Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Monday, August 31, 2015


The New Yorker has a fine, old (2005), story about hogs and how wonderful they are (not). At what point do you declare a nuisance to be a serious problem? However you look at it, the 'problem' is getting worse.

Wild Pig Population Distribution in the United States 1982

Wild Pig Population Distribution in the United States 2010

And then we have this bizarre phenomena:
As I leaned over the map and studied it with Joe Corn, suddenly my attention swerved. This map, with its intricate little counties and occasional whole states shaded green to highlight the potential disease-vector threat of wild hogs, reminded me of the red state—blue state map of America. At first glance, the states that voted for George Bush in 2004 and the states marked on this map as having feral hogs seemed to be one and the same. I mentioned this oddity to Joe Corn, who, scientist-like, declined to comment beyond the area of his expertise. 
Afterward, I could not get this strange correspondence out of my mind. I compiled ’04 red state—blue state data and matched it with SCWDS hog-population information on the map of that year. I found my first impression to be essentially correct. The presence of feral hogs in a state is a strong indicator of its support for Bush in ’04. Twenty-three of the twenty-eight states with feral hogs voted for Bush. That’s more than four-fifths; states that went for Kerry, by contrast, were feral-hog states less than a fifth of the time.


Daniel Radcliffe as John "Jack" Kipling, Kim Cattrall as Carrie Kipling and David Haig as Rudyard Kipling
in the PBS drama My Boy Jack, about the death of Rudyard Kipling’s son at the battle of Loos. (left to right)

by Rudyard Kipling
It was not part of their blood,
It came to them very late,
With long arrears to make good,
When the Saxon began to hate.

They were not easily moved,
They were icy -- willing to wait
Till every count should be proved,
Ere the Saxon began to hate.

Their voices were even and low.
Their eyes were level and straight.
There was neither sign nor show
When the Saxon began to hate.

It was not preached to the crowd.
It was not taught by the state.
No man spoke it aloud
When the Saxon began to hate.

It was not suddently bred.
It will not swiftly abate.
Through the chilled years ahead,
When Time shall count from the date
That the Saxon began to hate.
Hate is still an operative word no matter how much we try and make nice. Biological evolution at work: the best defense is a good offense. It's really pretty amazing that there are as many people as there are. It's a wonder we haven't killed ourselves off.
    Some places use 'English' in lieu of 'Saxon'. Not quite sure what that's about. Via Sharon.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Kill The Messenger

Andy Garcia as Norwin Meneses and Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb in a Latin American Prison in Kill The Messenger (2014)
I read the blurb on HBO and said 'bleh', that sounds boring, but 15 minutes later when my wife had had enough of her project she read the same blurb and said let's watch that, so we did. It is a hell of a movie. It's all about Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, the CIA and how their minions in the Federal Government are a bunch of worthless scumbags who are only interested in maintaining the power structure and their own cushy jobs. Well, that's my take on it.
    We hear reports about how reporters in Russia are murdered, but I don't think we have any room to talk. The people who are in power don't give a shit about anybody who isn't supporting them and if smearing their name doesn't shut them up, then go ahead and smear them like bugs on a windshield. That will shut them up but good.

Yvonne Craig

Bipolar Orion Slave Girl
Actress Yvonne Craig, who is best known for playing Batgirl (and alter ego Barbara Gordon) on the third season of the ’60s Batman TV series, has died at the age of 78. - Heavy Metal
She also played an Orion Slave Girl on Star Trek (video clip above).  I love her last line in that clip (2:30).

Girls with Guns

Lana Del Rey in the music video High By The Beach
Celebrity feeds on itself. I hadn't paid much attention to Lana recently, until the dynamic Science Fiction duo of Lester and Judy Lynn Del Rey popped up yesterday, and now Lana pops up in an ad on Heavy Metal, and how can I not post this picture?
    I'm not sure what the gun has to do with the tune, and it might not have anything to do with it. At first I thought the black helicopter (her target) was symbolic of her boyfriend keeping an eye on her, but maybe it's just the paparazzi, and shooting it down is just Lana telling us a story. I mean another story besides the one in the song. She's known for being a little independent.
    I don't know what kind of gun it is. I suspect it's a prop from a Science Fiction film. I mean, it could be modeled on real military weapon, except for having two grenade-launcher-size muzzles. What is it? A grenade launcher with an auxiliary grenade launcher attachment? Whatever. It's not a bad tune.

Lana Del Rey - High By The Beach

Update September 2015. Embedded the video after I found myself playing it for several days. I think maybe I like this tune.

Friday, August 28, 2015

No Tears for the Dead

Sade - Smooth Operator

Korean shoot-em-up. Opens with Sade singing this song in a night club, at least I think it's her. It sounds like her. Her hair is different and her figure is a little fuller. The tune did come out 30 years ago, so I guess she's allowed a couple of pounds. The opening scene in the movie is much like this video, but it quickly takes a turn to the grim.
     The film often had us wondering just what was going on. There are at least a dozen players and the scenes cut back and forth so quickly it's sometimes a little difficult to tell who is killing who. I'm not sure there are any good guys in here at all. There are strained loyalties, regrets, unhappy memories and faithless employees. Lots of gun fights and fist-i-cuffs. Netflix gives it four stars, but I'd only give it 3, good enough but not that great.

Science Fiction

I'm reading about the brouhaha over the Hugo awards this year, and I came across this in a story on The Atlantic by Kameron Hurley
The author Ursula K. Le Guin said it best in her National Book Award acceptance speech:
We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.
The 'divine right of kings'. Huh, haven't heard that phrase in a long time, and certainly not in reference to the present. People have been trying to come up with an alternative to capitalism for a long time. Communism is the only idea that has gotten any traction, and the implosion of the Soviet Union gave it a big black mark. Red China is still going strong, though all progress seems to be because of liberal capitalist modifications to their system.

From the other side of the aisle we have this on WND by Vox Day (aka Theodore Beale):
Consider the two great laments of the modern American woman. For the unmarried woman, it is the reality that she must marry later in life than ever before, if she is able to marry at all. For the married woman, it is that unlike generations of women before her, she cannot afford to stay home with her children unless she is fortunate enough to have married to a man of the financial elite.
Ok, not all women want to get married, have children, and stay home and raise them, but I believe that is the desire of a large majority. Vox blames this on the women's rights movement, but I'm not sure that's the case. I'm more inclined to blame it on unbridled capitalism and war mongering. But I could be wrong. It might just be that we've plundered all the easily obtained resources, we've been fruitful and multiplied, and now everything is tougher for most everyone. There is yet another way to look at it and that is we have seen how fancy the future could be and we all want part of it, we are no longer satisfied with 40 acres and a cow.

Lastly, Brad Torgersen mentions Judy-Lynn Del Rey. Would that be any relation to Lester? Why yes, it would. She was his wife:

Judy Lynn and Lester Del Rey at Minicon 8 in 1974.
I read some of Lester's books a long time ago and he must have made an impression on me because his name sure stuck. Or maybe it was just his name: Rey, like in Ray Gun. Whatever. I had heard of him, but I had not heard of Judy. Judy may have been more important because she worked as a Science Fiction editor for many years. If she looks a little odd, it might be because she is a dwarf. Which reminds me of my favorite character on Game of Thrones.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cabela's, Tualatin, Oregon

Jack and I went to Cabela's after lunch today. Jack needed some reloading supplies, and while I had heard of this wonderful place, I had never been there, so let's go take a look. It's new, it's big, it's easy get to and it's full of outdoor gear, much like G.I. Joe's, but bigger, better and fancier. In the center of the store they have a huge diorama loaded with critters. Underneath is a tunnel with giant fish tanks and a cave with a skeleton of some prehistoric beasty. If you only have a small craving for camping in the great outdoors, just a visit to this store might satisfy you.

    The 'Gun Library' provided some entertainment. All kinds of fancy guns, old guns, engraved guns, expensive guns and even a really expensive gun. I used to be enamored of this kind of thing, but nowadays I am happy with the guns that I have. I know how to operate them and they are reasonably reliable. Sometimes I can even hit what I am shooting at.

Since we've gone to the trouble to drive all the way out here (five miles anyway) , we should make the most of it. Is there anything I need? Well, I can always use some more ammo. Let's see how things look. Not to worry, they are fully loaded with everything I need. I pick up a dozen boxes of this and that and we head to the check out stand. Where we wait. And wait. And wait. Here we have this big fancy store, a zillion dollars in merchandise, a dozen people waiting to check out and two clerks who don't seem to be able get anything done. I give up and go wander around until Jack gets his chance to fork over the moola.
     Time to go. Don't want to drive by the front of the store, there is a confused mess of cars there. Let's go back the way we came, that should work, except it doesn't. It's one of these one way bear traps. The only way out is via the drive along the front of the stores, so we queue up and inch our way along.
     So it's big, fancy, impressive and even entertaining, but they don't have anything I need that I can't get somewhere else, somewhere else where I don't have to wait an eternity to check out. I doubt I'll go back.

The photo's are not necessarily from this store. Cabela's seems to have done something similar in a bunch of stores all across the USA. These photos are certainly representative.


1. The Atlantic has a story about how students on college campuses are easily offended and all the people who are scrambling to prostate themselves before this new form of tyranny. I'm reading along and these guys seem to be taking this stuff very seriously with all kinds of examples, stories and what not. I read on for a bit and then I realize this is all horseshit, so I stop.

2. When I was in school, elementary school most notably, there were the popular kids and there was everyone else. Occasionally I would notice a couple of kids, usually girls, with their heads together, casting side-long looks in my direction and laughing. A couple of times I took them to task and asked them what was so funny. The answers I got were meaningless, meaningless to me anyway. They used words I recognized, but what they described was so trivial as to be beneath notice. Okay, you guys are idiots. Go ahead and have a good time, I am going to go back to whatever I was doing and ignore you.

3. There are four parts to civilized life:
  1. the animal, biological and emotional part. All the things that make life possible and worth living.
  2. things, which are everything else,
  3. money, and
  4. the intellect.
4. One of the purposes of public schools is the socializing of the individual. I take this to mean learning to cooperate with other people. It is pretty much an instinctive thing, it can't really be taught. Oh, we have rules, like manners, which we are supposed to follow, but the whole person-to-person interaction thing runs on instinct.

5. The USA has become very efficient at production, so efficient that a large segment of our population has nothing to do except watch what other people are doing. Talking about what they see other people doing is an endless source of amusement, and for some people it is their whole life.

So if you want to play on the playground with the other kids, you are going to have to deal with the kind of horseshit that gets thrown around. On the other hand, you don't have to play there, you can go inside to the library and read, or try and find other people who want to do something besides play childish games. Be warned that they are hard to find because everybody gets involved in this nonsense at one time or another, so don't write them off because of one small incident. Give 'em a second chance, but if they blow that, cut 'em dead.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Roll your own mouse brain

Silicon Brain: 1,000,000 ARM cores - Computerphile

We have two problems with modeling the human brain. One is how a neuron works, and the other is how neurons are connected together. Modeling the impulses in single neuron might be fairly simple, if we knew how they worked. I suppose some people have some idea. How a complete neuron works is another matter entirely. It's a complete cell after all, with all the cellular machinery that implies. Using a living cell to perform the functions of a neuron is comparable to the using the city of Manhattan to support an adding machine.

APT Advanced Processor Technologies Research Group
     Connecting up the neurons is another matter. When we layout electrical circuits, we do it in a plane. We might have several layers, but you can basically draw it on a sheet of paper. This allows us to build them using simple techniques. Neurons in brains are connected in three dimensions. Some of these connections are to nearby cells, some are to cells a little farther away, and some are to cells on the other side of the world, figuratively speaking. You can't connect every cell to every other cell. You might be able to that with a dozen cells, but not with a zillion. So you have to pick and choose how you are going to connect your neurons. The toroid map they are using here lets you get some 3-D connections without making it impossible to build using conventional construction techniques.

Via Iaman.



We've got an interesting dynamic here: Mr. Manic and Ms. Sweet. I've listened to a couple of their songs and they're okay. This video, however, is spectacular in a geeky (or is that nerdy?) kind of way. Their lyrics don't make much sense, but that's poetry for you.

Update September 2015: Article in the montreal rampage.


Google Programming Language is Go for 2012 launch
Back in the late 1970's, some Computer Science students at some schools were learning about the C programming language and the UNIX Operating System. The University of Texas in Austin wasn't one of them. We learned about Pascal and Fortran and a lot of low level theory about how computer systems worked.
    When I joined the Intel camp I picked up PL/M-86, which was kind of like Pascal and kind of like C. Some people would say it was more like assembly language. (Some people call it assembler, which I guess is kind of a short cut, but to me 'assembler' was a thing, i.e. a program to assemble code written in assembly language into machine code.)
    Somewhere along the way I picked up C and when I was at Stevens it was all C all the time.

    A few years ago I interviewed for a job at Google. They wanted somebody to test the motherboards they were building, which I thought was a little weird. Google is all software, isn't it? Lots of people make computers, why would you go to the trouble to build your own when you can buy these things right off the shelf? I eventually figured out it was simple economics.
    Making printed circuit boards is much easier than making chips. It's more akin to a printing press than the nuclear physics level of technology used to make chips. As such, it's much easier to get into it, and so lots of people did and the knowledge needed to do it has become diffuse.
    Guys who are making circuit boards for the open market are taking a risk that someone will buy them. As such, they need to pad their bill to compensate for the inevitable duds. Since making boards is fairly easy, it doesn't take a huge volume to make it pay to make your own. Specialty manufacturers make runs of a couple of dozen boards all the time. A run of a thousand boards could easily make building them yourself totally worthwhile. And how many servers does Google run? Anybody want to guess? (Look here.)
    The point is, in case your weren't already aware, is that Google is totally willing to roll their own.

    One of folktales that comes out of the programming world is the story about a really smart programmer (typically from China, because we are racist white guys, you know) who has written a really cool program all by himself. This is wonderful until he leaves the company and someone else gets to try and modify it, or fix a bug, or change the copyright date or something, and what the new guy finds is a pile of spaghetti code. Code so convoluted, twisted and riddled with crap that he has no hope of ever figuring out how it works, much less how to fix it. Now the guy who originally wrote it had no trouble with it because he wrote it. It may have taken him ten years (or weeks or days), but he had a model in his mind and he understood how it worked. Any little change or fix was easy because he knew exactly where it needed to be tweaked. But since he never told anyone else how it worked (probably because he was Chinese and his English wasn't that good so no one was willing to try and understand him) when he left the company all that knowledge went with him. In a case like this the best thing to do is to throw out the original and write a new one. Or hire the Chinaman back.

    These days C++ seems to be very popular, along with a babble of interpreted languages like Python and Ruby and I dunno what all.
    Interpreted languages are very popular with application programmers (the people who write all the apps for your smart phone). They make it quick and easy to write programs, but they do have some limitations. First is that they bring an enormous library of functions and procedures with them. On one hand, this is good. All the code needed for all kinds of cute little tricks has already been written, you don't have to write them yourself. On the other hand, you didn't write them and if they break you are kind of screwed. Yes, you can probably find some way to deal with it, but that is a time consuming hassle. The other problem is the assumed environment. If everything you are doing is inside the envelope, so to speak, all well and good. However, if you want to do something that is outside the envelope, like actually talk to the hardware, well, good luck with that. It can be done, but you will probably be sweating bullets to get it to work.
    C doesn't have that problem. It has other problems, and it doesn't provide much in the way of an 'environment'. You have to pretty much build your own, but you can do anything that can be done with a computer. It is very in tune with a computer's basic operations. Works for me.
    C++, I think, was a reaction to the genius Chinaman problem. To be fair, not all bad code was written by furrin devils. We've got plenty of home grown hackers butchering their way to inscrutability. I've dealt with a few. The C++ crew was also trying to give it some more power, so more complex things could be done without having to write a mile of code to implement it. Teach the compiler how to do these things and let the compiler generate the mile of code.
   The problem with C++ is that they talked about it. Endlessly. On one hand, this is also a reaction to the Chinaman problem. Let's make sure that more than one person understands what this program does. And if it's a big project, people who are working on different parts of it are going to have to talk to people who are working on other parts so that when the project is complete, the two parts will play together. So now people are talking to each other, which is good, but some people really like to talk and will spend all day talking if you let them. When you let people talk, sometimes they come up with good ideas, sometimes not so good ideas, but when you are talking about imaginary shit you don't really know if it's a good idea or not until you try it.
    What happened is that someone collected a bunch of these ideas and stuffed them into C++ and because the talkers were talking about it, it became popular. The C++ versus C language became a religious war for a while. I think it has been pretty much settled by a division of the Union. There are two camps and they just don't talk to each other, probably don't even acknowledge the others existence. I think it comes down to personality types. All the lawyer types support C++ because of the endless litigation involved, while the mechanically minded go for C.

    A few weeks ago I was looking at the employment want-ads and I noticed someone was asking for Go programmers and I'm thinking great, another super flakey programming language for another obscure niche in Smart-Phone land.

    In my mind, my father-in-law was first and foremost a golfer. In his prime be probably played 200 rounds of golf in a year. He was club champion for several years. He was, and still is, a character. But a couple of years ago he had a stroke and now he is living in a retirement home and the most competition he gets is a game of cribbage. No more golf, for now anyway.
    We went to visit him this summer and I noticed that he had several books on the windowsill. I was a little surprised by this because I never knew him to be much of a reader. He was a golfer (see previous paragraph). On the other hand, he is a lawyer, so maybe after spending all day reading legalese he had had enough of reading. Now, in his enforced retirement, he has more time to kill and has time to spend on amusements, like reading.
    My wife recently told me that my mother-in-law used to read my blog religiously, or least more than once. Now I'm thinking perhaps my father-in-law might like to read some of my ramblings, but he is old school and isn't going to learn how to use a computer. Well, shoot, I've got a printer, I could print a story and mail it to him.

    A Chromebook is my main computer these days, but my printer is connected to my Linux box. Not to worry, Google has something called cloudprint that lets you print to any registered printer from any Google-fied computer. Well, sort of. There are any number of web pages that will tell how easy it is to set up cloudprint, just follow these steps. As if. Near as I can tell they are all lying, especially for someone who is trying to use Linux.
    Eventually I found an authorized Google project on Github with all of the source files to implement Google's CloudPrint on Linux. All I have to do is download them, along with all the necessary tools and libraries and who knows what all, spend a few minutes (hours? days?) connecting them all together, and presto, I'll be able to print directly from my Chromebook. How wonderful is that!
    So I'm looking at these source files, just for grins, see if they are really there and not wrapped up in some obscure archive format, and what do I find? They are written in the Go programming language. Huh. So now I look up Go and I find that it comes from Google. Google didn't like what the market offered, so they wrote their own. Near as I can tell it is a derivative of C, with some added features or something, but not so expansive as C++. You might call it C+, but you might get that confused with C# (yet another programming language), so Go.
    Now all I have to do is order some new ink for the printer.

The title? Go comes from C, -> Go out of C -> Go out of See -> Goose.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Vimeo Staff Pick

Chemical Brothers "Sometimes I Feel So Deserted" from Ninian Doff on Vimeo.

Grim little Sci-Fi story, with music. Is the music related to the story? Not that I can tell, but it's okay background sound.

Chuck Roast

Iaman is cooking and reading.

Made a  4 pound Chuck Roast $14.00 for ingredients, 2 hours at 350 degrees, simple….greasy.
     The famous frontier Marshal Wyatt Earp, pre-law career, was a buffalo hunter for the labor crews building the transcontinental railroad ~1870. Interestingly Wyatt figured 5 pounds of bison per person per day. (also interesting buffalo gather in small groups in the massive herds,  and stop to investigate a downed fellow bison…Chapter 5  The Buffalo Range - Wyatt Earp  by Stuart  Lake)
     Now dietary guidelines suggest 1.5 ounces red meat a day, 1/53rd of 1870’s railroad crews daily ration. So my roast should last for 43 days?  I was thinking 3 days. 
Wyatt Earp ca. 1890
     I thought this guy looks like Chuck,  my brother not the roast.  Tough, sober and steady Wyatt kept the drunk Texas cowboys from shooting up the cow towns.  He exercised his own gun control.  “No guns in town.”  The many Texas cowboys that tested him were summarily  hit over the head  and disarmed.  A few were shot dead.  Quite a different picture of the Texas cowboy than what one receives in Texas.  Wyatt had particular trouble with the Driskills.  (same of Austin Driskill hotel fame?)
Earp: another one of those names that you would think was really weird (urp?) if you hadn't heard it from the time you were a proverbial knee-high.

Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas
Earp was a lawman in Kansas before he went to Arizona and became famous. Kansas was the destination for the cattle drives from Texas because that's where the railheads were (where the cattle were loaded onto trains for the trip to Chicago). Driskill made his fortune raising cattle in Texas, so it is entirely possible that his gang were the ones making trouble for Wyatt up in Kansas.

Schoolhouse Blizzard 1888 January
They had weather maps way back then? Who'd a thunk it?
    Driskill went broke in 1888 when a January blizzard killed 3,000 of his cattle.

Monday, August 24, 2015


Red Volve P1800. Not Jerry's.
Iaman tells me that Jerry Seinfeld is going for coffee in a Red Volvo P1800. You can watch the video if you want, too much talking and not enough action for me. Uniberp, a Volvo enthusiast of the first water, had a P1800 a while back. It was famous in our crowd because, well, I dunno, perhaps because it was the only P1800 any of us had ever seen in the flesh. Anyway, he's got an old Volvo Amazon, sorry 122, now and because it's old, he gets to spend time working on it:
The P1800, lol. Slow, bulgy and soft, pretending to be vigorous, sleek and sexy. The fallback sportscar for upper-middle-aged regretophiles to add to their steel barn collections. There are some legitimate nuts (, however. I actually feel sorry for someone who pays $10k for a P1800 expecting to drive it comfortably.
I'm making progress on the 122s wagon, which may be approaching viability. As originally equipped with a generator and points ignition, it is currently only suitable for test rides to the Ace hardware store, which for a car of this vintage, has more parts and materials usable than the actual auto parts stores.
The last time I had one it was in 1980, and it was a 12 year old car then. This one is a 48 year old car, which has sat outside most of it's life. The fact that it is still on it's feet is a testament to the steel and rubber used, but it smells old. Good thing it has vent wings.
As is it can sell for 2000-3000, which puts me about even, and I've lost 12 pounds since I acquired it, so that puts me well ahead in other, more ineffable ways. "Even" is miles ahead of where most restoration projects land, although I am carefully balancing the value of any "restorative" work. I am currently taking the "conserve" approach, for instance, just polishing out the old paint, despite the numerous dings and chips. It came with a pair of original steel fenders, which I had artistically welded (ripoff, but done), and it turns out the best match for paint is 60%Rustoleum Gloss Forest Green+40%Rustoleum Satin Black, which is much better than the bluer and brighter scientifically metered calibrated PPG custom mix. So I have to respray the fenders, which I will do with casual disdain and a sandwich in one hand, to make sure it isn't too sparkly perfect.
The chrome on the bumpers is shot. The stainless and aluminum trim can all be polished and de-dinged. The upholstery I restitched, which I like to do, with my sailmakers sewing machine. It makes me feel I have a comprehensive skill set when I can weld and swew in the same day.
It required some floorboard welding for which I purchased a Harbor Freight $109 flux-core 110VAC welder, and I have used it quite a bit. to good effect. Following internet advice, I bought domestic (Lincoln) wire, and expected a learning curve. The trouble it, when you go to the trouble of welding, you want something to show for the effort, and you may as well try it on a live project, especially one that is kinda old and junky to begin with. Turns out that flux core welds nicely right through rust. I tacked the old exhaust back together surprisingly tidily, although that will be one of the first things purchased (custom from local "Muffler Man") when it is licensed.

Our Lady of Metallic Cartridges

50 .44 CAL COLT'S L.M.R
Comrade Misfit is threatening to start a church. A church need's prophets. These are hers.
They were all gunsmiths, inventors and businessmen. The names of some are still attached to gun companies.
Remington's first name, Eliphalet, reminds me of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in Wicked, but there does not appear to be any connection.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Gravity, Part 2

Watched Gravity (Warning: autoplay) again last night. It was just as great as the first time, partly because my memory was playing tricks on me. I distinctly remember Kowalski telling Ryan to open the oxygen valves on the Soyuz spacecraft, but he didn't.

Gravity - Clip (9/11): Shenzhou Re-entry
     Since I have been mulling over reentry I paid a little more attention to this sequence. Notice that the capsule is tumbling when it begins reentry, but after it separates from the attached modules, it straightens out and flies right. Posting a question on the reference desk led to Wikipedia's article on Atmospheric entry, where in I found this bit:
The Apollo Command/Service Module used a spherical section forebody heatshield with a converging conical afterbody. It flew a lifting entry with a hypersonic trim angle of attack of −27° (0° is blunt-end first) to yield an average L/D (lift-to-drag ratio) of 0.368.[10] This angle of attack was achieved by precisely offsetting the vehicle's center of mass from its axis of symmetry. 

Rip, Tear, Crack, Split, Fracture

I ask a simple question and down the rathole we go . . .

SS Schenectady
Why is it so hard to start a tear in plastic film?
Once you have a tear started, it is easy to continue tearing.
I think it is derived from their long-chain molecular structure. Most plastics used in films will tend to deform when placed under tension, spreading the stress over a wider area. Once a tear is started, the stress becomes localised, and will exceed the limit quite easily. AndyTheGrump
Starting a tear, er, fracture. Figure by N. Bernstein & D. Hess, NRL
It's sort of the same reason that it's easier to pull apart a zipper [starting at one end but near impossible if you try and separate the whole thing at once]. Basically, at the onset, the force you apply is distributed throughout a line or plane. Once the tear is initiated, all of that force gets focused directly into the weak spot. Tearing is basically an example of fracture mechanics, and the details can get very complicated! A decent overview can be found here. Note that the ductile case of plastics works a bit differently than the brittle case. SemanticMantis
Part of the reason is already in the name: See Plasticity (physics). Just as when you're tearing on the cheese on your pizza, it just gets thinner and thinner, instead of breaking. — Sebastian
Then in the PDF from The University of Virginia, I found this:
Low temperatures can severely embrittle steels. The Liberty ships, produced in great numbers during the WWII were the first all-welded ships. A significant number of ships failed by catastrophic fracture. 
Ships failed? You're kidding, right? No, we're not. See the picture at the top.

Low Temperature Properties
Charpy Impact Resistance tells you how tough a material is. Nickel (the top line in the graph) doesn't much care about the temperature, but steel gets brittle when it gets cold. Fancy steel (the middle line) does better at all temperatures likely to be found on the surface of the Earth, but peasant steel (the line in the lower right quadrant) can become brittle in a mild West Coast winter, or more significantly, in the Middle of the North Atlantic.

Liberty ships were welded together, not riveted, as had been the standard practice up till that time. When they started breaking, it was assumed that the problem arose from the welding. The Brits called in Constance Tipper to look into the matter, and she found the problem was with the steel they were using. NewStatesman has a short story about her.

The SS Schenectady (shown at top) was built at the Swan Island Shipyard here in Portland, Oregon. Wikipedia has the story:
On 16 January 1943, she was moored at the fitting dock at Swan Island, in calm weather, shortly after returning from her sea trials. Without warning, and with a noise audible for at least a mile, the hull cracked almost in half, just aft of the superstructure. The cracks reached down the port and starboard sides almost to the keel, which itself fractured, jackknifing upwards out of the water as the bow and stern sagged to the bottom of the river. Only the bottom plates of the ship held. This was not the first of the war-built merchant fleet to fracture in this way – there had been ten other major incidents, and several more would follow – but it was perhaps the most prominent; it occurred in full view of the city of Portland, and was widely reported in the newspapers even under wartime conditions.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

The clear area in mid-Washington is the Cascade mountains. The big fire is the well defined smoke cloud just to the east.
The Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating group has reported that wildfire operations have been active for a total of 67 consecutive days, with 43 currently active fires in Oregon and Washington.
This level of fire activity has not occurred since 2007. - Fox 12 News
When I got home around 10AM this morning, the sky was clear. When my wife got home a couple of hours later, it was overcast, but it wasn't normal gray clouds. It was a diffuse yellow haze. It smelled like smoke and stung your eyes. Looks like a really big fire, but where's it coming from? Would you believe 200 miles away from north central Washington? Evidently the winds are blowing the smoke south down the east side of the Cascade Mountains and then west through the Columbia river gorge. Weatherman says the wind is going to change direction tonight and blow it all away to the east.
    The fire is pretty big as these things go: 100 square miles. Washington State, for the first time, is calling for volunteers to help fight the fires.
    Forest fires make the news every year about this time, even here on Pergelator. Here's a couple of posts from previous years.
The Platters singing the title song.

Tune of the Day

The BossHoss - My Personal Song

The tune isn't great, it's not bad, but the video! Well, that's something else. I especially like the Mariachis. Can't tell you why. Maybe the horns come in at just the right time.

Pic of the Day

Penrose Tile 1 by parrotdolphin
Via January Roads. There seems to be no end to pages about Penrose tiles. I like this one.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Lone Survivor

Ben Foster as Matt 'Axe' Axelson
Grim little story of four Navy SEALS who are dropped off in lower Slobovia, sorry, some obscure part of Afghanistan, to take out a Taliban honcho. As you can tell from the title, things do not go well. It's a true story, though the movie was made in Hollywood, so some liberties have been taken.
    One interesting thing about this movie was the mountains. I've climbed a couple of hills, and any time I got above 10,000 feet it was a friggin' struggle, but then I have a flaky heartbeat. Robert Kaplan in Soldiers of God talks about how once Afghans are away from town they can walk up mountains without even breathing hard. Here we have Navy SEALS, young men in their prime, trained to perfection, and climbing this hill is a chore even for them. Which makes me think that maybe they should have done a little more high altitude acclimatization. On the other hand, this was a movie, and maybe the cues I picked up didn't accurately portray these soldiers tolerance for moderately high altitudes.
     Our guys did manage to kill a bunch of the ragheads, which makes me think that we do know how to train our soldiers. Still, ten to one is not good odds, even if you are ten times better than your opponents. That just makes it about even.

Sign of the Times

Say What?
Yes, indeedy, that's what it says.
Grecian Formula Leads to Gray Hair
Showed up in True Detective on the back of the WSJ.


Just paid my water bill. $400. Thought that was bit steep. Could it be that the leak I had last January (er, previous January) boosted my sewer rates, and that combined with the hot weather and the automatic sprinklers boosted the rate to the stratosphere? Well, I checked, and no, that's not it. So why is it so high?
    I look at last winter's bill and it looks like the rate for water was about $1.50 per unit, a unit being 100 cubic feet, which is roughly 800 gallons. The last two months I used 96 units. At $1.50 a unit that would amount to $150, so why is the charge $300? Call the water department and get treated to a recorded spiel about everything I don't want to know about paying my bill and the machinations of government organizations, but nothing about rates. For that I have to wait for someone to actually answer the phone and from her I find out that Hillsboro has a tiered rate system:

  • First 16 units are $1.58 each.
  • next 20 units are $2.46 each, and the
  • next 60 units are $3.33 each.
Note that those only add up to 96, which is the number on my bill. What comes after that? Maybe I don't want to know. Maybe I shouldn't ask. Maybe they've never had anyone use that much water before. In any case that explains why the bill was so high. I wonder if there is some kind of tax deduction I can take to compensate for having to comply with the onerous Home Owners Association rules about keeping your grass green. Most lawns outside of this enclave have let their lawns go brown.

Speed of Gravity

Aug 20, 2015:Dione with Rings and Shadows - Dione hangs in front of Saturn and its rings, captured during Cassini's close flyby of the moon. Saturn is only about a hundred times bigger than this tiny moon.

Nobody understands how gravity works, or if they do, they haven't convinced anyone else that they do. Some people think there are particles involved, kind of like magnetism and neutrinos, but no one has ever figured out what they were.
    I read a science fiction story once about a guy who had invented a graviton conductor. It conducted gravitons much the way a wire conducts electricity. You could clip it onto something and let it hang down to the floor and all the gravitons would drain out of the object. The more gravitons you drained out, the lighter it became. Eventually it would become so light it would just float away. The guy who invented it didn't have much imagination because he used it to give his trucking company a boost. He installed a paddle wheel on the driveshaft of his truck. Once his truck was loaded, he would connect his graviton cable to the load and dangle it above the paddle wheel. Gravitons draining out of the load would strike the paddlewheel and give his truck a boost. It also made his load lighter.
    He couldn't deliver ten tons of corn if it only weighed ten pounds, so just before he got to his destination, he would stop by the base of a cliff and drain some gravitons from the cliff back into the load. It wasn't long before it got out of hand. You'd go to the store to pick up a ten pound bag of potatoes and it would weigh a hundred pounds. That cliff he was draining gravitons out of to reweight his truck loads? It eventually fell into the sky. It was a great story.
    Back to the real world. There is one aspect of gravity that is a little curious. Does gravity have a velocity? The example that is usually used is how soon would the Earth notice if the Sun suddenly vanished? Would it immediately leave orbit, eight minutes before the sunlight disappeared, or would would it wait until there was no more light? The idea is that nothing can travel faster than light, so gravity, if it has any physical substance at all, couldn't travel faster than light, so as long as there is sunlight, the Earth would stay in orbit.
     I always thought that this was a particularly useless example. Matter doesn't just vanish and even when it does (like in an atomic reaction) so much energy is released that any kind of observation you hoped to make is going to be obliterated.
     But then I got to thinking. We are getting pretty accurate with our observations of objects in orbit in our solar system. Maybe we could measure and calculate our way to a conclusion.
    All the objects in our solar system are all pulling on each other all the time. They are also in motion all the time. So when the moon pulls on the Earth, is the pull coming from where it was a second and a half ago, or is it coming from where it is now? The moon is moving pretty quick, but in a second and half it's only going to a go about a mile. We can we tell the difference in the direction of the moon's pull, but can we determine it that accurately? I don't think so.
    On the other hand we have supercomputers and precision instruments and measuring techniques, so maybe running a simulation of the solar system could tell us whether gravity has a velocity or whether it is instantaneous.
    I tend to think gravity is simply a distortion of space. It's kind of like the landscape. It doesn't move, it's just there. But running the simulation might provide some interesting results.

Update January 2017 removed reference to trans.gif, a picture that does not appear.

Tune of the Day

Elle King - Ex's & Oh's

I like the tune. The video doesn't have much appeal, but it is entertaining. I suppose this is what girls would want, if girls were more like men.


Replacing upper and lower ball joints on 2001 Dodge Durango 4x4
This is what was NOT done to my truck, so it didn't cost me a bunch of money.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the inside edges of the front tires on my truck were getting a little worn. This concerned me because the truck has 140,000 miles on it and once upon a time the Dodge dealer told me I needed to have the front end rebuilt to the tune of $1500. Gack! What if that's what it needs now? So I took it to Les Schwab and talked to the counterman. He recommended a couple of tires and an alignment. I thought, no, just rotate the tires and take a look at the front end.
    I have to wait a couple of hours to get my truck back, but I figure that's okay. They have paying customers there, they are busy, and I'm asking for some free service. That isn't the usual Les Schwab model. Normally I would expect something like this to be done in five minutes. But it's okay, it's lunch time, I'm hungry, I can walk down to McDonalds and get me a Big Mac and fries for lunch.
   I'm standing in line at McDonald's with bunch of teenagers and I noticed a dad with a couple of little kids, maybe five years old. He's trying to keep them corralled but they aren't having any. They go up to the counter and one of them starts mashing the buttons on the PIN pad and I start having one of those 'get off of my lawn' moments. Little good for nothing rug-rats. I'm working my way up saying something when the ring leader of this pack of two turns around, looks me straight in the face and gives me this great big smile. Shit, there goes my tirade, right out the window.
    My truck still isn't done, but I have my book, Flashman at the Charge (an insider's look at the Charge of the Light Brigade) and the action is hot and heavy. I don't know about the historical accuracy, but it's an entertaining story, and if you aren't careful, you might learn something.
   Eventually my truck is done and the bill is $350 and I'm all WHAT?!?! Seems they put on two new tires and aligned the front end, which is not exactly what I was expecting, but the important part is that the front end didn't need any parts replaced. It just needed to be adjusted. I was going to have to get this done eventually, I just wasn't expecting to have to pay for it today. Fortunately my credit cards aren't completely tapped out.
    So what was the deal with the dealer telling me I needed to have the front end completely rebuilt? Think maybe things were a bit slack and they thought they saw a mark in need of fleecing? Doesn't speak well for the Dodge dealer, especially since that was five or ten years ago and my truck had many fewer miles on it.
    The other interesting bit was that the only thing that apparently needed adjusting was the toe-in, and it wasn't off by much, maybe one degree. Everything else was fine. I did have my local mechanic replace the tie rod ends a few years ago and he had to do it twice. The first time he got them backwards. Nothing wrong until you try to make a sharp turn and then you get this rubbing noise. OK, just don't make sharp turns, but it's a pickup truck, and while it is not a behemoth, it's still bigger than your typical econo-box and getting into parking spaces uses all of its steering capacity. So they swapped the ends. I suspect that they just tried to reinstall the rod ends in the same position and skipped the whole re-alignment procedure and they miscounted the threads when they did the swap. It wouldn't take much, after all it was only off by one degree.


I was looking at our pile of remote controls the other day and thinking that maybe I should go ahead and spring for one of them fancy all-in-one jobs. Then I stumbled over the new Roku unit which has a voice controlled search function. My goodness, how fancy is that?
    My wife's smart phone can translate voice to text. She uses it to send text messages to the kids, so maybe voice recognition technology really has advanced to the stage where you can use it reliably for something.
    We have subscriptions to three or four video-on-demand services for which we pay about $100 a month, depending on how you slice it. So now when we want to watch a show, we have to remember what service it is on. If you didn't remember then you have to search for it. With our old Roku you would need to switch to the service and then enter the title, one letter at a time, using the arrow keys. If you didn't remember what service it was on, well, you could spend minutes, minutes I tell you, pressing buttons on the remote to try and find it.
    The new Roku has a voice controlled search function that works from the top level. You say the name of the show you want and it will search all of your subscribed services to find it. We tried it out on a couple of shows and it worked flawlessly. Cool.
    Then I tried to use it to find the The Honorable Woman. It apparently worked because it found the show on two services, but when I tried to watch it I find out that it is a pay-per-view item. That's weird, because I already watched one episode for free. Could they have decided to start charging for it just now? Perhaps my post about the show triggered a small avalanche of events that caused this. Is my influence really that great?
    No, it's not. I gave up on the show, there are zillions of shows I've already paid for, I don't need to pay some more to watch this one, so I switch to Netflix to see if I can find something worth watching, and what pops up? The Honourable Woman. For free. Huh. So Roku's fancy voice controlled search function is not infallible.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sign of the Times

I was at the airport last week and I saw this sign hanging from the ceiling and I thought, cool, they went to all the trouble to make a custom sign for this baggage claim conveyor, thinking that it was a permanent sign made by stenciling the writing on a piece of white plexiglass, which is what it looked like. After a couple of seconds I realized, that no, they wouldn't do that, things change too often, probably every hour, so no, they didn't make a custom sign. It's a digital flat panel display, just like all the arrival and departure displays.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sign of the Times

Porsche with Oregon Consular Corps License Plate
I didn't even know that Oregon had a Consular Corps. I was going to blur the license plate, but I had forgotten just which app I had used last time. When I Googled for instructions I found this story over on Jalopnik.

Turn Signals

1999 Dodge Dakota Right Front Turn Signal Assembly
Turn signals started flashing double quick time a couple of weeks ago. How to get to the bulbs was a bit of a puzzle. Nothing obvious from the outside and no access from the inside. Found a YouTube video that tells you to take off the headlight first. Wrong! Well, unnecessary anyway.
    Open the hood to gain access to the rubber splash shield that is clipped to the lights. Unclip it from the turn signal. You can leave it clipped to the headlight.
    Now unscrew the one small retaining screw. It's right by the lower right corner (that is the truck's right, not yours) of the headlight and accessible in the gap between the turn signal and the headlight. You will need a small Torx screwdriver. The screw has a small diameter, but is kind of long. Once you have the screw loose, the turn signal assembly will slide straight out until it reaches the end of its wires. It takes some fooling to unclip the light bulb sockets from the assembly as the wires are a little short and there isn't much room, but it can be done. The sockets 'unscrew' from the assembly, that is, you turn them a quarter turn anti-clockwise and they will come out. Putting them back is just the reverse.
    Don't forget to clip the splash shield back into place.

Previous post on this subject. I knew I had worked on this before, but I thought it had been on the rear light.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Big Bang, Part 2

GROUND ZERO: Tianjin, China, August 13, 2015. The destruction spanned an area 3km in radius, leaving a large hole in the ground where the explosions took place. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Part 1 here.


Girls with Guns

Jessica Nigri as Nathan Drake from the video game Uncharted.
Jessica likes to dress up in bosom revealing costumes. You might call her a professional cosplayer. Heavy Metal has a bunch more pictures of her in a variety of costumes. If you haven't gotten your daily quota of boobage you might want to check her out. This photo was the only one that appears to have a real gun in the scene.