Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Luther - Paradise Circus

Theme song from Luther by Massive Attack - Paradise Circus - Video by Valentine Petishkin

We've been watching Luther, the BBC copper drama starring Idris Elba. For Series 4 they seem to have upped the depravity, violence and inter-office strife. It's still a great show, Idris is the understated strong man. We've also got Sienna Guillory as Luther's new girlfriend Mary Day, and she is certainly good looking.
   Got to wondering this evening whether stars, like Idris, have real "star power" or whether the mannerisms of the star are scripted right down to the twitch of an eyelid. I mean, say you've got six characters in your show, and you've that many actors to play their roles. How do you decide who plays which role? Do you go by gut instinct, or feel? Or do you just randomly assign people to roles, and if they are good actors or actresses they simply play the role they have been assigned? Do we even call female actors actresses anymore, or is everyone an actor?

Houphouët-Boigny Bridge

I am reading The Secret of the Great Pyramid by Bob Brier and Jean-Pierre Houdin. Along about Chapter 7 they start talking about Henri Houdin, Jean-Pierre's father, and his career as a civil engineer building stuff in Africa, including this bridge back in the 1950's. (Google Map here.) It's kind of a cool bridge, being a double decker with trains running on the lower level inside of box girders and cars running on top. But I couldn't find much else about it, no construction photos, no explanation of ventilation for the trains (presumably diesel). On the map you can see there are train tracks leading up to both ends, so presumably it still handles rail traffic of some sort. I had a little more luck with name.
    The bridge is named for Félix Houphouët-Boigny, dictator for life of Ivory Coast from 1960 until his death in 1993. In 1990 UNESCO established the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize, which is kind of weird until you read what happened in Ivory Coast since he died. 
    All of which brings us to today's Wizard of ID:

P.S. I want to call 'Ivory Coast' 'the Ivory Coast', probably because I'm a dead white European male and think of ivory as describing the coast, whereas in this case it is the proper name of the country. So if you are not talking about the country, you can say the ivory coast, but not if you are. Clear?

Shipping News

Diligent daughter wants an extra lock on her apartment door in Argentina. I thought I would send her fiance one of my extra drills to make installation easier. I mean it's cheaper than buying one, right? Ha. Not when you add shipping. There are probably lower rates that won't get it there by tomorrow, but being as it's Sunday, nobody is telling me what they are.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

This isn't the gun you are looking for, Part 2.

Ceci n'est pas une fusil.

Even though it shoots a rifle cartridge, it is not a rifle because it looks like a pistol, which means you can use it for hunting deer in Indiana. There was a gun shop in Rockwell City, Iowa for a while, and the owner had several similar items, that is, pistols that shot rifle cartridges. I thought it was kind of strange for the shop to be there since the town was so small, but I suppose the rent was cheap. I also thought the guns were a little odd, I mean why would you want something like this? But once you add in the bit about deer hunting it starts to make sense. Picture and caption stolen from View from the Porch.

Part 1 here, except stupid Blogger lost the picture.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Where does an 800 pound motorcycle sleep?

Stopped by to visit some friends from our old neighborhood yesterday. Bob has traded in his Corvette for an 800 pound Harley. He's done some touring on it, but now he's got a hip joint acting up. He's planning on getting it replaced this fall. Maybe more riding in the spring, or maybe he'll trade it for a boat.
    Harley engines always used to be 74 cubic inch, or 1200 cc, displacement. They were that way for so long I didn't think they'd ever change, but now they are getting bigger. I think Bob told me that this one is over 90. Some are over 100 cubic inches.

Waiting in line at Sky Harbor

Back on August 14th we flew to Omaha, Nebraska. Our cheap airline tickets took us through Phoenix. There were like 8 airliners queued up ahead of us. Once they got rolling it didn't take long to get us all airborne. I think there may have been a one minute interval between aircraft.
    First time I have seen a train over a taxiway. That bridge must be a hundred feet tall.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Photographs of the Dark

When I first saw this image on my screen, most of it appeared to be solid black. After a bit I realized that the amount of blackness was directly related to my viewing angle. Straight on and I could see the gauges on the dash, A few degrees off in any direction caused them to fade into blackness. 

 I used the Fill Light feature in Picasa to lighten things up a bit. It isn't crystal clear, but at least you see where you are.
KC-135 Stratotanker Cockpit over Eastern Afghanistan.(U.S. Air Force photo by Vernon Young Jr.)


The clue on today's Jumble is:
ENVELOPE would satisfy the riddle, but it didn't have enough letters to fill the available space. I found a word that satisfied the on-line version of the puzzle, but I don't understand how it relates to this riddle, if it does at all. The answer to the puzzle is RESERVATIONS (Highlight to read).

Screen Saver Glitch, Part 3

I think my old display is dead. That bit about the loose power cable was a red-herring. It died completely the very next day. I'm still debating whether it is worth taking apart and reassembling, because that is really all I would be able to do. I doubt whether I would find any visible damage, and I would not be able to find any invisible damage without special knowledge, like a schematic. Even with a schematic it would be a losing proposition. I probably should just add it to the pile of other broken electronic crap and prepare to cart it off to the recycler.
Right click on the desktop to get a popup menu, then click Properties which will get you this dialog box.

    I replaced it with another old one I had sitting around. It is slightly smaller and has a different screen resolution. When I plugged it in, it did not look quite right, so I checked the specs and then pulled up the screen settings and found the numbers I wanted weren't there. Huh. Oh well, this will work well enough for a while.
    Then, for some unrelated reason, I rebooted and when I went back and checked the screen settings the numbers were all different. (Cue spooky Twilight Zone music. Detroit Steve sent me the link, possibly in response to an earlier post.) The numbers for the old, higher resolution display were gone, replaced by numbers corresponding to the new monitor.
    I am still running Windows XP. My wife's old Dell started being more flaky than reliable, so we replaced it with one with Windows 7 that younger son put together. It seems to work okay. Magic Marc tells the lunch bunch that Windows 7 is the best OS he's ever used. Younger son abandoned his machine in favor of a $200 Google netbook.
    I bought another old Windows XP machine for my bookkeeper. She comes in once a week for an hour or so. I turned it off when I left for Iowa. Now I can't get it to restart. It might just be the display. I guess maybe you do get what you pay for. I might have to replace some of my ancient XP machines with new Windows 7 boxes. Grrr. That means change, and I hate change.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Gun Machine keeps surprising me. Detective Tallow has a meeting with the brass and one of them is wearing a Hublot watch, which I have never heard of, so I have to go look it up, and what I found is crazy. These things cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I can't imagine why anyone would want one. I mean they are cute and all, but a quarter of million dollars? You've got to be kidding. I saw a real Rolex one time for something like ten grand. It was nice and shiny, but 10 large? I don't think so. Of course, I don't have a billion dollars either, which probably warps my perceived needs a bit. Click to embiggenate to see the tiny little teeth on all the little gears.


Walked to the store this evening and picked up a couple of bottles of Squirt, the favorite drink of sourpusses everywhere. It's a mile to the store and a mile back, so I burned roughly 200 Calories on this little jaunt.
A large person might burn 2000 Calories a day, and since a large person like me might weigh 100 kilograms, and since we are mostly water, and since one Calorie will heat one liter of water one degree Celsius (one calorie, with a little 'c', will heat one cc of water one degree Celsius), that 2000 Calories could heat that 100 kilogram body by 20 degrees Celsius, or 36 degrees Fahrenheit, which kind of explains why we are most comfortable when the ambient temperature is lower than our body temperature, but not too low.
    If you could convert all the energy contained in that bottle of Squirt into heat, and confined it to that bottle, how much would the temperature of that bottle of Squirt go up? 240 Calories is 240,000 calories, so we could easily raise the temperature from it's icy cold, but not frozen, starting temperature to boiling, but we wouldn't be able to turn the whole thing into steam. I knew that the heat of vaporization was large, but I didn't realize just how large it is. I also didn't realize how much energy is in sugar.

WWI Calvary

Zonnebeke, Belgium, Aug. 17, 2014. A re-enactor dressed as a World War I British Cavalry soldier makes a charge during a performance at the Memorial Musem Passchendaele. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Tank Flat

Seems tanks are not invincible. I don't know what broke this tread, but it looks to be a chore and a half to get it back on. Fort Irwin, California.

Russian Bird Man goes to China.

I'm pretty sure that's a real bird sitting on the soldier's hat. Russian soldiers are in Mongolia for some kind of cooperative exercise. Click to embiggenate.


Our progress on Monday. This was in my inbox when I got home, sent from a smart phone. Durn phones have pretty good resolution. It's almost too big for the screen on my desktop monitor.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Quote of the Day

1836 flintlock pistol (minus the flint) by Asa Waters, Millbury, Massachusetts.

From the opening of Chapter 18 of Gun Machine by Warren Ellis. Recommended by Roberta X (I think).

Stringer 'fucking' Bell was the brains behind the Barksdale organization in The Wire. The picture of the pistol a free bonus, because I had to (compelled, I was) to look it up yesterday. It is the same model as the oldest one that was found in 'the room' in the book.

Washington County Weapons

The Detroit Free Press has a database of military equipment the Federal government has donated to local police departments, so I thought I would take a look and see what we have here. All I found was a couple of dozen rifles, no tanks or armored cars. Although it doesn't say, these rifles are probably scary, black ones. They came from the military after all. The value of these weapons is what caught my eye: $138 for an M16 assault rifle?!?! That's like 10% of what a semi-auto version would cost at your local gun shop. Then again, if it had been drug around Afghanistan for the last ten years it might be pretty well beat to death, in which case that value might be accurate.

Via Comrade Misfit.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Terminator Prophecy

The future is coming. Iaman sent us this video which sparked an email discussion amongst my far flung correspondents.
Presumably some small set of humans will want to continue to exist. I mean, what's  the point of deliberately marginalizing yourself?  I guess that will be those few humans who control the bots and benefit from their labor.

So is this an argument in favor of controlling human reproduction, to avoid a world of disenfranchised losers?  (Although that describes our current world. ). Or an argument in favor of continuing to bolster the underclasses, so they will ultimately revolt in violent anarchy?

I imagine the future equilibrium will look much as it does today: a minuscule ruling ownership class; a subsidized middle class kept just happy enough to prevent them from revolting, and a vast disenfranchised  underclass clinging against all good judgement to existence. 

On the plus side we'll probably cure cancer, get rid of cars, and be able to fly to Japan for $3.

- California Bob

That's a provocative thought:

"clinging against all good judgement to existence".

I remember some jackass Congressman claiming that if you gave people welfare the first thing they did was have more babies. It is kind of the right-wing mantra.

I would like to prove scientifically that that is horseshit.

Worldwide, and presumably species-wide, the wealthiest have the lowest birthrates. The poorest have the highest. Why is that?

Hypothesis: It's because each individual of the species will do what it takes to ensure the continuation of it's genetic code. Without the economic means to assure survival of a limited number of offspring, they produce more.

Fat, happy educated people understand that the genetics mean next to nothing, and manage to suppress or re-direct the code drive toward economic continuity.

To correlative of this hypothesis is that reducing the share of economic wealth to the poor will result in no less a percentage of the population being impoverished. In the age of information, it's a matter of time when even the poorest realize all they have to do is organize, rise up and chop off the right heads.

- Irba

Yep it's a matter of time. Time thus far has been 10,000 years of modern human history.

I do agree though that communication has undergone radical change even in the past 10 years. So maybe the time is nigh.

I'm betting even with communication the poor wont be able to get their act together.

I would like to prove scientifically that if you provide people with welfare / launch a "war on poverty" if you will -- that we would still have poor people. Hmmm, how could one do that?

- California Bob

I should have said it differently "Can any given population segment of a physically segmented species be shown to have increase birth rates dues to privation, and if so, at what point will that birthrate fall off, and point eventually to extinction of that population segment?"

I mean, that's what the policies seem to be now. Cutbacks in taxation, education, food assistance and infrastructure may correlate to increased birth rates of the poorest and consequent growth of welfare

Internet communication is partly how we elected a black man to Presidency.

And you know all the right-wing nuts claim that those welfare moms just buy fancy smartphones for their 19 kids. That, and that Pres. Obama is the harbinger of the Apocalypse

They took a stab at it with the FCC regulations regarding net neutrality.

As the world moves more toward people voting who look at the Internet, versus those who watch TV commericals from the Barcalounger, other things will change also.

Sorry, I'm feeling pretty good lately.

- Irba

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Girls with Guns

Dhanpur, India, August 11, 2014. Soldiers patrol along India-Bangladesh border in India's northeastern state of Tripura.


Dustbury put up a tweet from this entity, and since I've been watching The Wire recently I immediately translated these call letters into Well, F*** Me Up, which makes me wonder who would use such an acronym, so I followed the links until I got a live streaming connection and I heard something I had never heard before and that I also liked, a rare combination.

Actually, I think the last call letter stands for underground, or possibly under the influence. The first one, the W, is one of the two standards for the USA. The next two, FM, are presumably to distinguish it from all the chatter on the AM band, i.e. Frequency Modulation, the gold standard for broadcasting hi-fidelty music over the air. Kids, ask your grandparents.

Logo via Free Lab Radio.

Update August 2015: Tunein link for Chromebooks.

Update February 2022 replaced dead links.

Teaching the Art of Swiss Watchmaking

Final assembly of a 4x scale model.

In 2001, Rolex established LWT as their contribution towards addressing the major challenge that concerns the entire watch industry – the shortage of watchmakers who are qualified to service the high-end brands.
The shortage originated in the 1980’s when the quartz watch debut threatened the future of the mechanical watch and the demand for highly-qualified watchmakers. The result was a dramatic drop in the number of watchmaking schools in the U.S. (from 40 twenty-five years ago to less than 10 today).
However, in the 1990’s, sales of high-grade mechanical watches began to rebound and continue to grow. Since mechanical watches require routine servicing to clean, lubricate and calibrate, the industry is faced with a large and growing number of high-grade watches that will require skilled maintenance.
Over the years our curriculum evolved in many ways to meet the current need for full-fledged watchmakers in the United States. The encouraging results of this evolution did not go unnoticed in the industry; resulting in the creation of a new certification body – SAWTA…Swiss American Watchmakers Training Alliance.
Via Posthip Scott.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Via Grit in the Gears. It's a parody of "Royals" by Lorde, in case the name of the tune didn't immediately pop into your mind. It didn't for me.

Family obligations have upset my routine, making blogging a somewhat catch-as-catch can affair. Things should calm down in a couple of weeks. Or not.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

IEEE in Poland

Warsaw, Poland, Aug. 5, 2014, J. Roberto de Marca, second right, the head of the global Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, unveiled a stone memorial with a plaque in honor of Polish mathematicians Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski who first cracked Enigma-coded messages in 1932. Their method and an Enigma deciphering machine they built enabled British cryptologists to read coded Nazi orders and reports during World War II, contributing to the Allied victory. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Quote of the Day

Diogenes the cynic lighting the lamp he will use to search for an honest man. - Jean-Léon Gérôme (1860)

In one of my mass-communications classes back in the Old Silurian, we were warned against cynicism.  This, I have learned, was a grave error. - Dustbury commenting on one of his posts.

Boring gun stuff.

Stolen entire from view from the porch. Except for the picture. I stole that from somewhere else.
Over in a discussion on the Book of Face, I had alluded to the fact that the main reasons I'd switched to carrying the M&P from the 1911 were convoluted and probably boring to anyone but me and nobody would read that post, but a Facebook friend said "I'd read it," and I'm hard up for material this morning, so...

The reason I ditched the hyper-expensive multi-kilobuck bespoke 1911s for carry and practice is because I was getting to the point where I was entirely too obsessed with the gun. My backup 1911 was a Pro that I'd carried for years; I'd switched to a bespoke gun whose build I'd specced out from the bare frame. I'd picked out the pins in that gun; they were the best 1911 pins...

I think the first crack happened when I had a trade offer made on my Springer Pro at a gun show, and my initial, internal emotional reaction was as if someone had offered to trade for my child. That started gnawing at me as I was walking through the parking lot. It was just a gun, and there were thousands more like it. There was no particular reason for it to hold any emotional significance to me; it's not like it had saved my life or anything. Did I own the gun, or did the gun own me?

And then I got to see real shooting. I watched Todd Jarrett shooting like a demigod in a class at Blackwater with a flippin' Painted Ordnance LDA Commander, guys at local bowling pin matches smoking pins with Glocks and DA Smiths, went to AFHF and watched Todd and the best shooter in the class crushing it with junky plastic LEM Kraut guns...

And here I was worrying about improving my performance by whether I had a curved or straight trigger in my special snowflake custom 1911? The variable here was obviously not the gun.

I decided to worry more about shooting than whose sear and disconnector I had in the gun. When I bought the used M&P, it was completely and solely because it was a better deal than the used Gen 2 Glock 19 at the same gun show. Would I prefer the Glock? Probably, but I've made my commitment to shoot the Smith. Maybe once I can shoot, then I'll consider switching, even if it will mean a fresh learning curve. At least it won't be as steep the second time around.

It's not so much that I'm all worried about my performance in some hypothetical gunfight that will almost certainly never happen, but because I like shooting, it's an activity I enjoy, and I was heartily sick of sucking at it due to obsessing too much over the less important half of the equation.
Because Tam. I don't know what half of her jargon means, but I got the gist of it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pyrocumulus Cloud

Beaver Creek complex fire. There is an F-15 jet fighter aircraft in the mid-lower center of the picture.
Click to embiggenate.

It's fire season and this one is a pretty big. It's down on the Oregon-California border and it's been burning for the last week  Big fires can sometimes generate big clouds - pyrocumulus clouds - which can sometimes get big enough to become thunderstorms. NASA has more photos. Via Posthip Scott.

Embrace the Suck

From a recent email conversation:
    Cory described that to face the dread of another physical workout as "Embrace the suck".
    I liked how the term, accurately described the feeling.
    A ex-marine recently told me it was a commonly used in the marines, and it referred to soldier referring to the Marine Corp as the 'suck'.
    I also like turkey-peak, Fobbit & pig-looking-at-a-wristwatch.
- Iowa Andy
    "Embracing the suck" takes two. One (1) is the organization that sucks. The other (2) accepts the organization for what it is, due to lack of alternatives, initiative, or ability. I'm starting to get to that point. I paid a lot of dues over the past two years, rewriting a sanskrit scribble code base while ignoring and avoiding the soul-sucking organizational wallow.
    It's the lifers versus the talents. The lifers know how thing were always done. The talents know how other places do things successfully. It's pretty much a one way street, with the lifers creating weirdly byzantine procedures primarily in order to assure their continued lifer-ness. Bosses have the unenviable task of balancing keeping the operation sucking along while not discouraging the talent. The talent comes in occasionally with an eye-opening improvement, and the lifers scatter like roaches.
    I, however am tired of it. I've given up on promoting a cooperative, informative, development oriented workplace and instead will trim my hours, avoid commitment and hopefully point out deficiencies while
using my now characteristic humor.
    Have I taken embracing the suck to the next level? Have I "become one with the suck"? Well, the pay is ok. - Irba
...  Along with the interesting things you do in the military, there's a ton of crap and boredom along with it.  To get along you have to try to accept the crap in an almost positive way.  I get that.
    I guess it's also called "having a good attitude," although it's one of these weird, sarcastic, passive-aggressive, oxymoronic approaches where people claim a "good attitude" toward something they describe as "sucking."
    Well, I'm totally guilty of that.  I've had to drink my share of Kool-Aid, and at times I've tried having a genuinely positive attitude about it.  It's never worked, so I always have to settle for an ironic, "Yeah I'm totally psyched about our new initiatives to leverage our core competencies by firing all the good people." - California Bob

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Drones on the Moon

Gaza City, Aug. 3, 2014. An Israeli drone circles over the city. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Orion Recovery Test #2

PACIFIC OCEAN. USS Anchorage picks up the Orion crew module.  This is the second at-sea test using the well deck recovery method. (U.S. Navy photo by Gary Keen)
Test #1 here.

The Honeybee and the Congressman

Got an email from Earl, Congressman from Portland, Oregon:
Here is a scary statistic: One in every three bites of food is the result of honey bee pollination.

This may not seem like any cause for alarm, unless you know that honey bee colonies have been dying off in record numbers. It’s time for us to step up to help protect these invaluable members of our ecosystem.

A recent survey indicated that annual honey bee colony loss reached a startling 45.2 percent. There is also evidence of population declines in wild pollinators like bumblebees. Pollinators are responsible for not just billions of dollars in US agriculture, but also the continued health of our planet.

These declines have not gone without notice. In response to the largest bumblebee die off on record in Wilsonville, Oregon last year, I introduced the Saving America’s Pollinators Act with my colleague Rep. John Conyers. The legislation suspends certain uses of neonicotinoids-- particular types of insecticides that are suspected to play a role in the bee die-offs happening in Oregon and in bee declines around the world, until the Environmental Protection Agency reviews these chemicals and makes a new determination about their proper application and safe use.

Though pollinator die-offs are likely a combination of a number of effects, from global warming to parasites, neonicotinoid studies have observed several detrimental effects on bees, from impaired foraging and feeding, disorientation, weakened immunity and interruptions in the breeding cycle. Recently, severe bird population declines have been observed in areas where there were high levels of neonicotinoid pollution.

Last month, the President issued a directive to federal agencies to create a federal strategy to promote honey bee and other pollinator health. As a part of this initiative, I am urging the Administration to look closely at the evidence showing neonicitinoids harm pollinators and to take steps to restrict or suspend their use until more research can be done. You can read my letter to the administration here. This is a simple, straight forward step, and one that cannot be overlooked as we search for ways to help protect the pollinating species we rely on.


Earl Blumenauer
Member of Congress
 It seems to be a reasonable description of the problem, and a reasonable approach to dealing with it. What gets me though is how far down he has to reach get to the root of the problem. Just what the heck is a "neonicotinoid" anyway? Shoot, how do you even pronounce it? Once again we have reached the limits of our current scientific knowledge.
    It bothers me that Congress is dealing with problems like this. I guess we're lucky that Earl, at least, seems to understand what he's talking about.
    I am sure we will eventually figure it out. Actually, some smarty-pants grad student has already figured it out, but it will take a few years for this new knowledge to percolate up through the ranks to someone who can make things happen. I least I hope that's the case.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Screen Saver Glitch, Part 2

Monitor power cord connection.

This is just a little embarrassing. A couple of months ago I wrote about how it was taking my computer several seconds to wake up instead of waking up instantly as it has been for the last umpteen years. Last week Marc tells me a story about a loose electrical connection in an airplane.
     Yesterday my computer was even more sluggish about waking up, and this morning I thought the display had gone to monitor heaven. Then I remembered that the power cable had gotten disconnected from the upstairs monitor for no apparent reason. I reach around back and push the power cable into it's socket and presto! The lights come on!
     Thing about these flat panel monitors is that the power plugs are now vertical, so the cable is hanging from the socket. The individual sockets in the plug should grip the pins in the socket, but evidently it is not enough to keep them from working their way loose. When I pushed up on the plug on monitor a minute ago it didn't move, or if it did, it didn't move much, but it was enough to restore contact.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Fuerzas Comando 2014

Last week there was a competition in Colombia for soldiers from countries in the Americas. One of the events was the obstacle course, which included the spider's web, which is shown at the beginning of the above video clip. I had never seen something like this before. It looks like it could be extremely frustrating. It might make you mad enough to pull out your knife and start hacking your way through. That would probably get you disqualified.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


I've had a short list of blogs in my sidebar for a while, and for a long time I visited every one of those blogs every day. My apple cart has gotten upset recently, a confluence of extraneous factoids perhaps, and I've noticed that most of those blogs are not as reliable as they used to be. I've been looking for new sources, but I'm not having much luck. I don't know whether there aren't any high-quality blogs out there or whether my standards just preclude anyone whom I haven't already vetted. Whatever. Today Laura put up a couple of new posts. You might want to take a look.

Prayer of the Day

As I lay rubber down the street,
I pray for traction I can keep,
but if I spin and begin to slide,
please dear God protect my ride.

East Coast Main Line

Comrade Misfit posted this train video yesterday (Because It's Friday). I wondered about the "ECML" in the title, and she replied:
Charles, yes, "East Coast Mainline" or "East Coast Main Line"...people disagree. It refers to the high-speed rail corridor between London and Edinburgh in the UK. It has no level crossings, one of the key criteria of high speed rail, and one of the main blocks to high speed rail in the US.
I'll be durned. That's something you never hear the talking heads mention.

1963 International Travelall

My dad had a 1963 International Travelall that he custom ordered from the factory. Two tone, white over orange. 6 cylinder engine (for economy), automatic transmission (for mom), power window in the tailgate, biggest, thickest, cushiest seats you ever saw. It was a monster. I inherited it (bought it for a pittance, like $200, which is all a eight year old truck was worth in those days) and proceeded to drive it into the ground.

New Transmission Cooler, similar in form and function to what I had to deal with. Not similar in condition.

     I couldn't afford anti-freeze so I ended up crawling underneath the truck on frozen dirt in the middle of January in Ohio in order to remove the heat exchanger from the transmission.The water inside the heat exchanger froze and pushed the cap off of one end of the tube. Soldered it back on, crawled back under the truck, and bolted it back up.
     It was just high enough off the ground that the skinny, 20 year old me could slide under it. This was also the year that one of our neighbors came over to visit carrying a glass of whiskey and looking like he'd been in a serious knock-down drag-out. Seems he'd been working under his car as well, but it was up on a jack and it fell on him. To quote, "if it hadn't fallen on my head it probably would have killed me". No, I don't know what became of him, he had his alcoholic agenda and I had mine.
    These days cars route the hot transmission fluid to a small radiator co-located with the main radiator for the engine. In most cases the two radiators are combined into one assembly. The Travelall routed engine coolant back to the heat exchanger that was mounted on the transmission. It kept the transmission lines short but required that coolant lines be run back to the transmission.
    The back side windows were cracked because we had loaded it with 40 (50) pound crates of apples (that's a ton of apples) to haul to across the state to the wholesaler.  We got a flat tire on the way, and when we jacked up the overloaded truck (with a bumper jack!), it torqued the body enough to crack the glass.
    Eventually a rod bearing failed. It's a miracle it didn't throw the rod. I wasn't aware of it at first because of all the noise from the exhaust. One of the advantages of living in the boondocks is you don't need no stinking mufflers.

Custom! Seeing that emblem really threw me. The shock of recognition was palpable.

While I was rooting around looking for pictures, I came across a mechanic's story about his resurrection of an old Travelall. Some of the problems he encounters are pretty straight forward mechanical engineering type problems, but then he starts getting into EFI (electronic fuel injection), and it starts to sound a little science-fictiony. I mean it's all real, it's just so far removed from the kind of stuff I am used to working on.

Inspired by an email exchange with my far flung correspondents.

Friday, August 1, 2014


A 1918 sketch of ground crew receiving instruction on hand starting. 

Marc related this story at lunch yesterday. Seems he knows a guy who has equipped his small, single engine airplane with a whole boat load of electronical gizmos. Somewhere along the way it developed starter problems.
     A little background: the engines on small planes are equipped with magnetos which provide spark for the spark plugs. The electrical system in the plane is used for lights and radios and such. The two systems are not connected, so even if the electrical system fails, the airplane will keep flying because that failure will have no effect on the engine.
     The starter problem was such that the electric starter would not reliably perform it's duty. If it worked, the engine started and ran fine. But it didn't always work. So Marc crawled in amongst the wires, rooted around, and eventually found a small fuse in some obscure location and the fuse was blown. Aha! He found the problem. They replaced the fuse, the engine started right up, and they thought they were golden.
     Golden that is, until the next time they wanted to go flying, when the starter wouldn't crank again. Hmmm, better check that fuse. Gosh darn it, it's blown again! Oh, well, fuses are cheap. They replace it, the engine starts and they go on their merry way.
     This goes of for a while but it eventually gets to be annoying. The fuse is blown again, we're all out of spares, we'll have to go to the store to get some more. Besides, fuses shouldn't just blow like that. There must be something wrong. So they decide to reinvestigate.
    This time the investigation is more thorough and involves worming your way into small places, hanging upside down and backwards and fighting with god's own rat's nest of wiring. But Marc perseveres and discovers that the fuse was for a clock that was never installed. When the latest batch of electronical gizmos were installed, the installers found this loose wire hanging behind the instrument panel and secured it to ground with a screw.
    Well, no wonder the fuse was blowing, the wire goes straight to ground. OK, that explains the fuse, but what does that have to do with the starter? More rooting around, and Marc discovers that connections to the starter switch are loose. He tightens them up. Problem solved.
    The problem with the starter was that there was an intermittent connection at the switch, any little vibration could cause it to make or break contact. The blown fuse was just a red herring. Certification is no substiture for careful, competent workmanship.

Girls with Guns

Colombia Independence Day Celebrations

Cell Phones & Driving

While most people can walk and chew gum at the same time, there is a minority who can't, and it's this minority that are most likely to be using a cell phone while driving because they are also not good at following rules, which means that the people who use cell phones while driving are the people who are most likely to cause an accident in the first place. Add an active cell phone to the mix and you can see how this can lead to disaster, or maybe just a fender bender.

Problem is we have become blase about automobile accidents. Cars keep getting safer and the death rate keeps falling, but cars are not safe, and an accident that involves personal injury can pretty much ruin your whole day, if not your entire life. Why do you think you are paying $100 a month for car insurance? So insurance agents can play golf? No, it's because of the massive payouts for medical expenses when people get hurt. (Well, at least I think it is. I couldn't find any data on how much insurance companies pay out. All Google delivered was useless consumer information tips, probably because I wasn't holding my mouth right.) Never mind the car, that is just a thing, and easily replaced.

While most people can manage more than one task at a time most of the time, the penalties for screwing up in a car can be catastrophic, and since rules have to apply to everyone equally, and since even the inept can qualify for driver's licenses, nobody gets to use a cell phone while driving.

Inspired by Dustbury.