Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Car Arbitrage

Maserati LaMaserati Concept
California Bob reports:
There's a business on the floor where I work that buys new luxury cars here and ships them to China.  Land Rover, Maserati etc. have dealerships in China but the prices are very high. These guys can buy a car new here, pay shipping, import duties and all that, take a fat markup and still deliver a bargain for Chinese customers.

The manufacturers hate this, and have to school their dealerships to weed out export buyers.  Whereas most Honda and Toyota dealers are begging you to buy cars, apparently when you go into a Land Rover dealership, they pepper you with questions: what are you going to do with the car?  Is the car for your own use?  Where is the money coming from?  Can we see 6 months of financial statements?  And other unbelievable bullshit.

And they make you sign non-resale or non-export agreements if you buy.  All the guys at the firm are on exporter lists, so they front the money to straw buyers to make the purchases for them.

I asked why don't they just buy used cars; the guy claims the Chinese won't let you import used cars.  But if a straw buyer buys the car from the dealer, and sells it to an exporter, that's a used car -- so I need to understand the distinction.

I'm fascinated by this but am reluctant to sign a non-export agreement and then breach that agreement -- there are too many lawyers out there.

Anyway, if any of you know any lawyers out there, ask about these dealer-stipulated non-export agreements.  Can manufacturers/dealers bring nuisance lawsuits if you break a non-resale agreement?
The New York Times has a story:


22WWLP (a Massachusetts TV station):

Aluminum Overcast

K-13 gunsight on a B-17 waist machine gun. Speed and altitude settings can be seen
I always imagined that the machine guns on WW2 bombers like the B-17 and the B-24 had iron sights, but no. Here we've got a complicated black box that figures out the amount of lead you need depending on your altitude and speed. This from an aircraft that was built in 1944 and never actually saw any combat, so it's possible this was a mid-war development. Bernard Zee took this and a bunch of other photos, including inflight and interior shots on the ground, when the Aluminum Overcast visited Hayward California back in 2011. Via Posthip Scott.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Takes you to visit people and places that you don't want to visit. People mostly, unpleasant, negative people who don't do anything for you except give you grief. The lead character, Libby, survivor and loner. Incompetent, but understandable and likable enough. The rest of the main characters were pretty pitiful.
      Reading about present day events enacted by adults was pretty smooth, but the parts dealing with teenagers back in the day were painful in the extreme. Can people really be that insecure, foolish and stupid all at once?

Hawker Hunter

KEY WEST, Fla. (March 25, 2015) A MK-58 Hawker Hunter takes off from Boca Chica Field. The aircraft is part of a civilian adversary squadron at the Naval Air Station. U.S. Navy photo by Brian Morales.
This aircraft was developed in the 1950's, which means the design is as old as I am. One crashed here after the 2006 airshow. Killed the pilot. That was disturbing. Lucky that no one else was killed or injured.

Friday, March 27, 2015

How to Quickly Cook Pasta in a Frying Pan

I have no idea how I came to watch this video, I am not big on cooking, I don't watch cooking shows, but I came across this one and today I got a hankering for spaghetti so I tried it out. Seems to work okay. Spaghetti didn't turn out all that wonderful. May have been the funny noodles I used, made from rice of all things. But they were sitting there on the shelf in the pantry where they had been sitting for the last umpteen months, so shoot, lets cook 'em up. Used the same frying pan for the hamburger as for the noodles so fewer pots to wash and that's the important part of this exercise.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Long Way Round

Boeing 314
Great story about a flying boat that circled the world at the outbreak of WW2. Getting across the Pacific took some doing. The aircraft did not have the range to reach across the really long stretches, so they set up refueling stops at otherwise uninhabited islands.

Pan American flying to New Zealand used Kanton Island. Not much there.
The would send a schooner with fuel in advance of the flight. God forbid you made an error in navigation. Photo by Ken Barber 1944.
Canton Island. British base buildings in background.
The Long Way Round
Update February 2019. Clear Lake, California appears on the above map, but it isn't mentioned in the story. A quick check turns up this bit:
Clear Lake was used as an outlying seaplane base for Alameda Naval Air Station during World War II and the early years of the cold warFlying boats could land on Clear Lake when landing conditions were unsafe on San Francisco Bay. - Wikipedia

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

Drove down (south) to San Francisco to visit family. I now have a son, a brother, a sister-in-law and a niece living there. Arrived home late last night and when I reported this momentous event the title phrase popped into my head. Where did it come from? Mother Goose, or possibly some subversive organization, your choice.
To market, to market to buy a fat pig;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.
To market, to market, to buy a plum cake;
Home again, home again, market is late.
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun;
Home again, home again, market is done.
To market, to market, a gallop a trot,
To buy some meat to put in the pot;
Three pence a quarter, a groat a side,
If it hadn't been killed it must have died
We were going to leave Friday afternoon around 4:30PM but friends warned us about I-5 traffic on the weekend, so we waited until 7:30PM and then drove as far as Ashland. It poured rain the whole way. We lost traction momentarily a couple of times, not long enough to send us spinning, just long enough to tense up.
    Saturday morning we headed south into California and blue skies. We took I-5 due south and then cut over on I-505 just after Dunnigan. It was smooth sailing until we got to the outskirts of Berkeley, then it got a little crowded. When we got to the Bay Bridge traffic came to a stop. It took us an hour to get across the bridge. This was Saturday afternoon. This is the new Bay Bridge, the one they were working on the last time I was here. The old steel truss bridge is being dismantled.
    We spent a couple of days visiting, looking at the sites and sampling the food, then we turned around and came home. We drove north on highway 101 to Ukiah and then cut over on highway 20 to Interstate 5. We crossed into Oregon right around dark and it started to rain. Stereotypical - blue skies and sunshine in California, dark and rainy in Oregon, coming and going.

On the way home we saw:

I-5 Antlers Bridge Replacement
Truck Village, Weed, California, Exit 743.
  • a rainbow assortment of water trucks all parked in a row.
  • a big new McDonalds in Ukiah where you are only allowed 30 minutes to consume your food and you can't bring your backpacks inside.
  • signs warning us to look out for snow in the Siskiyou mountains.
  • truck stops and rest areas with dozens of trucks. One place we saw may have had a hundred. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tune of the Day

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll

Never mind that it's six years old, I'm just a little slow at catching on. The video is a little horror story, but that sort of goes along with the title.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Xombie Test Flight

Successful Test Flight for Mars Landing Technology

So we've got a robot space probe approaching Mars, and it wants to land at a particular spot. How do you find that spot? Use GPS you say, but that only works on Earth. You could use inertial navigation, but that is only accurate to a certain point. The farther you travel from your last known point, the farther off you could be. If your last known point is on Earth, by the time you got to Mars you could be a zillion miles off course. Besides, I am not sure inertial navigation would even work in deep space. Most of the way to Mars you are going to be in free-fall and subject to the gravitic whims of the solar system. Your inertial navigation system will think you are in free fall, not subject to any acceleration in any direction.
    Anyway, getting to Mars isn't the problem, we know how to do that. The problem is locating the spot on the planet where we want to land. These guys are using a camera to look at the ground and compare it to a picture they have on board. It will probably have to be a picture taken by a probe, nothing from Earth is going to have enough resolution. It's weird how much processing power it takes to recognize an image, considering that you and I do it instantly and continuously.
     The best part of the video is watching the rocket motor twitch this way and that to keep the spacecraft balanced. All big rockets do this but you hardly ever get to see it being done.

     Just for grins, codingame dot com had a programming puzzle that mimics this situation, though vastly simplified. It only operates in 2-D, the terrain mapping has already been done, and we have a fairly large area to land in. You can watch my solution play out here.

Vintage Cars On The Cheap

Looks like a couple of nice, older, cars parked on the street, doesn't it? It's not. Míchael Paul Smíth created this scene using model cars shot against a real world backdrop. Via Margaret Daniel.

Space Suit

Vos & Ney Testing Spacesuits in the 11-foot vacuum chamber at the Johnson Space Center. NASA Photo by Bill Stafford.
Check out the door. It's like something out of a bank vault.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rondon's Telegraph Truck?

1919 Ford Model T fitted with a Virgil White Snowmobile conversion.

Reading The River of Doubt by Candice Millard, I came across this passage on page 94:
On January 25, some good news arrived for Roosevelt and his men in the almost surreal form of three huge all-terrain trucks. The "auto vans," as Zahm called them, rattled into camp that night on their way to the Utiarity telegraph station, the expedition's next stop, and the point at which it would turn west and head directly toward the River of Doubt. The trucks, which belonged to the Rondon Commission, each carried two tons of freight and had been outfitted with wide, slatted belts that wrapped around the wheels on each side like tank treads, forming what Miller referred to as an "endless trail" through the thick mud. This invention, which anticipated the use of the first military tanks two years later, during World War I, amazed and elated the explorers. "It was strange to see them racing across the uninhabited chapado at a speed of thirty miles an hour," Miller wrote. "Surely this was exploring de luxe." 
That would be January 25, 1914. Although it seems highly improbable that tracked vehicles were operating in the wilds of Brazil way back then, I suppose it is possible. And while this Model T is not capable of carrying two tons of anything, it at least shows that the military weren't the only ones were building tracked vehicles.

P.S. Found the photo on Bring A Trailer. Lots of interesting stuff there.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Cyclone Pam hits Vanuatu

Cyclone Pam bears down on Vanuatu in this Nasa satellite image taken at 1.30pm local time on 13 March 2015. Not long after the image was acquired, the storm struck the island of Efate, home to Vanuatu's capital Port Vila, with winds of up to 250 kilometres an hour (155 mph)
Just when I thought I was getting a handle on the islands in the Pacific, here comes another one I've never heard of. You can just make out the outlines of the islands superimposed on the image of the storm. They are more visible in the larger original. Vanuatu is 3,600 miles southwest of Hawaii. Following the same line for another 1,100 miles will get you to Brisbane, Australia.
    The big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew all the houses down. Looks like they could use some hurricane proof construction, but that requires at least a little bit of steel, and where do you get steel on a tropical island? You have to import it. Tourism, especially scuba divers, is picking up, so maybe they could add a one-pound-of-steel landing fee. That might give them enough to work with.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

NASA Interactive Satellite Tracker

Update November 2017. NASA's Interactive Satellite Tracker is no longer available.

NASA Interactive Satellite Tracker
Very cool. Click on any satellite (the little blue winged honey bees) (on NASA's web site, the above image is just a picture) and it tells you what it is. Updates position in real-time. Let's you select a sub-set of satellites to display. Might get a little crowded if they were all displayed. Zoom in or out so you can see who's looking at you right now. If you want to see something scary look at the plots of the debris from destroyed satellites. Scary if you're an astronaut anyway.

Remember the satellite that Iran launched last month? It's gone. The orbit decayed over a period of a few days and presumably it entered the atmosphere and burned up. Had to really dig to find any information about it at all.
    In other news an old DoD satellite blew up so we've got more debris in orbit. One good reason for deorbiting obsolete satellites.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Emulsifier Polysorbate 80 Tween 80 Sorbitan monooleate FDA, View Tween 80, HUANA Product Details from Guangzhou Runhua Food Additive Co., Ltd. on Alibaba.
You may have heard that scientists have uncovered evidence that food additives are at the root of America's obesity epidemic. I expected a massive disinformation campaign to appear. Remember Monsanto chemical company's, without chemicals, life itself would be impossible campaign? Curiously, the internet seems to have scrubbed of every image and video from that advertising campaign. Anyway, the disinformation campaign hasn't happened. Could corporations be wising up? Or maybe the guys running those shows have the same problem the rest of us fat guys have.
    I've started checking ingredient labels, looking for the evil polysorbate 80. I heated up a frozen Red Baron Pepperoni Pizza for lunch and there was ingredient list was printed on the side, but it may as well have been a written in hieroglyphics. I wasn't going to try and puzzle it out, so I pulled one off of their website. It's fairly horrendous, but it doesn't appear to contain any of the dreaded emulsifiers and certainly no polysorbate 80. I reformatted so I could see what I was getting. There are only six main ingredients:

  • WATER,

That last one could be bit scary, I mean, who knows what you could hide in there.
But if you expand each of these you get a list that may as well be a mile long:

    • NIACIN,
    • WATER,
    • SALT,
    • PORK,
    • BEEF,
    • SALT,
      • WATER,
      • DEXTROSE,
      • SPICES,
      • FLAVORING,
      • BHA,
      • BHT,
      • CITRIC ACID,
        • PAPRIKA,
  • WATER,
    • YEAST,
      • PALM OIL,
    • SUGAR,
      • SOYBEAN,
      • CORN, AND/OR
      • CANOLA OIL
    • SALT,
    • SPICE,
    • GARLIC,
    • PAPRIKA,
    • ONION,
      • WHEAT

I ate the pizza before I wrote this. I was hungry.

Wild Tales

Wild Tales (2014) Trailer - Brilliant Argentinian Anthology Film (English subtitles)
aka Relatos Savages

Found a review for this movie in yesterday's paper. Being as Buenos Aires has become my alternate center, I thought I'd share.

Take the Roar Out of Snore

Take The Roar Out of Snore

My wife used to complain about my snoring. I used to be chronically tired which led to a sleep study, which gave me a diagnosis of mild sleep apnea aggravated by my excess weight. The medical professions solution was a $1000 CPAP (Constant Positive Airway Pressure) fan-in-a-box machine (paid for by medical insurance). It is annoying, cumbersome and awkward, but it works. Chronic exhaustion is a thing of the past. Now I only suffer from ordinary tired from not getting enough sleep.
    At some point I discovered that if I slept curled up on my side in my recliner (you need a wide seat to accommodate thigh bones going crosswise across the seat), I slept as well as I did with the CPAP machine. None of the doctors I have talked to about this believe me. According to the AMA, CPAP and CPAP alone can treat this problem. So it's nice to get a little validation, even if it's from an annoying YouTube video ad. Plus we have a woman snoring. Bonus!

Update August 2015. Replaced missing video.

Steam Power

1832 Steam Engine - Jay Leno's Garage. The comments at the end of video about Britain and steam power provide an important history lesson.

Posthip Scott got me started on steamships this morning. In 1926 the Matson Line placed three steamships in the "in the Australian trade". Can you imagine? Taking a steamship from Los Angeles to Sydney? Books, cards, booze and conversation would be your entertainment for three weeks, at least. If your companions were dull, let's hope the books weren't. So you could take a steamship to Australia in the 20's. That seems reasonable. How far back do steamships go? We had the Monitor and the Merrimac during the American Civil War, so 1860. Anything older? How about 1819?

Steamship Savannah, 1819
    The first crossing of the Atlantic by a steamship was made by the Savannah is 1819. It wasn't much of a steamship, it was a sailing ship that had a steam engine added. The steam engine drove a pair of side-mounted paddle wheels. The smokestack had a swivel to direct sparks away from the sails. The engine only ran for 80 hours on its first trip across the Atlantic. It made a big impression in Europe and it managed to return to Georgia, but that was about it.
    So I got to wondering just what a steam engine from the early 1800's looked like, which led me to Jay's Garage, which is where the video at the top comes from.

Friday, March 13, 2015

alt-J (∆) Breezeblocks

I like the tune and the video, even though there doesn't appear to be any direct connection between the two, other than perhaps the jilted lover syndrome. The video is reminiscent of Memento in that it happens in reverse order. The tune is just life, there's no violence in it.

How do you get a delta symbol out of Alt-J? By using a Mac. There might be a way do it on a Chromebook besides using cut and paste but I have yet to figure it out.


The Celestial Equator (Earth's Equator projected on the firmament, Light Blue) Versus The Plane of the Ecliptic (the plane all the good planets use for their orbits around the Sun, Red) They are fixed relative to each other. The line of intersection is marked by the yellow ray, which is pointing at the Autumnal Equinox.
Stu corrected my estimation of the gravity on Cere, so I start checking into it and right off I run into
"Earth's rotation period relative to the precessing or moving mean vernal equinox, misnamed its sidereal day, is 86164.090 530 832 88 seconds of mean solar time...'
The 'misnamed' sidereal day? What? Why would you put an incorrect name in an encyclopedic definition? Jerks. Well, now I've got to look up sidereal day, which is okay, because what I am after is sidereal rotation period. I mean, I've been hearing this word sidereal for like forever, and I know it's got something to do with time because the Earth rotates relative to the sun and that's what determines our normal everyday kind of time, but the Earth also rotates around the sun, so like a planetary gear we've got one extra rotation every year.

The sun gear is red and is fixed when we start this video clip. The planet gears roll around it. The ring gear is traveling in the same direction as the planets but because this is a video, much of the time it appears to be going backwards, much like the wheels on the stagecoaches in Western movies.

The direction the Earth spins is the same as if it were rolling around the surface of the sun, which maybe why the central gear in a planetary gear system is called the sun gear, and the gears that roll around it are called planet gears. Anyway, back to sidereal.
    Basically, my assumption about the sidereal day was correct. Because the earth goes around the sun, in absolute terms it makes one extra rotation a year, so you divide 24 hours by 365 days and you get (24*60/365) about 4 minutes a day. That's not exact, but it's close enough for this diatribe. A sidereal day is 4 minutes shorter than a regular old day. You can see the same star in the sky with your telescope every night, without moving the scope, if you just look 4 minutes earlier every night. Eventually it will be daylight when you look and that's because now the Earth is on the opposite side of the sun and you will have to wait 6 months to be able to see it at the same position again.
    The problem with the so-called "sidereal day" is because it is measured relative to the Vernal equinox, indicated by the yellow line in the picture at the top, and Vernal equinox is not fixed relative to the firmament. It is also moving, albeit very slowly, one degree every 72 years, which is not enough to make a difference to backyard astronomers, but for people who make a living out of looking at stuff in the sky, well "one degree every 72 years" is not nearly accurate enough.
    So there are regular 'solar' days, sidereal days, and stellar days. The difference between a sidereal day and a stellar day is about 8 milliseconds and only matter to people who care about things like precession of the poles.

P.S. You will excuse the extraneous jaunt in gear land, but I just love this stuff. I was just going to put up a still image of a planetary gear set, but then I found a really cool animated gif, but it held the ring gear stationary, so while it was very cool, it didn't convey the correct message. So then I started looking for one that held the sun gear stationary and this video is the only one I found that did that. Keep watching and it will show you several modes.

Solar Power

Jasmine from The Baghdad Cafe
Posthip Scott sent me a story about Solar Power, which piqued my interest enough to look up some of these places on Google Maps. Until you get up close, most of them don't look like much, they are almost indistinguishable from the background. Most of the ones I looked up are in California's Mojave Desert, which is full of nothing, and big as some of these installations are, they shrink to insignificance when viewed from 100 miles up.
     We've got the picture because the bright spots to either side of Jasmine are caused by dust in the path of concentrated sunlight from the old Solar One plant. Solar One and Solar Two used mirrors to concentrate sunlight to generate steam to drive a turbine, much like a conventional coal fired power plant does. Photovoltaic (solar cells) are getting most of the press  these days, and most of the installations, but a new steam generator called Ivanpah just came online near Las Vegas.

Ivanpah Solar Power Facility. Note the bright areas in the air near the towers.
And just who is Ivanpah? He isn't, it's an old Indian word meaning 'good water'.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cold War Kids - "Hang Me Up To Dry"

This video reminds me of Howlin' For You by Las Teclas De Negro. This video was made by The Malloy Brothers. They have made a bunch of music videos. Given what I've seen here, they might be pretty good. None of the few others I've listened to made much impression musically, but that's just my opinion.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Death From On High

VFA-27's "That's a Shack!" Cruise Video Teaser

The music is the key to whether I can watch aircraft videos. This one uses Derezzed by Daft Punk & The Glitch Mob. I don't much care for the tune by itself, but put together the video and the tune make for an enjoyable couple of minutes. There are a couple of interesting bits in the video: the clouds of condensed vapor forming over the wings at the 1:20 mark, flashing the marker lights at 3:04, followed immediately by a night landing on a carrier. At least I think that's what it is. All you can see are the marker lights. I have no idea what they mean by a "Shack".
    Kind of odd that some of the coolest machines in the world are designed and built to kill people. Fortunately for the pilots, it requires constant practice to maintain proficiency, so they get to fly whether there is anyone to kill or not.

Update August 2015: Replaced the YouTube video with one from dailymotion. YouTube claims it was taken down because of copyright claims, but the tune (Rerezzed: Legacy - The Glitch Mob / Daft Punk Derezzed Remix Music Video)is up on YouTube on it's own.
Update April 2019: Replace deleted video.
Update July 2021: Replace deleted video.