Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pic of the Day

Army Specialist Kyle Ives checks cables on a Patriot missile launcher at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

It's nothing special, just another weapon of war, but it looks like something out of Heavy Metal magazine.

Sorry about that

WHOSE SARI NOW, acrylic on canvas, Charles Patcher 2005

Came across a picture of the Canadian National flag where the maple leaf was replaced by a moose, so I go looking for the provenance of this flag and I come across Charles Patcher's website, where I found this picture, and I just had to share.

Tank Girl

Tajikistan, ca 2000, inside an armored personnel carrier.

I'm not sure what we've got here. She's wearing some sort of camouflage jacket, but she's also wearing earrings. I dunno, maybe all girls wear their earrings into battle. I was going to title this "Girls with Guns", but there is no gun in the picture, so I went with the pop culture reference.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Post-Glacial Rebound

What we have here is a promotional video for a shipboard automatic mortar. Main difference between a mortar and a cannon is that the mortar barrel has a smooth bore, not a rifled one like cannons. Of course, our main battle tank the M1 Abrams is also a smooth bore, but that's on of account of it being such a bad-ass it don't need no steenking rifling. Mortars shoot shells with fins and at much lower velocity than a cannon. Cannons have more range. They are good for killing people and blowing things up in the next town. Mortars are for destroying the enemy who is just over the next hill.
   So this thing can basically be used at low elevation like a tank for close in stuff, or elevated for over the hill stuff like a conventional mortar. They show this gun holding its heading while the boat goes through some gyrations, but you'll note that the water is smooth as glass. I wonder how well it would do when the water it gets a little rough.
    Anyway, there was some discussion of where a boat like this might be useful, and AngryFinn mentions that it could be really useful in Finland if the Russkies ever come calling because
The Finnish Archipelago Sea is the Europe's largest archipelago area, and it has the largest amount of islands (40 000) in a one island group in the world.

 I've noticed that there were a bunch of islands in this area before, but I didn't realize there were 40,000 of the dang things, and there are going to be more or less in the future:
The islands began emerging from the sea shortly after the last ice age. Due to the post-glacial rebound the process is still going on, with new skerries and islands being slowly created and old ones enlarged or merged. The current rate of rebound is between 4 and 10 millimetres a year.
So in ten years these rocks are going to be 2 to 4 inches higher. In a hundred years, assuming this rate doesn't change, and I doubt that it will, we're talking ice-age time-frames here. In a hundred years they are going to be two to four feet higher out of the water. Unless global warming catches on.


This video is nearing two billion views. Three days ago it was at 1.97 something billion. Today it's showing a very similar number, so I fed the numbers to me calculator and guess what!?! It's had three million views in three days. That's like ten plays a second. At this rate it will hit the two billion mark in three weeks. I don't think it is more than a couple or three years old.

It's very loud, raucous and silly, but he does it all with a straight face. It's just nuts.

What would you do?

How would you act politically — what kinds of arguments would you make, what kinds of laws would you support, what means of persuasion would you use — if you knew that those whom you most despise will at some point hold the reins of political power in your country? - Alan Jacobs

I would say that we are already at that point. Okay, things could be worse, but I don't consider the people in power my friends, well, for some value of "friends".  The people in power are playing the political game (something I have no talent for and very little interest). This is going to be true no matter what system of government you have. How well you do depends on where your loyalties lie, or rather on where your "perceived" loyalties lie. People make snap judgements based on how you look, act and sound. Any or all or those may be incorrect, but you would have to take the time to get to know someone to find that out, and ain't nobody got time for that.

So here's some useful advice that is good for all occasions: keep your head down, maintain a low profile, know who your friends are, and keep a stash of resources someplace safe. Resources can vary depending on your situation. It might be a case of dog food, a box of ammunition, or gold coins. Someplace safe also depends your situation. It might be your cupboard, a bank, or the heel of your shoe.

"Friends" is such vague term. It's often used to mean people you enjoy being around, people you have a good time with, and that's okay when your situation is easy. When times get tough is when you find out who your friends really are, and when times are tough it can be tough to make new friends. It's better to make friends when times are easy, but then you really won't know what kind of friends they will turn out to be. Kind of a sticky wicket, that.

"Despise" is such a strong word. You can work yourself into a rage over just about anything. There aren't enough RPG-s (Rocker Propelled Grenades) in all of Russia to destroy all the cars and drivers who have pissed me off over the years. I don't get so angry so often anymore, probably because I get more sleep.

People get worked up over all kinds of things, usually it's what someone else is doing or failing to do. Question you might want to ask yourself is whether there is anything you can do about it that will make a difference? There are always things you can do. I got pissed off at the meter man a few months ago when I got a parking ticket. I paid the ticket (part of keeping my head down), but I also wrote a letter about the injustice of it all. The City of Portland refunded half of the $60 fine. It only took them 11 months.They didn't say anything about hanging the meter man, so I am not fully satisfied, but my anger is assuaged.

Political combat in the USA these days is being waged by forces with deep pockets who use mass media to appeal to people's emotions. I remember I got a telephone survey one time about some kind of deal, electric power maybe? Anyway, the pollster kept asking me the same question over and over again, it was just phrased slightly differently. The scumbags were just trying out their sound bites to see which one would generate the response they wanted. Facts? Truth? They are whatever I say they are, and if you disagree you're a heretic. Burn 'em!

Inspired by a Monday Evening post.

Processed Food

I just got myself something to eat out of the fridge: a roll, a slice of cheese and a cup of grapefruit slices. All came wrapped in plastic and I wondered if maybe there was something about the plastic wrappers that was subconsciously affecting my choices. Maybe there is some molecule that migrates from the plastic wrapper to the food we eat and it triggers some kind of mytery reflex that causes us to want more plastic wrapped food.

Then I realized that, no, that wasn't it. It's just the consistency that I want. I just want something to eat, I don't really care what it is, I am busy thinking about something else, so I don't want any surprises. I want something that I have eaten before. I know how it tastes, and processed food, for all its faults, is remarkably consistent in taste and texture.

Monday, April 28, 2014

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

I noticed the blurb on the front cover by Stephen King: "Picoult writes with unassuming brilliance." and I thought well, maybe this book will be okay. I mean Stephen King knows a thing or two about telling stories. I'm not a big fan, but I've seen several of his movies and I've probably read a couple of his books.
    Anyway, this book starts off great, the first half is just wonderful, I read that much in the first day or so. But then we start running into hiccups, and every time I hit a bump I put the book down for a while, so it has taken me a month to finish it.
    The story is about a boy (Jacob, a young man) with Asperger's, his long suffering mother, his normal brother, and a small assortment of other characters. I don't think there are more than a dozen characters all told. Each chapter is narrated by one of the main characters.
    There is a death, the police suspect foul play, and our hero gets indicted for murder. We know it's not murder and Jacob knows, but because he has trouble communicating he is unable to tell anyone this simple fact until we get to the very last page. Or next to last. Damn near the end, anyway. Because of this we get a lot of foolish behavior and people making assumptions that we know are wrong, and these are the bumps in the story that put me off. Same reason I don't watch comedies.
    The one part of the book that didn't ring true (yes, even the bumps in the story were very real, annoying but true to life) was the chapters narrated by Jacob. Jacob is supposed to be more than a little wacko, obsessive-compulsive, prone to melt-downs, but his narration in the book is as crystal clear as anyone else's. Of course, you never know what is going on in someone else's head, and to Jacob, in his own head, his thought's might very well be crystal clear. It certainly made the reading easy. It may have been easier to write as well. I imagine that having to make up some kind of crazy talk would be a bit wearing.
    I have a relative who is very much like Jacob, or so I surmise from what little I know of him. He lives half way across the country so I don't see him very often.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Over The Hedge

the Mountain Goats - Up The Wolves (Jordan Lake Sessions)
the Mountain Goats

Today's episode of Over The Hedge mentioned several songs before they got to that all-around all-time favorite, Pop Goes The Weasel. I'm always on the lookout for new stuff that I might like, so I looked them up on YouTube and they are all pretty much okay. As always, your mileage may vary.
    However, there was one song, Same Love by Macklemore and Lewis that I didn't care for. I am tired of hearing about gay rights.I'm not even sure there is even a real issue here. I suspect the media are reporting it because, well, that's what the media does. They stir the pot hoping some kind of shit will rise to the top and everyone will go "Oh! Yuck! Look at that!", which means more people will watch their antics on TV, which means their ratings will go up, or at least not fall, and they can continue charging their advertisers enough money to make it worth their while to continue this charade. I think Macklemore and Lewis came out of the radio business, so they are no doubt totally in tune with this mindset.
    Problem here is that homosexual behavior is repellent to a large segment of the population. This is not something people have any control over, it's like being gay. You can't really control what you are repelled by anymore than you can control what you are attracted to. You can try to control your actions, or reactions in this case, but pushing a bucket of foul smelling substance in someones face and asking them not to react is pure foolishness.
    What you do in private is your own business, but when you are out in public it would behoove you to mind your manners. Even heterosexual couples get told to "get a room" if they start making goo-goo eyes at each other. Why should homosexuals get a pass?

P.S. I especially like the girl in the bikini dancing in the mountains in Slovakian version of Happy.

Update March 2016 replaced missing video, added link to Happy.
Update August 2022 replaced missing video.

New hanger going up at the Hillsboro Airport

Suburban Spelling

The poor, blacks, and immigrants do not have a lock on poor spelling and grammar. We dun got it hear two. 

Pic of the Day

April 23, 2014...Three Japanese men were apprehended by Hong Kong border officers attempting to smuggle $ 580,000 USD into Hong Kong.

Those are bundles of Benjamin Franklins taped to the man's legs. More pictures here.

Carnival Dream

I was at some kind of low-key carnival, like at an elementary school or a job fair or some such. There is a booth where you can demonstrate how strong you are. I shy away because, well, I'm not that strong, but after watching a couple other people do it, and getting some encouragement from my companion(s), I decide to give it a go.
    There are two circular pads set up on edge, on the edge of a shelf. The job is to put one hand on each pad and push them to the back of the shelf. There is no apparent mechanism behind the pads. When you are done a message appears on the surface of the pad evaluating your performance. They aren't difficult to push, and I get a message that is slightly more positive than the previous contestants. I also see some other people perform a similar test where you push the pads up, but I don't try that one.
    Instead I get to blow up a balloon. It's a really tough balloon, I give it a couple of big tries, but no go. I gird my loins and give it a third shot and this time it blows up into a six foot long balloon animal. The balloon has kind of a metallic, copper colored sheen to it, and instead of just a couple of appendages like a balloon dog or horse that a clown would make, this one has a couple dozen or so cylinders projecting from the end. There are so many it looks kind of like one of those old floating mines from WW2, the big balls all covered with spikes.
    All this is very amusing, but now we get to the weird part. While all this is going on I have a very strong memory of having taken a physical conditioning / self defense class at the local community college. There was only one other guy and me in the class, and he was bigger and stronger and much more capable in this area than I was, so every class session I went to involved me getting pummeled by my more capable classmate. This went on for weeks. The weird part is how strong my memory of this class was, at least while I was dreaming. The class never actually happened. At least I don't think it did.
    Yesterday I had a bit of a headache which didn't bother me too much. When I made a run out yesterday evening to pick up some dinner I noticed I was much more irritable than usual. Drivers were stupider, people were annoying.
    That and last night's dream make me wonder if I don't have some kind of bug. The fact that my wife had some kind of nasty bug a week ago and still hasn't kicked it completely may have something to do with it.

Girls with Guns

23 April. The men of 11 Air Mobile Brigade "7 December" engage with the public in demonstrations in The Hague and Zoetermeer, as part of the Landmacht's 200 year anniversary.

This is in Holland. Is it even called Holland anymore? Seems like all I ever hear is "the Netherlands", and that doesn't really sound like a good name for country, does it? At least not a prosperous one. There are some places that deserve such an abysmal name, but for some unknown reason they get fancy high-faulutin' names like Zambia, or the Kingdom or Saudi Arabia. Weird.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I'm #484! -or- Skynet Part 2

    The coding contest is over. It closed at one this afternoon while I was taking a nap, or I was at the store, I'm not sure which. There were two problems to solve. I got the first one sort of done, it passed the first three tests, but then started timing out (failed to run to completion in the alloted time, however many seconds that was) on the 4th.
    I could say I wasn't doing anything that should cause that kind of problem, but that sounds a lot like a baseball player saying "the sun got in my eyes" when he drops the fly ball that was going right to him.
    'C' is a low level language, as programming languages go. It is compiled, which means you feed your source code (the text file which contains the program you have written) to the compiler, which is another computer program that turns your source code into machine code. If you look at the assembly language version of the compiled program, you will see that for every statement you wrote in your source code, the compiler has produced a specific series of machine language instructions. (Assembly language is basically machine code, it just substitutes cute little acronyms for unprintable numbers). So a program written in 'C' should be lightning fast, especially compared to some of these new fangled languages that attempt to interpret every wave of your hand as something meaningful.
    I noticed however, that things might not quite be like this. At some point when you are writing a 'C' program, you decide it's time to test it, which means feeding it to a compiler, which means, if you are like me, you get back a boatload of errors complaining about unknown (misspelled) variables, missing semi-colons, and a raft of incorrect punctuation. So you edit your source code and fix the errors and try again.
    Now this is where the PC has it all over the main frame. When I started in the business (sorry, time for a trip down memory lane) you wrote your program on punched cards, one line to a card, carried your box of cards to the super-secret I/O room, turned your cards into the operator, and then waited for your program to run, the output to be printed, the operator to tear off the printout from the printer and dump it in the delivery folder. Then you got to drag the printout around until you found a clear space on a table where you could spread it out and try and decipher whatever cryptic message the compiler has deigned to bestow upon your work. Now with a PC, you press the go button and quicker than you can say Jack-Sprat, the compiler is done and it has volumes to tell you about your incompetence, your heritage and your personal shortcomings.
    All that is a long winded way to say that there are compile time errors and there are run-time errors. Even if your program compiles error-free, it still has to run, and this is where the real problems make themselves known, because here you are at the mercy of the OS (Operating System), and the OS doesn't care who you are, or who your daddy is, or much of anything, as long as you mind your P's and Q's. Step out line just once, and boom! Down comes the smack, your program gets axed and all you get is some cryptic message like "segmentation fault" at PC nine zillion and some random bunch of digits.
    However, in this contest, methinks they weren't actually compiling my code even though I was writing in 'C'. I think they were using some kind of interpreter because sometimes I would get compile-time-type errors and sometimes I would get run-time-type errors, and sometimes the compile-time-type errors would show up after the run-time errors, which is a little hard to do, well, unless you are the wizard and you are controlling what goes on behind the curtain, which in this case the contest perpetrators surely are.
    So anyway, even though I fell asleep before I completed this project, I had done enough that they gave me 25% credit and 484th place in the contest.
    I am going to have to go back and look at some of the winners when they are released this evening. Maybe this old dog can learn some new tricks. Not likely, but at least I can claim to be trying.
More info about the contest here.


Dice was nice enough to notify me of a programming contest. It starts at the same time for everybody. They included a list of local start times. First time I recall seeing something like this.

  • Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 16:00 UT
  • Paris at 18:00, San Francisco at 09:00, New York at 12:00, Moscow at 20:00, Mumbai at 21:30, Shanghai at 00:00 (Sunday).
  • Check your local time here.

I've been working on some of the sample programs this week, and they have been very entertaining. Some of them very simple, some are simple if you know a couple of basic programming concepts, some are horribly complex but are amenable to ad-hoc methods (the Mars lander stands out here).

Somebody has put a lot of work into this project. Not only do we have all the sample problems, but they also provide an on-line development environment with your choice of programming languages to solve these problems. The whole thing works remarkably well. Well, at least it does with the 'C' programming language. I can't attest to any the conditions you will find with any other language. (Did I just let a bit of bias into this post? No! I would never do such a thing, not unless I knew God was on my side, like he is in this case.)

The only problems I have run into are the same problems I have run into with when using different versions of C, and that is way different input functions handle the end-of-line situation. Once-upon-a-time, somebody thought it would be a good idea to make a simplifying assumption regarding the way ordinary ASCII text is handled. Since then there have been a host of compilers with their attendant libraries written, and not all of those writers got the same, crystal clear message, delivered directly from the heavenly father. Some of them turned out to be heretics and infidels and some of the functions in their libraries turn out to work just slightly differently with some kinds of data. May they all roast in heck. But that's par for the course.

Whether this will take us one step further down the road to enslavement to a machine dominated culture or not is still open to debate.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Gimme Some of that Ol' Time Religion

Sergeant Alvin York - 1941 clip from the movie - comes to faith - ‘Finds religion’ by Dan Gritsko
Dan Gritsko
"Blasphemy, he is not a God. There is only one God and Putin is his prophet." - Danila commenting on a news report.
I read this comment and the title just popped into my head, so I Googled it and found this video. I'm not quite sure what to make of any of it, except, well, Walter Brennan looks a lot different than I remember him.

Update August 2022 replaced missing video.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pic of the Day

Ukrainian Air Force IL-76 at Refuelling Station Nord during Operation Northern Falcon 2014 in Greenland.

When I first saw this picture, I wondered what such a big airplane was doing on the beach because that big, shiny expanse behind it looked like water, and then I realized that's it all ice, and we aren't on the beach. Shoot, there is no beach in Nord. Because of the ice you can only get a ship there once every five or ten years. 

Coding Fun

I found a website with some coding problems to play with. When I finished and submitted the first one, it replied with this wonderful message

This image is a cropped screen shot.The full text reads:
This assessment is composed of 1 questions. The estimated time to answer is around 788400 minutes, but it may last up to 1576800 minutes. Please set aside up to 1576800 consecutive minutes to answer.
1,576,800 minutes exactly is three years. I think there is an error in their program somewhere.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pic of the Day

DIEGO GARCIA, British Indian Ocean Territory, April 16, 2014. Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia. U.S. Navy photo by Hank Gettys.

Something about the color in this picture does not look quite right. I don't know whether someone has mucked with it or whether that's just the way things look in Diego Garcia. Maybe being down on the equator, a thousand miles away from any other land, does something to the light.

Puffington Host

Every once in a while I find a well written article on the The Huffington Post, usually because of a link someone else provided. On the other hand, the Huff-Po gets a lot of flack from some sectors, we won't say who.
   The other day I was at loose ends, so I thought would take a look at the Huff-Po and see if there was anything interesting going on. Good lord, what a lot of drivel, it's like one step above Facebook. It might be on the same level as the Parade magazine that comes with your Sunday paper. Every once in a while Parade has something that interests me, but if I miss an issue I am not particularly concerned. Huff-Po is at least a couple of steps to the left of Parade. From what I saw the other day I am surprised I have ever found anything worth reading over there.


MRAP on the left, non-MRAP on the right. 
Kabul, Afghanistan, February 2014. (AP Photos/Rahmat Gul)

Last Summer there was a news report that said the DoD (Department of Defense) was grinding up old MRAPs into scrap, which seemed like kind of a boneheaded idea. Now it seems like there are lots of people who would like to have them, but I think they are pretty much a bunch of fools, much like wanna-be gang-bangers hanging out in their Cadillac Escalades that are parked by the curb because they can't afford the gas to drive them anywhere.

MRAPs epitomize our boneheaded approach to this war-on-terror debacle: whatever the threat is, or whatever its form, we respond with more firepower, more armor, more guns. I dunno, but I suspect that Afghanistan isn't any better off now than it was ten years ago when we first sent troops over there. I'm not going to try and speculate whether the USA is any better off or not. Perhaps the Taliban were content to have somebody to fight in their own neck of the woods. Why bother going all the way to North America? We can kill all the infidels we want, right here on our doorstep. Allah Akbar!

It only takes few people and a few pounds of material to create a vast amount of destruction that will kill hundreds of people, as we have seen time and again in other parts of the world (is it okay to call them third world hell-holes?). That we haven't seen widespread terrorist attacks all across the USA tells me we are doing something right. I don't know what that right thing might be, it's pretty hard to tell when the news is so full of things are so obviously NOT the right thing.

Whatever. The people in power, that is, the people with money, have an agenda, or a plan, or, I dunno, maybe all they have is the direction they are facing, and they are charging on regardless. The rest of us are just along for the ride, so you may as well get comfortable.

MRAPs are nuts. They weigh 15 tons and can carry a payload of maybe two tons. For comparison, an normal, freight carrying semi-truck, like one you see on the roads of America everyday weigh 20 tons (empty) and can carry a 20 ton payload. From what I've read it seems that we have built around 10,000 MRAPs at a cost of around one million dollars each, give or take a few hundred thousand. That's like 1% of the total cost of our Afghanistan Adventure [tm]. First there's:
  • your basic trucky-ness in the drivetrain,
  • the custom body work,
  • the umpteen thousands of pounds of armor and don't forget
  • the whole government contracting paperwork headache.
That get's you a vehicle, but then you have to equip it with the military grade communications system and weapons, which probably cost as much as the rest of the truck put together.

According to Wikipedia, there are only two steel companies that are qualified to supply the steel armor for these vehicles, and one of them is Oregon Steel Mills, which is presumably in Oregon, which should make me happy, except this is the first I have heard of them making armor. It's also very weird that we have a steel mill at all. As far as I know we don't have any coal mines or even any iron ore mines, which are the usual prerequisites to having a steel industry. Oregon is also home to Precision Cast Parts, who specializes in making metal bits for the military, and they have been going great guns lately, which is good. It means the rich are getting richer, er, they provide lots of people with good paying jobs.

Anyway, we've spent all this money and all this time and now our big adventure is coming to a close and the guys in charge of all the MRAPs are wondering what to do with them. Since we seem to be on the outs with Pakistan (which is not necessarily a bad thing), we can't drive them to a port to be loaded on boats and shipped home. We can load them on jet cargo aircraft and fly them home, but that costs $150,000 a unit, and do you really want to spend that much money on something that will be completely useless in North America? We could "give" them to our "friends", if we could figure out who are friends were, and which friends would accept a gift from the USA, gifts that always entail obligations. Even if we figure that out, would the machines actually be of any use to them? Would they even want to keep them fed with fuel? Or would they just keep them parked by out front to impress the natives?

I imagine an enterprising man could cut the armor off on an MRAP and turn it into a useful truck, something I am sure they could use over there. You might get ten cents on the dollar, which would be pretty good for military surplus.

Quote of the Day

"... in the distance, a toad farted ominously."  - Spider Robinson.

Stolen from Roberta X, who is coping.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Today's Bible Lesson - Figs

Mark 11

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

Jeremiah 29

15 You may say, “The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,” 16 but this is what the Lord says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your fellow citizens who did not go with you into exile— 17 yes, this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten.

Matthew 21

18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.

South Korean Ferry Disaster

The accident happened about 15 miles from land around 9 in the morning. By 1PM the ship was submerged. I suspect that there was a problem with the steering gear. A cruise liner had a malfunction with the steering gear a few years ago up around Vancouver B.C. The ship didn't capsize, but it got thrown into a sharp turn that knocked all the glassware off the shelves.

Update April 2015: Our adventure on the same cruise liner from the Vancouver incident.

Pic of the Day

April 17. Pirates beware. MV (Motor Vessel) Happy Dragon in the Gulf of Aden.


Kaady Car Wash has upped their price again. An economy wash now costs $7. "Seven dollars for a car wash!?!" I scream to myself, and then I remember it's not that people are raising prices in order to gouge you, it's just that the dollar is worth less every day.
    A while back, a few years maybe, I was seeing articles regularly bemoaning the short-sighted approach to business of the bean counters who were harping about quarterly returns and if they weren't high enough you should abandon ship, or bring out the lash and start beating your employees more.
    Problem wasn't that the bean counters were being short sighted. Problem was that the value of the dollar was plumetting. If you weren't getting a return of at least 15%, you were sliding toward the abyss. If you make any money then the government is going to want a third of it, and a third of 15% is 5%. Inflation is running right around 5%. Five and five makes ten, take ten from fifteen and you are left with five. So your vaunted 15% ROI is actually only worth about 5% in real money. So, yes, you better be making your quarterly benchmarks or you might as well be packing your bags.

    I checked the sunroof on the SUV before I went to the carwash and I noticed that the back edge had dropped down about a quarter of an inch which was disturbing because I thought I had fixed this problem, so I checked the blocks I had wedged under the rear corners of the sunroof and sure enough one of them had fallen over. I shoved it back into position. It did it's job, no water came in around the sunroof when I went through the car wash. Well, a few drops may have come in but they were caught by the gutter, so it works as well as it ever did.
    I took a photo of the blocks thinking I would post them here, but when I got home I discovered that the memory card in my Lumix waterproof camera was not properly seated and there were no photographs to be had. Hmmph. Never happened with my Canon Sureshot. Lens is still clear of dust. However I have found the upper left corner of a number of images obscured by some black blob - the tip of my finger. Comes from having the lens in the upper left corner of the camera. I try and remember that but sometimes I forget. Grrrrr.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kazakhstan's Kashagan Oil Field

When I first saw this, I wasn't sure what I was looking at. It's in Kazakhstan, which is over there on the other side of world along with Afghanistan and Pakistan and all the other 'stans. I mean it kind of looks like a desert, which wouldn't be out of place in that neighborhood.

Then I saw this picture and I realized that what I thought was desert sand in the first picture is actually ice. The first picture was taken in the winter and this one was taken in the summer.

This is an artificial island constructed in the Caspian sea as part of a project to exploit the Kashagan oil field that lies there. Posthip Scott send me a link to a good, concise video (that is not embeddable) that gives an good overview of this project, along with a link to a well written story about this project. The Wall Street Journal also has a short video about the problems this project is having.

Seems a consortium of oil companies has sunk $50 Billion into this project over the last 20 years. It is a challenging project even by oil company standards. I mean they are regularly drilling for oil in water that is a mile deep. A comment in one of videos mentions that the $50 billion that has been spent would be more than enough to send a man to the moon. It's also about half what the USA spends every year on our "war" in Afghanistan.

The world runs on oil, so I can understand why these guys would be willing to sink that much money into this project. After all, this is the biggest find since Prudhoe Bay in Alaska was discovered 40 years ago. The part that gets me is that all the oil they expect to reclaim from this field will only satisfy our civilization's thirst for oil for one steenking year. Oh, it will take much longer than that is suck it dry, but if you add it all up, it is just a drop in the metaphorical bucket. We need a new oil field discovery comparable to this one every year. We don't get them, of course, so we have guys scouring the world for whatever they can find. Makes me wonder why everyone doesn't have a job prospecting for oil, but let's try and stay on topic, shall we?

One of the biggest problems with the Kasagan (cash again) oil field is the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas, and it's not here in just the trace quantities that are enough to produce that familiar "rotten eggs smell" that comes with many oil wells. Here it is a sizeable fraction of what comes out of the well, and it's under high pressure: 12,000 PSI (pounds per square inch). That's a bunch. There are plenty of everyday industrial techniques that deal with high pressures, like Natural Gas pipelines, Oxy-Aceteline gas welding tanks, and the hydraulic systems you find on everything from garbage trucks to the power steering on your car. But all those everyday systems only operate on two or three thousand PSI, not twelve freaking thousand. I am not sure anyone even makes any kind of hose that will handle that pressure, which means that all the plumbing has to be done with pipe, and not just ordinary, extra-strength, high pressure, steel pipe. Oh, no, that would be too easy. Seems hydrogen sulfide gas is not just poisonous, but it is also corrosive, and at high pressures it is extremely corrosive. So you need special non-corrosive lining in your high-strength, extra high pressure capacity pipe.
     So they have spent all this money, built all this drilling and processing equipment, hauled it to the far side of world through the Don-Volga Canal, drilled the wells and laid the pipelines. But now we have another problem. I expect this is just the zillionth one this project has run into, but it's something that even non-engineers can understand, so let's make the most of it.
    The pipeline started leaking. It's bad enough that it's full of oil and it runs through an environmentally sensitive area (has anyone ever run a pipeline through an area that isn't "environmentally sensitive"?), but it's also full of this deadly poisonous, nasty, corrosive hydrogen sulfide gas. Surprisingly, they shut it down. From the way the oil industry is portrayed in the press, I would have expected them to charge on full steam ahead until the piles of dead Kazakhstani's were visible on Google Earth. But they didn't.
    One guy mentions the pipes were fine when they were delivered, but then they sat out in the desert for several years, unprotected, before they were finally connected up into the pipeline. Hard to imagine that a little ordinary weather could affect an anti-corrosion coating that is supposed to resist the devil incarnate (hydrogen sulfide), but maybe it's a matter of chemistry.
   Anyway, I'm kind of wondering how they protected the joints between two sections of pipe. Pipelines are normally welded, and the heat from welding is going to destroy any kind of coating on the inside of the pipe, so how are you going to reapply the protection to the inside of the joint after you are done welding? I suppose you could use something like a paintbrush on a 40 foot pole, and a video camera to check your work, but boy, would that be tedious. I can see how somebody might slip up occasionally, and that's all it would take.
    It looks like it will probably be cheaper to build a new pipeline than to try and reclaim the old one. Whoops, there goes another billion dollars.

Friday, April 18, 2014

VTOL Truck

Advanced Tactics AT Transformer

    Once upon a time I wanted to build a flying car. My idea was to mount propellers on a dozen or so lawn mower engines and arrange them in a ring around a central control / passenger pod. I liked the concept for two reasons. One: lawn mower engines are cheap, and two: if you have a dozen of them and some of them fail, the rest should keep you aloft, or at least keep you from plummeting like a stone.
    Also got the idea from an office building I worked at in Austin. Most office buildings have some kind of heating and air conditioning plant, a dedicated space full of boilers and pipes and an old, fat guy in greasy coveralls, sitting around, drinking coffee and reading the sports page. This place didn't. Instead they had a bank of like a dozen household type central air conditioning units, all lined up in a row. I'm sure I have run into numerous other instances of where several copies of a smaller mass-produced machine have taken the place of one giant, custom machine, but this is the one I remember.
    I never did anything about building a flying car because it would have required spending money Even lawn mower engines cost more than a dollar and half, and I figured that even if it worked (of course it would have worked. Getting it off the ground would just be a matter of a couple of minor implementation details.), the Feds would frown on my taking off from my driveway, and if you can't fly directly from your house, well, why bother?
    Anyway, it looks like somebody stole my idea and then dared to actually build one. It only has eight engines, not 12, and while they might be lawn mower engines, they are from some big, stinking, lawn mowers. I'm guessing they are probably close to 200 horsepower each, which means your fuel bill is going to be in the dollars-per-minute range. But hey, it's the military, big fuel bills are kind of a given.
    There is a video of a model of this machine flying, but no video of this one getting off the ground. There is a still photo of a four engine prototype, so I'm gonna give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being. It will be interesting to see if they manage to compete with regular helicopters, the ones that cost zillions of dollars.

Honest Answer

Prussian King Frederick II, Frederick the Great, nicknamed Old Fritz, was known not only as a philosopher-king, a musician and a polyglot, but also as a truly historical figure of the XVIII century. After coming to power, first thing Friedrich cancels torture and periodically thereafter personally inspects the prisons. On one of these inspections of the city jail in Berlin, he was interested in, as usual, hearing from the prisoners. Prisoners take this opportunity to cling to the royal feet, cursing their evil fate, protesting their innocence and how it was an accidental misunderstanding that landed them here in the first place. One prisoner,  modestly and quietly stood aside, without asking for clemency or even coming close to Frederick. King showed him a gesture to come: - Well, you - the king said to him, - also came here by mistake? - No, Your Majesty, - said the prisoner - I am punished. I am convicted of theft. Monarch turned to the jailer and said quietly: - Kick this thug out of jail, so it will not spoil your present society of honest people.

Stolen from Татьяна Варуха. Авторский блог Слово миру , translated by Google and beaten into submission by me. I was going to say "polished", but that would be putting a "shine" on my work, and I'm not sure that it qualifies.

Everybody Knows

Leonard Cohen - Everybody Knows Live (1988.)
Želimir Lah

The US is an oligarchy, study concludes

reports The Telegraph 

 This is news? Well, I guess, in that this study makes it semi-official. I published the results of my study a couple of months ago. Southern Italy has known this since, well, forever.

P.S. Just discovered a related post: 28c3: A Brief History of Plutocracy

Update February 2024 replaced missing video.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Still Looking for that Missing Airliner

INDIAN OCEAN (April 14, 2014) Operators aboard the Australian navy vessel ADF Ocean Shield move U.S. Navy's Bluefin-21 into position for deployment. Using side scan sonar, Bluefin will descend to a depth of between 4,000 and 4,500 meters, approximately 35 meters above the ocean floor to spend up to 16 hours at this depth collecting data. Joint Task Force 658 is supporting Operation Southern Indian Ocean, searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair/Released)

4,500 meters is almost 3 miles deep. That won't get you to the very deepest part of the ocean, which is more like 7 miles, but it's pretty darn deep, and still deeper than most conventional submarines.

Bluefin is now owned by Batelle, a not-for-profit research outfit headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived when I was in Junior High School. There is a similar outfit in San Antonio, Texas, which is just down the road from Austin, called the Southwest Research Institute. They are called non-profits now, but when I first ran into them they were called not-for-profit. I took this to mean that they could make money from what they were doing, but it was all plowed back into their organization or research, not distributed to stock holders, because there aren't any stock holders.

Quote of the Day

The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe. -
Seb also wrote a short article titled On the New Age Bullshit Generator and parodying woo that is well worth reading. Via Comrade Misfit.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pic of the Day

Russian submarine presumably in the Arctic Ocean, North of Siberia.

The Google translation of the page I found this on mentions a submarine named Losharik. I'm pretty sure this isn't it. Wikipedia has this to say about Losharik:
Losharik (Russian: Лошарик) is the nickname of a Russian submarine. The official name for this submarine type is "Project 210". It is powered by a nuclear reactor and is believed to be able to operate at a depth of 1000 m due to the unique spherical construction elements.
1000 meters (3300 feet) is pretty durn deep for a big sub.


How a Bacteriophage (a Virus) infects a cell with its genetic material.
T4 bacteriophages targeting E. coli bacteria.
Bacteriophages are small viruses that infect bacteria and kill them by multiplying and essentially filling the bacterial cell to bursting.

My father-in-law suffered a burst appendix when he was younger. My friend Jack's father also suffered a burst appendix back in the 1920's. They both survived, obviously. This was in the days before antibiotics. It's something of a miracle that they survived. In Jack's father's case the doctors deliberately infected him with a normally life threatening disease (typhoid, perhaps) in the belief that this new infection would prompt his body to run a fever and so eliminate the infection in his abdomen. They repeated this "treatment" several times over a course of days or weeks. It prompted his body's temperature to climb to 105 degrees, but it eventually cured his infection.
    In Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, the nominal hero of our story, Half-Jack Shaftoe, is infected with syphilis, which is normally a fatal disease that ends by attacking the brain and driving people mad. At some point he contracts a fever which lasts several days and sends him into a delirium. After he recovers from the fever there is a period of time when there is some doubt whether his wits are still intact. His wits, of course, are fine, or we wouldn't be hearing about him. Presumably this kind of cure was a rare occurence.
    I tried to find any kind of reference to this sort of thing on the net, but I didn't have any luck. Not surprising since it doesn't jibe with our current science-knows-best world view. I did find a couple of interesting articles on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website.
    The first is Treatment of War Wounds: A Historical Review. It's a long story, but just the first couple of pages make some interesting reading all by themselves.
    The other is Phage treatment of human infections.Western civilization is only now starting to get onboard the phage train, probably because we're all from Missouri and it's only been recently that we have been able to see these boogers.

If you have ever been to India, or heard tales from people who have been there, you might wonder, like I did, why everybody there isn't dead. The Ganges river has to be the most unsanitary river in the world, but people live their entire lives with it. It's their bathtub, toilet and funeral parlor. I don't know if anyone actually drinks out of it, but at this point nothing would surprise me. Wikipedia also has something interesting to say about the Ganges and phages:
Since ancient times, reports of river waters having the ability to cure infectious diseases, such as leprosy, have been documented. In 1896, Ernest Hanbury Hankin reported that something in the waters of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in India had marked antibacterial action against cholera and could pass through a very fine porcelain filter.
Makes me wonder whether there might be something to that business about the great cycle that seems to be at the heart of Indian mysticism.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Current Pergelator word cloud. At least "really" is no longer front and center.

A while back, when "word clouds" were all the rage, I thought I would put one up on my blog. When I did this one word appeared front and center and that word was REALLY. I don't know what I was hoping to see, but that was definitely not it. I didn't post the word cloud.
    At our gang's Thursday Lunch there is one fellow who shows up intermittently. He has an annoying habit of saying "really?", or "oh, really?", in response to whatever you might tell him. It makes him sound like a dolt. However, because of the company he keeps, and his varied interests, I suspect he is not. His use of "really" might be similar to mine - protective coloration in 'Marika. He also, at one time, pointed out that I talk like I write. At the time I didn't really understand what he was on about.
    Since then I have noticed that my conversational style, such as it is, does not mesh well with the rest of my family. They don't have conversations so much as they banter. Words fly back and forth, nary a complete sentence is ever heard, but they all seem to understand each other fine. I have only a vague idea of what they are talking about, and when I do understand I do not find it that interesting. It seems to be more about adding on to the conversational thread rather than trying to communicate "a complete thought".
     My friend Jack tells me about another friend of his who is even more extreme than I am. When I am relating a story I may ignore interjections or continue talking right over the top of them. Randy gets annoyed if he is interrupted during his recital.
     Older son often complains that I will say something provocative, like "bees are vicious" or something equally blue sky, and then fall silent. He sits quietly waiting for me to continue but when the seconds stretch on he gets impatient for me to finish my thought. I now realize this happens when I am trying to formulate a new story. Once I have managed to complete the thought, the retelling goes much smoother.

P.S. Blogger is out to lunch this morning. The "word cloud" at the top of this post is supposed to be centered above the text. When I posted it, the image showed up on the right hand side and the text started at the top on the left hand side. Stupid Blogger.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Saw a motorcycle parked outside a store the other day. What caught my eye was the day-glo orange coily-cord running down to the lock on the front disk brake. A clever idea methinks. The lock has a pin that goes through a hole in the disk which prevents the wheel from rolling, and the orange coily-cord reminds you that you haven't removed it.

The bike is a 500cc single-cylinder Buell. Belt drive, mag wheels, single rear shock, radial tires (!?!?!). Looks like fun. Buell was on offshoot of Harley-Davidson that was eventually reabsorbed, shut down, and is now making a comeback as Harley's racing division, or something.


Went to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) Friday to get my driver's license renewed. There is a short line at the front counter where the ring master verifies that you are in the right place for what you want and that you have all the necessary papers in hand to accomplish that. While I am standing there he makes an announcement on the PA system asking people to return their clipboards as he has run out. Within a minute his desk is awash in clipboards.
I get to the counter, he inspects my documents and issues me a clipboard and a number: 189. They are "currently serving" #125. I fill out my form, turn in my clipboard and notice that the number hasn't advanced. There are 70-odd people waiting and a half dozen or so people working, so it's going to be a while. It's a nice day, so I decide to walk around the building. It's a biggish strip mall; it takes me five minutes to walk around the building. We are still on number 125. Gah, there must be a clog in the system. I take another lap around the block. We're up to 130. Okay, I see how this is going. It's going to be two hours before my number is called. I go home, get some lunch, check my email, pick up a book and hustle back, because you know as soon as I walked out the door the clog became unstuck and they processed the next 50 people in fifteen minutes.
   Actually, no. They are progressing about one number every two minutes. I sit down and read a chapter in my book, but I'm not in the mood for reading so I get up and go exploring. There is a Harbor Freight store a couple of doors down as well as a Dollar Tree. I take a tour of both, but I don't really need anything, so I wander back. Eventually they call my number and I get to discuss my application with a pleasant young woman. Turns out I didn't really need two pieces of ID like they claim. My expired driver's license (which could hardly be considered valid, I mean, it's expired) and my passport were sufficient.
    Now the paperwork is done, all I need is my picture taken which entails another wait. This one is short, no more than five or ten minutes and then I'm all done. Elapsed time: two and quarter hours.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

CBD - Cannabidiol

From one of my far-flung corespondents:
I've been taking CBD and carefully examining it's effects for  a month. I feel it's of great benefit to me, and I wanted to pass this along.

In an effort to deal with lifelong adulthood depression and compulsiveness, I've tried many consumer-grade (not "psychotic-grade") pharmaceutical available through my family doctor at the time. Even at the minimum doses they have strong effects on me, and as such end up feeling artificial and I hated them.

I have to avoid pot, even though I've tried (and enjoyed) some of the extremely strong pot produced now, but the cumulative effects were not ideal. It helped me a lot with arthritic pain, and my code improved due to increased arms length objectivity, but it put me at odds with normal depressed miserable people and it messes with short term memory, as we all know.
Somehow I came to find this, so I bought it from Amazon:
Embarrassingly stoned postings that make up the bulk of the opinion on the internet make finding out about this a real treat. I was worried until about 10 minutes after I first tried a dose, i.e. didn't like the part about the former chief scientist of the company complaining about biocontamination, so I double- boiled the open-bottle. CBD doesn't boil until 180C, so the stuff can be sterilized without losing effect.

My take: "It's like the good part of pot... without the GREAT part.".. which means: It provides me the pain management and mental stress relief without the euphoria and forgetfulness.

Anyhow it's only a month, but I'm pretty sure I like this. Maybe it's why I always have a roll of hemp twine around for tying things up.
Makes me wonder about my own history. It also makes me wonder about the company I keep. Here I live in one of the most "progressive" states in the Union, a pioneer in medical marijuana and I had never heard of this stuff before. I dunno, maybe I need to go outside occasionally.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ocean Shield

April 9, 2014. Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion flies past Australian Defense vessel Ocean Shield on a mission to drop sonar buoys to assist in the acoustic search of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. The ship searching for the missing Malaysian jet has detected two more underwater signals that may be emanating from the aircraft's black boxes. (Photo by Australian Defense Force)

Ship builders are building some funny looking ships these days. This one was originally ordered by a Norwegian company that is in the offshore oil and gas business. Before it was launched it was sold to the Australian Navy. The visor over the bow is a helipad.

ZUtA Pocket Printer

ZUtA Pocket Printer on Kickstarter

I don't know if this is a good idea or not, but it is certainly outside of my comfort zone. I grew up with paper. I still have a couple of bookshelves filled with three ring binders. I opened one last year. I have a table with space for messing with paper along with all the tools of the trade: three hole punch, stapler, paper cutter and a postage scale. Well, I did until my Linux project usurped the space. I have a "big boxy" all-in-one printer connected to my desktop, though these days I use the scanner more often than I use the printer. Despite our heedless rush towards the digital cliff, business still runs on paper, so maybe these guys are on to something. Via Posthip Scott.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

NATO - Ballistic Missile Defence Overview

This is just a little bit nuts. It's a neat technological trick to be able to shoot down an incoming missile with another missile, but all this back and forth communication looks like trouble. I mean it's nice to know what's going on, and it's nice to keep everyone informed about what's going on, but a simpler if-you-see-it-shoot-it rule might be more reliable. Of course, just because you can see it does not necessarily mean you can reach it with your defensive missiles, you might have to call someone who is within shoot-down range.
     The bigger problem is that you only have a few seconds, maybe a couple of minutes at most, to react or you could have a catastrophe on your hands. And how often does one of these missiles get launched? Never, we hope. Meanwhile we need some number (dozens? hundreds?) of people watching and waiting for someone, anyone, to step out of line. Maybe they have computer systems that will alert them if anything happens, so all these people need to do is show up sober for their shift and listen for the alarm. Still, if nothing ever happens I can imagine that they could easily forget just what that alarm horn is for.
    Right now I think we still depend on some human making the decision to launch the anti-missile missile, but how long before we get bored and turn that job over to Skynet?

Cutaway Stuka

Fozzy's scratch built JU87 Cut away Stuka won an International Competition in Bulgaria.

Allah Akbar

I have started several longish posts recently but due to personal shortcomings I haven't completed them. The world is a complicated place and some of these posts tax my ability to compile all the disparate parts into one coherent whole, for some value of "coherent". So I've got a bunch of stuff simmering on the back burner, so to speak.
    This morning I pull up the online version of Jumble and it's being kind of a stinker. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what the third word is supposed to be. Oh, I'll get it eventually, but while I am stewing on it I have a vision of what the suicide bomber's version of Jumble would look like. It would look just like the regular version of Jumble, but the "SOLUTION" to the puzzle would always be "ALLAH AKBAR".
    I'm sorry if this doesn't make much sense, but I'm a little ticked off at the Imams who are promoting violent Jihad. Yes, I know it's necessary to have some vermin around, at least occasionally, otherwise your cats are liable to become fat and complacent. There are too many vermin right now. We need an exterminator. Or more cats.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Special Effects

I'm watching the end of The Fifth Element this evening and we come to this scene where our heroes are escaping from the exploding cruise liner. Here we see Chris Tucker dazed and confused and I cannot believe that anyone has eyeballs that white and that big. I'm thinking the special effects people must have stepped in and photoshopped his eyeballs. So I go a Googling, but I'm not finding anything about Chris and his eyeballs, but I do find a series of videos about the efforts of the special effects guys to create some of the many creatures that inhabit this film.
    Then I stumble over a YouTube video of Mythbuster Adam Savage talking about his 13 year old project to recreate the Zorg ZF-1 tactical assault weapon, which leads me down the rabbit hole, where I eventually find:

Seems some fans have finally managed to recreate a ZF-1 that is at least as real as the one in the movie. You can even buy one if you are feeling flush, or a kit if you want to get your hands dirty.

Now the way all these props have been hidden away makes me think that someone thinks they are still valuable, so I check the finances. The movie cost $90 million when it was made 17 years ago. Wikipedia tells us that the movie has grossed over $250 million dollars, so presumably it paid. However, it didn't reach that total until 2012. Looking back at the first six months it only grossed some 60-odd million, so I suspect that it has been a generating a small but constant stream of revenue, small being a relative term, like a million dollars a month.