Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gizmo Design

This cartoon struck a chord with me this morning. The styrofoam is an annoying one time problem, but the invisible buttons hang around making trouble for years. I haven't run into the annoying sticker problem, but maybe they just aren't hard for me to remove.
     The user interface (i.e. the buttons) continues to be a problem. We get black labels on black buttons because molding the label into the surface is cheaper and more durable than painting it on. The ones that get me are the battery positive terminal indicators in the battery compartment. If you could just trust people to use the same mechanical connections we wouldn't need the labels.
     Then there are the guys who think they'll be better than that and actually label the buttons with a contrasting color, but use a 4 point typeface that might be cool or stylish, but is actually too small to be read without a magnifying glass.
    Then there is Epson, who devised a whole new set of symbols and meanings for the front panel of their XP-310 printer. The symbols are totally legible, but what the heck do they mean? Fortunately the printer broke down so I don't have to worry about it.

Homemade open crank motor bicycle

This is just the nutziest thing. It's like a steam-punk motor bike, if steam-punk used gasoline. The video starts with three minutes of following this thing down the road. Around the 3:30 mark they stop and start looking at the motor.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Adult Wednesday Addams: The Haircut

Because I'm feeling generous. And I'm drunk.

Update August 2015. Replaced missing video. Melissa is still feuding with Addams Family. On another note, this post may have triggered the avalanche that made Adult Wednesday famous. Yeah, right.

More Fun with Chromebook

What we have here is a Chromebook connected to a Dell keyboard and a Samsung video display. The Chromebook lid is propped open with a 3-hole paper punch. If you close it much further it will shut off. The three-hole punch has a nice wide base that spans the evil touch pad, and it is tall enough to hold the lid open. The mouse is a little weird. Sometimes it disappears, but since it's a big screen and a small cursor I'm not sure whether it really disappears or I just fail to track it. But I circle around for a couple of seconds and we sync up, so not perfect, but good enough.
     Open up the Files app (which accesses files actually stored on the Chromebook, not in the Cloud), and the big screen goes dead. Now you need to open the laptop screen to see what you are doing. I went through this rigamarole to get this picture up here, though I'm not sure I needed to. Too many places to put stuff, too many places to get stuff. Whether you can get by without making use of the Files app remains to be seen.
     Meanwhile, over on, I was working on a program to deal with the Teads programming puzzle. I had gotten my program to successfully deal with most of the test cases, but there were two where it timed out. Timed out? Hmmph. Must be a glitch in the coding games site. So I tried it on my Zotac Zbox running Mint Linux (that's it sitting under the left hand edge of the monitor with its cool glowing blue circle). It took over two minutes to deliver an answer. Hmmm. Program did run to compeletion, but two minutes? That is a heck of a long time to run for a simple academic exercise. I mean this isn't a Windows program that is spinning its wheels mindlessly while it tries to figure out what it should do next, this is a heads down, running full tilt, adding the numbers, making the calculations, marching down the lists, no dilly-dallying around here, and it's taking two minutes? That's enough time to count the population of Earth. Twice. Something is not right.
    Okay, enough the with mental gymnastics (programming) for a bit. Let's see what else we can do. Well, I got my Chromebook out this afternoon to talk to my daughter (on Skype). Let's see what else it can do. So I plug in my Chromebook, just for grins, see if it will work, and lo and behold, it mostly does. But can I compile a C program here? Well, yes, you can. Seems there are several websites that will let you write, compile and run programs, just as though you were sitting at a regulation Linux terminal. Okay, let's try out our test case. I'll be durned. It compiles and runs, and it only takes seconds to complete. How can that be?
    Now the Zbox has an Intel Atom processor, which is like the cheapest and feeblest Intel processor from 3 or 4 years ago, but it is still a 32-bit processor running at some number of giga-hertz. This website ran this program ten times faster. What kind of processors are they running? This is just a little unnerving.

P.S. I wrote this post with the help of a bottle of cheap grocery store Champagne. Coincidentally,  Detroit Steve sent me a this link today.

P.P.S. A couple of development websites. Might only work with Chromebooks.
Update: Google's already been here. Adjust the settings, leave the power supply plugged in and you can even dispense with the paper punch.

Space Needle via Google Maps API

Just an experiment to see if this API Key thing really works.

The URL for an Embed API request is as follows:
  • {MODE} is one of placedirectionssearchview, or streetview.
  • {API_KEY} is your free API key.
  • parameters include optional parameters, as well as mode-specific parameters.

Still Whiskey

Copperworks Distilling in Seattle brought these pots from Scotland
Everybody and their brother is brewing beer these days. A few people have taken up distilling. OK, might not be any more people running stills these days than there have ever been, but more are jumping through the legal hoops so the revenoors don't bust up their still. Almost a year ago these booze hounds had a conference in Seattle. Lots of copper on display.

Paper Dragon


Just stumbled over this and thought it was really cool. I could have made it bigger but I haven't found a basic photo editor that works on Linux.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kodak Goes Digital

In 1975 Steven Sasson, a Kodak engineer, produced the first working prototype of a digital camera. It was the size of a toaster, weighed eight pounds, had a resolution of 0.01 megapixels, and took 23 seconds to save a black and white image onto a cassette tape. Picture: KODAK
Via The Telegraph and Posthip Scott.

Mischief Reef

Mischief Reef. You couldn't find a better name for this place.
How do you make a mountain out of a molehill? You put half a dozen sand sucking dredges to work sucking sand from the floor of the lagoon and piling it up on the bits that are already above water. I was thinking that China was just making noise about the South China Sea in order to distract us from their conquest of Africa. Looks like I might have been wrong about that. Seems they are mounting an attack on multiple fronts in their efforts to secure an adequate supply of oil. Besides their escapades in the South China Sea and Africa, they are also working on a pipeline across Pakistan.

I've been hearing a lot of noise about how China is overstepping their bounds in the South China Sea, but this the first time I have seen a map that shows just how far over the line they have gone. Mischief Reef is in the Spratlys, about half way between the Philippines and Vietnam.

Duckworth–Lewis method

  1. Cricket mad: You'll be knocked for six by Duckworth (Thomas Walsh, left) and Lewis (Neil Hannon)
    The Duckworth–Lewis method is a mathematical formulation designed to calculate the target score for the team batting second in a limited overs cricket match interrupted by weather or other circumstances. Wikipedia
    It's also the name of an Irish band (photo). Just in case you were wondering. I tripped over this in a discussion of what you should call an Islamic terrorist who holds a Western passport. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Prison Riot

in Raymondville, Texas, which is in far South Texas, about 20 miles north of Harlingen, which is about 25 miles northwest of Brownsville, which is right on the Mexican border. It's not a big riot as these things go, but it's a little disturbing to see who all's involved.

UNICOR   "We're life changing." Government website.
NICIC       National Institute of Corrections. I don't know what the second IC is for.
                                Also a Government website.
CI Willacy County "A contracted correctional institution, operated by a private corporation."
                                Also a Government website.
MTC         Management and Training Corporation. "A Leader in Social Impact." Private company.

Wikipedia has a couple of interesting things to say about the place:

  • Willacy is funded for 109 ICE employees, but the facility has only 60, with many of these ICE officers often being away accompanying detainees or handling other off-site activities.
  • A further 422 employees from Management & Training Corporation work at the facility.
  • Most of the guards are male between 19 and 24 years of age, having a high school education, and earning $6.00 to $7.00 per hour. Each undergoes a criminal background check before being hired, and all receive two weeks of academy training, followed by a week of on-the-job training.

Human trafficking
In November 2007, four Willacy employees were charged in relation to their use of company vehicles to smuggle illegal immigrants through checkpoints. They were allegedly caught smuggling 28 illegal immigrants through the U.S. Border Patrol's Sarita checkpoint, situated approximately 100 miles north of Brownsville. The immigrants were from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Two of the men charged were wearing their uniforms and driving a company van, apparently overloaded with the immigrants.[28]

Friday, February 20, 2015

Zotac & Linux

Scanned copy of Linux Mint Printer Test Page
My old Windows XP machine has been getting flakey. Programs would lock up, files would disappear. Last night the mouse quit working. At first I thought it might have just been a piece of dirt over the lens (sensor? You know, the giant red spot in the middle of my miniature misshapen model of Jupiter). But no, a short while later it quit again. Tried different mice, checked the mice on another computer, by passed the USB hub, tried other USB ports, nothing. And then I get a notice that 'new hardware has been detected', a USB mouse in fact. Now, isn't that nice. You stupid bag of bolts.

I try looking on the net, but that's no help. To paraphrase engineer Mike, if something is broke that shouldn't be broke, it can't be fixed. We pile up these houses of cards and one day one the cards flakes out and the whole thing collapses. Is there any point in digging through the wreckage to figure out what went wrong? If it was an airliner and hundreds died, well then, yes, we'll do it. But your mouse quit? Throw the whole pile of cards in the trash and buy a new deck.

So now I'm running Linux Mint on my old Zotac Zbox, and it seems to be working pretty well. Last time I tried Linux, which was a couple of years ago, I went with Ubuntu, because that was apparently all the rage. That didn't work so well. Ubuntu was trying out something that was supposed to make it work with phones and tablets. What it did was make it clumsy and slow. It was so bad I gave it up in short order.

Linux Mint seems to be pretty good. Booted and installed off of the DVD, recognized my screen. Even recognized my printer, set up and connected when I asked it to, and even printed a test page. This is looking pretty good. But does the scanner work? Yes, indeedy. Scanned the test page I just printed.

Linux is supposedly all Open Source all the time, but Mint is operating under relaxed rules, which means they allowed Adobe in, which means Adobe flash works. I'm not real happy with Adobe. They seem to be bent enhancing Acrobat until it dominates the universe. I suppose it works for some people, but I prefer Foxit for PDF files. One trick I have found is that by disabling the Adobe Flash extension, most of those video ads that automatically pop up and start playing are blocked, which is really nice. You do have to enable Adobe Flash every time you want to watch a video or play a game, but right now it's a worthwhile tradeoff.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Melilla, Spain

Model of original Melilla Fortress
Storming Spain's Razor-Wire Fence: In episode one of our series, VICE News correspondent Milène Larsson travels to the border between Morocco and Spain, where West Africans in their thousands storm the razor-wire-clad fences.  - from a blurb for a VICE video.
Cool, continental drift has accelerated into overdrive! Europe and Africa are colliding, tsunamis and earthquakes run rampant! Real-life disaster movies in the making, film at eleven.
    Uh, no, not really. Morocco and Spain are still separated by the Mediterranean Sea. The closest they ever get is the strait of Gibraltar. Gibraltar, now that's fortuitous. Seems Spain has a city on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, much like England has the rock of Gibraltar on the coast of Spain. Actually Spain has a couple of cities in Morocco. Naturally, Morocco thinks these cities should belong to them. Spain disagrees, hence the fence.
    Melilla has been there a long time, and it's been Spanish for quite a while. Thought this was curious:

General Francisco Franco used the city as one of his staging grounds for his Nationalist rebellion in 1936, starting the Spanish Civil War. A statue of him – the last statue of Franco in Spain – is still prominently featured. - Wikipedia
I've been wondering about refugees in general. Seems like if someone is tearing up your homeland you might want to try and do something about it. Standing up by yourself against thugs is a good way to get yourself killed, so I can see how exit stage left might be reasonable choice. With a little organizing and some money for weapons, you'd think the people could form a militia that could eliminate these thugs. But that doesn't happen. Why is that? Capable organizers do not exist, or they are too busy combating other organized militias to worry about a few bands of thugs. And if people leave, well that's great, gets rid of a bunch of people and saves us the trouble of killing them.
    I am beginning to see how a state religion could be a good thing.

Update August 2015. Added pictures. Added the picture of the fortress because I like models. Added the picture of Franco because there is movement afoot to get rid of all traces of Franco and I thought we should remember what evil looks like.


Oregon Governor Kitzhaber resigned the other day. He denies doing anything wrong and I am inclined to believe him. He probably did do something wrong. Seems that you can't go outside these days without getting crossed up with some kind of tom-fool rule. But I doubt it was bad enough to force him to resign. Looks like I was wrong again.
   At first I thought the scandal mongering was being orchestrated by the Governor's enemies. Why else would they be making so much fuss about this stuff? Then I realized we didn't really need anyone to be directing this assault, the media were perfectly capable of stirring it up all by themselves. If the governor did anything wrong, it was that he failed to squash this media frenzy. Maybe his friends are not as powerful as they need to be, or maybe they underestimated how big an impact this scandal would have on 'public opinion'.
    I think what we've got here is a fight between the 3rd order reformation and the 4th order reformation. People don't want to deal with any of their real problems, so they'll pick on someone else for chewing gum in public:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are you christian or buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you catholic or protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me too! Are you episcopalian or baptist?" He said, "Baptist!" I said,"Wow! Me too! Are you baptist church of god or baptist church of the lord?" He said, "Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you original baptist church of god, or are you reformed baptist church of god?" He said,"Reformed Baptist church of god!" I said, "Me too! Are you reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1879, or reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed baptist church of god, reformation of 1915!" I said, "Die, heretic scum", and pushed him off. -- Emo Phillips

Monday, February 16, 2015


I think I want a Chrome Box. Logically, my Chromebook should do just fine. It has an HDMI port for an external display screen and USB ports where I can plug in a keyboard, and if it could handle those than I wouldn't need a Chrome Box, but it can't. Plug in the external display and you get the wallpaper, but nothing else. I should check that out a little more thoroughly. Is the login dialog an anomaly? Or are all the application programs going to act like that?

What do I want from my computer? I want to be able to get on the web. That's not really a problem for any kind of PC (Personal Computer). Ethernet and WiFi (internet over the air) both seem to be pretty reliable, and there are 47 different flavors of browsers to choose from, any one of which will do the job. The Chrome browser seems to work well enough, at least on my Chrome book. My old Windows XP machine has a hard time with it. Google Docs and Google Drive work pretty well for text and spreadsheets. I would like a better data base for pictures. Picasa works well enough for local stuff, but online stuff is lacking. It's been a while since I looked, so maybe I should look again. Hashtags seem to be one way of dealing with classification, but it is uncontrolled and liable to run wild, which goes against my grain something awful. I may have to just learn to deal with it on account of the whole world is running wild and I don't think I will be able to keep up.

Supposedly you can generate your own version of the Chrome OS and install it on your own computer, but I tried a couple flavors on my son's hackintosh this weekend and neither one wanted to work. Mint, a a flavor of Linux, booted and installed just find. This particular machine had Apple's OS X on it at one time, but then an update happened (a mistake) and it died. I reinstalled it once and it booted once and died again. So there are evidently some peculiar features on this particular box that baffle generic software, so tweaks will need to be made in order to make them work. But is it worth the effort? Not if time is money, and not if all you want are working computers. But wading into the swamp and figuring out what the problem would be a learning experience and the particular kind of knowledge gained could be handy if that is where I want to live.

Network security is kind of an intriguing subject. The X-Windows windowing system for Linux is another project that could use some help. And writing my own database application for handling pictures may turn out to be the best way to get what I want. Then there are the little graphical illustrations that would be cool to be able to make. That's going to require learning more new stuff.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have a bunch of dubious computer equipment I need to get rid of. Question is can I get by using just a Linux box, or do I need to keep a Windows machine around because, well, I might need a program that is only available on windows. Okay, I'll keep one box in the cornet, but the other three are going to have to go bye-bye. Likewise the four dead printers and the three dead displays.

Of course I can't just throw them out. First I'll have to pull the hard disks and collect all the important files that have been sitting there gathering dust for lo these many years. And a couple of the printers may be worth investigating. One laser printer might be restored to working order, one ink jet, while probably not fixable, should be interesting to take apart. I might even find out what the problem is.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fancy Photographs

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 12, 2015) Boatswain's Mates Adrian Martinez-Garcia and Jerry Williams direct a giant friggin' military hovercraft into the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex. U.S. Navy photo by Jason M. Graham.

EAST CHINA SEA (Feb. 12, 2015) Sailors and Marines embark aboard a giant friggin' military hovercraft inside the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard. U.S. Navy photo by Kevin V. Cunningham.
I will admit to a certain fondness for our Navy's amphibious assault ships. They are kind of like big floating pickup trucks. They have a big tailgate across the back end that can be lowered to allow all kinds of stuff to loaded or unloaded. Being as this is the Navy, most of this stuff floats, and to make it really simple, the aft end of the ship can be lowered in the water a bit so this floating stuff can float in or out. It's kind of science-fictiony, and kind of cool. I don't know how well it would work in rough weather, but it has got to be better than launching or retrieving boats by using lines.
    But that's not why these pictures are here. I saw these and something about them said 'enhanced'. I ran into this on my Chromebook a couple of weeks ago. They have some picture editors and one of the features they offer is 'enhancement' that does something to make your pictures more appealing. They certainly applied it to the default wallpaper on my Chromebook, and these two photos both have that same look. It's not like the pictures have been manipulated, everything that was in the original photo is still there. I think it's just that they've just done something to the colors, brightness and contrast, which are all pretty iffy things in the first place. It does give the pictures a kind of too-good-to-be-true look. I guess that's okay.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The New Math

Same as the old math:

If you took 2 years of high school math you have seen this equation y=mx+b.
If not, here's what it means.

"Nice things cost money. Nicer things cost more, because they either use more time or more money in making them.

Y is the price
X is the niceness.
m is how much nicer one thing is than the other.
b is how bad you want it.

From Uniberp.

Friday, February 13, 2015


Pseudo Cyber war in real time. Check it out. Via Defense Systems.

Metasploit Unleashed

Arms Race Update - Chinese Prepare for "Peoples' War" in Cyberspace

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six of them sharpening my axe.” - Abraham Lincoln

The next big war will be in cyber space. People are gearing up, feints are being made. I doubt there will be any clear winners any time soon. It's going to be a series of skirmishes, some more serious than others. Security agencies are already deeply involved, criminals and terrorists even more so. It's a brave new world. Or maybe, for the man in the street, just more of the same old shit.

Inspired by Metasploit Unleashed

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Girls with Cameras

U.S. Air Force Airman Taft checks her night vision equipment.
North Auxiliary Airfield, S.C., Feb. 9, 2015.
U.S. Air Force photo by Jordan Castelan.
Yes, I know, there isn't a camera in this picture either, but original caption talks about 'combat camera Airmen' so there is a thin connection. But mostly it's here because Terminator Girl!

Flat Tire @ Mach 2

U.S. Air Force Tech changes a tire on an F-16 fighter jet.
McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Feb. 7, 2015.
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Jorge Intriago.
OK, so getting a flat while airborne is not an issue, at least not till you try to land. That tire doesn't look any bigger than a conventional automobile tire, but it has to carry ten times the load at twice the speed. And check out the disk brake assembly. Slightly more substantial than what you find on your average super-car.

Roll Rate

Report No. 868 - National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
Figure 47. - Variation with indicated airspeed of rolling velocity obtainable with 50-pound stick force. Altitude, 10,000 feet.
The wings of the British Spitfire fighter aircraft were elliptically shaped, except when they weren't. At some point they started clipping the wing tips which greatly upset the purists in the aesthetics department, but helped with the maneuverability.
    This was kind of nit. This report came out after the war. During the war they had much bigger issues with aircraft design.
    The N.A.C.A. (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) produced a boatload of reports, all of which are supposedly available online from NASA, but try as I might I couldn't get NASA's website to cough this one up. I had better luck with a British site, but only because I knew the year (1947). No surprise there since NASA's public face is their promotional / marketing arm, and what do taxpayers care about roll rate?

Jumble Error

Jumble again? What is this? Jumble week? Whatever. I'm flying through the preliminary clues on this one, but I stumble on the fourth word. I try a couple of combinations and then I realize the answer is ISLAND, so I type it in. The program recognized my input as correct, as the cursor has moved to the final phrase, but someone forgot to update the screen. Stupid computers.

The Return Key

Realistic fluid simulation in Blender + LuxRender
Better than any of the spill videos I found.

I've been using Dell keyboards for forever, mostly on account of that's what you get when you buy a Dell computer. Recent acquisitions though have been motivated by price. You can pick one up at the recycling store for $3. The one I'm using is missing a couple of key caps to a a couple of important keys: Escape and Print Screen. That's okay, there's a couple other keys I never use: Scroll Lock and Pause/Break. I'm not even sure what they are supposed to do. Whatever, pop 'em off (they come off easy enough with a screwdriver) and stick 'em where I need 'em. This works fine since I rely on these key's locations rather than their labels.

The other day I opened a high pressure package of Costco brand grapefruit slices and it spit a stream of sugary goodness right at my keyboard. Noooooooooo! So now I've got slow moving back slash and quote keys and a glacial Return key. Well, that's annoying. But hey, there's the Enter key off in the corner, I can use that instead. At first I was thinking that this will not stand, but I've adjusted, mostly because we don't use the Return key all that much anymore. Used to be, back in the bad old days, you would have to hit the carriage return LEVER to advance to the next line on your typewriter, and then push it clear across the machine to return your impact point to the left hand side of the page. Then we got electric typewriters and the BIG improvement was replacing the carriage return lever with the Return key.

But now we have word-processors with word-wrap and so we hardly ever need to use the Return key.

There is one thing that happens with my keyboard that I do not quite understand. I use boldface type and ALL CAPS semi-frequently, and for some reason when I am typing and I invoke one, when it is time to turn it off (devoke it?), my fingers activate the other one, so now I have both invoked and I have to stop and unscramble this unholy mess I have created. Now sometimes I mis-press the Shift key instead of Caps Lock, and sometimes Ctrl gets into the mix, but those are understandable, they are all right next to each other and they don't feel any different. But boldface requires a specific key sequence (Ctrl-B) and Caps Lock does not, so how do I get these confused?

While we are talking about keys and characters, I'm wondering about techniques for highlighting specific kinds of information in a document. I'm fooling with a History of the Telephone and Telegraph in Brazil and it's full of company names, people's names, and government agencies. What I want is to somehow treat these various items so that when you look at a page you can easily see what kinds of items are being referenced, but do not stand out so much that they disrupt the flow when you are trying to read it. I'm thinking highlighting by coloring the background might work. Difficult to find colors that will have the desired effect. Colored text does not work so well. Anything but black tends toward invisible, unless you boldface it, and then it's just too much. I think I'll try highlighting.

How Shit Happens

In the beginning there was the Plan.
And then came the Assumptions.
And the Assumptions were without form.
And the Plan was without substance.
And darkness was on the face of the Workers.
And they spoke among themselves, saying
"It is a crock of shit, and it stinks".
And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and said
"It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odor thereof".
And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying
"It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none can abide by it".
And the Managers went unto their Directors saying
"It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength".
And the Directors spoke among themselves, saying one to another
"It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong".
And the Directors went unto the Vice Presidents, saying unto them
"It promotes growth, and it is very powerful".
And the Vice Presidents went unto President saying unto him
"This new Plan will actively promote the growth and vigor of this company, with powerful effects".
And the President looked upon the Plan and saw it was good.
And the Plan became Policy.
This is how shit happens. 
Just in case you had forgotten. Via Tidbits.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

TOC & Chromebook

I'm updating an old document, an old document with a Table of Contents with manual page numbers. I'm thinking I want to reproduce this, but have our new, fancy, computer software automatically generate the page numbers. I've done it before, I should be able to do it again. But looking for instructions on how to do this with Google Docs lands me on a forum with a zillion likewise complaints and no solution. Well, sheet.

But wait a minute. I don't print anything anymore. Well, hardly ever. Amazon shipping labels occasionally. So I don't really need any page numbers, all I really need is a link to the Chapter heading, and the Google's current TOC does that just fine.

If I ever finish this document and want to actually print it, yes, page numbers would be nice. Maybe the print shop will have a nice typesetting program that can handle page numbers.

I just spent a month with a Chromebook and it was really nice, aside from the small keyboard, the narrow field of view, the small screen, and the awkward keyboard angle when it's sitting on the table. But those are all mechanical problems and can be dealt with. The instant-on and complete absence of Microsoft made it a joy to use. I'm thinking I want a Chrome box for home so I can use my big screen and the cheap Dell keyboards that my fingers know so well. Still need to find a good way to deal with photos online. How do you organize 100,000 pics?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Space Girl: Abandon Ship!

The Future of Computing
Silly, two minute Sci-Fi adventures. Well, sort of.


One Jumble leads to another and here we have a bizarre astronomical factoid. They are playing fast and loose with the definition of 'surface', but I had never thought of comparing the two. Possibly because the actual surface of the sun is impossibly hot.

Cash Flow Jumble

I managed to unscramble all of the words, but I fail to see how the 'Solution' completes the phrase in the cartoon. Could it be that Hoyt and Knurek made an error?


Stopped by my mechanic's shop yesterday and looky, looky, a 1994 Lamborghini with 26,000 miles. That's just a tad over a thousand miles a year. Just in case you were wondering.
     What do you do with a supercar? It's not something you want to fetch groceries in. The pain of just getting in and out of the car is going to discourage that. Commuting to work in bumper to bumper traffic? That doesn't sound like much fun. The whole point is to go a thousand miles an hour around hairpin corners, and where can you do that? There are lots of back roads in Oregon and once you get a hundred or so miles away from Portland and the I-5 corridor, traffic drops to nil. So, pop over to Coeur d'Alene for the weekend, or maybe down to Reno. Shoot, just driving to Bend, which is only a 100 miles could be fun.

Suicide Bombers

Yemeni policemen stand next to wreckage at the scene of a car bombing outside a police academy in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. A suicide bomber driving a minibus full of explosives killed tens of people Wednesday morning as cadets gathered near the police academy in the heart of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, security officials and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Every week there's a new report of a suicide bombing somewhere in Central Asia or the Mideast, or both. Distressing, to say the least. I view the perpetrators as crazed, demented individuals, whose departure from the realms of rational thought have relegated them to the status of sub-humans. But that's not exactly true. Jeffery William Lewis has a good article about suicide bombers on Ohio State University's website.
    If you look at it another way, they are simply warriors fighting for a cause. When we (that's the royal we, as in Western Civilization) send our soldiers off to fight a war, we expect that some of them are going to die. That is a price we, as a society, are willing to pay in order to achieve victory over our adversaries. Islamic jihadists are no different.
    Our goals are incompatible, that is, whatever we are trying to achieve is completely different from what the Islamists want to achieve. Actually, our goals are more likely mutually incomprehensible. We don't reject our opponents views because we disagree with them, we reject them because we don't even understand them.
     It's a matter of belief, and that is something you grow up with. We are all part of our own societies. Rejecting our society's values is going to leave us isolated.
    The Mideast and Central Asia are having big problems now because now they have big populations. A hundred years ago nobody lived there. The land was inhospitable, there was no water and certainly no treasure. Then along came Western Civilization and we brought technology and irrigation, plentiful food and anti-biotics and now the Mideast and Central Asia have zillions of people, zillions of people with a 14th Century culture. That culture worked fine when were only 2 or 3 people per square mile, but it's not adapting so well to the new, modern, densely populated areas we have now.
    Left to themselves I am sure they will sort themselves out in a hundred years or so. It is likely to be a hundred years of continuous civil war. Human societies can be notoriously difficult to sort out. A hundred years may seem like a long time, but it took Western Civilization 500 years to make the same cultural advance. All we have to do is resist the urge to send in big, modern, professional armies to try and smite a few cockroaches.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Girls with Guns

01.28.2015. Chinese PLA Women's special troops conduct special warfare training.
Looks like a scene straight out of Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade. Okay, sort of, barely, but hey, military sidecars!
    Seems the Chinese segregate their personnel by sex. Women are in their own units, not mixed in with a bunch of men.
    Yes, I know, lots of 'Girls with Guns' lately. I've got a few other issues on my mind that are kind of clogging up the works, and there have been more of these pics coming across my screen lately.  They are easy and entertaining filler. Makes me wonder why I'm finding more of these pictures. Are women becoming more militant?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mine Clearing

There's more than one way to clear a mine field. This is the way the Marines do it, though technically they aren't clearing an entire field, they are only clearing a path across it. I've only come across this system a couple of times. This set of photos shows the operation very well.

Combat Engineers launch an M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge rocket.

The rocket trails a line behind it. The line is packed with C4 explosive.

When the rocket has reached the end of its 'rope', and the line has settled to the ground, the C4 explosive is detonated. The shock wave from the explosion should detonate any mines buried within a certain number of feet of the line, and you are left with a clear path through the mine field.
These photographs are from a training exercise at the Marine Corps Base at Twentynine Palms, California on February 4, 2015.

Girls with Guns

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Feb. 4, 2015. Sgt. Debra C. Riddle engages targets with the M4 Modular Weapon System.

Let's have a little chat, shall we?

Moscow, Russia, February 6, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, French President Francois Hollande, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk in the Kremlin.
I've seen enough pictures of these three that there are starting to seem like old friends. I don't think I've ever seen them all together like this. Vlad's got some pretty nice digs. I wonder what language they are speaking, and what are those little gizmos sitting on the table? Phones? Recorders? Game Boys?

Girls with Cameras

Dickey Chapelle, New York, New York, 1940. Wisconsin Historical Society/Courtesy Everett Collection.
Dickey Chapelle, born Georgette Louise Meyer (March 14, 1919–November 4, 1965), was an American photojournalist known for her work as a war correspondent from World War II through the Vietnam War. - Wikipedia
Never heard of her before Comrade Misfit mentioned her this morning. Yes, I know there is no camera in the photo. I just thought it was a cool picture.


This got a grin out me this morning. Stolen from Pop Sonnets, Via Dustbury.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


A Cuirassier presidential guard stands to attention at the Vittoriano Unknown Soldier monument prior to the arrival of newly elected Italian President in Rome, February 3, 1815. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Snow in Crete

Souda Bay, Greece, January 28, 2015. A Hellenic air force F-16 fighter aircraft on the flightline. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden.
Guess it's not that unusual. There's always snow on the mountain peaks, it's just a matter of how low it goes during the winter.

Girls with Guns

Colombo, Sri Lanka, February 4, 2015. Sri Lanka's women police officers march during Independence Day celebrations.

US Navy's got Wormholes!

Aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis transits through a rainbow. U.S. Navy Photo by Ignacio D. Perez.

Cristina goes to China

Beijing, (Red) China, February. 4, 2015. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez waves as she walks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
The USA's Foreign Policy doesn't make much sense to me. I will admit the world is complicated and there are many forces at play, so there could be good reasons for doing some of things that at first glance appear to be completely boneheaded.
    However, the way it looks to me is that the imperialist Running Dogs [tm] have been running the show and they have made a complete mess of it. Which is why China, tyrannical, evil, China, is making so many friends these days. It helps that their pockets are full of good old Western style loot, loot which they have obtained through slave-like exploitation of their people. But slavery is traditional and world wide. People in the USA, at least those who have jobs, may be better paid, but there is a reason they are called wage slaves. If you are broke and you want to survive, you work. On the other hand, we do have the freedom to complain about the government, and that is no small thing.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mysterious Island

A U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler conducts electronic air defense over Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Richardson / AFCENT
Afghanistan? That doesn't look anything like the Afghanistan I know and love. An inquiry provided an answer.

Qarnayn Island

Qarnayn Island in the Persian Gulf, near the UAE. It's a small island, about a mile and half long and half a mile wide, so you have to zoom way in to see it. An oil company has a private airport there.

Blue Roofed Compound
 There are a few buildings adjacent to the airstrip, and then there is this fancy looking, blue roofed compound at the north end of the island. I suppose that's where the mad scientist performs his dangerous experiments.

Now I'm wondering if it is possible to gauge the size of the island just from the photograph. Pretend we don't know how big the island really is. If we assume the plane is in level flight, we should be able to get a pretty good idea of the angle of elevation. And since there is a limit to how high the plane can fly, we should be able to put some bounds on this island's size. It's certainly not 1,000 miles long, and probably not 100, but could it be 10 or 20? How about in the other direction? How small could it be? Could it be a mere 100 yards long? We could assume that the square harbor is artificial and built to accommodate good size barges if not actual ships, so the island is probably  several hundred yards long at least. Maybe one of you will have an idea. Stu, I'm looking at you.

China, for one, welcomes their new robot overlords.

Washington, D.C., Jan. 26, 2015. Drone that crashed onto the White House grounds. AP Photo/US Secret Service.
The Chinese company that builds these drones is updating their firmware to prevent the craft from flying over the capital. They can do this because the drone is equipped with GPS. I wonder if they have all the other restricted airspaces, like airports, stored in the machines memory? How long before that becomes a requirement? And will it include little airports as well as big ones? And how much memory will that take? And will it be US only, or cover the whole world? And what if the parameters change? Who's gonna update the drone's list?
    I can see this becoming a real digital nightmare, like something Microsoft and their DRM (Digital Rights Management). Drone won't fly unless it has cell phone service so it can verify if it's current list of operating parameters is valid, which means you need cell phone service to fly your drone, and it won't be cheap service because the update will be a couple of gigabytes of data and there is a charge for transmitting that. There will always be those who are able to figure out ways around these kind of annoying bureaucratic restrictions, but  you can bet that the bureaucrats are going to be working to make it hard to do.
   Eventually a small, hobby drone, either accidentally or on purpose, is going to bring down an airliner. And it won't be long after that that a multibillion dollar contract is issued to a big defense contractor to build anti-drone laser weapons which will be installed on all commercial airliners.
   The future's so bright, I gotta wear laser-proof shades.

Iran launched a satellite, or did they?

Imam Khomeini Space Center - Iran

A couple of days ago Iran supposedly launched a satellite. Being a suspicious kind of guy I went looking for confirmation and couldn't find any. I checked again this morning and still nothing. Digging a little deeper I started finding stuff related to Iran developing ICBM-s (Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles). This is understandable. If you can put something into orbit around the Earth, you can certainly hurl a similar sized chunk of metal halfway around the world. The requirements for both kinds of rockets are very similar.

Iran's Space Launch Center. Zoom out to see nearby associated sites. I think Point 9 was used for the Monday's launch, it's the only one without any tall buildings.

Working from an Israeli news video, I was able to locate Iran's space center. It would have been easier if I had found NTI's video (top) sooner.
    Meanwhile, REAL TIME SATELLITE TRACKING AND PREDICTIONS told me about Space-Track dot org, which is US Government website which is the font of all active satellite tracking data. It requires signing up, which entails agreeing to their terms, and since it's the US Government, you probably should read what you are agreeing to. I looked at it and decided I didn't want to know all that, so I didn't sign. Besides, if automatic posting services like NASA's can't get the info, am I going to have any better luck?

P.S. Embedding a Google map requires more hand work these days. This forum post explains the magic codes you need to make it work. I did this one by trial and error and it took a while. If I had been able to find the latitude and longitude, it would have gone much quicker. That's a medium size 'if'. Besides, I wanted to see if I could do it. Kind of like playing solitaire, but with a purpose.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The River of Doubt by Candice Millard

The Amazon River Basin as observed by ERS-1 Radar Altimeter, including so-called 'wet' radar echoes from rivers, lakes and swamps. Credit: ESA
The book is about Teddy Roosevelt's South American Expedition. The way it was framed made the title sound like a philosophical journey, but it turns out there really was a 'River of Doubt'. It's about a quarter of inch long in the middle of the above map. It was renamed Roosevelt River.
    The book is full of interesting stuff about the early 20th Century. I've only just started and already my world view is being altered. The story of Teddy and the Panama canal is a little unsettling for someone who thinks we shouldn't be jerking around poor little third world countries.
    Meanwhile, I'm looking for a map of this river and I found this image, which I think is pretty cool. The Amazon River does not come anywhere Rio de Janeiro. The Amazon is that white, vein like structure spreading over the central blue (low altitude) area. It empties in the Atlantic right at the equator. How did I not know that? Rio is too far South to even show up on this map.

Buy the book from Amazon.