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Friday, February 28, 2014

American Hustle

Saw this at Cinetopia last night in the small theater: 18 seats. This image was on a huge screen maybe twelve feet from our seats. We got there early because we wanted to get some dinner before the show started, so I had plenty of time to study it and I noticed a couple of things. One is that names at the top are not in the same order as the people in the picture. Christian Bale is in the center, Bradley Cooper is on the right, Jeremy Renner is on the left, Amy Adams is between Jeremy and Christian and Jennifer Lawerence is the blond on the right.
    The second is that everyone except Christian seems to looking right at you, but Christian is looking over the tops of our heads into the distance. I had a hard time recognizing Christian Bale. The role that sticks in my mind is the anorexic lead in The Machinist. Here he is overweight and bald with a hairpiece and an absurd comb-over.  He's really unattractive. I don't understand how he can apparently gain and lose weight at will.
    This movie was a little odd. There was nothing enjoyable about it but I loved it anyway. The characters are all pretty horrible, you wouldn't want to have anything to do with any of them unless they were your friends. You might have some friends like these guys.
    I had a similar feeling about the soundtrack. It was a little odd as well. The songs are all from the 70's and 80's, and they were all recognizable, but there weren't any hard rock hits, it was other stuff. Some of it was okay, but there wasn't much in there that was really my style. I looked at some of theYouTube music videos for some of these songs and I was surprised that no one had done anything with the songs from ELO (Electric Light Orchestra). The only ones I saw had static images. There might be some of live concerts, but that doesn't interest me.
     The movie is loosely based on the real events of the ‘Abscam’ plot by the FBI to take down the corrupt members of congress in the 70′s. I remember hearing about it, I think it got more press than the moon landing, but I didn't pay too much attention. Some members of congress corrupt? That's not news. Show me some members of Congress who aren't corrupt, that would be newsworthy. 'Course you can't prove a negative.
    What makes this movie special is the way the relationships between the people are portrayed, especially the attraction between Irving (Christian Bale) and Lady Edith (Amy Adams). There are all kinds of little bits in there that are just weird, and several lines that will stick in your head. It's just amazing.

Say What

Came across this photo today:
DILI, Timor Leste (Feb. 25, 2014) Timor Leste Defense Force soldiers during a training exercise with sailors from the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd. U.S Navy photo by Jay C. Pugh

Timor Leste? Where is that? I think I've run across it before, but I'm not sure, so I Google it and I get this:
East Timor or Timor-Leste, officially the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is a country in Australasia.
What!?! Timor Leste is in Australia!?! That can't be right, so I follow the link and discover that not only did I miss a couple of letters, but other people have gotten these terms, and several others, confused as well.
So how did we get this mess? Wikipedia explains:
The origin of the name Austrasia is Germanic, meaning "eastern land". The latinisation is confusing as German "Ost" is "east", but Latin "auster"/ "australis" is "south". The same can be seen with the name Austria.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Russia Strong

Russian self-propelled artillery on parade in Red Square, Moscow.

Russia has two big military holidays every year. One in November to celebrate the 1917 Revolution and one on May 9th to celebrate their victory over Nazi Germany in WW2. When the Soviet Union was still in business, they used to celebrate these two holidays with massive parades of military armaments through Red Square in Moscow. I vaguely remember hearing about these when I was a kid and people making a fuss about some new missile being revealed for the first time, along with the usual endless speculation about "what it all meant".
   When the Soviet Union collapsed, the parades stopped. Russia has been recovering and in 2008 they were feeling flush enough to restart these parades.
   I have been looking through some photos of the Russian military from a few years ago and came across some from their violent disagreement with Georgia wherein I found this excerpt:
THE psychodrama playing out in the Caucasus is not the first act of World War III, as some hyperventilating politicians and commentators would like to portray it. Rather, it is the delayed final act of the cold war. And while the Soviet Union lost that epic conflict, Russia won this curtain call in a way that ensures Washington will have to take it far more seriously in the future. This is not just because, as some foreign-policy “realists” have argued, Moscow has enough troops and oil to force us to take into consideration its supposedly irrational fears. Rather, the conflict in Georgia showed how rational Russia’s concerns over American meddling in its traditional sphere of influence are, and that Washington had better start treating it like the great power it still is. - Ronald Steel in The New York Times, August 24, 2008.
I don't like the "news", mostly because everything is presented as equally important. It's not. 99.9% of it is drivel. There are some sources that give you a better concentration, but then they usually have an agenda as well. My random walk technique suits me well enough, though sometimes I am a few years late to the party.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hot Lead Versus Cold Steel

Charge! Painting on the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 by Georgios Roilos (1867–1928)

I thought the bayonet charge went out with the horse mounted cavalry. Tam links to an Oleg post advocating marksmenship and naturally a whole field of dunderheads pipe up about how knives are better than guns because they don't jam or run out of ammo or blah, blah, blah. But then someone mentions a bayonet charge by the Scots in Afghanistan in 2004, which prompts me to look around and I discover that there have been a few others in the last 70 years. I'm not even going to look at WW2, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like what I found.

Turns out I'm all wet about horse mounted calvary as well. First US soldiers in Afghanistan rode horses. You may have heard about the statue erected in their honor.

America's Response Monument - De Oppresso Liber, by Douwe Blumberg 2011

P.S. I thought it would be easy coming up with a picture for this post, but it seems like the old school painters preferred calvary charges to bayonets. There is hardly anything in the way of photographs. I suspect that is because the situation has to be pretty desperate to warrant a bayonet charge, and at times like that who's got time to fool with a camera?

The Truth is Out There. Somewhere. Maybe.

This photo is from a series taken of an Iranian military exercise. When I first saw this photo of an explosion, I thought it was pretty impressive, but the more I look at it, the more convinced I am that it has been photoshopped. The orange color is a too vivid, and the smoke or haze hanging around the edges seems unlikely. And then it's from Islamic Republic of Iran, that bastion of truth and self promotion.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Orion Recovery Test

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 20, 2014) Navy divers secure NASA's Orion crew module inside the well deck of the USS San Diego. U.S. Navy photo by Gary Keen.

Recovering the capsule after spalshdown is the last part of any trip into space, at least any American trip. Although it is not dramatic as the launch, it provides just as many opportunities to screw up and die. Once the capsule is in the water it should be a fairly simple operation to secure it. Practice ensures that it is. As long as it doesn't sink.

Stand Your Ground In Venezeula

Retired army general Angel Vivas, accused by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of inciting violence, is entrenched at his house after the National Bolivarian Guard tried to arrest him, in Miranda state, Venezuela, on Feb. 23, 2014. (Xinhua/Str).

It's always nice to see someone sticking up for their principles. I have no idea whether it will do any good or not. More here.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Texas Science

The University of Texas has kept track of me ever since I graduated, which usually means some kind of blurb from the alumni association once or twice a year. I always threw them in the trash because I suspected they were nothing more than a cover for money grubbing, and why would I ever give UT Austin any money? I mean they get more money from their oil holdings every minute than I will ever make during my entire lifetime. Don't mind me, I'm just bitter that I wasn't born with an oil well in my pocket.
     This time, however, they sent me a small format glossy magazine called The Texas Scientist. I open it and I am surprised to see that there are a bunch of stories about science, all kinds of science. They do mention the scientists, but, well, hard to do science without scientists. Machines are glorious but they aren't that smart, and they aren't at all inquisitive.
     I'm paging through this brochure and I come across You Are Your Microbiome by Joe Hanson. He's talking about how the cells that make up our bodies are vastly outnumbered by the bacteria and fungi we carry around with us. Our own cells must be many times larger that the average hanger-on, otherwise I would expect to see some really weird stuff. Syafolee has also written about this, and I put up a post on this topic once upon a time.
    Now I'm thinking about putting up a post about this, so I go looking for a picture (can't have a post without a picture), and I find this one on the College of Natural Sciences' Facebook page:

UT physics students circa 1900 wait for class to begin in a UT physics lecture hall in the old main building, where most labs and classrooms were located at the time. At the time there were only three physics faculty members.

Some may be surprised to see how many women were in the class, given the time period, but this was no accident. In an issue of The University Record from December 1898 there is a speech by then UT President Winston which lists “the education of women on equal terms with men…” as the first of four prominent ideas for founding UT Austin. The other three were “free tuition, adequate endowment, and freedom from sectarian control or religious tests.”

Photo is from the Prints and Photographs Collection, CN 10361, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
I was shocked. This is so contrary to the popular image of Texas as it is portrayed in the national media. I knew Austin was an oasis of civilization in a sea of rednecks when I was there, but it's been nigh on 30 years, and I had kind of forgotten that.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Movie Time

The basic plot of Mission to Paris is we are making a movie. It's a fine story and I'm reading along and I come across this line:
They were on the set until 5:30, Avila had met his day's quota - two minutes of film - and Stahl, though he ached to go back to the Claridge and get into a hot shower, had one final chore ahead of him.
Two minutes!?! Geez, you've got a full crew, all the equipment you need and a sound stage and all you've got to show for a day's work is two minutes of film? Crimintently. Then I thought about it for a minute and I realized that if it takes you three months to shoot a movie, then all you need to do shoot is two minutes a day. (3 months times 4 weeks a month times 5 days a week equals 60 work days, times two minutes a day is 120 minutes which is two hours, which is how long a movie is supposed to be.)
    Thinking a little more I begin to suspect that making a movie entails a whole lot of waiting for the crew. Everything has to be set and ready to go before you start the cameras, and inevitably there is going to be some aspect (sound, lighting, prop, wardrobe, makeup, etc. etc.) that isn't quite right, so everyone else will just be put on hold until that one little problem is fixed. And when that problem is fixed you need to be ready to go, just like you haven't been waiting for five minutes or five hours.

Subterranean Tank

From a short video about experimental Russian tanks. This one reminded me of the subterranean diving machine from The Core.You will recall that that machine was constructed from unobtanium by "rogue" scientist Ed Brazzelton, played by Delroy Lindo, not Samuel L. Jackson like I thought. You can't blame me for getting them confused. I mean any movie that has a "rogue" scientist making things out of unobtanium sounds like it was made for Samuel L. After all, he was in Snakes on a Plane, and you can't get much sillier than that.

Red October

Alrosa 871 Kilo class submarine with experimental pump-jet in 2008.

Did I ever read Tom Clancy's The Hunt For Red October? I think I did. I for sure saw the movie. Remember the caterpillar drive? People are always trying to come up with new, different and better ways of doing something. This picture is the first evidence I have seen that anyone actually tried an alternate method of propelling a full size submarine.

Shaper Progress

Jack has got his shaper put back together. He still has a few kinks to work out, like adjusting the drive belt and one of the clamps needs to be unstuck, but overall things are looking good.

House of Cards

We started watching season 2 of House of Cards this evening. The congressman has a birthday and his driver / bodyguard buys him a set of cufflinks as a present. If you have seen the show you know that Congressman Frank is a ruthless slimeball of the first water. We don't see the cufflinks until the end of the episode when they appear on the screen just before the credits start rolling. F U? Well, that is not something I would want to be flashing around, although it certainly fits Frank's personality. Oh, wait, those are his initials: Frank Underwood. Ha.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pic of the Day

Panama City, Florida, February 13, 2014. Students and instructors in the 40-foot-deep pool at Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center. Photo by Michael Scichilone.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The 5th Dimension Age of Aquarius 1969

I'm posting this because it took me hours to find it. I remembered I had posted a video of a group of male and female black singers, but I could not remember the name of the group or the song. I did remember that the way the women were dancing was the sexiest thing I had ever seen. Anyway, I paged back through my blogs archives for months and could not find it. So I asked Google, which led me to African-American musical groups on Wikipedia. Nothing jumped out at me, so I copied the list into a spreadsheet and methodically went through and marked all the names I recognized (which was only about 10%), but still no cigar. Eventually though all this mulling brought the Age of Aquarius to mind and I was able to track down the YouTube video. My question now is why aren't The Fifth Dimension listed on that Wikipedia page?

You can file this under 'What? Me racist?'

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Serber the Patriot, Oppenheimer the snitch.

Charlotte Serber's WW2 era Los Alamos Labs badge picture.

A slice of top-secret life from The Nuclear Secrecy Blog:

Some of the badge photographs are the ones that anyone on here would be familiar with — Oppenheimer, Groves, Fuchs, etc. But I enjoyed picking out a few more obscure characters. One of my favorites of these is Charlotte Serber, wife of the physicist and Oppenheimer student Robert Serber. Here’s my micro-essay:

Charlotte Serber was one of the many wives of the scientists who came to Los Alamos during the war. She was also one of the many wives who had their own substantial jobs while at the lab. While her husband, Robert Serber, worked on the design of the first nuclear weapons, Charlotte was the one in charge of running the technical library. While “librarian” might not at first glance seem vital to the war project, consider J. Robert Oppenheimer’s postwar letter to Serber, thanking her that “no single hour of delay has been attributed by any man in the laboratory to a malfunctioning, either in the Library or in the classified files. To this must be added the fact of the surprising success in controlling and accounting for the mass of classified information, where a single serious slip might not only have caused us the profoundest embarrassment but might have jeopardized the successful completion of our job.” Serber fell under unjustified suspicion of being a Communist in the immediate postwar, and, according to her FBI file, her phones were tapped. Who had singled her out as a possible Communist, because of her left-wing parents? Someone she thought of as a close personal friend: J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Charlotte was also the only woman Division Leader at Los Alamos, as the director of the library. She was also the only Division Leader barred from attending the Trinity test — on account of a lack of “facilities” for women there. She considered this a gross injustice.
What I like about Charlotte is not only that she highlights that many of the “Los Alamos wives” actually did work that was crucial to the project (and there were scientists amongst the “wives” as well, such as Elizabeth R. Graves, who I also profiled), and that the work of a librarian can be pretty vital (imagine if they didn’t have good organization of their reports, files, and classified information). But I also find Charlotte’s story amazing because of the betrayal: Oppenheimer the friend, Oppenheimer the snitch.
I should note that Oppenheimer’s labeling of Charlotte was probably not meant to be malicious — he was going over lists of people who might have Communist backgrounds when talking to the Manhattan Project security officers. He rattled off a number of names, and even said he thought most of them probably weren’t themselves Communists. This, of course, meant that they got flagged as possible Communists for the rest of their lives. Oppenheimer’s attempt to look loyal to the security system, even his attempts to be benign about it, were terrible failures in the long run, both for him and for his poor friends. Albert Einstein put it well: “The trouble with Oppenheimer is that he loves a woman who doesn’t love him—the United States government.”


... the Attorney General has the power to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at least eliminating it from Schedule I or II. - From a newsletter from my Congressman, Earl Blumenauer.

Since the Attorney General reports to the President, they could basically make marijuana legal if they wanted to, just by moving it from one list to another, no act of Congress required, but since most of the people in this country are idiots, and Obama is the Fascist figurehead that the know-nothings have pushed to the front, I don't expect anything to change. Barrack might surprise me, but at least it would be a nice surprise.

Antonov in Iowa

In The Cobweb we have a giant Antonov cargo jet landing at a city airport in Iowa. The Antonov is a big plane. I'm wondering if there are really any airports in Iowa that can handle it, and I turn up this picture. OK, so it's not in Iowa, it's in Nebraska, but that's right next door (across the Missouri river) so that counts, right?. Nebraska used to be the home of SAC (the Strategic Air Command), so they would have big fat runways that could probably accommodate a whole fleet of Antonovs. Still, we're in the same neck of the woods and people are shipping big things by air.
    The machine in this picture is a "slip form paver" used for paving concrete roads. It is going to Georgia, the country in central Asia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, not the state of Georgia, currently part of the USA.
    The machine was going to Georgia to work on rebuilding the E60, which is the modern highway which basically follows the route of the old Silk Road, which leads from China to the rest of Asia and Europe.
    Silk Road was also the name of the clandestine website that the Feds busted last year.
    The Cobweb has Federal agents busting a clandestine operation in Iowa, which has hired the Antonov, or at least I think it's going to. I haven't finished the book yet, but that sort of looks like what is going to happen.
    Isn't it great the way all these things connect up?

Note: this plane is the Antonov-124, a large commercial jet air freighter. Several dozen were built and are still flying.. The largest jet aircraft is the Antonov-225, but there is only one of those. The 124 has four engines, the 225 has six.

Focke Wulf Fw 61 - luftwaffe test pilot Hanna Reitsch

In February 1938 Hanna Reitsch demonstrated the world's first practical helicopter by flying it indoors at the international auto show in Berlin, Germany. It subsequently set several records for altitude, speed and flight duration culminating, in June 1938, with an altitude record of 11,243 feet and a straight line flight record of 143 miles.
    This makes the third post about twin rotor helicopters in three days.


Detroit Steve checks in:
The fact check of the Meet the Press segment with Bill Nye and Blackburn brought out a key issue we are facing. The equilibrium state of our oceans is projected to be 60-80 rise [feet] at the current levels of CO2. So, if this is an accurate assessment, how quickly would this happen if levels of CO2 stayed the same (they will not) and more importantly at what cost and how fast could we pull out of our the atmosphere the CO2 we have put into it? Surely 60 foot rise is not an acceptable out come. These processes are magnitudes slower that the Titanic changing course.
Here is the original article and the out take.... 
Blackburn tries to downplay the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by talking about the amounts in very, very small decimals. Which they are: If I took $400 versus $320 out of your million dollars, you wouldn't be terribly upset. But that's intentionally misleading. The difference between the two is an increase of 25 percent over the past 50 years — after thousands and thousands of years of it being lower. Last year, The New York Times explained that the level of carbon dioxide now in our atmosphere is a "concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years." And at that point, "the world’s ice caps were smaller, and the sea level might have been as much as 60 or 80 feet higher."
Why hasn't that happened now? Because "it takes a long time to melt ice," as one scientist told the Times. But we're getting there.
OK, suppose global warming is happening. Or this rise in temperature triggers another ice-age through some as yet unexplained mechanism.
What can be done? Are we doing any of those things? Are they having a measurable impact? Will they ever?
Would getting rid of the Republicans and their obstructionist ways help? How about the Democrats and their politically correct Fascism?
I'm beginning to think that The Fifth Element  was a prophetic vision, not just a comic book fantasy.
I'm reading The Cobweb by Stephen Bury (aka Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George, aka George Jewsbury), which portrays our political process in horrifically realist manner.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mil V-12/Mi-12 NATO Code: Homer

I came across this magazine/book cover while looking through some old photos of Russian military equipment. The one at the top looks familiar, but the 2nd one, that's pretty cool looking. I don't think I've ever seen one, so I do some poking around but I found no indication that it ever made it off the drawing board.
    The one at the top was the biggest helicopter in the universe. Possibly the shortest lived one as well. It formed the basis for the glorious Hotelicopter. The interesting part is that they cross connected the engines on opposite sides using a drive shaft. The Osprey does the same thing. I suppose it's a good idea, I mean if one engine quits and you don't have a backup method for powering both rotors things are going to get real sticky real quick.
    On the other hand the driveshafts and the related gearboxes add considerable complexity, cost and weight. The fact that the Osprey cannot auto-rotate probably has something to do with it. Or maybe the driveshafts get in the way of auto-rotation.

Pic of the Day

An MV-22B Osprey flies over islands in the Philippines on the way to the Singapore for an air show, Feb. 6, 2014. Photo by Capt. Caleb Eames.

Béisbol been berry berry good to me

Or not. A couple of old stories that popped into my head just now.

Story #1. When I was a kid at Lafayette Elementary School in West Seattle, one of my classmates was a baseball fanatic. Hard to imagine an eight year old fanatic, but there he was, at a game with a bunch of kids our age, standing on the baseline hollering at the players. The adult supervising this game keeps telling him to step back, but the kid keeps coming back up and keeps coming closer and closer to the batter and then whamo! He's standing right behind the batter, the batter swings and hits Randy, for that was the kids name, square in the mouth with the bat and knocks out a bunch of his teeth.

Story #2. My friend Anthony was at an amateur softball game at a field in Austin, Texas. He was sitting on the bleachers behind the chain-link backstop. It was an old field and not in the best repair. There was a hole in the chain-link just big enough for a softball to go through. The batter caught a piece of the ball and it flew off the bat, right through the hole in the back-stop and hit Anthony square in the face. I don't think it broke anything, but he was black and blue for weeks.

Garrett Morris did a sketch on Saturday Night Live as baseball player Chico Escuela. Chico spoke only limited and halting English, so the joke centered on him responding to almost any question with his catch phrase: "Baseball... been berra berra good... to me." I wanted to post the clip, but it doesn't seem to exist.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The French way of cancer treatment

In 2011, France’s expenditure on health per capita was $4,086, compared to $8,608 in the United States, according to the World Health Organization. Spending as a percentage of gross domestic product was 11.6 percent in France while in the United States it was a far higher 17.9 percent. - Anya Schiffrin in a story on Reuters
I think I've said this before, but I'll say it again anyway. The big fight about Obamacare is because a bunch of people are making a ton of money off the way things are run now, and they, understandably, don't want it changed. Obamacare has the potential to decrease our cost of healthcare. It also has the potential to be a big frigging disaster. I expect it will take a couple of years to sort it out. As an aside, Kaiser Permanente does not call their health care facilities "hospitals" because that would mean they would have to include emergency rooms, which would mean they would have to let the riff-raff in.

That's two positive posts about France in two days. Have I suddenly become a Francophile? I always thought the best thing about France was red wine. I loves me some red wine, but I suffer for it whenever I drink it. Something about histamines. Maybe I need more drugs.

Want Ads

There might be a few generic types of want ads, but there is no universal pattern. The people who are placing the ads are too varied. About the only things that can be counted on are that: 
  1. the actual job will have absolutely nothing to do with the stated requirements, and 
  2. the stated requirements will have nothing to do with whether you get hired or not.
People place ads for all kinds of reasons, usually because they need some help, but not always. Sometimes it's political and sometimes it's to meet some regulatory requirement.
Big companies (the ones with HR departments) seem to be the ones that place the ads with the laundry list of requirements. I suspect this is because they expect a large number of applicants and they need some way for the HR department to winnow it down. In cases like this, your best bet is to cut the requirements from the ad and paste them in your resume. That should get you to stage two of the hiring process where someone calls to find out if you are a real person. After that your fate lies with the gods. Whether you get hired or not depends on your manner, your voice and how people see you. I am also equally certain that nine times out of ten they hire the wrong person, because after all, how can you ever predict whether someone is going to work out?

Inspired by an email conversation with my far-flung correspondents.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Vive Le France

Ever since the French car companies (Citroen, Peugeot & Renault) abandoned the American market, and France declined to back our play in Iraq, they've been getting short shrift in the English language media.They are still players on the world stage, they may not be a super power, but they aren't some lightweight either. Just to show how out of touch I am, I didn't recognize any of the people except Charles De Gaulle, nor did I recognize the car. That might just be me, but I blame Murdock, er, Murdoch.


Mobile Mapping Indoors and Outdoors with Zebedee

It looks like they have combined several bits of technology:
plus a bit of the hand-waving robot from Lost In Space. Via The Guardian and Posthip Scott. For comparison, here is one of the first inertial navigation systems:

Litton Industries LN-3 Inertial Navigation System. Used in the F-104 Starfighter in the 1960's. It is roughly a thousand times bigger and a thousand times less accurate than a modern cell phone.


A Canadian soldier mans a gun equipped with a Vingmate fcs advanced sight and fire control system for heavy machine guns and grenade launchers during an exercise in St Sylvestre, Québec. Looks like something out of a Sci-Fi thriller.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why Do Helicopters Cost So Much?

This picture might give you some idea. Click to embiggenate.

Somewhere on the far side of the world Fabian Rojas (left) and Alfredo Cosme check on the main rotor head of an Knighthawk helicopter in the hangar bay of the USS Harry S. Truman. Photo by Tyler Caswell.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Girls with Guns

February 3, 2014 - Meeting of the four female Defense Ministers at the 50th Munich Security Conference. From left: Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide (NOR), Karin Märta Elisabeth Enström (SWE), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (NDL) and Ursula von der Leyen (GER).

Post Office Follies

Younger son is selling off his surplus guitar pedals. He's working, so I get to go to the Post Office. Yesterday I drop off three packages, no problemo. Today there's a different guy at the counter and he wants me to fill out a custom's form. What the fudgcicle? Oh, this package is going to Canada. Seems Canada has gotten al persnickety about this whole mail thing. Not only did I have to fill out a custom's form, I also had to write CANADA in all caps at the bottom of the address label, even though it already said Canada, and I had to write USA at the bottom on the return address. Seems they sent back a bunch of stuff at Christmas for nit-picky reasons like this.


Recent reading material. I've read the books in the left and center column. I haven't finished reading the books in the right hand column. Some of them I might finish, some of them I won't.

Last fall I was driving some people to classes in Portland once a week. Since I was going all that way, and since Powell's Bookstore was right next door, I stopped in to see if I could find something interesting to read, and every week I found a Science Fiction novel that looked promising, but most of them didn't pan out.
    So I had this stack of six or eight Sci-Fi stories that I ought to read, but they just weren't compelling, and so they sat there, and I surfed the net and I didn't read much of anything.
    Eventually my mental log jam collapsed and I ordered some new stuff from Amazon and suddenly it's like springtime! Life is good once again. I just finished reading Broken Harbor by Tana French and End Games by Michael Dibdin. They are murder mysteries, not Sci-Fi, but excellent stories, and that's the important part.

April 2016 added Amazon links.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


B509II vs. sRGB. I believe that this image attempts to illustrate how inaccurately a laptop reproduces colors, like pretty much every laptop on the market.

Somehow I got on the Haiku mailing list and I haven't been able to get off. (Haiku is the project that took over BeOS after the commercial version crashed and burned.) It's not all bad, it's a daily reminder that I said I was going to start working with Be, and occasionally something interesting will pop up. Lately there has been a discussion about what kind of laptop to buy, and Sean tells us that he is going to buy a Schenker B513. A what? A Schenker? Who or what is a Schenker? Never heard of them, but I guess that's not too surprising. So I go look it up and it looks like every other fancy laptop on the market. The bullet points mention USB 3.0, which is also new to me. I guess wires still count for something. I remember when USB 2.0 was a big deal.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Latter Day Pioneers

View 1928 Helen Costner Skinner goes West in a larger map
Until Google fixes their embed option, you'll have to zoom in yourself.

Just by looking at the above satellite image, can you tell what part of the world it shows? The one feature that might help you place it is the river running right up the middle. I don't know whether I could do it or not. Herschel Parker posted a letter from a woman looking for land from almost a hundred years ago. In the letter she lists the towns they went through on their way. Some of the places don't exist anymore, some of them are just cemeteries, but most of them are still there, though not very big. Tiny actually.

Update April 2021 replaced missing map. Google Maps has changed, this one has names showing. 
All the towns in this list are in New Mexico except for the first two. Google could not find the ones marked with asterisks.
  • Guymon, Oklahoma
  • Delhart, Texas
  • Nara Visa
  • Obar
  • Logan
  • Hudson ***
  • Tucumcari
  • Ccueruo
  • Los Taros ***
  • Santa Rosa
  • Pastura
  • Vaughn
  • Ensino ***
  • Negra
  • Lucy
  • Willard
  • Mountainair
  • The Manzano Mountains
  • Socorro
  • Magdelena Mountains
  • Magdalena
  • Quemado

Friday, February 7, 2014


Yes, it's Chrysler Sebring, the infamous. Remind me to tell you the story of its miraculous resurrection.

More snow than I seen in a coon's age. Well, a couple three years anyway. Schools and many businesses are closed. Naturally, since my wife had the day off she wants to go shopping, and since I have such a busy schedule, I got elected to drive. We took my super awesome four wheel drive monster truck which was a good thing because everybody else was having a hard time of it. Little slopes that you wouldn't even notice in dry weather became automotive sledding hills, which naturally led to confusion, congestion and coughing. We managed to avoid any such entanglements and managed to get home in time for the Portland Trail Blazers versus Indiana Pacers basketball game. It was all tied up when I checked in a few minutes ago and Lillard had just been fouled/committed a foul, and there was going to be a delay, so I wandered off so I wouldn't annoy the enthusiasts in my family.

As Bill Paxton says in Aliens, IT’S GAME OVER, MAN!

Because it got mentioned on Dustbury and I didn't remember it, so I looked it up and Google delivered. Now that I've seen it I know why I didn't remember it. It s drivel, absolute drivel. But since I wondered and suffered, I thought I would share it with you. Misery loves company, you know. The only part worth remembering is the little girl's statement at the end. Kids say the darndest things.

G-mail New Speak

I am trying to do a better job at bookkeeping. To that end I tried to move all of my messages from Amazon to a separate folder. Gmail has a search function which works fine. It finds and lists all my messages from Amazon. Now I want to move them to a folder, but there does not seem to be any way to do it. I can move the messages to the Inbox, but that is kind of pointless as they are all already in the inbox. If I pull up a single message, I can move it to a different folder, but there are more messages than will fit on one page. (You might think this means I am doing all my shopping at Amazon, but each item ordered seems to generate three of four emails, so ordering half a dozen books could put you over the 25 item page limit.)
    Anyway, I fuss with it for a bit, and then I decide to go to help and file a complaint with the great and powerful Oz, like he'll even listen to the scarecrow, but you have to draw the line somewhere. So I look in help and find this:
Move is nothing more than label + archive (archive just means remove the Inbox label).  So when doing a search, if move-to is not available, use label and then archive.

Also note:  Gmail doesn't have folders.  All your messages are saved in All Mail.  Everything else (Inbox, Starred, Drafts, user-labels, etc) are just "views" into a sub-set of the messages in All Mail.  And since there's only one copy of any message, if you delete it from any label, you're deleting the only copy, so it's gone from all of them.  If you delete a label you remove that "view", but the messages are still in All Mail.

When you Archive a message, the only thing that does is remove the Inbox label from the message.  The original message is still in All Mail along with all your other messages, and you can apply labels to them to make them easier to find later.  Remember that Archive is an action, not a location.
Yes, language is dynamic and ever changing, but God Damn it, we had a perfectly good working definition of "move", "archive" and "label", and now Google just arbitrarily changes the meaning of words? Assholes.

Purple Prose Morning

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. Steeling himself for battle, Fyandor, the oldest and bravest of the lamps, proclaimed, 'Nay, foul wind, this will not be the night of our extinguishment!' " 

Winner of the Paul Clifford contest in 2003. The first sentence in this pair of sentences is the first sentence from Paul Clifford (1830) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose name has been enshrined as the annual awful opening lines contest. The second sentence is from some anonymous prankster. Via Iowa Andy.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Randy Grubb, creator of the Blastolene Special, has come up with another fanciful creation. This one might be a bit more practical. These use the chassis from an Italian three wheel scooter that has a mechanism that allows it to lean into the corners, much like a motorcycle. Posthip Scott sent me a link to a video, but the two of them natter on endlessly, so I just took a screen shot.

Compartment Dream

I'm being shown to my quarters. At first glance it looks to be the size of a phone booth, but made of concrete, and very old. I'm thinking that this isn't going to work, but then I realize that is actually much bigger. It is still just as narrow, but it is as long as a house and at least two stories tall, so now I'm thinking that this could be okay. It wouldn't be great, but I could make do. I go to one end and the side wall there is glass and looks into an adjacent room that is of more conventional dimensions. There is a large birdhouse just on the other side of the glass. It is roughly in the shape of a cube and made of yellow tinted clear glass. There are glass shelves that divide the cube into multiple levels, each about one foot tall. There are dozens of birds walking around on the the various levels. They come in different sizes and are very odd. I don't recognize any of them as being a common species. More like cartoon characters, but still real.
    I find myself in the same apartment as the birdhouse, but in a different room. There are several women there wearing brown leather garments, kind of old west style. They are going about their business and pretty much ignoring me, except when I am in their way, then I need to move.
    There was more but it faded before I sat down to write this.


Michigan Mike went skiing. He says "Gotta do something to keep form going crazy in the winter here."
Which made me think: When did Edison invent the electric light? A hundred years ago? People have been living in Northern Europe for how many thousands of years? What did people do in the winter before there were electric lights?
California Bob chips in: "Well, they had oil lamps and lanterns for quite a while, and candles for ... hundreds?  thousands? of years before that."
Michigan Mike replies: "And there were far fewer people living in the northern climes, probably because they killed each other to take their candles."

Then we have this paragraph from jonljensen:

I recall the introduction to Herman Melville's final published work Clarel. If you haven't heard of Clarel you are not alone. It was last book that Melville published in his lifetime, years after Moby Dick was largely ignored. Melville must have wanted to be ignored to an even greater extent, for Clarel is a verse novel. Over 18,000 lines long, it bares the dubious distinction of being the longest poem in American Literature. Anyway, Hershel Parker in his introduction to the modern edition argues that Melville’s massive work was overlooked in part because of gaslight. Before it, most living rooms might have one lamp per room and thus one reader, reading out loud to a family cloaked in darkness. This made the reading of long poems, Parker reasons, far more popular, prior to gaslight and doomed Clarel. Melville wrote his poem meant for a family circle of reading, the introduction reasoned, but by the time it was published, gaslight lit up whole rooms. Each person might read their own book, cloaked now in their own silence. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mystery Book

I don't understand this. How can an audio cassette be worth a thousand dollars? The CD version is available for a normal price, like $20. What makes the cassette version worth so much more? Then I got to thinking about this. Maybe it's kind of like credit card fraud.
    I suspect the reason credit card fraud is so prevalent is that it pays, and it pays because people don't check their credit card statements diligently. If you have a monthly credit card bill with a couple of hundred items on it, and most of them are for small ticket items, would you even notice it there were one or two or even half a dozen charges that you didn't make? If you were concerned about your balance you might be more inclined to check, but it you are only paying the minimum, well hell, why bother? You'll probably go bankrupt first anyway.
    So maybe this vendor is counting on someone just ordering this without looking at the price, or maybe they look at it but their expectations lead them to believe and it's really only $1.30. All those other numbers are just some kind of computer crap tacked onto the end.
    Or, if you want to get all criminally conspiracied, maybe the assistant to a rich person has cooked up a scheme with the vendor, knowing their employer's taste in books, they conspire to mark up the price on those books. The assistant orders the books at the inflated prices and they split the profits. If they are running up a hundred grand in credit card charges a month, who's gonna notice if an extra 5 or 6 grand goes missing? Especially it the assistant is the one paying the bills.
    It's not a bad scheme, but I can't take credit for it. I got it from a movie. Guy is house sitting some mansion and they are getting a tanker truck full of spring water delivered once a month (once a week? daily?), and delivery guy has a little scheme going on to tack a little something onto the bill. Not like whoever it is can't afford it. I mean who get's their tap water delivered by truck? Besides the army I mean.
     Well, there's the pro football player who get's the white carpets replaced in his house every month. The increasing number of wealthy people is driving an exponential growth in the scam business, legal and otherwise.

Sixteen Tons - Jeff Beck and ZZ Top

    I was listening to Tennessee Ernie Ford sing this song when I came across this version performed by Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck and bass girl Tal Wilkenfeld. It's always interesting to see women playing guitar, and seeing this young girl on stage with these two icons of popular music made me curious as to who she was. Seems she is some kind of prodigy, even got an endorsement from Sadowsky Guitars, whom I had never heard of before either.

Quote of the Day

Vlad walks on water.

"...There are things I believe, which should not in my position, at least, be shared with the public at large for everybody's consumption because that would look like self-advertising or a political striptease." - Vladimir Putin in an interview with Time magazine. From the Wikipedia article. Via Comrade Misfit.

He gets a lot of crap about things like human rights, but Russia seems to be recovering from it's century long experiment with social engineering, murder and mayhem. Not to mention WW2. Russia's experience with WW2 has a much deeper and longer lasting effect on them than it does on the USA.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Factoid of the Day

Back in September of 2011 there were 570 supertankers operating worldwide. Via International Shipping News. I am sure there is a more recent number available somewhere, but this was the best answer I found in the first half dozen that Google returned. It's close enough for me.

Monday, February 3, 2014


A fire at a shop front in Sydney, about 1937.

From a selection of very cool vintage crime scene photographs. I can't say what it is that makes them special, but they seem to be from another age (no kidding, Sherlock).

Quote of the Day

— – The above information were posted by real Syrian activists from Syria & around the world, not by western intelligent post offices duped activists.
 Normally I don't bother with making fun of grammatical errors, but "western intelligent post offices duped activists" ranks right up there with "all your bases are belong to us".


Lana Del Rey - Once Upon A Dream (Music Video)

I think Lana's voice has lost a bit of clarity, but I've been listening to this song for two or three days now and I find it compelling. This video is nowhere near as impressive as the trailer for the movie, but the trailer is only a minute and a half long. I'm not sure Angelina Jolie is as wicked as she could be, but then it's a live action Disney movie, so maybe that's not allowed.

Update December 2017 replaced missing video with a different one. I don't like this one as much. It includes some shots from Disney's Sleeping Beauty. I don't know why, but those animated scenes kind of grate on me. I think it might be because the live action movie (Maleficent) has a very ephemeral feel to it and Disney is, just, well Disney, all brute force and primary colors, no subtlety at all.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Porky in Wackyland

 Roberta X mentions Wackyland, and since Wikipedia gives it a rave review, I have to go look it up, whereupon I found this video, which is composed of two nearly identical Porky Pig cartoons playing side by side, but set to the recent vintage techno tune Dali by Bernard Fevre. I don't know what the original soundtrack was, but this one seems to fit very well.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Red Baron, Part 2

I was going to change the picture on my last post, but then I decided I would just put up another one.

Fighter Squadron 11: The Red Baron and his Flying Circus. 
That's Manfred in the cockpit. His younger brother Lothar is seated on the ground in front
Note that this airplane is an Albatross D.III, not the Fokker Triplane he is commonly associated with.

I was reading about Baron von Richthofen in Wikipedia and the section about his piloting career is just riddled with dates, and I'm thinking a timeline would be really helpful here, and then I remembered running across timetoast, a web app for making timelines. Maybe someone has already made a timeline for the Red Baron. They have, and here it is.
Click on the dots to expand the explanation.

Factoid of the Day

Believe it or not, Manfred von Richthofen — AKA the Red Baron, the most famous flying ace in history, with 80 confirmed kills — was by his own admission not a great pilot. He was decent, but his younger brother Lothar (with “only” 40 kills) was a much better pilot, though Manfred worried about him because he was reckless and took too many risks. Yes, that’s right: the von Richthofen family produced both a Maverick and an Iceman in the same generation. - Drew
From a review of frozen pizza on The Impulsive Buy. I just had some leftover Red Baron pizza for lunch and I thought the pepperoni was a tad spicier than normal, so I was checking to see if anyone else had noticed the same thing. The answer is no, which makes me think it's my hayfever and the Zyrtec conspiring to alter my perceptions.

P.S. Today's Pic of the Day is from the internment ceremony of Brigadier General Robinson Risner, a Vietnam era Ace.

Pic of the Day

Capt. Philip Gunn flies over the Pentagon.