Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Friday, July 31, 2015


Illustration by Sam Weber for Folio Society’s 50th anniversary edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune.
Heavy Metal has several spectacular paintings on the net. The Folio Society is selling fancy copy of the book, complete with all the pics .

It's been a long time since I read Dune, so long that I don't remember the character's names, not even Stilgar, but I remember a great many bits and pieces of it. I also remember it was really long and parts of were kind of dull and boring. I think we have a copy lying around here somewhere. I may have to pick it up and give it a go.


When we rented a U-Haul truck last summer, I bought one of their heavy duty locks. I don't remember how much it cost, but it was a nit compared to the cost of the truck and gas. I still have it. Easier to hang onto it than to get rid of it. I could throw it away, but only theoretically. I would not be able to actually do it. Acquisition is too deeply ingrained. Could it be that I have some Ferengi blood?

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

2012 Chrysler 200 Battery Replacement
Tune from a Chrysler Super Bowl Ad featuring Bob Dylan (!?).
Iaman is having car troubles:
The Arizona heat is killing my Chrysler 200 car battery. It took a while to find the battery...."there it is in the wheel well"...I think like the Sebring. Of course autoparts stores will not replace that battery. Do you think the music is a sarcastic commentary on this battery placement design?
2001 Sebring left front wheel well with inner plastic fender removed.
Battery visible at left.

Clear as Mud

Got an email from Helen this morning. She wants to post some claptrap on my blog, advertising claptrap from the sound of it. Best wishes to you, too, Helen.
    So now I'm wondering just who this 'Helen' is. No last name, but not an obvious alias like 'bloodmoney4'. Her email address ( comes with an alias ( Being brave (or foolish) I check out the websites. How bizarre.
  • is a single page about the Arial font. Nicely laid out with a couple of pictures and an entertaining, though totally unrelated, video.
  • leads to,184,0872,934.html, which appears to be advertising the services of an advertising agency. It doesn't take long to suspect that something is not quite kosher. If the opening paragraph doesn't clue you in, this one should:
    The proof is in the scope of your multifarious results. With EMSVR advanced communications software, when it comes to IT and MT, the solution is total factored integration, multifarious entry & exit point parameters and total simplicity.
    It's early and I'm not fully awake, so I'm wondering if these guys might possibly be legit (as in peddling bullshit), so I page through till I get to their contact information, which leads to
  • The Tortoise Islands. The Lost World! I knew it was around here somewhere.    

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Charles Litton
Tex Thornton
Last week a couple of high powered radio telescopes managed to take some pictures of an asteroid passing near the Earth. I got to wondering just how they managed this, being as the asteroid (2011 UW 158) was millions of miles away. Seems they used a 20 terawatt radar signal which came from a pair of Litton Klystrons. A klystron is a device for generating high power microwaves. It's the big brother to the magnetron found in microwave ovens. But what's this 'Litton'? That name sounds vaguely familiar. Well, it should. It was a giant defense conglomerate. Started by Charles Litton, but driven to success by Tex Thornton. Tex was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan in October, 1981.

Actual information about the radar gear at Arecibo is sparse and hard to come by. The web site is sadly neglected. An inquiry to the Wikipedia Reference Desk finally produced a useful, if outdated, link. Makes me wonder if information on high powered radar is a matter of national security.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Air Car

Compressed Air Car Wins $5 Million Deal on Shark Tank - Via Chuck Egg
Normally I like to talk about good ideas, but this one has been kicking around for several years now and I don't understand why it hasn't been kicked to the curb. It doesn't sound like a good idea to me, matter of fact it looks an awful lot like a scam. They are putting a lot of effort into making it look real, but maybe it's just a really BIG scam.

I remember hearing about some guy in India trying to start a compressed-air-powered car company a few years ago. It didn't seem like a good idea then. Compressing air takes a lot of energy and a lot of that energy is converted into heat, which is lost (dissipated). This guy is going to heat the air as it is used to get more pressure? What is he heating if with? His aura? Air motors are notoriously inefficient. The only place I know where they are used is in power tools for auto mechanics (impact wrenches, ratchets, grinders), and the only reason they use them is they can get a great deal of power in a small package. The downside is you need a giant frigging compressor to supply the compressed air, and we're only talking 100 PSI or so, not 4,000 psi. Lastly, who have they got on stage? Pat Boone? Are you friggin' kidding me?

The two companies involved in this scheme are Tata Motors, in India and Luxembourg-based Motor Development International (MDI). Tata Motors is a real company, but MDI? The Wikipedia article is not reassuring. Wikipedia also has an article on the whole Compressed Air Car concept, and it doesn't make this project look any better.

Scientific American December 15, 1906

Scientific American December 15, 1906
There is an article about the Wright Brother's airplane and one about the Seventh Annual Show of the  Automobile Club of America and a whole bunch more. I tried reading one about multiplexing telegraph lines using an alcohol lamp and a carbon arc light, but the jargon got to be a bit thick. Most of it seems to be of a technical nature rather than purely scientific, but then it was all a bit new back then.
    I had to zoom in so that one page fit the width of my screen in order to make it readable. Their viewer seems to work pretty well.

Via Detroit Steve.

RC Battleship from 1938

Vintage 1937 Remote Controlled Battleship - $3750 (Escondido)

Remote controlled battleship USS CALIFORNIA. Built in 1937 in the very early days of civilian RC modeling. 10 feet long. 360 pounds. Made of auto body steel. There are 12 38 caliber main guns that fire, and 4 22 caliber guns that fire also. Made by Howard E. Bixby of Glendale Ca. RC is all tube radio. Fully documented with plans, articles in 1937 radio magazines, newspaper, photos and navel blueprints. Very compelling story with a surprising and tragic ending. Model has been stored since at least the early 60s . Is not running and needs work. 77 years of original patina. Early piece of remote control history.
Tam found it on Craigslist. Posthip Scott found it mentioned in a 1938 issue of Radio News and on the cover of a Radio Craft from 1940. The 1938 price tag was $10,000.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Psalm 144

A History of Violence
Good summary of people and the bible.
I often run across random quotes from the Bible, but they are usually full of peace, love and understanding. Then I stumble on Clash of the Titles, which has this for a subtitle:
Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.
Rock on, dudette. You can read the whole psalm here. I'm surprised I haven't seen this as a motto on some military site.

What is wrong with people.

Biologists Discover Tiny Neural Computers in the Brain
USA Today has a story about the Louisiana theater shooting, wherein I found this line:
Mourning and mystery shrouded the southern Louisiana city of Lafayette on Sunday as authorities try to determine why an Alabama man with a history of mental illness went on a shooting rampage in a movie theater, killing two patrons and himself.
Why? Are you kidding me? Why? I'll tell you why. It's because he was nuts. You aren't going to find out why. People's brains are the most complicated thing on this planet and possibly in the universe. We have only the vaguest idea of how they work. Some molecular biologists are even now trying to tease out the basic chemical reactions that provide the underpinnings of these contraptions. Brainiacs are trying to understand the overall structure, but we are no closer to understanding why someone turned left in front of a train than we were a thousand years ago. And as long as vivisection is illegal, we never will. Not that I am endorsing vivisection, mind you. I just don't think we are going to be able figure out how brains work until we start probing living brains in detail and in depth.
     The guys in nuclear imaging are doing some amazing things, but we will need a Star Trek level of civilization before they starting delivering useful results. And I'm pretty sure a Star Trek civilization would make our petty fascists look like the Mickey Mouse club. Might even make the Borg look attractive.

Inspired by Tam.

Car of the Day

GT-R LM NISMO, sans most of the bodywork.
I don't like racecars much because of the way they are covered with their sponsor's logos. But then racecars are not built for looks, but for speed. This car with its bulbous cabin isn't going to win any beauty contests, even without all the advertising. The car made it's first appearance back in January in a Superbowl ad, which I hadn't seen. You don't get much more than a glance.
    The most interesting thing about this car is that it is front wheel drive. True racecars, as any racecar fan, foreign or domestic, will tell you, have always been rear wheel drive. Corvettes, Camaros, Mustangs, BMWs and all the Italian supercars are all rear wheel drive.
    Nissan sent three cars to race at the 24 Hours of Lemans. Only one finished, and it did not complete the distance required to place.
    It's a complicated machine. We shall see if they pursue this madness. Front wheel drive, hummph. In a racecar, double hummmph.

Via Dustbury.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The $800 Alternator

2008 Hyundai Sonata
Last weekend darling daughter took the Hyundai and drove to Seattle for a friend's wedding. She took a girlfriend with her so we weren't worried. As they were leaving their hotel in Bellevue (home of Microsoft), the car lost power and all the lights on the dash started flashing, so naturally enough she called home. Mom got her the number of a towing service. The tow truck, with a woman driver, appeared directly and took the car to a repair shop. The girls called Uber and got a ride to the wedding. They missed the ceremony, but they got there in plenty of time for the reception.
    Sunday they caught the Bolt Bus to Portland, and girlfriend's boyfriend gave them a ride home. That was a pleasant surprise. I fully expected that we were going to have to drive to Seattle to rescue her, but no need. I guess my little girl is all grown up. Mostly, anyway.
    Monday I call the automobile repair shop (dutiful daughter brought me a business card). Yes, they have the car, and if I agree to a diagnostic charge of $150, they will take a look at it. $150 might be seem a bit steep, but since I was able to deal with this from 200 miles away and I didn't so much as have to open the hood, it sounds like a deal. It didn't hurt that Jason, the man on the phone, sounded organized, competent and knew which side his manners were buttered on.
    Tuesday I get the diagnosis. The alternator is kaput. They can replace it. The total bill will be $700 and change, which includes the charge for the tow. Once again the bill seems a bit steep, but this is the first time that this car has needed a repair. Besides, it's in Seattle, what am I gonna do? Drive up there and work on the car in their parking lot? Just the thought of driving to Seattle squashes that notion. We won't mention that the repair shop would probably not look kindly on my working on my car in their parking lot, nor will we  mention that it's a friggin' front wheel drive car with a V-6 engine, which means removal and replacement of the alternator will probably require the skills of Houdini. So, yes, go ahead on, fix the car and I will pay the bill.

    Now I need to start formulating how I am going to retrieve the car. One of the girls could drive to Seattle with me and drop me off, but that seems like a big waste of effort. Besides, they have plans, and driving to Seattle is not in them. That leaves public transportation. Flying would be like $200 and I still need ground transport on both ends. Amtrak has a business class seat for $80-odd, or I could take the Bolt Bus for $30. We're already into this debacle for a small fortune, let's see if we can minimise the damage. Bolt Bus it is.
    Wednesday I have things to do, Thursday I'm too frazzled to handle an expedition, so Friday it is. There is a bus at 8:30 in the morning, but because I have stalled and delayed, that one is sold out. The next bus is at 11:30. That's better, lets me take my time getting ready.

Bolt Bus
    At 9:30am daring daughter gives me a ride to the local Max Station. I arrive at the Bolt Bus stop in downtown Portland at 10:30am. There are already a dozen people lining the wall of the faceless building on Salmon between 5th and 6th. I stop in at Jimmy John's, buy an ice tea and read my book for half an hour, then I go back and join the group on the corner waiting for the bus. Buses come and go, but most of them are city buses and none of them are Bolt Buses until we get one about 10 minutes after 11, but it doesn't stop. Hey, bus! Where you going?
    This drags me out from around the corner and now I see a line of people stretching all the way down the block. Starting to get a little antsy. Where's the friggin' bus? And then it shows up. It stops right by the A-frame sign sitting on the sidewalk and does that little kneeling trick where it lowers the front step down to curb level. A man dressed in gray appears in my field of vision (where'd he come from?), walks up to the bus, the door opens and he talks to the driver.
    Okay, time to start loading. The man in gray opens the doors to the luggage compartment. There is something wrong with the first door, it doesn't want to stay open. He fiddles with it. The driver has come out on the sidewalk. He makes an announcement, but he isn't loud enough to be heard, so everyone converges on him. All the A ticket holders get on first, then the B's, and lastly the C's. That's me, tail end Charlie. I get on the bus and I see that there are plenty of seats available near the front, which surprised me. They are all aisle seats and the adjacent window seats are occupied by women. There is a black woman in the seat right behind the driver, I could have sat there but I am befuddled. It takes me a couple of seconds to choose. I find one a couple of rows back next to petite, middle aged white woman. Should be safe enough. I sit down.
   The bus has Wifi and the woman next to me made full use of it. The driver made several announcements during the trip and surprisingly he was very clear. Every other time I've been on a bus, the driver has sounded like a graduate from the mumble bumble school of enunciation, i.e. totally incomprehensible.
    I do believe the bus is roomier than a Boeing Dreamliner. Perhaps because I was only on it for four hours instead of a 9, but I was able to easily get stuff out of my backpack that was sitting on floor. I tried to catch some Z's. The seats recline, but when they recline my head tilts back at an uncomfortable angle. With the seat upright I could rest my head against the headrest comfortably. I slept a couple of times. Both times I woke myself up with a snore. Nobody beat me.
    I chatted with my seatmate briefly. She was going to visit her boyfriend. They are both divorced, both were married for about 15 years, and they have 7 children between them. They were going to visit his father and I joked that it must be getting serious.
    You'd think that Washington, being a biggish state, with a big, important city like Seattle, would have a bunch of roads, but it doesn't. Our route took us up Interstate-5 which runs through Olympia and Tacoma. Between these two cities I-5 is hemmed in on the south side by JBLM (Joint Base McCord-Lewis, a giant military base) and Puget Sound on the north side. It is effectively the only road so everyone uses it, which means it is totally jammed all the time.
    In Seattle, the bus dropped us at city-bus-central in downtown. My plan says take the 554 Issaquah express to Bellevue. I look around and see a sign for Bellevue that points down the stairs. There are two sets of stairs, one on either side of a central pit full of buses and trains. You don't want to go down the wrong stairs. I find the bus to Bellevue, but it's the 550, not the 554. The 550 driver tells me I need to go back upstairs. I do and I eventually find the sign for the 554, about 50 feet along the sidewalk from where I started.
    Buses come and buses go and here's a bus extending a wheelchair lift that was concealed under the front steps. It deposited a tiny misshapen woman wrapped in a puffy green parka. She managed the joystick on her chair well enough and was soon rolling down the sidewalk.
    Now I hear someone hollering off in the distance. It sounds like "no". I look around but see no sign of trouble, but the hollering continues a couple of times a minute. Eventually the perpetrator comes into view. He stops and looks at a sign on a post and hollers "no". He wanders along and stops at a scraggling looking bush and hollers "yes". Okay, we've got some variety now. This continues on. Nobody pays him any mind, and he doesn't appear to be bothering anybody, other than with his hollering. It takes him a long time to get out of earshot. Or maybe the bus rescued us.
    The Seattle Transit System web site said the fare would be $5, the sign at the stop says $2.50. I offer the driver a $5 and a $1 to take me to Bellevue. Eastgate?, he asks, when I agree, he asks for a dollar, which I dutifully feed to the machine.

    It's a bendy bus and it's full, so I'm standing. When the bus goes around the corner something weird happens to my feet and I realize I am standing right on the joint in the middle of the bus so when the bus bends, my heel and toes go in opposite directions.
    The bus immediately gets on I-90 eastbound and my stop is the second one. I am the third one off the bus. Turns out half the people on the bus are also getting off here. 'Here' is at the top of an exit ramp where it meets an overpass. The bus crosses the intersection and heads back onto the freeway. We wait for the light to change and then start the march to the parking garage and transit center on the north side of the freeway. Everyone except me takes the catwalk to the garage and the stairs four stories down to ground level. I keep going up the hill and then down and around and in 30 minutes I am at A & M Auto Repairthere's my car, and there's Jason. Big sigh of relief.
    Not relishing getting into the rush hour traffic heading south on I-5, I ask Jason if there is another route and he tells me about highway 18, about 20 minutes east of here. I've accomplished my mission, I'm not on a schedule, let's go for a drive, so I head east.
    The Cascade mountains start immediately. Traffic is heavy, but flowing steadily. I see signs for some towns I've never heard of, but nothing about highway 18. Not to worry, it appears at the appointed time along with a line of cars stopped in the right hand lane, and we are still a mile from the exit. Well, I'm not doing that. As I drive by the exit I can see highway 18. It heads south in a straight line and it is packed with cars all the way to the horizon. I might have to drive to Spokane, but at least I'll be alive, not dying in some god forsaken arterial clog.
    I press on east. Now we are really getting into the mountains. They have really gone to a great deal of trouble to put this road through here. There is one place where the westbound lanes are separated from me by a good quarter mile. They go along the base of near vertical cliff face that has shed big pile of rubble that covers the bottom part. The eastbound highway is built on pillars that are planted in this rubble. It looks like the most unstable kind of construction, I mean standing concrete pillars on rubble you found lying at the base of a cliff? I supposed they know what they are doing, and besides, each of the those pieces of gravel probably weighs five tons. They aren't going anywhere.

Keechelus Lake, Snoqualmie Pass area.  I-90 in the foreground.
    The road heads up to Snoqualmie Pass, a name I remember from my childhood in Seattle. We used to go up there all the time, at least in my ten year old mind, which means we probably went at least twice. The interstate wasn't there then, so it was no doubt an arduous trek.
I stop in Easton for a cold drink. They have a map on the wall, but it only shows the immediate area, and nothing that looks like an escape route.
    I push on. As I approach Ellensburg I notice a sign for the highway patrol. Now, typically, I did not plan my return trip, much less an alternate route. I don't have a map or a cell phone. If one of the girls was with me I would have a smart phone and a someone to operate it, but I don't, and given that maps are almost impossible to come by these days I think I'll just ask the guys who know, hence the highway patrol. Besides, they are right here. I pull into the lot and as I am walking up to the door, a highway patrol car pulls up and the driver roles down his window. He gets out and tells me this office is unattended, but he has the key and lets us in. He rummages around and finds a map. It's old. One of the creases splits when he unfolds it, but it's all there and it's just what I need. Looks like I'm going to Yakima. There simply aren't any roads that run north-south through the Cascades.
    After Ellensburg the traffic dries up and so does the ground. I saw giant stacks of giant hay bales in Ellensberg, but after that the ground turns brown. No more mountains but big foothills. The road south from Yakima goes through Indian territory and is pretty flat. A few miles south of Goldendale we go ever the edge and start our descent into the Columbia River Gorge. Driving on I-84 along the river, the hills on either side look big. Driving down that hill you realized how big it is. It's BIG.
     I am following a pickup truck with a flashing yellow light towards the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge. When he gets to the bridge, he stops and starts to unlimber his lane closing crew and equipment.  What can I say? My timing is spot on. The bridge was redecked a few years ago, but now it looks like they are working on the steel superstructure. It's all encased in scaffolds and draped with tarps. Sandblasting and painting perhaps?
     After that it was just a couple more hours to Portland and home. The trip took me 13 hours. I drove 350 miles and spent almost $900. No expense for food 'cause diligent daughter packed me some snacks.
      Drivers in Oregon give me the impression of older and slower and maybe not so quick witted. Washington drivers seem to be more crazed and aggressive. Of course, it's only the odd ones that stick out, and being outbound from Seattle on a Friday night and inbound to Portland may have skewed my experience.

Pic of the Day

Five Vickers Vincent biplanes flying over the clouds, Royal New Zealand Air Force, ca. 1940. 
Via Posthip Scott. How small man, how big the world.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Tiffany Harvey makes these. This one is reversible, it reads the same both ways. Some combine two words, you see one word when it is viewed one way, another when it is turned upside down.

Tannerie Chouara

Tannerie Chouara, Fes El Bali, Fes, Morocco
Fes is equidistant from Tangier and Casablanca. It is about 100 miles from the Atlantic coast and 100 miles from the Mediterranean coast.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Magazine Rack

The Magazine Rack is a collection of digitized magazines and monthly publications. It seems to be an eclectic collection, some mainstream, some odd-ball, some lunatic fringe. Just glancing at their web page this one caught my eye. Cute girl. I'm always amazed at what comic book artists could get away with in their pictures of women. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

Via Elsa the librarian.

Green is Good

Infrared image of Ethylene Cracker #7, Dow Chemical Plant, Freeport, Texas, from Genscape.
Genscape now monitors 41.95 billion lbs/yr, or 69 percent, of U.S. Gulf Coast ethylene cracking capacity via infrared camera technology.
Just finished reading Green is Good by D. T. Max in a May, 2014 issue of The New Yorker. It's about how Mark Tercek, an investment banker from Goldman-Sachs (!?!), has taken over The Nature Conservancy and is leading it in a new direction. Naturally enough, controversy ensues.

There were a few lines in the article that stood out. This one confused me, as it didn't seem to follow.
Chemical plants are volatile places, and individual components are separated from one another and buffered from residential areas, allowing nature to thrive in the gaps. 
Now that I think about it, I realize that they leave large-ish areas around chemical plants vacant because these places can be explosively dangerous, so you don't really want them around anything valuable, like people. These buffer areas make great hiding places for tweety birds and bunny rabbits, as long as the chemical plant doesn't blow up.

This line points up the big problem with conventional environmentalism.
If you saw nature as having unlimited and unquantifiable rights and humans as having none, you turned environmentalism into a form of class warfare. 
War is not bad for everything:
The war [in Columbia, South America] had been good news for the region’s many frog and butterfly species.
This line is an example of a form of statistics that I detest.
According to the most recent E.P.A. data, Dow’s Freeport plant remains the ninth-highest emitter of bromine, the eighth-highest emitter of chlorine, the fifth-highest of cumene, and the sixth-highest of hexachloroethane, which causes cancer in mice.
That sounds just awful, but wait a minute, just how much bromine are they emitting, and how does that compare to the other guys? Are we talking molecules per year, or railroad tank cars? If the #1 emiitter is dumping a supertanker load a day into the atmosphere, and our plant is dumped a cupful, do we really care about this plant? If the guys who are using bromine are dumping more into the environment than the guys who are making it, do we care about the manufacturers losses? Without some kind scale to compare these things these positional rankings are meaningless.
     And everything causes cancer in mice.

A New Crop Formation with an Ominous Warning

A magnificent crop formation that appeared on June 28 in a field near Torino, Italy.
Image copyright 2015 Valeria Margherita Zanola
Stephen Hawking is supposedly warning us about alien invaders, at least that's what his handlers are telling us he's saying. I'm not convinced he's even saying anything anymore. His handlers might just be using him as a prop to lend credence to their own hair-brained schemes.
    Some people claim this elaborate design (picture above) contains a secret message encoded in binary. Sure it does. If aliens created it, why would they bother with the binary version of ASCII codes for letters? If they can make this elaborate figure, they can certainly write letters. All this supposes that they understand Roman letters and words and modern pop-culture references, and if they can do all that, why wouldn't they also understand ASCII codes?
    Anyway, I thought I would try decoding this message. Surprisingly enough, I came up with the same translation as the people at Unknown Country did, to wit:
timeo ET ferentes
I also got a 1/2 symbol to start with, but that's just me, I obviously don't know the secret handshake. This 'message' echos the line from the Trojan priest Laocoön during the Trojan war:
Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes
which roughly means beware of Greeks bearing gifts, so our alien message could mean 'beware of extraterrestrials bearing gifts'.
     I translated this message by interpreting the rows of dots between each point around the outside of the design as binary codes. Dark circles (trampled grain) got a value of 1 and light circles (not trampled) got a value of zero. I started at the top of the picture and worked my way around clockwise. There are obviously a lot of problems with this interpretation. What if I got the sense for 1's and 0's backwards? What if I put the high order bit at the wrong end of the string? What if I started in the wrong place on the circle? What if I went the wrong way? Why do I feel like I've been set up?
    I used a spreadsheet to decode the message, and just for grins I tried reversing the order of the bits, but all I got was gibberish. But then I didn't try using EBCDIC instead of ASCII either.
    I think the real message here is that some people are very creative, but we already know that. Why are they doing their designs in fields? Perhaps because they can't afford paper and paint.

Via Detroit Steve and Indiana Tom.

P.S. I originally interpreted the low order bit of the first character as a 1 instead of a 0, which would have made the first letter of the message a 'u', but that wouldn't give us our nice quote from the Trojan War.

Previous Crop Circle post.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Ace Of Spades is, I think, disgusted:

Democracy is not being practiced here; it is merely being stage-managed. [The GOP] have worked their level best to insulate themselves from the rebuking power of popular opinion, and, with their corporate-media allies to protect them, they have managed to do so almost completely.
So this is why I have become a radical: I agree with a left-wing socialist/communist about the fundamental rotten lie at the heart of the American democracy.
I will not trouble myself to follow a farce.
Mirrors my feelings on the matter almost exactly.

Via Dustbury and Rotten Chestnuts.

P.S. Looking for a picture to accompany this post, I Googled "Democracy farce". I was surprised to see how many results came up on exactly that subject.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Space Rock

Вращение астероида 2011 UW158 (Аресибо)
(The rotation of asteroid 2011 UW158 (Arecibo))
Radar image from Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico.

The Near-Earth Object (436724) 2011 UW158 on 2015-07-09
Optical observation from from Siding Spring Observatory, Coonabarabran, NSW, Australia.

While we are sending probes to reconnoiter rocks in the far reaches of the solar system, whatever gods there be are sending rocks to probe our local space neighborhood. Asteroid 2011 UW158 passed a little more than 1.5 million miles of earth last Tuesday and thanks to our astronomers, we got some pictures, or so the news reports would have you believe. I had to dig a bit to come up with these, and while they are not Hollywood Awesome, they are pretty impressive considering how far away (4.3 million miles when the pictures were taken) and how small this thing is (1,000 by 2,000 feet), and I certainly didn't expect to get images from a radio telescope!
    The news reports are all blathering about how this rock in made of platinum and is worth a fortune. On one hand I want to say 'I told you there was gold in them that hills'. On the other hand I can just see this prompting someone to embark on a half baked scheme to bring it into a low earth orbit so we can mine it, and then the funding runs out and as a desperate last gasp, the miners deorbit this rock and bring it crashing down to earth which brings our civilization to an end. At least we'd die rich.

Via Detroit Steve.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sign of the Times

Saw this sign on the back of at least one truck on our trip to Iowa last month. Seems we've raised a generation of philosopher-truck drivers. Who'd a thunk it? Trucks don't bother me much. Motor homes are more likely to be holding up traffic, mostly because most of them are woefully underpowered. You do get trucks competing sometimes to see who will be the last one to the top of the hill: I can climb this hill in 5th gear! Huh, I can do it in 4th! 3rd! 2nd! I win cause I had to shift all the way down to 1st gear! Considerable grumbling is heard in the line of cars stuck behind these two behemoths crawling up the hill side by side.
     Used to be, back in the good ol' days, back when I was running wild, truck drivers seemed to be more on the ball. For instance when one truck would pass another, especially when going up a grade, as soon as the passing truck was far enough in front of the other truck, the other truck would flash his lights to let him know if was safe to move back into the right lane. Often this distance was no more than ten feet. I didn't see any sign of this on my most recent trip. Trucks would wait until there was plenty of distance, like 100 feet, and the passed trucks never flashed their lights. You know how long it takes to cover 100 feet when you are only going one or two miles an hour (faster than the truck you are passing)?  It's like a minute, which is an eternity when you are having to crawl along at a miserly 60 MPH.

Russian Jets Tail Stand

Military jet fighter aircraft can go straight up. Usually they do it by transitioning from horizontal flight, in which case they are hundreds if not thousands of feet in the air. By modulating their power they can slow to a stop and and appear motionless, standing on their tail high above the ground, at least for a few seconds until the instability of their situation caused them to fall away to the side.
    But here we've got these Russian jets standing on their tails just a few feet from the ground. This is just one of a number of stunts that shouldn't be done with an airplane. You can see the video here.
    We (the USA) has spent hundreds of billions of dollars (some people claim it is a trillion) developing the F-35, which may end up being a complete bust. Well, maybe not a complete bust, just not a contender in the dog-fight arena, which may or may not be important in the future. Mostly we seem to use aircraft these days to destroy ground forces, but most any military aircraft can be used for that purpose.

F-35B STOVL Engine and Lift Fan
   It's no surprise that the F-35 is not as maneuverable as the F-16 since it is carrying that great big vertical lift fan in the forward part of the fuselage. I don't care what you make it out of, it's got to be heavy, and it has to be big or it couldn't do its job. And this is all so it can take off and land vertically.

Harrier Jump Jet
The Harrier succeeded because it wasn't carrying a great deal of extra baggage, it just had nozzles that could direct the exhaust stream down or to the rear, depending on which way you wanted to go.

Convair XFY-1 Pogo
    Many moons ago, Convair developed a propeller driven vertical take off fighter. It worked, but it wasn't a big success, mostly because landing seemed to be a bit of a trick. Seems to me that we should be able to overcome this difficulty, especially with all we've learned in the intervening 50 odd years.

Via Comrade Misfit.

Other posts about VTOL aircraft.

Update July 22, 2015. Added picture of Harrier and link to VTOL posts.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Morse Hy-Vo Chain

QUB 250cc Road Race Motorcycle
I was looking for information on the history of Morse Hy-Vo chain and I found this picture of an old but very cool road racing motorcycle. It's cool because it's gnarly. Someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to make it fast and to hell with practicality or aesthetics. I found it on Yorkshire Ferret, who had this to say
It was in June 1967 that Gordon Blair, M Johnston and their associates at Queens University Belfast conceived a new type of inlet valve for a two-stroke engine. A 250cc water cooled twin cylinder engine with this rotary sleeve valve was designed and built from scratch and first road tested in 1969.
. . .
The engine was coupled to a 5 sped Albion gearbox via a Morse “Hy-Vo” chain and mounted in a frame made by Colin Seeley. The total weight of the machine was 265lbs.
. . .
There was a very steep rise in power from the engine from 9,000 RPM and a sudden cut-off at 11,250 RPM. Peak power was found to be 45 BHP, but it was expected that with some development 10% more would be achieved.
Back around the time that the blokes at Queen's College were putting this bike together, I was trying to resurrect a 250cc Suzuki Hustler, a two stroke machine that was supposed to be capable of 30 horsepower. Getting 42 horsepower from a 250cc engine would have been phenomenal.

I also found this excellent story by former chain man Ted Davis on the Vincent Owner's Club website.

I have more to say about the chain, but I wanted to get this up before I lost the links.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Benchmark Crude Oil Prices

It must have been back around the start of 2011 that gasoline jumped to $4 a gallon, and the beginning of this year that it dropped back down to $3 a gallon.
Refineries in the United States produced an average of about 12 gallons  of diesel fuel and 19 gallons of gasoline from one barrel (42 gallons) of crude oil in 2013. - U.S. Energy Information Administration
 So, 31 gallons of fuel (12 + 19) and 11 gallons of what-not. 31 times $4 is $124, and 31 time $3 is $91, so the graph and history match up. Since oil does not produce, transport, or refine itself, somebody has to do it, and those people want to get paid. Since the fuel barely covers the price of the oil, the 11 gallons of what-not is paying for the refining and distribution. And taxes. Don't forget taxes:

Sign in convenience store window, somewhere on the road to Iowa.
Via Dustbury, the glittering eye and Knoema dot com

Knoema also has the production costs for several oil producing countries. The weird part is that almost all of them are higher, sometimes much higher, than the current market price. Something's gotta give.

Update September 2018 replaced embedded graph that had gone missing with screen shot and link.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pluto Calling

Antennas at the Madrid Deep Space Communication Complex, Robledo de Chavela, Spain.
The New Horizons probe is sending back some cool pictures of Pluto and its moons, but not very many, and not very often. Talking to the probe is like using a dial-up modem (kids, ask your parents). Emily Lakdawalla has a good explanation posted on planetary dot org. NASA has a page about their Deep Space Network.

Something New

Self siphoning beads - Steve Mould

How bizarre. Two years old actually.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fitch Ratings

I signed up with an Economics group on Google+ and posts sporadically appear in my email. Some are good, some are from students, most are pretty dry. But today I got one entitled China’s Market Crash vs. Wall Street’s Cocaine Habit from Fiorenzo Arcadi and it's pretty entertaining. He uses a fair heaping of sarcasm and a bit of straight shooting. Not sure that it reveals anything we didn't already know: the big shots are lying, or they have no more idea how the economy works than anyone else. Regardless, they all seem to follow the standard capitalist mantra, whatever happens, appear confident.
      He also mentions Fitch Ratings, which I had never heard of. Turns out it's another financial ratings company like Standard & Poor's or Moody's.

Isn't is weird how cocaine is such an entrenched part of elite culture, yet we have a veritable army of men with guns trying to stop it? But don't listen to me complaining, America is the greatest country in the world, right? Except maybe China. We are all going to hell.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Charon (left) and Pluto
I saw this picture and I thought it was a pretty good view of Pluto and Charon, but given that these things are flying around in the sky, one could be much farther away than the other and so the distance between them could appear to be much smaller than it is. I couldn't find anything about the relative location of the three elements (Pluto, Charon and the camera), so I did a little checking.

Distance from Pluto to Charon: 18,500 km
Diameter of Pluto:    2,400 km
Diameter of Charon: 1,200 km
Center to center distance on screen: 4.25"
Diameter of Pluto on screen:            0.5"

The on screen distance is 8.5 times the diameter of Pluto. The real distance is 7.7 times the diameter of Pluto, so I would say this photo does a pretty good job of showing the relative sizes of and distances between Pluto and Charon. They must be both about the same distance from the camera.

This photo was taken several days ago. Since then the probe has gotten so close to Pluto that it can no longer get both critters in the same frame.

Orbits of Pluto's moons. Pretty cool that they were able to put together this image that shows all five of the critters.

Artist's concept of Pluto's Moons showing their relative sizes. Tiny little Charon is a giant among dwarfs. We don't really know what the little ones look like, we just know they are not spherical. They might be egg-shaped but more likely they are potato-lumpy.

New Horizons Space Probe with Pluto, Charon and the Sun.

I was pronouncing Charon 'Chairon', in my mind anyway, I don't think I ever actually said it, but it's supposed by pronounce Sharon, like in Charlotte.

USA Jobs

Leaflet | Jobs: Map data from US Census LEHD, Imagery © Robert Manduca, Background: Map tiles by Stamen Design, under CC BY 3.0. Data by OpenStreetMap, under ODbL.

Click on the map to go to the interactive version. I don't know what it will do for you, but it took me to Seattle.
The places with the jobs seem to be the same as the places with high property values. Funny how that works.
Via Detroit Steve.

Watch Out! Religion is Coming!

Animated map shows how religion spread around the world - Business Insider

The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt get short-shrift. Matter of fact, if you aren't one of the big five, you don't count. Pastafarians don't even rate a mention.

Do It Yourself Phone Network

Barbed Wire Fences Were An Early DIY Telephone Network. Gizmodo has the story.
At one point they were bigger than Ma Bell. Gizmodo links to New Scientist, but New Scientist must be getting their service from AT&T's partner in crime, since the link does NOT work. Prompted by Tam's post about how wonderful AT&T is not. (I found this on Facebook, but don't tell anybody, Facebook is evil and not to be trusted.)

True Detective Season 2

True Detective Season 2: Opening Credits Episode #1 (HBO)

This song is growing on us. This clip doesn't have the whole song, but I like the images. You can hear the whole thing here, but that version only has a single static image. Previous post on this subject.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Rain Bird SST 600S Irrigation Controller
We have a sprinkler system that automatically waters the lawn. There is a electronic controller hanging on the wall in the garage that determines when the lawn gets water. It is just a fancy timer. This combination worked well enough for the last 20 years or so, but this summer things got a little out of control. For one thing, we had some very hot weather, and for another, we had several power outages. Neither was a big problem by itself, but put together and things started looking dicey for the lawn (our pretty green lawn).
    Every time there is a power outage, whether it is for hours or just a blip that lasts a fraction of a second, the irrigation controller loses its mind. When that happens, and if no one notices, the lawn doesn't get watered. In a couple of days it starts to look a little brown.
    We've been here for 20 years and there have been a couple of power outages, but not many, until this year. This year we have had a rash of them. Some of them were so short I wasn't sure if it really happened or whether I just blinked, but every time it happened the controller would lose its mind and I would have to reprogram it.

     This spring I was talking to my neighbor and he was telling me about this fancy new irrigation controller he got that the city was paying for on account of it saved water. At the time I poo-poo-ed it. Just what I need, a project to replace a perfectly good piece of equipment. Yes, the city might pay for it, but it's going to be a hassle getting the refund, and who needs another hassle?
    But now with power being so flakey and the lawn turning brown, I'm thinking okay, maybe a new controller isn't such a bad idea, so I look on the internet and find bupkis. Well, not bupkis exactly, but the solution doesn't leap off of the net. There is no end to controllers, but if you want to get a refund, you need to get one that is on the EPA's 'approved list', and that cuts it down considerably.
    My neighbor got a Rain Bird unit for a claimed price of $80, but he must have gotten one of last year's models because Rain Bird doesn't make that controller anymore. They have new controllers, but they cost $250, which is over the $200 refund limit, so that would mean $50 out of my pocket to replace something that isn't technically broken. You can see that wasn't going to fly with me.
    More poking around, more searching. The EPA's list is long, but I haven't heard of most of the companies. One outfit, HydroPoint, has a bunch of controllers on the list, so I start looking for one. Can't find one on the net, so I call them. They give me the names of two distributors, neither one of which knew what I was talking about. Okay, fine.
    Root around some more and finally find the last (last-year's-model) Rain Bird controller for sale from Fly-By-Night enterprises. $125, new, but the box is 'shopworn' (battered is what they mean). The price is under the limit, so I should be able to get it all back, so I go ahead and order it.

    The new controller arrives a few days later and I set about installing it. First step is to remove the old controller, and when I open it up to get to the mounting screws, what do I find? A connector for a 9 Volt battery. Huh, didn't know that was there. I'm glad I didn't know about it because if I had I might have tried to alleviate the power problem by installing a 9 Volt battery. What's wrong with that you might ask?
     A 9 Volt battery might seem like a reasonable way to keep an electronic clock running when the power fails, but in my experience they are nothing but trouble. We have smoke alarms in our house. They are wired to the electrical power system and to each other, so if one goes off they all go off. They also all have 9 Volt batteries, you know, in case the power fails AND you have a fire. All very reasonable and not a problem. But one smoke alarm kept eating batteries. They would last a few months or maybe a year and then it would start with that annoying intermittent beeping telling me that the battery was dead. So now I've got to get the step stool out, step up and take down the smoke detector, drive to the store and buy a stupid 9 Volt battery. I don't keep a supply of them at home like I do double-A's and triple-A's because the only thing that uses them is this one stupid smoke detector. Besides, they cost like $4 each, which is kind of a rip. I eventually took that smoke alarm down.
    You know, it would have been worthwhile if it every saved us from a fire, but all it ever did was complain about my cooking. Stupid smoke detector.

9 Volt Battery
    Actually, the smoke alarms aren't the only thing that uses 9 Volt batteries. Most of the half dozen alarm clocks in our house have this 'feature' as well, but it doesn't work very well. By the time the power fails the battery has lost it's charge and the clock loses its mind. One way to alleviate this problem is to replace these batteries on a regular schedule, like once a year, but with half a dozen clocks and three smoke detectors, that's nine batteries, and at four bucks a piece that starts to look like real money. Every year. And the power hardly ever fails! Forget you, buddy.

    While we are contemplating our irrigation controller problem, we notice that something has started beeping in the garage. It doesn't happen often, maybe once every few hours. Had no idea what it was until we started working on the controller in earnest and we were in the garage long enough to track it down. Turns out it's our FIOS-Internet-Cable TV-Telephone connection box. Seems it has a battery that needs to be replaced. This one is more the size of a motorcycle battery. I look on Amazon, but they want to sell me something similar, something that doesn't have this particular model number. Also, their dimensions are a little sketchy, and the battery compartment doesn't have any extra room. I don't want to 'adjust' the compartment, I want a battery that fits, so I go to the local battery store where they have exactly the right animal. It's $35, roughly twice what Amazon wants, but we get it now and be done with it.
    The annoying part of this is that I suspect that the battery is only a backup for the land-line phone system, which we no longer have. The TV isn't going to work without power, and while laptop computers will, all the internet connections go through the router, which gets its power from a wall socket.