Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Caravan Palace - Suzy

Caravan Palace - Suzy

I'm sitting outside, chilling, literally, and playing tunes on my laptop and this pops up. The tune and the video are both pretty great.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Radio Waves

Big Antennaes
I am always surprised when I come across a new-to-me giant radio antennae. You'd think I'd learn, but for some reason it is always a bit of a shock. This week's shocker is the Jim Creek Naval Radio Station, which is just north of Seattle, which puts it in my proverbial backyard. Why haven't I heard about this place before? Probably because I'm not hanging with the right crowd, i.e. the extreme radio conspiracy nuts. Well, I'm busy, there are just too many conspiracy theories running around loose out there for me to be able to keep track of them all.

Naval Radio Station Jim Creek

Jim Creek is a VLF station that is used for communicating with our submarines, which reminded me that I came across another one of these on the west coast of Australia a while back. That in turn prompted me to extract all of the radio antennaes I had recorded in my Big Science Map and make up the map you see above.

Talking to Jack at lunch the other day about my new discovery, he tells me that he had an old VLF war surplus receiver, which prompted to wonder if anyone was picking up these VLF signals.

Receiving VLF with PC and software only

Why, yes, there are a whole bunch of people playing with this, which isn't too surprising since all it takes is a PC and a sound card.

So now I'm wondering if anyone has been able to decrypt these signals. Rooting around I find that since the data rate is so low, the Navy sends out short code words, like five letters long, that stand for prearranged commands, like surface so we can talk to you, or serve mashed potatoes for dinner, or something. So even if you could decrypt these signals, you would still need the code book to interpret them, and then all you might learn is what's on tonight's menu.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Extreme Ridiculousness

TOYO TIRES | Ken Block’s Climbkhana: Pikes Peak Featuring the Hoonicorn V2

This has been sitting in my inbox for the last three days and I have been carefully avoiding it, but today I'm feeling a little weak and succumbed to the lure of the twin sirens of speed and power. I can't think of a more foolish waste of time and money, but I still watched the whole thing. You have to give Monsieur Block credit for finding a way to make money off of this nonsense. I mean, I hope he's making money, he certainly has enough commercial tie-ins to his hot rod empire.

People have been entranced by speed from the beginning (like a billion years ago, whenever the microbes first developed motility). If you are faster than the other guy / animal / entity you can escape their clutches -or- bring your clutches to bear, depending on whether you are the pursued or the pursuer. We'll leave out who which ones are good or bad, it all depends on your frame of reference and your allegiances. I know where my allegiances lie, or at least I think I do. How about you? Do you know where your allegiances lie?

Via Road & Track

Rules of Acquisition

Ferengi Rules of Acquisition - Complete List*

I used to be a fan of Star Trek and some of its derivatives, and since Star Trek seems to be part and parcel of American Culture, I kind of thought that everyone knew about the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. A passing encounter with younger son disabused me of that notion. If he doesn't know about this, then how many other people out there in internet land are also ignorant of this cultural icon? So, this video.

Via Dustbury

Update February 2021 replaced missing video.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Me & Linux

I just spent an hour cleaning out old files on my Linux box.  Lately I had noticed that sometimes the web browser stalls while the hard disk is getting hammered. Looking in Files (the Linux file management program) I see that I have about 5 GB of space left. I have tried deleting some things, but it hasn't made a noticeable difference, I still had only about 5 GB of free space. I could have opened my Linux reference book and read up on the subject, but hey, we've got the internet, so I posted a question on the Linux Mint Forum and I quickly got several helpful responses, one of which included this bit of Linux weenie cryptography.
sudo du -chd1 / --exclude={proc,dev,sys,media,mnt,run,tmp,lost*,cdrom}
It's a command-line command, copy it (using normal browser controls)  and then paste it into a Terminal window (using special Terminal window controls) and I quickly have an overview of who's sucking up all the space. It's me, of course, and all the crap I have been dragging around with me every time I change computers. Changing directories (using the cd command) and repeated applications of
sudo du -chd1 .
(the dot means operate on the current directory) allows me to track down the biggest offender, which turned out to be about six levels down. Deleting a bunch of ancient crap makes me feel better, but it doesn't do anything for my bottom line, which still shows only 5 GB of disk space. (5 GB!?! Back in the day when I got started in this business we were lucky to have 10 MB.) Empty the trash, silly, and suddenly we have 30 GB of free space. That should be enough room to play with for a couple of months or so.

Now I'm looking at the forum and I realize my avatar is a blind snowman standing in front of a concrete wall. Not exactly putting my brand out there. We ought to do something about that, so I root around and find a copy of the image to upload, but the forum doesn't support uploading. They want a link to a photo that is already on the web. Well, I am the master of my internet browser, I should be able to deliver that, except I can't.

I try using the link to the avatar from this blog, but it goes nowhere. Stealing the link from the page source works, but the image is too big. I try uploading the photo to Google Drive, but it won't provide a link to the photo, but it will export it to Imgur, except it won't. So enough screwing around with these fancy web services that don't work, let's fall back to old reliable (sort of) Blogger, so that's how we come to have this post with the tiny little picture of me at the top.

Update 2 minutes later: using the link to the picture from this blog post worked!

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Dominik Sky - Human Flag on 360 meters (1181 feet) HD

I don't much care for videos of people engaging in foolish, dangerous actions. Plus they make my hands sweat. This guy is hanging off the top of the chimney at the Trbovlje Power Station in Slovenia, the tallest in Europe.

A high chimney was required for the site to ensure that emissions were removed from the deep, narrow valley under all weather conditions.
It's the tallest chimney in Europe, but not in the world. For that we have to go Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan.

Ekibastuz GRES-2 Power Station
Wikipedia link, photo is from Panarimo.
Kazakhstan is also home to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, site of all our manned space flight launches.

My only encounter with a tall chimney happened a couple of years ago. And then there's Fred.

Name Height in Feet Year Built
GRES-2 Power Station, Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan 1377 1987
Trbovlje Chimney 1181 1976
Anaconda Smelter Stack 585 1919
India Mill Chimney (Fred) 279 1867

Video via Jack.

Russian Women Sniper Movies

BATTLE FOR SEVASTOPOL - Movie Trailer (20th Century Fox)

Iaman found this movie to be captivating.
Battle for Sevastopol is a 2015 biographical war film about Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a young Soviet Ukrainian who joined the Red Army to fight the Nazi invasion of the USSR and became one of the deadliest snipers in World War II. - Wikipedia
Sevastopol is a major Russian naval base on the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea. In the actual conflict, the Soviets held off the Axis forces (Germany & Romania) for six months but were eventually overrun with over 100,000 Soviet soldiers killed.

Famous Soviet woman sniper? Reminds me of this movie:

Enemy At The Gates - Trailer

Enemy at the Gates is a war film about the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942 and 1943. The main characters are Soviet snipers Vasily Zaytsev and Tania Chernova.

Update September 2023 replaced first trailer.

Quote of the Day

 Inside the Launch Control Center, personnel watch as the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 11 astronauts lifts off the launch pad on July 16, 1969. Image credit: NASA
I did well at North American. I was in the right place at the right time. We believed we could achieve anything, on any scale, if we worked hard enough, with our flow charts and schedules and critical paths. Why not? That was how we won the war, and how we managed Project Apollo. Four hundred thousand people, all across the country, all doing their tiny part - but all controlled from the center, all those resources pouring in, like building a mountain out of grains of sand, a huge mountain you could climb all the way to the moon. - Coalescent by Stephen Baxter, page 167.
Found this in a page of notes while I was digging through my hard drive this morning. Great stuff.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Race Truck

2017 F-150 Ecoboost vs All
via Road & Track

When I was in high school, the Mustang something-er-other and the Camaro Z-28 were the kings of street drag racing, reaching 100 MPH in a quarter mile and doing it in 13 seconds. The Ford pickup truck in the video has had some work done to it, but not much. The four-wheel drive apparently lets it get off the line quicker than the rear-wheel drive cars, and drivers of some of those other cars may have been asleep at the wheel, but still. It's a flipping pickup truck, not a race car.

Ford V6 Engine with dual turbochargers
And the engine is like something out of Star Wars, or maybe Italy. All good pickup trucks, like mine, use large displacement, cast iron V8 engines. This Ford engine is tiny, aluminum, and turbocharged, and it doesn't have just one turbocharger, it has two! Ten years ago this was something wanna-be racers dreamed about, now it's the stock engine in a work-a-day pickup truck. The world is changing, and it's changing faster.

Ford / GM 10 speed automatic transmission
Having ten different gear ratios in a transmission sounds excessive to me, but I suppose there's a good reason for it. Maybe the gear guys are feeling pressure from the electric motor folks.

The current truck with the new, smaller engine and the aluminum body weighs 600 pounds less than the old iron monsters they were building just a couple years ago. (4,051 pounds vs. 4,685).

Friday, September 22, 2017

Old People, Young People

Age Distribution for the 10 Largest Countries
Normally I don't like GIF's, but this is one case that is suited to the stepwise, repetive format.


St. Mary's Trophy Race

Titanic touring car battle for the lead

Big time racing (like Formula 1, Indy Car's, NASCAR) doesn't do much for me. But these guys, duking it out in 50 year old iron, hey! Thanks the spirit!

Via Road & Track

P.S. YouTube has changed their embedding code so you no longer get a choice of sizes. Now if you want full VGA (640 pixels wide), you have to edit the HTML yourself. I've done that for the last few videos I've embedded, but it's getting old. And maybe 560 pixels, which is the new black, is enough. I mean YouTube ought to know what they're doing, right?

Vietnam War

US Navy Command and Communications Boat
There's a new series about the Vietnam War on PBS that promises to be worth watching. Coincidentally, the U.S. Navy has just released the ninth and last book in their series on their role in the war. Maybe we'll learn something.

Via Indy Tom.

Health Care Debate

Dialysis Machine
Because this blog is about things, and I'm not going to clutter it up with a bunch of yucky sick people.
The Detroit gang dropped a couple of links in my inbox this morning. First, a YouTube video: Jimmy Kimmel Fights Back Against Bill Cassidy, Lindsey Graham & Chris Christie, and second, a Washington Post story. I didn't watch or read either one, because:

This whole medical insurance debate is complete and utter horseshit. (Heh, my new catch phrase.) What we need is real information, but we're not getting it. It might be out there, but digging it out would be a lot of work, and why bother? Nobody in power is listening, they are all listening to each other trying to score political points by telling bullshit stories.

Our healthcare system is built on a fantasy, a fantasy that is carefully nurtured by everyone with a financial interest, like doctors, lawyers, insurance executives and media moguls. This fantasy has doctors curing all diseases, patients recovering fully and leading happy, productive lives. Oh, that happens occasionally, and for common afflictions that are well understood, it might even be the norm. But the more people you have, the more variation you have and the more obscure, inscrutable diseases show up. Life is a terminal disease. People spend their lives trying to be happy. They should spend their time getting ready to die.

Health care is a trillion dollar business in this country. All those people who are engaged in the debate over insurance are just trying to influence the trajectory of that money so that more of the random spray that emanates from such a powerful stream will land on them and make them rich. Because even a single droplet from that trillion dollar stream is worth a million bucks.

Since we don't have any facts (not that they would do us any good), here's a couple of stories.

A guy I know works as a dialysis nurse. He hooks up patients who are in need of dialysis to the machine and monitors the blood cleaning process. One Sunday he gets called in to run the procedure on a patient. The guy is old and in bad shape. He is swollen up like a whale. Joe (our nurse), hooks him up and runs the process for a while, but eventually the guys blood pressure starts falling and eventually it falls so much that he has to stop. The guy is still as big as a whale and still in bad shape, but he's done all he can do. Joe (all male nurses are named Joe, at least in this blog) estimates that the guy only has a few days to live, but his wife is demanding that the doctors do something. Like what, sweety? He's dying. Sad, but life is like that.

A couple of months ago a friend had gone into the hospital for some kind of test. The test involved anesthesia, so after the test we were waiting in a hospital ward for the anesthesia to wear off. While we are waiting a nurse starts talking to another patient (an elderly woman by the sound of it, they were obscured by drapes), getting her medical history, and in particular, a list of the drugs she is taking. So the patient starts telling the nurse all the drugs she is taking. It's not just one or two or even a dozen. I swear there must have been a zillion, she went on and on and on. When she gets near the end, she tells the nurse she is taking Oxycodone. And why are you taking that, asks the nurse? Because I'm addicted is the reply. WTF? I didn't think addiction was a valid medical reason to prescribe narcotics, but then I'm old. Maybe the rules have changed. Or maybe the old lady was just a garden variety addict and the rest of her story was just a cover she was selling in order to get more of that sweet, sweet oxy.

Update six hours later: Here's another story from one of my correspondents.
I don't think anecdotal stories move our knowledge base forward. That being said, my aunt, may she rest in peace, had a lousy rheumatologist. He prescribed so many bad meds to avoid operating on her arthritic knee that she developed serious health issues from the drugs. Ultimately at 80+ years old we had a big conference. The right solution was a morphine patch. She became an addict. We spoke daily and I could tell by her voice when the patch needed to be replaced and she was starting withdrawal. They tried taking her off to no avail. So for the last 15 years of her life she was a morphine addict. She still did volunteer work as a retired licensed clinical social worker. She still worked as a locally renowned stained glass artist, she still traveled, she still...  Looking at her life from the outside, one could wonder at and judge the medical interventions. But she had quality of life and wanted more until the day she called me and said she was ready. 
So the politicos are making a big fuss about the dangers of narcotics, but they aren't telling us the whole story. Meanwhile, here in Oregon simple possession of heroin is now a misdemeanor. Will this put a curb in the fentanyl trade?

On the left, a lethal dose of heroin; on the right, a lethal dose of fentanyl.
“Anyone who is so deep into their addiction that they would use fentanyl is not worried about jail.” - Jordana Goldlist

Csikszentmihalyi flowsters in Utah

Detroit Steve sent me this link this morning. It must have rubbed me the wrong way because I responded with this little diatribe.

I'm sorry, but I think it's complete and utter horseshit. Good for Wheal for extracting money from fools. And one or two people may actually benefit from his advice, but mostly it's just an excuse to go somewhere new and hang out with a bunch of other people with more money than brains. (Doesn't mean they aren't smart, just that they have more money than brains.)

Okay, I'm a curmudgeon and I woke up on the grumpy side of bed this morning. As for flow, it might be a real thing, and there are times when I am really in the groove and working out complicated problems, but it's mostly a matter of getting enough sleep and not getting distracted by bullshit, which can be difficult because there is a great deal of very entertaining bullshit floating around in our world.

I like to think I'm worth $1,000 an hour when I'm in good form. Unfortunately, that only happens a couple of hours a week, and this summer, thanks to a string of minor catastrophic disruptions, it has hardly happened at all.

See my post Neural Net, especially the last paragraph.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

North Korea

North Korea Missile Tests, so far this year
Seems like we've been hearing about North Korean missile tests forever. This website has got records that go back to 1984, which is 33 years ago. So North Korea has been doing this for a while, and they've launched a bunch of missiles. They used to be kind of a joke, their missiles blew up on the launch pad more often than not, and when they did get off the ground, they didn't go very far. In 1998 they launched one that went over Japan, and some people started paying attention.

North Korea, according to most of the rest of world, is seriously screwed up. But then I got to thinking.

We've been watching Ertugrul on Netflix, a soap opera about some 13th Century Turkish nomads (we're up to episode 30). The current story line has them migrating to some land that was granted them by the Emir Al Aziz of Aleppo. The Emir reneged on his promise, based on some rumors started by the evil Templars. So now our tribe is kind of in a jam. The Mongols pushing in from the East have forced them into country so barren that their livestock were starving to death. The Emir granted them a section of good land. It would be great except that it is between Aleppo and the Templars, so there is going be a constant state of conflict, but hey, they've got swords and they know how to use them. But now the Emir has revoked his grant and is threatening to exterminate the whole tribe if they don't pack up and move. Well, we just got here, we're not in the mood for moving, and you granted us this land, you can't be going back on your word, you lousy Indian giver.

In any case, they are prepared to fight the Emir's army, even though they are outnumbered ten to one. It may mean the death of their tribe, but at least they'll go down fighting.

Translate this viewpoint to North Korea and you can see how they could view themselves as the victims in the game of global domination. Okay, you would also need to be ignorant of the actual state of the world, but who are you going to believe? Western Imperialist Running Dog news services, or your faithful leader? And is it any different that what we have here? The news is like 99% garbage, and the 1% that might be of real concern is so fractured with competing spins it is really hard to tell what is true. Fortunately we have our own faithful leader. Which one is more trustworthy? Kim or Donald?

Missile website via Detroit Steve.

Spelling Numbers

Algebraic Numbers
Here because it's kind of a cool picture and it's number related.
Someone noticed that the letter A is not used in writing out the names of any numbers until you get to one thousand, which got me to thinking. Near as I can tell, the letters C, J, K, P and Y are not used in the names of any numbers. A few letters don't get used until you get to some big numbers.

Zero is in the list because everybody starts with one so nobody notices it.  Zero is also the only number that uses the letter Z, except for zillion which is not really a number even though I treat it like one.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Boney M. - Rasputin (Remix - Shuffle Dance)

Boney M. - Rasputin (Remix - Shuffle Dance)

I'm running a YouTube playlist in the background while I am playing solitaire and this tune comes on. It has some middle eastern sounds, and since we've been watching Ertugrul I find them enjoyable. So here we are. Dancing girls are a bonus. The tune is from 1979. I wasn't impressed with the original.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Crystallographic structure of the reelin protein based on the PDB: 2DDU​ coordinates. Boghog
Reelin is a complicated chemical found floating around in your body. Near as I can tell, it has some influence over the central nervous system. I got onto this from a Reddit link to a Wikipedia passage about schizophrenia, one of my least favorite diseases.

I'm not very good at chemistry. Oh, I understand the basics well enough, water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, but once you get past the basics there is an endless profusion of chemical compounds and I quickly become lost. It's almost like the English language, you can stick words, or atoms, together in a limitless number of ways. If you use it every day, those combinations will become familiar to you, like the books you have read. But if you don't immerse yourself in this sea of arcane knowledge it will always be gibberish.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Plymouth Switcher

Plymouth Model BL locomotive - From rough to restored...

Looking at compact model train layouts, thinking maybe I need a mining railroad, lots of turns and hills and bridges and stuff. Tight turns require small locos, like this compact switching engine, which is how I stumbled over this video. The reason it is here though, is because it uses an infinitely variable mechanical transmission / clutch to transmit power to the wheels. It has two large wheels, one which is driven by the engine, and the other, driven, wheel is positioned at 90 degrees and mounted on a movable shaft. The engineer employs a hand crank to slide the driven wheel left or right along its shaft. By doing so, he selects the speed and direction of the locomotive. He then uses the large control lever to force the driven wheel against the driving wheel. It is not a perfect arrangement, there is going to be some slippage due to the geometry of the contact point, but with enough force it can evidently be made to work. I have heard of these kind of transmissions before, but the only place I can recall hearing them used was in the old mechanical artillery computers used on battleships in WW2 (start at the 8:55).

Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum had this engine, but there is no more recent mention of it on their webpage.

What's that you say?

Amazon Echo - SNL

I don't know if our memory is failing, or we just have more important things to think about, but the fact that we occasionally experience incidents like this is what makes it so funny.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Falls Park, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
I've been going round and round with Citibank about a missing credit card statement. I only noticed it was missing when they turned off the card ( again!). I tried calling them to tell them I hadn't gotten a statement and would they send me another one, but they wanted to me to play their version of 20 questions, and I have no patience for that shit. Why do they need to verify that I am who I say I am? I don't want any information, I just want them to send me my statement. Their inability to fulfill this simple request is emblematic of what is wrong with America. This is why Trump won the election. People are tired of all the unnecessary bullshit that has been creeping into our lives for the last umpteen years. Okay, maybe you aren't, but I am.

So I wrote them a letter. It's an easy thing to do once you have all the pieces in place. They eventually sent me a statement, but it was the wrong one. We are now on our fourth go round, and they still haven't gotten it right.

Now I'm wondering why Citibank is having such a hard time with something that should never have been a problem in the first place*, and I'm thinking it's people problem. Could it be that the people in charge of answering letters are so overworked that they are not really paying attention to what they are doing? Or maybe they hate their manager and hate their job or they just don't care. As long as they send something back, they are doing their job and no one can fault them for sending the wrong thing. I can hear their excuses from 1500 miles away: 'I sent the right thing, the customer is an idiot.' 

What does this credit-card service center / hell hole looks like. I start with Citibank headquarters in New York City, but then I snap and realize my correspondence is with their outpost in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and what we've got there is a bunch of big box warehouse like structures that look like big box warehouses you find anywhere. But then I stumble across some pictures of Falls Park, which looks like a pretty cool place (especially in winter).

St. Louis Gateway Arch
I address my latest missive and I realize that the credit card service center is in St. Louis, Missouri. So where did I get the idea that it was in Sioux Falls? Oh, I have two different Citibank cards, one straight from Citibank and one from Costco. The Costco service center is in St. Louis, the other is in Sioux Falls.

*which reminds me of the old saw that a problem that shouldn't be a problem can't be fixed.

P.S. How was it that Citibank established a service center in South Dakota of all places? The Sioux Falls Argus has the story, as does Marketplace. Almost restores your faith in the financial establishment. Not.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Citi: Leadership. 200 Years of Progress

I am not overly fond of Citi being as I am in the midst of a minor squabble with them over their failure to deliver statements in a timely manner. But the video points out something you don't hear much about: every big project requires financing, and financing is what lets make big accomplishments. These days, which means ever since we went off the gold standard, economics, money and finance are all voodoo, but as long as everyone continues to believe in this mass hallucination, we're good.


Our world is getting ever more complex.
Bitcoin came across my plate recently and I got to thinking that maybe I should set up a computer to do some Bitcoin mining and so make a little money. I mean, I've got old computers sitting around and I know something about computer software, I should be able to do this without too much effort, and then presto, free money.

But before I expend any effort on this project, I want to understand what I am getting into, which means finding out just how this Bitcoin business works. After much noodling around I think I have it.

First of all the worth of Bitcoin comes from being a ledger. It's kind of like paying an accountant to keep your books. Admittedly, it's of a special ledger, immune to the forces that normally bear on an ordinary, preson-type, accountant, which may make it more valuable to some people, but it's basically just a ledger.

Second of all, running a computer to mine bitcoins is not a stand-alone operation. You can't just fire up your computer have it make these magical numbers and when it finally produces one you take it and send it off to the great Bitcoin collective in the sky.

Bitcoin is a ledger, and one of things that makes it valuable is once a page has been recorded, it is stamped with a very fancy checksum which means any alterations to the page will render the checksum invalid. And since that checksum is included on the following page, fixing the checksum, will necessitate updating the following page, and the page after that until you reach the end. And since there are a zillion copies of this ledger floating around, someone is going to notice the difference and you will get found out and your evil plot to rule the world will come crashing down around your toes.

The way Bitcoin works is transactions are recorded on a page in the ledger. Once the page is full*, all the active Bitcoin miners jump in and try to compute the checksum. Now it's not an ordinary checksum, it's a very fancy checksum. You could probably compute it by hand in some number of days, but we have computers now, so we let the computers do it. A computer can compute this fancy checksum (called a SHA-256 hash, or some similar nonsense), in milliseconds. It's trivial. Bitcoin has an added requirement though, because not only do you have to compute the checksum, but it has to be 'pretty' (Bitcoin's version of pretty** is that the checksum must start with some number of zeroes).

Blockchain 101 - A Visual Demo
A block is like a page in a ledger. A block chain is like the whole ledger book.

In order for the checksum to be 'pretty', you need to add a magic number to the page. The only way anyone knows to find the magic number is to take a wild guess and then compute the checksum. If it comes out 'pretty', great, if not, try another one and run the computation again. Since it seems to be completely random whether any number will produce the desired result, you may have to try a few zillion numbers to find the one you need.

If that were all there was to it, it would be a mint, running diligently, popping out a bitcoin every ten minutes, which how often a page is filled. But there are also a zillion other computer geeks out there, all hooked to the net, trying to do the same thing, so whoever comes up with the answer first is the one who gets paid.

Antminer S9 ~13.5TH/s @ .098W/GH 16nm ASIC Bitcoin Miner
Since it seems to be completely random which number will provide the solution, it's possible that your little old Pentium processor, sucking up kilowatt-hours of electricity will find it, but it's more likely that it won't. So people have banded together to combine their efforts in order to improve their chances. And computer geeks have gone off the deep end building custom machines solely for the purpose of running these computations. Some people have even gone to the extreme of building custom ASIC chips to do this. The whole thing sounds a little insane, unless you really like doing that kind of thing, i.e. building fancy, special purpose computing machines. And given what we know about people, there is certain percentage of the population who really like doing that.

Genesis Mining #EvolveWithUs - The Series / Official Trailer

Some people have gotten so serious about it that they are building a computer farm in Iceland for the specific purpose of mining Bitcoins. I gave them $100 to see if they can make any money for me. Some people might want to call it an investment, but to me it's more like gambling. It's just enough money that I should remember to check on it occasionally to see if it is producing any results. It's entirely possible they have faked the video and have taken my money and spent it on lattes for all their friends. We shall see.

* 'full' seems to be when the checksum for the previous page has appeared.
** The amount of 'prettiness' is adjusted so that the average time it takes for the checksum to appear is ten minutes. I have no idea how many transactions are on a page. It could be one, or it could be a zillion.

I Want That

11 Bobby Hendricks - I Want That [Jazzman]

Another one from somebody's archive. This one is from 1960.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Any Way You Wanta

07 Harvey - Any Way You Wanta [Jazzman]

More emphatic singing from the strange land of YouTube.

Monday, September 11, 2017


Aleppo in the 13th Century
We've been watching Resurrection: Ertugrul on Netflix. In episode 5 our hero pays a visit to Aleppo. It flashes on the screen for maybe a second just after the 17 minute mark. Is this the same Aleppo that has been getting hammered in the Syrian civil war? Why, yes it is. The place has expanded significantly since the 13th Century.

The ancient citadel with the modern city.

Burnt Toast and Black Coffee

14 Shorty Long - Burnt Toast and Black Coffee [Jazzman]

The emotion conveyed in the singer's words leaves no doubt about how he feels about his breakfast.

Intelligent Speed Bump

The intelligent Speed bump by Badennova.avi

It's not really smart, like computerized, it's more like an intelligent application of cornstarch. It's kind of a cute idea, though I suspect it won't hold up on a high traffic road and then you'll have yellow goop running in the streets. But the important part is the model who demonstrates the how the working fluid does its job. She is like a bolt from the blue. Or maybe it's just too early for me to be watching things like this.

Via Detroit Steve

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Imigrants, Part 1

Arctic Prowler commercial fishing vessel
On the flight back to Portland from Omaha, I am sitting with a guy from Ethiopia. Actually he is from South Sudan, but at some point the border moved and the place he is from is now in Ethiopia. He is big, maybe 6 foot 2, and black, as you might expect. He was 16 when he came to the USA. He is 37 now. He lives in Anchorage Alaska.

Alaska Pipeline
The fancy antennae looking things attached to the top of the support posts are radiators so the heat from the oil doesn't melt the permafrost.
Sometimes he works patching the asbestos (!) insulation on oil pipelines, sometimes he goes fishing. The boat is 135 feet long and has a crew of 32. He works from crew shares. In a good month the boat will bring in $600,000 worth of fish. He makes about $10,000 a month. And yes, he is aware of the danger of working with asbestos and he takes precautions.

Asbestos was banned from most uses in 1980, but construction of the Alaska pipeline began in 1974, so much of the insulation is very likely asbestos. It's a continuing issue with pipelines everywhere.
Asbestos' continuing long-term use after harmful health effects were known or suspected, and the slow emergence of symptoms decades after exposure ceased, made asbestos litigation the longest, most expensive mass tort in U.S. history . . . - Wikipedia

Communist Capitalists

Dome and Gold Filial atop old Colt Factory in Hartford, Conneticut
Caught sight of this unusual ornament in the opening to a Colt promotional video, and I had to find out more. Luke Spencer has a story on Atlas Oscura about how Sam built a workers utopia in Connecticut back in the 19th Century. To afford this kind of extravagance, those guns must have been selling for a pretty penny. Sure, they were only a couple of bucks back then, but I think that probably translates into a $100,000 of today's Monopoly money.

Old Colt Factory in Hartford Connecticut
The factory was a big place and by all accounts a model of efficient production. The place is a National Park now.

Colt employees on the shop floor, circa 1900, courtesy of the Connecticut State Library. 
Of course, it was a 19th Century, steam powered sweatshop, but a really nice sweatshop, surrounded by gardens.

Factory engraved SAA by Cuno Helfricht, shipped 1893 to E.J.Post & Co. Albuquerque NM
Making a gun (now) is easy. We have plans and machine tools and precision measuring devices. All you need to do is follow the directions and cut, drill and mill until you have all the required pieces. Engraving, now that's a bit different. It requires patience, skill, good eyesight and a bit of artistic talent. And time. And time, as our modern capitalist system relentlessly hammers into our heads, is money.  These days a fancy engraving job can easily be more than the price of the gun, which kind of makes me think that a century ago, guns were much more expensive, which would have made the engraving not such an extravagance. I suspect that most people would consider spending a thousand dollars to engrave a thousand dollar gun an extravagance. If the gun cost ten times that much, then the thousand dollars for engraving would not be so far out of line.

Plas Johnson - Downstairs

03 Plas Johnson - Downstairs [Jazzman]
No video, just this flat image.

Heard this on KMHD. I liked it so much I had to go find out what it was. Fortunately KMHD posts their playlist on the web. Good starter tune for the day.

Resurrection: Ertugrul

A promotional image for the Turkish television series “Dirilis: Ertugrul.” Credit TRT 1 TV
We seem to be suckers for historical dramas, as long as they have plenty of sword swinging action. We started watching this one last night.
Diriliş: Ertuğrul is a Turkish historical adventure television series . . . The show is based on the history of the Muslim Oghuz Turks and takes place in the 13th century and centers around the life of Ertuğrul, the father of Osman I, who was the founder of the Ottoman Empire. - Wikipedia
The first episode was a bit slow getting started, but it quickly picked up steam. We ended up watching three episodes last night. Then we check to see how deep this rabbit hole goes and we find that Netflix has 180 episodes! (Wikipedia disagrees.) Most of the series we've watched have been more like a dozen episodes. This is truly phenomenal.

In some foreign sounding gibberish, presumably Turkish, with subtitles.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Pic of the Day - Air Niugini

DC-3 P2-SBD (ex VH-SBD) at Port Moresby Airport in December 1974. Photo by peter lea
Port Moresby, that would be in New Guinea. We've been there before, sort of. Niugini, that's a funny sounding name, except how would I know? More like it's funny looking, which kind of goes along with it being from the far side of the world. Then I tried working out how I would pronounce it, and, doh! I'm back where I started: Niu = New, gini = Guinea, Niugini = New Guinea. Wikipedia agrees, sort of.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


Current Northwest Air Quality
Portland is down to 'Moderately Unhealthy'. Medford and Spokane are up to 'Hazardous'.
All due to forest fires running wild, burning up all the trees.

Delta Airlines airliner ducks into Puerto Rico and slips back out before the Hurricane hits the airport.
Via Posthip Scott.

The moon, taken at my friend Jack's house two nights ago.
I think there was a little ash in the air.
Via Jack.

Jack R. Gray, R.I.P.

Jack R. Gray, 1927-2017
My father-in-law passed away two weeks ago.

Rockwell City – Jack R. Gray 90, a longtime attorney, passed away Thursday, August 24, 2017 at Holy Spirit Retirement Home in Sioux City, Iowa. Memorial services will be 10:30 a.m. Monday, August 28, 2017 at St. Paul's Lutheran & Presbyterian Church, Rockwell City, with Pastor James Hoover Mossman officiating. Burial of cremains will be at Rosehill Cemetery. Visitation will be 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, at the Palmer & Swank Funeral Home, Rockwell City, and from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Twin Lakes Golf Club. In lieu of flowers memorials can be left to: Holy Spirit Retirement Home, St. Paul's Lutheran & Presbyterian Church, or Twin Lakes Golf Club.

Jack is survived by his son John C. Gray and his wife Di of Sioux City, Iowa; daughter Anne Pergiel and her husband Charles of Hillsboro, Oregon; 5 grandchildren, Joe (Stephanie) Canny, Ross, Kathryn, and John Pergiel, and Jack Calhoon Gray; great-grandson Calhoon Harold Canny; and other relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by his wife Audrey; son Todd Gray; his parents, Ross C. and Jennie Geist Gray; brothers, Ward, Lynn, and Dale Gray; and sister Jean Hull.

Jack Ross Gray was born August 9, 1927 at Rockwell City, Iowa. He graduated from Rockwell City High School, with the Class of 1945. Jack attended college in Iowa City and graduated from the College of Law at the University of Iowa in 1952. On September 7, 1952 he was united in marriage to Audrey A. Langland. The couple established their home in Rockwell City where Jack practiced law with his father, uncle, and brothers at the Gray & Gray Law Firm. He later practiced law with David Gidel at Gray & Gidel Law Firm. Audrey passed away in 2013, and later that year Jack retired from law. In 2014, he became a resident of Holy Spirit Retirement Home in Sioux City. Jack was a member of St. Paul's Lutheran & Presbyterian Church, Twin Lakes Golf Club, Rockwell City Rotary Club, and the Iowa State Bar Association. He was also past County Attorney, and past City Attorney. He enjoyed playing snooker, bridge, and cribbage. Jack collected nearly everything, and he loved his hometown.

Neural Net

Grain Elevators in Rockwell City, Iowa
All of Iowa is a giant solar energy plant. The entire state is covered with fields of corn. In every county there is a big, stone county courthouse and a giant grain elevator with half a dozen concrete silos. Next to every grain elevator there is a railroad siding. So, the entire state plants in the spring, lets the corn grow all summer, harvests it in the fall and stores it in the grain elevators. Then the trains start collecting the corn and hauling it off to the feed lots and the ethanol distillers and the bakeries. Actually, they probably never stop. Trains are running constantly collecting grain from one elevator after another. It takes them all year to drain all the elevators and then the whole cycle starts again.

Calhoun County Courthouse
Yes, I know it is obscured by trees. I took this picture because of the sizable radio antennas.
Look at all that infrastructure devoted to the collection, storage and distribution of one crop. All the grain elevators, railroad tracks, and railroad cars. That is some serious capital investment, with very thing margins. The only way it will pay off is if you keep using the same equipment over and over again, year after year.

Railroad lines in Northwest Iowa between Des Moines and Sioux City
Look at all the little towns scattered across Iowa. They are small because they don't need a lot of people to take care of the business of corn production. I suspect half of the people are there to provide a modicum of civilization to these remote outposts. Every town needs teachers and a barber and a sheriff. A grocer and a mechanic would not amiss. I don't know if every town needs a doctor, but every county surely does.

Colorful clouds after rain shower at one of the gatherings.
My father-in-law passed away a couple of weeks ago and I flew to Iowa to attend the service. There were several gatherings to commemorate the event. About a hundred people attended each one. Some were formal and subdued, others were more relaxed and even a bit festive. Quite a few people were from out of town, most of whom had grown up here and hadn't seen each other for years, so there was a lot of catching up to do.

At all of these gatherings there was great deal of chit-chat. Some people would call it talking, but talking to me is communicating information, and to me, chit-chat doesn't qualify. It is more like comforting mouth noises. Or is it?

All these people know each other, and have known each other for most of their lives. There is no real information that needs to be communicated, it's just chit-chat.

But then I had a vision. You know how the neurons in your brain have connections to several other neurons? Information that is passed from one neuron to another is not a complete thought, it's just an ill-defined fragment. Only by having zillions of neurons operating in parallel are we able to think, reason and act.

A similar thing is going on at these social gatherings. It's like a hive mind thinking. Little bits of information flow across the room, information that has a different value for each individual, but by passing it repeatedly and in parallel you can be reasonable sure that it will reach those who need to know, even if you don't know who they are.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Ladies Wristwatch
I took my wife's wristwatch in to get the battery replaced today. The counterman notes that it is a good looking watch. Well, yes, it's gold and it's shiny, so yeah, sort of. But it's costume jewelry, it's not solid gold, it probably cost about a hundred dollars. But I've never seen this watch before (okay, I've probably seen it, but hadn't noticed it). How could I tell at a glance that it was gold plated and not solid gold? (Disregard the fact that solid gold watches are not in our budget.)

I don't know, but I have a theory. Most metals are harder than gold, so whatever it is made of can be polished to a much higher degree, to the point that it is really shiny. When they plate it, the gold simply carries on that really shiny surface. Working with solid gold, you can't polish it that fine, you'll just wear away the gold, so you can't make it as shiny.