Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Illusionists

The Illusionists
Playing at Keller Auditorium this week. Tonight was opening night in Portland and it was a great show. All us super-nerdy technologists know that there is no such thing as magic. Some magicians make use of special equipment to facilitate some tricks, and slight of hand accomplishes things that are apparently impossible, but a magicians stock in trade is misdirection: getting you to watch what he's showing you, while is other hand is busy stuffing the rabbit into the hat.

But there were some tricks performed this evening that I really have no idea how they were done. Oh, I can imagine all kinds of arcane methods, but dang, these guys were good. They did some things that were just flat out impossible.

The MC (the Trickster) was comedic tour-de-force. His stage persona was gay and he played it to the hilt. He was hilarious.

There were eight (or nine?) different magicians and each had a unique act. There was an escape artist who modeled himself after Houdini, though he forgoes the strait jacket and being wrapped in chains. But then he does this five nights a week, so I can forgive him for not really risking his life. Well, it was risky being hung by your ankles, upside down in a tank of water. I probably wouldn't have been able to pick the lock on the handcuffs in that situation.

There was a trick shot artist who did not perforate either of his lovely young assistants with his crossbow bolts, and a guy who managed to conceal about a hundred decks of cards in his clothes. I mean he was pulling cards out the air and throwing them away for the better part of, oh, I dunno, how long does it take to throw away a hundred decks of cards, a quarter deck at a time?

There was a mind reading act by Sherlock Holmes, and the scientist who put people together out of body parts. There was a guy dressed as, I dunno, a corpse? A death metal rocker? Is there such a thing as death metal? Kind of reminded me Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker. He was really good. His act was full of all kinds of bizarre and ridiculous stuff, designed to make you think he is an incompetent flake, and then something miraculous happens. How did this weirdo pull this off?

I'm missing at least one. If I remember I will update this.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


Matthew McConaughey and Edgar Ramírez in Gold (2016)
My wife and I were planning to go see the 4PM showing of Gold with Matthew McConaughey this afternoon. About 3PM, dearest wife tells me she is going to go take a nap. Her naps are always short, so it should not be a problem. But since she's going to take a nap, I take this as an opportunity to catch a little shut eye myself.

I wake up a 5:30PM. When I find my wife she tells me that she thought Kathryn and I were studying Chemistry in the basement. When I find Kathryn, she tells me she thought Mom and I went to the movies. Our communication skills are second to none.

But now it's Chemistry time and we need some distilled water. We go rooting around in all the obscure cupboards underneath of sinks and find bumpkis. Fine, we'll go to the store and buy some stupid distilled water. So we enlist Osmany to drive, since he now has a license and insurance, and we head over to Plaid Pantry, the closest retail establishment that might possible stock distilled water. We are 3/4 of the way there when Osmany realizes what we are after and tells us that he has some squirreled away in the choo-choos. Oh, right, back when he was on his coin cleaning rampage. So right turn back to the house instead of a left turn to Plaid Pantry. Like I said, our communication skills are second to none.

A word about choo-choo's, or maybe chew-choose, because that's what it sounds like. Osmany is working on his English, but it's hard row to hoe, and sometimes we just need a word to fill in the place of the object and the word of choice these days is choo-choo's. This is a little weird because in that Russian Science Fiction movie I was watching the other day (the title, to me, is unpronounceable, which makes it difficult to remember, something with a bunch of K's, D's and Z's), the natives of the alien planet have words for some specific things, but for everything else the word is 'Koo'.

Now it could be that they have a tonal language and speaking the word at one pitch conveys a different meaning than the same word spoken at a different pitch, but since I didn't grow up with a tonal language, it is unlikely I will ever detect the difference. There might be some inflection, and I think I would be able to pick up on that. So one word can fill a number of roles in spoken speech. Just look at what we do with fuck.

A Real Stand-Up Friend

Wondermark by David Malki
Aren't people wonderful?

Globalization in the Age of Amenhotep

Sunday Bizarro by Dan Piraro

Saturday, January 28, 2017

What version of Linux am I running?

c@c-H97N ~ $ uname -a
Linux c-H97N 4.4.0-53-generic #74-Ubuntu SMP Fri Dec 2 15:59:10 UTC 2016 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
c@c-H97N ~ $ uname -r
c@c-H97N ~ $ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID: LinuxMint
Description: Linux Mint 18.1 Serena
Release: 18.1
Codename: serena
c@c-H97N ~ $

This question keeps popping up, and while the last time I went down this road I was trying to find out whether I had the 32 or 64-bit version of the operating system, now I need to know the version-version. I only installed this thing a week or two ago, you'd think I'd remember, and I think I do, but do I really? With computers, thinking that you know something is often the prelude to a long, tedious, wild goose chase through a swamp filled with aligators. Better to find out for sure before you start hunting in the past for something that hasn't happened yet.

There are two commands in the above terminal session:
  • uname
  • lsb_release
The -a suffix I believe means all. You will notice that the -r suffix on the uname command returns a subset of what it returned with the -a suffix. There are probably other suffixes that can tell you all kinds of things, like what brand of undies your grandma wore, but we have enough for now, so we'll move on.

Reconstructing the terminal session so it was actual text (instead of a fuzzy screenshot) took some fiddling. I finally figured out that using the div tag instead of span would fill out the lines all the way across the page and make the black block contiguous.

Start by pasting the text from the terminal session. Highlight the first line and set the font, text color and background color. Now go into html mode, change the span tag to div.  Move the closing div tag to the end of the block of text, and presto, the whole block has white text on a black background.

Now you can highlight the prompt (c@c-H97N ~ $) and change the color(s) there.

Oh Yeah

☘️🎼🎧💋🍀Yello Oh Yeah Remix 2016☘️🎼🎧💋🍀
۶Ania۶ ۶ Es۶

Story in the WSJ this morning about how this song has made a fortune for the writer, a fortune so large that he was able to buy a 400 square mile ranch in Argentina. Unfortunately, the story is behind a paywall, but they have a video that gives some highlights.

I don't recognize the title, so I go look it up on YouTube and I am severely disappointed. It's not really a song at all, it's more like background music, which might explain why I didn't recognize the title, or even the tune (if there is one). The only recognizable feature is the deep bass voicing of the title phrase. So if this tune didn't make it to the top of the pop charts, how did it make so much money? By being background music in a whole bunch of movies and videos.

This video (above) is all jiggly girls and fast cars, the two things most likely to garner an exclamation of 'Oh Yeah' from male observers. Males, at some level, are very simple creatures. In any case, here is a little light entertainment to start your day.

Update January 29th (the next day) rewrote some, added some.
Update March 2019 replaced missing video.
Update July 2022 replaced missing video.

John Hurt (1940–2017)

John Hurt (1940–2017)
I am writing this because some people were telling me that John Hurt was in Midnight Express and The Elephant Man, and I'm saying no, William Hurt wasn't in either of those movies. We are all right except for the part where I mixed up John and William mostly because I remember William but while I recognize John from his picture, his name never registered on my internal list of celebrites.

So I'm looking at the huge list of shows (205) John played in and there are a few I remember.

And no, John and William are not related. That would be too weird.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Come Fly With Me

1910 Bleriot XI SE-AMZ
Or not, the 1910 Bleriot is a single seater. Photo taken near Flugplatz Hahnweide Airport (EDST) located in Kirchheim unter Teck, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.


Kin Dza Dza by grimmy3d
Kin-Dza-Dza! is a Russian Science Fiction movie from 1986. I watched it on YouTube, part 1 is here, part 2 is here. It is pretty wacko. Two guys from Moscow get magically transported to a desert. Is it another planet, or just a different part of Earth? Looks like Earth, feels like Earth, breathing air, like Earth, and they soon run into some human appearing natives. So, Earth. But the behavior of these natives is so very odd that doubt begins to creep in. More evidence comes along and, hey, maybe this is not Earth at all.

The natives seem to be a miserable lot, dirty, bedraggled, lacking in morals, common sense, and logical thought, but full up on the apparently idiotic forms of cultural mannerisms. They have undreamed of technology at their beck and call: fly half way across the galaxy instantaneously at the push of a button, or slice a twelve inch steel pipe in half at a distance of a 100 yards. But a simple thing like a match is apparently worth more than all the tea in China.

Kind of reminds me of Europeans in the age of exploration. Natives of other lands might have been overawed by European technology, but could not understand the Europeans fascination with things the natives thought of as ordinary. A good lesson on cultural differences.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Gili Air, Tamarind Tree; Lombok 2009
While Osmany is working his way through the produce section, I look around. At the end of a wine aisle I see a bottle from God King Slave. The paperback books are on sale:  buy three (or was it two?) and get one free. I hope this doesn't presage the end of the paperback section, not that I buy books there very often. Paperbacks are now $10, which is a little rich for my blood.

I check out the corkscrews. There are a couple for $10 and one for twenty. Kind of spendy for a simple tool, and I want one that works really well, and without a demonstration or some reviews by people who have actually used one, I am not convinced. Amazon here I come.

So now I'm wondering if I am old, or poor or just cantankerous. Inflation seems to be getting stronger every day, witness the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching some new milestone. My theory is that the interest that the government is accruing every year is basically sucking the life blood out of our currency. Multiply the government debt by the wages paid to working people and divide by the square root of Beezlebub and you will see that I am right.

In the produce section I find some Tamarindos, which I suspect contain Tamarind seeds, which reminds that there was a book by that title, and it turns out a movie as well.  So based on this feeble connection (I mean all I remember is the title, I don't remember actually seeing the movie or reading the book. It was kind of a long time ago.) I bought one. A tamorindo that is, not the book.

When we are checking out the cashier tells us that she used to eat these things, pod and all, though the ones she ate were fresh, or green, not dried up husks like the one we had. She was at pains to find the words to describe fresh versus dried, which makes me think she might be a recent immigrant, which was kind of odd because her English was accent free. Osmany told her the name of this weird dried up thing we had but his accented pronunciation went right by her, apparently incomprehensible. I would like to find out where she came from. And yes, she is young and attractive.

But back to the Tamarindo itself. Osmany tells me the taste is very strong. The cashier says they are very sour, and she likes them. To each their own. I am not quite sure what I am going to do with the one I bought. I've already gotten my money's worth out of it, any actual use would be a bonus. We'll see if any ideas pop up.

Could be Worse

TurboTax - Humpty Fall (Super Bowl 2017 Commercial)

All the King's Men, heh. Modern medicine gets a lot of grief for all kinds of things, but there are some things they do get right.

Update June 2017 replaced missing video.


Royal Quiet De Luxe (1946)
Once upon a time I read that a woman typist would burn as many calories as a man shoveling coal. At the time it seemed believable, all that hammering away on those mechanical keys, thousands of keystrokes per hour, having to scan all those pages of input, sure, that's going to burn a bunch of calories. A man shoveling coal is only making a few large moves while the typist makes hundreds of small ones.

But now Post-hip Scott has sent me a list of writers and the their favorite typewriters, and I would like to know whether there is any truth to this rumor I concocted. A little checking tells me that, no, it's not true. A man shoveling coal burns upwards of 400 Calories an hour, a typist might rise to 90 Calories per hour.

Stephen Bray on Blokes on the Blog quotes a 1958 JAMA report:
A 5-foot-3, 120-pound typist used up 88 calories per hour operating a mechanical typewriter compared to 73 calories per hour on its electric counterpart. Assuming six hours of typing per day, that means 450 fewer calories burned per week. If all else stayed the same, a pound would be gained every 10 weeks, or five pounds a year.
Following the AMA links in Stephen's story got me to the abstract, but not to actual report. On one hand it's kind of annoying. I mean what happened to sharing useful information? On the other hand, the internet is awash with all kinds of activities designed to divert the truth, so I can understand the AMA wanting to maintain control over their information.

Bonus: Kat has an entertaining story about typewriters versus computers.


Tiny, Robotic Bees Could Change the World | National Geographic

I'm reading Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway and it's pretty great. It's got everything you'd want in a fantastic adventure story, including mechanical steampunk bees. The mechanical bees in the video aren't very steampunk, but they are being built by modern fellows using modern techniques, not by old school watchmakers.

Caught in the Machine

Look up Oxycodone on the web and you will be flooded with blather about addiction and 'accidental' overdoses. But you can also find this coupon that can help you become an addict. Is this a great country or what?
The patient had surgery on his ankle Tuesday. The surgeon and his crew of five:

  • his assistant, 
  • the anestheseologist, 
  • the sterile nurse (who hands him his tools), 
  • the X-ray technician, and
  • the charge nurse (who is charge of the Operating Room),
did the work. I may not have all the titles exactly right, but that's how I recall the story.

The patient is experiencing some discomfort for which the physician has prescribed Oxycodone, one to two (five milligram) tablets every four to six hours. We check our supply this morning and we have 28 pills which, given the current rate of consumption, is enough for two days. Hmm, better see about getting a refill.

A call to the doctor's office puts things in motion. In short order I hear that a new prescription is ready for pickup at their office. Just in case you are not aware, Oxycodone is a 'controlled substance', which means that the doctor cannot simply call in a refill order, a piece of paper with the correct magical markings must be picked up from the doctor's and carried to the pharmacy. Accursed bureaucratic bullshit, but that is the world we live in.

So I drive to downtown Portland to pick up the magical piece of paper. I'm a little slow off the mark, so it's 2 PM before I am on the road. Traffic, as expected, comes to a halt half way down the hill between downtown and the Sylvan summit. It is creepy-crawly in the 5 to 10 MPH range for the last mile. Traffic has been getting worse on the freeways all over Portland for years, but nobody seems to have any kind of solution. For right now though, we'll just give the 'government by the people' a big fat black mark.

Once clear of the mass of tax reductionistas heading for Washington, it is clear sailing, if 20 MPH through downtown streets crawling with pedestrians can be considered clear sailing. And when I get to the doctor's office there is an open, unmetered parking spot right in front of the building. The time limit is only 15 minutes, but that should be more than enough.

Upstairs the receptionist has the promised script ready. I take a look and realize it is for 40 tablets, which will last us three days, so I am going to have to repeat this trip again on Friday. Can I get larger script? Or a second one? The inquiry goes up the chain of command. I pace back and forth between the window and the desk. Is the meter maid coming to ticket my car? Do we have an answer to my inquiry? I am afraid I may not have an answer to my question for hours, by which time I will have accumulated thousands of dollars in parking citations. Why didn't I just take my piece of paper and go? But an answer appears after only ten minutes. The answer is no, no and no, which is kind of what I expected, so I take off.

When I get home we realize that if all goes well we should have enough Oxycodone to get through the weekend. This evening, though, the pain ramps up and there is some doubt as to whether even doubling up on the Oxycodone is going to be enough. Going to the Emergency Room for morphine might be our next move. We shall see how things go today. The pain may retreat, which would be good. However, I should be prepared to go back downtown on Friday to get another script, just in case.

Meanwhile, I schedule a follow up appointment for our patient. I have my choice of the downtown office, or the office at Providence Hospital on the Eastside. The Hospital is maybe four miles farther on, but they have parking. It's not the best parking garage in the world, I may have to cruise through four or five or six levels, but it is easy to find, it's free and they have always had space. Parking downtown is horrid. It usually involves driving around and around and around until you find a lot or a spot on the street. If you are lucky it will only cost $3 and you will have to walk a couple of blocks. If you aren't, it might cost you $10 and you'll have to walk a mile.

So screw downtown, we're going to the Eastside.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Dig, said the mole.

The only picture I found of the construction.
Iaman is contemplating building a house in Texas and the first question that comes up is what kind of foundation to use, which entails knowing what kind of ground he is standing on. Dirt can be excavated with a shovel. It there are some rocks, they can be pulled out. But this is central Texas, which is basically one big rock.

Digging a hole in sold rock can be a bit of a challenge for most people, but not the Texas legislature. They wanted to expand their office space, but they did not want to block the view of the capitol building, so they elected to build it underground, carving a giant hole out of solid rock.

Texas State Capitol building section through light courts, north view.
Texas State Capitol and Extension building section looking west.
Skylights for the underground Capitol Extension
In 1993, the $75 million, four-story, underground Capitol Extension was completed to the north, doubling the square footage available to Capitol occupants and providing much improved functionality. Though the extension encompasses 667,000 square feet (nearly twice the floor space of the original building), there is little evidence of such a large structure at ground level, except for extensive skylights camouflaged as planter rows, and the four-story open-air inverted rotunda. - Wikipedia

Monday, January 23, 2017

Rent (the musical)

Rent Playbill
We saw this show yesterday (Sunday) evening. It was pretty good. Awful lot of singing though. Might have been better if we could understand the words, but that's what musicals are made of, I suppose. The story is a little thin, but it's certainly grim enough. You don't need the details about everyone's movements when there is an elephant in the room. Tina Arth's review (of a different production) sums it up pretty well:
Author Jonathan Larson’s rock musical, loosely based on the Puccini opera “La Bohème,” is not for the faint of heart — it’s loud, edgy, sometimes raucous and filled with characters whose lives seem to run the gamut from merely awful to truly tragic.
. . . suggestions that “Rent” is somehow outdated are shortsighted. Artistic integrity versus crass commercialization? Check. Rent control and broader issues of social and economic injustice? Check, check. Clearing out urban homeless camps in dead of winter? Huge check. HIV? Still check. Gay/lesbian/trans? [Double check]
You hear about the problems facing people who exist on the margins of society, but if you are like me, you seldom run into any of these folks, so their problems are kind of abstract. Watching this show brings those problems to life and makes you appreciate them a little more.

Tango: Maureen - Rent

The show has some number of love stories of various persuasions running through it, some straight, some gay, some confused. There are also some entertaining bits, like the Tango: Maureen, and Maureen's one-woman avant garde show that was just hilarious. Also:

  • the young woman dancing in skin-tight, electric blue pants. She was great.
  • one woman hit a particularly high note during one song. She brought down the house.
  • there was a bit of spectacular dancing. Could have been more, but then it would have been a different show, I suppose.

Now playing at Keller Auditorium.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


McLaren road car at the McLaren Technology Center
Road & Track tells us about the pressure differential in the McLaren headquarters building that keeps the smell of food inside the cafeteria. Okay, I suppose you could do that, and it might be a good thing in a workplace, but having to go through an airlock to get your lunch . . . Whatever.

McLaren Can-Am Racecar circa 1970
When I was a teenager with a driver's license, my friends and I would go to the Mid-Ohio racetrack to watch the Can-Am / Group 7 cars race. In those days Jim Hall and his Chaparral and McLaren were the ones to watch. Their cars were built along the same lines as the Ford GT40, except without a roof. The important part, as far as I was concerned, was that they were all using big, 7 liter, all aluminum V-8 engines from Detroit. America, hoo-rah!

Bruce McLaren died on the racetrack in 1970. The company he founded has gone on and is something of a powerhouse in the high-performance automotive world.

Watching an episode of The Grand Tour a couple of weeks ago and they're talking about some exotic mobile, and Richard Hammond mentions that the people who buy these million-dollar go-fast toys have, on average, 64 other cars, which means they need a warehouse to keep them in and a staff to wrangle them (keep them clean and prepped and ready for the next time you want to take one for a spin). Or maybe you don't need a warehouse, you can just distribute them among your umpteen houses with their ten car garages. Whatever. You get the picture, we're talking the upper echelons of the one percenters here.

Now you might think that all this is a ridiculous waste of time and money, and from a pragmatic, go-to-work-and-save-your-pennies point of view, it is. On the other hand, all this activity employs a fair number of talented people, and most of their work is being done by hand, so they aren't putting their efforts into mass producing stuff that will put other producers out of work. It's really part of the entertainment industry, which in some respects is kind of like the defense industry: it absorbs a large chunk of money and produces very exotic stuff that no one really needs, but everyone wants, sort of. I mean it would be nice to have your own supersonic jet aircraft / race car, wouldn't it?

And just for grins, we have Tooned:

McLaren Tooned - Season 1 - Episode 1 - Wheel Nuts

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are real-life race car drivers. Alexander Armstrong is an actor. Not often you see race-car drivers with speaking roles, or at least that's the way it used to be. I suppose with zillions of dollars at stake, you might invest a little effort in polishing their public personas. And make no mistake, zillions of dollars are at stake. McLaren was fined $100 million for some kind skullduggery. The company is private, so they don't have to tell anybody how much they are worth, but I suspect it is somewhere north of $2 billion.

Return of the Sun God

After Priggery – What? (On Wicked Journalists) by C.S. Lewis Doodle

Interesting. The problem here and now is that the entire information industry seems to have been infected with an agenda of some sort. Most do not rise to the level of Cleon, but the general, overall tone of many web sites and print media has a decided slant, and this slant, if you are not well versed in the subject, can be hard to detect. There is something wrong with our society. I am not quite sure what it is, but the pervasiveness of bullshit is just one symptom, and the election of Trump is a reaction to that symptom.  What we need is a new sun god, along the lines of Amenhotep, or FDR, though I suspect FDR has achieved his near mythological status by having a war with the devil himself and defeating him.

I originally wrote this as a comment on Monday Evening, but because I had managed to string more that half a dozen words together, I thought it worth posting here as well.

And yes, I know that Amenhotep is not the sun god Ra, but viewed from a distance of 4,000 years, you will excuse me if I don't care.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

House of Pythians

Hillsboro Grange
Stopped by a Mexican birthday party yesterday evening. It was being held in honor of somebody's 50th birthday. They had hired a hall (pictured above), which might be the Hillsboro Grange, and which possibly used to belong to the Pythians. The logo above the stage read H of P, which I take to mean the House of Pythians. The Pythians are like the oldest organized lodge in the USA, though they seem to be fading.

In any case there were only a few people there as it was still early. The band had set up on stage and while they weren't playing, they were pumping out recorded music at a very high volume. Or maybe I'm just old. We got a bite to eat, had a beer, talked to a few people, and then we pushed off.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Quote of the Day

Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2017 © Ruben Sprich / Reuters
“Over the past thirty years, the Americans had thirteen wars spending 40.2 trillion dollars,” said Ma, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos. - RT, formerly Russia Today
30 years only goes back to 1987. Have we really had thirteen wars? Wikipedia says yes:

  1. Tanker War
  2. Invasion of Panama
  3. Gulf War
  4. Somali Civil War
  5. Intervention in Haiti
  6. Bosnian War
  7. Kosovo War
  8. War in Afghanistan
  9. Iraq War
  10. War in North-West Pakistan
  11. 2011 military intervention in Libya
  12. War on ISIL (Operation Inherent Resolve)
  13. War in Afghanistan

I remember hearing about most of these, except the Tanker War, I don't remember that one. But most of them didn't rise to the level of 'war'. Sending jet aircraft to bomb Jihadist's armed with AK-47's doesn't really seem like a war. That kind of thing seems more like calling the exterminator to get rid of some vermin. But jet aircraft are very expensive to buy, operate and maintain, so for economic purposes, it fits the bill.

On the other hand, have all these wars done any good? We are trying to bring peace, prosperity and democracy to the poor and the oppressed, or at least I think that is what we are trying to do. Sometimes I think we are only running these operations to make the area safe for capitalist exploitation. But people are funny. Squeeze them hard enough and all their good qualities will disappear behind a shell of hostility and suspicion. Trying to liberate people who have retreated behind their armored shell is liable to provoke more hostility than open acceptance.

Via Detroit Steve


Wondermark - The Edge Case
Right or wrong, you will be the judge.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fun with Linux

Older son slipped on the ice while crossing the street Saturday night. We've been blanketed with ice and snow for the last couple of weeks. This is very unusual for Portland. I only recall two other times when we have had significant snow in the 25 years we've been here.
    In any case, he slipped, fell and busted his ankle all to ****.  So now he is ensconced in the TV room, waiting for an opening in the OR so the surgeon can put the pieces back where they belong, instead of being randomly distributed like they are.
    Now my wife and I want to watch a show on Netflix, but we aren't going to inflict our choice of entertainment on someone from the next generation. Nothing is more likely to escalate into civil war with your kids than subjecting them to 'quality' entertainment. But we have computers, so we retire to my cave, fire up the newly resurrected Linux box, and

Hyperdrive Failure: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

I fall back and punt with my Chromebook, it works fine.

But now I've got time, so I investigate and I find some 'helpful' advice, like 'enable DRM', which is found under Firefox Preferences:

Firefox Preferences

Huh, DRM on Linux. Clicked on Learn More and got this:

Watch DRM content on Firefox

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is technology that enables online video and audio services to enforce that the content they provide is used in accordance with their requirements. This technology may restrict some of the things you can do in the browser. While some DRM-controlled content can be viewed using the Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe Flash plugins, many services are moving towards HTML5 video that requires a different DRM mechanism called a Content Decryption Module (CDM).
Firefox on Windows supports HTML5 playback of DRM-controlled video and audio through the Adobe Primetime CDM. This CDM implements a DRM system called Adobe Primetime, which was previously available via the Adobe Flash plugin. Beginning in version 47, Firefox desktop also supports the Google Widevine CDM.
Firefox downloads and enables the Google Widevine CDM on demand, with user permission, to give users a smooth experience on sites that require DRM. The CDM runs in a separate container called a sandbox and you will be notified when a CDM is in use. You can also disable a CDM and opt out of future updates by following the steps below. Once you disable a CDM, however, sites using this type of DRM may not operate properly.
Some sites may use DRM that is not supported by the Google Widevine CDM. Support for viewing this content may require a third-party NPAPI plugin, such as Microsoft Silverlight.
I never would have expected the free software faction to allow DRM to darken their door, but things change.

Unfortunately, this does not fix the problem. Netflix suggests I use the Chrome browser, but when I try to install it, I get this:

Chrome wrong architecture message

One comment on the Linux Mint Forum suggest using the 32-bit version of Chrome, but I'm not sure it's even available (or where I would find it), and why should I need it anyway? I have a 64-bit system.

uname -a: i686
Sorry the images are so blurry. Print Screen with dual screens doesn't have the same resolution. Another problem to sort out.

So far in trying to sort out this problem I've dealt with four different outfits:
  • Linux Mint
  • Firefox
  • Netflix
  • Google Chrome
Welcome to the land beyond Jobs & Gates.

Update January 20, 2017 (the next day). I finally figured out that while I have a 64-bit processor, I was running a 32-bit version of Linux. Drug out another old disk and installed the 64-bit version of Linux Mint on it and now everything is hunky dory. Chrome installed and Netflix movies play. What I really needed was a small system status program that would tell me just what I have. There probably is one, somewhere, but I haven't run across it yet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

In Order of Disappearance

Serbian Funeral.
Papa is operating the lift, and his henchmen are the pall bearers.
Telling you who is in the box would probably constitute a spoiler, so we won't do that.
In Order of Disappearance is the English title for this Norwegian crime thriller. Kraftidioten is the original title, which I suspect means 'the work of idiots' or 'idiots at work'. Google Translate is no help, it gives us some kind of nonsense, or else the English title of the movie.

IMDB tags it a 'black comedy', and it does have funny bits, though they are often grim. And there are some very odd scenes. Gangster singing on his way to a job is one that struck me. Mostly it's about people and how losing a child can unhinge anyone. Though if you are going to become unhinged, killing a bunch of bad guys is a good way to go.

We saw the star, Stellan Skarsgård (he looks much younger on IMDB than he does in this show), in the TV series River, and we liked that. Except for being Swedish, he might be the next Dirty Harry.

On Netflix

Saturday, January 14, 2017


This is one of Jack's favorite games. I've played it a few times, but it hasn't captivated me like it has Jack. The goal is to figure out where you are based on what looks like Google Street View. The game plunks you down somewhere in the world, shows you your surroundings and your job, should you choose to accept it, Jim, is to figure out where you are. Like Google Street View, there are pan and zoom controls, and you can move down the road, but the little link that takes you back to the map view is missing. There is a little map in one corner, but that is where you make your X.

Usually the game will present you with some clues in the form of signs, not too far from where you are, and by using Google Maps, you can track down where you are. Some places are relatively easy, some can drive you bonkers. Why does that sign to Kilpspruit point to the left? It should be pointing to the right!

Or you can just take a guess, which would be the more sporting way, and possibly more entertaining.

I've added the link to the Games section in the sidebar.

Friday, January 13, 2017


Airliner in Istanbul, Turkey
We've had a bunch of snow here in Portland the last couple of weeks. Schools were closed 4 days this week, and Seattle sent us some snow plows. We get one good snowstorm every five years or so. From the above photo it looks like we weren't the only ones to get hit this time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fight Night

Guillermo Martinez Ayme
The Russians are staging a fight night this Friday night at the Bren Center at the University of California in Irvine, a suburb of Los Angeles, and Guillermo will be fighting. He's had some success (won 6 of his last 10 fights) in the three years since he last appeared on these pages, but more importantly, he's still in the game. Most of his fights have been in Argentina, though last year he fought in Russia, and he fought in Chile the year before that. Guillermo is a good family friend, even though I have never met him. Funny the kinds of connections you develop in life.

Update Saturday, January 14, 2017. Guillermo won! Fight is on YouTube.

ISS Live Feed

I'm looking for live video feeds from the ISS and there seems to be no end to them. However most of these purported live feeds seem to be recordings. Ustream seems to be current, but there is no indication that it actually is current and not just another recording. I did see one video that included a thumbnail map of where the ISS currently was, but it turned out to be a recording. I think we need a time stamp.

The Ustream video seems to have a problem with contrast. About once a second the color/brightness of large portions of the image change. You are still looking at the same image, but sections of clouds get darker and some get lighter. Kind of weird, and kind of distracting.

A recording would be fine for the ambiance it provides, the but the thing about a live feed is that it would never stop. You could turn it on and just leave it running and every time you went by that display you could see what the ISS is looking at. Put it on a big screen TV on your living room wall and it could give the you a more interesting view than your neighbor's house, or fence.


Mercedes-AMG's Hybrid Hypercar
I like to think I've gotten over my lust for ridiculously expensive exotic-mobiles, but then something like this comes along and catches my eye. Absolutely useless, but still absolutely gorgeous.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


I originally title this post Chemistry!, but by the time I got done I had decided it needed something a little stronger.

Reaction between Bromine and Aluminum

Deliberate daughter has started a chemistry class and I am following along. Lesson 1 includes a video of Aluminum reacting with Bromine. I was surprised how much smoke was generated from the small amount of liquid. But now I want to more about this Bromine stuff. I mean you never run into it. Just what the heck is it anyway?

Periodic Table with a few elements pointed out
Note where Aluminum and Bromine reside in the Periodic Table. Aluminum is our well known friend, used to make airplanes, new Ford F-150 pickup truck bodies, beer cans and aluminum foil.

Bromine is kind of obscure. It is one of the Halogens, highly reactive gases. Florine and Chlorine are two popular examples. They are in the pink column in the above chart, right next to the Orange column at the right hand side that contains the inert gases like Helium, Argon and Neon. Only Argon is shown in the chart.

People used to use Bromine for a number of things, but most of those applications have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another. These days all it seems to be used for is

  • as a disinfectant for hot tubs (like chlorine for swimming pools), 
  • drilling mud (as in drilling for oil), 
  • facilitating the production of other chemical compounds, and 
  • Halogen lightbulbs

Halogen lightbulbs was a surprise. I had no idea. I had never even made the connection between Halogen lights and the Halogen family of elements. I think I had them confused with the inert gases. I mean they make lights using Neon and Xenon, maybe Halogen is just a fancy name for them. No, Wrong. How did I miss this?
In the video up top, Nile (that's what I'm calling him) alludes to making your own bromine, for which he has another video. We get into some real chemistry here.

Making Elemental Bromine (from household items)

"Greasing the joints with concentrated sulfuric acid". Are you freaking kidding me?  How the hell could you do something like that? This is an alien land we are dealing with.

Update two days later, made a bullet list out of the uses of bromine.


Magnum Force (10/10) Movie CLIP - A Man's Got to Know His Limitations (1973) HD

This phrase came up at lunch today, which got me to wondering who has replaced Clint as our All American tough guy? There are Arnold (age 69) and Bruce (61), but they're nearly as old as Clint (86), and then there's Nicolas Cage (52), but he has made too many movies to be categorized as a tough guy. Now there's Vin Diesel (49), Jason Statham (49) and Clive Owen (52), but Jason and Clive are Brits. Vin? I dunno. I liked the Riddick movies and Babylon A.D., but the Fast & Furious movies were just chickenshit. Is he ever gonna be in a movie as great as any of Clint's? I suspect not, but not because he isn't as good as Clint, but because society has moved the goalposts that are used to judge a movie. Fast & Furious sells tickets ($3.9 billion worth), so that's what Hollywood makes.

Monday, January 9, 2017


Psyche and Spacecraft

Video is an artists concept, but a very cool one. The asteroid is Psyche 16 and this is some real Star Trek shit: we're sending a probe to investigate an anomaly:
The Psyche mission will explore one of the most intriguing targets in the main asteroid belt - a giant metal asteroid, known as 16 Psyche, about three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth. This asteroid measures about 130 miles (210 kilometers) in diameter and, unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, is thought to be comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel, similar to Earth's core. Scientists wonder whether Psyche could be an exposed core of an early planet that could have been as large as Mars, but which lost its rocky outer layers due to a number of violent collisions billions of years ago. - JPL
An asteroid that is mostly iron and nickel should have a stronger gravitational field than one made of rock, as iron is denser than rock. I suspect that a planet half the diameter of Earth, but made entirely of iron would have a surface gravity as great as we have here on Earth. Wouldn't make much difference in this case, Psyche is only about hundred miles in diameter, not a couple of thousand.

If this thing is really solid metal, it would make prospecting for metallic ore asteroids moot: here is all the metal we'll ever need. Of course, we would need some new mining techniques. There are big chunks of solid copper buried up in Northern Michigan that no one has dug up because how do you cut up a 100 ton chunk of solid copper into pieces small enough to handle?

Back to the video. Watching the probe 'fly' over the surface was mesmerizing. I'm thinking we need a live feed from the ISS (International Space Station). Set up a big screen TV somewhere where you would like to have a window and just let it play all the time. Star Trek @ home.

LSD, Part 2

Alice and the Caterpiggle
“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important — creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.” ― Steve Jobs
When I got out of high school, all I wanted to do was make money. I heard these stories about self-made millionaires who started with nothing but an 8th grade education, and I thought I could do that, too. Took me eight years to figure out that I wasn't going to get rich on my own.

I think part of the problem was that my dad threw over his engineering career to become an apple farmer, and that was a frigging financial disaster. Permanently soured me on farming and being broke, so money became my focus.

On the other hand, I suspect that one of the reasons my dad bought the orchard was because he wanted us to understand what was real and what was bullshit. That lesson may have had some impact.

The reason I didn't get rich was because I wasn't that concerned about money. Oh, I wanted money when I didn't have any, but when I had enough for my immediate needs, any number of things became more interesting. Basically I was a gear head with no business sense, as opposed to a people person who could sense a money making opportunity and had the drive to pursue it.

The Beautiful sequence

Red Bull Rampage, Virgin, Utah, 2012
Rider: Brandon Semenuk, Photographer: Christian Pondella
Quite spectacular. The only connection between this photograph and my post is the title.
I've come to realize that solving programming puzzles is, for me, akin to solving crossword puzzles for people like Jack, i.e. people who like doing crossword puzzles. It's mental exercise, but I'm not sure there is any value in it. Actually, there is no value in it: the puzzle has already been solved. It does separate those who can muster the logic and reason needed to solve it and those who don't give a fig. I'm not sure that distinction has any value either.

Anyway, I picked up a puzzle yesterday and started looking at it. Here is a description of the problem.
We define the beautiful value of an integer sequence as the product of the value of its smallest element and its length. You are given an integer sequence containing Nelements, and you should find out one of its continuous subsequences, such that it has the largest beautiful value among all the continuous subsequences.
Please solve this problem with an O(N) algorithm.
So the simple way to solve this is to read all the numbers into an array, then pick a number and scan up and down the array until you find a value that is smaller. Now you know the range (a continuous subsequence) and when you multiply that by the number, you get the beautiful value for that number. Repeat this for all the numbers in the array and eventually you will have the biggest beautiful value.

The problem comes with the last line of the description:
Please solve this problem with an O(N) algorithm.
What this means is you can use as many steps you want to find the beautiful value for a number, but it has to be a fixed number of steps. It can't depend on how many numbers are in the array. For instance, if it takes you 100 steps to find the bv for a number, then it won't take more than 100 x N steps to find the largest one. The simple solution I set out above is going to take more like N squared steps, which is definitely not an O(N) class algorithm.

This morning I am climbing stairs as I try to do every day in order to get some exercise. Normally this can be a bit of a chore. The first few minutes go by easy enough, but once I get past the ten minute mark I am looking for the end. Today, though, I was thinking about this problem while I was climbing and when the timer went off it caught me unaware. I was so surprised that at first I suspected I had entered the wrong amount of time, like two minutes instead of twenty, but that wasn't the case.

Nothing like getting wrapped up in a problem to make time become meaningless. This might be why it is so difficult to determine how long it is going to take to write a computer program. You ask a programmer how long it will take to do something, and you get some answer, but then he/she goes off and starts working on it and if they get absorbed in a problem it may be months or even years before they come up for air.

Update Saturday, January 14, 2017. Took me a couple of days to figure out that I need to use a binary search algorithm to determine the range for each number, and then a couple more days to realize that the index into the sorted array is not the same as the original index, and then an hour or so more of fiddling around to get it straight in my head when to use the sorted indices and when to use the original indices. The binary search means the algorithm is an O(log N), but since we also need to process all of the elements, and the whole list needs to be sorted, I'm going to call it O(N x log N). I think this might be as good as you can get.

Let's Go To CES

The Daily Beast has a fine story this morning:
I Dropped Acid and Saw Into the Future: My Surreal First Time At CES
Maybe the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas was a bad place to take LSD for the first time.
by Erin Gloria Ryan
Via Detroit Steve

Update April 2017. Made a copy of the story here, just in case.