Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chechen Dragon Rug

Martin Smith Cruz covers a lot of central Russia in Stalin's Ghost including Tver, where the Russian's stopped the German advance on Moscow, and Chechnya, site of recent wars. In the book (it's fiction) there was some kind of an incident in Chechnya that just didn't smell right, and so Arkady, our hero, has to keep poking at it until he figures out what happened. What happened was that the villain, a Russian officer, was trading with the enemy. He was buying Chechen Dragon Rugs from the rebels and, like so many illegal transactions, something went sour and a bunch of people ended up dead.
    I'm wondering if Chechan dragon rugs are a real thing so I check, and, yes, they are. The one in the picture above is valued somewhere north of $10,000. That's in the USA. In Chechnya with a war going on rug merchants could probably pick one up from a refugee for considerably less.

Here's a story about the rug business written between the first and second Chechen wars. I found it on Guide to Caucasian Rugs.

Treasure From Iowa

We picked up this oak suitcase stand when we were in Iowa this summer. It's kind of a weird piece of furniture. It's like a small end table, but it has slats instead of a solid top. It could have had a shelf down below, you know, to put things on, but it doesn't. Right now it is holding a stack of books we never look at. I was thinking I should get some bookends to hold them upright, make them easier to access if anyone ever wanted to look at one, but our household has gone almost all electronic, at least as far as reference materials go. But it's well made and it doesn't pretend to be anything it's not, and for some reason I really like it.

KONGOS - Come With Me Now

Tune of the week.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Caption of the Day

Ciudad Mier, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Sept. 5, 2014. Weapons seized by the military are displayed at a military base. Two rival gangs, the Zetas and the Gulf cartel, which use Tamaulipas as a route to ferry drugs and migrants to the United States have diversified their business, selling stolen gas and crude to refineries in Texas or to gas stations on either side of the border. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

Emphasis mine.

Stalin's Ghost

I started reading another Arkady Renko novel yesterday. People are claiming to have seen Stalin's ghost on a subway platform. I was just taking my first nap of the day and it came to me in a semi-conscious daze that someone had mounted a holographic projector in the ceiling of the metro. Don't know why that came to me. It's not science fiction, it's a murder mystery set in present day Moscow. I'm not even sure holographic projectors exist, though I wouldn't doubt it after all the other weird things that have turning up in the news. Somehow I doubt that any holographic projectors will appear in this story, but I will keep my eyes peeled.
Couldn't find any ghostly pictures of Stalin, but I thought this one was pretty nice. Too bad about the Stalin Prize, but sometimes circumstances box you in.

Previous Arkady Renko novel mentioned here.

P.S. Finished the book, no holographic projectors appeared.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


September. 18, 2014. Aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson somewhere in the Pacific.
U.S. Navy photo by John Philip Wagner Jr.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Square User Agreement Item Number 6

Tam made a comment about Square(the credit card swiper for your smart phone)'s User Agreement, so I had to go take a look. It's really long and really boring, but I eventually found the relevant section which is essentially a list of all the things you must not do with your Square, but it was all crammed together into one horrible paragraph, and since I like lists, I took it apart and reformatted it for your viewing pleasure. Or not. You can find it here:

It reads like something from Disney, or maybe Eric Holder.

Reminder: Wear Your Seat Belt

Roberta X puts up another good sense post, this one is about how to behave when stopped by the police. I suspect that the only people who will read it will be those who already know how to behave. I wish it were otherwise.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Going Up

 Cape Canaveral, Florida, September 21, 2014. SpaceX's Falcon 9 lifts off early carrying the Dragon CRS4 to the International Space Station (ISS) (AFP Photo/Bruce Weaver)

Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Sept. 23, 2014. Russia's Soyuz-FG booster rocket with the space capsule Soyuz TMA-14M that will carry a new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) is transported from hangar to the launch pad. U.S. astronaut Barry Wilmore, and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova are the next crew scheduled to travel to the International Space Station on September 26. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Hearing about all the excitement in places like the Ukraine, Syria and Iraq, and then seeing things like this make me wonder what our fearless leaders are thinking. Then again, maybe I should be wondering just who is pulling the strings. Compared to world wide oil production, all the space programs in the world don't amount to a hill of beans. So I guess we should be glad we are still on speaking terms with Putin. We are, aren't we?

Drone Delivery Service

Germany, Sept. 2014. DHL is starting a drone package delivery service, a test program transporting medication to a pharmacy on a difficult-to-access North Sea island. The company said the quad-rotor “DHL Paketkopter 2.0” will begin daily flights Friday to bring a maximum payload of 1.2 kilograms of medicine to the island of Juist. The island, with a population of about 1,500, is usually served by one ferry per day and an occasional small-aircraft flight, depending upon the weather. (AP Photo/Nikolai Wolff Fotoetage) - Via Military Photos dot net.

Remember when Amazon was talking about this and all the fuss people were making about the idea?

Truck Fire

Remains of semi-tractor fire on the Westbound Sunset Highway near Murray Road in Beaverton, Oregon. Nobody hurt.

It took dutiful daughter two hours to get home from work today, a drive that normally takes her half an hour. We found this pic when we went looking for a news report on the cause of the problem. I've seen the remains of vehicle fires before, but not one like this. Comes from making the cab out of fiberglass I imagine. Via TVF & R.

Bombs Away

New Icon for American Foreign Policy - Sacha Baron Cohen as Middle Eastern tyrant General Aladeen (Courtesy "The Dictator") - Send in the clowns.

Tam posted a link to a Foreign Policy story, which got me irritated enough to comment, and since commenting on a big, important website like FP is like pissing into the ocean, I decided to repost it here, where I am the big fish in the pond. We won't talk about the size of my pond. It's big enough for me and that's what's important. Anyway, FP is blathering about how the US bombing of ISIS is helping Al-Qaeda or some kind of bullshit, and I responded:

I don't like to say it, but when you are dealing with a medieval culture sometimes you need medieval methods. Bashar al-Assad might be the devil incarnate in Western eyes, but look at the hordes of devils he has to deal with. Look at medieval history in Europe. Were the leaders there and then good and benevolent creatures? By and large, no. It might be that the Mideast will have to go through the same period of growth and violence before they become civilized enough that our current Western standards of civilization can be applied.
I, for one, am all in favor of letting the Mideast sort itself out. If we were serious about any of this we would severe relations with Saudi Arabia and normalize relations with Iran, but I suspect big money has the deck stacked the way they want it, and as long as gas is less than $4 a gallon, who cares?

Mission to Mars, Part 2

ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission in a Nutshell - The Curious Engineer

Pretty succinct description of India's mission to Mars, at least until he gets to the four minute mark, then he kind of wanders off into the weeds, but it's understandable given the amount gibberish that infest our communication channels. Part 1 here. Part 0 here. More Mars.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mission to Mars

This chart is a couple of years old. I knew there had been a couple of ships sent to Mars, but I didn't realize just how many there were, or how many had failed.

Spacecraft from both India and NASA arrived in orbit around Mars this week. This is India's first attempt at getting to Mars. You can see from the chart above that Russia didn't succeed in this endeavor until their 12th mission. That was 40 years ago, so you have to give them credit for making do with obsolete technology and persistence. Especially persistence.
     Orbital speed is about 2.5 miles per second or about 10,000 MPH, which is roughly half what you need to orbit the Earth. Right now Mars is about 140 million miles away, which means radio signals will take 13 minutes to get there, which means you'll need to wait for almost half an hour to any inquiry you make. It took both spacecraft almost a year to get there.

Valerie Thompson 200+ MPH on a Motorcycle

Stu got me started when he mentioned that Ms. Thompson had set a new land speed record on a BMW S1000RR at the Bonneville Salt Flats. This video is from The Texas Mile (Warning: Sound Track starts automatically), not Bonneville, but she breaks 200 MPH here as well. It doesn't look like much, it certainly doesn't look like 200 MPH, but then it's a little hard to judge since there isn't much in the way of background. But watch the tach: 14,000 RPM. Can that be right? Last time I looked production motorcycle engines were turning 6 or maybe 7 thousand RPM. 14,000 RPM is way out there. The Japanese used to build racing engines that turned that fast, but I have never heard of a production engine doing it.They cost around $15,000.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pyramids of my Mind

When I got started messing with computers as a student at UT Austin in 1978, mainframes still ruled the earth. I remember we got seven seconds to run our programs before the system would boot us off. Seven seconds back in those days was just enough time for one of those dinosaurs to take a small bite of a problem, chew it once or twice and swallow it. If you failed to adhere to the rituals and protocols laid down by the high priests, your program would run out of time and off you would go with no more ceremony than a bum getting tossed out of the Hyatt.
    Today, of course, seven seconds on any modern computer is an a veritable eternity. It it time enough to accomplish most anything. If your computer appears to be slow, it's because your computer now has a zillion things to do, and a zillion divided by seven is still long enough for you to go get a cup of coffee, or at least long enough to give you an excuse to go get a cuppa.
    Earlier this year I noticed that Google's Chrome Browser had gotten slower, which was kind of weird being as Google is all about delivering more faster (can you use more as a noun? Maybe I should say faster more? Or make a new compound word like moraster. Hmm. Maybe not.)
    Then I realized that one of the new tricks for speeding up computers is to explore future possibilities. At the low level this involves following both branches of a jump before you actually get there. Some low level operations take longer than others. While a simple load or store instruction might only take a nanosecond, dividing might take four or five.
     If there is a conditional jump instruction right after the divide, in a computer from the dark ages, the part of the computer that loads the next instruction is going  to be sitting there idle, and we can't have that, the devil and idle hands you know. So the whiz kids came up with the idea of going ahead and loading the next instructions for both branches of the jump instruction. That way when the logic/math part of the CPU finishes mucking about with the divide instruction we'll have the next instruction already loaded, ready for execution.
     When the CPU finally gets to the branch instruction and makes a decision on which way to go, all the stuff that got loaded for the wrong branch is discarded, and the look-ahead instruction pre-fetcher can concentrate on the right branch, at least until it comes to another one, and then it goes through the same contortions again.
    Following two execution paths means you need more circuitry, and since that seems to be the one thing we can have in abundance these days, it's not a problem. At least if you don't count the man-years that have been invested in figuring out the gory little details of implementation. And you can bet they are gory.
    Anyway, back to Google and Chrome. I suspect what Chrome is doing is something similar to the look-ahead instruction prefetcher in the CPU. There are guessing as to what you are going to do next and following that branch and maybe several others, just in case, so they can deliver what you choose more quickly.
    The reason I noticed that Chrome was slower is that I am using a veritable antique computer. I don't really know what's inside. It's an old Dell I picked up a recycler's shop for a pittance, like $100 or so. Just for the record, let's check (Start / Control Panel / System).

It doesn't say anything about quad cores or even dual cores. Hmm. Let's see what a current computer looks like.

I suspect it's a quad-core CPU, though it doesn't actually say that. Quad-core means it has four CPU's in one processor chip. Certainly has more memory.

What brought this all up was the comment from Sarah Sukhoi about Engineers and Designers that I ran across yesterday.

The pharaohs of ancient Egypt built huge pyramids out of stone. They are big and impressive and they lasted for thousands of years, but nobody builds like that anymore. Look at a modern city and you have a zillion buildings of all shapes and sizes growing willy-nilly all over the landscape. Centralized authority and control has all but vanished.

Something similar has happened in the computer business. When computers were a big deal, the standards for software design were strenuous and only the most dedicated survived. Now computers are ubiquitous (the average smart phone is more powerful than the CRAY-1, the awesomest super computer ever), and the standards for software design have relaxed (or plummeted, depending on your point of view), and anyone who can spell QWERTY can get in on the game.

This is why I am no longer at Intel. I was trained in the old school of designing software to do a specific task. I can write code to do anything you want. The problem here is you have to know what you want, and nobody at Intel knew exactly what that was. What they wanted was the next killer ap, a new software program that everyone would want. So we had a bunch of people like Sarah's Designers running around, full of enthusiasm, spouting buzzwords. My problem was I had no enthusiasm for any of the stuff (crap) that everyone was so hyped about. It didn't look serious or useful. Some of it, like video conferencing, did not even look possible.
    During my last few years (it may have only been months, but it sure seemed like years), Pro-Share was the big deal. Andy Grove had come to Oregon and the honchos had demoed some aps for him. Some of them might have been useful, or even successful, but the one that caught his eye was video conferencing, and so a whole division was given the task of trying to force a gigabyte of data down a pipe that would hold, at best, a few hundred K. It was basically hopeless, but they did give it the old college try. Some of the video compression algorithms they developed may even have provided the foundation for our current video-over-the-internet experience.
    Processing video does eat up the CPU cycles, and since that is what Andy was looking for (the killer ap that demands a powerful CPU) it made a certain kind of sense. Too bad they had to wait ten years for broadband internet to catch up. I wonder, if we looked back, who was pushing for broadband internet. Anybody in the computer business wanted more speed, but wiring the entire country for broadband was going to take some capital investment. The cable TV companies already had most of the country wired, but all their equipment was geared to one-way distribution, and if you have a business that is making money are you going to be inclined to sink a bunch of money in new equipment for an unproven market? I think not.
    Which makes me wonder why Verizon even bothered with wiring the country with fiber-optic cable, or as much of it as they did. I have it, and I mostly like it, though Frontier (who took it over here) seems to be slightly pathetic. I went with Verizon and fiber-optic because, 1) I already had a Verizon account and 2) I had heard nothing but bad things about Comcast.
    Anyway, back to the main point, i.e. Sarah's comment about Designers versus Engineers. Good software design requires a certain mental discipline. I am a fairly smart guy (in certain restricted fields. Ask my wife.) and I found the course work required to get a computer science degree very difficult. Everything in there was alien. Oh, there was logic and math, but these guys had combined it in ways that made my head hurt. Still, I must have some affinity for it because I stuck with it. Weird.
   People who are real computer gear-heads are few and far between, and since the demand for programmers is very high, all kinds of other people are getting in the game, and since enthusiasm counts for a whole lot in the employment business, we are getting all kinds of software that is cute and/or fancy but doesn't necessarily work very well.
    If it is useful and/or popular, we can always spend money to go back and try and fix it. If it doesn't make that first cut, then we can forget about it.
    Some people are naturally more social, some are enthusiastic. Good gear-heads are generally neither.


Pyramids on my mind - acoustic 12 string - Douglas from the Dirt Road Bluze Band.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Walken on the Moon

Jack sent me this pic, which reminded me of this tune. 

I always think it's by Bob Marley and the Wailers, but that is incorrect.


I'm checking out what I've said about pyramids and I get distracted looking at a satellite view of the Meroe Pyramids in Sudan. I zoom out and there isn't much to see except the Nile river and a couple of roads, or at least Google says there are a couple of roads there. Let's turn off the labels and see if what the place really looks like. Wait, what? No way to turn off the labels anymore?
    Google has had a new version of their map program floating around for a while and I just got a notice that all my maps had gotten moved to the new map ap. Well, that's the way of the world, change or die, and I suppose I can try to adapt. So how do you turn off the labels? Help takes me to some posts from numerous  people asking the same thing. No answer, but in reading along I turned up this little gem:

Sarah Sukhoi

Mar 10

There are two groups of people at google.

Engineers and Designers.

The Engineers used to run the company, smart people who made stuff that worked.

The designers are the ones who huff glue and then shout buzzwords like "WEB 2.0!" "MOBILE FUNCTIONALITY" "SOCIAL MEDIA ENABLED" like they are suffering from a nerdy form of tourettes.

Until about 3 years ago, google was run by the Engineers.  Somehow the Designers have made their way into the decision making positions and we get horrible products like Wave, Buzz, youtube comments tied to google, the new gmail, the new docs, and the new google maps.

Send feedback to google and tell them to put the engineers back in charge.  So we can get products that just work.
I couldn't fail to disagree less.

Update July 2019 replace pyramid link.


Coding Game Mars Lander

I don't like the multi-verse theory. I like to think that this universe is the only one. Keeps things simpler. On the other hand, there are aspects of the behavior of sub-atomic whatsits (like photons) that don't really make sense. Then there was Plato's (or Aristotle, one of those old Greek dudes) who speculated that the world we experience is only a projection from the real world, something like a shadow on the wall of cave cast by firelight is only a projection of the hand that is casting the shadow.

So I'm thinking that our brains have evolved a sort of imposed order on the primordial soup of sub-atomic whatsits and what we see and experience is what we collectively imagine. If all the people vanished, the universe wouldn't vanish, just our cosmology would. Animals still perceive our world, but (as far as we know), they aren't concerned about the heavens, or sub-atomics whatsits.

We haven't been able to come up with a way to travel to other stars, but given our wild imaginations, I expect that someday we will. And it will be because someone discovers (or imagines) a here-to-for-undiscovered principle.

Right now Obayashi is predicting that we will build a space elevator by the middle of this century. At least they forecast the travel time to orbit will be about a week. First time I've heard a reasonable estimate for that. A week! Ain't nobody got time for that! Gimme a rocket!


This joke:

Reminded me of this:

Russia-China Peace Mission August 2014, they might be in Mongolia.

Inspired by Roberta X.

Madmen of Benghazi

A masked Libyan gunman stands on a street in the eastern city of Benghazi, early on July 29, 2014, as violence flares (AFP Photo/Abdullah Doma)
All inflamatory, all anti-ISIS, all the time. We start with my book report.

The Madmen of Benghazi by Gerard De Villiers

I picked this book up from the bargain shelf at Powell's. It is not a very good book, if fact it was quite awful, but unlike many other bad books that I quit reading after a chapter or nine, I read this one all the through. It helps that it wasn't a long book. In many ways it is similar to a series I read many years ago. This sentence from the back cover might help:
Originally published from 1960 until his death in 2013, his bestselling SAS series of 200 spy novels, starring Malko Linge, has long been considered France's answer to Ian Fleming with Malko as his James Bond.
The book does have several points in it's favor. It's a spy thriller, and I like stories of espionage. It's set predominately in Cairo, Egypt, and Benghazi, Libya, and I haven't seen many stories set in these places. It's semi-current: Qaddafi dies halfway through the story. The names of several known terrorists play outlying roles, and Qatar (the country) is the root of all evil. And then we have the recurring image of the super-model stuffed into a skin tight blue dress. Her appearances in the story covers a multitude of sins, both literary and religious.
      On the downside the reasoning employed by the characters borders on incompetent. Then again, these are spies, and if LeCarre's The Looking Glass War is even remotely accurate then what we have here is a realistic portrayal. That's a scary thought. So it was kind of fun, it provided a little exercise in geography, and it gave a small glimpse of life in North Africa, but it's not what I would call a good book.

P.S. SAS might refer to Special Air Services, except that was a British organization, and this book was originally written in French. On the other hand, there is no mention of any French Intelligence operations. Huh. Wonder how that happened.

A friend of mine put this up on Facebook:
I may have po'd some people out there.. That was my intent. I feel we all sit back than bitch! Nothing like going to work..unarmed and being cut down..what was more than likely ISIS. I do know in 1982- 86. I lived in Chicago. Met a Syrian here on a work visa. Opened minded at the time.. He scared me with his response to, HOW DO U LIKE AMERICA? He spit and said I hate ALL AMERICANS. I SPIT on YOUR COUNTRY!
It doesn't take many encounters like this to convince people that the only good mussleman is a dead one.

Dustbury put up a post about a Muslim Anti-ISIS demonstration in Oklahoma City, which included this line:
[T]he majority of signs held by the pro-peace crowd at Northwest Expressway and Pennsylvania Avenue by Penn Square Mall, were to drive the point home that terrorist group ISIS is not a representation of Islam, as some held the sign saying “ISIS DOES NOT REPRESENT ME!”
This is very nice, but it's not what we're really looking for. Being blood-thirsty American Imperialist running-dogs (to use our full third world title), we want to hear something more like "DEATH TO ISIS" or "KILL ALL THE JIHADISTS". Oh wait, that's kind of what being a Jihadist is all about isn't it? How do you tell the good Jihadists from the bad Jihadists? Especially when the only good Jihadist is a dead one? So I can sort of see why they went with their milder slogan.

Hamburger Icon

I posted a question on the Google Help Forum last night, and this morning I got a reply, which I have paraphrased for your amusement.

Table of Contents for a spreadsheet can be seen by using the All Sheets button.
It is located on the bottom row on the left side.
It is the 'hamburger' icon (3 horizontal lines).
Clicking on it shows you a list of the individual sheets that are in this spreadsheet document.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Aerial Firefighting, California

Conflux of pics crossed my screen, so I thought I'd share. Click to embiggenate.

A BAe-146 jet aerial tanker drops its load of fire retardant on a fire near Pollack Pines, Calif., Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. The fire, which started Sunday has consumed more than 3,000 acres and forced the evacuation of dozens of homes.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A firefighting helicopter makes a drop on a wildfire in Silverado Canyon in eastern Orange County, Calif. on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Orange County Register, Mark Rightmire)
Dropping retardent over Weed, Ca. Via Posthip Scott.

The Decline of the West

Taipan by rainer maGold

Came across the German version of the title (Der Untergang des Abendlandes) this morning and wondered what it meant, so I Googled it. Turns out to be a two volume written work by Oswald Spengler. Wikipedia has an article, and I found these excerpts illuminating.
According to Spengler, the meaningful units for history are not epochs but whole cultures which evolve as organisms. He recognizes eight high cultures: Babylonian, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican (Mayan/Aztec), Classical (Greek/Roman), Arabian, Western or "European-American." Cultures have a lifespan of about a thousand years. The final stage of each culture is, in his word use, a 'civilization'.
 A 1928 Time review of the second volume of Decline described the immense influence and controversy Spengler's ideas enjoyed in the 1920s: "When the first volume of The Decline of the West appeared in Germany a few years ago, thousands of copies were sold. Cultivated European discourse quickly became Spengler-saturated. Spenglerism spurted from the pens of countless disciples. It was imperative to read Spengler, to sympathize or revolt. It still remains so."
Via Monday Evening and The TOF Spot, worth reading itself.

P.S. I'm not sure if the picture has anything to do with the subject, but Google served it up, and I kind of like it, so here it is.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Huey Part 1

Because the original Huey has a two blade rotor, it sounds different than a copter with three or more blades. I noticed a couple of things about the sound in this video. On startup it seems like the engine is reaching a fever pitch before the rotor blades even begin to move. Then, on approach you can hear the beat of the rotors and the whine of the turbine as distinct sounds. Just after the copter passes by the engine sounds more like the growl of a large piston engine. Lastly, you can hear the rotor from a long way away, much farther than you can hear the turbine. Part 2 here.

Giant Mutant Spider

Just waiting for me to try and go for a drive in Chrysler Sebring, the infamous.

Baseball, been berry, berry, good-to-me.

Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Somehow I expected more than just a baseball diamond in a sleepy little town, but just what there should be more of I can't say. Click to Embiggenate.

If you are like me you know that the Baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown somewhere back east. I thought it was in Pennsylvania, which is wrong, but at least I was in the same neck of the woods.
    You also know that Roberto Clemente was a famous baseball player. Kevin Guilfoile has a very good story about Roberto, or rather his bat. As stories go it is of little or no importance, and it doesn't really give you any new information. It's not about much at all, but it's very entertaining. I recommend it to your attention, even if you don't give a fig about baseball. Be warned however, the web page has four (4!) videos that start playing automagically.

P.S. Wikipedia provides us with this little tidbit: "The Hall of Fame was founded in 1939 by Stephen Carlton Clark, the owner of a local hotel. Clark sought to bring tourists to a city hurt by the Great Depression, which reduced the local tourist trade, and Prohibition, which devastated the local hops industry.", emphasis mine.

P.P.S. Why is it called a baseball diamond when it is obviously a square?

Friday, September 19, 2014

2014 Oboronekspo

Looking at some photos from a trade show, I noticed these pretty girls wearing full combat uniforms. I supposed it's a natural combination since sex and fighting seem to be people's two main interests. I think it's wrong, but then I'm an old knucklehead.

Then I looked up the website, and they've got some small photos of bigwigs and one of them is this guy:

Sergey Shoygu, Russian Minister of Defence

He keeps popping up on my screen. He's almost as popular as Putin on the Russian photos section of Military Photos dot net. So I look him up on Wikipedia, where I find this little bit.
Sergey Shoygu is married to Irina Shoygu, and has two daughters (Yuliya, born 1977 and Kseniya, born 1991).[7] In his spare time, Shoygu enjoys sports such as football and horseback riding, and enjoys music of Vanessa Mae and The Ramones. He speaks nine languages[citation needed], including English, Japanese and Turkish. He also has the largest collection of ancient samurai swords in Russia, worth over $40 million.
Nine languages? The Ramones??!!?? The samurai swords I can kind of understand. But who's this Vanessa Mae? She's one of those wild dancing fiddler women:

I have seen a few here and there and I am always blown away by their performances. Playing a fiddle is a bit of trick all by itself, but to play it well AND cavort about the stage while doing it, well I dunno, she must be some kind of super woman.

But this video does make me wonder about Stradivarius fiddles. Here we have a celebrated fiddler (excuse me, violinist) and she's using a plastic fiddle. Perhaps the tune and venue have some bearing on whether a golden violin is required.

Update May 2021 repaired YouTube embed code.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Super Huey

Bell UH-1Y Venom aboard the USS Iwo Jima somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. 
U. S. Navy photo by Shelby M. Tucker.

I looked at this picture and I said 'wait a minute, what kind of chopper is that?' It kind of looks like a Huey, but Huey's only have two blades, don't they? And this one has four. Seems the Marines have grown so attached to the Huey that it has been reincarnated with a bunch of new stuff including bigger engines and a four bladed rotor.

Mystery Building

I was looking for a picture of a Frontier Communications building and this popped up, but this is all you get, no web page, no caption, no nothing. A Google 'search by image' finds nothing. OMG! An orphan image from the internet!
    That looks like a row of golf carts parked along the grass, which make me think it's probably a golf clubhouse, and it might even be in the Portland area. Maybe one of my readers will recognize it?

Wingtip vortices in Death Valley

In this YouTube video of jet fighter aircraft flying in Death Valley, wingtip vortices are clearly visible at the 2:47 mark. They also make a brief appearance right after the 2:25 mark. Vortices become visible because the temperature drop causes the water vapor in the air to condense. But isn't the humidity in Death Valley like below zero? Actually there is some humidity there, like 10% today. On occasion it can get above 50%. So maybe this was a high humidity day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mbombe Parabot

A SUPER HERO IS BORN! Nearly 10 metres tall, weighing in at nearly a tonne he has a mission to protect Africa’s Rhino. This is from a South African armament company.

Cool New Map Stuff

Someone has put together a website of old WW2 German aerial photographs of Russia. It's all in Russian, and Google translate doesn't help much. I was able to find St. Petersburg because the alternate name (Leningrad) is in parentheses, and parentheses are the same in both English and Russian. It's pretty cool because you can switch back and forth between these old WW2 aerial photos and current satellite images and maps, much like Google Maps, so you can compare.

Google Maps offers photos of places on the map, and if there are a bunch of photos, it will stream them to your screen, one after another, shifting and zooming so your point of view remains the same, or as much as it can. I suspect a few whiz kids got their doctorates developing this. Or maybe it's the work of just one crank working away in his basement. Not me, I didn't do it.


a game by Sudoku

I have been playing this online Sudoku puzzle lately. I generally don't play the paper versions that come in the newspaper because they take too long. This online version has several features that make it attractive. It:
  • has large numbers that are easy to read,
  • will highlight all instances of a number when you click on one,
  • provides a notation service so you can record possible values Even better it will completely erase a notation with a click, a real bonus in a house where all the erasers are dead or gone.
It would be even better if you could make notations using the keyboard, or make repetitive notes without having to select the same number over and over again. And highlight bars to show which rows and columns are currently occupied. And maybe an automatic solver so you could just watch it being solved. Hey! Wait a minute buddy!

It also has four levels of difficulty:
  1. Easy, takes me between five and ten minutes and can be done using simple elimination techniques.
  2. Medium, takes between 10 and 20 minutes. Requires more cunning and, depending on how sharp I am feeling, may require making notes.
  3. Hard, take between 20 and 40 minutes. Almost always requires making notes.
  4. Expert takes about an hour. I have not figured out to determine the solution for these. I can get part of the way there, but at some point I will have to make a guess. The puzzle will tell you if you guessed wrong, but it will add a penalty to your time. I haven't tried it, but you might be able to get a better time just by guessing than by trying to solve it.
I worked out all of the basic techniques myself, but evidently I am still missing some, so I went a-Googling, and I found that people have developed some more advanced techniques like Swordfish and X-Wing.

Update: You can use the keyboard to put numbers on the board. However, the keys on the numeric keypad don't work. Only the ones in the row about the regular alphabet keys will work. Bizarre side-effect of Firefox perhaps?

A Bodger's Guide To Woodworking

Wonderful essay on woodworking, stolen entire from Roberta X.

     I've had a few questions about the shelves -- tools, methods, materials.  There are people with a real knack for woodworking; my Dad was one.  He rarely used cutting guides other than a penciled line, rarely questioned a measurement, and drew up sketchy plans if any -- yet the end result was square, straight and true.  He'd had a lifetime of weekends working at it, he'd grown up in a family where slapping up a toolshed or treehouse was a casual activity and he knew what he was doing, how to do it and no tool was a mystery to him.

     Me, not so much.  I work things out on paper, having learned the hard way that it's costly to do so with lumber.  I spend a lot of time setting up for every cut, and always use a guide -- a nice straight piece of 2x2 and a few clamps can spare years (or dollars) of regret.

     Safety glasses and gloves are your friends.  Wood is not kind to your hands and you will find a good pair of gloves will make the work easier and faster -- no matter how tough you are.  (I should not need to lecture about eye protection.  You only have the one set.  Keep them safe.)

     I use power tools:
     - A sliding compound miter saw for most of the cutting, a gift that has made a huge improvement over a circular saw and guide: it is much simpler to get a square cut and a lot simpler to support the work.
     - A router to cut dados and rabbets.  This is possibly the most useful power tool I own.  They're not terribly expensive.  Using them is mostly a matter of measurement and getting to know what the thing can do.  (We're talking about an exposed, sharp cutter whirling at high RPMs: a guide makes the difference between a ruler-straight cut and a meandering trail -- or a chopped-up fingertip.)
     - Cordless drills to make holes and drive screws.  You can use a hand-cranked drill, a Yankee driver or a brace for this, and I often do, but for a big project, a battery drillmotor or two saves time and effort (in an Indiana August, they also reduce sweat).  I like Dewalt; I have one of theirs and a small Makita, plus an electric screwdriver and here's the trick: load each one up with one bit necessary for the job, so you're not constantly changing -- or buy a quick-change drill-driver set.  You need a couple of spare batteries; with a total of three, you'll be be able to have one in use, on charging and one ready to go.

     I use hand tools:
     - Buy good-quality drivers and use the right one.  Phillips drivers come in graded sizes from at least 000 (tiny) to 4 (big) and the rule is "fill it or kill it:" the driver tip should make full contact with the fastener recess.  "Anti-camout" or JAE (Japanese standard) Phillips drivers often work better.  Straight-blade drivers also need to be a good fit -- "hollow-ground" bits are best, and a set of "gunsmith" bits are an inexpensive addition to your tools.
     - Japanese-pattern hand saws cut quickly and cleanly (and on the pull stroke).  For most  work, you can't beat them.  One backsaw and one combination saw (rip and crosscut teeth on opposite sides) are almost essential.
     - You cannot own too many clamps.  Pipe and bar clamps are especially useful.

     I don't push myself: a project takes however long it takes.  When you get into "gotta get this done today" mode, you will try sloppy shortcuts, make mistakes, leave things out.  Don't do it.  Divide the job into a series of smaller jobs, and set achievable benchmarks: cut all the pieces one day, set them up for routing the next, and so on.  Elaborate set-ups that have to be taken down and reset should be avoided: I usually route both uprights in a single pass by clamping them side-by-side but I usually clamp them and then temporarily screw them to pieces of scrap wood, so the clamps can be removed and whole assembly can be stored as a unit if I need to knock off for the day (or even a week or two).

    Work to acceptable standards of accuracy -- and not beyond them.  Not sure how to explain this, but time spent measuring and setting up pays off in the finished work; time spent fiddling with the work once cut to  to make "pretty" is generally wasted.  Get it close, plane it down, don't fret the small stuff.  Only you know how good is good enough for your application -- but stop yourself from chasing decimals.  Clean, square and straight covers a multitude of sins.

     Anyone can build "good enough" utility furniture.  The trick is taking the time to do the job right -- and that includes learning materials, techniques and technology, getting your ideas fully worked out before you head off to the lumberyard with a handful of cash, and not trying to rush the actual work.  There's no trick to it; all you need to do it take one -- and only one! -- step at a time.

Remember 'Be Here Now'?

I was going to leave a comment on Dustbury, but I decided it was more like feature material, so I'm posting it here.

Remember 'Be Here Now'? I think people have taken it to heart, or maybe that's just the way that most people naturally are. Whoever makes the most noise gets the most attention because that's what's happening now. As a rule I don't watch talking heads, though I will watch the Jay Leno's monologue (is he still on TV?). Right-wing talkers all seem to be flaming jackasses, or maybe I just automatically classify flaming-jackasses as right wing flakes. The liberal (notice how I gave the left-wing a calmer label?) talkers (John Stewart, Jon Daily, John Oliver) all seem to thrive on understated sarcasm. And why are they all named Jo(h)n? If you take what any one of these yak-a-doodles say, and look into it for more than five minutes, none of it makes any sense. The blue-background hosts all seem to thrive on destroying their opponents arguments, while the red-and-white background guys seem to be all about blaring 'the obvious'.
     Anyway, I will only spend more than five minutes on a video (of any kind) if it's entertaining and someone is watching it with me. Or it's technically interesting, or I'm drinking. Drinking enables makes all kinds of boring shit tolerable.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Twirling Propellers

Notice the loops apparently left in the air by the tips of the propellers. The could be a photographic artifact, but I suspect they may be condensation trails left in the humid air. Vladivostok Airport.

Su35 hard landing

It's a little hard to see in this reduced size version, but there are sequence of shots of a Russian jet fighter coming in for a landing. Very clever the way the photographer got all the shots in one picture with a seamless background. Click to embiggenate. This happened back in April of this year. The airplane got a little sideways while landing. There are some blue aircraft sitting in the background, don't let them confuse you.

Fleet Week 80 odd years ago in Portland, Oregon

We are looking north, sometime in the 1930's. The website claims 1935, but several commentators dispute that. The bridges in view are, from front to back, the second Morrison Bridge, the Burnside Bridge, and the Steel Bridge. All the buildings along the waterfront on the West side, where the Navy is moored, were torn down to make way for the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in the 1970's. Via Post Hip Scott. Map here.

P.S. 'Commenter' is not a real word, so all the people who commented on the original site have been upgraded to 'commentators'.

Revolutions of 1848

Battle at Soufflot barricades at Rue Soufflot Street, Paris, France, on 24 June 1848, Horace Vernet.
"The Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples[3] or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It remains the most widespread revolutionary wave in European history, but within a year, reactionary forces had regained control, and the revolutions collapsed." - Wikipedia
Sounds a little like what's going on in the Middle East and North Africa. Inspired by a post by Comrade Misfit that mentioned an apocryphal quote by Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Wing and a Prayer

Looks real, well, except for the when the wing comes off. I have heard of some sport plane crashes caused by structural failure and they seemed to occur because the airframe was subjected to forces greater than it was designed for. This can happen in high stress situations, like pulling up out a dive. That does not appear to be the situation when the airplane in this video loses its wing. Also, I saw a similar video once before, so I checked.

Snopes verified that it is a fake. Well done, almost believable, but still a fake. Via Post Hip Scott. 


Sometimes it seems like our whole world is held together with screws. Screws can be very handy, and since the advent of the power screwdriver, they have found even more applications. Drywall used to be put up with nails, but nowadays it is more likely to be installed using screws.
    Screws come in all shapes and sizes and they are cheaper than dirt. The larger the quantity you buy, the lower the unit price. If you want a railroad-car's worth they might be free.
    Oftentimes when doing repairs around the house I will need a few screws. Generally my requirements are not too specific. They need to be long enough and strong enough to do the job, so I will go rummaging through my collections to see if I can find something that will work. About half the time I do, which is great because it means I can get on with the job with having to interrupt my project for a trip to the store where I will have to spend (gasp!) money.
    I was cleaning up in the basement this weekend, gathering tools and old computer parts from all the odd places where they had been squirreled away, and I came across a box of small computer screws that my youngest had abandoned. I'm looking at it and it's a jumbled mess. I hate looking for stuff. If I need something that I have I want to be able to lay my hands on it, so a box of screws like this is worse than useless - it's a time trap, just waiting for the unwary to get sucked into pawing through it looking for the one screw they need, the one screw that isn't there.
    I decide I will sort these screws out. I spend some time at it and I get them sorted into a dozen or so different categories, or maybe two dozen. And then I look at what I've got, and what I've got isn't pretty. Half of them are the screws that are used to secure add-in cards in the computer. Anyone who has every done any work on a computer undoubtedly has a pile of these. Another bunch are not screws per se, but special little widgets used on one specific brand of computer. Another bunch are too small for me to ever want to use. If you need them, you need them, but they are so small that working with them is a real pain. We're talking tweezers and spit on the end of your finger.
    On occasion I have bought screw assortments where there are a number of specific screws, all selected for being useful for home repairs, sorted into separate compartments. These have proven to be very useful, even unto the very last piece that I forced into an application never intended by the inventor.
    What I am wondering is how many of these screws are worth hanging onto? I have a bunch of old wood screws that require a a straight bladed screwdriver that I doubt I will ever use. They generally seem to be the wrong length, and I always prefer Philips head screws because I can use my drill with them. You can use a power screwdriver with straight blade screw heads, but it is not as convenient.

WWII RAF Ammo belt assembly

    I liken this business of sorting screws to assembling ammunition into belts for use in a machine gun. Tedious work, especially in peacetime. But if you ever need to use that machine gun, you will be glad you spent the time to assemble those belts.

Emotional Learning

"In her book The Woman's Second Guide To Adulthood, former Ms. editor Suzanne Braun Levine writes about the brain changes that occur in people past fifty. Post-fifty brains undergo a growth spurt in the medial temporal lobe, the area associated with emotional learning. This growth, present at no other time apart from during adolescence, was discovered entirely by accident.

"Dr Francine Bene was researching schizophrenia at Harvard Medical School, when she discovered two significant increases in myelin growth (the fatty nerve fibre coating that speeds up connection between nerve cells); the first 100% leap happens during teenagehood, with the second 50% ("a huge leap") increase occurs during middle age. Experience becomes wisdom."
Via Dustbury.

I went looking for picture to accompany this post, but I didn't have much luck. Google "emotional learning" and you get a tsunami of educational posters for children. Google "myelin" and you get icky biological images. So we fall back and punt.

Aerosmith - Sweet Emotion (Official HD Video)

Can you believe that this song came out in 1975?

Update August 2022 replaced missing video.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

First Class Accommodations

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry en route to Iraq, Sept. 10, 2014. AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski.

. . . one pallet of baggage, one pallet of high ranking diplomat . . . we're ready to go. I'm thinking this must be a C-17, you wouldn't use a Hercules to fly across the Atlantic, and if it's a jet you are probably flying at altitude, which means you either need oxygen or the aircraft must be pressurized. The latch and seal mechanism on the rear ramp on this aircraft must be a real mechanical wonder. I'm not even gonna think about the noise.


Monocoque Aircraft Construction. This one is a Russian Tu-22M3.

    I was at a friend's house and I had just heard that someone was going to build a fully enclosed monocoque motorcycle. They were using plans for a machine that had been in production, but lapsed, kind of like Saab automobiles. I was really excited about this because it meant that the three wheeled machine of my dreams was now a possibility. I leave and I am walking, heading home, when I realize that someone at the house might be able to give me a ride. Since it's an eight mile walk to my house I decide it might be worthwhile to go back and see if I can catch that ride. I'm walking back the three or four blocks and somewhere along the way it changes to a bike ride in traffic. I'm pedaling like mad and not doing a bad job of keeping up with traffic, but it's not enough for the drivers in their cars. They are in full rush hour mode and are bobbing and weaving to get past me so they can rush up behind the next car and start tail-gating them. I'm not sure, but I may have been going through the motions of pedaling and pedaling so furiously that I woke myself up. You don't suppose those fake margarita's I had last night had anything to do with it, do you?

Gyro-X Test Drive
Music City Metalcraft

    The fully enclosed motorcycle was one of my dream ideas. A guy in Portland actually builds (built?) them. I don't think he uses monocoque construction though. Secretly I think three wheeled motorcycles are for people who can't keep their balance. They do have the advantage that they don't fall over when the roads get slick. The fully enclosed bike uses a gyroscope to keep its balance.
    I had been to this city before, at least in my head. It is not a real place, but it was very familiar. My planned route home involved navigating through a downtown area, constricted by a river, railroad tracks and one way streets. There were multiple routes that were all about the same distance and would have taken about the same amount of time, but none of them were what you would call a 'straight shot'.

Gyro-stabilized Electric Motorcycle Hits Road

Some Californians seem to have revived the idea of the gyro-balanced motorcycle.

Update July 2019 replaced missing first video. Don't remember what it was, so this one is probably different.
Update May 2023 repaired broken video link.