Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Monday, March 31, 2014


I do all my cooking with a timer. I find it very difficult to watch a pot boil or burger grill or a pizza bake. But if I turn away I will forget about what's cooking and the pot will boil dry and the burger and pizza will turn to smoke and cinders. So I use a timer. Set it for  3 minutes or an hour or however long the cookee needs, and then I'll go play solitaire or read or, very rarely, set about preparing something else (we got hamburgers, what else could you possibly want?). Right now the portable timer is in use, so what am I going to do? Hey, I wonder if I can find a timer program on the net. Oh, yea, verily. Wonder why I didn't think of this before? Need to make sure your speakers are turned on though, or you won't hear the beep.

Google Security

I have a computer in my office and my wife has a computer upstairs. I am always logged on to Goggle in my office. Yesterday evening we were discussing taxes, so I logged onto my G-mail account on her computer to check something. Okay, fine, now I'm logged onto two computers.
    Just now I got I a notice in my office that I had been logged off from "another location". (Oh? The upstairs computer? But there's nobody there. What's going on?) But now Google wants to know if I want to login again. Wait a minute, I'm in the middle of doing something here, and if I get logged off of another computer, you are going to log me off of all computers? Sounds like newthink to me.
    I would think that login would be on a computer basis. I can easily see wanting to be logged onto three or four computers at once, and then logging off one to let someone else use it. Or am I missing something?

Workplace Dream

Operators at their calutron control panels at Y-12, the electromagnetic separation plant in Oak Ridge Tennessee. Nothing like where I was, I mean where are the red and blue lights? A very cool photo regardless.

I'm debugging a computer program. I am in some giant office space, much like a cube farm at Intel, except it is broken up by areas that are blocked off with walls that go to the ceiling. I am sitting at a table with some kind of antiquated computer terminal. I don't have a computer, this terminal is all I need, though it is connected by a cable to some kind of computer somewhere. I am stepping through the program, making notes, writing down addresses as I go. I look up from a particularly involved calculation and notice that someone has moved the terminal. What the heck? Another man sitting at the same table looks up from his work and tells me that --woman's name-- needed to use it to look up something for second. She slid it over to the edge of the table so she could use it. She is long gone, so I slide it back.
     Now I realize I need to make use of the facilities, so I get up and head to the nearest walled in block, where last time I checked there used to be a restroom. I go inside the block and there is a work area / hallway and several walled in offices, but no restrooms. I ask one of the people there and they confirm, that yes, last week, or whenever, there used to be restrooms here, but they have been removed to make room for their offices. And, no he doesn't know where they put the restrooms. Bah and humbug.
    So now I'm off looking for the restrooms. The situation isn't panicky (yet), it's just annoying that I have to go look for them. It's a big room with all kinds places along the walls. I come across some rooms that look like some kind of scientific / industrial process labs: control panels by the doors with red and blue lights. I finally come across something that looks like it might be a break room or a snack bar, and that gives me hope, but then I wake up.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

John Newman - Love Me Again

I like the tune, but the video has kind of a crummy ending. And what's with the gloves?

Suit Dream

I need a suit because I'm going to the prom. (Who wears a suit to the prom? Nobody I know. What am I doing going to a prom at my age? Who know's? It's a dream, alright?)
    I go to this small flat-topped retail building. It is much like any store you would see in a strip mall except it's only about as big as a small Seven-Eleven, and it's divided into two stores, one on the left and one of the right. The one of the left is a going concern and is of no interest to me. A suit company is moving into the one on the right. The name of the former tenant is displayed in raised letters along the front edge of the roof, but it has been painted the same color as the roof (a  sort of forest green). I was able to easily read the name, but it has faded from my memory now.
     I come back the next day and the suit company has finished moving into the back of the store and some other clothing company, a tuxedo rental outfit perhaps, is moving into the front. I walk in the front door that serves both clothing companies, walk through the front store and through a door into the suit company which is now in the back room. There are three tables arranged in a U and there is a meeting going on. I go to the lower left corner of the U and find a stack of small posters and other promotional material. There are at least six other people in the room. Some of them are involved in the meeting.
    I look at the papers and pull out one with a several small photographs on it. The photos are outlined in thin gold/yellow borders. I take a table knife and start cutting out some of these pictures by pressing the knife edge down along the border and rubbing back and forth which results in the knife sawing through the paper. I can do this on three edges of a photo, but on the forth I fold the picture back along the remaining edge and use the knife to cut through the fold. It still takes some sawing, but I don't have to hold it on the line. The folded paper does that, not well, but well enough.
   I cut out three or four pictures of I know not what, and that's enough. A slim, generically attractive woman comes by and wants some of the papers. I let her take them. By this time I'm wondering if I am going to be able to get a suit there, or whether this is just an administrative office and they don't actually have any clothes. But then I wake up, so I never got to find out.

Gun of the Day

Friday, March 28, 2014

Counting Stars - One Republic

OneRepublic - Counting Stars
Directed by James Lees

I'm not sure if there is any connection between the video and the tune, and I am not sure what the crocodile is doing in there, but it is entertaining.

Update March 2016 replaced missing video.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Atom Impulse

I'm not quite sure whether this vehicle rates a post. It isn't doing anything that hasn't been done before, though it does seem a little more capable. I would suspect it of being a rich-mans play-pretty, but it only has 150 HP. That's not going to be enough to give the girls a thrill. So maybe it's a real working vehicle for the far North.
    The part that got me was the discussion of the 35 types of snow. Before I saw Smilla's Sense of Snow only knew about two: white and yellow. Shoot, Smilla only knew about 17 kinds of snow.


Happy by Pharrell Williams

Thank God for advertising, otherwise I'd never of heard of this song. GMA (You know that GMA stands for Good Morning America, right? I didn't.) used this tune as a sound track on an ad for their show. Gaaahhh! A bunch of chatterboxes chattering. Thank God I don't have to watch it.


DEQ Susnset Station. Lane 1 at the top, lane 8 at the bottom.

Took darling daughter's car to the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) Sunset station today for its biennial emission test (Biennial means every two years. Semiannual means every six months. Biannual is one them newspeak words that means whatever you want it to mean. Unless it doesn't. You get all this extraneous information because I looked it up because I didn't know.)
    I went by there yesterday afternoon but cars were backed up halfway down the street and I did not want to wait. This morning I dragged myself out of bed and actually got there before noon. There was still a line, but it hadn't made it out onto the street yet.
    This time I was prepared and brought a book to read, but by the time I had gotten the book open and found my place, it was time to play monkey-move-up. The line moved quick enough that it wasn't even worth turning the car off between creeps. It helps that the engine is quiet and smooth enough that it's hard to tell if it is even running.
    Get to the head of line and hand my paperwork to the director. He checks the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and then asks me to open my door and he runs a scanner over something on the door jamb. Now he surveys the lot and directs me to cabin number 4, er, lane number 8, the last lane on the lot.
    There are no cars enqueued there, just one being examined inside the building. They have a new procedure here. For some reason I thought it was only being done at lane 8, but I really don't know. Anyway, they've got a kiosk with a touch screen and a credit card reader. Read the instructions and push the virtual buttons. First thing I see is a Windows error message. "Program has encountered an error. Press Continue or Quit." Post-it note stuck above the screen suggests that you "Continue", so I do, or at least I try. I tap the continue button but nothing happens. I finally realize that I need to move the cursor so the tip of the arrow is over the button. Just being in the vicinity doesn't cut it. Now I tap and we move along. Yes, yes, yes, swipe the card, punch in my PIN (Personal Identifcation Number) and Yes, Yes, Yes, bill me for $107. Walk five feet over to the booth with the attendant (does being a woman make her a booth babe?) and collect my paperwork.
    I kind of doubt whether this emission testing is doing any good anymore. You might think that Oregon with it's vast forests and deserts and minimal population would not have a problem with smog, but evidently the hills around Portland and all the old cars conspired to make the winter air kind of funky, so they set up this testing business. I think it is only done for the Portland metropolitan area. Pretty sure the rest of the state does not have to deal with this.
    Back in the good old days, emission testing used to be kind of a pain. Testing involved inspecting your car (they actually looked under the hood to see if you had modified the engine and under the chassis to see if you had messed with the exhaust) and then they put a probe in the tailpipe and measured the actual exhaust gases. You never knew whether your car would pass or not, and that could be nerve wracking because you never knew how much it would cost to get it fixed if it failed. This was back in the days of the $600 carburetor.
    Nowadays all the cars have computers so testing involves simply plugging in a cable from the DEQ's computer into the socket  in your car and then letting the two computers talk to each other. In the 20 odd years I've been going through this rigamarole I have never had a car fail.
    The auto industry has pretty much got this emission business sorted out. Cars are all computerized now and they know when something fails. I suspect the number of cars that fail emission testing drops every year, and the number of cars that might be prone to failure, i.e. old, pre-computer cars, is also dropping. There are still hot rodders, but are there enough to really make a difference?
    I suspect that since the state went to all this trouble to set up this system, they are going to be loathe to dismantle it. Besides, with the economy the way it is, we need all the jobs we can get. Gads, kind of sad, given the kind of jobs we're saving. I wonder if anyone actually enjoys working there?

March of the Frogmen

Military Parade in Athens, celebrating Hellenic Independence Day 25 March 1821.

If those are real wetsuits then these guys have to be suffering. I can't imagine trying to march in a wetsuit. And isn't this weird? The United States is older than Greece. When we talk about history, ancient Greece figures prominently, so I kind of figure it's been there forever. Problem is we are using the same word (Greece) to talk about two different things: the ever-enduring land, and the ephemeral political constructs people have dreamed up. Yesterday Crimea was part of the Ukraine, today it's part of Russia. Has the Ukraine moved? No, we just have a new king-of-the-hill.

P.S. I was kind of hoping to find a movie trailer for an old B-movie called Attack of the Frogmen, but no such luck. Best I can do is Attack of the Ghost Riders.

Flying Wing

The Northrop N9MB Flying Wing, built in 1944, performed for the crowd at the First Annual L.A. County Air Show March 21. The aircraft was one of four prototypes built by Northrop, but the only surviving aircraft left. The N9MB is owned and restored by the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

This one is about one-third the size of XB-35 flying wing bomber. I had no idea there was such a thing, much less that it was flying.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Origins of Cable TV

Government Weather Radio Coverage Map for Astoria Oregon and the surrounding area. The big blank area on the left hand side of the map is the Pacific Ocean. Radio signals like the clear air you find over flat ground and water. They don't like the ground so much, especially when it's in the form of hills and mountains.

Cable TV is ubiquitous now, but I didn't realize that it got started way back in 1948. There were only a few TV stations back then, but already the masses were becoming TV crazed. Astoria didn't have a station, but they had a wise guy who was able to pick up signals from the station in Seattle and pass them along to his "friends". Full story here. Via Post-hip Scott .

Armorers of Kolomna

This video is not all that wonderful, but it does have some good points.
  • Unlike most Russian videos I've come across, this one has subtitles in English.
  • The short and pointed philosophical introduction (0:30-0:60). Don't hear those kind of ideas much these days.
  • The large number of small missile tests.
  • The cancellation of a missile program due to Perestroika.
  • Current state of the art: advanced anti-aircraft missile systems and point blank anti-missile defense systems for armor.
  • The song at the end. It sounds vaguely like an old, historic, war hymn, but given some of the subject matter it must be of more recent vintage.
Kolomna is a small town about 70 miles southeast of Moscow.

Update September 2015: Original Video is lost. Found a couple others that cover a couple of the topics.

Russian Tank Antimissile System


Update June 2022 replaced replacement video and link.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stand Up Guys

All my heroes are getting old. I saw Tommy Lee Jones in an ad on TV the other day and he looked like he was about a thousand years old.
This movie, Stand Up Guys, is a good mix of serious and silly. This clip, while really dumb, really struck a chord with me. The lead up may have had something to do with it. Christopher opens his toolbox and we see some some ordinary hand tools in the top tray, not that you couldn't fuck somebody up with ordinary hand tools, but then he lifts out the tray and reveals a small arsenal of hand guns, which means you can inflict damage without having to get within arms reach of your enemies.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

California Bob Rides Again

BMW R65 Ocean Beach to Point Lobos, San Francisco, California, USA.

Cidre, not Cider

This ad gets me smiling right off, it's obviously a spoof, but when he hauls the trailer load of apples out of the orchard with with his sports car I howled.

Equal Rights for Women

Cutest flight deck crew on the 7 Seas on board the Red Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Computer Business Dream

Because Chillicothe, Misery, is 500 miles west of Dayton, Ohio. I had never heard of Chillicothe, Missouri before, but I had heard of Chillicothe, Ohio. Don't know as I've ever been there.

I am traveling cross-country, eastbound. I think I have been driving, but the actual traveling doesn't enter into the story. I am sitting in a largish office with several other men. We are sitting in office chairs and there are desks here and there. We all seem to be looking in the same direction, out the window, or at a TV set, but whatever it is must not be very interesting because it does not even register. The men are all dressed like truck drivers or farmers, dungarees and flannel shirts, no business suits or ties. We are chatting amiably when a call comes in over the radio. Somebody's car has gone in the ditch in Dayton (Ohio) and they need some help. One them picks up the microphone and cracks wise, something about how we are not going to be able to do anything about it on account of we're in Harlan County (state garbled). It's not Kentucky, home of the television series Justified, because we are 500 miles west of Dayton. He's cracking wise because it's a real fluke to get a radio call from 500 miles away. There must be a zillion tow trucks closer to them than we are.
    Now a phone call comes in from Eula about how somebody's computer has crashed and what are we going to do about it. Now it's my turn to crack wise and I say it's going to cost $10,000 a week and it's going to take two weeks because it's just as far as the car in the ditch, so it's going to take a week to get there and a week to get back, and fixing the computer it going to be some kind of nightmare because that's the way computers always are. I'm cracking wise, but nobodies laughing, they are all nodding their heads as if I just offered the wisdom of the ages.
    I am perplexed by their reaction and try to lighten things up by explaining that I would carry a PC over there in a truck and bring up the Windows calculator program. One guy smiles, but then turns to his compadres and they discuss the wisdom of my original proposal. Turns out this is not a trucking company but a computer company that has a few dozen clients for their accounting software package and a two week visit to a customer and a $20,000 bill for service is pretty much standard procedure, though maybe a little longer and a little higher than typical.
    Now Eula shows up. He is a small, dark skinned man wearing gray coveralls. Looks like I am going with him to take care of this customer's computer problem. Huh.

Friday, March 21, 2014

How big is a Russian Missile Submarine?

I sort of knew that Russian subs came in different sizes, and I know some Russian subs are really big, but this is the first photo I've found that shows just how big that difference is. The humpback on the sub in a foreground tells me it is a missile sub, which means it is pretty big in its own right, so the sub in back must be really ginormous.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Shirgado Mareeykan ah oo ka howl gala Muqdisho

Rebuilding Somalia | People & Power
Al Jazeera English

I was having a hard time coming up with a title for this post, so I took the title straight from YouTube. It makes about as much sense as my own confused thoughts on this matter. On one hand I'm thinking about the nitwits who would call this guy a heartless capitalist, exploiting the poor, beleaguered Somalians for his own profit. On the other I'm thinking this guy has some guts, or some very risk tolerant investors backing him. Or maybe this is the future. Governments seem to do a really poor job of taking care of their people. Maybe private corporations can do better, at least where the situation is dismal. I don't know what's going to happen in the USA. We seem to have several divisions of society that are blithely heading off in their own direction, mostly ignoring what is happening to the rest to the country.

Update November 2021 replaced missing video with another video about Somalia from 2014. Google translates the post title as 'US Conferences in Mogadishu'.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Convention Dream

I am at a big convention center, in fact I've been there all week. Unlike my few real-life experiences, I am thoroughly engaged and having a good time. It's the last day and I am looking for a couple of people. Naturally there are schedules and maps and pamphlets galore, but I am familiar with all the places they are likely to be and set off to find them. I am in looking in presentation rooms which are widely separated by meeting rooms where there are numbers of people standing around and talking. I am not having any luck and I finally reach the end of my chain. There is a meeting room adjacent to a large theater-like presentation room. The lobby to this theater is made of gently sloping stairs interspersed with generous landings, and it is big, big enough to be a theater itself. There are people here as well, standing in small groups and doing whatever people standing in small groups do. Down at the bottom of the stairs is a row of doors that lead into the theater. The doors are spaced a foot or two apart and the spaces between the doors are decorated with some kind of column motif. The general color scheme is teal and white.
    I enter the lobby at the top of the stairs. On my way in I pick up a four foot long brass rod with softball size spherical ends. It is about two inches in diameter and very light, much like the stanchions theaters use to support the guide ropes for queues. I am swinging this thing around like a cane. I realize it could look ominous, but I have no intention of attacking anyone, I am simply swinging it around like a carefree child.
    I am hurrying down the stairs because I really want to find my compatriots. Someone sees me and tells me there is no hurry because the doors aren't going to open for ten minutes. I reply "that's good, then we will have plenty of time for a cordial conversation."
    When I finally get to the bottom I ask if there is a meeting going on in the adjacent meeting room. The reply is that I can't go in, the theater doors are closed, which I understand to mean that you can't get into the meeting room without going through the theater entrance. "That's fine" I say, "but is there even a meeting going on in there now?" The employee (manager or usher, I can't tell) says he will find out, and off he goes.
    Since it appears he will be gone for a while I start wandering through the crowd. As I do I come across a squad of air force men forming up in ranks underneath some kind of platform that is elevated above the lobby floor. It is not a segregated area, anyone (like me) can just wander in. I suppose the platform does give them a sort of reference point. I think I recognize a couple of these guys but then I realize, no, it's just the shape of their face is similar to people I know.
   Eventually I wander back and find the manager/usher talking to an air force woman. She has her back to me and and is holding an open folder in front of her. She is telling him that because the topic of the meeting is speculative, that is, even before preliminary, (never mind that we have no idea what topic is under discussion) that I can file this piece of paper (that she is pulling out of her folder) with my income tax form, and then she leaves.
    I am incredulous. At first I don't want to have anything to do with this piece of paper, I am certainly not going to file it with my income tax, but then I think it would make an interesting souvenir. I mean no one would believe this story without some kind of evidence. The manager/usher says 'no problem, he will make me a copy,' but then he tears the the piece of paper in half, gives me the lower half and runs off. I know without even looking at the piece he gave me that is like the bottom half of a receipt from a big box store, full of special offers and legalese but absolutely useless in the realm of real life, and I give chase to the two timing scoundrel.

Google Drive

I'm trying to do a little bookkeeping and The Google is telling me to wait. I don't like waiting. Ten seconds to deep fat fry those buffalo wings? That's too long! I want them now!" says Homer J. Simpson. I don't like keeping records on my own machine. If you do that you are supposed to make back up copies occasionally, and I've never been very good at that. Besides, I don't think I've ever lost anything important due to a hard disk drive failing. Well, maybe, once, a long time ago, and it must not have been that important, after all I'm still here.
     If you keep your records in the cloud like me, you are dependent on a whole host of other people and their machines. The advantage is that there are a zillion other people doing the same thing, and some of them are paying customers, and presumably The Google does not want to aggravate their paying customers, so maybe my little account is protected by the enormous shadow of the giant paying customer. Or not. It seems to work well enough most of the time.

Me and My Shadow

Titanfall Ad

The style of the song reminds me of Frank Sinatra, but I think the singer here might be Robbie Williams, whoever he is. I think this ad is very clever, and then they throw in that line at the end: Life is better with a Titan. Yeah, that would be fun, having your own giant mechanical monster at your beck and call.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Hitchcock explains the McGuffin

The term "McGuffin" came up in a conversation. Older son says it is the thing that drives the plot, like the Maltese Falcon in The Maltese Falcon, or the briefcase (with its never shown glowing contents) in Pulp Fiction. I recalled that it was more like a red herring. It's something in the story that has no bearing on the story, like some unknown character gets killed. You think it has some bearing on the story, and so you wait for the movie to explain it, but they never do. Close, but no cigar. A McGuffin is the thing in the movie that the characters care about. The audience doesn't really care about it, we may not even know what it really is, but we care that the characters care.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Topol Versus ISS

Topol launch seen by an austronaut Luca Parmitano from ISS

This happened back in October, just about the same time that Gravity came out, but I just came across it. Russia announced the test launch of an ICBM on their blog, but they didn't bother to actually call anyone. Probably wouldn't have made any difference anyway. Nobody speaks Russian except for Russians. And California Bob.


Dates are critical, especially so during witch hunts when it is absolutely vital that we find out who knew what and when they knew it. And nothing is more frustrating to the zealous prosecutor than to get the dates confused because someone used the wrong format, saying 5/6/7 instead of the proper form of 7/5/6, or was it 6/5/7? Fortunately we've moved into the two thousand teens, so we will no longer get the year confused with the month, but through diligence I am sure we can manage to confuse the month with the day or the day with the year.
    We can use three letter abbreviations for the month, which only carries a single character penalty, but really, why can't we use just a single character for the month? I mean we have 26 letters and only twelve months, we should be able to come up with some kind assignment that would be mnemonic, and shoot, let's go for broke, let's make it in alphabetical order as well!
    So I was musing on this subject and I started trying to make one up. It wasn't too hard, and I do believe it is perfect for the task.
  •            JAnuary
  •           FeBruary
  •         MarCh
  •            ADvil for April because taxes give us headaches
  •            MEi for May because those foreign devils can't spell
  •              Fun for June because school is out in June
  •              Guly for July because G sometimes sounds like J
  •  August is Hot
  •              I go back to school in September
  •              Jack-O-Lanterns in October
  •              Kill a turkey for Thanksgiving in November
  • Everybody Loves Christmas in December
Ok, it's a little USA-centric, but you may as well get used it because USA-culture will soon dominate the world! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Ukraine, or should we say Crimea?

They might be wearing collanders on their heads in Kiev, but things look decidedly calmer in the Crimean peninsula.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pic of the Day

Red Chinese Marines on training exercise in Mongolia. 
Why this one is spewing pink smoke is anybody's guess. Reminds me of the Teletubbies.
Note that the smoke's shadow is also colored.

Harry Warren

Gold Diggers of 1933

James Lileks writes "Harry Warren wrote a lot of music." Oh? Who's Harry Warren? So I follow the link to Wikipedia, which says:
Over a career spanning four decades, Warren wrote over 800 songs. Other well-known Warren hits included "I Only Have Eyes for You", "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby", "Jeepers Creepers", "The Gold Diggers' Song (We're in the Money)", "That's Amore", "The More I See You", "At Last" and "Chattanooga Choo Choo" (the last of which was the first gold record in history). Warren was one of America's most prolific film composers,and his songs have been featured in over 300 films.
Hey, I remember those songs. I'm not sure how, possibly from my folks singing bits of them at home when I was little. YouTube has recordings:

The Ramones - I Wanna Be Sedated

Ramones - I Wanna Be Sedated (Official Music Video)

James Lileks Bleats, Dustbury posts Subquil, Marcel posts We want to be sedated. Hey, wait a minute! Wasn't there a song with that title? Yes, there was. It isn't one of my favorites, but with a chain like this how can I not put it up? The video portion of this music video is mildly entertaining.

Update September 2015: replaced missing video.
Update August 2022 replaced missing video.

The daredevil pilots of Colombia - the vintage Douglas DC-3 plane

(HK-2494) 2 Days Flying In A Douglas DC-3 / Colombia (Original Sound)

Maybe I'm a sucker for airplane stories, but this one just sucked me in. I watched the whole thing (all 25 minutes) in one go. Vunderbar!

Update July 2019 replaced missing video. I think I found the right one.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Miami Heat

Star Island Miami Florida

Daring daughter is talking about Star Island in Miami, so I have to go look it up on the map. Okay, another island full of rich people and big houses. Big whoopee. But what are all these ponds along the Western border of the city? It looks like it could be a massive aquaculture operation. Wikipedia doesn't say anything about them, but I did find this quick summary of recent geological history:

Beginning some 130,000 years ago the Sangamonian Stage raised sea levels to approximately 25 feet (7.6 m) above the current level. All of southern Florida was covered by a shallow sea. . . . By 15,000 years ago, the sea level had dropped to 300 to 350 feet (110 m) below the contemporary level. The sea level rose quickly after that, stabilizing at the current level about 4000 years ago, leaving the mainland of South Florida just above sea level.
Kind of a fluke that South Florida is just above sea level right now. Puts global warming in perspective.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I don't remember the color being that saturated in the film, but it's kind of a neat/science-fictiony effect.

Saw Gravity (Warning: auto play) this evening. What a fine film! There is one sequence where Dr. Stone makes radio contact with someone. They have a short conversation but do not communicate well. This short film, done by the director's son, shows the other side of that conversation. I don't know what the windlasses at the beginning are but I imagine they are fishing lines of some sort.

There is some quibbling about how accurate some of the science is, in particular whether they could get from one orbiting space machine to another using what they had on hand. My reply is that the odds of them being hit in the first place are astronomically low, and coincidences seem to run in batches, so yeah, the odds of being in a favorable position are good. Besides, just because the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope are on different orbits now, doesn't mean they would always have to be on different orbits. And anyway, where is the shuttle they were using? There are no more shuttles! So who knows what would have happened if they had kept flying the Space Shuttle, maybe they would have changed the orbits of these two structures and so flying from one to another using a fire extinguisher is entirely plausible.

Russian Pilots of the Congo

All we hear from the news is how awful things are in war-torn Africa, rebels this, massacres that, but those are just the incidents that catch big media's attention. Meanwhile, daily life and commerce goes on pretty much regardless, and these guys are part of that. I noticed that they did not make any comments on the condition of the aircraft they were flying.

Reviving Hotel Business in Kismayu

Kismayu is on the coast in Somalia, about 50 miles from the Kenya border. The part I found interesting is the reporters accent. At times it is almost inpenetrable, other times it's crystal clear, but that may just be me. Some of the other speakers are not using English, though sometimes you hear a word you recognize. Near as I can tell from the businessmen is that the Somalian currency is worthless so they are using something else, possibly the Euro. However the report quotes the hotel rates in dollars. So African money no, evil capitalist money OK. Never fails to astound me the difference that a little peace and prosperity can make. Satellite TV in Somalia where last week the best you could hope to receive was an RPG.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Kuka & Olly

This is a pretty cool overview of how modern cars are built. I don't really care about electric cars. They are kind of a neat idea, but not when they cost $67,000. Tesla took over a factory in the South San Francisco Bay area. This factory was a joint venture of Toyota and General Motors until a couple of years ago. Tesla managed to buy the factory and equip it for about $250 million dollars, which is one forth of what a modern automobile factory costs these days. They are using less than one quarter of the space and they are only building about 4% as many cars (per unit time) as the previous owners. So far.
    People are always nattering on about how great factories are because they bring lots of jobs with them. Okay, there are a few people working here, but it looks to me like the big winner is the company that made all the robots: KUKA
    KUKA makes all kinds of robots for factory automation. They have also recently branched out into carnival rides.

There are a bunch of videos of the Robocoaster in action, but this was the only one I found that gave you a passenger's eye view.

Controlled Substances Act

1970. President Nixon Signs the Controlled Substances Act. Attorney General John Mitchell (left) and BNDD (Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs) Director Jack Ingersoll (right) attending. Why are they so happy? Dreaming about all the small people's lives that are going to be destroyed?

I read a rather horrific story this morning about a woman who was detained at the border because she was suspected of smuggling narcotics. As is typical of this kind of story, they emphasized the salacious aspects, the unreasonableness of the search and the innocence of the injured party, and true to form I was outraged by the thuggish behavior of our civil servants.
    What can we do about this outrages? Well, we could punish the officers involved, we could call for hearings, the victim will probably file a lawsuit, all of which are fine and dandy and won't do a thing about the root of the problem.
    How about we repeal the CSA? That would change everything. Why hasn't it been done? Possibly because there are numerous entrenched, monied interests that don't want it repealed. But who are these people? Is there some way to track them down?
    My first thought was the Partnership for a Drug Free America, but from what I see they are entirely focused on their public service advertising campaign. The mastermind behind the CSA might be hiding somewhere in their organization, but let's see if we can find a more suspicious looking target.
    Google leads me to Wikipedia's article on the CSA wherein I find this disturbing paragraph:
The Cato Institute's Handbook for Congress calls for repealing the CSA, an action that would likely bring the United States into conflict with international law, were the United States not to exercise its sovereign right to withdraw from and/or abrogate the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and/or the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances prior to repealing the Controlled Substances Act. The exception would be if the U.S. were to claim that the treaty obligations violate the United States Constitution. Many articles in these treaties—such as Article 35 and Article 36 of the Single Convention—are prefaced with phrases such as "Having due regard to their constitutional, legal and administrative systems, the Parties shall . . ." or "Subject to its constitutional limitations, each Party shall . . ." According to former United Nations Drug Control Programme Chief of Demand Reduction Cindy Fazey, "This has been used by the USA not to implement part of article 3 of the 1988 Convention, which prevents inciting others to use narcotic or psychotropic drugs, on the basis that this would be in contravention of their constitutional amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech".
So now we can't repeal the CSA because the USA would be an international criminal. Big deal. Like we aren't the biggest criminal on the planet already. In our defense I was going to say that at least when we beat up on somebody we are at least open and above board about it. Everybody knows who the bully is, unlike the vermin scurrying around in the dark hollering "Mohammed made me do it". But then I remembered the gang of cretins from Langley. Kind of puts a stain on our black hat.
     On the other hand, we already disregard article 3, though I am not sure just what would change if we started to enforce it. I wonder, does that mean they could arrest you for talking about drugs? Guess we should count our blessings and be thankful that the Medellin Cartel (or rather their successors) is such a big campaign contributor to our politcal parties.

P.S. Could it be that Earl hasn't gotten the message? Is Obama not sharing the loot? Or could it be that Earl is actually a straight shooter?

Sunday, March 9, 2014


I'm not quite sure what's going on here. Or maybe it's obvious. Whatever. Maybe Mr. Hill will like the shoes.

Girls with Guns


Last week I heard about the problems a friend of mine is having with Gabapentin, aka Neurotonin. Her husband tells me it is harder to quit then methadone. Today Snigs puts up a post about it. Guess it's time for me to say something.

This drug, Gabapentin, might help some people with some afflictions, and in those cases it might be seem like a miracle drug. But it's been getting prescribed for all kinds of ailments without anyone knowing whether it will work or not. Mystery ailments? Here, take this mystery drug. We don't know if it will work for what's ailing you, but hey, give it a shot. From some of the reports I've seen it seems like some really nasty shit.

Wikipedia has something interesting to say about it:

Legal action

Numerous cases have been brought against the makers of Neurontin, with convictions arising not only for the illegal promotion of off-label uses. In the first such case, Franklin v. Parke-Davis, whistleblower David Franklin sued under the False Claims Act on behalf of the Federal Government, and secured a $430 million settlement, of which the majority was incurred as fines and penalties in respect of guilty pleas to two felony counts of misbranding drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, some awarded for customer restitution schemes, and around $24m awarded personally to Franklin in recognition of his importance in revealing the matter.[48]
Parke-Davis is a subsidary of Pfizer, and they aren't the only one's who've had their wrists slapped for this kind of misbehavior.

Some of the recent fines paid by drug companies for misbehaving.  That big ball represents a three billion dollar fine. The smallest one is a paltry $95 million.

These fines don't seem to dissuade these guys. By the time the court case has been settled, their patent on the drug in question is due to expire and they've made their money, which they can now spend on promoting their new mystery/miracle drug. Makes the villain in The Fugitive look like a piker (that means amateur. At least that's what I mean it to mean.)
    Biology is a horrible complicated business. That's why I went into computers. Compared to biology, even the most complex computer systems are a piece of cake. Medicine has made great progress in combating many of our ancient diseases, but it seems that for every affliction we have vanquished, ten new ones spring up. They might not be as bad as any of our hereditary scourges, and they might not kill half the people in town, but they can ruin people's lives just the same. So we keep looking for answers, and looking for answers is expensive, so I can understand the drug companies wanting to make money off of their drugs.
    I'm not sure what the answer is. Shouldn't the drug companies be allowed to promote their products? Advertising is like the lifeblood of capitalism. Doctors shouldn't be taking money from drug companies, but that sounds more like an ethics issue for the AMA. 
    One thing that might help is if people knew how much their health insurance company was paying for their drugs. I consume a handful of pills which costs me a dollar or two every day. I don't really know because it's always different, depending on whether I have satisfied my deductible or not, or maybe it's by the phase of the moon. I gave up trying to fathom the workings of the insurance companies a long time ago. So I have to pay some money for these drugs, but I have no idea what the pharmacy is charging my insurance company. I'm pretty sure someone doesn't want me to know, but they are cloaking this secrecy in the name of "you shouldn't have to worry about the money when you're sick, that's what insurance is for". Well, that's BS.

P.S. Something I stumbled over that just looks insane to me:  

Update September 2015. Corrected a couple of typos.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Memory Haiku

I started playing with Haiku (the open-source descendant of BeOS) again this week. Being a systems kind of guy, the first thing I want to do is see if I can rebuild the OS (operating system), in particular, the kernel. If we can do that, and reboot the system using the newly generated kernel, we are pretty much golden. That means you have
  • the source code (text files), 
  • the tools for turning that source code into binary code 
  • that the boot loader can load and 
  • that will run once it is loaded.
    If you can do all this, then you can pretty much do anything. You can make any changes you want to any program or the kernel itself and try them out. If they don't work, you can always go back to where you started.
    I did this first part about eight months ago (or was it eighteen months ago?) on my Zbox. It worked and I was happy, but then I got distracked, or depressed or something and I didn't do anymore with it.
    This week I tried it with an old Dell desktop system that younger son had corrupted with Ubuntu (boo! hiss! down with Ubuntu!). I also chose the Dell because I had a regular keyboard and mouse I could use with it. All I had for the Zbox was a compact keyboard with a built in trackball, which works okay in a pinch but it's not something I want to use for massive keyboarding.
    I installed Haiku from a CD (the same one I had used with the Zbox), and I downloaded the source from the web, but it would not generate a new OS. It complained about not being able to find "package", which I think is some kind of new file management system. Complaining about this to the Haiku mailing list got me some prompt responses, but none of them were very helpful.
   So I decided to wait for my USB hub to arrive from Amazon (which would enable me to use a conventional mouse. For some reason the Zbox can't comprehend using more than one USB port for input devices. Or maybe that's just an Ubuntu problem.). Hub arrived, plugged in the mouse and regenerated the OS no problem.
    Next step is try actually running this newly generated kernel. Normal system etiquette requires that you keep one good copy of the kernel on the disk at all times and employ some kind of switch to tell the boot loader to load your new, test version, to see if it works. (Back in the day there used to be actual mechanical switches on the front panel to do this. Now we've got some kind of software to do the job.) If it works, find and dandy. If not, you reset the switch and go back to your original, known, good copy.
    So this morning I am looking around trying to figure out just which steps I need to take in order to test the new kernel. I read and I poke around and I try this that and the other, but I feel like the nerd who has been looked outside of the big party. I can hear all the cool kids having a grand time inside, but I cannot find the key to unlock the door. I've had enough so I decide to bail for the time being and turn the machine off.
   A while later I have some idea I want to check out so I turn the machine back on, and what do I see? A two item menu:
  1. Haiku   
  2. Haiku 2
It's already been
done! How did I do that? I
don't remember. Arrggghhh!

Golden Rule

    I hope you know that the original golden rule is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". I expect that you are also familiar with the one portrayed in the picture above (He who has the gold makes the rules). While I like the original and try to follow it (the operative word being "try"), the world in general seems to follow the second.
    I've been musing about the "crisis" in the Ukraine, and I remember hearing a while back about how people were upset because Russia was holding up supplies of Natural Gas to the Ukraine and maybe Eastern Europe. So now I'm thinking maybe I should I revise this second rule to refer to black gold instead of metallic gold.
    Western Civilization runs on oil (and natural gas and coal, all hydrocarbons that come out of the ground). so if you are in the West, golden gold will only do you any good if you can exchange it for black gold. That's why we are having so much trouble with the Mid-East. They've figured this out and are flexing their muscles to see how much power they really have.
    Now Ukraine is a big place, not as big as Russia, but bigger than any other country in Europe, so I'm wondering how come they were having this natural gas problem with Russia. Don't they have any of their own? So I go to Wikipedia and I find these somewhat confusing paragraphs:

Fuel resources

Ukraine produces and processes its own natural gas and petroleum. However, the majority of these commodities are imported (and transited), mostly from Russia. Natural gas is heavily utilised not only in energy production but also by steel and chemical industries of the country, as well as by the district heating sector. In 2012, Shell started exploration drilling for shale gas in Ukraine—a project aimed at the nation's total gas supply independence.
Ukraine has sufficient coal reserves and increases its use in electricity generation.

Power generation

Ukraine is a net energy exporting country (in 2011, 3.3% of electricity produced were exported) but also one of Europe's largest energy consumers. As of 2011, 47.6% of total electricity generation in Ukraine was coming from nuclear power, with the country receiving most of its nuclear fuel from Russia. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, is located in Ukraine. Coal- and gas-fired thermal power station and hydroelectricity are the second and third largest kinds of power generation in the country.
    If I understand this, Ukraine has more than enough power plants, but they don't have the infrastructure in place to keep them fed with locally obtained fuel. Why don't they have the infrastructure? Maybe because they were under the Soviet's thumb for so long.
    Anyway, Russia seems to have recovered more quickly from the Soviet debacle than the Ukraine has. As long as the Ukraine is dependent on Russia for fuel, they are going to be at their mercy. About the only thing they have that they can use to beat the Russians over the head is a jet engine factory. Russia probably has one of their own somewhere, but no self-respecting super-power will want to have just one of a critical component in their military industrial complex.

Update April 2016 corrected typo.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cat Fight

Blacky's claw

Heard some screeching in the backyard the other day. It sounded like a couple of cats, which wouldn't worry me too much. They'll take a couple of swipes at each other but they don't usually persist. All normal and expected. However, we lost a cat to a raccoon a few years ago, so there is always the possibility that our cat has gotten tangled up with a raccoon, and that's not good. So I stepped outside. Our cat, Gus, sweet lovable orange fur-ball Gus, was mixing it up with a mostly black cat, also long haired. They were pretty intent on impressing each other with how bad-ass they were, I had to holler at them twice before they broke off. Gus ran off, blacky ran off when I clapped my hands.
    There is a crawl space under the basement floor with vents through the foundation. There are small wells outside these vents with galvanized steel retaining "walls", maybe 18 by 9 inches by 6 inches deep. Not very big. Both cats were holding their war inside this little well. I would say that they were nuts, but that would be redundant, wouldn't it?
    Later on older son was inspecting Mr. Gus for damage and found a claw stuck in the top of his head. That's not good, but who got the better side of that deal? Gus, who got stabbed in the head? Or blacky, who lost a claw? Since hard-headed Gus doesn't seem any the worse for wear and Blacky is now short one claw I'm gonna declare Gus the victor.


A Ukrainian Navy officer looks at the scuttled decommissioned Russian vessel "Ochakov" from the Black Sea shore outside the town of Myrnyi, western Crimea, Ukraine, Thursday, March 6, 2014. In the early hours of Thursday Russian naval personnel scuttled the decommissioned ship, blockading access for five Ukrainian Naval vessels now trapped inside of the Southern Naval Headquarters located in Myrnyi in Western Crimea as Russian war vessels patrolled just off the coast. The vessel was brought by Russian naval forces on the 4th of March towed by a tug boat while escorted by a warship and several gun boats. Marines from the Ukrainian navy heard a loud explosion in the early hours of last night coming from the vessel blocking a channel leading to the Black Sea. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Really Big Revolver

This revolver holds eight AGM-86B air-cruise launch missiles inside the bombbay of a B-52H Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon II. The B-52 can also carry three more of these cruise missiles on a pylon on each wing.

The Dream Deal

I'm with three other guys in a smallish car. We are headed to a remote, primitive campground. When we arrive we find the guy we were supposed to meet is already there, so things are looking good. But he is in the middle of digging something up. Just what it was was crystal clear a few moments ago, but now I only have a vague notion that it was a giant horse or a dinosaur skeleton. Whatever it was was pretty big,  and no, it wasn't rotten, it was a dream. Anyway, nothing can be done until he has finished digging this thing out of the ground so we all join in and help him.
      Eventually we pull the thing out using some kind of hoist and we can get down to business. Business concludes quickly and easily, we deliver a largish cylinder, maybe two feet in diameter and six feet long. I have no idea how we got it in the car. "Business" involved opening some store bought packages of something, so we have some litter lying around, which we police up. Someone suggests we take our bag of trash with us, but no, that would not be a good idea. Some of the material would be incriminating if we were to be stopped by the police. As we are having to cross the border on our return journey, and the man we just concluded our business deal with does not, we ask if he will dispose of our bag of trash along with his own. Sure, no problem, he's got his big cylinder of drugs, he's happy.
      I'm happy. I bend down and kiss the blue and white label on the big gray plastic suitcase-like box sitting on the ground in front of him, and then offer to shake his hand. He is suspicious but finally gives me a tepid shake with a couple of fingers.
   We are all done, we can go now. One of my compadres is looking at the big cylinder of drugs and mentions that it is a shame that we didn't get to shoot it off because what we had done was to fashion this 200 pounds of coke into a giant solid-rocket motor. I suggest that we resist the temptation to light it off because doing that would kind of screw the deal. We got paid (presumably, I didn't actually see any money), we did what we came to do, let's go, and we do.