Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Crop Circles & Space Lasers

'Mysterious' crop circle showed up in a field outside Weilheim, Germany this week. The news reports are all ga-ga about all the tourists who have come to see the great mystery. The only mystery to me is why someone would put that much effort into making one. It's a cool enough design, but it's kind of hard to appreciate these things unless you are up in the air where you can get a clear view.  I suppose they are temporary art, kind of like sand castles, and I like sand castles. Crop circles aren't my cup of tea, but I guess they are okay.
    It could be a secret government program to see how long it takes someone to notice something like this. I mean, it's out in the middle of a field, no one is going to notice it unless they walk or fly across it, and nobody is going to be walking across it, you would be trampling on the crop and the farmer is liable to come after you with a shotgun. Then again, I've never heard of a farmer getting upset about the damage to the crop that these circles cause. Maybe it's because it's the most interesting thing that has happened there in the last thousand years.
    What caught my eye, though, is the giant radio antennas right next door. Do you think there is some connection? Maybe the aliens are making road signs to identify this location, or maybe the SETI crowd is trying to attract some attention. Big, permanent installations like that should be visible on a satellite view of the earth, so I go looking and eventually found them. I also found some info that suggests they are part of the new European Data Relay System.

    This system is kind of slick. They have a ground station in Germany and a geosynchronous satellite overhead that they communicate with using normal radio waves. This satellite can communicate with other satellites that are in lower orbits via a laser. This allows them to collect data from satellites over half of the world using this one ground station.
    The Airbus video babbles on about how this system can be used for humanitarian relief efforts in times of crisis, but we all know it's really there to control the drones that are being sent to kill you.

Via Graham Hancock.

WHO's to Blame

Prevalence of Malaria. Red is high, green is low.

WHO, as in World Health Organization. The world is going to hell in a hand basket. Thomas Friedman has a column today telling us all about it. I didn't finish it. I know we are going to hell, the only question in my mind is how fast we get there.

It's one thing to value life and to claim every life is important, but unless you are willing to take responsibility for the cultural conditioning of all the new people showing up on our planet everyday, I think you need to shut up. Wait, "take repsonsibility" is the wrong term, that just tells us who to blame if things go wrong, and some people will do just that. 'Yes, it was my responsibility, and I failed. I am so very, very sorry. Please don't beat me.' You can shoot the SOB who stole your money, crashed your car or wiped out the elephants, but it won't get your money back, fix your car, or bring back the elephants.

What we want is someone to step up and see that the new souls are properly indoctrinated. Many people prefer the word 'education', but education is simple. Simple if you believe in it, not so simple if you don't. Remember that book about how All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? That's what we're talking about here.*

So we've got some people who think life is the only thing that is important, everything else takes a distant second. This has led to widespread programs to inoculate people against common infectious diseases. These are universally regarded as good, even though they are at the root of all our problems. It's fine to inoculate people against disease, as long as you are going to ensure that they are properly indoctrinated with our sophisticated Western civilization's mode of thinking. But the people pushing the drugs are not pushing the indoctrination, so we are overpopulating 3rd world countries with barbarians. No wonder civil war, massacres and mayhem are the world's most popular sports.

So every one of those syringe weilding do-gooders needs to stay with that kid they've just inoculated and see that they learn how to behave in a civilized society. That might put a crimp in their hipster lifestyle, but it will likely save us a zillion dollars in future inoculation costs.

* Which makes me realize why in days of old kingdoms imposed a universal state religion. It ensures that everyone adheres to a certain standard of conduct, or at least it makes them aware of the rules. It makes a certain amount of sense. It's also why freedom of religion for countries that are still operating in the middle ages (like the Middle East and Africa) may not be such a good idea.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fax Machine Blood Feud

I don't know what the connection is, but this was best picture that turned up when I Googled the title to this post. Yuliya Snigir plays Irina in A Good Day to Die Hard, who mainly makes an impression because she's beautiful and a shot of her stripping out of motorcycle leathers was heavily featured in the film's marketing materials. That shot was almost completely cut from the movie itself.

Got a letter from Walgreens, a form letter out of a computer, but an actual printed-on-paper, delivered-by-snail-mail letter the other day. It's telling me that one of my prescriptions has expired, and the doctor hasn't stepped up and authorized any more. All this requesting and authorizing is done with fax machines, so if the doc is going to authorize more drugs for me, he's going to need the fax number. Well, where is it? It's not in the letter, it's not on their website, so I call, fight with the robo-cop answering machine, wade through an armload of protocol with the operator and finally get the fax number. Call the doctor's office and they tell me they don't need the fax number, all this prescription s*** is handled electronically now.
     So now I see how Obamacare has started a bunch of blood feuds in the Republican party. Big businesses like Walgreens want automation and elimination of unnecessary paperwork, while small businesses, like your local fax machine dealer, like things the way they were.

Latest Weapon's Technology from the 16th Century

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Girls with Guns

Speed Limit Map

I drove from PDX to Wilsonville on I-205 today. Southbound through Clackamas and then west through Oregon City the speed limit is 55. Somewhere after that it changes to 65 MPH. Evidently I missed the changeover because all of sudden everyone in the fast lane is going much faster. Eventually I saw a 65 MPH speed limit sign and I got with the program.
    Now I'm home and I'm wondering just where does the speed limit change, so I start Googling and eventually I end up on ITO World, where I found this map.The fat blue line wandering in from the left hand edge is the 65 MPH section of I-205, and the purple section coming in the from right is the 55 MPH section. Where they meet is the point where the speed limit changes. Unfortunately, I still don't know where it is because that section of I-205 is notoriously devoid of landmarks. Nothing but trees for miles.
    I don't know how much of the world ITO has covered, but they definitely have the UK and the USA sorted.

Monday, July 28, 2014

X-Ray Telescope

I stumbled over a picture of the Chandra X-Ray telescope this morning, which was kind of a shock because while I've been hearing about it for years I don't think I have ever seen a picture of it. It's not much to look at, it looks like just another big dumb satellite, but then I came across this diagram along with a brief explanation of how it works, which I thought was kind of interesting.

Chandra X-ray Observatory optics.Launched 1999.
    Space-based x-ray telescopes allow astronomers to study a wide range of energetic phenomena from neutron stars to diffuse million-degree gas permeating galaxy clusters. Unfortunately, x-rays are notoriously difficult to focus. To produce images, x-ray telescopes must use grazing incidence mirrors, which reflect incoming photons at very shallow angles. High-resolution x-ray mirrors usually use the Wolter Type I geometry—a double reflection off first a parabolic and then a hyperbolic surface (see Figure 1). As a consequence of the shallow angles (typically 1° or less), the collecting area is a small fraction of the mirror surface. To increase the telescope's effective area, multiple mirror pairs are nested. Thin mirrors can be nested in higher number and more densely than thicker mirrors, resulting in a large total collecting area, but they are more subject to manufacturing and mounting errors that degrade the angular resolution.
    The trade-off between imaging quality and light collecting power is apparent in the most advanced current facilities. The Chandra X-ray Observatory1 employs four thick (16–23mm) mirror shells with an unparalleled angular resolution of 0.5".
    Here we have the reflection conundrum again. X-rays go through most anything, or are stopped (absorbed), which is how we get medical X-rays. But if we can catch them at a low enough angle they can be reflected, and if they can be reflected, they can be focused, so we ought to be able to get some kind of image.
    All electromagnetic radiation (light, radio waves, X-rays) are composed of photons, which aren't really particles, and aren't really waves. X-ray photons are more energetic than visible light photons, which might explain the low angle of incidence needed for reflecting them.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The War On Drugs

We're watching The Wire these days. Episode we watched last night was about the political campaign of a guy running for mayor of Baltimore. Several characters involved in the campaign spend time watching political discussions on television. They do not seem to be particularly interested in what is being discussed, but rather they are concerned about how this discussion will be perceived by the "public". This is understandable, most Americans still watch the news on television.
     Police Major Kolvin, under pressure to reduce crime in his district, marks out a "free zone" for drug dealers, and encourages them to take their business there. He achieves a dramatic drop in crime. When the press gets wind of it, the Drug Czar drives over from Washington D.C. to tell the mayor that half a billion dollars in Federal funding is in jeopardy if this policy continues. The mayor, naturally, tells him that it is NOT his policy, it is an aberration and will soon be put right.
     I think our nation is suffering from a real bad case of group think regarding this War On Drugs. President Nixon stepped up and declared the war, the news media reported it, the people who watched the news heard this and believed, or at least didn't complain, and so the "will of the people" was given a new direction. It's kind of like the emperors new clothes. No one thinks this war is a good idea, but everyone is afraid of being called soft on crime, or a hippie, or a communist, if they utter even one word against it, so they keep quiet. Politicians run their polls and everyone seems to be in agreement, but no one actually believes.
    I wouldn't be surprised is our War On Drugs wasn't causing more grief for more people than Al Qaeda.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

True Lies

Alcohol History
  1. Sometime after beer was invented, somebody figured out that just boiling water was enough to make it safe to drink, you didn't actually have to make beer out of it. Since people no longer needed to start the day with a tankard of ale, productivity went way up. This was the start of the industrial revolution.
  2. Alcohol was the cause of slavery. Because a free man could drink as much as he wanted, and which he did, thereby becoming drunk and useless, nothing got done. So some wise guy decided that some people's grog should be rationed, so they weren't drunk all the time and the chores would be taken care of. The people who had their grog rations curtailed didn't like it and complained, which led to conflict and iron bars and chains. Hence, slavery.
  3. People aren't any crazier now than they used to be. It's just that more people are sober now and distinguish crazy from drunk. I mean it can be hard to tell the difference, especially when you are drunk.
H/T to Marc.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Babson Geophysical Globe. U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Schuyler Otis Bland Memorial Library. Kings Point, New York.

I have a globe. It is slightly larger than normal with a diameter of 16 inches. It is nowhere near as large as the Babson Globe shown above, but I like it. I'm thinking I should make some kind of mounting for it, and I got to thinking that maybe I should fill it with concrete so as to give it a more realistic feel. Set something like that to spinning on good bearings and it might be days before it came to a stop.
    Then I got to wondering just how much a scale globe should weigh, so I did some checking. Here's what I found:
  • density of granite:   170 pounds per cubic foot
  • density of steel:     500 pounds per cubic foot
  • density of the Earth: 345 pounds per cubic foot
So the density of the Earth is midway between that of granite and steel. That makes a certain amount of sense. So how much would a scale model globe weigh with the same density as the Earth?
  • typical 12" globe:                   180 pounds
  • my extra large 16" globe:            425 pounds
  • Babson globe (7' 6" in diameter): 76,000 pounds
Then I got to thinking about the biosphere, the portion of the Earth where there is life, and I realize it's like the skin of a balloon, pretty damn thin, and fairly insubstantial. There are also some fairly sizable holes in it, like deserts, high mountain ranges and the polar regions. Our small size gives us a limited view, and gravity keeps us glued to the surface. Even though some of us have our eyes on the stars we are really all flatlanders.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Numbrix Three-fer Friday

I found a solution to today's Numbrix puzzle, but it was not the "correct" solution. I marched through all 81 squares in order and did not find any mistakes. When I checked the comments I found that several other people had run into the same problem.
edfix says "Today, we see a rare three-fer, with a record length (15) between the end points of the ambiguous string. . . . Either 30, 32 or 34 can go to the right of 29 to produce a valid solution."
james.adkinson says: "there are at least 3 different paths between 29 and 45".

Girls with Guns

ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 13, 2014) Airman Kiana Winbush fires an M-240B machine gun during a live fire exercise aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge.U.S. Navy photo by Travis DiPerna.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Acting is Work

Irba reports:
I am still in the office at 8 pm because this multi-billion dollar company cannot devise a backup for 3 Unix servers.

I restored 14G of data to each of them from my LAPTOP via FTP.

Businesses are predicated on dividing work into little bitty pieces, each of which are simple and obvious.

Working with computers requires a higher level of abstract thinking. This is something most businessmen do not understand and do not know how to handle.

It's kind of like making movies. You have legions of drones to do all the grunt work, all to support the small group of actors who constitute the 'talent'.

It's kind of not like the movies, because the 'talent' in movies is one of the main features that helps sell the product.

Computer geeks that keep the virtual gears turning smoothly have no such visible value. If things are working smoothly, well, we must not need the computer geeks.

I think the key is to manufacture a crisis every so often and then make a big show of having to work extremely hard to put things right. In other words, display your talent as an 'actor'.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mini-ITX Motherboard Computer Case

I am trying to resurrect my son's hackintosh. Everything was fine and then a pop-up told him an update was available and, without thinking, he said yes, and that was the end of that.
    He has it setup in a cardboard box, which is fine as long as the none of the power supply lines develop a short. I'm thinking there could be a better arrangement so I started looking around to see what was available. The Mini-ITX motherboard is about 6.7 inches square (that's six point seven) and even with the cooling fan on the CPU it is only a couple of inches tall, so I'm thinking that with a power supply and a hard disk drive I should be able to stuff this thing in an eight inch cube. If I can find one, which I can't.
    I'm looking around and I stumble over this cool time lapse video of  the installation of a large injection molding machine (that's for some values of 'cool'. Your mileage may vary.)

Kind of makes those Science Fiction movies with all their mysterious hoses and do-dads look simplistic, but it doesn't really help me with my problem. Then I stumble over this video. Normally I don't like to give bad examples any press, but this one is exceptional as a technology demonstrator.

We have a synthetic voice narrating and computerized speech recognition generating the subtitles, at least that's what I surmise. Presumably they fed their speech program a script to read. If you have the text, why wouldn't you use that for the subtitles? Perhaps they were enamored of the technology. Why enter the subtitles when you can simply press the 'automatically add subtitles' button?
     There's also the purpose of the video, which is to show you the best compact cases, but then they proceed to show you the biggest cases made for this form-factor, ones that will accommodate multiple hard disks, extra large video cards, extra large power supplies and even water cooling. I thought the whole point was to be compact. While these boxes are smaller than a conventional tower, they are not compact.


Busy summer for tanks.





Monday, July 14, 2014

Tipping, China

I was supposed to meet Jack for lunch at the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse today. While I am waiting I walk around the grounds and am reminded of how pleasant this place is: spacious grounds, beaucoup de trees, meandering paths through the forest.
    Jack is late, so I sit down with my book. These days I read mostly fiction, but I have some non-fiction that I think I should read, so I have taken to keeping one in the car. Whenever I am stuck waiting someplace I pick it up and read for a bit. My current book is The Black Count. I started reading it at home, but I quickly put it down. It took me a while to figure out what the problem was: it is incredibly dense. Each page has as much history as you get in an entire semester at school. I read three pages and it takes me at least a week to digest it.
    Today, for instance, I'm reading about Marie Antoinette's older sister with her 18 children playing at being the queen of Naples. Since her sister lost her head in the French Revolution she has developed a hatred for all things French, so when some French soldiers manage to make to make port after nearly being destroyed by a storm, she has them clapped into irons, which is where Alexander Dumas got his plot for The Count of Monte Cristo.
    Meanwhile back at the Roadhouse, I have finished my lunch, Jack hasn't show up, and I've finished the chapter. Where's my bill? This is one of my pet peeves about restaurants. I can wait to be seated, I can wait for the waitress, I can wait for my food, and I can wait for a few minutes after I am done eating. But when I am ready to go, I want to go, I don't want to have to wait for the bill. I finished eating 15 minutes ago and still no bill, so I walk up to a woman at the server's station and ask for the bill. She tries to put me off, but I refuse. By my logic I am doing them a favor by offering to pay the bill. By rights I should have just left. I mean, I should not have to go looking for my bill. My wife would probably rate my behavior as extremely rude, but then she thinks that about almost everything I say.
    I could have avoided all this trouble by just leaving cash on the table, but all I had was a twenty and that seemed a bit excessive for a cheeseburger and cup of coffee. The bill came to $13.25, which is kind of steep, but you are paying for the ambiance, and like I said, the ambiance is hard to beat. I left the waitress $3. I realize it probably doesn't offset my being rude (assuming I was). Under normal circumstances I would consider it, if not fat, at least a plump tip.
    But with inflation being the way it is, and the Roadhouse being what it is, and where it is (next door to the world's largest computer chip manufacturing facility), maybe I should have just left the $20 on the table. But my long history of being miserly makes me unwilling to pay $20 for lunch. Ten years ago lunch was $5 and that included the tip. Now lunch is $7 or $8 and I leave a ten, but that's at a strip mall restaurant, and while it is pleasant enough, including cute oriental waitresses, it doesn't hold a candle to the Roadhouse.

P.S. Am I allowed to say "oriental waitresses", or is that now a politically incorrect term? I'm sorry, I'm old, I can't keep up.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Wait for it...

Thousand Year Reich

Dustbury put up a post about antiquated data rates and music, and I wondered just how long it would take to transfer the file in question, so I did a little calculation (above). To transfer this piddling little one hundred megabyte file at 300 baud would take almost six weeks. To transfer a one gigabyte file would take over a year, and to transfer a terabyte of data, which is what a $50 hard disk holds, would take one thousand years. All hail our great and munificent data lords!

    1200 baud modems were just becoming available when I got started in this business back around 1980, and acoustic couplers were still common. It was over ten years before we got to 9600 baud, and when I looked at the spec I realized someone was lying. They were doing something called trellis encoding combined with phase shift keying, which involved chopping up the nice sine wave and shifting the phase of individual peaks and valleys. In order to encode a signal like that would require a sampling frequency much higher than the 9600 Hz that was being delivered..

Museum Dream

I want to show some friends an old museum that I have discovered in the basement of a motorcycle shop in a touristy part of town. We go to the shop, wind our way through towards the back at which point it gets too crowded, so we bail out a side door, which dumps us on a strip mall sidewalk. We go to the next shop, which is a cafe, go in the front door, walk through and out the back door. We turn left and come up behind the motorcycle shop which has some display windows there, even though this is the back of the shop. There is no door, but that doesn't stop us, I just reach up and push in on the window and it bends down enough that we are able to crawl in over it. (Apparently the window was made of dream glass.).
    We open the back of the display and climb down into the store. We have bypassed the gridlock of tourists and can go downstairs to the museum. It's not much as museums go, it's more like somebody's collection of old motorcycle paraphernalia, but there are some cool and interesting things here.
    Now we have some visitors from Norway. It's mixed group of 20 somethings, dressed in grubby denim and looking like punk rockers, or wanna be bikers. They have heard about our little adventure and they want to see it, too, so I volunteer to take them.
    We follow the same route as last time (miraculously appear at the store), wind our way through, out the side door, through the cafe and out the back door. This time I notice that we are in sort of an alley, and we could have just walked down this alley instead of taking the circuitous route we did.
    We go in through the window. This time we are accosted by one of the store employees who is a little perturbed by my unorthodox entry method, but only because it took his boss a couple of hours to put the window back into position. I hadn't realized that it would be so difficult, so I go back to the window and push it back into place. While I am there I find something that looks like it might be a black, elastic headband, except it's made of a very sheer material.
    Finished with the window, we go down to the basement to see the museum. There is also a small cafe there, kind of like the old soda fountains you used to find in drug stores. One of the women who was with me on my earlier expedition is working there as a waitress. She is wearing some kind of green, flowery dress that goes to mid-calf. I ask her about the "headband". She takes it, says that it might be hers, and stuffs it in her pocket. Huh. Okay then.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Arab Spring Bonus

From The Black Count, talking about Napoleon's ill-fated adventure to Egypt:

Shades of The Name of the Rose.


Comrade Misfit put up a post about Chicken pox, er, Chicamonga, er, chickie-chickie, er some disease with a funny chicky sounding name. I follow the link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where I find these two items:
  • See your doctor if you develop the symptoms described above.
  • There is no medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection or disease.
 Why bother to go to the doctor if there is nothing he can do for you? This is moronic advice for morons, typical of every public agency. Which reminds me of that old saying: no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

P.S. I found a bunch of pictures of really ugly mosquitos. They were so ugly I was repelled, so I chose the uber-geeky image above. I don't dislike all bugs. I kind of like spiders. I'm not quite sure why that is. Perhaps it's the same reason Malkina (Cameron Diaz in The Counselor likes her cheetahs: it's because they are predators, not parasites.

Quote of the Day

Notice how most of Iran and Eastern Iraq is dark green (Shia) and how the territory held by ISIS is light green (Sunni). Also note that Saudi Arabia has got bits of both divided by Wahhabism in the middle.
The basic problem is very clear. It is that millions of people in the Islamic world do not believe in free speech, freedom of religion, democracy, a secular state, free enterprise and human rights. Millions of Muslims also have a hatred for Israel and America that has no rational basis. - Mark Humphrys
He goes on at some length about what must be done, and he might be right, except for the "must" part. The only thing anyone "must" do is die, eventually. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Quote of the Day

Heraclitus by Johannes Moreelse circa 1630
It is difficult to fight against anger, for a man will buy revenge with his soul. Heracleitus, 500 B.C.
Found on The Abode of McThag, via View From The Porch.

Looking for a picture of Heracleitus (a.k.a. "the weeping philosopher") I stumbled on this. I don't know where they got this accent or this pronounciation, but it doesn't sound anything like I would pronounce it, but then I'm part neanderthal, so what do I know?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Return of the Prodigal Battery

We're cleaning light fixtures today and I find a burned out light bulb. I go to the cupboard to get a spare. I have a couple, but rumor has it that regular incandescent bulbs are going away so maybe I should save these for a more critical situation. Then I remember that the power company, or one of their minions, sent me a big box full of energy saving bulbs and stuff. Now where did I put it? I go down in the basement and look in the store room, and lo and behold, there it is, up on the shelf! Take it upstairs, open it up, and what do I see?

The leftovers from some household repair project including a bunch of tools AND the battery and charger for my Makita drill. How long has it been missing? At least a year, maybe two. This calls for a celebration! Think I'll have a diet Coke, a frivolous expense if ever there was one.

Grandpa Simpson

Stu converted Grandpa Simpon's mileage (rods per hogshead) claim into metric mileage (meterage?). I decided to see what a typical mileage claim would be if you converted it to Grandpa's rod-age.

Grandpa must be driving a train, a steamship, or a strip mining shovel. As for our more typical mileage, well, half a million is kind of a big number, a little unwieldly for everyday conversation.

 Where did we get this term 'hogshead' anyway? My take on Wikipedia's explanation is that some old Viking branded (like with a red hot iron) his barrels of ale with the image of the head of an ox, so barrels of ale came to be known as ox-heads. By the time they got to North America a hundred years later, the term had been corrupted to hogshead. Or maybe somebody else started branding their barrels with the image of the head of a hog.

Just what do they call 'mileage' in countries that haven't been to the moon?

Update April 2016 replaced missing spreadsheet on account of Google changed the way spreadsheets are embedded.

St. Albert the Gaseous

Wish I could breath fire like that.

Bloomberg, via Tyler Durden and Dustbury, tells me that Al Gore is now a rich man with something like 200 million dollars at his beck and call, which puts him on the same playing field as Mitt Romney, his arch-enemy in the political game. However, Al is not a businessman of the same stripe as Romney. While Romney made his fortune through conventional rapacious Republican techniques of screwing the little guy and sucker punching the market, Al made his money through his political connections.
    Current TV, that he sold to Al-Jazeera, wasn't worth the $70 million they paid for it. Someone liked Al well enough to give him the money. Buying Current TV was just the cover story. Whether it was someone in Qatar (which is where Al-Jazeera is from) or someone who knew someone in Qatar who made that decision, we will probably never know. The only thing you can be sure is that someone has added Al to their ranks, just whose ranks those are is a little hard to tell. I mean, what has all this brou-ha-ha over global warming accomplished? Oh, that's right, tax breaks for wind power companies. I suppose that could be worth $70 million.
   The Apple stock deal was similar. Someone decided Al needed some money, so they gave him a job on Apple's board of directors, for which he didn't get paid, but he got some stock options, which he eventually cashed in. It's kind of like winning the lottery, except you don't even have to buy a ticket, you just have to know the right people.
    Apple stock is kind of like Tesla stock. Some people are just ga-ga over it. I wouldn't be surprised if both were a complete sham. Say you start a company and you issue a million shares of stock which you sell for a dollar each to your friends (pretend you have a lot of friends). Now you have a million dollars to use to start your company. Now your friends start talking about what a great company you have and how it's going to make a bunch of money and more people want to get in on the action, so they try and buy shares in the company, but nobody is selling any shares, except for your cousin Arnold who you never got along with very well anyway, but he's only got one share, and there are like a zillion people who want to get in on this deal so they start bidding the price up and eventually somebody buys Arnold's share for a $100. Now your company, which last week was worth one million dollars is now "worth" $100 million because this one share was sold. Right. Dump a a big chunk of shares on the market right now and watch the price plummet.
     Now all you have to do is wait out the SEC specified waiting period, and if people are still ga-ga over your stock, you can dump your options on the market for a nice fat windfall, without having to use any of your own money.

Title stole from Dustbury.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mass Media

Marcel put up a post decrying the Hobby Lobby ruling this morning, and it prompted me to start a comment:
I do not understand the fuss over the Hobby Lobby ruling. Of course, there are a lot of things that are immensely popular (like Facebook and professional sports) that don't interest me. I suspect that the chattering classes need something insubstantial to chatter about, and this is this week's topic.
But starting down this track got me to thinking, and maybe there is something more substantial going on here.

Warren Meyer put up a post the other day (via Dustbury) that pretty succcinctly covered the foolishness of this uproar: Hobby Lobby wasn't trying  to prohibit the use or purchase of contraceptives, they simply did not want to pay for them. To my mind the cost of contraceptives is miniscule, but as my kids so often remind me, my perception of cost and value are miles away from theirs.

A couple of weeks ago there was another Supreme Court ruling (Abramski v. United States). On that one I agreed with the losing side. In my little universe, most people agreed with me. But when I did an internet search on the topic I was surprised to find that most all of the coverage agreed with the illogical position taken by the majority.

Here we've got another story that focuses our attention on another obscure issue, and once again, most all of the coverage on the internet is on one side of the issue.

After the Abramski  issue, I was tempted to write to some of the prominent reporters and columnists and ask them if they took that tone in their story because it was:
  1. what they truly believed, or
  2. what their publisher told them to write, or
  3. they knew what kind of story their publisher would pay for.
Just now I realized there was another possibility: they each wrote one story applauding the decision and one deriding it, and let the publisher choose which one to 'print'.

So, yes, I do believe the media is being manipulated by someone(s) with an agenda. I think it's the same agenda I grew up with, and that is that:
  • every life is important, so we should try to ensure the health and well being of everyone, and
  • we don't need any more people, we already have plenty, so we should try and restrict the number of babies being produced.
It's kind of a nice pleasant dream, but it's not working out so well. Not everyone agrees with these points, some people agree with one, but not the other, so we have long, bitter arguments about this. Africa is my favorite bad example (because it is far away and I have no first hand knowledge of the place, besides, it's full of people who aren't Americans). George Bush the 2nd set up some kind of vaccination plan that saved five million lives. At the same time, there was a war going on in central Africa (a series of wars actually) that killed five million people, mostly through disease and starvation.

Sometimes I think the Amish and Christian Scientists have the right of it. Maybe our high-tech society is destroying our physical and mental fiber. Whenever that happens, I go have a cup of coffee and a donut and sit down at my computer and write a diatribe about whatever's bothering me, and then I feel better.

Previous post on the Abramski case.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Quote of the Day

there are two types of countries in the world:
1) ones that use the metric system.
2) ones that have been to the moon.
Stolen from Dustbury, who stole it from Hatless, who found it out wandering around lost. And because I'm feeling a little ornery this morning, but not ornery enough to tackle anything more difficult, I'll let you in on how I feel about the metric system: it's great for stuff that is too small to see and for stuff that is too far away to touch, but for everyday existence, I prefer American. A foot is a foot, a mile a minute is a good speed for getting somewhere by car. One hundred degrees is hot, zero degrees is cold. What are the values for these in the metric system? Prime numbers from the planet Xylorcanth. And before you go trying to tell me that we could have a kilometer a minute as a good speed, if we only changed the length of a second to a more metric-centric value, let me remind you that your heart beats once per second, or it would if you were a real human and not some Eurocentric cyborg wanna-be.

Good News from the 'Stans

Third Pakistani Nuclear Reactor Operational

What could possibly go wrong?

Khushab Reactor #1

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Our ancient Dell J740 inkjet printer flaked out the other day. Note my terminology. It didn't 'break' or 'quit working'. We replaced the black ink cartridge and the computer started complaining, something about how the printer couldn't recognize the new cartridge. I fooled with it for about an hour (jump through hoops, cycle the power, pull and plug cartridges, Google, research, read) all to no avail, so I went to Amazon and ordered a new Epson for $60. Yes, I could have spent more time with it, and yes, it is possible that I might have been able to get it working, but how much is my time worth? And how long would it be before it flaked out again and I would have to jump through these hoops all over again? No, thank you. I'm tired of that.
    I think we probably got our money's worth out of it, especially since (if I recall correctly) that it was a freebie that came with the computer. Never mind that it probably cost us a quarter for ink every time we  printed a page that we could actually use. Most sheets that come out of a printer are a waste because
  • something went wrong and
  • your printed the wrong thing, or
  • it came out too small, or
  • too large, or it
  • printed all 17 pages when you only wanted page 7, or
  • it was a test page because it was being stupid, or
  • you tried to print when you knew you were low on ink and one cartridge ran out in the middle of the page. 
Of course, how do you know when you need to replace the cartridge? I mean it starts warning you that you  are low on ink after you have printed three pages, so how much ink is actually left? Is there enough for one page or ten? Or even 20? Who knows? Print until it goes bad, which given the low volume of printing we do could be six months or more. Stupid printers, they should never run out of ink.
We have had the old printer for at least ten years, which is beyond ancient in terms of today's technology. Dell quit selling cartridges for it a few years ago. Since then I've had to resort to fly-by-night outfits on Ebay. That's not really fair, making a disparaging remark like that, the cartridges I got that way all worked, and were probably cheaper than what Dell used to charge. Well, until this one, but I don't think it was the cartridges fault. I think it was just the printer's time to roll over and go to printer heaven.
The new printer is wireless, which means I don't need a printer cable, though it still needs a power cable. It also means I had to root around for the password for our wireless router. Fortunately I knew where I could find it as I had to go through this same rigamarole a few weeks ago for another piece of electronic crap, er, gizmo.

The new printer is also a scanner, like most printers are these days, which might come in handy. Or it might just lead to wasting hours trying to accomplish something that could be done in five minutes with a pen and a stamp.

Old printer on top of boxes from new one.

As typical, the printer was packed in a box by Epson and then that box was packed in another box by Amazon. I'm looking at this situation and I'm wondering how does anyone make any money off of this? Packing materials are not free, especially if you are buying new material by the truckload rather that trying to pack one sweater to send to your nephew in a box that held your latest electronic gizmo from Amazon.

Then there's:
  •  the little bits that come with the printer, like the owners manual, and quick setup poster, and the CD. Now admittedly, if you are buying these things in lots of ten thousand, the price per item is pretty low, but we are still talking nickels, not pennies. 
  • shipping, shipping across the ocean in a container with ten thousand of his (or is it her?) fellow printers, and shipping from the warehouse to my door, which is probably a hundred times more expensive.
  • warehousing, which means unpacking the container and putting the boxes on shelves in the warehouse.
  • interest on the money used to build the printer until it is sold.
I'm thinking Epson is probably only getting about half the retail price for the actual printer. Thank God for Chinese slave labor and for Chairman Mao holding the value of the yuan artificially low.

I wonder how long it will be before printers come pre-packaged with a lifetime supply of paper, ink and power. Set the package that Fed-Ex delivered on your desk. Don't bother unpacking, the package is the printer. Do some hocus pocus to get your computer to talk to your new printer, and then print until it dies. Unpack the new one that arrived this morning, because the old printer knew it was about to die and automatically ordered it's replacement. Consume, consumer, consume!

North Versus South

Alien Children Invading the USA under the watchful eyes of their alien masters and their collaborators.

Dustbury put up a post about the hordes of children coming to the USA from south of the border. Tony Woodlief thinks we could be a little more sympathetic. The old bat who I inadvertently crossed some months ago disagrees. Well, every lunatic is entitled to their opinion.

I don't know what's going, but I suspect climate has something to do with it. People in Northern temperate zones (Europe, USA, Russia) seem to be 'better behaved' / 'more civilized', or maybe the governments here just have better control. Southern areas, not so much. I tend to think that Catholicism with it's prohibitions on birth control is a big part of the problem. Or maybe it's that the elite in these southern countries don't think it is worth educating the peasants, because, after all, they are just peasants, what do they need an education for?

Or maybe it's our own fault for pushing our secular agenda (if only you had a shiny new whatsit, you would be happy) and it has infected everyone within reach of a radio or TV. Maybe if we cut off all electronic communication south of the border then the poor people there would accept their lot and suffer in silence as God intended.

Or maybe, just maybe, if you put enough people in a small enough area, dump on them constantly while raking off all of the wealth for you and yours, the people on the bottom will become desperate enough to try something wild and crazy, like sending their kids north where they might have a chance at something better than being a doormat.

 It's not really clear, but I believe the '000 near the top of this graphic means that all the numbers on the charts mean thousands of children. The word 'children' is a little misleading, what they mean is anyone under the age of 18. In many parts of the world you are an adult by the age of 15. From The Economist.

P.S. The picture at the top is actually English schoolchildren practicing a gas mask drill during WW2.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Thought Crime

That’s what makes the internet special. No matter how sick and disgusting a person’s worst thoughts, he can find others just as warped to share them and know that he’s not alone. Great. 
“The Internet is a forum for the free exchange of ideas, but it does not confer immunity for plotting crimes and taking steps to carry out those crimes,” - U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. 
“He is guilty of nothing more than very unconventional thoughts, but as Judge Gardephe has validated, we don’t put people in jail for their thoughts. We’re not the thought police, and the court system is not the deputies of the thought police.” - Julia Gatto attorney for the defense.
The key to a conspiracy, except a drug conspiracy,* is that there must be an overt act, a concrete step in furtherance of the commission of the offense that is the subject of the conspiracy.   
* In drug conspiracy, there is no requirement of an overt act. Thought alone, without more, is legally sufficient to prove a drug conspiracy.
That's a whole bunch of really scary stuff, all wrapped up in one little story.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


For as long as I can remember I have 'known' about the dangers of kickback from power saws, but until recently I had never encountered it. Obviously power saws can be very dangerous. That sharp steel blade spinning at nine zillion RPM would make mince meat of any part of your body it came in contact with, so you need to careful when operating these things.
    Once upon a time I was working with a crew of wild men framing apartment buildings in Houston. These guys were an OHSA inspector's worst nightmare, or would have been if OHSA knew about them. These guys didn't believe in safety guards. We used pneumatic nail guns that had a safety latch that kept them from firing unless they were pressed hard up against something. These guys had wired the safety's back because it took too long push down on the nail gun to disengage the safety, or they were just philosophically opposed to any kind of safety contrivance, I'm not sure which it was. 
    They had also removed the guards on their circular saws. I can sort of understand that, those things can make it a little difficult to get saw the started on cutting. Most people accept that little bit of extra effort as a worthwhile trade off for keeping the blade covered when it is not actually in use. Removing the guard also meant you had to turn the saw upside down before you set it down, otherwise the blade would be cutting into the floor. These guys seemed to think it was a worthwhile trade off. I thought they were nuts, but hey, I needed a job, and it just meant I had to stay on my toes.
    Evidently I wasn't quite up to par because I had a couple of minor accidents while I was working with these guys. Late in the day and I'm tired. I'm standing there holding a nail gun and I've forgotten about the safety being wired up and I let a little too much weight rest on my trigger finger and bang! I shoot myself in the leg. It went in my calf muscle at an angle, and not too far. Didn't hurt much, and when I pulled the nail out it didn't bleed much. More embarrassing than anything. Still have a spot on my leg that acts up from time to time, but it's never given me any serious trouble.
    Another time we were putting up a wall. I was standing inside on the floor and another guy was standing outside on the ground, a couple feet below floor level. He wants to set his saw down so he reaches in between two studs so he can set in on the floor. At the same time I take a step in his direction. My leg and the saw arrive at the same place at the same time. Fortunately, the blade only caught my pants leg, but that was enough to get everyone's attention. It was also a bit of a financial disaster. Blue jeans cost money, and wages were weak, somewhere around $5 an hour.
    Both of these incidents occurred within a month of each other. I think the reason these guys didn't have more accidents is because they were used to working with each other and they were all familiar with each other's patterns of motion. I was the new guy and I didn't fit very well, especially since I thought they were crazy, and maybe not too bright, but hey, Gulf Coast of Texas, in the summertime, what can you expect?
    So anyway, I've used power saws and I've had problems with them, but I've never had a serious kickback incident. One reason might be because most of my work has been with hand-held circular saws (Skil saws). These things weigh somewhere around five or ten pounds, and they require a bit of force to push them through the wood, even when they are sharp, so any 'kickback' that occurs has to overcome the inertia of the saw and the force of your arm.
    If you are cutting a poorly supported board, the board can bend and the sides of the cut can bind on the saw blade, but this usually results in slowing the saw down or even stopping it, and it's immediately obvious that you need to release the trigger because you are not cutting anymore.
    A young man I know recently lost a couple of fingers from his off hand (the left hand, he's right handed) in an accident with a table saw. When I first heard about this I assumed his hand had come in contact with the blade, but that was not the case. He was cutting a groove in a piece of hardwood, something went wrong, the saw blade grabbed the piece of wood and threw it back at him, striking the little and ring fingers of his left hand and severing them. This is the first and only injury due to kickback that I have heard about.

Be careful with power tools.