Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Biggest Aspidistra In The World

Gracie Fields The Biggest Aspidistra In The World 1938

Marcel got me started with this quote from Fake News by Richard Fernandez on PJ Media:
The reason why Allied deception operations were so effective against Hitler was because Goebbels had reduced German reporting to a lie machine, thereby destroying its credibility. Allied news, even Allied deception was more believable by comparison.
Cool, we're talking about veracity here, always an interesting topic. I want to read more. Starting from the top, Richard talks about the transmitter the Brits were using to pump propaganda across the channel:
It was not long before the British were running their own fake news operation against Nazi Germany under the 20 Committee. In this they were materially aided by the power of American technology. Rowen notes "If you ever listen to radio these days, you’ve probably heard “50,000 watts clear channel”. Today, as in the 1940s, it is still the maximum power allowed a US radio station. But in 1941, the RCA Corporation in New Jersey built for WJZ a transmitter 10 times more powerful. When the Federal Communication Commission refused to lift its ceiling of 50,000 watts, the WJZ 500,000 watt transmitter was briefly orphaned. Until the British heard about it. The transmitter was crated up, shipped to the UK and installed in bombproof headquarters in Sussex. They named it after a song sung by the English music hall entertainer, Gracie Fields: The Biggest Aspidistra in the World!"
That's how we got the video at the top. Gracie was a big deal back in the 1930s.

Now I go looking for information about the transmitter, and I'm not really finding much.

Water Cooled Vacuum Tubes for the Aspidistra transmitter
But then I stumble over the Alexanderson alternator: 50 tons of steampunk radio transmitter. This might be what prompted Gracie to sing her song.

Alexnderson Alternator
 An Alexanderson alternator is a rotating machine invented by Ernst Alexanderson in 1904 for the generation of high-frequency alternating current for use as a radio transmitter. It was one of the first devices capable of generating the continuous radio waves needed for transmission of amplitude modulation (sound) by radio. It was used from about 1910 in a few "superpower" longwave radiotelegraphy stations to transmit transoceanic message traffic by Morse code to similar stations all over the world. Although obsolete by the early 1920s due to the development of vacuum-tube transmitters, the Alexanderson alternator continued to be used until World War 2. It is on the list of IEEE Milestones as a key achievement in electrical engineering. - Wikipedia
Alexanderson Alternator Rotor
The rotor is five feet in diameter and turns at 2100 RPM.

Alexanderson Alternator Rotor
There is still one machine is Sweden. They fire it up a couple of times a year just so they can prove that it still works.

Merry Christmas in Morse Code
You can see the code just above the letters.

Update July 2021 replaced missing video.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Amsterdam, Part 2

Leading lights, left to right: Bobby Day (Robert Glenister), Lucy Cannonbury (Lesley Sharp), Alec Wayfield (Dino Fetscher), Nina Suresh (Indira Varma), Michael Niles (Neil Stuke)
We watched Paranoid, an eight part murder mystery series on Netflix this week. Despite the title, no one in the show exhibits any of the symptoms of paranoia, although given what's going on, maybe they should. But if 'they' are really out to get you, you aren't paranoid then, are you? There is an undercurrent of some nefarious evil running throughout the show, but it is pretty much overshadowed by all the front line crazy we see in every episode.

And we do have a nice sampling of front line crazy. Bobby suffers from panic attacks, Nina's biological clock is ticking and, presumably, that is what is behind her episodes of 'crazy woman' behavior. Lucy had some problems in the past but is working hard to stay calm.  Alec's mother is an inveterate* liar. Niles (the boss of the three detectives Alec, Bobby and Nina) deserves some sympathy since he is in charge of this squad of lunatics. Niles seems sane enough, but that might be because we haven't examined him too closely. This is just the main characters. We also have a whole town full of people, all of whom seem to have an affliction of one sort or another. Kind of like real life.

The story is set in a small town in England, but it is quickly established that the origins of this crime are in Amsterdam, where we find Linda Felber (Christiane Paul), the cheeriest detective you have ever met. She is a real bright spot on this otherwise dismal stage.

Amsterdam, Part 1, is S. G. Collins video about the Amsterdam transit system that was the subject of my last post. More Amsterdam posts here.

*having a particular habit, activity, or interest that is long-established and unlikely to change. "he was an inveterate gambler"

How Not To Do Mass Transit

'Don't kill my trams' met NLse ondertitels

I don't particularly care for mass transit, mostly because I am not willing to pay the exorbitant rent that is required to live in a place where it might actually be handy. Or maybe I just don't like being around other people. But I can see that it could be useful, especially in those places where traffic is congested and parking is non-existent.

This video does a good job of laying out the problems with mass transit planning. They are not unique to Amsterdam, they apply to any large city. I'm not quite sure what they mean by 'metropolis'. I thought any big city qualified as a metropolis, but maybe that's not the case. Maybe metropolii are not a good idea. Yes, I know, the idea of a city with a population of a zillion people is impressive, but I wonder if it is really good, useful or beneficial. Maybe we would all be better off if cities weren't any bigger than a million people and were at least 100 miles apart.

This video was made by S. G. Collins. I've been following him for a while now. He has a day job as a cameraman, and he produces his own little videos on the side. Some of them are pretty great.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How small can we go?

Watch my lips - Burton Pritzker/Getty
Google and the University of Oxford have developed a computer program that can read lips pretty darn accurately. That's good, I guess. Deaf people could use it to 'hear' what people are saying, though I suspect the bigger application will be the police listening to people's conversations.

We have computer programs that can understand speech, more or less, and programs that can interpret images, though that area still has a long way to go before it can compete with a human. So now I'm wondering how much computing power do you need to run these programs, and how small can you make these computers?

Smart phones are our current benchmark for high power in small spaces. It's a bit of a struggle to get all that power in that small of a package. So what I'm wondering is, if we could make our processors as efficient as we can imagine, how much computing power could you stuff into a smart-phone size package? Would it be enough to do everything you want it to do? Somehow I don't think so. There are always going to be tradeoffs, well, for the next thousand years or so anyway. By that time we may have settled on just what a hand-held device should contain.

Then there is whole hand-held thing. In Star Trek: The Next Generation communicators were something like a brooch pinned to the blouse (shirt?). All it took was one touch to activate and then everything was done by voice control (by your command). Having to use one hand just to hold a device so you can manipulate the controls with your other hand seems like a very bad design. There should be a better way, and maybe someday, someone will figure one out.

Star Trek Tricorder
All this talk about hand-held computers reminds me of the Star Trek Tricorder, which is where our smart phones might be headed. Qualcomm is running a contest to see if someone can develop a medical tricorder.

Thermal Imaging

How Hand Warmers Work (THERMAL IMAGING) - Periodic Table of Videos Periodic Videos

Kind of a cool video, and kind of a weird phenomena: having to have a perfectly clean container and solution. I'm still not sure what the click does to start the state transformation process, but I like the thermal images.

FLIR DM284 Imaging Multimeter with IGM
Yesterday I'm looking for a new multi-meter on Amazon and I come across one from FLIR that includes a thermal imaging camera. Since electronic failures are often heat related (a component gets hot because it is failing, or it fails because it has gotten too hot), I can see how that could be a useful feature for people who work with electronics. The price ($750) is a bit rich for me. I'm looking at the $15 models.

GHD Hair Straightener Iron
Me, I'm just trying to fix my daughter's hair-straightening iron (more heat). My immediate reaction to her report that it was broken was 'just buy another one'. I mean they only cost $30 or so. Well, yes and no. She's been down the $30 road and those devices don't last very long, so she went and sprung for a GHD hair iron for something like $150. It has lasted eight years, so maybe she knows what she's talking about.

There is a whole subculture out there involved in the repair of GHD hair irons. Unfortunately, mine seems to suffering from some kind of electronic ailment and there are no replacement circuit boards available.

Return of the Jetsons

Arconic Jetsons
Kathrin Jassmann

I used to watch The Jetsons, when? A million years ago? It was kind of a dumb show, along the lines of All In The Family, or Married... with Children, but the gee-whiz gadgets were kind of cool.

This video comes from Arconic, an aluminum manfucturing company. They are a spin-off of Alcoa. Where Alcoa is concerned with mining and smelting, Arconic is more into producing finished aluminum parts. To that end they have just installed a new stretching machine in their plant in Davenport, IowaStretching straightens the sheet and relieves stress. Like friction-stir welding, it is unique to aluminum processing. It isn't used with steel.

Arconic also has a plant in Indiana where they produce aluminum-lithium alloy. I had never heard of aluminum being alloyed with lithium before, but that's not saying much. I hadn't heard of aluminum-copper alloys until recently, and they've been in use for a hundred years.

Update May 2019 replaced missing video.
Update December 2022 replaced missing video.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pic of the Day

3rd Squadron Hell’s Angels, Flying Tigers over China, photographed in 1942 by AVG pilot Robert T. Smith. (AVG - American Volunteer Group)
The airplanes are Curtiss P-40 Warhawks.

Via Posthip Scott, except he didn't tell me where he got it. When I looked all I found was a bunch of flak about a new paint scheme for some football helmets. I had to do some digging to get any kind of reference. Just to be clear,  I don't give rat's patootie what anybody's football helmet looks like. Effing Google.

Trump & Obama, Redux

President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama shook hands after meeting for the first time in the Oval Office Thursday. - Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associate Press
I didn't know how to describe Donald and Barack's expressions when I posted this the first time, but Ann Romano does:
The pair posed together shaking hands with the same expressions they’d have if they were holding a rotting trout.

Click Click Click Click

Click me.
Very entertaining illustration of how much data a website can extract from your computer. Via Detroit Steve.

Venezuelan Bolivar exchange rate black market

Venezuela’s Nemesis Is a Hardware Salesman at a Home Depot in Alabama
The Wall Street Journal has the story.
HOOVER, Ala.—Public Enemy No. 1 of Venezuela’s revolutionary government is Gustavo Díaz, a Home Depot Inc. employee in central Alabama.
Gustavo got to be so popular by starting a website, dolartoday, that publishes the current black market exchange rate for the Venezuelan Bolivar.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tidal Power

2 Megawatt Tidal Power Turbine being deployed in Minas Passage
Posthip Scott sent me a link to a video about the FORCE tidal power project, and while it's a very nice video it doesn't really tell you much. The problem might be that nobody has gotten one of these things to work reliably. It's kind of like the old immovable object versus the irresistible force problem. People keep trying to make these things because the potential is enormous, but the ocean doesn't care. It would just as soon sweep everyone and everything out to sea. The Globe and Mail has a decent story.

Tidal Power Projects in Northeast North America
All that I found.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Return of Amenhotep

Cheops Pyramid with Camel
I'm thinking about business and unemployment and I think I figured out why we have problems.

We start with a stable situation. Everybody's a farmer, everybody works, everybody eats, everybody has a house to sleep in, everybody works hard, everybody dies young.

Then somebody comes up with an idea. Could be most anything. We sharpen our scythes every day instead of just once a week, we use scythes made of iron instead of lead, we work together in teams to harvest one field at a time instead of everybody struggling alone with their own field. I don't know, could be anything.

So now we don't need quite so many people doing the work. Small changes might not actually put anyone out of work, it might just make things a little easier for some people.

It's when you get a disruptive technology, like a combine, then things get messy. Now all the people who used to work harvesting the crops are out of work, but the price of bread has fallen so that almost everyone can afford to buy it instead of making it, well, everyone except those people who aren't working anymore because their jobs have disappeared.

To build a combine, or any other disruptive technology, takes a sizable capital investment and entails a certain amount of risk. Not all business ventures succeed, so people are leery of investing in them, which is to say that there isn't enough money to gamble on new ventures to keep everyone employed all the time.

During WW2 and during the 1950's, things might have been different. There was a huge amount of money being invested in new production machinery, and a lot of the machinery was very elementary, at least as it is seen from today. To look at it another way, it didn't take a whole lot of capital to start a factory that would employ a thousand people, probably one percent of what it would take today. Sure there's been inflation, but the machinery has gotten a lot more complex and a lot more expensive.

And it doesn't last as long. I'm going to venture that to say that half of the factories we build these days are obsolete before they are halfway through their expected lifespan, and thus, while they may have paid off their build costs, they are not going to generate all the profit that was expected.

This is how wars get started. It's also how the communists get started. You've got a mass of people with nothing to do. They are probably better off than they were, they have bread to eat that they didn't have to make, but they don't have anything to do. And they see or hear about other people putting jam on their bread and they want some jam too, but they don't have a job, so no jam for you.

So then some demagogue comes along and says 'we deserve jam, too' and we're going to stir up shit until we get what we want. And the unemployed, because they have nothing better to do, jump right in on that program.

So the moral of this story is that if you are going to introduce a disruptive technology (like sending all of our assembly jobs to China), you need a program to keep the newly unemployed busy, and it needs to be a program they can believe in, not something everyone despises and denigrates.

And that's why the democrats lost. There isn't anything of substance in liberal policy, nothing you can hang your hat on. It basically all boils down to 'let's be nice to each other', and people basically got tired of listening to that horseshit. We want something to do, and if you're not going to give us something to do, well, we'll go find something to do. Devil finds work for idle hands as they say, and that's how riots get started and whole sections of town get destroyed. It's not because people are broke or unemployed, it's because they don't have anything to believe in.

Our scientific / capitalist society is founded on doubt: will that work? Well, let's try it and find out. People operate on faith, faith that what worked yesterday is going to work today, because most of what we do we do on autopilot, there is very little that requires conscious thought and besides, there are distractions and distractions use up most of our quota of daily thought. That's why it can be very difficult to get a drone, someone doing a repetitive job, to actually think about your problem: they are hoarding their mental energy for important stuff, like lunch, or their boy/girl-friend.

Personally, I am in favor of bringing back the sun god, and the belief that everyone needs an enormous stone tomb. We need to start a program for building pyramids like they did in the old days, by hand. It would give the unemployed something to do, and more importantly, something to believe in.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Singapore Jet Fighter Exercise

RSAF Exercise Torrent 2016 - Montage

The Repulbic of Singapore Air Force conducted an exercise that included operating jet fighters from a public road. The video shows how much trouble it is to prepare a roadway for use as a runway for supersonic aircraft. The best part though is the title of the soundtrack: Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans

The Black Tower

I Like It Rough (The Intendant, Deep Space Nine)
Song is I Like it Rough by Lady Gaga

Earlier this week a memory of Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) as The Intendant resurfaced in my mind. Kira was a character on Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Normally Kira is normally one of the good guys (girls), but her role as The Intendant takes place in a mirror universe (in Star Trek all things are possible), and in this mirror universe she is a sadistic killer and a sexual hedonist. Watching her it doesn't take long to be both attracted and repelled.

Yesterday I picked up The Black Tower and started rereading it and one of the first things that jumps out at me is Intendant. Did a future event trigger my memory of Kira Nerys? Weird, man.

Napoleon Bonaparte in the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire in Saint-Cloud - François Bouchot 1840.
This was the end of the French Revolution and beginning of Napoleon's rule.
18 Brumaire is November 10, 1799. The French Revolution created their own calendar.

So I'm reading along and Vidocq and Doctor Carpentier take a trip to Saint Cloud, a suburb just across the Seine River from Paris. Everybody says it is ten miles from Paris, but nobody ever says which way, so why did I think it was to the East? In fact, it is West.

Estate of Saint Cloud - Étienne Allegrain 17th Century

In any case the Château de Saint-Cloud is there. It done got blowed up in 1870, but at the time of our story, which is in the early 1800's, it's still there. This is the second time the War of 1870 has popped up this week. The first time occured when Jack tells me he has found the bayonet for his old French training rifle. Weird, man.

Saint Cloud has pretty much always been a hang out for rich people. But back in the 18th century there was a porcelain factory. Start reading about china (porcelain) and there is no end to it. There is soft paste porcelain, hard paste, bone china, Chinese porcelain and fritware. I stopped there, it was getting to be too much.
     It was big business and a big deal. And if you think about it, it kind of makes sense. If you don't have dishes made of china, what do you use? You could use pewter, but that's a metal, and metal back then was expensive. There was no plastic. Surely they had pottery, so what was so special about porcelain? Stronger and lighter? Kind of like having a car with an aluminum body instead of steel? No real functional advantage, but gives your status a little boost and that, as I am slowly learning, can be more important than any real physical advantage.

Update June 2019 corrected spelling errors.
Update July 2022 replaced missing video and removed this line describing the original video:
The last line, spoken in the last few seconds (2:40), sums up the character perfectly.

Factoid of the Day

Oxygen Molecule (O2)

Water Molecule (H2O)

Nitrogen Molecule (N2)
Airlines sometimes cancel flights due to high temperatures (like 104 degrees Fahrenheit). I can understand this, hot air is less dense, so when it's hot outside airplanes need longer takeoff runs to get airborne. So if the length of the takeoff run exceeds the length of runway, you shouldn't try and take off. But then I come across a statement that high humidity can make air less dense as well and my immediate reaction was that can't be. Humid air can be opressive, it has got to be more dense that dry air, right? No, it's not:
The amount of water vapor in the air also effects the density. Water vapor is a relatively light gas when compared to diatomic Oxygen and diatomic Nitrogen. Thus, when water vapor increases, the amount of Oxygen and Nitrogen decrease per unit volume and thus density decreases because mass is decreasing.
The two most abundant elements in the troposphere are Oxygen and Nitrogen. Oxygen has an 16 atomic unit mass while Nitrogen has a 14 atomic units mass. Since both these elements are diatomic in the troposphere (O2 and N2), the atomic mass of diatomic Oxygen is 32 and the diatomic mass of Nitrogen is 28.
Water vapor (H2O) is composed of one Oxygen atom and two Hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen is the lightest element at 1 atomic unit while Oxygen is 16 atomic units. Thus the water vapor atom has an atomic mass of 1 + 1 + 16 = 18 atomic units. At 18 atomic units, water vapor is lighter than diatomic Oxygen (32 units) and diatomic Nitrogen (28 units). Thus at a constant temperature, the more water vapor that displaces the other gases, the less dense that air will become. - Jeff Haby

Field Goal

Chicago,  October 28, American Airlines Flight 383
An NTSB report issued a week after the fire said one of the fractures on the turbine disk of the engine was "consistent with fatigue cracking." Takeoff was aborted due to the "uncontained engine failure" that led to fuel pooling under the plane's right wing, which then burst into flames, authorities said.
One piece of the turbine disk went through the inboard section of the right wing, over the fuselage and into a UPS warehouse facility more than a half-mile away. Another piece was found about 1,600 feet away, but it was still on O'Hare property, authorities said.
Via FlightAware 

Friday, November 18, 2016

The English Girl by Daniel Silva

The English Girl by Daniel Silva
I like Daniel Silva's books, well, I liked both of the ones I've read. I finished this one in two days. It's not a great book, but it's pretty good. It is not totally smooth, the ride is a little rough, but there weren't any of those giant potholes that cause me to curse in disgust. For instance, I started reading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson a few months back and things were going along swimmingly until I got about half way through the book and the President of the United States shows up and we (by which I mean the characters in the story) start having some kind of bullshit discussion. I had to put the book aside it was so repulsive. Given Neal's skill as a writer, I presume that is the effect he was trying to achieve. It's just that in my case it worked too well. I still want to finish that book, but it is going to take some determination to wade through this section, which I am hoping is short. If it goes on for too much longer I will be forced to toss it on the reject pile. Anyway, enough about Seveneves, let's get back to The English Girl.

It's an espionage thriller that takes place in Europe (France and England) and Moscow. Did you know that Corsica is part of France? I'm not sure I did. We've got some tradecraft, some politics and some travelogue. We get some history of some of the characters and there is a certain amount of violence, which is part and parcel of the espionage business. The tradecraft might be the most interesting part. Not all of it makes perfect sense, but you can see how a lot of it would work, especially given the resources on hand. The political slant is pro-West. Iran gets a special mention as a villain, even though we never go there. Russia is the big villain in this story. I wish I had a clearer picture of that situation.

In the book and in reality, Russia is trying to claw it's way back to being a global superpower, and they aren't above throwing their weight around, but not I'm sure attacking Europe would buy them anything but grief. But then, who know's what Putin is thinking? The West has a 200 year lead on the rest of world in learning how to run a democracy. Faulting Asia for being ruled by tyrants is akin to criticizing cave men for using stone axes. Asia is going to continue producing horror stories for a long time to come. Maybe in a hundred years they might come around to democracy. But by then we might have fallen under the spell of a despot.

Aurora Forecast

Aurora Forecast - OVATION-Prime Model
Cap'n, our hemispheric power is down to almost nothin', I doan think we'll be seeing any lights in the sky tonight. Via Detroit Steve.

A Desperate Grasp for the Actionable

A Desperate Grasp for the Actionable

The Wreck of the Seahorse

The Wreck of the East Indiaman 'Dutton' in Plymouth Sound, 26 January 1796
The scenes at Kinsale Head when the Lord Melville grounded 20 years later must have been similar.
200 years ago (now almost 201), three troop transports collided with Ireland's copper coast. Over 500 people were drowned. Posthip Scott sends us a link to Thomas Redding's account of the disaster. The Lancashire Infantry Museum has a more complete, and horrific, version of the story.

Ireland's Copper Coast
Map of locations mentioned in the linked stories.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Paul Bernhard RIP

Mr Pork Chop Man on RAGBRAI XXXIV

Mr. Pork Chop, aka Paul Bernhard, has passed away. He ran quite an operation. He had a crew of half a dozen guys doing the work and he would do the vocal advertising. Their grill was like a four foot cube open on one side, the grill on top, and a pile of charcoal burning in the center. The did a land office business in pork chops every day, and they were tasty! I posted this video once before. Surprised myself.

Pic of the Day

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Africa

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


We have a satellite hanging out around Lagrange point 1, taking pictures of the sun.
LASCO (Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph) is able to take images of the solar corona by blocking the light coming directly from the Sun with an occulter disk, creating an artificial eclipse within the instrument itself. The position of the solar disk is indicated in the images by the white circle. The most prominent feature of the corona are usually the coronal streamers, those nearly radial bands that can be seen both in C2 and C3. Occasionally, a coronal mass ejection can be seen being expelled away from the Sun and crossing the fields of view of both coronagraphs. The shadow crossing from the lower left corner to the center of the image is the support for the occulter disk.
C2 images show the inner solar corona up to 8.4 million kilometers (5.25 million miles) away from the Sun.
C3 images have a larger field of view: They encompass 32 diameters of the Sun. To put this in perspective, the diameter of the images is 45 million kilometers (about 30 million miles) at the distance of the Sun, or half of the diameter of the orbit of Mercury. Many bright stars can be seen behind the Sun.
Via Detroit Steve.

Let's Drive to Mt. Everest

Kah Chuan Hoong drives from Singapore to Mt. Everest.
Come on, it'll be fun. Just for grins, I asked Google to plot a route for me. It wouldn't do the whole thing in one fell swoop, and even for short distances (like Singapore to Bangkok), it suggests flying. But giving it one piece at a time, it manages to cover the entire route. It did have some trouble crossing the border into China, but we got around it. Of course I don't know if this is the route Mr. Crazy Man took, but it shows that Google at least thinks there are roads that go all the way.

It's only 4,000 miles, give or take.
There are two base camps at Mt. Everest, one in Nepal and one in China. There is a road to the one in China. There don't seem to be any roads to the one in Nepal. Matter of fact, it looks like the only way in or out is via air.

Head-light-bulb replacement 2008 Hyundai Sonata

High beam bulb with electrical connector attached. See the little silver tab at the top of the opening in the black plastic connector? Push that to release the bulb. A screwdriver works well for this.
Headlight burned out on the Hyundai. This happened once before so we should be able to fix it easily enough. The bulbs are concealed under black plastic cups, that much I remember. Getting the cup off is easy, and getting bulb out of its socket is not too bad. It's held in with a little spring wire rat-trap arrangement. Just push down and to one side and off it pops. 'Down' actually means towards the front of the car, and 'sideways' means up. It just depends on your orientation. Bending over the front of the car and hanging your head down till you are looking forward is the only way you can see anything. Now all we have to do is pull off the electrical connector. Easy, once you figure out that you have to push the little metal tab. We pick up a new bulb at Freddies and plug it in, but it doesn't fix the problem. The headlight is still burned out. That was Sunday evening.

Headlight bulbs, low-beam on left, high-beam on right
Today I took another look at the problem. Problem is that it is the low-beam bulb that was burned out and we replaced the high-beam.  Doh!

Lightbulb bases, lowbeam on left, highbeam on right
High-beam and low-beams have separate covers. The low-beam cover is a little more difficult to get off, but not too bad. I'm working on the passenger side bulb. Unclipping the radiator overflow tube and pushing it to one side improves access. Getting the light bulb out is not too bad, a little wiggling, a little jiggling and out it comes. The connector on this one just slides off, no secret handshake required.

Low beam compartment, rat-trap sprung, electrical connector pulled loose, bulb removed.  We're looking at it upside down. The windshield washer filler cap is the blue thing in the lower right corner.
The red 'wire' is actually the hook from the bungee cord I employed to hold the wires out of the way. See the two little prongs sticking up just to the right of where the yellow wire disappears? The tab on the base of the bulb goes in between these two prongs.
But now, getting the bulb back in place, that's another story. First step is do not connect the electrical plug first, save that for later. The rat-trap spring is a nice, cheap, secure way to secure the bulb, but when it's not doing its job, it wants to get in the way. Push it gently to the side. Since it is cheap, it sometimes wants to jam and and not swing all the way clear. A little wiggle and jiggle helps here. And hope it stays there. Any breath of air will cause it to swing back over the hole and block your way. Now, without breathing, slide the bulb into the hole, paying attention to the tab on the bulb base and the prongs on the socket. When you have it in position, now you can swing the rat-trap over and press down (forward) and down (down) to latch it.

Low beam bulb in place, rat-trap secured. Wires still hanging out. The two prongs mentioned above are visible on either side of the electrical contacts on the base of the bulb. Note that the bulb doesn't actually go in the hole, it just sits on top of it.
Got it all plugged in and tested it and it works, but now the high-beam, the one we replaced on Sunday isn't working. Guess I have some more work to do.

Tools I used: droplight, mirror, screwdriver, bungee cord.
There are several videos on YouTube that cover this same subject. One of them advocates removing the entire headlamp assembly. That is a more straight forward approach and probably a lot less fiddly. Your choice. The video has some good close up shots of all the nasty little bits, so it's worth viewing even if you don't decide to do it that way.

Watering Can

The un-watering can
Spotted this sitting on a table at a friend's house. On one hand, it looks kind of cool, the handle is made of the same tubing as the spout. Closer inspection reveals that the tube that forms the handle is the same one that forms the spout. It is all one tube. It comes out of the top, goes over, down and back in the bottom and then continues across the bottom and then out the other side where it forms the spout. It really doesn't make any sense. But then the owner is in marketing and it is entirely possible that they needed a slick watering can for a prop for one of their campaigns and had this thing custom made for this one job, and now that it's over it's decorating his house.


Grocer's Price Tag, Front Grocer's Price Tag, Back
Walking out of Freddie's a week or so ago with a grocery cart full of groceries and I hear a beeping sound. Don't think much of it, the world is full of electronical gizmos that are always clamoring for attention. But it was a little odd. The timing led me to suspect it was the anti-shop-lifting scanner that was hollering. That's weird, because we don't have anything but food in our cart, nothing like some expensive electronical gadget which are the items that usually get tagged this way. (All them electronical gadgets got to stick together, you know, otherwise how are they going to take over the world?)

We get home and Osmany opens the roast and discovers the source of the alarm. Huh. So people are stealing meat now? I'm glad the economy is improving. It is improving, isn't it?

Bhor Ghat

One Hell Of A Climb by Chennai Express at Khandala Hill Station, Bhor Ghats (4K Resolution)

I'm looking for a picture of the Express Train to Hell [tm], and I come across this video (above). It's doesn't look like anything special, but watching it I realize this train is just cresting a very steep hill. It's passenger train, so it's fairly short and light, but it has two locomotives: a diesel at the front and an electric one at the rear. Presumably, this is normally an electric train, but they have enlisted the help of the diesel to climb this hill.

I do a little more poking around and find that this railway dates back to the 1860's when the British were just getting started building the network of railroads all over India. Getting the railroad over this pass was a major challenge. 25,000 Indians died during construction, mostly from disease. Sounds like the project to build the Panama canal. Also led to the death of the chief engineer, James John Berkley.

The Bhore Ghaut Incline
Imperialism Pioneer Of Capitalism by Bill Warren

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Swing Republic - Together (feat. Artie Shaw)

When I was in grade school I took up the clarinet. I was never any good at it. I suspect that was because whatever sounds I made never sounded like music to me. They were just a series of notes. The notes were written on the page, I moved my fingers and blew and sound came out. But it never sounded like a tune to me. I don't know what it sounded like to anybody else. Nobody complained, but nobody complimented me either. 

I also remember making an elaborate crayon drawing of a band playing on stage and the guy in front playing the clarinet. 

I do not remember what inspired me to choose the clarinet or make that drawing, and since then I have not heard anybody playing a clarinet that made any impression. That is, until I heard this song by Electro Swing Republic featuring Artie Shaw. Now that clarinet caught my ear but good. Artie Shaw is from the big band / swing music era, but that's all I know. I pulled up a YouTube video of Artie playing Alone Together, but it doesn't seem to be the same tune. I don't know where Electro Swing found this tune, but I think I may have found my clarinet inspiration.

Financial Pests

Walter White, businessman, counting his loot, er, legitimate profits
He's only here because I needed a pic for this post, and this one's pretty cool.
I've been using the online bill payer service at First Tech FCU for years and in general it has worked pretty well. Recently (five or ten years ago?), First Tech merged with a similar outfit in California. I didn't like that because, well, bigger, and well, California. But I understand how it might make good business sense to do that. The only problem I ran into with this change was that checks I deposited by mail took a week to show up in my checking account. Previously it took a couple of days. Okay, fine, I can make a trip to the ATM and deposit the check there.

Recently though they have overhauled their bill pay website and what was once a little clunky but fully functional has turned into a pile of slick looking crap. I've been dunning them to no effect, but yesterday I got a message that tells me that they are not running their own bill paying service, they are farming the actual work out to someone else. Criminently, is it really that hard to find competent programmers? And then I realized, no, that's not the problem, they just don't want to pay them. And besides, Blizzard Entertainment is a sucking whirlpool that is consuming all the programming talent within a zillion miles.

So today I'm looking for a new service and right away I come across something called PayTrust and the next thing I find is a two star (out of five) review on Yelp. Seems PayTrust was started by Intuit / Quicken umpteen years ago and while it may have been the cat's pajamas then, Intuit seems to have lost interest.

Not too long ago Intuit bought Mint (formerly Check, formerly Pageonce). Is Mint any better than Paytrust? I don't know. Intuit evidently thought it was worth buying, but all that means is they think it's going to make money for them. Given their history, I expect them to run it into the ground, but given the scale of these enterprises that is liable to take a decade or so, and by then someone will have created something even more "wonderful".

The Balance has a recent (August this year) review of bill paying services. Top of their list is PayTrust, the same service that got slammed on Yelp.  Next is another service from Intuit, and farther down the list is another one. They also mention MyCheckFree and Yodlee MoneyCenter about which I know nothing.

Of course, the hot ticket in bill paying is Smart Phone Apps, which I am unlikely to embrace, mostly because the dang phones cost $50 a month to operate. If your credit card is giving you one percent back on all purchases (another modern trend that I totally despise), how much do you have to spend every month to pay for your smart phone? That would be $5,000. I wonder if I can pay my mortgage with my credit card.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Pic of the Day

Ford GT via Road & Track
The original Ford GT, the GT-40, won the 24 hours or Le Mans four years in a row from 1966 to 1969, the same four years I was in high school. No wonder I think it's the coolest car in the world, and I think aluminum 427 cubic inch V-8 engines are gods gift to everyman.

Leonard Cohen RIP

Leonard Cohen 1934-2016
Obituary here, via Posthip Scott. I first came across Leonard when I heard Everybody Knows while watching the movie Exotica. I noticed him again when he sang the opening song for the second season of True Detective. Great stuff.

Leonard Cohen - Everybody Knows

About fifteen years ago his former manager stole all his money. Eventually Leonard discovered he was broke and so went back to touring. Hard work for an old man, but good for everyone who got to hear him. Near as I can tell, nobody has figured out where the money (five million dollars) went.