Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Гитлер капут!!!Комедийный фильм!!!

Гитлер капут Комедийный фильм

The title, taken directly from YouTube, translates as 'Mamma Mia !!! comedy film !!!'. I don't think that is the title.
    What we have here is a full length Russian comedy, in Russian, and no English subtitles. I watched this in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep and I thought it was hilarious. You really don't need to understand what they are saying, all of the scenes are set pieces that you have seen in dozens of other movies, assuming of course, that you have seen dozens of other movies.

Update September 2017 replaced dead YouTube link.
Update march 2020 replaced missing video. New video has multiple exclamation marks in the title. I didn't bother to update it.

Girls with Guns

Peshawar, Pakistan, January 27, 2015. Teachers check out guns during a training session. 
A month after terrorist attack on an army-run school in Peshawar, authorities have commenced special gun training sessions for female teachers in the city on Tuesday. 
(Xinhua/Umar Qayyum)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Video Quality Report

I'm watching a YouTube video and it stalls. How annoying. But wait, what's this? A little message pops up offering me more information, so I click and I get this cool little graph. No scale on the vertical axis, but I'm not sure what kind of scale would help.

Girls with Guns

North Korean soldiers patrol on the river bank of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, on 20 September 2014.  (PA)
On patrol, wearing high heels. Be afraid, be very afraid. Our soldiers will die of humiliation as they are not nearly so fashionable.

Women at Work - Then and Now

Russian women building electrical equipment for aircraft.

WW2. I wonder what they were working with that was hazardous enough to prompt them to wear gas masks. It must have been pretty nasty.

Today. Looks a little more civilized.
From a JSC (Joint Stock Company) AEROELECTRIC promotional video.

What Island is this? -and- Yes, we have no bananas.

Part 1 - What island is this?

US Navy EA-6B Prowler flying somewhere.
I came across this photo on Military Photos dot net. The caption claimed this was Afghanistan. It sure doesn't look anything like the Afghanistan I know. I made an inquiry but received no response, so I started looking around to see if I could identify this island.
    While I am looking I come across a Wikimapia page about Shemya Island. It is small and flatish and sort of off by itself, so this might be the one. It's in the Aleutians, which is kind of far from Afghanistan, but that's basically irrelevant. The US Navy has aircraft flying all over the world, so this island could be anywhere.
    Then it occurs to me that I've heard of Shemya before. I check my archives, and yes indeed. Shemya was home for Rivet Ball, a 1960's era US spy plane.

Part 2 - Yes, we have no bananas.

Wikimapia Turing Test
    I write this bit of info about the Rivet Ball spy plane into a comment on the Wikimapia page. When I submit it, I am confronted with a are-you-a-real-person test. The test itself is not complex, but they use an elaborate mechanism to put it up on the web page. It includes a short video which displays a single image that contains some text which you are to transcribe. It's kind of long string, too, and a far cry from Google's check the check box test.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Night Flight

Cockpit of some evil Russian war plane.

Buenos Aires Buildings

View across the street from the kid's apartment in Buenos Aires. I put it together from three separate images using Autostitch, which I suppose is obsolete technology since omnivision lenses became affordable.
    Anyway note how tall the buildings are: two, three, maybe four stories. The kid's apartment building is no wider than any of these buildings but is 16 stories tall. It is really nice, in an archaic, made out of stone, fifty years old kind of way.  The apartments are small, but then so is the rent.
    This whole section of Palermo is like this: mostly short buildings with the occasional monolith shooting toward the sky. All these tall buildings are built with at least one, maybe two, blank walls, like they expected somebody to build another tall building right next door, but it never happened.  So it's kind of like a building boom got started fifty or so years ago and then collapsed.

There aren't any cars in the picture because I had been standing on the curb for five minutes waiting for a break in the traffic. The stop light helped. Don't worry, though. In another minute the thundering herd will return.
    The farther north you go (toward the sea / river / ocean), the greater the proportion of high rises, at least until you get to the Avenida del Libertador, which was definitely built to impress.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Spacex Falcon Heavy

Falcon Heavy Flight Animation

I'm not quite sure whether this is what is really being planned, or whether someone's imagination got loose. Recovering the boosters by having them land vertically in a reversal of their launch is brilliant, if you can make it work. Once the booster has consumed the bulk of its fuel it will weigh practically nothing, which means slowing it back down would take hardly any fuel at all. Being able to recover the boosters could save you some money on your next launch. You do have a weight penalty on launch from the landing gear and the fuel needed for deceleration and landing. And the engines would need to be more durable. A rocket motor designed for one use is not the motor you want to use in a reusable rocket booster. It's still the best idea for rockets I've seen in a long time.


Gypsy Wagon In The Moonlight
Why is "dear" one of the most difficult words to translate? And where does this come up in the Romany folk tale of  the Red King and the Witch ? - Totalitarianism Today
I have no idea why 'dear' would be difficult to translate, and reading the fairy tale doesn't help much, but it's kind of an unusual fairy tale. It has a lot of common fairy tale elements, but there are a couple of incidents that make you wonder.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Favorite Plaything

My Favorite Plaything
An non-computerized RPG (Role Playing Game) from Brazil, a game that you play with actual people sitting around an actual table. Although it is about children, the game is for adults. It looks like it could be very entertaining. Of course, you would have to spend time in a room with other people, but who know? It might be worth it. From the introduction:
You have probably heard imagination has no limits, right?
But when it comes to children this saying embodies another proportion. To some of them, the difference between what’s real or imaginary is almost nonexistent. Through play, they learn about the world, and while projecting their fears, insecurities and frustration during play, they learn ways to overcome these feelings.
If role-playing games are a kind of make-believe, then My Favorite Plaything could be considered a kind of metalanguage, because in here you will return to the nostalgic times when you were little. It will be fun and exciting. Some kind of “Conscious Childhood”.
This is a game for adults. So they can revisit their childhood traits and, who knows, maybe learn more about themselves in a possible journey of self-discovery.
 The whole game is explained in the manual (a PDF file). Via Brent Newhall on Google+.

Monday, January 26, 2015

1960 Chevrolet

1960 Chevrolet Bel Air in Le Doulos, 1962.
Got a comment on my post about Le Doulos, a French film. Commenter mentions that the car is a Bel Air, not an Impala. OK, if you are driving around Paris in a Cadillac (which the director was known for), why would you opt for the economy model Chevy instead of a top of line Impala? Not that anybody cares, but it does make an interesting forensic analysis problem, at least for this old-time gear head.  So I start looking at pictures and I notice a couple of things:

  • The strip along the side across the rear door and the rear quarter panel comes in two styles. The Bel Air has a thin line running down the middle of this strip and the Impala has wide white stripe. The car in the top photo has the thin line, so plus one for it being a Bel Air.
  • The Bel Air has two taillights on each side, the Impala has three. You can't see the rear of the car in this shot, so no points for either one.
Chevrolet Bel Air 4-door Sedan 1960.
  • There are two roof styles. The flat style as shown at the top, and the one that curves down at the back shown here. Google for pictures of the Bel Air and most of the cars have the curved roof. Look for Impalas and you get some of each style. Kind of looks like it might be an Impala then.
Then I found an old sales brochure and learn that the flat roof style came on the Sport Sedan, and Sport Sedans come in two flavors: Bel Air and Impala. So the stripe is the only evidence I have and it indicates Bel Air.

Fun with Chromebook, Part 2

For some value of 'fun'. I Like To Make Stuff recommended a Sci-Fi audio book on Audible, and since I like Science Fiction and I have an iPod, I thought I would see if I could download a copy of the book to my iPod via my new Chromebook (oooo, chrome, shiny). It looks like the answer is mostly NO. You need iTunes to load stuff onto an iPod*, and iTunes only runs on real computers, like Mac's and PC's. Chromebooks don't count. But then I came across this tantalizing little bit on an Apple support forum:
If you want the Chromebook to remain a 'Google Chromebook' than the answer is no, unfortunately. You're at the mercy of what you can utilize in the Chrome web app. store..however, Chromebooks with developer mode enabled make, in my opinion, the perfect little cheap machine to run your favorite distro of linux (Kubuntu for me). And it's literally a few key presses in the terminal and voila, you've got a linux box capable of running everything and anything. You don't even have to choose Chromebook or Linux either, you can very easily have them installed and capable of running concurrently, in a matter of a few keystrokes.
I'm not quite sure what 'everything and anything' means. Do you install Linux and then set up a virtual environment to run Windows in, so you can run iTunes? Is there even enough memory in a Chromebook to support such an abomination? And can you get back to Chrome afterwards? It sounds like a frigging nightmare.
     Probably should just wait a bit until someone develops an iPod loader for Chromebooks.

*This isn't quite true. CNET has a Windows program that claims it will load your iPod. Doesn't help me, but at least we aren't locked into Apple.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Victorinox Swiss Army Tinker Knife

I left my pocketknife with the kids in Buenos Aires. I could have packed it in my luggage, but I decided that since the last time I traveled by air I ended up donating my pocketknife to the TSA, I may as well donate this one to someone I know. Especially since any kind of hardware seems to be exorbitantly priced in Buenos Aires. I ordered a replacement from Amazon when I got home ($20) and it arrived yesterday. I also thought I would check to see how much it would cost to send one to B.A., but they won't do it. They now have a whole list of things they won't ship to Argentina, which makes me wonder what, if anything, they will ship.

A Natural Fix for A.D.H.D.

RICHARD A. FRIEDMAN has a story about ADHD in the  OCT. 31, 2014 issue of the  NY Times.   The first dozen or so paragraphs bear out what you already instinctively knew. It explains a lot about me.

Update January 2020 got rid of the inherited formatting that made the text almost illegible.

Immobiliare versus Inmobiliaria

Real Estate office in Buenos Aires. No surprise, Argentina is a Catholic Country, of course the Vatican is going to be involved.
We have two Spanish words with almost the same spelling:

  • iMmobiliarE
  • iNmobiliarIA

Part 3 of The Godfather has always been my favorite because of its portrayal of corruption at the very highest levels. The Vatican owns half of the real estate is Europe? Sure, why not? They have been there longer than any of the existing governments, it makes sense that would have their fingers deep into that pie. So when I saw this sign above a real estate office in B.A. my suspicions were confirmed. The Vatican really is deep into the real estate business, not just in Europe, but also in Argentina.
    Well, not so fast Bucky. Let's see what the Google has to say about this.

Immobiliare. In The Godfather Part 3:
There are 13 directors of the Immobiliare. Michael controls 6 votes, the Vatican controls the swing vote.
Immobiliare ("the largest landlord on earth") was a $6 Billion corporation of which the church owned 25%. The church had a $769 Million deficit, and Michael agreed to bail them out and take majority control for $600 Million
Inmobiliaria is simply the Spanish word for real estate, like in Società Generale Immobiliare, whose largest shareholder was the Vatican.

Inspired by this post on Military Photos dot net, and because I had this picture just waiting to be posted.

Just how much truth is in The Godfather? Anthony Bruno has a story on Crime Library dot com.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fear of Flying

Елена Максимова Back in USSR Голос Полуфинал Сезон 2
The Voice Russia

 'Man, I had a dreadful flight. I'm back in the USSR', er, USA. I really detest flying on commercial airliners. It might be the very peak of technology, but it is the very pit of civilization.
     I tend to think of myself as an average sort of guy, a little smarter than average in certain narrow areas, but for day-to-day affairs, fairly average. And so I imagined that everyone felt the same way about flying as I did. This trip I had a little time to think about it. Four hours in Buenos Aires waiting to take-off, ten hours and one minute flying to Atlanta, another four hours hanging around Atlanta doing my best impression of a Zombie, and then six hours to Portland, where I got to collect my luggage and drive home. Call it 25 hours and I got maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep. I was not happy.
    If everyone experienced airline travel the way I do airliners would have ten seats and there would be one flight a day leaving Portland. You want to go to New York? We have a flight leaving early next quarter. So we've got a slight disconnect here.
    Sleep, or lack thereof,  has a lot to do with it, and restricted legroom becomes actually painful after a few hours, which means sleep is very elusive.
    On another note, those stories where the hero goes without sleep for 72 hours running and still manages to make any kind of sense? Pure fantasy. If I don't get eight hours a day, forget it, I'm not even going to try functioning. I don't get eight hours all at once, mind you. Three hours here, two hours there, but eventually I usually manage to get eight hours and around 5PM I become a human being.

P.S. While I was looking for a music video of this tune I came across one done by a Russian (I think) woman. She is pretty durned good. I was going to give it top billing, but the embedded version starts with an ad, and we can't have that.

Update March 2017 replaced missing video with the one I mentioned in the P.S. I have gotten used to YouTube ads. Still don't like them, mostly, but occasionally a good one pops up, so there is that, and it's free, which is good.

Update July 2022 replaced missing Russian video.

ABC's of Indian National Education

I'm reading a article that recommends a book, so I follow the link and as the book only costs $8* I figure I will chance it and order a copy. Not so fast Bucky, Amazon India won't ship to the USA. Funny, that. I can order stuff for a dollar or two that gets shipped free from Hong Kong, but I can't get a book from India which is only another five or six thousand miles away.

*The price is actually ₹ 495 which put me off until I realized that ₹ was not a dollar sign, but the symbol for Rupees, which are worth about two cents.

Cart Before the Horse

Some websites have taken to asking survey questions before they will show you the article you wanted to read. These generally don't bother me too much, and they are certainly less annoying than the websites with videos that pop up and start telling you at FULL VOLUME that my name is Bob and I am here to try and pry some money out of your wallet. Give the possible alternatives, answering a simple question is a relative joy.
     However, some simple questions cannot be properly answered, for instance, this one, found on the

How convenient is the following service to you?
An online ordering website which gathers companies that provide food/groceries/laundry delivery in your neighborhood.

Well, that would depend, wouldn't it, on having used that service. If there was such a thing and I used it and I found it convenient, and their prices weren't out of line, then I probably would keep using it. What they are asking for is for me to speculate, and that seems a bit foolish. But maybe there is some secret psychological sleight of hand going on here. They put this question out there enough and it will be on people's minds, so when they finally do announce their new service, people will notice.
     Or maybe they are just incompetent pollsters.

Tactile Keyboard

Engrain Tactile Keyboard
Looking for ways to make the keys on my keyboard more readily identified by my fingers, I found this. He only makes these key covers for Apple keyboards, but a bigger problem for me is there is very little clearance between the keys on my Chromebook and the screen when it is closed. There might be a millimeter's worth of space there, maybe less.

Also found a bunch of ideas for do-it-yourself ways to make keys 'stand out'.

Talk to the Animals

New Delhi, India, Jan. 7, 2015. An Indian soldier from the Border Security Force speaks to his camel as it rests during preparations for the upcoming Republic day parade amidst the morning fog. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fun with Chromebook

Chromebook connected to desktop display.
I am being enfolded in the Google's loving embrace / sucked into the vortex of unending torment that is the fate of all Googlers. I refuse to pay Apple's inflated prices, unless it's for my family. I've never liked Microsoft, but it was cheap and easy. Linux is lovely, but who's got the time to spend sorting out all the dribs and drabs? I suppose if you were brought up on it, it might be okay, but if you want to get anything done (on the front side anyway) it's more trouble than it's worth. If you are working on the back end, well, there probably isn't anything better, at least if you are broke.
      Along comes Google. First we get the search engine with no ads on the opening page. Then we get gmail. No installation, no backups, get to it from anywhere, and the reading format makes sense. Then I started a blog, and not wanting to spend any energy evaluating the various blog programs, I took the easy way and started using Google's Blogger. Then I got a camera and I needed something to handle the pictures. I did look around a bit here, but Picasa had some advantages, so one more step into Googledom.
     Now I'm traveling and I need a laptop. Last Windows laptop I bought cost somewhere north of a grand and did not even last two years before it crapped out. Effing HP. What about a Chromebook? Last year's refurbished Toshiba (with better than average speakers) was $200 from Amazon, delivered. As Senator Clay Davis from The Wire says: Sheet. That's a no brainer, son.
     So I took the Chromebook to Buenos Aires with me and it worked fine. It helps that I was in a modern city with high speed wireless internet available. I'm pretty sure it was via the cable TV company, because uploading pictures took actual time, not like what I get at home with 'whoever it is this week but it's not the cable company'. They don't get a mention because they are now like a utility. It generally works and if it doesn't, calling them isn't going to change a thing.
      Problems? I've had a few. The biggest one is that it's a laptop, and trying to type on a laptop sitting on a table for more than about 15 minutes is painful in the extreme. This may be a personal problem. Setting the Chromebook on an empty 3" ring binder helps immensely. Even though I have plugged in a mouse, I haven't bothered to take the time to figure out how to turn off the touchpad, so sometimes when I am in the middle of doing something important something weird will happen and I will have to stop, look around and figure out how to get back to where I was. Since I didn't do anything wrong, and the Chromebook doesn't have any bugs, it must have been the touchpad messing things up, right?
     The keyboard doesn't have a:
  • PAGE DOWN or
  • DEL
keys, and the arrow keys are half-size. The worst part about the keyboard is that it is different than the Dell I have been using for years. I'm looking at them now and the differences are pretty small. It may just be a combination of a slightly different size and spacing, but it makes even plain old typing a bit of an adventure. If there was just some tactile feedback so you could tell whether you were pressing the alt, ctrl or shift keys. That way your fingers could learn even if you could never remember. And by you I mean me. You would never have these kinds of problems, I am sure.
    Just for grins I plugged in my desktop display into the Chromebook's video port, and as you can see the wallpaper shows up fine. You will also notice that the logon box (the white square in the middle of the Chromebook display) does not show up on the desktop display. The mouse cursor only shows up on the desktop display. So we won't be using the desktop display. There was an amazing part to this and that was that I had a cable on hand that worked. Will miracles never cease?
     The 'better than average speakers' I spoke of earlier do have a slight problem, and that is that it takes both the YouTube volume control and the Toshiba volume control in order to get the volume you want. Some audio tracks are so soft you need to turn both up all the way, and for others you need to turn the big one down to a half or a quarter in order to have a usable control range with the YouTube control. That is all for now.

Military Communications Satellite Launch

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Florida, January 20, 2015. An Atlas V rocket carries a military communications satellite into orbit.

About Mondoweiss

Jim Clancy
RT (Russia Today) video: Clancy Quits: Veteran US TV journo leaves CNN after Twitter rant on Israel

RT is state owned, the Voice of Putin, if you will. While they provide a counterpoint to mainstream US owned media, you would do well to take what they say with a grain of salt. Or a shot of vodka. Your choice.
    So I Googled Jim Clancy and a story on Mondoweiss popped up. Who the heck is Mondoweiss, and what are they selling? Their 'about page' seems pretty straightforward and clear headed:
Mondoweiss is a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective.It has four principal aims:
  1. To publish important developments touching on Israel/Palestine, the American Jewish community and the shifting debate over US foreign policy in a timely fashion.
  1. To publish a diversity of voices to promote dialogue on these important issues.
  1. To foster the movement for greater fairness and justice for Palestinians in American foreign policy.
  1. To offer alternatives to pro-Zionist ideology as a basis for American Jewish identity.
This blog is co-edited by Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz. Weiss lives in New York state and Horowitz lives in Atlanta.We maintain this blog because of 9/11, Iraq, Gaza, the Nakba, the struggling people of Israel and Palestine, and our Jewish background.This site aims to build a diverse community, with posts from many authors. The views of these authors do not necessarily represent the views of Horowitz and Weiss.
Mostly I try to stay out of sectarian debates, but I thought number four ("To offer alternatives to pro-Zionist ideology as a basis for American Jewish identity.") was kind of interesting.

Yes, I know all four of the items are labeled number 1. That's a new non-discrimination feature of Goggle's Blogger. We wouldn't want any items on the list to feel that weren't as important as any of the other items.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Free Word Processing Advice

Because if you are going to be seduced to the dark side you may as well go with someone on the A-list.
You do know how much free advice is worth, don't you? 

Daniel Friedman is having problems with WORD and asks for advice. Ask, Daniel, and you shall receive.

Microsoft sucks you in with 'look how easy it is', and so you start using it and as you go along you pick up little tricks. You encounter little problems along the way, but nothing you can't deal with. After several years you have invested so much time and energy in it that you become wedded to Microsoft. That's when the real problems appear, the ones that cannot be fixed even though you spend days researching and fighting with it. Problem here is that Microsoft is rotten to the core. Their products are like castles built on sand. They look good for a bit, but then the foundation collapses and your castle along with it. If you are lucky you might be able to save your text. If you need it typeset or otherwise processed, hire a pro.

Colombia goes to Antarctica

Colombia sends an expedition to the Antarctic. Penguins protest.
More pictures here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Looking northeast from twelve stories up.

This one's for Stu.

Big Fancy Motorcycle in a garage with a bunch of similar monsters.
There are a fair number of motorcycles running loose on the streets here, but most of them are of the 125 to 250 cc jet-about variety. I did see one actual Harley Davidson, which was a bit of a surprise. It's not like London where there are hundreds of big, fast sport bikes parked in rows wherever there is room. But maybe I'm just not in the right part of town.


I went to the Pizza store and they made something for me and I brought it home. It looks more like a really big chicken fried steak sandwich than a pizza, but I suppose it will do.

P.S. Turns out it was chicken fried chicken which makes me wonder where they got a chicken the size of a dinner plate. One chicken, de-boned, and squished flat?


An ambulance carrying the remains of prosecutor Alberto Nisman leaves the area outside his apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina, early Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Aharonian-DyN)
If you've been following the news about Argentina (and who hasn't?), you might have heard about the La muerte de Alberto Nisman, a prominent lawyer and politico who was killed by a gunshot to the head a couple of days ago, the day before he was supposed to present his case to some commitee of bigshots.
    Depending on which story you are listening to, he was on a mission to expose the corruption in Cristina Kirchner's government, or a right wing gadfly bent on stirring up shit. My daughter, who lives here and actually talks to people likes the former story. Me, a visiting gadfly who only knows a couple of words of Spanish, likes the second version, which I put together from the reports in the Buenos Aires Herald, the local English language newspaper.
    It's got all the makings of a first rate political thriller / scandal, stage managed and delivered to coincide with my visit.
    Everyone on Cristina's side is being very careful to imply that Senor Nisman's death was a suicide, while the opposition is doing their best to imply that Cristina sent a hit squad to eliminate this problem.
She explained that the with .22 caliber fire arms, as the one used in Nisman’s death, “usually do not deliver positive results” for gunpowder traces in forensic analysis.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Chromebook Games

Link All
I'm leaving Buenos Aires in couple of days and returning home to the Great Northwest where it rains all the dang time, not like here, where it only pours on alternate days. Anyhoo, I thought I would load some games onto my Chromebook so I would be able to kill some of those hours I will be in transit. Here's a brief rundown of what I have loaded and tried, mostly.

These made it through my initial go-round:
  • 3D Cube is a virtual Rubik's cube with the option of more or less than three blocks to an edge.
  • Blocks Collapse
  • Entanglement
  • Link All
  • Little Alchemy
  • Oh h1
  • Quento promises to be entertaining. Combine numbers and symbols for simple math operations to deliver the requested value. I played for a while last night until I got stuck. Was it a bug or was I just tired?
Old standards that should work fine, but you never know. I tried a different version of Sudoku earlier and it was cumbersome in the extreme.
  • Avalon Spider - Card game
  • Sudoku
  • Mahjong
Fail, for one reason or another:
  • Blackwell requires some special run-time support, like Adobe, but different, and there doesn't seem to be a version for Chromebook. 
  • Core requires quick movements to block bad blobs and accept good ones. Not for me.
  • Minesweeper by has bugs, doesn't work properly. Thumbs down.
  • Phantom Seeds. A simple picture book story, for children perhaps.
  • Rundroid - I think this is what is called a 'platformer'. You have a character who has to run and jump his way across the screen. Not for me.
  • Think Number. A simple minded number game. You pick a number then the game displays a series of screens with multiple numbers on in. You decide whether your number is shown or not. After half a dozen screens it figures out what your number is and tells you. Not very interesting.
  • Triplex is a sort of jigsaw puzzle. It looks like it might be kind of interesting, but you need to be able to rotate the game pieces and I could not figure out how to do that. There is a forum, but the instructions are in Russian. When you have two buttons labeled with alien (Cyrillic) characters, which one do you push?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Le Monstre

Cunningham's Cadillacs entered in the 1950 24-hours of Lemans. 
Check out the numbers. Is that a 2 or a 9 or an alien squiggle from the planet Zarkon?
Briggs Cunningham was big into racing cars. He even built his own sports cars, mostly so he could claim to be a manufacturer and enter his cars in races open only to 'production' automobiles. I never cared much for his cars, they always struck me as a bit thick, but they were from an earlier automotive generation and the cars of my day (my day being the 1960's when I was ten years old) were oh-so-much sleeker.
    Posthip Scott got me started on this and while I am poking around I come across 'Le Monstre'. In 1950 Briggs tackled the 24 hours of LeMans with a pair of Cadillacs. One was near box-stock, the other was stripped to the chassis and then given an aerodynamic aluminum body made by Grumman. The cars didn't win, but they did finish, which was a bit of an achievement back then. To my race-prepared mind a Cadillac with its big heavy body and soft springs seems like the absolutely worst kind of car to go racing in, but if you 'return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear'*, what kind of car should you choose for a 24 hour road trip? A Cadillac might be just the thing.
    Automobile racing is an expensive hobby. Where did Cunningham get his money? He's from old money, or at least as old as old gets in the good old USA. On VIR History I found this:
"Briggs Swift Cunningham Jr. was the son of a wealthy Cincinnati financier who had made his fortune in the 19th Century in real estate, railroads, utilities and banking. Already wealthy, he later financed two young men in business who had plans to market a cake of soap they had produced by mistakenly over-mixing the ingredients so much that the soap floated. The senior Cunningham received a share in the company formed by the partners Proctor and Gamble, with one of them becoming godfather to young Briggs Jr. The elder Cunningham died at age 75 when his son was only 7, leaving a family fortune sufficient for Briggs to lead a privileged lifestyle and to develop his competitive personality through a variety of interests."
Emphasis mine. Make of it what you will. Proctor and Gamble are people's names? Who knew? Soap that floats? I knew that one. I wonder how long that bit of common knowledge will last. It may already be fading from the lexicon.
    Le Monstre is not a car to garner the adulation of the crowds, but at least one guy thought it was interesting enough to build a model and an elaborate diorama to showcase it.

*I thought for sure I could find a video clip with the phrase ringing out, but no. A dozen or so clips and the only catch phrase I found was 'Hi-oh Silver, away", which isn't really the same thing at all.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Distributed Furniture Making

Ana White Benchright Farmhouse Table
Went furniture shopping with the kids today. There is something wrong with the furniture industry, or maybe it's just their customer base (human beings). You can't find simple, well made furniture. Everything we saw was either too big, too short, and / or didn't have enough storage space. Argentina is supposed to be big on wood, and the furniture we saw in a couple of small shops was indeed made of real wood (as opposed to particle board like everything from IKEA, which does not have a store here).
    After spending several hours tramping around looking at what was available, I got to thinking that a distributed method of building furniture might be a good business. Building your own furniture is mostly the province of crazed do-it-yourselfers who are willing to spend thousands of dollars on elaborate woodworking machines and thousands of hours of their time building a knick knack table that will be of no use to anyone.
    Furniture manufacturers are building stuff that will sell in suburban malls to suburbanites with stars in their eyes. Simple, well made, functional furniture is the province of custom builders and they want real money for their products, more than most people are willing to spend.
    So I got to thinking. There are several steps to building furniture:

  1. Decide what you want.
  2. Draw up a plan and a Bill-Of-Materials (BOM).
  3. Select the lumber.
  4. Cut the pieces to size.
  5. Assemble.
  6. Finish.
Only you can decide what you want, I can't help you with that. Furniture plans are easily delivered over the internet. Good plans include the BOM. Selecting the lumber is the first actual physical thing that needs to be done, and who knows more about lumber, you, or the people who work with lumber all day long? I'm thinking that if you sent your BOM to the lumberyard, they would be glad to pull the correct boards out of stock. Now it might be that your local lumberyard, the one that supplies the construction industry is not going to stock a large selection of furniture grade lumber. But there are places that do. 
    Next we need to cut the lumber into the correct size pieces. A good table saw comes in handy here, but buying a table saw in order to build one table is a little counter-productive. I am willing to bet that there are a zillion table saws sitting idle in the USA right now, and at least half of them are owned by a competent person who would just love to put it to use.
    So what we do is set up a directory service. You select the piece of furniture you want to build, make any adjustments to the dimensions you want. Your order is sent to your closest lumberyard, who pull the required boards and deliver them to your local table saw man who cuts the pieces to size. Now we just need to get these pieces into your hands. Since it's a local operation, that should not be a big deal, even if you have to pay to ship it.
    All that's left is to assemble it, and that should be easy enough. You will need a few hand tools, maybe a drill and some clamps if you are using any glue, but that should do it. 
   Okay, there is also the finish. That is a personal preference and you can put as much time and effort into it as you want. We could put finishing after cutting, as it is the work of a few minutes to run boards through a sander and then spray them with varnish or paint. Then assembly really would be the last step.
    Setting up an operation like this would take a great deal of detail work. You might want to start with just one metropolitan area to see if it could be made to work. You would need to qualify your saw and finish guys and get your lumber yards sorted out. And you would need plans that would work with this kind of scheme. Making a few trial runs would probably be a good idea.

Ice Planet Hoth

Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea, Military exercise. Temperature below zero.
Well, it could be Hoth.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Die, Movistar, Die!

I thought the most prominent feature
of the phone was the red inner case,
but most photos do not even show it,
and this one makes it look orange.
The kids got me a cell phone to use since there is no land line in the condo where I am staying. It's a little candy-bar sized thing with a built in camera. The camera is virtually useless because, 1) since it's a $2 phone, there is no download cable, and 2) sending photos via email over the cell network is prohibitively expensive.
    Yesterday Kathryn is complaining about the phone company (Movistar) sending out text message advertisements. The phone company normally charges you for each text messages sent or received, but in this case they only charge you if you actually open it and read it. Kathryn agrees that the messages are easily identified and so the charge is easily avoided. So what't the problem? "It's annoying" is her final word on the subject. Well, okay, fine.
    This morning around 6AM my phone tries to vibrate off the bedside table, but then it stops. Wrong number? Pick it up and push a button and what's this? Some kind of text message?
Recarga HOV $40 y
tenes $120 para
which means nothing to me with my three word Spanish vocabulary. Google translates it to:
Recharge HOV $ 40 and
got $ 120 for
speak ANY
which means that I just got woken up by an advertisement that I paid for. Die, Movistar, Die!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wave Propelled Water Thingy

Boeing and Liquid Robotics SHARCs prowl off the coast of Hawaii

They are listening for military targets, but it could just as well be used for listening to marine life.

The propulsion system is what's really cool. I wonder if it could be adapted for anything bigger than a surfboard?

Search for AirAsia Flight 8501

On the Java Sea off Pangkalan Bun, Central Borneo, Indonesia, Jan. 6, 2015. Indonesian Armed Forces Chief Gen. Moeldoko arrives on the command ship KRI Banda Aceh for the search for the wreckage of AirAsia Flight 8501.

The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster

Martine Johanna’s “The Grand Illusion of Sanity”
is the most annoying book in the world. It's a great story about love, death and work. It's got great characters, but they do the stupidest things for the stupidest reasons, or for not any reason at all. It starts with the death of a man's family and his subsequent grief. He eventually starts a project which distracts him enough that he can at least pretend to be alive. So far, so good.
    Now we get involved with the character who is central to this project, one Hector Mann, silent film star. The story goes along until we have another death and now the story starts to careen off the rails. If you are going to conceal the death, why disappear? If you are going to disappear, why bother to conceal the death? This death has apparently unhinged this guy, but not completely, just the part of his mind that makes life planning decisions.
    Anyway, the book goes on like this. We have an episode of life and then something happens and Hector takes an inexplicable left turn. This is the continuing pattern of this book, though it isn't always Hector who isn't making any sense. Each time this happens is more aggravating than the last, and each event makes me madder, so by the end I had to force myself to sit down and finish it. I mean, there are only a dozen or so pages left? How mad can they make me?
    I had to finish the book because I borrowed it from my daughter, who borrowed it from a friend and I am leaving in a few days. If I want to see how it turns out, and reassure myself that the book never redeems itself, but continues on this maddening repetition to the very end, the only way is to finish it. I am certainly not going to go to the trouble to locate a copy when I get home just so I can find out.

    People, of course, are infamous for their poor ability to think logically, and it's those lapses of reason that give us our most entertaining stories, be they books, newspapers, movies, what have you. It is an essential element of horror films and comedies, which might explain why I don't particularly care for those.
    People do inexplicable things all the time, but when someone does someone dirt, it's usually ascribed to a character flaw. I think that is the essence of what bugged me: Hector, by all accounts, is a good, upstanding, trustworthy soul, but at critical junctures he is a complete cad. But instead of condemning him, the story just goes on and starts building him up again. Or maybe that's just what happens. Maybe in day-to-day life he is a boy scout. It's only at these rare, critical junctures, that he reveals himself to be a coward. If it was a true story, it would be believable, but it's fiction, so it isn't.

P.S. I tried a new proof reading technique on this post. I had Natural Reader read it to me. It's relatively painless and I caught one typo. But then I wrote some more, so there they be more typos.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


The 'correctly oriented' titles are on the left. The 'backwards' ones are on the right. The dozen or so cookbooks have been put in their own section. Anthony's book is the larger, light blue one.
There is a small bookshelf in the place where I am staying that has a couple of dozen books. I sat down to look at it this morning and discovered that there was a film of grit on the covers. Well, that's going to drive me nuts if I have to handle these very much, so I carried them all to the kitchen and wiped off the covers with a damp dishrag. Then I spread them out on the bed to dry.
    The weather here oscillates madly. Some days the weather is like Spring, some days are unbearably hot and humid, and some days we have rainstorms. When the cold front came in the evening before last, the wind struck suddenly, especially twelve floors up in darling daughter's apartment. Boom! goes the door.
    When the weather is warm I like to leave the windows open. There is nothing like a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately in the big city, that fresh air comes with grit, so along with the fresh air you get a coating of dust all over the floors and everything else for that matter. It isn't really obvious, but if you walk around the house in white sox or bare feet you will find that your soles are soon black.
     So I cleaned the covers of the books. When I was picking them up I noticed that the titles on the spines of some of the books were backwards. Could this be a Spanish language indicator? Turns out, no. All the books are Spanish. Some of them have the titles on the spines right side up, and the rest of them are upside down.
    As a bonus I found that Anthony Bourdain writes books. I've caught a couple of episodes of his TV show and they are pretty entertaining.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Rain, Part 2

6 AM Buenos Aires, Argentina

Yesterday, and for several days before that it was hot, hot and humid, and then boom, a cold front blew in last night and now it's 70 odd degrees and pouring down rain. Well, that was this morning. It's settled down now, cool, dry and partly cloudy. Part 1 here.

My Front Door

3671 Lavalle, Buenos Aires, Argentina
I had been here a week before I realized that I was staying in a fancy looking building. When we walked here we came around the corner on the same side of the street, so I was never in a position to actually see the front of the building. I only discovered what it looked like when I started playing around with Google Street View, which is where I got this image.
    The front door (center) is just a plain steel grill. Just inside the grill we have an all glass door with another lock and a modern marble and glass lobby with a stainless steel elevator. To the left of the front door is the electric car door, which opens onto a tunnel which goes back ten meters or so to a garage which holds half a dozen cars. It looks like a tight fit getting into the parking spaces, which are separated by pillars. The sidewalk is typical, made of tiles of some sort. Poured concrete sidewalks are rare.
    Now that I've looked at it, I think the front facade is all that is left of the original building. The rest of it has been replaced by a modern four story condo with a swimming pool in the back.
    The rent is pretty cheap, something like $35 a night, but then rent in general here seems to be very low. In the USA, one month's rent and mortgage is typically about one per-cent of the market value of the property. Using that rule of thumb here won't get you anywhere near the purchase price of an apartment or house.

Update May 2021. Corrected spelling of Buenos. Did spell checker not exist in 2015?

Razzle Dazzle

Dazzle paint, USS Nebraska, April 1918
Posthip Scott sent me this picture of the battleship USS Nebraska wearing a WWI Razzle Dazzle camouflage paint job. It is unfortunate that all such photos are in black and white, because the actual paint jobs were done in a variety of colors. While there don't seem to be any color photos, there are a few color paintings, like this one:

Ocean liner RMS Mauretania in 1918 camouflage.
The object of these eye catching paint schemes wasn't to conceal the vessel, but to make it difficult for U-boat commanders to judge the speed and distance of their target. WW1 torpedoes were a bit primitive, they went where they were told, and if you told them wrong, you missed. For the allies, confusing the enemy might mean making it all the way across the pond to England.

There is also a country called Mauretania, though it also spelled Mauritania.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Silk Road case wanders into trial

by Susie Cagle
Silk Road was busted just 15 months ago and already the case has found it's way to trial. Sarah Jeong tells the story in Forbes, and it is very entertaining. Here is a sample:
But the judge declined to entertain the Fourth Amendment argument—that the seizure of the servers constituted an unreasonable search and seizure—because Ross Ulbricht could not demonstrate a property interest in the Icelandic server. If anyone had a property interest it was the Dread Pirate Roberts, and as long Ross Ulbricht insisted he wasn’t the Dread Pirate Roberts, he couldn’t possibly have standing to contest the government’s search.
Is Ross the Dread Pirate or not? Only his hairdresser knows for sure.