Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Saturday, July 30, 2016

How do you spell Faro?

Faro is some kind of card game, in my mind it is used by card sharps to fleece the unsuspecting. It's also what we call leaders of ancient Egypt, though we spell it 'Pharaoh', or is it 'Pharoah'? Google likes the -aoh version. Amazon isn't so particular. We have
FARAON (PHAROAH) by Boleslaw Prus
and then we have
Pharaoh by Boleslaw Prus
I think the first one is in Polish, the second one might be in English. Prices range from $3 to $3,000. Not sure if I am going to order a copy (the $3 version) or not. Looks like there might be other versions as well.

It's kind of a famous book. Wikipedia has an article about it:
Pharaoh (PolishFaraon) is the fourth and last major novel by the Polish writer Bolesław Prus (1847–1912). Composed over a year's time in 1894–95, serialized in 1895–96, and published in book form in 1897, it was the sole historical novel by an author who had earlier disapproved of historical novels on the ground that they inevitably distort history.
Pharaoh has been described by Czesław Miłosz as a "novel on... mechanism[s] of state power and, as such, ... probably unique in world literature of the nineteenth century.... Prus, [in] selecting the reign of 'Pharaoh Ramses XIII'[1] in the eleventh century BCE, sought a perspective that was detached from... pressures of [topicality] and censorship. Through his analysis of the dynamics of an ancient Egyptian society, he... suggest[s] an archetype of the struggle for power that goes on within any state."[2]
Makes it sound kind of interesting.

St. Kinga's Chapel, deep in the Wieliczka salt mine
I'm looking at this because it gets mentioned in Wikipedia's article about the Wieliczka Salt Mine, which is kind of an old, old place. Reminds me of the mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings, except the dwarves were digging for gold and the Poles were digging up salt.


Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
I think I may have figured out why people collect books. I've always been a little confused on the subject. When I was a kid, we didn't have much in the way of books around the house. We went, like all good, god-fearing Americans, to the library for our books.

An aside:
My god, I look back on that now and say that smells like communism! No wonder I lean to the left, I was brought up, not like I said before, but like all good, god-fearing commies. Oh, wait a minute, commies aren't afeerd of god, to them (me?), god is a fictional creature, and there's no reason to be afraid of him/her/it. Or maybe they just tired of being afeerd all the time, since it didn't really do any good anyway. I mean, didn't Jasper get cut down just last week and wasn't he just the best guy in the word, god-fearing and everything?
Back at the early Rutabaga's ranch, we did have a few books around the house. I remember specifically Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. My mom and I wore that book out, and then it got passed down to my younger brothers. I also remember there was a companion book about snow shovels, but it was years before I was able to get my hands on a copy long enough to read it.

Years later, somewhere 'rounds about halfway between then and now, my mom gave me a copy of another book that I had loved when I was a kid:  The Sailor Dog. OMG! I couldn't have been more shocked. Best book in the world! Except for Mike Mulligan, but Mike only wins out because he had more and bigger pages.

A while back I started buying my books. I wasn't liable to read more than one a week and a few bucks for a book was something I could afford. Besides, bookstores were open, unlike them dad-burn commie libraries. But a few bucks adds up, so I took the books I had finished reading and started selling them back to Powell's. This reduced the overall expense of my reading habit, but what I ended up with was a big pile of books I had started but never got around to finishing.
    Well, that's dumb. If those books didn't move you to pick them up and finish them, you are probably never going to finish them, you should sell the books you don't finish and keep the ones you do, because then, besides having a pile of books, you will know that these were worth reading.

Now I'm up against it again. I either need to get another bookcase or get rid of some of what I have. I actually probably need to do both. That's the problem with books, they tend to accumulate.

    What do you do with a big pile of books that are worth reading? I mean, you've already read them once, do you really want to read them again? Well, maybe some of them. I've got the whole set of Patrick O'Brian's sea stories. I'm saving them up, don't want to waste them. Don't know how many times I could read a book before it got to be boring. And there's Neal Stephenson. I really like his stuff, but it can be a bit taxing. It takes me about a week of being on vacation to get through one his big volumes. I'm pretty sure I could read all of his stuff again.
    After that, I'm not so sure. Some authors are stand outs, like John LeCarre and Daniel Silva, but they don't quite grab me like Patrick's and Neal's books do. Or maybe because they are set in the present day and I really don't like the present day. Nothing but trouble. Give me good old escapist fantasy any day.
    Alan Furst espionage thrillers are out of this world. Too bad they are so thin and few. Those are just the names that spring to mind this befuddled morning.

So there you have it: people collect books so they'll have something to read when they get too old and broke and too lazy / decrepit to get to the bookstore / library.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Harrier Night Landing

Harrier Jet Vertical Landing At Night On Amphibious Assault Ship
AiirSource Military
U.S. Navy video by Craig Z. Rodarte

The red color disappears as soon as the aircraft touches down. Must not be much residual heat in the nozzles. And what's with the green light from the flashlight the deckhand is carrying? It used to be that red light was what you used for instruments for night flying, and then they started using blue lights to illuminate the interior of armored personnel carriers during night operations, and now they are using green lights on the flight deck at night. I'm getting a little confused.

Update July 2021 replaced missing video.
Update September 2022 replaced missing video.

Beating Traffic Jams

Traffic Waves

I try to keep an even pace when I am driving on the freeway. It doesn't always work. Sometimes forces conspire to bring the entire world to a halt. Situations like that used to drive me nuts, I couldn't understand what was wrong with people, why weren't they all driving like maniacs like me? If you would just put your foot into it we could get going and get out of here. Of course, it doesn't work like that.
    I have noticed a couple of things while driving on Highway 26 during rush hour. The left hand lane (the 'fast' lane) attracts those who will leap ahead at the slightest opportunity and then jam on their brakes when they run into a clog. People in the next to fast lane maintain a more even pace that is much calmer and does not deliver as much wear and tear to the car. Both lanes travel at about the same rate. If two cars start evenly in the two lanes, one will soon pull ahead for a moment, but then will run into a jam and the car in the slower lane will overtake them. Then the jam will evaporate and the fast lane will take off and the car in the left lane will once again retake the lead, momentarily. By the time they get to the end neither one will be more than a few seconds ahead of the other.
    Another thing I have noticed is that jams generally seem to be caused by exit ramps filling up. Even if they aren't full, people start slowing down before they get to them, which causes people behind them to slow down. So it isn't that the freeway doesn't have the capacity, it's the exit ramps that can't handle to traffic that is using them.

More about traffic jams from the video maker here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Sunoco "Symphony" featuring Jimmie Johnson

Flipping channels on the tube yesterday afternoon and I come across an NHRA top fuel drag meet in Morrison, Colorado. It was quite the production. Most of the matches seemed to have one car that had a problem, which means it was no contest.
    And then this ad pops up. I haven't heard of Sunoco since I lived in Ohio, just down the road from the National Trail  Raceway, with the ubiquitous radio ads telling you to 'BE THERE SUNDAY'. If there is a musical tune in this ad, it escapes me, but I thought it was kind of cute, and hey, look, Sunoco must still be in business.

Update August 2019 replaced missing Courtney Force video with similar one.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fiat 124 Returns

2016 Fiat 124
The 124 Spider has returned! The original 124 was one of the coolest sports cars available, but that was 50 years (!?!) ago. It's been resurrected. This time it's using a Mazda Miata chassis and it's being built in Japan, but the engine is Italian. This car was introduced a year ago. Market forces have been conspiring to keep me, and every other right-thinking person, from hearing about it.

Police Violence

I get tired of hearing about police shootings, whether it's the police being accused of shooting someone or vice versa. The news reports all seem to be designed to produce outrage in the reader. I'm tired of hearing about it because all of the reports seem to be slanted one way or the other, no one seems to be interested in determining the facts, and even when they are, it's so wrapped up in a snarl of legal wrangling that it's virtually impossible to tell what actually happened, so don't tell me about it. If you are talking about a police shooting, I will immediately suspect of you pushing your agenda and I don't have time for that.

There are roughly:
So cops, on average stop someone once a week. How many outrage-fueling violent interactions with the police happen every year? Is there one a week? One every day? Say there's one every day, call it 400 a year, that means roughly one of every 100,000 stops becomes fodder for the media. I suspect that is well below the average for a random explosion of anger.
    The world is a frustrating place. A large part of that frustration is caused by being hemmed in by rules and laws, rules and laws created by people who are skilled in the use of words. Not everyone is skilled in the use of words, and for those people, the world can be infuriating. It's a miracle we don't have a new mass murder on the news every five minutes.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Smart Water Bottle
Which is more ridiculous, buying water in disposable bottles, or buying a reusable bottle that you have to keep track of and care for? And when did it become necessary to carry a bottle of water around with you? Back in the good old days we used to drink beer. Nobody drank water. What has happened to us? This country is going to hell in a handbasket, I tell you. And get off of my lawn.
    There are drinking fountains in airports, but they are at the end of the mile long concourse, next to the restrooms. And you can get a drink on the airplane, if you are awake when they are passing out drinks. And you can usually get a cup of water at a fast food joint when you buy your hamburger, but it's one of those really flimsy cups that you have to hold oh-so-delicately so that it doesn't collapse and spill your precious life-giving fluid all over the table where is soaks your french fries and ruins your life. So you can get by without a water bottle, but sometimes it's just easier to buy one.

How Many DJ's Does It Take to Open A Bottle of Smart Water?

    I first got a bottle of smartwater at the international concourse in Atlanta. I couldn't figure out how to open it, I had to ask. This particular bottle has a pop top that covers the nozzle. The pop top is hinged on one side and there is partial ring that covers the rest of the space between the base cap and the pop top. At one end of the partial ring there is a little tiny tab that you can pop out with your fingernail. Then you can grab the end and pull the rest of the ring off, which releases the pop top, which you can now pop open and get your drink.
    So the pop top is nice, you can open it with one hand, and it stays attached to the bottle so you aren't in danger of losing it. And it's disposable, no cleaning involved, and if you misplace it, no big loss.
    I've been buying them ever since whenever I am traveling by air or on the road. On the road it gives you something to buy when you stop at a truck stop to use the restroom. It's only fair.

   At home we've taken to drinking lemon flavored sparkling water. It's cold, it's wet, it's fizzy, and there's no calories or weird artificial sweeteners. We buy it by the case for $3.60 which includes the nickel bottle deposit. That works out to 30 cents a can, which in this day, when a dollar is like the smallest denomination worth bothering with, is like free.

Nice! Sparkling Water
I picked up a bottle of Nice! sparkling water the other day. No calories, which is good for someone trying to avoid sugar, and no warnings, but it's sweet! What the heck? I examine the bottle when I get home and I find sucralose in the ingredients list. Sucralose is an artificial sweetner, but there's no label warning about artificial sweetners. Bah, double bah and humbug. All kinds of warning labels out there but not the one I wanted.

I Object

Lutherans Armor Up to Defend Women - Story in the WSJ

Lutherans come in two main flavors: the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Missouri  Synod. The Evangelicals, of which I am one, like to make fun of the Missouri Synod on account of the rigid structure of their services. Or so I'm told. I've never been to a Missouri Synod service.

When we lived in Phoenix we were attending a Bible study group and the pastor was telling was a story about a theological argument that had been at the crux of a conflict between two divisions. It was something about how the sacramental wafer became the body of Jesus Christ when it was put on your tongue. I can't remember the issue exactly, but the important part of the lesson was that some of the participants in this debate, or at least our pastor, realized that it was a "distinction without a difference". The two sides were describing the same event using different words, and because they were using different words, they declared that the event was different, even though no one could tell us what the difference was, other than the two groups were using different words to described it. That pretty much satisfied my desire to learn how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

Not too long ago, maybe ten years or so, the Lutheran Church and the Anglican church (otherwise known as the Episcopalians) were working on an agreement to join forces. They had recognized that all the essential tenets of their faith were the same, so why shouldn't they all be part one great glorious religion? Well, there was this one minor issue of who appointed the leaders of the church. The Lutherans used some sort of democratic method, whereas the Anglicans had a rigid, top down hierarchy. This minor point was enough to torpedo the whole deal.

Anyway, that's what I know about theology. The WSJ story is about how the Missouri Synod has been arguing about women's role in the military and the latest pronouncement from the DoD that opens combat positions to women puts them on a collision course. Korey Mass makes some good points.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch I'm looking for a US Army recruiting commercial for women in combat roles and I'm finding bupkis. I could have sworn I've been seeing it non-stop on TV recently, but on the internet? Nothing. I would think with so many people watching what everyone else is doing someone would have noticed it had glommed onto it. I mean the NSA couldn't have scrubbed the entire internet, could they? Or maybe they just co-opted the big search engines so nobody could find it. Something is rotten in Denmark.

Trials and Tribulations

I have a GIGABYTE motherboard that is giving me problems. After using it for several months with one screen, I finally added a second display. It was great, for a bit. And then a couple of months ago the video output died.
I sent the board back to GIGABYTE and they replaced a cap. Got the board back, reinstalled it and it worked fine a couple of weeks. Then the video died, again.
    Put in a request for another RMA. When I get the RMA I think I should probably make sure the board is still dead, so I turn it on, and boom! Everything is working just fine. Great, forget about getting it repaired.
    This morning it flaked out again. It start with numerous bars of static distributed semi-regularly over the screen. Cycle the power and now we have no video at all. Let it sit for a few minutes and try again and still no video.
    I'm thinking it's a heat problem. If I let it sit long enough, it cools down and starts working normally. Sometimes. But how long does it have to sit? And if heat is the problem, why does it take so long fail?
    If heat is the problem, then one more fan blowing on the video processor should fix it. Meanwhile I'm wondering if the power supply fan and the CPU fan are working together or in opposition. They are within an inch or so of each other. Maybe I just need some duct work.
    Anybody have a temperature probe that can reach in small places?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Quote of the Day

Chaitman and Rickards don't seem to have explained why the investment bank keeps getting away with this stuff, but GATA maintains it's because the bank often acts as the agent of the U.S. government in rigging markets -- that JPMorganChase is essentially a U.S. government agency. (Or maybe the U.S. government is a JPMorganChase agency.) - Gold Seek dot com

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Donald the Flamboyant

Candice Bergen
 [Donald Trump spent] two years at the University of Pennsylvania. The actress Candice Bergen, a contemporary, said in a 1992 address at Penn: “He was pretty hard to miss — he wore a two-piece burgundy suit with matching burgundy patent leather boots and, a particularly nice touch, a matching burgundy limousine.” - The Telegraph
Via Bayou Renaissance Man

Fourth Amendment Caucus defeats Patriot Act expansion in Congress

The NSA is looking at you
From a story by Caleb Chen on PIA:
Days ago, the Fourth Amendment Caucus, a collection of 25 House Representatives, managed to block an expansion of the Patriot Act surveillance measures in Congress. HR 5606, unironically called the “Anti-Terrorism Information Sharing Is Strength Act” failed to attain a ⅔ supermajority and pass the floor.
The caucus is composed of 12 Democrats and 13 Republicans. I was pleased to see that one of Oregon's representatives, Peter DeFazio, is a member of this caucus.

While 'information sharing' might be a good thing, the implementation of the Patriot Act is consuming an outsize share of our resources and is not delivering commensurate value. What the bureaucrats want is a large bureaucracy that can collect and file all the information in the world, and then use a magical algorithm to determine who the bad guys are and send men with guns to put a stop to their activities.
    The problem is that that is not the way the world works. Bureaucracies are good for implementing mindless activities, like the collection of data, but not so good for making any kind of intelligent decisions. Collecting data is all well and good, but we don't need to be devoting 10% of our Gross Domestic Product to it.

Fourth Amendment Caucus July 2106
Sorted by Region
Via Detroit Steve

Monday, July 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

Coca Cola by Andy Warhol, via The Paris Review
“What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too. A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.” – Andy Warhol

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Marc goes to China

View from The Westin Shenzhen
Marc is spending a great deal of time in China these days. We never know it he is going to show up for lunch or not. He posted this picture with the tag "New York MR . . . ", which confused me because what is the Eiffel Tower doing in New York? Then I looked again and realized he's in China, so somebody built a replica of the Eiffel Tower there.

Hong Kong, Macau and nearby urban areasPlacemark indicates location of Window of the World theme park, which is where the replica tower Eiffel Tower is located.
One-third scale Replica of the Eiffel Tower, Shenzhen, China
Seems that a bunch of people have built replicas of the Eiffel Tower over the years. The one in Shenzhen, China, is just one of many.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


A very large organ pipe cactus in Baja California, photo by Leon Diguet (1895).
Special techniques are needed to survive in hostile environments:
symbiotic relationship with bacterial and fungal colonies on its roots allows P. pringlei to grow on bare rock even where no soil is available at all, as the bacteria can fix nitrogen from the air and break down the rock to produce nutrients. The cactus even packages symbiotic bacteria in with its seeds.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Last Kingdom

The Last Kingdom | Series 1 Full Trailer

The Last Kingdom is a BBC produced TV series. Season 1 is available on Netflix. We watched the first two episodes this evening. It's pretty good. It's based on The Saxon Stories, a series of historical novels written by Bernard Cornwell, who also wrote the Sharpe's Rifles series, which I really liked.
In an interview, Cornwell said: "For some reason the history of the Anglo-Saxons isn’t much taught in Britain (where I grew up) and it struck me as weird that the English really had no idea where their country came from." - Wikipedia
The story is set in the late 9th Century (877, I think the opening screen said). I thought this was like the time of King Arthur, but Arthur is from the late 5th and early 6th centuries AD. We do have some historical characters, like

There is a great deal of brutality, much like Game of Thrones, but we also have a young, attractive and rich couple who are obviously in love, but I'm not sure that word has even been invented yet. And they're on the run. I think this might be Hollywood plot number 867B, but it's well done, and the girl is pretty great. She has a brain and has no compunction about killing bad guys. She also saves our hero at least once an episode. I don't know why she isn't pregnant yet, unless she's using some of those pagan spells.

Update June 2018 replaced missing trailer.


Martin Molin in his workshop
I'm watching a video of a guy building collapsible wheel for his music box, and this scene pops up. Interesting features in your basement there, Martin.
Reminds me of the caves on Mars from Greg Bear's book Killing Titan. I'm not quite halfway through. It's pretty good.
Martin is from Wintergatan. I've posted about them before.


Electroflight Engineering Mockup
Some people in England are trying to build a battery powered, electric racing airplane. That's a full size airplane capable of carrying a pilot, not a miniature radio/controlled toy. They claim all kinds of impressive capabilities, but they haven't built a real one yet, so we'll have to wait and see if it will really be able to climb straight up at 100 MPH.
  Curious thing, they are using contra-rotating propellers ala the Russian Bear, er, not that bear, this one. The are using two separate motors to drive the two propellers, so no expensive gearbox like the Russians, so it's kind of like a conventional twin-engined airplane in that if one motor fails, you still have one left. But that's really not a problem with electric power, is it? After all, the capacitor that blew out for no good reason on my computer's motherboard didn't cause my computer to quit did it? Oh yeah, that's right, it did. Stupid electronics.

Via FlightAware

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Fantastic Quaternions - Numberphile

Been all around the number world and never heard of these before today. Kind of wacko.

Simple Safecracking

Since me Linux box is busted (again!), I'm reduced to working on little puzzle programs on CodinGame dot com. I just finished one that involved decrypting a simple message to reveal the combination to a mythical safe. The puzzle doesn't furnish much of an explanation, just this:
Find the safe combination. The only thing you find lying next to the safe is a note with a message that looks like gibberish.
The gibberish looks like this:
 Aol zhml jvtipuhapvu pz: zpe-mvby-zpe-mvby-aoyll
which isn't much help at all. Fortunately, there are several test cases, and examining the gibberish from these other cases reveals that they have certain commonalities. All examples have:

  • one colon
  • the same number of groups of letters before (to the left of) the colon 
  • the number of letters in each of these groups (before the colon) are the same all examples
  • all the groups of letters:
    • before the colon are separated by spaces
    • after the colon are:
      • separated by hyphens
      • relatively short (none as long as the long word on the left)
From this I deduce that the words before the colon are a message, what you might call a 'label', and the words to the right are digits of the combination written out as English words. Okay, that might be, but how do you decode this gibberish?
    You could start with the digits on the right, and starting with the length and the limited number of letters involved, 
only 15,  you might be able to sort it out.
    What about the message on the left hand side? Just looking at the number of letters, I'm guessing it's 
"the safe combination is"
So I write my program to use my guess to decode the message. I read a letter of the gibberish clue, then use that letter as index into my decoder array, and store the corresponding letter from my guess into that slot. I don't get all the letters, but it might be enough to make an educated guess as what the answer might be.
    I take each word from the combination in the clue and translate as many letters as I can using my decoder array. Then I compare the result with the names of all the digits that have the same length, and I count how many letters match. The digit with the highest score becomes part of the answer.

    Now we get to the interesting part of this problem. A couple other people have also solved this puzzle using the same programming language: Go, so I took a look at their solutions. They had taken their decryption efforts to another level and figured out mathematical formula that was being used to translate the clue into gibberish and back again. It's a very simple formula take simple involves adding an offset to the encoded letter to get the original back again.
    I like my solution better, because, well, it's my solution, and second of all, I didn't have to figure out what the translation formula was, which means mine is not dependent on the mathematical formula being the same all the time. Matter of fact, I don't care what formula you are using, as long as you are doing simple letter substitution.

   Do I need to emphasize that this is a simple, nay, trivial, decryption problem, and working on it is only a form of recreation? I dunno, people take things so seriously these days, it's sometimes hard to tell the wheat from the chaff. Let me reiterate: this problem is chaff, but it's fun chaff.

P.S. I have no idea what TRPA stands for. The only web reference I found was the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and I don't think they are in the secret decoder ring business.

P.P.S. Kind of odd that the set of letters needed to write the names of the digits includes 5 of the last 6 letters of the alphabet, don'cha think?

CF Industries

CF Industries Ammonia Plant, Port Neal, Iowa
The long white bar is a 1700 foot long warehouse for storing urea.
When we were in Sioux City Iowa last week, there was a story in the news about how a $2 billion dollar expansion of the local ammonia plant was nearing completion. $2 billion is a sizable chunk on change, you can almost build a new integrated circuit fabrication facility for that kind of money. Intel's Ronler Acres plant is just down the road from where I live and it's huge. It's huge and it's full of high-tech, whiz bang equipment, so I can understand why it cost so much money. But $2 billion for a fertilizer plant, well, that just boggles my mind. Not a lot of high technology going on here. It's just basic chemistry on an enormous scale. It might be that building big things out of steel, big things that will be operated at high temperatures and pressures is more expensive than electro-mechanical stuff that isn't subject to those extremes.
     Looking for information about this plant I found this story about a minor disaster:
The Port Neal fertilizer plant explosion occurred on December 13, 1994 in the ammonium nitrate plant at the Terra International, Inc., Port Neal Complex, 16 miles south of Sioux City, Iowa, United States.[1] Four workers at the plant were killed by the explosion, and eighteen others were injured.[3] The seven-story building at the seat of the blast was completely destroyed, leaving only a crater, and significant damage was inflicted to the surrounding structures.[4] Four nearby electricity generating stations were disabled by the explosion, and the effects of the blast were felt up to 30 miles away.[5] A high-voltage line running adjacent to the plant and over the Missouri River was damaged, disrupting power in the neighboring state of Nebraska.[6] Two 15,000-ton refrigeratedammonia storage tanks were ruptured, releasing liquid ammonia and ammonia vapors which forced the evacuation of 1,700 residents from the surrounding area.[7] - Wikipedia
Curious thing is that another outfit is building another nitrogen fertilizer plant on the other side of the state, down near Fort Madison Iowa.

Iowa Fertilizer Plant, Wever Iowa
With two big fertilizer plants nearing completion, I guess Iowa is expecting a continued high demand for fertilizer. I guess that's sort of obvious, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Psychedelic Mandala
I've been wanting to write about Magical Thinking, but then I found this quote over on  Bayou Rennaissance Man:
"What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!" - Robert A. Heinlein
It's not exactly what I was thinking about, but it's in the same vein and it will have to do until my brain coughs up the right thing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Fleetwood Mac - Dreams

When my erratic heartbeat put me in the hospital 10 or 20 years ago, it was a bit of a surprise. But after a I'd thought about it for a while I realized that this had been going on for a long time. When I lived in Austin 30 odd years ago there were a couple of incidents where I felt my heart racing, which made me feel a little weak. I'd lie down and after a while, perhaps overnight, things would return to normal. And then I remembered my failure to acquire a Physical Fitness merit badge from the Boy Scouts when I was about 13. The one test that kept me from earning that badge was the mile run. Could not do it. I don't know how far I got, but I quickly got out of breath.
     This morning I'm out for my morning constitutional and I recalled an incident from elementary school. We were playing tag and I was unable to chase anyone else down, so I resorted to the old African 'persistence hunting' technique: I just kept walking toward my prey. Eventually they got worn out bolting away and I was able to tag them. I don't think we played that any more, couldn't have been much fun for anyone involved. So I'm thinking there was a problem with my heart even then.
    Then there is the terminology. Every time I visit the cardiologist (which is annually), he asks me if I have been 'short of breath'. Now short-of-breath, to me, means you can't catch your breath. No matter how much you breath, you are constantly out of breath. Out-of-breath to me means you are breathing heavily, presumably because you are suffering from an oxygen deficiency, but in a few minutes that deficiency has been corrected and your breathing returns to normal. I get out of breath often, just climbing a flight of stairs will do it, but I recover in a couple of minutes and I don't seem to be any worse for wear.

P.S. We have the tune because that's what I heard when the word 'heartbeat' popped into my head this AM.

Update November 2016 replaced missing video.
Update December 2018 replaced missing video.
Update June 2019 replaced missing video.

Carter Lake

Carter Lake, Iowa
I'm going over our expenses for our road trip to Iowa and I come across a hotel receipt for the night the kids flew into Omaha, except the receipt doesn't say Nebraska, it says Carter Lake, Iowa. How can that be?
     Notice the lake bordering the northern half of the town (above). That lake used to be part of the Mississippi River, until the river decided to take a short cut and cut off this bit of land from Iowa, to which it was formerly connected. This happened in 1877 and has been confusing people ever since.

Monday, July 11, 2016


Trans-Am Firebird Emblem
ATE UP WITH MOTOR has a fine story about John DeLorean and the Pontiac Firebird. The story is from 2008, but they quit making Firebirds 2002, so it is plenty up-to-date. Via Road & Track.
    I always liked the artwork on the hood. There were several versions of the Firebird decal, shoot, they probably made a different one for every year they made Firebirds, which would be like 33. I like this one the best out of the few I found. They were cool cars in their time, but now they seem to be very crude.

Text Editors

William Jerdan (1782 – 1869), Scottish editor of the Literary Gazette for 34 years.
Because I needed a picture of an editor.
There must be a zillion different text editors out there and most of them are crap, meaning they can't hold a candle to AEDIT, the glorious text editor I spent years with and that can run rings around any of these new-fangled jerk-wads. Yes, AEDIT could only deal with 80 columns, but that was all you could get on any screen back in 1980. It was abandoned by Intel sometime between then and now. I have a copy of the source lying around here somewhere, and I was going to do something with it someday, but I got distracted, and round toits are in short supply.
     Today I am using a Chromebook and I have a couple of really feeble editors loaded: Text and Caret. Neither one can do a proper search and/or replace. Text doesn't even offer replace. Caret's search and replace function only works on regular characters, it can't find line-feeds or tabs which makes it absolutely useless, absolutely useless I tell you.
    So I'm looking around and I'm not finding much, mostly a bunch of articles about the 'top 5 moronic editors for Chrome!' and the ilk, but I do find one cool thing: a bit of html code that will turn an empty tab on your browser into a text editor. It will look like nothing happened, but click on the empty page and you get a cursor. Start typing.
     You can bookmark this empty tab with the bit of secret sauce in the address bar and it will be there any time you need it. Admittedly, it is not a full featured editor, like my beloved AEDIT, but it's only one friggin' line of code.
    Beware: don't embed this special bit of code in some text that's going on the web, it is liable to make your whole page unreadable or something worse.


MacArthur Park Los Angeles California
Yes, namesake of the infamous song.
The LA Times has a story about an Oxycontin distribution ring that involves, well, just about everyone. The whole attitude of the story was one of 'oh dear, people are breaking the law and people are getting drugs and people are making money and this is just awful and how did it happen?' In other words, a whole lot of bullshit, which irritated me enough to comment:
There is something wrong with our country where people vote for the DEA, and on the other hand vote with cash for drugs. The DEA's mere existence is keeping many people in agony because their doctor is afraid to prescribe enough painkiller. Yes, some people become addicted, but the situation is not as bad as the prohibitionists would have you believe. This whole business of controlling the distribution of drugs was designed for our benefit, but its effect is to keep prices and profits high. As for overdoses, I suspect many of them are deliberate. There are situations where life can get so bad that dying is preferable.
Authorities seized over 6,500 plants with a value of over $9 million during Tuesday's operation.(Yamhill County Sheriff's Office)
While we were out of town last week, the police raided a marijuana farm in Dayton, Oregon, which is about thirty miles from here. WTF? Marijuana is legal here, why are they busting these guys? Something about licenses and regulations I guess.
     Pot (marijuana) shops are popping up all over the Portland metropolitan area and likewise, the alternative newspapers, the ones you can pick up for free at the newspaper boxes on the street, are full of ads for these pot shops. I suspect this is not going to end well. In a few years there will only be two pot shops in Portland, one on the Eastside and one on the West. Most people will be buying their pot in WalMart.


sudo or sudo not
sudo is a Linux command. It is used as a prefix for other commands. You use it when you are trying to do stuff you aren't supposed to be doing, like messing with system files, or installing malware. sudo, I suspect, stands for 'super user do', meaning the god of this computer installation is authorizing the execution of whatever command follows. It is not completely trusting however, it will ask you for the password in order to verify your godliness.
Via the FOSS newsletter. I still haven't figured out what FOSS stands for.

Cable snaps on USS Eisenhower during landing

Cable snaps on USS Eisenhower during landing

Notice the date on this video clip. This happened this year. Aircraft carriers have been using arresting cables for catching aircraft for over 80 years. They should have it down to a science. They know arresting wires are only good for so many catches before they need to be replaced (around 100, I believe). You don't want one to break like it did here. Not only is a  cable break going to threaten the aircraft it is supposed to be stopping, a broken cable is going to snap back and the loose ends are going to go flying across the flight deck smashing anything they encounter.
    So what happened? There was a problem with one of the shock absorbers (the Navy calls them engines) and guys who fixed it didn't get it quite right. The Virginian-Pilot has the story. Via Iaman.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Seven and a half cents or fight

Strike in Rhode Island, 1935, Leslie Jones
80 years ago the government dealt with strikers by bringing in the Army. Via Posthip Scott. Reminds me of Facebook Post by Tam from a couple of days ago:
For a full three quarters of this nation's history, it would have been the cops opening fire on the protestors and not the other way around.
Everybody needs to get some fucking perspective.

Treadmill Truck

Lopifit, an electric bike with a treadmill
Driving across the country I saw a great number of large trucks, trucks driven by people sitting in cushy seats for eight to ten hours a day. It's exhausting. This is my fourth day home and I am just now starting to feel human. If you are going to spend that much time sitting in a chair, getting a little exercise might be a good idea. So how about we put a treadmill in the cab of the truck? As evidenced by the bicycle above, it is possible to chew gum and walk at the same time. You would probably want to have a seat as welll, walking all day long could be even more exhausting than sitting. There are innumerable little issues that would have to be dealt with to make it safe, legal and accepted, but somebody should try it and let the rest of know how it works out.

August 8th

AUGUST 8th english trailer

I started watching this last night on Netflix. It's pretty great. The woman is a bit of a ditz, but no more than any average young mother, I suppose. She learns, adapts and manages. And she's lucky. Very important to be lucky in a war zone.


Three LEGO figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter (right), his wife Juno (middle) and Galileo Galilei (left) as shown here will fly to Jupiter on NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
In case you missed it, NASA's Juno probe arrived at Jupiter a couple of days ago.

Juno is big, much bigger than the probe we sent to Pluto. With its solar panels extended it is bigger than a basketball court.
Juno weighed 4 tons at launch. Cassini (our probe to Saturn) weighed 6 tons and was the size of a school bus. Saturn is too far from the Sun for solar panels to be of any use, so it used a plutonium power source.

Ira Hayes

Johnny Cash...The Ballad of Ira Hayes

Johnny Cash recorded this song in 1964, long before Clint Eastwood made his movies about Iwo Jima. I don't remember it, but then music, while endorsed as a cultural good by my parents, was not a big part of our lives.
    It's very weird how artists can make a statement in an extremely popular show, but it gets over-ridden, ignored, shouted down and trampled by the chatter boxes that provide much of our political discourse.

Prompted by a story on Timeline. Wikipedia article about Ira.

This and That

From Nothing to Say
I am back on my Chromebook, my Linux box died AGAIN last night. What's going on? Did I do something wrong? Is the motherboard at fault AGAIN? Things were going so well. I got a dual monitor stand, set it up and figured out how to change the orientation from 'landscape' to 'portrait'. I got Eclipse set up and working to the point where I could even use the debugger, which is a huge improvement over having to rely on embedding debug print statements to find out what's going on. I'm thinking of getting my wife another computer so that I can use her old one as a backup for mine, since mine is apparently unreliable.

Saturday, July 9, 2016


Theranos blood sample size vs. conventional blood sample

Story in the Wall Street Journal, complimentary dead tree edition, so no link, about Elizabeth Holmes and the implosion of Theranos, her multi-billion dollar blood testing empire. The story was a little short on real information so I went looking for more, but all I found was more of the same. They are all talking about it, but no one is telling us just what it is.

Proprietary equipment that the lab Theranos says delivers rapid blood analyses. Jim Wilson/The New York Times

    It is a machine that tests blood for any number of things using a very small sample. Has anyone seen this machine? (Okay, one guy took one picture, above) Has anyone tested it? Whatever machinery is inside is secret, but surely you could devise tests to determine whether it is delivering accurate results, and surely the government would require that of any kind of medical equipment, wouldn't they? Yes, no, maybe so. None of the stories I came across explained any of this.
    All of which makes me think this might be a smear campaign orchestrated by medical equipment establishment who want this upstart squashed. Do I have any evidence? No, I just have the feeling that I have seen this show before: rich guys at the top of big corporations squashing little upstarts just because they can. They might try and justify it to themselves and their henchman that they are protecting their interests, but they aren't really. They're just being big, fat pigs.
   On the other hand, Henry Kissinger, the king of the pigs, was on the board of Theranos, so there might be other forces in play here.