maps and find something there that corresponds to the information that led me here. This is East Texas, a couple miles West of Palestine, just down the road from Nacogdoches and roughly equidistant from Dallas, Houston and Shreveport, Louisiana. The name Nacogdoches (pronounced Nak-a-doe-ches, by me anyway) sticks in my mind for some reason. The only thing I've come up with is that the Stephen F. Austin State University is there, though I have no idea why that might be important.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Exercise West 2013

Pretty and spectacular explosions set off by in the Baltic Sea by Russians engaged in war games with the Belarusians. The exercise was focused on Kaliningrad, which is this isolated little piece of Russia on the Baltic, and Grodna (spelled Hrodna by some people) in the far Northwestern corner of Belarus. You know, just in case NATO is thinking about starting a Fourth Reich.

View Larger Map

Herero tribe of Namibia

Laura from Fetch My Flying Monkeys put up a link to this story of conquest and annilation from a century ago. The picture is current. I wanted to say that times have changed, but then I realize that no, they haven't. We have different bad guys today, but we still have bad guys.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

To Google Or Not

I try to avoid customizing the user interface on my computer these days. At one point I had all kinds of shortcuts set up, special directories, this that and the other thing. And then one day I had to use a different computer, one that didn't have all my special shortcuts setup. Bah and fizzle. So that put a stop to that. Then we have the browser wars, which I never really understood, possibly because they were religious wars. Micorsoft's Internet Explorer's allowing popups, which were really annoying, is what drove me to Mozilla Firefox. Then I bought this war surplus computer and it came with Google's Chrome browser, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I mean it's already installed, let's just use it and see how it goes, and it went okay. Until yesterday, and then they upgraded it and now it shows eight of my most popular web sites on the home page. Nuh-uh, Google. I reason I use Google for a home page is because there is nothing on it, which reminds me of a minor annoyance that has been bugging me lo these many months: Chrome has no home button. When I am done with the web, I like to leave the browser on the home page. It isn't doing anything, but it's loaded and ready to go. With Chrome, I have to go through a couple of extra steps to place it in this idle state.

So I have reverted to Firefox.

Unquote of the Day

A diagram, showing the testre****s for the five 4x4s in the test.

Translated from Swedish from the LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) news magazine, The Swedish Police, and then posted on Military Photos dot net, which has it's own peculiar censorship rules which can make it a little hard to figure out just what the poster is trying to say. In this case I suspect the poster was trying to say "test resluts", er, make that "test results".

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Last Word: The Isle of Man TT, Robert Dunlop's death, and a race that defies the nanny state

I was looking for information on magnesium, which led to motorcycle wheels, which led to wheel failure and testing, which led to crashes, which led to this story wherein the author makes a couple of good points. I was going to just pull the quotes, but I think the context helps..

By  MICHAEL CALVIN in The Indpendent, SUNDAY 09 JUNE 2013

Robert Dunlop's last conscious act was to jam on the front brake. There had been a puff of smoke as his motorbike seized at 160mph and slewed sideways. He was launched over the handlebars on to the road, where he was struck by a pursuing rider. He died from severe chest injuries that evening. He was 47.
Thirty-six hours later Michael, his youngest son, won the race for which his father had been practising, the North West 200. His suppressed grief mutated into anger. In the five years since, he has ridden with a disconcerting fury and a grim sense of destiny. He has been on the ragged edge. Perhaps he will find peace in the achievements of the past week. Michael won four TT races on the Isle of Man, and surpassed his father's record. In another reminder that death wraps itself around his sport like a creeping vine, it earned him the trophy named in honour of Joey Dunlop, his late uncle.
Joey, a monosyllabic publican from Ballymoney, is biking's warrior king. No one has won more TT races, 26. He, too, died in competition, when he crashed into trees in Estonia after losing control on a rutted road sluiced by torrential rain. There were 50,000 at his funeral yet, to millions, the pursuit to which he gave his life is beyond redemption.
Had someone come up with the notion of the Tourist Trophy races in 2007, instead of 1907, the event simply would not have been allowed. It challenges the orthodoxy of the nanny state, defies the panoply of risk assessments, liability waivers, health and safety officers and ambulance-chasing lawyers.
Road racing is a world in which mundane objects and everyday occurrences are deadly. A dog off the leash, a patch of melted Tarmac or an ill-positioned telephone box can kill. Contact with a dry-stone wall, a telegraph pole or a traffic sign is usually fatal.
Its heroes are the wraiths of international sport, relentlessly ordinary men capable of consistently extraordinary acts of bravery and precision. Many sleep in caravans, tents or lock-up garages – the antithesis of the airbrushed stars of Formula One.
This is hardcore, and difficult to defend when the safety of spectators is compromised, as it was on Friday. Jonathan Howarth from Barnsley was little more than 10 seconds into his first TT race when he lost control on the descent of Bray Hill.
His bike disintegrated on impact with the kerb. A wheel and the petrol tank span into the crowd congregated beside a burger van. He slid on his belly into a lamppost. Remarkably, he suffered only minor fractures, and walked away. Eleven spectators were taken to hospital.
Rumours spread disconcertingly until an official announcement that no injuries were life-threatening triggered applause from fans around the 37¾-mile mountain course. This will sound callous, but there was "only" one death this year.
Yoshinari Matsushita, from Japan, who crashed at Ballacrye in practice, was the 21st rider to perish this century, the 240th victim of the TT since its inception. Death has no dominion when it is so common, but these men deserve our respect. They are important because they provide a bulwark against the sanitisation of sport, the mediocrity of conformity.
They ride at speeds of up to 200mph on the edge of reason and adhesion. The money is minimal and the motivation is difficult to articulate. John McGuinness, who won the restarted race, admits: "You don't care about anything but getting on the bike and riding."
I've had breakfast with these men, and wondered whether they would be alive at lunchtime. They are terrifying to watch. Michael Dunlop was once asked why he rode so fiercely. His reply said it all: "Because I'm a Dunlop."

Monday, September 23, 2013


A friend of mine is making a foray into appland with a smart phone app for bicyclists. This is a perfect example of why Paul has a job and I don't. He has his finger on the pulse of the modern consumer, he has enthusiasm, he's well mannered and polite. I came from the school of microcode where the computer executed the opcodes that I told it to execute, and anyone who disagrees is (obviously) a doomkoff.. Ve didn't need no fancy-schmancy pictures and diagrams. Vhy vould anyone need any such nonsense? It has nothing to do with getting the job done. All hail machine code! Death to Windows! The mainframe will prevail! You get the picture.

Meanwhile Paul is keeping pace with the modern world, and maybe even leading the way.

Paul is an avid cyclist and he sees where a smart-phone app might be a handy thing to have. The question is whether anyone else would agree, so he is floating this idea out into the crowd sourcing cloud to find that out.

A Capella Science - Bohemian Gravity!

Via Scott &

one smart day and one stupid day

Here is somebody else compressing a spring hose clamp using Vise Grips. Notice the trademark on the handle. Lots of people make look-a-likes. Stick with the real thing. They cost more but they are darn well worth it. Mike had to go one step farther and use a second Vise Grip to tighten the knob on the end of the handle of the first one.

Michigan Mike philosophizes:
Saturday was good. Accomplished a couple good things, working in the garden's here and at Lisa's. Stayed busy and hungry and slept well that night.
Today not so much. Needed to change antifreeze in truck after waterpump last week. Took an hour to remove and replace one stupid hose clamp, which I finally managed, tightening one large vise grip with another smaller visegrip by gripping the adjustment knob, in order to compress the spring clamp sufficiently to get it over the hose bump. Much cursing involved.
Then since things were going so well, I decided to tackle the idler arm, which was aged and loose. Stupidly I only loosened the nut on the ball joint, instead of removing it completely, and put the clamp puller on it. Since it did not give way readily, I left it on tight as I gathered tools, but 2 minutes later, the moment I heard it click apart, after the split second of satisfaction that it worked, I realized I was screwed. The tight taper fit is the only thing that keeps the post from turning. And it did and I was. More cursing, into the darkness of evening. I bailed and washed up. Job unfinished.
I would have done better sitting and watching Gidget reruns eating pound cake.
Or maybe not. It put me in the commensurate ill humor required to accept my fate as a working class stooge which I will be again tomorrow. Even though I somewhat enjoy my work, I find it better to not be in the best mood when I go there. It would be insane to enjoy a salary job, I think.
And, at least I have something of my own to worry about and have to get home to tomorrow afternoon. Chances are, even with the best of planning, I probably would not have remembered that fact of ball joints. Darn ball joints. I think a die grinder will be involved. It often is.
And I got that idler arm replaced. The trick was to re-tighten the loosened nut to re-set the taper in the arm, (basically starting over)  which then held the taper fast while I undid the metal-lok nut. Then used the balljoint separator. Tightened it as much as I dared (safety glasses) then hit it with a chisel and hammer, whereupon it clicked free. Removed the idler arm and replaced. Putting the nut back on required c-clamping the arms together to make the taper grab sufficiently to prevent spinning as I tightened the nut. 
The tension of hardened materials is interesting. So much depends on that miniscule  amount of permanent springback.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Space Tank, Part 2

I don't know just what this is. Somebody's Terminator-esque fantasy? Preview for a new video game? A real Soviet battle plan for taking over American cities (the street signs are all in English)? Near as I can tell the video was made by a media company with no connection to any military or defense contractors. There is a written explanation (in Russian) of sorts on the YouTube page. I took the Google translation and "fixed it up".

Presenting the Scorpion - an armored, unmanned mobile robot. It is designed for combat operations in urban areas. It can also assist in rescue operations.
    The Scorpion is driven by six independent electric motors. Rare earth magnets used in the motors can achieve high power and torque at low energy consumption. The wheels and motors are protected with armored caps. Tires are foam rubber that is resistant to damage.
    Due to the electric motors Scorpio moves almost silently. It can reach speeds of up to 35 MPH and go up to 80 miles without recharging. The combination of independent steering and drive on each wheel allows the robot to move in any direction, to perform difficult maneuvers in tight spaces, turn on a dime, and successfully overcome difficult obstacles in its path.
    Robot is controlled remotely via a secure radio link. If enemy forces jam the signal, the Scorpion can independently activate a program to find and destroy the source of interference.
    To control the robot requires two operators. One controls the movement of the machine, the second - is responsible for maintaining the fire. The image on the operator's console comes from HD video cameras placed around the perimeter of the body and the turret. Each camera is protected by a several sheets of armored glass. Should the outermost glass become damaged, it can be automatically ejected.
    Along the perimeter of the turret is a audio homing system, which is composed of a ring with three rows of directional microphones. This system continuously analyzes the sound environment and isolates the source of loud sounds such as an explosion or gunshot.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Car of the Day

1958 Edsel Convertible with Continental kit.

Quote of the Day

I notice that, like Open Carry or Gay MArriage, WalMart is one of those topics on which everybody seems to have ambivalent, nuanced opinions... - Tam replying to comments on her blog.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Syrian Refugees

Syrian Refugee Camp

Read something in the news the other day about how there are more refugees from Syria than there are grains of sand in the universe or something, which got me to thinking, as usual: "what the hell is going on over there?". Once I applied my brain to the problem (or once I had asked the right question) it became obvious.
    It does not take a large number of people to make an area unpalatable, and by unpalatable I mean dangerous enough that a reasonable person would think they would be safer somewhere else.On one hand we've got Assad, his supporters and the army, which, while numerous, probably don't make up more than a few percent of the population. On the other we've got the "rebels" (all the people who are angry enough with Assad to go against him), Al-Qaeda and all the loonies who like to wave guns around. Probably not any more than Assad has. But it only takes one RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) blowing up your neighbor's house to make you think that maybe life would be better in Jordan or Turkey or, shoot, just about anywhere else.
    In the US Civil War about 10% of the population was in one army or another (3 million out of 30 million). In Syria I'm guessing it's more like 3%. The armed forces have 300 thousand men. Figure the rebels have about the same, and the population is something over 22 million. In the USA right now only about one half of one percent (0.5%) of the population is in the military.
    On one hand I sometimes think Assad is a tyrant on the same order as Saddam Hussein or the Shah of Iran. On the other hand, maybe he's become soft listening to Westerners talking about peace-love-and-understanding. I hate to say it but maybe what Syria needs is a good strong does of Stalin-esque discipline.

Update November 2020 replace photo and deleted Picasa album link.

Missile Versus Missile

The audio track on this first video is moderately annoying with dramatic music, dramatic narration and more cryptic jargon than you can shake a stick at. The second video is silent.

The first video is from two years ago. The second video is from two days ago.

In both cases they launch a dummy attack missile from somewhere in the South Pacific and then attempt to shoot it down with an anti-missile missile from an Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer. The destroyer carries its missiles in vertical canisters sitting flush with the deck. Pop the hatch and light her up. The huge amount of flame you see before the rocket emerges is from the adjacent exhaust vent.
    It's kind of nice that they are working on this system. It will be nice to have if anyone ever starts shooting missiles at us. On the other hand, I think it's already obsolete.
    You would have to be crazy to start a war with a super power these days. Not that there aren't plenty of people crazy enough to do it, but the ones who are crazy enough will not be able to pull it off. The most they can do is load a bus with TNT and blow it up downtown.
    It's kind of like our TSA response to hijackings.Completely wrong headed, but it's the only thing they know how to do.
    Still, I'm glad they are doing it. You never know what you can do till you try it, and you never know what you might need. It's good to have a selection of tools in your bag, and these tools might come in handy someday soon.


Comrade Misfit posted this picture yesterday, but it took a day for it to sink in. This picture was taken by the Cassini probe that is out orbiting Saturn (see the portion of the rings at the top of the picture). The arrow is pointing to the Earth.
    What do you see when you look at the night sky? Stars, that's what. Occasionally you will see a planet, but you only know it's a planet because it's extra bright. The interesting thing about this picture is that, one, the Earth is visible, and, two, there are hardly any stars visible. Of course, Earth and Saturn cannot be anywhere near in line with the Sun or you wouldn't see anything besides the Sun, which probably means six months of the year (3 months when the Earth is on the far side of Sun, and 3 months when it is on the near side).
    This means that if we ever manage to make a trip to another star system, we should be able to pick out any planets with our naked eyes. Okay, not naked to the pain of space, but you wouldn't need any telescopic assistance.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Russian Motorcycles

On the left, the 1927 IZH-1, on the right the 2012 IZH Hybrid Concept by Igor Chak.


Asia is celebrating the annual lunar thanksgiving holiday this week. In South Korea, where it's known as Chuseok, the holiday is celebrated by visiting family, paying respects to ancestors... and the giving and receiving of packaged cans of Spam.The pre-cooked tins of pork meat are the stuff of jokes, lunch boxes, wartime memories and, here in South Korea, a low-key, national love affair.Spam has become a staple of South Korean life, and the country is now the biggest consumer of it outside the US.
I like Spam, fried. Food Nazis won't let it in the house. Sad me.

Brits in Africa

Looking at lakes in Africa, starting with Lake Tele in Congo (the country, as opposed to "the Congo" portion of Africa). It's basically a two mile wide wet spot in the middle of miles of untracked jungle. Looking around for other lakes, I notice there is nothing until we get to the other side of the Democratic Republic of Congo and I find lakes on the border with Uganda, and what are their names? Albert and Edward. Think the Brits were here? And then there's the big one: Lake Victoria, scene of the torpedo attack at the end of The African Queen and the Raid on Entebbe. Entebbe is just South of Kampala and the airport is right on the shore of Lake Victoria. Nairobi is the nearest big city to Kampala, and it is 300 miles away. Sharon got me started on this.

Colorado Flood

The downpour that inundated parts of Colorado this month was a once-in-a-millennium event for those areas, according to an analysis by the National Weather Service.

The rainfall numbers in the picture are for at most THREE DAYS.

Via Sharon.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chemical Automatics Design Bureau

-or- Russian Rockets, Part 2 -or- Voronezh, Part 3. 

From Wikipedia

Chemical Automatics Design Bureau (CADB) is a Russian Design Bureau founded by the NKAP (People’s Commissariat of the Aircraft Industry) in 1941 and led by Semyon Kosberg until his death in 1965. Its origin dates back to a 1940 Moscow carburetor factory, evacuated to Berdsk in 1941, and then relocated to Voronezh in 1945, where it now operates. ... the company designed a wide range of high technology products, including liquid propellant rocket engines, a nuclear reactor for space use, the first Soviet gas laser with an output of 1 MW and the USSR's only operational nuclear rocket engine. The company has designed more than 60 liquid propellant engines with some 30 having entered production.

Never heard of this outfit before, but look, they're based in Voronezh, which I keep running into. And how about that title: People’s Commissariat of the Aircraft Industry. Really brings back that old die-hard commie flavor, eh?

Another mass murder, another conversation

by Kathleen Parker
About 30 years ago as a young reporter in Florida, I was assigned a series on gun control in response to gun violence, which had peaked in the United States in 1980.
I began the series with profiles of three gun users: a woman who had killed her would-be rapist, the owner of a sport-shooting club and a convicted murderer on death row at the Florida State Prison in Starke.
Most dramatic was the woman, who was attacked as she entered her apartment after work one evening. She had just moved in and boxes were stacked floor-to-ceiling, nary a broom nor a pot to use in self-defense.
In her panic, she suddenly remembered the small derringer in her purse, which still hung over her shoulder. Already the man had her pinned against the wall. Reaching into her bag, she grabbed the gun, pressed it to his side and boom! He died instantly. To my question, she replied: “Hell, yes, I’d do it again in a New York minute.”
Or words to that effect.
Most chilling was the murderer, whose name I no longer recall. I do remember that his fingertips were oddly flared and he pressed them together, expanding and contracting his hands like a bellows. No doubt aware that I was nervous, he seemed amused by my questions.
“Sure,” he chuckled. “I’m all for gun control. Because that means you won’t have a gun. And I will always have a gun.”
All of which is to say, the conversation we’re having today about how to avert the next act of gun violence is nothing new. Yet, we seem always to fall into the same pro-con template when a fresh shooting occurs.
Before we knew the name of the shooter who killed 12 civilians at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, social media were atwitter with the usual exclamations:
More gun control!
Guns don’t kill, people do!
It is easy to become cynical when there’s nothing new to say and when, we know, nothing new will come of it. Gun-control activists will push harder for tighter restrictions; Second Amendment champions will push back. The National Rifle Association will prevail.
Hit repeat.
Despite the redundancy of our renditions, there are some differences in gun violence today and that of more than three decades ago. Even though firearm deaths have decreased, the recent rash of spree killings — five incidents this year alone — justifies a heightened level of concern. Nearly 70 mass shootings have occurred since 1982, according to Mother Jones, 28 of them in just the past seven years. Half of the 12 deadliest mass shootings have occurred since 2005.
Even so, for the sake of perspective, these represent a tiny fraction of total gun deaths. They’re more horrific, so we take greater notice. But they represent less than 1 percent of all gun deaths between 1980 and 2008, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Indeed, nearly two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides (19,392 of a total of 31,672 in the United States in 2010).
In other words, the reflex to make tougher laws may be missing more important points. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t consider imposing restrictions on who owns guns, but as my guy in Starke suggested, there’s little comfort in forcing law-abiding citizens to submit to tighter controls knowing that criminals will not.
As for the crazies who go on killing sprees, rules rarely apply.
Thus, what we’re really fighting about in our national debate about guns is how to stop mentally ill people from wreaking havoc on society. And what are the causes that lead to the breakdowns that lead to the slaughter?
No wonder we’d rather limit magazine sizes.
Much more difficult to process and “fix” are the multitude of factors that lead a sick person to seek company in death. What we know about such people is that they tend to be loners and narcissists (low self-esteem, lacking in empathy, quick to take offense and blame others) who act impulsively and seek attention (and revenge) in dramatic and public ways.
That we have more such characters than we used to — or that they seem more inclined to act on their impulses — may have less to do with guns than with underlying cultural causes. No, I’m not singling out video games or family dissolution or any other single factor, though none should be excluded.
If we don’t take a serious look at the environment that spawns these individuals, we’ll likely be having this same conversation another 30 years from now.
More like we'll still be having this same conversation for the next 30 years. 40 years ago we decided to stop locking up crazy people in loonie bins and started locking them up in prisons. It doesn't seem to have improved the situation.

Non Sequitur

Crazy Russians

Oh, look! A cute little tugboat or something. Actually not so little. Oh, wait a minute. What's that in the background? Christ, that's a missile sub.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Delivering a new Cub to Alaska

Seven Billion People

Shooting at the Navy Yard, Washington D.C.

Why do only some of these people have their hands in the air? Why do any of  these people have their hands in the air?

Every time I hear about something like this I wonder what was going on. Was this guy really a secret whack job and no one had uncovered his secret? Or was he a social cripple who had endured years of insignificant slights who finally reached his limit? Or was be slowly building his anger from real or imaginary causes? When something like this happens it impossible to backtrack and figure out what led to it. Oh, a skilled and talented investigator might be able to put together a reasonably accurate picture, but since you will be crucified for speaking ill of the dead, we will never hear that story. I think there must be some kind of vile culture at the workplace that reinforces people's natural hatred for others.

Monday, September 16, 2013

1935 Bugatti Aerolithe Coupe

Scott sent me a link to an episode of Jay Leno's Garage about this car. They ramble on and gush about how wonderful it is. It's pretty enough, but there are a lot of very pretty cars out there. I am not impressed that somebody spent a lot of money getting it built. Lots of very rich people spend enormous sums of money on exotic automobiles.
    I am impressed that the people involved were crazy enough to build it out of the original material, which is magnesium. Nobody builds cars out of magnesium, at least not any more. There's this one, and there was a magnesium race car that crashed and burned at Le Mans in the 1950's. The magnesium body caught fire and burned for 8 hours.A magnesium Honda F1 car crashed and burned in 1968.
    People do make magnesium parts for cars, pieces that can be cast and will benefit from the high strength to weight ratio of the material. The engine crankcase in the original Volkswagen bug is magnesium.
    There was a big fad for mag wheels (that were really made of magnesium) a while back, but now mag wheels are almost always aluminum alloy. I think you can still get real magnesium wheels, but it's hard to tell because of the corrupted terminology, plus it's hard to tell a magnesium wheel from an aluminum one. I found one motorsport outfit that offers them, and a Chinese company that makes them, along with a description of the process they use, which is pretty interesting all by itself.
    But back to the car. See the fin running over the roof and down the back? It's full of rivets, it's how the two halves of the body were joined together. Welding magnesium is a bit of a trick, after all the stuff will burn in air or even underwater, so you need to exclude air from the weld. A room full of nitrogen would work. Lincoln Welding has a video that shows a guy welding magnesium without catching fire, though he is using modern equipment. Some welding was used to create this replica, and the original builders might have also used some welding, but it would have been a bit of a trick.

Update: I don't know where the problem is, but the YouTube version of the video was would not play smoothly on my computer, so I changed the link to point to Jay's site.

Space Tank

From Poland. There was a mockup on display at an arms show earlier this month.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Insect Gears

The small hopping insect Issus coleoptratus uses toothed gears (magnified above with an electron microscope) to precisely synchronize the kicks of its hind legs as it jumps forward. Image by Malcom Burrows.

From looking at the other pictures of this bug I am guesstimating this picture is about 1/10th (one-tenth) of a millimeter across.

Russell Brand and the GQ awards: 'It's amazing how absurd it seems'

Comrade Misfit got me started wandering around and I ended up at The Guardian reading this pretty amazing piece by Russell Brand, who is some kind of comedian or something.

I have had the privilege of scuba diving. I did it once on holiday, and I'm aware that it's one of those subjects that people can get pretty boring and sincere about, and sincerity, for we British, is no state in which to dwell, so I'll be brief. The scuba dive itself was numenistic enough, a drenched heaven; coastal shelves and their staggering, sub-aquatic architecture, like spilt cathedrals, gormless, ghostly fish gliding by like Jackson Pollock's pets. Silent miracles. What got me, though, was when I came up for air, at the end. As my head came above water after even a paltry 15 minutes in Davy Jones's Locker, there was something absurd about the surface. How we, the creatures of the land, live our lives, obliviously trundling, flat feet slapping against the dust.

It must have been a while since I've attended a fancy, glitzy event, because as soon as I got to the GQ awards I felt like something was up. The usual visual grammar was in place – a carpet in the street, people in paddocks awaiting a brush with something glamorous, blokes with earpieces, birds in frocks of colliding colours that if sighted in nature would indicate the presence of poison. I'm not trying to pass myself off as some kind of Francis of Assisi, Yusuf Islam, man of the people, but I just wasn't feeling it. I ambled into the Opera House across yet more outdoor carpets, boards bearing branding, in this case Hugo Boss, past paparazzi, and began to queue up at the line of journalists and presenters, in a slightly nicer paddock who offer up mics and say stuff like:

"Who are you wearing?"

"I'm not wearing anyone. I went with clobber, I'm not Buffalo Bill."

Noel Gallagher was immediately ahead of me in the press line and he's actually a mate. I mean, I love him: sometimes I forget he wrote Supersonic and played to 400,000 people at Knebworth because he's such a laugh. He laid right into me, the usual gear: "What the fook you wearing? Does Rod Stewart know you're going through his jumble?" I try to remain composed and give as good as I get, even though the paddock-side banter is accompanied by looming foam-tipped eavesdroppers, hanging like insidious mistletoe.

In case you don't know, these parties aren't like real parties. It's fabricated fun, imposed from the outside. A vision of what squares imagine cool people might do set on a spaceship. Or in Moloko. As we come out of the lift there's a bloody great long corridor flanked by gorgeous birds in black dresses, paid to be there, motionless, left hand on hip, teeth tacked to lips with scarlet glue. The intention, I suppose, is to contrive some Ian Fleming super-uterus of well fit mannequins to midwife you into the shindig, but me and my mate Matt just felt self-conscious, jigging through Robert Palmer's oestrogen passage like aspirational Morris dancers. Matt stared at their necks and I made small talk as I hot stepped towards the pre-show drinks. Now, I'm not typically immune to the allure of objectified women, but I am presently beleaguered by a nerdish, whirling dervish, and am eschewing all others. Perhaps the clarity of this elation has awakened me. A friend of mine said: "Being in love is like discovering a concealed ballroom in a house you've long inhabited." I also don't drink, so these affairs where most people rinse away their Britishness and twitishness with booze are for me a face-first log flume of backslaps, chitchat, eyewash and gak.

After a load of photos and what-not, we descend the world's longest escalator, which are called that even as they de-escalate, and in we go to the main forum, a high ceilinged hall, full of circular cloth-draped, numbered tables, a stage at the front, the letters GQ, 12-foot high in neon at the back; this aside, though, neon forever the moniker of trash, this is a posh do, in an opera house full of folk in tuxes.

Everywhere you look there's someone off the telly; Stephen Fry, Pharrell, Sir Bobby Charlton, Samuel L Jackson, Rio Ferdinand, Justin Timberlake, foreign secretary William Hague and mayor of London Boris Johnson. My table is a sanctuary of sorts; Noel and his missus Sara, John Bishop and his wife Mel, my mates Matt Morgan, Mick and Gee. Noel and I are both there to get awards and decide to use our speeches to dig each other out. This makes me feel a little grounded in the unreal glare, normal.

Noel's award is for being an "icon" and mine for being an "oracle". My knowledge of the classics is limited, but includes awareness that an oracle is a spiritual medium through whom prophecies from the gods were sought in ancient Greece. Thankfully, I have a sense of humour that prevents me from taking accolades of that nature on face value, or I'd've been in the tricky position of receiving the GQ award for being "best portal to a mystical dimension", which is a lot of pressure. Me, Matt and Noel conclude it's probably best to treat the whole event as a bit of a laugh and, as if to confirm this as the correct attitude, Boris Johnson – a man perpetually in pajamas regardless of what he's wearing – bounds to the stage to accept the award for "best politician". Yes, we agree: this is definitely a joke.

Boris, it seems, is taking it in this spirit, joshing beneath his ever-redeeming barnet that Labour's opposition to military action in Syria is a fey stance that he, as GQ politician of the year, would never be guilty of.

Matt is momentarily focused. "He's making light of gassed Syrian children," he says. We watch, slightly aghast, then return to goading Noel.

Before long, John Bishop is on stage giving me a lovely introduction, so I get up as Noel hurls down a few gauntlets, daring me to "do my worst".

I thanked John, said the "oracle award" sounds like a made-up prize you'd give a fat kid on sports day – I should know, I used to get them – then that it's barmy that Hugo Boss can trade under the same name they flogged uniforms to the Nazis under and the ludicrous necessity for an event such as this one to banish such a lurid piece of information from our collective consciousness.

I could see the room dividing as I spoke. I could hear the laughter of some and louder still silence of others. I realised that for some people this was regarded as an event with import. The magazine, the sponsors and some of those in attendance saw it as a kind of ceremony that warranted respect. In effect, it is a corporate ritual, an alliance between a media organisation, GQ, and a commercial entity, Hugo Boss. What dawned on me as the night went on is that even in apparently frivolous conditions the establishment asserts control, and won't tolerate having that assertion challenged, even flippantly, by that most beautifully adept tool: comedy.

The jokes about Hugo Boss were not intended to herald a campaign to destroy them. They're not Monsanto or Halliburton, the contemporary corporate allies of modern-day fascism; they are, I thought, an irrelevant menswear supplier with a double-dodgy history. The evening, though, provided an interesting opportunity to see how power structures preserve their agenda, even in a chintzy microcosm.

Subsequent to my jokes, the evening took a peculiar turn. Like the illusion of sophistication had been inadvertently disrupted by the exposure. It had the vibe of a wedding dinner where the best man's speech had revealed the groom's infidelity. With Hitler.

Foreign secretary William Hague gave an award to former Telegraph editor Charles Moore, for writing a hagiography of Margaret Thatcher, who used his acceptance speech to build a precarious connection between my comments about the sponsors, my foolish answerphone scandal at the BBC and the Sachs family's flight, 70 years earlier, from Nazi-occupied Europe. It was a confusing tapestry that Moore spun but he seemed to be saying that a) the calls were as bad as the Holocaust and b) the Sachs family may not've sought refuge in Britain had they known what awaited them. Even for a man whose former job was editing the Telegraph this is an extraordinary way to manipulate information.

Noel, who is not one to sit quietly on his feelings, literally booed while Charles Moore was talking, and others joined in. Booing! When do you hear booing in this day and age other than pantomimes and parliament? Hague and Johnson are equally at home in either (Widow Twanky and Buttons, obviously) so were not unduly ruffled, but I thought it was nuts. The room by now had a distinct feel of "us and them" and if there is a line drawn in the sand I don't ever want to find myself on the same side as Hague and Johnson. Up went Noel to garner his gong and he did not disappoint: "Always nice to be invited to the Tory party conference," he began, "Good to see the foreign secretary present when there's shit kicking off in Syria."

Noel once expressed his disgust at seeing a politician at Glastonbury. "What are you doing here? This ain't for you," he'd said. He explained to me: "You used to know where you were with politicians in the 70s and 80s cos they all looked like nutters: Thatcher, Heseltine, Cyril Smith. Now they look normal, they're more dangerous." Then, with dreadful foreboding: "They move among us." I agree with Noel. What are politicians doing at Glastonbury and the GQ awards? I feel guilty going, and I'm a comedian. Why are public officials, paid by us, turning up at events for fashion magazines? Well, the reason I was there was because I have a tour on and I was advised it would be good publicity. What are the politicians selling? How are they managing our perception of them with their attendance of these sequin-encrusted corporate balls?

We witness that there is a relationship between government, media and industry that is evident even at this most spurious and superficial level. These three institutions support one another. We know that however cool a media outlet may purport to be, their primary loyalty is to their corporate backers. We know also that you cannot criticise the corporate backers openly without censorship and subsequent manipulation of this information.

Now I'm aware that this was really no big deal; I'm not saying I'm an estuary Che Guevara. It was a daft joke by a daft comic at a daft event. It makes me wonder, though, how the relationships and power dynamics I witnessed on this relatively inconsequential context are replicated on a more significant scale.

For example, if you can't criticise Hugo Boss at the GQ awards because they own the event, do you think it is significant that energy companies donate to the Tory party? Will that affect government policy? Will the relationships that "politician of the year" Boris Johnson has with City bankers – he took many more meetings with them than public servants in his first term as mayor – influence the way he runs our capital?

Is it any wonder that Amazon, Vodafone and Starbucks avoid paying tax when they enjoy such cosy relationships with members of our government?

Ought we be concerned that our rights to protest are being continually eroded under the guise of enhancing our safety? Is there a relationship between proposed fracking in the UK, new laws that prohibit protest and the relationships between energy companies and our government?

I don't know. I do have some good principles picked up that night that are generally applicable: the glamour and the glitz isn't real, the party isn't real, you have a much better time mucking around trying to make your mates laugh. I suppose that's obvious. We all know it, we already know all the important stuff, like: don't trust politicians, don't trust big business and don't trust the media. Trust your own heart and each another. When you take a breath and look away from the spectacle it's amazing how absurd it seems when you look back.

Heckler & Koch P11

What we have here is a gun for frogmen. It uses electrical ignition to fire the projectiles. My first thought was "what? Does it shoot rockets?", because model rockets use electrical ignition, and the answer is, yes it does. Bullets don't work very well underwater (Mythbusters episode #44). My next thought was "electric ignition in a device you use underwater", what are you crazy? I would think the good old fashioned mechanical firing mechanism like the ones used in conventional firearms would be more reliable. It would not be subject to failure because the electrics got wet and shorted out. Then I looked at it again. I was thinking it was a revolver, but now I see that it is injection molded plastic, there is no revolving going on here. Now I begin to understand. Making a gun with a mechanical firing mechanism means precise machining of small metal parts. With the advent of CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) machine tools, the price of machining has come down, but it is still more expensive than injection molding plastic. Plus metal parts corrode in sea water. Oh, you can mitigate corrosion with various coatings, but you are still going to need regular cleaning. A sealed plastic blob can survive for years underwater without any care.      The last bit that caught my attention was that you have to send the "cylinder" back to the factory for reloading. My immediate reaction was "unbelievable". Then I looked at the gun again, and thought about it for a bit, and realized that reloading was probably some kind of bullet point on a government requirements checklist. There's not going to be any reloading. This thing is disposable. Use it once and throw it away, or just drop it since you are underwater. It will never be seen again.
    I wonder how many frogman versus frogman fights there have been in real life. I know they are a staple of James Bond and diving movies, but has there ever been an instance of a real underwater fight? I mean diving underwater is kind of like going into outer space, you are taking your life in your hands just doing it.
   Here's another picture of the gun being used by my other virtual girlfriend / ninja assassin.

Lara (that's Lara, not Laura) Croft, Tomb Raider

I expect electronic firing mechanisms will start finding their way into conventional firearms in the near future, just because the tech guys can't leave well enough alone and the bean counters are always looking for ways to save a penny.. It's all part of a great worldwide conspiracy to destroy precision machining. Hold onto your steel guns. It won't be long (no more than a thousand years or so) before all new guns are made of plastic.

Thanks to Tam.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Columbiana Fight Scene

Colombiana Marco VS Cataleya
Charles Vane

Turned on the TV just is time to see this well choreographed fight scene from the movie Columbiana, directed by Oliver Megaton. Megaton? What kind of name is that? A made up one. Megaton takes his name from his birthday : the 6th of August 1965 is the 20th anniversary of the dropping of the Hiroshima A-bomb. Zoe Saldana is my new virtual black-ninja-assassin girlfriend. She's 35 now. She's been in a bunch of films like Avatar and the new Star Trek movie Into Darkness (I had the hots for Uhura since before I knew what the hots were). She's the perfect black actress. If you've seen a movie in the last ten years with a hot black actress in it, it was probably her. The credits are rolling by and Luc Besson's name pops up. Where have I heard that name before? Oh, like Zoe, just about everywhere, starting with The Fifth Element.

Update March 2022 replaced missing video with one that isn't age restricted.