Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Friday, April 29, 2016


The Amazon basin leads the world in tree density: dark green represents 1 million or more trees per square kilometer. There are fewer trees in the lighter shades of green. The buff color has very few trees, and darkest brown represents areas with no trees. Crowther, et al./Nature
I'm reading Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury out loud while Osmany cooks breakfast.  Tom and Doug are discussing the rites of summer and Tom mentions that there are five billion trees in the world. That sounds a little low to me, after all there are seven billion people in the wold, and they are mostly concentrated in urban areas. Trees cover vast swatches of most of the continents and they are probably as dense on the ground as people are in cities, so the number of trees has got to be much higher, right?

Google turns up a story on NPR that gives some different, larger numbers.
There was one estimate based on satellite images: about 400 billion trees worldwide, or 61 trees for every person.
But there were doubts about that number because another recent estimate, based on ground-truthed measurements, found 390 billion trees in the Amazon basin alone.
Thomas Crowther and crew spent a couple of years digging up information. When they had added it all up it came to around three trillion trees. Okay, that's good. It's good to have trees. But how does this compare with the good old days? No so good:
Crowther says their work suggests that, compared with the days before human civilization, the world has lost roughly half its trees. And the gross number of trees lost each year because of humans is now about 15 billion.
If that 15 billion trees per year was a constant, then it would have taken us just over 200 years to cut down three trillion trees and a like amount of time to cut down the the remaining trees. It's not a constant of course. People have been cutting down trees every since some dude came up with the stone ax. We've been cutting down more and more trees every year ever since. We might be approaching peak tree cutting time. If we keep it up trees might become kind of scarce, which means it's going to be harder to find enough trees to cut down so we might not be able to fill our god given quota.

Silent Running Trailer

Reminds me of Silent Running, the goofy Science Fiction movie with Bruce Dern as the custodian of the last remaining forest, which is in a spaceship in orbit around earth because there is no room on earth for any trees because of all the people.

Update April 30 (the next day). Corrected a mathematical error.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Old Timey Motorcycles

Motorcycle hill climbing Bloor Street, Toronto, April 27, 1919
Via Posthip Scott. I have no idea where he comes up with this stuff.

Back to Tulsa, again

Bob Wills - Take me back to Tulsa

This is really I all I know about Tulsa.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Six13 - Uptown Passover (An "Uptown Funk" for Pesach)

I'm posting this because 1) it's a cute parody, and 2) it's got a little ancient history in it, and ancient history has been on my mind lately.


Botanica - A Tucson based Marijuana Dispensary

Marijuana is getting to be more legal. Many companies test their employees for drugs. I'm just waiting for corporate America to fire someone in their cannabis retailing division for failing their drug test.

Back to Tulsa

A comment on a YouTube video got me started.

Downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. The big building is the BOK Tower, tallest building in 5 states. The Center of the Universe (white label) is on a pedestrian overpass that crosses the the railroad lines going through downtown. You can see two vehicle overpasses crossing the same set of railroad tracks in the foreground. I got this from Google Earth. Hold the control key down and move your mouse and you can look in any direction you choose.

But what's that tower sticking up in the distance?

That, my friends, is CityPlex Towers, formerly known as the City of Faith Medical and Research Center. That is Oral Roberts University in the foreground.
P.S. The lump sticking up just to the right of the BOK in the top picture is Turkey Mountain.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Collapse

Raul Castro, in the presence of Barack Obama, chides a journalist who asks about political prisoners on the island. (EFE)
Raul Castro, in the presence of Barack Obama, chides a journalist who asks about political prisoners on the island. (EFE)
14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 26 April 2016 – In films there are final epics. Systems whose final moments pass between the sound of the hammers tearing down a wall and the roar of thousands of people in a plaza. The Castro regime, however, is going through its death throes without glorious images or collective heroics. Its mediocre denouement has become clearer in recent months, in the signs of collapse that can no longer be hidden behind the trappings of the official discourse.
The epilogue of this process, once called Revolution, is strewn with ridiculous and banal events, but they are, indeed, clear symptoms of the end. Like a bad movie with a hurried script and the worst actors, the scenes illustrating the terminal state of this twentieth century fossil seem worthy of a tragicomedy:
  • Raul Castro erupts in fury at a press conference when asked about the existence of political prisoners in Cuba, he gets entangled in his earphones and comes out with some rigmarole a few feet from Barack Obama, who looks like the owner and master of the situation.
  • After the visit of the United States president, the government media releases all their rage at him, while Barack Obama’s speech in the Great Theater of Havana is number one on the list of audiovisual materials most requested in the Weekly Packet.
  • Two Cuban police officers arrive in uniform on the beaches of Florida, after having navigated in a makeshift raft with other illegal migrants who helped them escape from Cuba.
  • A group of Little Pioneers, dressed in their school uniforms and neckerchiefs, contort in sexually explicit movements to the rhythm of reggaeton at an elementary school. They are filmed by an adult and the video is uploaded to the social networks by a proud father who thinks his son is a dance genius.
  • Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez accuses Obama of having perpetrated an attack on “our conception, our history, our culture and our symbols” a few days after receiving him at the airport and without having fearlessly said any of these criticisms to his face.
  • An obscure official at the Cuban embassy in Spain says in a chat with “friends of the Revolution” that this is “the most difficult moment and its history,” and calls the coverage of Obama’s visit in the foreign media as a “display of an unparalleled cultural, psychological and media war.”
  • Raul Castro is unanimously reelected as first secretary of the Communist Party for the next five years and choses stagnation. Thus, he loses the last chance to pass into the history books for a gesture of generosity to the nation, as late as it might be, instead of for his personal egoism.
  • Fidel Castro appears at the Congress’s closing ceremony, sheathed in an Adidas jacket, and insists that “we not continue, as in the times of Adam and Eve, eating forbidden apples.”
  • A few days after the end of the Party Congress, the government announces a laughable reduction in prices to try to raise fallen spirits. Now, an engineer no longer has to work two-and-a-half days to buy one quart of cooking oil, he only has to work two days.
  • Thousands of Cubans throng the border between Panama and Costa Rica trying to continue their journey to the United States, without the government of the island investing a single penny to help them have a roof over their heads, a little food and medical care.
  • An economist who explained to the world the benefits of Raul Castro’s reforms and their progress, is expelled from the University of Havana for maintaining contacts with representatives from the United States and passing on information about the procedures of the academic center.
  • Two young people make love in the middle of the San Rafael Boulevard in plain view of dozens of onlookers who film the scene and shout obscene incitements, but the police never arrive. The basic clay of the Revolution escapes in the individual and collective libido.
The credits start to run and in the room where this lousy film is being shown only a few viewers remain. Some grew tired and left, others slept through the long wait, a few monitor the aisles and demand loud applause from the still occupied seats. An old man is trying to feed a new, interminable, filmstrip through the projector… but there is nothing left. Everything is over. All that’s left is for the words “The End” to appear on the screen.

Stolen entire from Generation Y

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hillsboro Vac & Sew

Old Sewing Machine
I stopped by Hillsboro Vac & Sew this morning to pick up some bags for the vacuum cleaner and I noticed a big new cabinet displaying about a dozen old sewing machines. Not often you see something like that in a store that is pushing the latest and greatest.
    I took a couple of photos of the cabinet and cropped this image from one of them. It came out a bit fuzzy. I suspect the frame of the cabinet confused the auto-focus about the distance. I should have gotten closer and taken pictures of the individual machines.
    The machines are all for sale. Could it be that collectors of old sewing machines are becoming a force in the market?

Lana & Linux

Lana Del Rey in Linux Mint Update
Just updated my Linux Mint system. Hasn't been done since I first set it up a couple of years ago. I wouldn't have bothered but I kept running into glitches trying to install the Eclipse IDE, so I finally gave in and started installing updates. Since it's been a while since I messed with this system I thought I would read the release notes. They are generally pretty useless unless you have a particular problem you are hoping to fix. They were as expected, but I did spot this picture of Lana in the middle of it. Made me glad that somebody in Linux land likes Lana.

P.S. I got the current version of Eclipse installed and it's working pretty well. So far.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Saint George and the Dragon

Saint George in Tbilisi, Georgia
Could this be where Georgia got its name?

Marcel posts about Saint George, which prompts me to do a little reading, wherein I turn up some interesting tidbits:
Saint George (AD 275–281 to 23 April 303), was a Roman soldier and military officer in the Guard of Emperor Diocletian of the Roman army, who ordered his death for failing to recant his Christian faith. As a Christian martyr, he later became one of the most venerated saints in Christianity.
He failed to recant his faith? How do you do that? Did he mispronounce a couple of words in the official recantation speech? I think it is more likely that he refused to recant his faith. This is something that continues to baffle me: people who let themselves be tortured in a most horrible manner because they refuse to say a few words. Then again, we have the Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire in SE Asia during the Vietnam era because they couldn't stand listening to the government's bullshit anymore. (That's the only explanation I've come across that made any sense.)

Nicomedia is just off the right edge of the map.
Saint George likely was born to a Christian noble family in Lydda, Syria Palaestina, during the late third century between about 275 and 285. He died in Nicomedia in Anatolia.
Nicomedia was the eastern and most senior capital city of the Roman Empire between 286 and 324, during the Tetrarchy introduced by Diocletian

St. Geoge didn't live very long, but he sure made a name for himself. How he got to be an Englishman escapes me. In case you didn't know, he's famous for killing the dragon and rescuing the girl. Being as this happened 1700 years ago we can't be sure of exactly what happened, but here's a good summary:
In the fully developed Western version, which developed as part of the Golden Legend, a dragon or crocodile makes its nest at the spring that provides water for the city of "Silene" (perhaps modern Cyrene, Libya or the city of Lydda in Syria Palaestina, depending on the source). Consequently, the citizens have to dislodge the dragon from its nest for a time, to collect water. To do so, each day they offer the dragon at first a sheep, and if no sheep can be found, then a virgin maiden is the best substitute for one. The victim is chosen by drawing lots. One day, this happens to be the princess. The monarch begs for her life to be spared, but to no avail. She is offered to the dragon, but then Saint George appears on his travels. He faces the dragon, protects himself with the sign of the cross, slays the dragon, and rescues the princess. The citizens abandon their ancestral paganism and convert to Christianity.
Christ almighty, those villagers must have been pretty damn desperate to be sacrificing people to get water. And George just happens to show up on the day that the princess was the chosen victim? What are the odds? One more day and there wouldn't have been any young women to sacrifice. And why would they be sacrificing young women? Wouldn't old folks be a more reasonable choice? I know, I know, it wouldn't make as good a story. Hollywood isn't doing anything new, evidently the monks were Hollywood-izing their stories a thousand years ago.

You know how people talk about how old books are rare and valuable and this is the only in existence? Well, there were best sellers in the good old days too. The Golden Legend is one:
The Golden Legend (Latin: Legenda aurea or Legenda sanctorum) is a collection of hagiographies by Jacobus de Voragine that became a late medieval bestseller. More than a thousand manuscripts of the text have survived. It was likely compiled around the year 1260, although the text was added to over the centuries.
Saint George of Lydda by Hans von Kulmbach, circa 1510
This looks like medieval armor, but George lived 1200 years before this. Did they even have armor back then?

Roman body armor
They did. It wasn't as fancy or all encompassing as medieval armor, but yes, they covered the body with metal plates. The plates were made of iron, which must have been gawd awful expensive back then. Just goes to show that exorbitant spending on defense is nothing new.

First Solar Powered Airplane to have flown around the world

Flying over SF Bay toward Mountainview. Via younger son.

The Los Angeles Times has the story. When younger told me about this I thought it was an unmanned drone, but it's not. There's a pilot, one Bertrand Piccard.


Eclipse IDE Icon by Necromod

I've been playing with Google's Go programming language using the Coding Game web site. It's great for playing around, but now I want to try some actual stuff, which means I need a compiler on me computer. Traditionally development has been done using a text editor, a compiler and a debugger running on a terminal, or after the dark ages, running in a terminal window (aka a DOS box) on a PC. Microsoft brought us Visual Studio which integrated these components into one program, hence the IDE tag, which stands for Integrated Development Environment. Visual Studio was great, but it was designed specifically for developing programs for Windows. You want to work somewhere else, you were out of luck. Out of luck until a growing army of programmers decided that they had had enough of the dark ages and they wanted a shiny, new IDE too. So they wrote one. Or a hundred.
    Eclipse is one of those IDE-s. It's been around for awhile. It runs on Linux. I installed it on my machine yesterday, but somehow I got version 3.8.1 instead of the current version, 4.5. I probably missed an update somewhere in the last couple of years.
    Anyway, I'm looking for the bits and pieces that will set up Eclipse to handle Go and I come across this little note:

:cn: Note for users in China

If you are behind the Great Firewall of China, you are very likely to encounter problems installing GoClipse: blocked connections, timeouts, or slow downloads. This is because the update site is hosted in Github, which is blocked or has limited access.
Github is a big source code repository.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Reversible Errors by Scott Turow

I picked up Reversible Errors by Scott Turow at the grocery store yesterday morning and I've already recommended it to two of my friends. I've read a couple of his other books and enjoyed them, but this one is exceptional. Maybe he's gotten better at writing, or maybe I've gotten better at reading. It's compelling in any case.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Little Free Library
I first saw one of these on Dustbury some time ago. Now we have one in Hillsboro. That's a picture of Beverley Cleary, Oregon native and creator of Ramona Quimby, tacked up on the post.

It's raining

Murron Riding in the Rain with Wallace
From the movie Braveheart

We've had several days of warm weather and clear skies, but this is Oregon and now it's back to normal.

Update January 2018 replaced missing video. This version isn't very good, but it's all we've got.
Update September 2021 replaced missing video. This one is better.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Online Tools

Magical Mystery Mouse

Added a list of Online Tools to the sidebar. Bookmarks just don't work for me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Crean Tower

Crean Tower & the Crystal Cathedral

The Los Angeles Times has a story about playing the bells in the Crean Tower. The Crean Tower is next to the Crystal Cathedral, which was home base for televangelist Robert Schuller and his Hour of Power, a staple of Sunday morning TV for 50 years. Since Robert's death in 2015 the cathedral has fallen on hard times. It was recently purchased by the Catholic Church and is being remodeled.

John and Donna Crean funded the construction of Crean Tower. John made his fortune with Fleetwood Enterprises. The tower was built in 1990. The bells used to be played every Sunday but stopped a few years ago. Since the Catholics have taken over a new player has entered the scene and the bells are being played again.

Playing the Carillon 200 feet over Garden Grove at the Christ Cathedral

The tower is pretty spectacular in a Science-Fiction-y sort of way. That's California for you. It's also spectacular in a basic construction sense. This video gives a look inside the thing.

Tour of the Christ Cathedral Carillon

    There used to be a lift, but it's broken, a victim of general upheaval going on all around it. 
    I couldn't find much information about the tower. Seems like being part of a church makes it off limits for any kind of discussion. That strikes me as a little odd.
    Here's a short video of a tune being played.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.MOV

More information about the bells here.


Headlight Connector for 2008 Hyundai Sonata with a rectangular opening where the little black tab used to be.

Broken Tab from Headlight Connector for 2008 Hyundai Sonata
Headlight burned out on the Hyundai. Okay, open the hood, remove the little round cover off of the back of the headlight capsule and pull off the connector. Hmmm, doesn't want to come off. There's a little black tab on the side of the connector, push on that. Grr, not moving, push harder. Okay, the catch releases and the connector comes off of the bulb, but the little black tab has broken off. Oh well, next time this happens I'll just have to use a stick to push on the tiny metal tab that the black plastic tab was pushing on. Assuming the car lasts that long. It's eight years old now. Is it going to last another 8 years? It might. My Dodge Dakota is 17 years old and it's still going strong. It's getting a little raggedy around the edges, but it runs and drives fine.

Boat Anchor

Old Engines Re-purposed as Buoy Anchors
You really can use that old piece of junk as a boat anchor. Via Iaman from somewhere on the Oregon Coast.

Tales from Cuba

Small Boxers

Eyes Closed Boxing

When Osmany was a teenager, a popular pastime on the beach was boxing with your eyes closed. The two combatants would put on boxing gloves and stand back to back with their eyes closed surrounded by a ring of their friends. At a signal they would start trying to strike their opponent. One technique was to make lightning fast feints with one hand and then, if you contacted your opponent with the feint, follow up with a punch. Of course once your opponent felt your touch, he had some idea where you were and would instantly and simultaneously move to avoid the punch he knew was coming and strike out to where he thought you must be. And of course the crowd of onlookers were yelling all kinds of helpful advice. The fight ended when one person got knocked down or they tired out.

Ring of Laughter

Another popular pastime was for a group of children to stand in a ring and laugh. No jokes or antics needed. Just kids glad to be there with their friends and they would start laughing. Some kids would get started laughing and be unable to stop. Some of them are laughing still.

Inspired by Marcel.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Proposed Transit System for Detroit

I was just reading about this proposed transit system in Detroit and I suddenly realized why I don't like buses. There are several components to this.
  • They are uncomfortable. The seats are narrow and cramped. You have to sit up straight. Half the time your seat is not facing forward so every time the bus speeds up or slows down you are having to work to sit up straight. And not topple into the person next to you.
  • You are out in public so you have to behave yourself. No loud conversations, no cursing, no rude noises, no stretching, and definitely no picking your nose.
  • You are out in public so you are liable to run into a lunatic. They might be harmless, or they might decide you are the object of their affection, or disdain, or maybe they just want to talk about aliens or their schemes or their in-laws. They might be drunk or sick or filthy and they may be depositing their debris on you. The odds of any of this happening on any one trip are very low, but if it ever happens it can really sour you on the whole going out in public experience.
  • They are slow.
The main thing is that whenever I have to go someplace public, like a bus or the library or the courthouse, I feel like I have to put on my armor, not just to protect myself, but to project my proper self and conceal the real me. Part of it may be that I have little patience with stupidity, and bureaucracies are full of it. Telling the clerks or the guards what you really think of the crap you are having to deal with is not going to help your case and could very well land you in the clink.
     Mass transit comes from committees, and committees are not known for being the brightest organisms on the planet, so I guess that's why we have such stupid transportation systems.

Via Indiana Thomas 

Let's Make Boxes

Michigan Mike reports on commercial printing:
Lots of progress has been made in printing. Large highspeed inkjets are now (or will soon be) ruling the industry, in sheet, web and paperboard (packaging).

What is lagging is the "finishing" automation, specifically 'diecutting", which punches out a specially shaped piece of paper. Envelopes, cardboard boxes, labels, anything that might have curved outline section to it. All straight cuts can be accomplished by a standard guillotine cutter.

It is impossible to get away from making dies to accomplish this curved cutting. [Demand on the Rise for Sheet-Fed Rotary Diecutting]

YouTube digital  die cutters and you will find many that work like "Cricut" cutting plotters.

We always have to have  a die made for our diecutting press, at $100+ a pop and a week leadtime.

Basically a die is a flat plywood board with groove routed into it and a ribbon of edge sharp flexible steel in manually fitted into the groove. Foam rubber blocks next to the steel cutter eject the paper when it has been stamped.

The way dies are made for it are:

"The steel plates are manufactured with the desired image "burned" into the plate and then chemically etched to where the remaining cutting blades/knives are left above the surface of the plate and then CNC-sharpened as a final step."

Crazy amount of work or expense of equipment.

There has to be a better way, or at least a hybrid between the rotary and flatbed.
The amount of pressure that can be exerted by a roller is far greater than can be exterted over a whole flat plate.
You don't need to ask me twice to YouTube something. I found a couple. First we need to print our logo on the cardboard.

HP Indigo 20000 Animation

This is the HP Indigo 20000. It prints on paper. You want to print on cardboard, you use the Indigo 30000. They look roughly the same and use the same technology.

Then you want to cut the cardboard so it can be easily folded into a box.

Ward Rotary Diecutter

Or you can do it all in one step like this guy.

Chain feeding printing slotting rotary die cutting machine for corrugated cardboard

There are digital cutters, but they are a bit slower.

Labelmaster: The fastest die-cutting experience
Labels & Labeling

Update July 2017 replaced video of Ward Rotary Diecutter.
Update January 2024 replaced video of digital cutter

Robot Playing with Dirt

PYLOS /// Large scale 3D Printing by IAAC

Roadtrip lodging

Coquille River Lighthouse in Bandon, Oregon

Iaman reports:
A good roadtrip requires good sleep, 1 am to 5am sleeping in Corolla at rest-stops doesn't count.
I like Airbnb....but it's not easy to find a <$70 "instant purchase"  when I want one.
Priceline found a $60 "deal" in Branton, then when i purchased it said it was in Coos Bay 20 miles in the wrong direction, 20 minutes on the phone with Priceline secured a refund.
Then onto Yelp, found a decent reviewed motel room for $55, purchased. Backed up the car to rooms door, easy unload, load of bags. Pleasantly found: memory foam bed, upgraded moden bathroom, wood floors in a albeit small room.
Just as I settled in......A biker rides into parking lot with straight LOUD pipes, then proceeds to come and go 1,2...8,9...times each time rattling the windows. Luckily I have my ear plugs in my swim kit.
If by Branton he means Bandon, well, that's about half between Coos Bay and Port Orford. Some friends of mine went fishing out of Depoe Bay this weekend, so I'm getting a virtual tour of the Oregon Coast.

Bonus: Harley with straight pipes I saw on the way back from Seattle last summer.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Caret Bay, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
F7 turns the Firefox browser's 'browse with caret' function on and off. I was having trouble with the Page Up and Page Down keys and F7 fixed it. Thanks to cor-el on the Mozilla Support Forum.

We have a nice photo of Caret Bay because pictures of arcane computer stuff are boring.

Sound of Money, Part 2

DKnight MagicBox II Bluetooth 4.0 Portable Wireless Speaker
TechPicks has a video review where he demonstrates the buttons.
That's also where I got the photo. 
Younger son tells me about this miniature loudspeaker. Sounds like it might be just what I need, but geez, it's sure got a lot of stuff I don't need, and me, being all curmudgeon-like, I don't wanna hafta pay for a buncha stuff I don't want or need, like buttons and Bluetooth and batteries. On the other hand it's really small, not very expensive (it's only a fraction of the price of the Amazon Echo that I was talking about earlier), and ain't that the way of the world anyway?
    Products that are mass produced for the masses include as many do-dads as they can so they will appeal to as many people as possible. I mean look at cars. Most cars only carry a single person, but cars come with four seats and four doors. I would venture to say that 90% of the miles driven are done with only a single person aboard. So why are most cars four passenger? Because the incremental cost of adding 3 more seats is tiny compared to the cost of the basic car. Add five percent to the cost of building the car and you've covered another 9% of the market. That's me making a big fat guess.
    The other part of the economics is volume. The number of people like me who want a featureless speaker probably numbers in the thousands. The number of people who want a speaker to work with their smart-phone likely numbers in the millions. If you are going to build a speaker, who are you going to build it for? So I benefit from what other people want.
    Anyway, I'm reading up on this speaker on Amazon and I was struck by some of the comments:
  • It comes with a 'Bass Pad' that 'holds the speaker in place so you can rock out without your speaker leaping over the edge.'
  • I like that the volume buttons are separate from the skip buttons because then I don't have to remember whether I need to do a long press or a short one for the function I want.
  • It's heavy duty and rugged for using it inside or out. Except in water. Don't let it swim.
  • ... unlike the Magicbox I it does not talk to you in a weird computer voice when you connect your device, just a nice simple beep.
  • Invest in the second one. It's only $7 more. That's almost an hour of work at a minimum wage job for a much better speaker.
The world is full of strange and wonderful people. I've summarized the important parts of the Amazon page here.
    After spending all this time reading about this thing I think I gonna hafta buy one. Besides, that's the only way to find out if I can play tunes over the USB connection.

The Sound of Money

Amazon Echo
Okay, I'm gonna try a couple of things and see if this blog can generate any money. I've signed up with Amazon's affiliate marketing and Blogger's Adsense, so you might start seeing some obvious ads in the sidebar and some secret ads embedded in my blog posts. I'm not expecting much, maybe I'll get a free book once in a while. We'll see how it goes.

Meanwhile back at the ranch I'm looking for a new speaker for my computer. I'm not using my Chromebook anymore, which had built in speakers. I had some Creative Speakers that worked pretty well, but the power connector was weak and ever time I kicked the bass box I would get a bunch of static, or the power plug would just plain disconnect. Now I've got a pair of $8 Logitech speakers and while they work okay, I suspect I could do better.

I don't want a pair of stereo speakers. I don't want a bunch of wires. The creative setup has three boxes and three wires. I want one box and one wire. We can't do that unless we go wireless. Radio's are like that: one box, one wire, and the signal comes in over the airwaves. There are computer speakers like that, but they all seem to use Bluetooth. While the computer I am using has a Bluetooth radio, I'm not sure that Linux knows how to use it, or maybe I just haven't bothered to figure out how to turn it on. Besides, I'm categorically opposed to using Bluetooth. It sounds like an expensive buzzword to sell  useless gadgets to people with more money than sense.

Fluance SXHTB+ Surround Sound Single Speaker SXSS
This is a Hi-Fi speaker. It does not contain an amplifier, so it won't work with your computer. Looks cool though.

Okay, no Bluetooth, at least not this week, so I'm gonna need two wires. I found one that looked okay until I realized it was just a speaker, no amplifier. I still haven't found one that fit's the bill.

This morning I'm signing up with Amazon and I'm trying to figure out how this affiliate marketing program works, and I need a product to try this out with and looky here, Amazon Echo. A single speaker with one wire! Kind of expensive, and I don't know about all this chit chat, and I don't know if I can control it from my keyboard, but it is kind of cool, and it is a heck of lot cheaper than a smart phone. But it's an Amazon product, so let's see it I can link to it.

Online Tools


I needed a tool to crop images, screenshots usually. Linux has the Gimp image editing program but it is way overkill for what I wanted. I wanted a simple tool I could use on Linux. I didn't find one, but I found Lunapic online and it works pretty well. It has a bunch more options, but crop was all I needed and it was right at the top.

Iaman told me about Peggo, which splits the MP3 soundtrack off of YouTube files. I don't have any use for it, not having an MP3 player, but I can see how it could come in handy. They are off-line this weekend for maintenance, but should be back soon.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


The super-strong carbyne was produced inside double-walled graphene nanotubes to keep it stable. Lei Shi / University of Vienna
Carbyne, a carbon-based structure, has been a theoretical material since it was proposed back in 1885 with scientists only being able to produce it in either computer simulations or very short forms of only 100-atoms long due to its instability. Now thanks to a new production method involving rolling up two sheets of graphene to form a protective tube they then created the carbyne within to stop it from breaking and as a result have managed to synthesise a chain of 6,400 atoms long, which remained stable. - International Business Times
Okay then, that space elevator thingy might just be possible. Now it's just a matter of being able to produce mass quantities of the stuff.

How big is that stick of 6,400 atoms? A carbon atom is about 140 picometers in diameter. A picometer is one-trillionth of a meter.  6,400 times 140 is almost 900,000. Call it a million. So if those 6,400 carbon atoms are stuck together in a line that rod would be almost 1 micron long. Whopee! You might be able to see it under a microscope. The atoms are almost certainly not arranged single file, which means this rod is only a fraction of a micron long. Probably wouldn't be able to see it using a conventional microscope.

So far it's only a claim, we'll have to wait and see if anyone else can do it, and if it is in fact Linear acetylenic carbon. The stuff has been made before, but several times people thought they had made this stuff and it turned out to be something else, like fullerene. How would you even know? I would like to see how it was done, except, there probably isn't anything to see. Strange people waving their hands and chanting with strange equipment. Probably looks a lot like alchemy.

Spacex Lands Booster

CRS-8 | First Stage Landing on Droneship

They've been trying and now they've finally done it. THE VERGE has the story.
At first it looks like the water is calm and the barge is perfectly stable, but wait a bit and you can see that the ocean is giving the barge a bit of a ride.

The whole reason for trying to recover a rocket booster is to save money:

The Falcon 9 costs $60 million to make and only $200,000 to fuel. If a recovered rocket doesn't need too much updating and refurbishment between launches, reusability could eliminate a good chunk of that manufacturing cost.

Friday, April 15, 2016


4 guys were stranded on a tiny island when their skiff capsized.

They were rescued after they were spotted by the crew of a US Navy P-8 Poseidon. The Poseidon started showing up at US air bases in 2012. It is the replacement for the aging P-3 Orion.

The Poseidon is a militarized version of a 737. It has a bomb bay that can carry torpedoes and hard points on the wings for carrying missiles. The Australian Air Force has a good description.
There are no airstrips on any of the islands of the atoll where our castaways were stranded. They either got there by crossing 60 miles of ocean in a boat, or they flew in on a seaplane.

The atoll where they were stranded is 2,000 miles from anywhere, except Papua New Guinea. I'm not sure that helps.

The atoll is 8 miles long. The island where they were stranded is the one on the middle left.

The red markers indicate our target atoll. The yellow ones are the nearest airstrips. The green is a lagoon where a seaplane could land. The orange marker is the nearest real, jet capable airport. It's 170 miles away.
So I am sort of wondering how these guys got to this atoll, what they were doing there, where did the P-8 come from, how long did it take to get 'on station' and once they got there, how long did it take before they found our castaways?
More about flying boats in the South Pacific here.
More about the Albatross here.
Map of South Pacific airports here.
P-3 mentioned here.

Go Banana Slugs!

California Bob took his family on a school outing to a nature preserve yesterday.  There was a capable guide and we captured newts, frogs and tadpoles in the pond, and a garter snake, and another garter-like snake.  And we saw deer, and lots of banana slugs -- attached is a pic of one next to a 12-oz bottle for scale.
The Banana Slug is the official mascot of The University of California Santa Cruz. This school is the only one that I have encountered that seems to have a sensible approach to athletics:
UCSC has always offered a wide-ranging physical education and recreation program designed to appeal to the greatest number of students, but it has based its approach on some uncommon ideas: that athletics are for all students, not just team members of major sports; that the most important goal of a collegiate physical education department should be to introduce as many students as possible to lifelong physical activities; and that the joy of participating is more important than winning.
I find slugs repulsive. I also find the blatant commercialism of professional sports repulsive. Which is worse? I couldn't tell you.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Texas Tales

While we were on our morning constitutional, Osmany & I came across a mailbox supported on a concrete pillar. This is one of your traditional, rural mailboxes that sits by the side of the road. They are often mounted on top of a wooden post, but sometimes people use more elaborate supports. Osmany was wondered why someone would expend the effort when a wooden post is sufficient, so I told him about:

Brick Mailbox

John C. and the Mailbox
One evening John and his buddy were out driving around out in the country. They were drinking, and being who they were they had a few too many. Now they decide that it would be great fun to smash some mailboxes by running them down with their pickup truck. And so they did. This worked fine for the first three or four. The truck hit the mailbox and busted it to smithereens and the truck hardly even noticed. The next one was a brick pillar about two feet square and four feet tall, and this one they noticed. Not sure what happened after that. I think they may have been able to drive away, but I'm pretty sure the truck was toast. I think we can say that their state of inebriation was complete by the fact that they chose to run into this brick pillar. I mean how could you see it and not realize what you were in for?

Which reminded me of:
Ford Twin I-Beam Suspension

John, by day, was a hard working building contractor and very frugal. He drove an old Ford pickup truck. The tires were getting badly worn. One day he decided he had driven as far as he dared on these bald old tires, so he went to the tire shop and bought two brand new tires and had them installed on the front wheels. He's feeling pretty good about himself. He has two new tires and the truck is rolling along right smoothly. The sun is shining and things are looking good. He gets on I-35 Northbound and heads home. He's cruising along on the freeway on his brand new tires when all of sudden he hits a bump, and bang! Both brand new tires burst and he slides to a halt on the remains of his brand new tires.

They tow the truck back to the tire shop where they investigate and find that the front springs of the truck were completely collapsed. In fact the frame was resting on the rubber stops that are the last thing between the frame and the axles.

My theory of what happened has two parts. One, John, knowing that his old tires were badly worn was driving carefully and avoided anything that might be a hazard. Once he got the new tires he threw caution to the winds, and why not? He has brand new tires! They can take anything, so he no longer needs to be paranoid about every little bump in the road.

Two, it was summer time, and as we all know when things get hot, like they do in the summer time, they expand. Concrete roads, like I-35, have expansion joints to allow for the concrete to expand, but that only works as long as the temperature is within the expected range. If it is an exceptionally hot summer, you can have a situation where the end of one slab will be forced up over an adjacent slab. This will create a small cliff right across the roadway. If the cliff is facing the same way as your direction of travel, running over it will be disturbing, but it should not cause any damage, at least not it your car's suspension is in good condition. If the cliff the is facing you and you run into it I am not sure any kind of tires could survive that impact. Also I think that a cliff that is facing you ought to be more visible. A cliff facing away might be invisible.

If we give John credit for being reasonably observant, we might conclude that the cliff was facing away and his tires burst because the collapsed suspension in his truck forced the tires to absorb the impact of driving off the six inch cliff.
This got me thinking about cars, which reminded me of:

Cutaway Conventional Automatic Transmission

Fred's El Paso Transmission Repair
Fred was driving somewhere, moving, I think, and his journey took him through El Paso where his car broke down. The automatic transmission had given out. He limped into a transmission shop where they dropped the transmission out of the car. Once they had it on the bench it was obvious what was wrong. There was a large crack running diagonally over the top of the cast aluminum transmission housing. The transmission shop was perfectly willing to repair it, but it would cost some amount of money, an amount that Fred could not spare. He took the transmission to a welding shop. (Not sure how he managed that. Carried it across the street? Hired a taxi? Got it there somehow.) Welding the crack closed cost $25. Took the transmission back to the shop where the car was waiting. They put the transmission back in the car and Fred drove on to his destination.

I'm a little hazy on parts of this story, like whether the transmission was disassembled before it was welded, or how far the car went after the repair. I would think you would want to disassemble the transmission before you started welding on it, but knowing Fred, I suspect that didn't happen. And I think the car made it to Austin, which is almost 600 miles.