Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pic of the Day

Hostile Takeover by OmeN2501

Count Zero

Count Zero by William Gibson
Part 2 of the Sprawl Trilogy, set between Neuromancer and Mona Lisa Overdrive. We've got three main characters, Turner a ruthless 'operator', Bobby, a wannabe hacker, and Marly, some kind of art dealer. Turner is very unpleasant, but then he lives in a very unpleasant world. Bobby is young and foolish, and perhaps lucky, which might be why he is here. Marly is the only character I had any sympathy for. unbreakable body! has a decent review.

Not the best book in the world, but every now and then you get a bit that makes it all worthwhile, like this one:
"The man's life, from Turner's vantage, seemed marked out by a certain inevitability; he was brilliant, a brilliance that had been detected early on, highly motivated, gifted at the kind of blandly ruthless in-company manipulations required by someone who aspired to become a top research scientist."
I wasn't even aware that "ruthless in-company manipulations" existed, much less were necessary for a top level job. That might help explain my abysmal career trajectory.

The book is from 1986 and it's amazingly prophetic. We still don't have computer-aided memory, or direct neural access to computers, but our interface has improved dramatically, witness the VR goggles that are becoming popular.

Bobby's forays into cyberspace are described in the vaguest of terms. How you would interact with anything is likewise glossed over. Reminds me a bit of the movie Tron.

Gustaaf Adolf Frederik Molengraaff

Gustaaf Adolf Frederik Molengraaff 1860-1942
Gustaaf was a Dutch geologist. He discovered the Bushveld Igneous Complex. He also invented the dog tag:
Meanwhile the Boer War still had his attention. One of his ideas was to give each soldier a small tin identity card, which later became practice in armies around the world. - Wikipedia
Just in case you ever wondered where the idea came from.


Biggest company I never heard of: London and Rhodesian Mining and Land Company Limited. Amongst other things, they operate mines in the Bushveld Igneous Complex in South Africa where they extract things like gold, silver and platinum. The Bushveld Igneous Complex, or BIC as he's known to his friends, "contains the world's largest reserves of platinum-group metals". Cool. Something that big and rich ought to have lots of great pictures. Except I couldn't find much of anything, except a bunch of micrographs of mineral deposits which didn't really hit me as as interesting. Probably because I don't know that much about mineral deposits, and what would it gain me if I did? There are already plenty of people with gold fever running around loose in the world. I don't think I need to join the party. Here's what I did find:

Bushveld Igneous Complex, South Africa
Satellite image from ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer). Mines, tailings piles, and leach ponds are shown in blue. Deep water is black. Area is 24 by 32 miles centered on 25.6° South, 27.4° East. October 24, 2006.

Same area using Google Maps

South African Gold Mine
I don't think this is one of Lonrho's establishments.
Inspired by a comment on one of Bayou Renaissance Man's posts.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Most Violent Year

Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain) and her husband Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac)
Abel is successful heating oil dealer in New York City back in 1981. He is feeling his oats and wants to expand, but naturally events conspire against him and so we get a movie.

The thing that got me about this is that he has all the trappings of success, the fancy car, the beautiful wife, the big house, the nice clothes, all things that I was jealous of when I was a kid (a kid being anyone younger than I am). But all he is is a business man. He sells heating oil. I would be bored to tears. Most of American business is like this, simply providing commodities to people who want them. If there is something I am grateful for, it's that so many people are willing to do this ordinary work, the same job every day, day after day. The most interesting part of the job is probably talking to the people you run into. It's a little sad that it has taken me this long to figure that out.


Trey Gowdy on National Security and Refugees

I originally found this on Facebook with the tagline
"What I'm really afraid of is a foreign policy that creates more widows and orphans."
That line struck a chord with me, so I 'shared' the video clip. (The line shows up just after 7:50.)

I just found out that Trey Gowdy was "the chairman of a House Select Committee to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attack." How did I not know that? Because from the git-go the 'Benghazi investigation' smelled like all politics, all the time, and so I turned my filters up and blocked it out. So Trey is a politician. Big surprise. Doesn't mean he's an idiot, or that he's wrong about everything.

Another line from Trey that resonated with me comes just after the 5:50 mark:
"We have no idea what our foreign policy is in the middle east." 
I have asked that same question myself a couple of times, but I have never gotten a satisfactory answer. The State Department had a statement, but I found it vague to the point of useless. I just looked for it and couldn't find it. Crawled off into some deep dark hole. Afraid of the light, no doubt.

Last weekend I came across an essay by Robert Kagan in The Wall Street Journal. I found it impenetrable. Bayou Renaissance Man put up a post about it. He seems to think he understands it.

These two items (the State Dept. Foreign Policy and Kagan's essay) appear to be useless, much like the pages of text (that no one reads) found in legal documents, i.e. boilerplate, which got me wondering how that term came into existence. Could it be because documents made using boilerplate are impenetrable? Not quite.
"Boiler plate" originally referred to the sheet steel used to make boilers.
The analogy between the curved steel used to make water boilers and curved metal used to print prepared text was based both on the curved shape of the plate and to the fact that it had been prepared elsewhere before being incorporated into a downstream producer’s finished product. . . .
In the field of printing, the term dates back to the early 1900s. From the 1890s onwards, printing plates of text for widespread reproduction such as advertisements or syndicated columns were cast or stamped in steel (instead of the much softer and less durable lead alloys used otherwise) ready for the printing press and distributed to newspapers around the United States. By analogy, they came to be known as 'boilerplates'. Until the 1950s, thousands of newspapers received and used this kind of boilerplate from the nation's largest supplier, the Western Newspaper Union.  - Wikipedia
Cast in steel! Good grief, that's pretty serious. Takes a lot more heat to melt steel (1400°F) than it does lead (650°F).


FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), her partner Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya)
in a tunnel under the US-Mexico border.
Slightly different perspective on the War On Drugs. Not a lot of legalese, more tactics and action. This is what's going on down in the trenches, and it ain't pretty no matter how you slice it. Or shoot it. There is a good scene where there is gunfight in the line of cars waiting to cross the border. Wasn't much of a fight actually. All the bad guys die, none of the good guys got hit.
    There was also some cool night vision shots during an operation infiltrating a drug smuggling tunnel. We've got a mix of night vision (starlight scopes) and infrared. Hollywood Reporter claims the infrared (thermal) viewers are used for research. Some of them might be, but the big users are the police and military. They use them to track down and kill people. Don't give me that hogwash about 'research'.

    If this is really how we are fighting this war, then we are in even bigger trouble than I thought. You think the War On Drugs is supposed to halt the illegal drug trade? You're a fool. The whole point of the war is to keep the flow of cash going to the CEO's of the American drug distribution cartels, and if several thousand people are tortured and murdered every year, well, it's no skin off their nose.
    The War On Drugs is just one more example of the corruption that is running rampant all around the world. Until we clean our house, we shouldn't really be asking anyone else to clean theirs.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann

Not a great movie. I think I may be done with James Bond. There wasn't really anything wrong with the movie, it had all the requisite pieces of a typical James Bond adventure:
  • multiple exotic locations
  • destruction of expensive cars and aircraft
  • explosions
  • smarmy bad guys
  • fight scenes
  • car chases
  • gunfights
  • Bond girls
  • improbable escapes from impossible situations
But the story, such as it was, didn't really grab me. Shoot, didn't grab me at all.

Bond made a number of mistakes:
  • when he walks into the house in Austria, he doesn't disable the TV camera. That comes back to bite him not once, but twice.
  • he fails to stop the kidnapping at the mountain top clinic. Come on, the bad guys had three big, black cars parked out front. Think that might have been a clue?
  • he chases the kidnappers down with his airplane and manages to stop them, but he fails to ensure that they are all dead.
  • he walks into the center of the bad guy's lair. He does get a bit of information, but he only escapes because it was in the script. Any half competent bad guy would have had him ground up for dog food. An airstrike would have been more appropriate.
The guy in charge of a competing British intelligence agency is no good. You can tell because he is not clean shaven, unlike Bond.

Daniel Craig's suit may be fashionable, but it looks snug, and completely wrong for all the action he gets involved in.

In Mexico City he manages to throw the bad guy out of the helicopter, but then he attacks the pilot. WTF? They are flying over a big crowd of people, let the chopper pilot fly out of the area, shoot, let him land someplace before you pick a fight with him. He's not going to be able to hurt you while he's flying the chopper.

Then there's the business of shooting down aircraft with handguns. If the aircraft is small and close and you manage to get a bullet into the turbine's intake, you could cause some trouble. Or if you are very lucky you might hit a critical system, but at any distance or it's going away, forget it. Unless you're in a movie.
During the kidnapping, the big bad guy was shooting at Bond with a double barreled 45, a very foolish gun. I'm not going to provide a link because I've been down that rathole before and while it is entertaining from a mechanical point of view, it's more of a fantasy than a useful weapon

Orient Desert Express

The best part was the Orient Desert Express, a real train across the Sahara desert.

There is one scene where a character says the word 'careless', but it's a Brit accent, so it could have been 'callous'. Either one would work, they both have similar meanings.

The whole point of the story is corruption in high places. Corruption is endemic. The higher you go, the worse it gets. I'm thinking nations are no longer there to provide for the common defense. They are now just fiefdoms that the rich have carved out for thie themselves. If we want to fight them, none of our old standbys, like law, order, and tough minded prosecutor are going to cut it anymore. The Weapon Shops of Isher is one of my favorite stories, but I've never been able to figure out how it might work. Now I'm thinking Anonymous might be the first step in being able to counteract the oligarchy.

Finding pictures is becoming painful. More and more websites are talking longer to load. I blame all the adware. I would gladly pay real money to avoid having my time wasted by all this advertising crap.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Zoo

About six months ago I finally got a bug to do something about my health and so I signed up with a local strip-mall health club. They offered Zumba group dancercise sessions and for some reason that really appealed to me. The class is all women. Well, there was one other guy the first time I was there, but that was it. Problem was I could only keep up for about 15 minutes and then I collapsed from exhaustion. I kept after it for a few months, going 3 times a week, but I never got any better. I don't know what the problem is, but weighing 250+ pounds might have something to do with it. Finally decided I needed to get some weight off, so about a month ago I started spending time on the treadmill / exercise bike. I'm working my way up to an hour a day, five days a week, but my weight isn't changing. Fine, I'll cut down of the foodstuffs, which leaves me listless, which is why my posting has been light lately.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Blend into the Arctic night

Arctic Glass Igloos Rovaniemi, Finland
Close to the Arctic Circle, next to SnowHotel you will find the tranquillity of the glass igloos. Staying overnight in a glass igloo feels like sleeping in the open, but inside the igloo it is just as warm and cosy as a hotel. The igloo village is set in an opening surrounded by pine trees, sufficiently far away from the city lights, making ideal conditions for watching the Northern Lights and enjoying starry skies. Have a good night’s sleep as the Aurora Alarm searches the skies for you: once the Aurora Alarm has woken you up, all you need to do is open your eyes, look at the night sky and enjoy the sight from the comfort of your bed. - Arctic SnowHotel and Glass Igloos

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


French jets taking off on their way to bombing Raqqa, Syria. The sound is different, makes them sound French. How about that?

Update January 2019. While the video frame above looks dead to start with, the video is still alive. Blogger is not the greatest platform for blogging, but it works for me, mostly because I don't never gotta update nothin'. I just have to replace the missing pictures and YouTube videos. Well, I am not required, but I try to do it whenever I find one.

Quote of the Day

Bert Williams, a black man, in blackface. Whaaaa?
 "It's no disgrace to be coloured. But it is awfully inconvenient." - Bert Williams
Just read two articles about a couple of black people who were harassed by the police for being in their own homes. Article 1 here. Article 2 here. This line was in the 2nd one.


Bird. Coloring by Laura.

Amish Tractor

What? The Amish have tractors? Well, no, not exactly, but they do employ internal combustion engines to do some of their chores. They still have a prohibition against motorized transport, so conventional self-propelled tractors are out, but you can use a gasoline powered machine to bail your hay, as long as you use horses to drag it around.
     The Amish are funny as in odd funny, not funny-funny. I guess my attitude is understandable, growing up in modern America and being the son of an aerospace engineer and a chemist. But they were harmless, took care of themselves, didn't bother anybody, so they're fine. They are pacifists and won't serve in the armed forces, but they are part of America, they pay their taxes, they produce food, which is something everyone needs, even soldiers, and if we are ever attacked they are just as likely to suffer as the rest of us.
    They are growing. There were a few of them around Utica, Ohio, when I was going to high school. Now one of the guys I went to high school with has a full time job driving them around. They won't own or operate motor vehicles, but a few years ago the elders got together and decided that they could ride in other people's vehicles. Sounds like sacrilege to me, but what do I know? Not my religion, not my problem. The upshot is that they can vacation in Florida in the wintertime, just like normal Americans.
    The average Amish farm is between 40 to 80 acres in size, compared to the average American farm size of 400 acres. At $10,000 an acre, an average farm is now worth $4 million. That's a big chunk of change. A 40 acre farm would cost $400,000, about the same price as a house or two in the big city. To my mind, a 40 acre farm is something you could buy and pay off in the foreseeable future. A four million dollar farm is not.

    I don't quite understand how not using tractors provides any economic advantage to the Amish. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe they've just drawn a line in the sand. They see that embracing technology is a slippery slope that leads to ... the abyss? the pit of hell? something awful and unnameable? In any case, they don't want to go there and they've said 'this far, and no farther'.

    I was talking to a guy about orchards one time and I mentioned that I had lived on one back in Ohio. Our place was 160 acres, and the impression I got from my dad was that it wasn't big enough to really be a commercial success. We limped by. This guy I'm talking to has 15 trees on an acre, and it is enough. At the time I dismissed him as a crank or a crackpot. But now I'm not so sure. People do like fresh fruit. There is a lot of hand work involved, so maybe 15 trees is all one man can properly tend. I can't imagine he could make enough money off of a dozen fruit trees to survive, but I'll leave that question to someone who wants to find out.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we've got this structural unemployment problem, we have a homeless problem, and we have a growing contingent of folks who think there are two many chemicals in our food supply chain.
   I wonder how many of the homeless would like to be farmers? The midwest is full of towns that are slowly dying. All we need to do is lend them (the homeless vets) some money to buy a small farm and hook them up with some Amish farmers to teach them how to farm economically. Could be a real win-win situation.
   Yes, I know it looks like a giant step backwards, but our great leap forward seems to be leaving an awful lot of people in the dust.


Source: U.S. Department of Interior
An email this morning reminded me of my abiding interest in Rhenium, so I go looking for a current price chart. In the course of my search, Google turns up this cute little phrase:
"Rhenium is a very rare metal and is commonly found as a trace metal in Molybdenum and copper ores. Its concentration is something less than 5 parts per billion.  To put some perspective on it, Gold is estimated to be .005 parts per million." -
I'm pretty sure 5 parts per billion is the same as .005 parts per million. (Divide each pair and compare the results).

In any case, Rhenium is about as scarce as Gold, and it's price is likewise floating around up there in the stratosphere. The same article explains the recent drop in price:
"Capacity for the production of Re has increased in the world, particular after the price escalation in 2008. It was speculation that the market was going to continue to grow but investors were caught of guard with the finicky nature of demand in aerospace."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Watch Me

We start with this ad full of red cloaked demons and a couple of insidiously cute girls:

Pit Stop - Breitling TV commercial

which leads to this video of a guy taking apart a very fancy watch and repairing it

Service and repair of a rusty valjoux 7750 based Breitling watch

Which gets me to wondering about the market for used and / or broken Breitling watches, which takes me to Ebay where I find there are thousands of Breitlings are available (5,954 at the moment). Looking for broken ones turns up 27 listings, and most of those are just for spare parts. Well, how about watches in general? How about a million and a half? The first one on that list:

How can you sell a watch for $2.86? I suppose if they fell off the back of a truck you could do that. I just don't understand. This gets me wondering about watch factories, which leads to Wikipedia's list of Watch movement manufacturers which contains only 15 names. But look! One of them is Russian (two actually). How bizarre.

Never heard of a Russian watch. But if you think about it, it kind of makes sense. They cut themselves off from the rest of world, and they had this attitude that anything the capitalist running dogs can do, we can do better, so of course they are going to make their own watches. Ebay has 13,000 odd listings. Many are mechanical (i.e. not quartz), many are old, some are Russian in name only.

Then we find this:

Raketa has made a giant clock for a children's toy store in the Lubyanka
What?!? The KGB's Moscow prison is now a toy store? Tell me it ain't so, Boris. Actually it's in a department store on Lubyanka square in Moscow, which just so happens to be where the infamous Lubyanka is located.

Update January 2019 replaced missing video.

To Infinity And Beyond!

Our Generation Ships Will Sink
Boing Boing dot net has a story by Kim Stanley Robinson, a science fiction writer of some renown. I've heard of some of his books like the Red, Blue and Green Mars trilogy. Haven't read any of his stuff.

He's a bit negative about interstellar travel, but he's probably right. Most of the problems he talks about apply to interplanetary travel as well, and so if we want to explore the solar system we should be doing some large scale experiments to try and learn how to overcome these problems. As for the stars, we will need to send robots. They will be our next step in evolution necessary to reach the stars.

Girls with Guns

YPJ fighters in Rojava, Syria. Benedetta Argentieri photo.
More Kute Kurdish Killers. Umm, maybe that's not such a good label for them what with KKK's reputation in the USA. On one hand I kind of admire the Kurds for including women in their fighting forces. On the other I wonder if maybe they have been forced into it by circumstances.

PSA #2

Anonymous - Operation Paris #OpParis

Since we (the USA) are in cahoots with the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) who are the principle financiers of much of the terror and mayhem being unleashed across the world, Anonymous may be our only hope. The inflection of the voice in the video doesn't always jibe with the words because it's computer generated. That's one step in safeguarding the identity of Anonymous.

Turkey Fryer Public Service Announcement

U.S. fire departments are responding to more than 1,000 fires each year in which a deep fryer is involved.

Don't use water to put out a grease fire! Firefighter shows what happens. Don't try this at home.

How To Deep Fry A Turkey - Updated!

WEBstaurant shows you How to Deep Fry a Turkey. Note he's doing this outside, away from any buildings or children. Presumably the National Guard has blocked off his street.
The first time I saw one of these turkey fryers I thought 'that looks like a very bad idea', but this is America and we Americans hate waiting.

Homer wants it now.

So I can't stop you from frying your turkey, and I can't stop you from drinking beer while you are doing it. Just try not to give me any reason to doubt your competence.

Update January 2024 replace missing videos.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mea Culpa

Gilles Lellouche as Franck Vasseur (left) and Vincent Lindon as Simon
Evidently Gilles Lellouche and Vincent Lindon are big shots in the world of French Cinema.

    A couple of French cops take on a gang of Serbian thugs. In French with subtitles. Netflix gave it four and a half stars. I give it three. There are some good bits like the attempted assassination outside the police station where the cop with the handgun is trying to kill the bad guy with a machine gun without getting killed himself. The chase through the factory / warehouse is pretty good. The interior of the building is partitioned off by translucent sheet of plastic hanging from the ceiling. You can go anywhere but you can't see more than a dozen yards in any direction. And everyone has guns.
    There's a few silly bits, but not too many, and the story has got some depth to it besides the cops and robbers aspect.

IMDB's listing here.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Russian Oil

The Kharyaga field in the Russian far north. Source: Svein Are Enes /Statoil

Presumably this is Russian drilling rig in the Arctic Ocean. Page where I found it isn't saying.
Just a reminder that many, if not most, of the conflicts going on in the world today are over oil. I've been reading, or trying to read, some of Fiorenzo Arcadi's posts over on Google+. They aren't always perfectly clear, but he's at least trying to sort out what's going on in the world. It's a little difficult when most everything you hear is from someone with an agenda, which means there might be a grain of truth buried in it somewhere. Good luck trying to ferret it out.

Quote of the Day

Bazooka Girl by RUIZBURGOS
"I am about as responsible as a spider monkey on coke with an expense account and a Chinese bazooka." - Leeann

Saul Alinsky

Saul Alinsky was a writer and community organizer who empowered the poor no matter their race. He strove to give a voice to the voiceless by organizing them into a body capable of massive protests, believing that the poor and disenfranchised would have more power to make their voices heard if they would come together and speak as one. In other words, he added the voices of the poor to our democracy. - Addicting Info dot org
Somebody mentioned Saul in a discussion about the disaster in Paris. Alinsky? Who's this Alinsky character? I never heard of him, so off I go. Seems he wrote the book (literally) on community organizing for the purpose of effecting political change. People of all political stripes have adopted his methods. Wikipedia has a summary.
    Makes me wonder why the poor are still so downtrodden. Could it be that the ability required to organize people is a rare talent? Seems to me that if his techniques are so effective, the world would constantly be getting better instead of sliding ever closer to the abyss. Maybe we aren't sliding into the abyss. Things have been going to hell since the beginning of time and we're still here, so maybe there is no abyss. We're just sliding down an infinitely tall hill.




First video: Lighting up a steam loco
Second video: Sounds Contrived: Vintage Sewing Machine

Pluto, the Hippy

Pluto if it had been a young dwarf planet being raised by someone in the 60s in San Francisco and listening all the while to Jefferson Airplane.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris & Beirut

Paris, France. On the Boulevard Beaumarchais, there was shock on Friday over a siege at a concert hall. By Stefania Rousselle November 13, 2015.
I blame the Paris bombing on ISIS, the scum of the Earth, fed and coddled by Saudi Arabia, a good friend of the USA. Shit. I don't like that way that turned out. The big money guys are pushin' and shovin' trying to get their way, and if a few hundred thousand people get turned into paste, well, these things happen. Bastards.

Lebanese army soldiers and security forces gather as Lebanese and Hezbollah flags are erected at the site of the two explosions that occured on Thursday in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital Beirut, November 13, 2015. Reuters/Aziz Taher
Looking around I came across a story about a bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, that happened about the same time as the attacks in Paris. While not as many people were killed, damage was roughly the same magnitude and you can bet it was carried out by the same scumbag organization. In Elephant, Elyane Youssef was wondering why Beirut doesn't get the same level of media attention as Paris, which prompted me to try to explain. My comment:
My perspective from the other side of the world:
1) Lebanon is one of a dozen countries in the Middle East. It is hard to keep track of which one is which. Lebanon might be special, but who can tell? It's in the Mideast, it's doomed.
2) A big problem, judging from how much it gets mentioned in the media over here, is Israel. Seems like every other country in the Mideast has gone to war against Israel and/or declared that Israel must be destroyed. That attitude pretty much negates any sympathy from any Western country for any Arab country. Whether any of the arguments people bring to bear on this issue have any merit is irrelevant. The issue for us has been decided and if you disagree you are the enemy.
3) Moderate Musselmen need to separate themselves from the Jihadists. When the terrorists call themselves Muslims, and the moderates call themselves Muslims, how can anyone tell them apart? Christianity had its own sectarian conflicts, still do in some places, but you could tell which team a player was on because the teams had different names. Do the terms Protestant and Catholic ring a bell? Moderate Muslims need to develop a separate identity, a different brand, if you like, to differentiate themselves from ISIS. If not, you're all going to be lumped together, and likely suffer the same fate.
Looking around for verification of the Beirut bombing, the only story I found was in the Alaska Dispatch News.

Girls with Guns

OK, this one is obviously a pinup, but it does include a tank. You don't see many pictures of girls with tanks, either real or staged. Click to embiggenate.


Coloring by Laura Ledford
Just because it's so motherfuckin' glorious. If you follow Laura, you'd understand my choice of words.

Friday, November 13, 2015


Coolest Pressure Chart Ever
Guacamole is made from avocados. Avocados are vegetables, meaning they aren't meat or potatoes, which means I don't particularly care about it. But my wife likes avocados, at least I think she does. She gets these ideas that certain foods are good for you, and that seems to influence her choices more than taste. Whatever turns your crank, sweetie.
    Avocados are problematic. They're kind of like bananas, they're no good until they are ripe, and once they are ripe you only have a few days (hours? minutes? seconds?) to eat them before they spoil and they're no good to anyone except vermin. Preparing avocados is not too difficult, slice around the pit, twist the two halves apart, whack the pit with a knife to embed the sharp edge in it enough to twist it free. Peel and slice. No big deal, unless it's already turned, and then you are confronted with a disgusting pile of goo that gets tossed. Buy a small bag of avocados at the store and if you are lucky only a couple of them will be rotten. I don't like it because I don't like disgusting things, but moreover it strikes me as inefficient. Go to all the trouble to grow, pick, pack and ship these little balls of goo only to have a quarter of them end up in the compost heap, if we're lucky.
   Then me sweetie discovers ready-to-eat guacamole at Costco. What's even better is that in comes in single serving packs. She's been eating it for a few months now and only one packet has come up bad. I'm impressed. Guacamole is not something that you keep around, mostly I get it at restaurants. It's not worth the trouble to prepare just enough for one or two people.
   I've taken up eating this guacamole as part of my new health regimen. It's pretty tasty, but it's got a little funny taste to it. It might be the spices, it's a Mexican dish after all, but I suspect it's preservatives. I mean how do you keep guacamole fresh for weeks on end? I finally broke down, got out my reading specs and read the label. No preservatives at all! How can this be? Evidently it is because they are using high-pressure cold-water processing. Oh? What in tarnation is that? I never heard of it. Somebody's telling fairytales.
     Actually, no, it's a real thing. The principles were discovered over 100 years ago. I suppose it's one of those things where the volume of product being processed has to be high enough to justify the capital investment. What's weird is that it sterilizes the food without turning it into goo.

Organ Grinder

Smooth Criminal M.Jackson à l'orgue de barbarie

I think what we have here is a player piano, except it's an organ instead of a piano. Translated web page here. I have no idea why he recorded this in a scrap wood yard. With a smaller screen size the holes in the paper looked like black marks printed on the paper.

Via Cousin John.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Alternet dot org has a story about a short film about health insurance in the USA. The film was produced by Richard Master, the owner of a small east coast company, 'small' being a relative term. The film just skims over the issues. One point they make is that one-third of the three trillion dollars that gets spent on "Healthcare" in the USA goes for "administrative" costs. That's one trillion dollars. That's $3,000 for every person, man, woman and child in the country. Since only about half of the people in this country work (children, retirees, prisoners, students and slackers don't), that means health care is costing every working person $6,000 a year, or $500 a month.

    There's been a lot of belly-aching about Obamacare, but I'm gonna dump it all into two categories. Either the belly-acher is rabid hates Obama and everything he does, or they work for the insurance company and they don't want their job and it's fat paycheck to disappear. There might be good logical reasons to oppose or support it, but I'm not gonna wade through all the crap that this topic has engendered to find out.
    I'm pretty sure that the biggest problem with Obamacare is that it doesn't go far enough. On the other hand if they do get rid of all the waste in the health insurance business, that is going to put a lot of people out of work. Question is, will American companies hire more people with the money they save on health insurance? Or will they just keep it all for themselves? I do have a certain amount faith in businesses that make things, I think they'll use the money to hire more people to do more work.

Dead Squirrel in the Middle of the Driveway

Arrived sometime between 8am and noon. There were a couple fangs a little more than an inch long stuck in the squirrels head. Who could have done this deadly dead? A miniature saber tooth tiger? Owl? Dracula?


NASA's Orion Spacecraft
I saw a story the other day about how NASA is studying manual dexterity as it pertains to operating controls in spaceships during zero gravity conditions. The story kind of implied that everything was moving to Apple iPads, which is just the kind of moronic populism that NASA has to cater to in order to maintain their funding, witness Jeff Daniels' character in The Martian.

Avid S3 Mixing Console
When it comes to audio equipment, sliders were popular with some people and maybe they still are. They got some cachet when big mixing panels used in theaters and recording studios came out from behind their curtain. Oh, cool! thought I and a bunch of other people. They might be okay in their original applications, or where space is at a premium and you need to cram in a bunch of seldom used controls into a tiny patch of panel, but for everyday audio controls they suck.
    You grab hold of a rotary control it is easy to tell how far you have turned it, even if the knob is on a radio mounted in the dashboard of car that is bouncing down a pothole filled road. Try adjusting a slider under those conditions and you can't, not with any degree of precision. You can't even adjust a slider accurately without being able to see it so you can tell how far it has move. Okay, maybe this is a personal problem. Maybe sliders don't cause you any difficulty.

    I've been having trouble with Cruise Control in my truck, and now I'm having the same trouble with the power locks in the Hyundai. The problem is that sometimes when I push the button it does what it's supposed to, and sometimes it doesn't.
    I think I figured out what the problem is. When I first got these vehicles, when I pushed the button, I would wait for it take effect before I released. It doesn't take long for that to happen, a few hundredths of a second, I imagine. As time goes by and I become habituated to the way these controls work I start releasing that button sooner. Since this shit is probably computer controlled, there isn't a direction connection between the switch and the device, everything goes through the computer, and the computer is scanning all the controls and it can only do it so fast, so if you tap the button and the computer isn't looking in that millisecond wide space of time, it will miss and it will appear that the switch is flaky. So you have to adjust. You have to hold that button down for just a little longer, long enough for the computer to register your tap.
    Problem is that sometimes your tap comes at just the right time, and even though it is really quick, it happens to fall in that window when the computer is looking and so it works fine.

    I don't like these touch screens, no tactile feedback, you have to look at them to tell where to put your fingers, and they all seem to require different amounts of pressure. Knobs and switches are what I grew up with and if they were good enough to win the great war, they ought be good enough for going to Mars.
    Mechanical switches do have problems with reliability, they're mechanical and mechanical things wear, and eventually wear out and fail. The design and construction methods employed in building our spaceships determine their life span. Sometimes they don't make it that long, but sometimes they keep going long past their expiration date. If you have your choice of a component that will wear out and one that won't, it's probably a good idea to use the one with the infinite life.


Chlordecone / Kepone 3D by GYassineMrabetTalk
Over on Facebook I see that Sara Tagay, a Kurdistan Freedom Fighter, has 'liked' a post. The post includes some pictures of dead men, presumably ISIS soldiers. Most (all?) of the comments are in Arabic, but there is a translate button. The first translated comment looks like this:

مصير كل من يبيع نساء الكورد The fate of both sell women chlordecone
OK, that's weird. It's a machine translation so it's not perfect, but you don't get a word like chlordecone because of a typo. That's pretty specific. But what the heck is chlordecone? Turns out it's a really nasty insecticide. It was so bad that "In 1975 Governor Mills Godwin Jr. shut down the James River to fishing for 100 miles, from Richmond to the Chesapeake Bay."

The stuff is persistent. It has a half life of about 600 years. A worldwide ban was set up in 2009. Banana growers in the French Antilles were using it up until 1993.

This is the kind of shit that gives big chemical corporations like Allied Signal,  the LifeSciences Product Company and, of course, Monsanto a bad name.

The world is really run by some remarkably stupid, vicious, short-sighted, people.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mules at War

Mule Skinners attached to 2nd Battalion, 475th Infantry Regiment, Mars Task Force, lead mules through the swift river that impeded their progress to Bhamo, Burma, 1944.
This picture caught me eye, I'm not sure why. Maybe because I've seen several cool videos with horses today.

Girls with Guns

Kurdish YPG Fighter - Biji Kurdistan
Found this in a story about women fighting in Kurdistan. The Kurds don't seem to be exempt from the Middle East Disease. They are not just fighting ISIS and the Turks, they're also fighting each other. There are at least two, maybe three factions of Kurds, and while they might not be shooting at each other this week, that could change.
    I like pictures like this because it shows women standing up for themselves. Doormats are boring. Pinups are nice, but they are distracting. They only serve to keep you horny, which affects your judgement. Burqas aren't the answer because even those voluminous coverups can't conceal the swing of a women's hips, which has got to be the most distracting thing in the world, if you're paying attention.
    I'm looking at this gun and I can't figure out what it is. It almost looks like a movie prop that someone cobbled together out of bits and pieces. Then again, the world is full of odd-ball firearms, and why would you bother to fake a gun in an area that is supposedly overflowing with arms?

Update 6PM: Tam clues me in: "Indigenous .50 BMG anti-material rifle. Looks to be based on a fairly simple design common in the US among lower-end .50s." The Firearm Blog has a story, with pics. I think Tam is gonna be my next virtual girlfriend.

Quotes of the Day

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky sends an email:
"I'm glad that Sanders is running. A good way to bring important ideas and facts to people. His candidacy might also press the Dems a little in a progressive direction. In our system of bought elections he has scarcely a chance of getting beyond the primaries, and even if by some miracle he were elected he wouldn't be able to do anything, lacking any congressional representatives, governors, etc. As far as I can see he's a thorn in the side of the Clinton machine, which is not a bad thing."
Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders reacts:
“[I'm] not as pessimistic as Noam....He’s right, we live in an increasingly oligarchic form of society, where billionaires are able to buy elections and candidates, and it is very difficult, not just for Bernie Sanders but for any candidate who represents working families. But I think the situation is not totally hopeless, and I think we do have a shot to win this thing.”
Found on Alternet dot org. Do not confuse Noam Chomsky with Depak Chopra, which is something I used to do. I mean they both have sort of weird names. Noam is a pretty clear thinker. Depak peddles bullshit.

Oil Sands: Canada-, Utah+

Crown Asphalt Ridge LLC (Sept 2012)
There is a big oil sands operation in Canada. They were getting large quantities of oil out of the ground, but it was kind of a crazy operation. They were using heat to separate the oil from the sand, and they were burning oil to get that heat. It took so much oil to generate the heat they needed that it only paid when the price of oil was high. Since the price of oil has collapsed (what caused that anyway?) the Canadian operations are no longer viable and may already have been shut down.
    Meanwhile there is a small plant in Utah that is using a solvent instead of heat to separate the oil from the sand. They recycle the solvent so it seems like a better solution all around. It's a proprietary technology. It's still kind of new. People are going to want to see how well these pilot projects pan out before they go jumping in with both feet.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rooftop Refuge

Professor Zhang Lin's mountain villa built on top of a Beijing apartment block.
I'm reading Mona Lisa Overdrive and I come across this scene where Mona is looking out a window of a high-rise in the Sprawl (New York City) and she sees this wild landscape built on top of the building across the way. There are rocks and hills and trees and even a mountain goat climbing around and nibbling on the shrubbery, and I think I've seen that before, but where? Or maybe I didn't see it, I just constructed an image in my mind the last time I read this book. What a minute, have I read this book before? I could have, it was written over 25 years ago, but I don't think so.
     But I do remember seeing this and I think it was a real place in China. A little Google and here we are. The doc who built it got an order to tear it down a couple of years ago, so it's probably gone by now, but it was very cool while it lasted.

Smart Phone Zombies
    A key element of the story in the book revolves around people operating virtual lives in cyber space. The New York Times just passed out a bunch of free cardboard widgets that turn your smart phone into a virtual reality viewer (essentially 3-D stereo). I'm pretty sure looking at smart phone that is a couple of inches from your eyes for very long is going to mess with your vision. Might be so bad that the smart phone zombies will start wearing a camera as well so they can where they are going when they need to walk around.