Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Tree Map

NYC Tree Map
The New York City Parks Department has gone to the trouble to create a digital map of all their trees. I suppose this a good and useful thing, but are we going to map all the trees in the world? And once we do that, are we going to start on the shrubs, and then grass? Will every blade of grass eventually be connected to the internet of plants?

I added the link to the Online Tools - Maps list in the sidebar.

Via Detroit Steve.

A New Model for Journalism

A Texan's Map of the United States
A couple of journalists moved to Tyler, a small town in east Texas, and started a website devoted to local news. They seem to be making a success of it. Tyler is a university town, and so is Nacogdoches, so despite it's reputation, there is some intelligence there.

I lived in Houston for a couple of years and I wasn't impressed. Actually, I thought it was pretty wretched. But then I wasn't making enough money to pay for air conditioning, so yeah, pretty miserable. But there is the oil business and where there's oil, there's money, and where there's money there's gonna be people.

Via Indy Tom.

Obfuscation 102

Lionel Richie, the new face of obfuscation
You shouldn't blame Lionel for this. I suspect that whoever wrote Spellf***er happens to like his music. What is this thing? It is a computer program that takes English text and respells all of the words phonetically. I suspect they were inspired by the auto-correct feature found on Smart Phones.
Just... why?
Text obfuscation is not about changing "a" to "à" as it becomes revertable easily (like we see at Spellfucker's method uses random replacements which makes the reverting process more difficult. The cool thing is that the text still stays readable.
I added it to the list of More Tools in the sidebar. Via Detroit Steve.

Obfuscation 101 here.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Europe to Sao Paolo Time Lapse

FlightLapse #01 - MilkyWay from SkyProduction on Vimeo.
    An amazing video, filmed from the flight deck of a commercial long-haul flight, has captured a view of the night sky not usually seen by slumbering passengers.
    The video, shot by pilot Sales Wick, shows a plane taking off from Europe and heading towards South America. The plane flies along the Alps towards Switzerland before taking a turn to join the Rhone Valley towards the Mediterranean Sea.
    It continues towards Algeria and past the tip of the Sahara. Then it's out to the Atlantic Ocean, via Dakar.
    The flight landed in its destination, Sao Paolo, before dawn at around 6am.
    The most amazing aspect of the footage is the sheer volume of shooting stars that can be seen flying across the sky. In the post accompanying the video, the pilot says there are a few days every August when this occurs, and the he and his colleagues lost count of the number of shooting stars in the sky after a few hundred.
    The constellation Perseus, which the plane is flying past, is well known for this phenomenon. In mid-August, around 11pm local time, the sky is filled with meteor showers named the Perseids, after Perseus' son in Greek mythology.
    The Milky Way is also visible in video, especially after the lights of the city disappear. You can see more of Wick’s amazing time-lapse videos on his Instagram or his Facebook. - Hannah Blackiston on Elsewhere
Via FlightAware

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Giant Man Builds Classic Cars

Dwarf Cars: Mechanic Hand-Builds Mini Motors

Or maybe he's a regular size man building tiny cars. There seems to be an endless supply of videos on YouTube of people doing unusual stuff. As Dennis pointed out at lunch, whatever you can imagine, someone has done it and put it on YouTube, which, if you think about it, kind of indicates how many people there are on the planet.

Figuring it out one jotted note at a time.

Posted on April 18, 2017 by Jessica Hagy
Stolen entire from Indexed. This is why I write this blog. I also use this technique for sorting out complicated computer programs. Many, if not most, computer programs are pretty straightforward, you just need to extract some data from one structure and stuff it in another, or if you have large quantity of data you might need an array. These kinds of programs are not too difficult to write, you can often go straight to coding.

But some programs can get a bit more complicated and you might need chains of structures (linked lists), and if you have more than one criteria to keep track of, which one do you use for your primary control, and which ones do you use for secondary control? At times like this (usually after I have started coding and written myself into a corner), I find it helps to lay out my plan in plain English.

Via Comrade Misfit.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Number of deaths in America in 2014 (1 pixel represents 1 death). 
At least it does in the original graphic, but this one has been scaled down by a factor of 4, 
which means each pixel represents 16 deaths.
Found this on graphical representation, which is a pro-gun blog. I think it gives a good picture of what's killing us, except it doesn't include automobile accidents or opioid overdoses or soldiers killed in combat, so lets see how big those are:
If we made a block at the same scale to cover these, that block would be this big:

Scaled block for other deaths.
I should have made a new block for these three categories, but I'm lazy, so I just scaled the other one down.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Quote of the Day

Statue of Caesar Augustus at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
The rule of law more or less functioned properly, and the aqueducts ran on time. - Tam talking about the glory days of Rome.

Not So Benevolent Dictators

Bizarro April 23, 2017
Which reminds me of this line from The Last King of Scotland:
Idi Amin: You dare try to poison me? After everything I gave you? I am Idi Amin! President-for-life and ruler of Uganda. I am the father of Africa.
Nicholas Garrigan: You're a child. You have the mind and ego of an angry, spoiled, uneducated child. And that's what makes you so fucking scary.

Idi Amin was subject to childish whims and he had no patience for rational argument. If he took a dislike to someone he might, on a whim, drop the hammer on him, or more likely, have one of his henchmen do it.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fun with Fonts

Lowercase Letter A with a couple of obscure measurements.
I've been working intermittently on my gears program. I want to replace that static initialization with a GUI (Graphical User Interface) that would allow modifications on the fly. One of the first things you need is the ability to write text on the screen. I found and tried a sample program and amazingly it worked. However, the text on the screen was kind of skinny and feeble looking, so I'm going to need a different font, and OMG, what a Pandora's box I have opened.

Back in the good old days before these nasty little PC's took over, any time you needed to talk to a computer you used a terminal. A terminal had a CRT screen that would display (typically) 25 lines with 80 characters each. A serial data cable connected your terminal to the computer, or if you were on another planet, to a modem.

When you pressed a key on the keyboard, the terminal sent the ASCII code for that character to the computer, and when the computer had something to say to you, it sent the ASCII codes to the terminal. Formatting was limited to deciding when to end a line of text. When a line ended, the action moved to the next line. If the screen was full, the line at the top of the screen scrolled off the top and was never seen again.

This worked fine until some people (like SGI) decided they wanted to draw pictures. Then the PC and Windows came along and now things get a little more complicated. When you sent a character code to a terminal, the terminal was hard wired to display that character. There was only one font and only one character set, so on one hand you were restricted with what you could do, on the other you were free from having to learn a whole bunch of obscure bullshit.

Now with modern computers with hi-resolution displays, when you want to write a character to the screen, the computer has to look up picture for that character from the font you have chosen (or had chosen for you) and copy it into display memory in the correct location, which depends on a whole bunch of typesetting and window management rules.

Okay, I don't like the default font, which font should I use? Well, for starters, how many fonts are there? Only about a zillion. I suspect there might be a thousand on the machine I am using. Now some of them are the same font, just rendered in different sizes and / or with special features like bold or italic, and some of them are foreign languages or sets of funny characters, like dingbats or Russian.

Still, there are a bunch of fonts. There has to be a better way to get a handle on them that just listing them using xlsfonts. My first thought was to take the list and edit it into something I could import into a spreadsheet. That might have helped, but it would have been a lot of work, and I would still have a thousand entries. Then I got to thinking I could write a program (using xlsfonts.c as a model) that could identify fonts with common attributes, like typeface, or size, or even just whether they are fixed pitch or proportional fonts.

So I'm poking around in xlsfonts.c and I find a bit of code that determines whether it is a fixed or proportional pitch font, except there is third kind of font called a 'character cell' font, which confuses the heck out of me. I do some digging around and find this:
The type of spacing (S): p (“proportional”) for variable-width fonts, m for monospaced
fonts, c for character-cell fonts. The difference between a monospaced font and a
character-cell font is significant. In monospaced fonts, the offset between the glyph’s
point of origin and that of the following glyph remains unchanged; the glyph it-
self may lie partly or entirely outside the abstract box whose width corresponds to
this offset. In character-cell Fonts, there is one additional property: the pixels of the
glyph, which are entirely contained within this abstract box. A character cell font is
monospaced a fortiori: the converse may not be true. Nonetheless, most monospaeed
fonts (such as Courier or Computer Modem Typewriter) can be regarded as character-
oell fonts, since they simulate the output of the typewriter, which was a source of
inspiration for the character-cell fonts. - Fonts & Encodings by Yannis Haralambous
So, if I am reading this correctly, both monospaced and character-cell fonts allocate a fixed block of space on the screen. Characters from character-cell fonts will appear entirely within this block. However, characters from monospaced may appear anywhere in the universe, well, anywhere on the plane of your display screen. Of course, any character whose location will place it outside of the screen will not appear. Computers are not very smart, but they generally can tell if it can display something or not.

I haven't come across any examples of characters that exist outside the box, they may be used to place accent marks. But that is just a suspicion. They might be used by the NSA to send encrypted messages to their agents or for some other nefarious purpose. I will let you know if I find any.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

More Power

Dodge Demon Supercharged Hemi V8
Jack Baruth has an entertaining story about the Dodge Demon, a new car with an 800 HP engine. Via Dustbury.

Koenigsegg Naturally Aspirated V8
Koenigsegg is a small Swedish outfit that builds supercars. This engine produces 600 HP without using a supercharger or a turbocharger. That, to my mind, is more impressive. But Koenigsegg cars cost quite a bit more than a Dodge.

Hotchkiss Anti-Personnel Auto Cannon

.50 BMG Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon Reproduction

A couple of weeks ago while I was looking for pictures of a WW2 era Russian anti-aircraft gun, I stumbled over the Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon.

Hotchkiss five-barrel 3-pdr now in Texas County, Missouri. Note the crank used to operate the weapon and the ammunition feed guides. Photograph copyrighted by Jim Price.
The Hotchkiss revolving cannon is a 19th Century weapon that was employed on naval vessels and with cavalry. The U.S. Army used it during the American Indian Wars.

I got onto this gun because, one, there seems to be some confusion about the caliber. Some places claim 37mm and some 47mm. And two, there aren't very many pictures of Soviet WW2 artillery on the net. Anyway, I sent what little info I found to Jack, my artillery expert, and he turned up the video.


When Classical Meets Technology - Opera de Rouen & Newzik App

I'm surprised it has taken this long for this computer application program to appear. In hindsight the need is obvious. I guess we were just waiting for someone to recognize this need.

Via Posthip Scott.

Amur Bridge Project

Incomplete Railroad Bridge over the Amur River
Russia and China are cooperating to build a railroad bridge across the Amur River, which forms part of the border between the two countries. From the above picture we can see that half of the bridge has been completed. This is the Chinese half. The Russians are going to start on their half someday soon, we hope.

I came across the picture on al fin next level, and I wondered if it would show up on a satellite image. To that end, it was first necessary to figure out just where the bridge is. Yes, it is going over the Amur River, but the Amur River is very long (2,700 miles), and even the part that forms the border between China and Russia is hundreds of miles long.

Map of the Amur River
A little digging reveals that the bridge is near Nizhneleninskoye. Now we know.

Amur Bridge Project
Nizhneleninskoye is the red placemark.
Ice! Somehow I think that would require making the bridge foundations much stronger than would be required for a bridge over a river that doesn't freeze, like one in the tropics. But maybe the day-in, day-out strain of the flowing water would outweigh the stress imposed by a few months of ice.

OpenRailway view of the Amur Project Bridge
The whole point of this operation is to carry iron ore from the Kimkan mine near Birobidzhan in Russia to steel mills somewhere in China.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


The Element Creator - Periodic Table of Videos

I dunno why, but I think this is just the coolest video ever. Maybe because I am bogged down in all kinds of mundane carp like figuring out how I am going to get the speakers in my pick-em-up truck replaced. They were fine for a long time but then I let younger son borrow it (several years ago) and now they are just wretched.

Obfuscation 101

I'm looking for some medical information and I come across a page on the NCBI (National Center for Biological Information) website. The page might have good information, but when was it published? I examine the page but I cannot find anything that looks like a date. There are a bunch of numbers that might mean something to someone, but they don't mean anything to me. So I inquire. In short order I got a response, which was of no help, but after some more back and forth I finally learn that
Acta Orthop Belg. 1991;57(4):399-405
means that
The citation indicates that this article was published in 1991:
Journal: Acta Orthop Belg. (an abbreviation for "Acta orthopaedica Belgica")
Year: 1991
Issue(Volume): 57(4)
Page number range: 399-405.
This is common format for scientific citations.
Obvious - not. What is obvious is that the scientific publishing community might as well be a secret society. They already have obscure notations, now all they need is a secret handshake.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Attack of the Bulldozer

Bulldozer with Ripping Claw
I read a thriller once where the bad guys used a bulldozer to assassinate some politician. The bulldozer lay in wait alongside a single lane temporary road that wound through a construction site. When the politico's car came along the bulldozer lurched out of hiding, hit the car and pushed it off the far side of the road where it fell down an embankment which resulted in the politico's death. This scenario seemed a little far-fetched, but hey, it's a thriller.

Because Intel has been building more and bigger factories here in Washington County, the economy is booming, the population is growing and traffic is getting heavier. Sunset Highway keeps growing. The latest project is widening the highway between 185th and Cornelius Pass. The first step of this project was to build a new bridge over Rock Creek. They did this in the median between the existing East and Westbound lanes.

The space is kind of restricted, so there are Jersey barriers (those 'movable' concrete barricades) along the side of the road. I drove by there today and as I am driving by a big, fat, bulldozer is backing up at an angle and if he doesn't turn in the next couple of seconds he is going to come over the top of that barrier and smash into my truck.

Fortunately, the operator was intent on doing his job and not trying to kill me, so he turned and I sailed right on by. A little unnerving, but it made the scene from the thriller a little more plausible.

Testosterone & Science

The Benefits of Optimal Testosterone
Men and women are different. Who knew? The American Life has done a story about testosterone and al fin next level has done a blog post with a bunch of links. Curious stuff.

Do not confuse physical and mental abilities with political rights. And while men get awards and accolades for their accomplishments, not one single man has ever produced a child.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Skateboarding Adventure

Devium - Dying Days from Devium on Vimeo.

A group of guys go to a good deal of trouble to skate inside a big concrete pipe at Shasta Dam. Reminds me of when me and my buds swam to the base of Mansfield Dam at Lake Travis. Just being there at the base of a large dam is an unsettling experience, and then these guys go way back in the tunnel. Some people like caving. Me, I've never cared for it.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea
Lyrics here

Watching The Detectives got me started, and then this tune popped up. I recognized the tune, and I must like it because I went back and played it again. Never had this opportunity before. Always before I had heard it on the car radio, and then it was gone. Yes, it would be nice to have everything-all-the-time but life seldom goes like that, especially when you are running just as fast as you can.

Anyway, a comment about this song got me to looking for Chelsea Asylum. Seems The Grand Old Duke of York (he of ten thousand men) started the trend of considering the welfare of the common soldier, which led, I suspect, to the consideration of peasants as people, and you can see where that has got us. Anyway, he founded the Royal Military Asylum (which is where the modern term of RMA comes from - not) which was an orphanage for children of soldiers.

That was 200 years ago and I don't think that's what Elvis was singing about. The RMA seems to have gone out of business. In modern times I imagine there have been a number of clinics set up to treat various kinds of mental problems, like drug habits, for people who could afford them. People (with money) have a bright child with problems, a psychiatrist sees that there are people he can help (or at least try to help) and they can afford to pay for the staff necessary to run an inpatient facility. So he opens a clinic. He might have some success, he might have none. Word gets around, or it doesn't, which could be any combination of good and bad*, or he gets tired of the dealing with people with more money than brains and pulls the plug.

* he has some success (good), and word gets around (good), or
   he has no success (bad) and word doesn't get around (good), etc, etc.

Natasha and Elsie considered here.

Bordertown Part 2

Ville Virtanen as Kari Sorjonen
We just finished watching the first season of Bordertown and it's pretty great. It took us two weeks to watch all eleven episodes, each of which ran about an hour. It was interesting that it was set in Finland near St. Petersburg. Haven't heard much about that part of the world other than Nokia phones and Peter the Great. The show is dominated by old folks. They have all the big important roles. There are a few young, cute faces but compared to the world-hardened adults and they are kids and are treated as such. The adults command center stage, the youngsters are important, but do not play central roles in the story.

The series of eleven episodes covers four or five major cases. These cases involve some pretty heinous crimes. Maybe there's a reason your parents warned you not wander off into the deep dark woods, which is what Finland is covered with.

The best part of the series, for me, came in the last episode. I have been watching these people (the detectives) for ten hours now and I've sort of gotten to know them, but they are characters on a TV screen, how well can you really know a person if all you see is a projected image? But you watch them long enough, and some of that personality starts to come through, and for me, I really got a feeling of knowing a couple of the lead characters in this, the final episode, and that was pretty cool.

Update November 2017. Map of locations.

A Philippine Murder Exposes Corrupt Police

Choi Kyung Jin, the widow of Korean National Jee Ick Joo, and their househelp Marissa Morquicho at the Senate Hearing on Tokhang for Ransom. INQUIRER PHOTO/ALEXIS CORPUZ
A Philippine Murder Exposes Corrupt Police is the title of a story on the front page of The Wall Street Journal this morning. It's just another chapter in the abysmal story of the War On Drugs. But dang it, if you are getting to get me riled, I'm going to rant, so I sent this to the editors:
    The War On Drugs is the most evil criminal conspiracy operating in the world today. It is promoted by organizations operating on both sides of the law. It employs ignorant do-gooders as shills to sell their line of bullshit. And it is all done in order to maximize the profits that can be made from selling drugs.
    Can anything be done to eliminate this evil conspiracy? Probably not, not as long the majority of the elite continue to support it, and why wouldn't they? It keeps a large percentage of them afloat, financially speaking.
    Some people believe that letting people have unfettered access to drugs would result in all kinds of horrors and even the complete collapse of society and Western Civilization. I'm sorry, how is that any different from what we have now? Oh, right. Now we have enormous profits making a few people very wealthy,
    There are some benefits to the War On Drugs. The promise of conflict and physical violence attracts a certain kind of person. Employing these people in this war keeps them occupied, and if they are occupied, we know where they are, more or less, but more importantly, they are not out looking to cause some other kind of trouble which may be even worse. Hard to imagine what that might be, illegal dumping of toxic waste maybe? Smuggling nuclear weapons to countries run by psychotic heads-of-state?
    What would our society look like if drugs were deregulated? Well, some of the people running the illegal drug business would adapt to running a legal business, but the enormous profits would vanish. You would be able to buy heroin at Walmart, which could make make your daily fix akin to buying a cup of coffee and would not require knocking over a dozen 7-11's.
    Would more people take drugs? Undoubtedly. Would more people die from overdoses? That's debatable. If you are buying legal drugs that are clearly marked with the dosage, you would no longer have the excuse of not knowing how much you are taking.
    The is a big campaign going on right now to reduce the number of deaths due to an overdose from opiates. I am not sure accidental overdoses are all that accidental. Many people are taking opiates to cope with chronic, severe pain. Sometimes the recommended dose is not enough, and sometimes people get tired of having chronic, severe pain and decide to disregard the 'safe, recommended dose' guidelines. Not to mention the hopeless economic situation some people on the fringes of society are in.
    The big problem I see is that the vast number of people employed in controlling the distribution of illegal drugs would be out of work, which would likely raise the unemployment rate, which would have a negative impact on the economy, and we can't have that.
    What we need is some kind of project that could put a large number of people to work doing something constructive. If we can't find anything better, we could bring back the Egyptian Sun God and start building pyramids again. I suspect that is unlikely to happen. But if we don't find something better for these people to do, some demagogue might come along and incite them to fight a war.
    Oh, wait, that's where we are now.
I looked for a version of the story that wasn't hidden behind a paywall and the only site that had one that I recognized was Wikipedia. I also found this cogent observation about corruption in the Philippines. It's pretty good.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


The Avalanches - 'Frontier Psychiatrist'

This tune is on somebody's playlist. I've been hearing it for a while, but I sat down and watched it yesterday and boy was I surprised. It's very nuts, but the refrain played by three goofy horns is golden.


United's New Club Class
In case you haven't heard (because you've been living under a rock, or on walkabout in the outback), Chicago police removed a paid passenger from an airliner yesterday, or the day before, I forget. Marcel has the story if you need it.

I suspect the problem is due to tyrannical management. Tyrannical management has two components. One is ordinary business tyranny. Businesses operate according to rules, and whenever you have rules, you need somebody to enforce those rules. The other part comes from the combative atmosphere of a unionized, marginally profitable business. Airlines are essentially unprofitable, I cannot understand why anyone would even be in the airline business, except, well, if you think about it for a minute, there is a huge amount of money involved, zillions of people spending zillions of dollars on tickets to go somewhere. People look at all that money and think, shoot, I know how to run a profitable airline, and so they start one up, and then reality comes along and wipes out all their schemes to shave a tenth of point here or a fraction of a cent there.

United is unionized. Management is always looking to cut costs, and one big ticket item is highly paid employees. You can't fire them, it's a union, so they look for ways to make the job so unpleasant that people will quit. One of the ways they make the job unpleasant is by making up a bunch of chickenshit rules that employees have to follow. So now instead of giving employees the latitude to use their brains to deal with problems, they have rules. Employees realize management doesn't care about them, in fact actually hates them, so they no longer care about what's right, just whether they are following the stupid rules, because breaking a stupid rule can get them fired, and since it's a union job, it pays better than any other job they are likely to find, so even though this job sucks and everyone hates them, customers and bosses alike, they keep on following the rules and not caring.

I've heard the word tyranny used a couple of times recently when circumstances didn't seem to warrant it, so I looked it up:
cruel and oppressive government or rule.
Dictators are often described as tyrants for making arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable decisions, but without intentional cruelty I wouldn't call them tyrants. Just so we are clear. But dictatorships, regardless of how beneficent they might be, suffer from a problem:
"Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy." - Jorge Luis Borges
And that's what's wrong at United Airlines and many other large American corporations: they foster idiocy. They don't all do it to the same extent. A lot of work is done on autopilot, rules help people get the job done quickly and efficiently. But at some companies the rule book is written by someone who likes to write rules, which isn't bad in and of itself, but couple that with someone who likes to enforce rules and you have the makings of hell on Earth.

Companies that are profitable don't need to be tyrannical, but they are still dictatorships. Smart people realize that giving people a little latitude in how they do their job can make for happier and more productive employees. Of course, when you give people latitude, occasionally a mistake will be made. If you have a going concern and the mistake is not big, you can absorb the loss and maybe learn a lesson. If you are in a highly competitive industry dominated by people with sharp pencils trying to shave ever smaller slivers off of every penny, you can't afford any mistakes. Some people think that the best way to avoid mistakes is to have lots of rules. And when you have a combative atmosphere, any lessons are likely to be disregarded as corporate propaganda designed to get people to change something about their job , not for any good reason, like making a better product or making the employee's job easier, but for the sole purpose of saving the company money. Since lessons won't work here, we have rules instead.

So that's what we have and the incident in Chicago is just the latest in the long line of bullshit we have had to learn to put up with in modern America.

I think the problem is that control freaks are getting the upper hand. The longer a successful system is in place, the larger and more entrenched the bureaucracy becomes, and we know bureaucracies are dominated by control freaks.

Now control freaks are not always a bad thing. Western Civilization succeeds by maintaining a balance between freedom and order. You need some order (provided by the control freaks) or you won't have a civilization at all, but if you don't have some freedom, what's the point? May as well go back to the stone age.

If we really had a growing economy, an economy that needed workers, we wouldn't have that problem (the control freaks getting the upper hand). Everyone who had a shitty job would quit and walk across the street to work for someone who appreciated them for what they could do and didn't treat them like an unnecessary expense.

Now there are a few disruptive technologies running around loose, and they are making our lives better, I think. But by and large what they are doing is eliminating people's jobs. Congratulations, you've made a better widget, so for every widget you sell, an old widget doesn't get sold. Sell enough of the new widgets and pretty soon the old widget company isn't selling any widgets. They fire all their workers and shut their doors. But! you say, the new widget company put a bunch of people to work. Well,yes it did, but do to modern manufacturing techniques we don't need half as many people to get the work done.

I don't know what we need to correct this imbalance. If nothing changes things might continue down the same road. Maybe that's why we change Presidential parties every 10 years or so. People realize the scale has tilted too far in one direction and we need to restore some balance. I'll leave it to you to figure out which party is which.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Body in the Billiard Room

Ootacamund Club
I'm reading The Body in the Billiard Room, a light-weight murder mystery that takes place in India, so I go look up the prime location and here's what I found.

Mural in the Children's Dining Room in the Ootacamund Club

Monday, April 10, 2017

Uniberp's Progress

Still working on the cabin in Muskegon, Michigan:
Triage continues. After finishing demolishing and replacing all the garage roof decking with 35 pieces of 1/2" OSB and covering with battened down roofing felt, which made it wind-and-watertight, and having heard that OSB can withstand a certain amount of exposure, I decided this weekend to take it easy and  do cleanup and estimating, which included 2 trips to the dump to offload 1800 lbs of old roof.  Will-calling a crate of new steel roof of 44 pieces 15 feet long weight 850 lbs, to save maybe $100 on delivery was not so smart, but using Egyptian lever and roller methodology got it off the trailer and stowed inside.
What started out as the following day of survey turned pretty readily into resigned belly crawling in the 24 inch sand crawlspace, cutting away someones' misguided ambitious project of running 10 runs of romex through individually drilled holes, presumably to offer a semblance of code compliance. In order to position new joists for sistering along the old ones, a Bolivian jungle of old PVC water pipes also had to be hacked away.
A cleaner hole is left. One with better defined margins. The next steps seem a little more obvious. I look forward to next weekend.
Previous post on this project here.

OSB is Oriented Strand Board, or chipboard in your common parlance. I can't understand why it's called 'oriented', to me it looks more like disoriented strand board.

He sent me the coordinates, so I thought I'd use Google's StreetView to take a look at the place. Surprise, Streetview doesn't go down Miner Avenue. It looks like a perfectly good street so I don't know why it hasn't been recorded. Could it be that Google is getting lazy?
Lake Muskegon, Michigan, looking East
The cabin is about a mile from the ferry terminal on the South shore of Lake Muskegon, which reminds me that I put up a post about a ferry running across Lake Michigan. Could it be the same ferry? No, it's a different one.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Lighting Upgrade, Part 2

The job is complete (unless the boss notices the tiny little scuff mark just sticking out from under the edge of the face plate covering the fan control), but I'm not real happy about it. Stick around and I'll tell you all about it.

First step is to fold up the wires that connect the switches and stuff them into the switch box. The power is on, after all the power will be on when they are all in the box, and if I have done my wiring properly, there should be no exposed wires in this mess, so it should be perfectly safe, or so I thought until I got a handful of wire, started folding the whole mess zig-zag fashion so it will all fit in the back of the box and KAZAP! Giant frigging spark! I let go of that mess in a hurry. It didn't shock me but it still gave me a heck of a jolt. Turn the power off, pull the wires back out as far as they will go and start looking for the culprit. With the size of that spark (it was huge, I tell ya) I expected to find some kind of evidence, a burnt spot, soot smudges, even a hair of copper sticking out in the open. Nothing. I even used a mirror a decent flashlight and still couldn't find the spot. Oh, well, maybe it's cured itself (ha). Stuff the wires in the hole, push in the switch, screw it down and turn the power back on. No sparks, no smoke, everything is apparently hunky dory.

Stuff a little dab of spackle in the gouge made by the drill and leave it to set.

Turn off the power, take apart the old light fixture and unpack the new one. Well, now I know why it cost $45. It comes with 3 color-coordinated washers and nuts for the glass bowl and knobs for the pull chain. Didn't really want all that, but it does make it possible to put the whole thing together today.

The light bulb socket assembly is connected to an intermediate mounting plate with a couple of screws, screws that are too long and will prevent this intermediate plate from mating properly with the fan's mounting plate. Also one of the holes that is supposed to be threaded to accept this screw is not, so I go root around in my vast collection of metal bits and find a pair of short screws with matching nuts and fix this thing.

The fixture has connectors crimped onto the wires. I have two bare wires hanging from the ceiling fan, they don't have matching connectors, so I cut them off. Now I get to hold the fixture up in the air while I try and hold two wires in alignment so I can fit a wire nut over their ends and twist them together. This requires a certain amount of determination. After I have the light fixture connected and mounted I discover a two short pieces of wire with crimped on connectors. Doh! You are supposed to connect these to the bare wires in the fan with wire nuts and then when you go to hang the fixture all you need to do it plug them in which shouldn't require nearly as much fortitude.

Now I all I have to do is mount the big glass bowl which wouldn't be a problem, except I don't want the pull chain showing and stuffing it into little bit of space available is a bit of a trick, but I get it done. I could have just cut the chain but that would have limited my future options (that's my OCD showing).

Today was much easier than yesterday, I think mostly because I didn't have to make two dozen trips up and down the stairs, most of which were done while trying to figure out just which circuit breaker to trip.

All done except the bowl doesn't look level. Climbed up on a chair and I was able to bend it to my will, but I'm still not sure it's level. That will probably take consulting with my advisers. I blame it on the shoddy / flimsy light bulb holder.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Definition of fthe Day

My brother's often wrongfully accused of being high, he's just got the look... Apparently he's had it since day one. - LoadofCode
High Talk - Stuff people say when they're high, that, perhaps, they wouldn't say normally, supposing, of course, that they weren't normally high.

It's already in Urban Dictionary, and here I thought maybe I was on the edge.

Lighting Upgrade, Part 1

Big Band Jazz de México - Frenesí

We have a ceiling fan in our bedroom. We moved here from Phoenix where ceiling fans were essential to survival. It must have made an impression, otherwise I don't think we would have bothered. The fan incorporates a light fixture, but the fixture only accommodates a single 60 watt bulb which doesn't provide much in the way of light. It's enough so that you don't trip over the furniture, but any kind of detail work, like reading or fastening necklaces, forget it.

After 20 years, and seeing my daughter happily married, I decided maybe I could afford to replace this chickenshit, single bulb fixture with one that put out some real light. Ordered up a bunch of pieces from Amazon, they all got here, eventually, so today I set about putting them to work. Along with the light fixture, I also ordered some new controls. The old one was compact, and worked, but it had two knobs that had to be turned. Knobs are great for fine adjustments, but when all you want is light right now, they are kind of awkward.  So now I have a separate controls for the light and the fan, which means I need a new switch box in the wall, next to the old one.

The old switch box is about a foot from the doorway, so the best place to put the new switch box is just to the  door side of the old one. This puts it on the other side of a stud, which isn't too big of a problem, but it also puts it  opposite the light switch in the hall, so we have two switch boxes back to back, which won't fit.  The new light switch is not very big, not more than an inch or so deep, so there is room behind the opposite hall switch, but not enough room for a regular switch box. No problem, I have a hacksaw and I use it to cut the switch box down to size, twice, because after the first cut it was still and an eighth of inch proud.

Once I have the box in the wall, I need a hole to run wires to original box. Not only that, but I need longer wires. If I had a full size box, I could use a short piece of Romex and wire nuts to splice into the existing circuit, but my cut-down box has barely enough room for the switch and certainly no room for a conventional connections. So, make the pigtail longer by splicing on some more wire, which means soldering, which I can do, so I fire up  the soldering iron which has a really groady tip, so I try cleaning and tinning it, which is the proper way of dealing with soldering irons, but it does not want to tin,. The solder just rolls off the end. No matter, the iron is big enough, I trap the twisted wire splice between the iron and the solder and in a few seconds we have flowing solder.  Once the solder has cooled, I cut a two inch length of 3/4" wide electrical tape (where did that come from? It's a tiny little roll), lay the wire on it length wise and roll it up. Works surprisingly well.

Back to the hole (to run the wires through). Hadn't really thought this part through. Yes, you can run a drill at an angle, and the drill bit would be long enough, but the chuck on the drill motor will run into the wall before you break on through to the other side. I futz around for a bit and then I remember the ten inch long, 1/4" diameter drill bit I have lying in my tool box. I don't remember why I have this one extra long drill bit, gutter support problems, maybe? Who knows. In any case it comes in handy here. A quarter inch hole isn't really big enough, but with a pilot hole we can just grip the very end of the  3/8" drill bit, and that gives us enough length to break on through to the other side, and 3/8's is big enough to feed the wires through. Now all I have to do is connect up the wire with wire nuts and see if it works. I only have to go up and down the stairs 3 or 4 times to turn the power on and off to get it all sorted out.

Tomorrow I get to connect up the new light fixture before momma gets home from Ioway. Should be a piece of cake. Just hope the face plates for the switches cover the scuff marks the drill made.

P.S. Yes, I'm listening to Big Band music again. I suspect my mind is going through some natural aging process that causes me to change my preferences. Might be making me more conservative. Hmmph.


Holland Lop Rabbit
Got a comment on an old blog post from someone in Indonesia who is way into rabbits. Surprised me. Rabbits are not what I think of when I think of Indonesia. Sukarno, The Year of Living Dangerously, Krakatoa East of Java (it's actually west), and the twin spires of that skyscraper* that was the worlds tallest for about six months, are what comes to mind, but not rabbits.

While rabbit breeders might not be solving the world's problems, they are one of those facets of life that make civilization worthwhile.

*okay, the Petronas Towers are in Malaysia, but they are only about 50 miles from Indonesia, just across the Malacca Strait.

Islam's Most Eloquent Apostate

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Photo: Sarah Roger/THE DAILY BEAST
I stole my post's title from a story about Ayaan Hirsi Ai that appeared in today's WSJ (paywall). The title seemed a little off at first glance. "Islam's Most Eloquent" makes it sound like she is pro-Islam, but what's this "Apostate" bit tacked on the end? Apostate is someone who renounces their religion, so it's like a big negative, and boy is she negative. According to her, Islam is out to undermine and destroy Western Civilization. I think she may be right. If we don't find a way to counteract it we may be heading for a brutal future.

Looking around for a similar story that wasn't hidden behind a paywall, I found one by Ayaan on the Hoover Institution's website. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Speaking in Youngstown, Ohio, on August 15, 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gave a speech on what he unequivocally referred to as “radical Islam.” He declared:
Nor can we let the hateful ideology of radical Islam—its oppression of women, gays, children, and nonbelievers—be allowed to reside or spread within our own countries . . . [W]-e must use ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of radical Islam. Our administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voices.
Since Mr. Trump’s election victory and inauguration as president, much attention has been focused on hurried and probably temporary restrictions on refugees, visitors, and immigrants from a number of majority-Muslim countries. Almost no attention has been paid to the broader goals outlined in the Youngstown speech.
I argue that the speech heralded a paradigm shift away from President Obama’s doctrine of focusing solely on the violence committed by “extremists” to a more comprehensive approach that seeks to undermine, degrade, and ultimately defeat political Islam (or Islamism) as an ideology and a movement seeking to infiltrate and undermine our free society.
Trump speaks! And he makes sense! Who knew? Not me, I never listen to any kind of news, I ain't got time for that. So this makes it look the media really has a liberal bias. But now I'm thinking that the propaganda-ists might know what they are doing, and so they are promoting this 'Islam is just another religion' idea because if we were to start stirring up people we might get more violence than we want. I am sure there are Westernized Muslims who are content with life here, and you certainly don't want to be subjecting them to any kind of attack, but how can you tell the Westernized Muslims from the died-in-wool fanatics? Especially when the fanatics are masquerading as Westernized?

It's all about what you believe. In the middle of the last century the fascists believed they were right and everyone else was wrong. We showed them that their thinking was incorrect. I am not sure but I suspect Islam's problem stems from not believing the evidence of the senses, but rather relying on mystical religious revelations to reveal the truth. Western Civilization is built on the Bible and Science. Science is a growing influence, but Science doesn't have all the answers. When that happens we can fall back on the Bible. The great thing about Science is the ability to settle disagreements peacefully, but that only works if everyone at least agrees that Science is good. For (some? extremist? devout?) Muslims, Science is no more than a plaything. All truth comes directly into your mind from God. They might be right, but there is also a lot of bullshit that gets into people's minds, so you will excuse me if I am unwilling to accept that you have heard the word of god. Maybe it was God speaking to you, or maybe it was the Devil, or maybe it was just the ghost of a squirrel.

I also found a story by Carla Power on that says Ayaan is wrong and Islam is okay. Carla is a weasel and an Islam apologist and you should not listen to anything she says.

Update 10 hours later: changed ' I think she maybe right.' to ' I think she may be right.' My inner grammar Nazi spotted this.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Nightclub Music

Django Reinhardt - Nuages - Paris, 13.12.1940

According to Alan Furst in Midnight In Europe, this is the tune being played in Le Cygne, a fictional Paris nightclub in February of 1938.

This makes the third time I've heard the name Django, and the second time today. The first time was the movie with the guy who played Ray Charles (that would be Jamie Foxx). The second time was in an email I got today from some people working on a software project using that name. So when I came across it again tonight, I just had to look him up.

Stupid Automaton Exhibiting Fractal Behavior

Life in life

The 'game' of Life played on a very big screen. Life is not really a game, it's just a simple minded computer program that exhibits some remarkable behavior. The notes on the YouTube page have a bunch of links to stuff about the program and how the video was made. Via Dennis.

Are pears fraught with peril?

Perilous Pears
Iaman wants to know if pears are fraught with peril, so he posts his question on Quora and Denise Lepschy responds with an extensive explanation. I never realized just how perilous pears were.

P.S. R.I.P. stands for Repetitive Strain Injury. You might want to know that if you read Denise's story.

Update August 2018. Denise Lepschy seems to have disappeared from the Internet. That's a pretty good trick, I didn't think it could be done.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

19th Century American Bullet Train

Rev. Calthrop's Air-Resisting Train
The Rev. Dr. Samuel R. Calthrop was a Unitarian minister and amateur scientist born in Lincolnshire, England who moved to the United States in 1851. In 1865, while living in Roxbury, Massachusetts, he took out a patent for an "air-resisting train" capable of high speeds. This train was to be completely covered in a streamlined casing, which would be supplemented by diaphragms connecting the coaches. According to the B&O Railroad Museum, this was an extremely accurate prediction of 20th-century streamliners and modern bullet trains, so it is unfortunate that the Rev. Calthrop had to sell his patents to support his family, and that his death in 1917 caused him to miss the post-WWI Art Deco streamlining movement in train design. This sketch at the B&O Railroad Museum shows the streamliner speeding through a western landscape. -  rlkitterman
I don't recall ever seeing a streamlined anything from the 19th Century. Dr. Calthrop was definitely ahead of his time.

Dr. Calthrop's obituary from The Southern Workman
Via Posthip Scott.

Update April 5, 2017, added link and obituary.