Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Monday, October 30, 2017


Via my faithful correspondents, which means I can't remember who's to blame for what.

How Many Prime Numbers in a Grid Full of Digits?

Ray Tracing - Project #8 - Kevin Wall
I started another community programming puzzle over on yesterday. One of the first problems I ran into was determining how much storage space I would need. Writing down my thoughts sometimes helps clarify the issue, and since the editor on the Codingame IDE doesn't have automatic word wrap, nor does the brain dead Linux text editor, I used what was handy, which was Blogger. Plus I got a blog post out of it.

The problem is straight forward enough: We are given a grid filled with numeric digits. Our job is to find out how many prime numbers we can find in this grid.

Since maximum size of the grid is 8 by 8, none of our numbers can have more than 8 digits. The standard storage space for an integer is 32-bits. Leave off one bit for the sign (positive or negative) and the largest number you can store in this space is two billion and something, which has 10 digits, so a standard integer should do fine for all of our work.

The grid has R rows and C columns, so there can be at most R x C single digit prime numbers, but less than ten, because there are only ten digits, and actually only 4, because there are only 4 single digit prime numbers: 2, 3, 5 & 7.

An R by C grid can have at most:
  • ((R - 1) x C) + (R x (C - 1)) two digit prime numbers.
An 8 by 8 grid can have:
  • (7 x 8) + (8 x 7)                   two digit prime numbers.
  • (6 x 8) + (8 x 6), or (2 x 8 x 6) three digit prime numbers.
  •                       (2 x 8 x 5)  four digit numbers
Continuing the pattern, the total comes out to (2 x 8 x 7!) or 80,640. Would is be possible to generate a grid that had that many unique prime numbers? That's another question and given that even if we only need four bytes for each number, we are going to need less than half a megabyte of RAM, so we don't need to go any further, we'll just allocate space for 80,640 integers.

It is a relatively simple programming problem, but the boss lady was on a rampage yesterday so my concentration was impaired. Also, I was a little out of practice since I hadn't done any programming for several weeks. In particular, I wasn't able to put together a simple procedure to determine if a number was prime. I figured out the solution this morning. Turns out you need to hold TWO coherent thoughts in your head in order to make it work. One thought is not sufficient.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Was there a chloroform equivalent in the 12th century?

Villain pouring a clear liquid on a rag just after the 31 minute mark of Episode 128
We were watching an episode of Ertugrul last night and the bad guys kidnap a woman by dosing her with what looked like chloroform. The show generally seems to be historically accurate, so I'm wondering if they could have had such a substance.

I'm posting this here because Quora doesn't allow long questions, but they do allow a link to provide context, so I'm providing context.

Diagnosis Wenckebach

Diagnosis Wenckebach

I am sure I posted this once before but I cannot-a-find-it Cap'n, so I'm posting it again. This time in honor of dutiful daughter doing a stint on the cardiac floor at OHSU.

Babylonian Trig, Part 2

A plot of the first 47 Pythagorean Triples - Jrkenti
I'm looking at the numbers from the Babylonian Cuneiform Tablet Plimpton 322 and I notice that one triangle (#11) can be scaled way down. Divide all sides of #11 by 15 and you have your basic 3, 4, 5 right triangle. Then I look at the others and I notice that one side of every triangle can be factored using only the numbers, 2, 3 and 5. Well, all except #3. All the rest are prime numbers. This leads me to Euclid's formula for generating Pythagorean Triples. Working backwards I figure out what the values are for l and m, and factored them, and what do you know? The only factors of l and m are 2, 3  and 5, well, except for #3. I don't know if this proves anything, except maybe that Oswald killed Kennedy, or maybe it proves the reverse. In any case figuring this all out kept me entertained for a couple of hours. The spreadsheet has three pages. The first is the original data, the second converts the numbers to decimal and verifies some obscure mathematical assertion that some other egghead figured out, and the third contains the triples and their factors.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Pic of the Day

North American Super Saber, Fort Wayne Indiana - Jack Lahrman
The North American F-100 Super Sabre was the first American supersonic jet fighter aircraft. The US military used it from 1954 to 1979. The F-100 flew extensively over South Vietnam as the air force's primary close air support jet. - Paraphrased from Wikipedia

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Babylonian Trig

Babylonian Cuneiform Tablet Plimpton 322
David Brin, famous science fiction author (well, I've heard of him), has a blog, wherein he points to a Popular Science article about the Plimpton 322 clay tablet. The tablet, if you can interpret it, is pretty clear evidence that the Babylonians had trigonometry down cold 4,000 years ago. Just to check to see if these guys are blowing smoke or not I set up a spreadsheet to verify their assertions, and they seem to come out right.

Via Indy Tom

Conspiracies Я Us

Screen shot from Dealey Plaza EarthCam
In honor of the impending 54th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, we bring you the view from Oswald's perch in the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. I still blame the mob for his death, even though the experts discount that theory, which proves the 'experts' are in on it.

Via Indy Tom, who gives us this little bit of snark:
Reminds me of the old Bill Hicks JFK Assassination routine about the painstaking accuracy of the Texas Schoolbook Depository Museum, “Anyway they have the window set up to look exactly like it did on that day. And it’s really accurate, you know. ’Cause Oswald’s not in it.”


Over the hills, along the river and over the bridge to the airport we shall go
I drove younger son to the airport yesterday. Since 26 has taken to being clogged going into downtown, I now take Cornelius Pass Road north over the hills to Highway 30, southeast to the St. Johns Bridge and then Lombard across town. It takes a few minutes longer than taking the freeway used to take when it was free flowing, but it doesn't come to a complete stop for hours at a time, so it's more reliable.

I came up behind three cars being driven by slowpokes. I don't know whether they were old, stupid, incompetent, lazy, lost or stoned, but they were definitely doing the grand-person shuffle. And no, I didn't pull up to within a couple of inches of their rear bumper, blow my horn and flash my lights. I followed along like a good sheeple, maintaining my two-second distance.

Gratuitous Puppy Picture
Coming through St. Johns there was a man standing on a corner waiting to cross the street. It's 25 MPH through here, with a traffic light every couple of blocks, so you need to be in slow mode for this section of the trip, and I was, so I stopped to let him cross, just as if I was a good citizen driver. He had a puppy on a leash, and the puppy wasn't sure about following the man, but once he got started he tripped right along.

F-15 at PDX
While we were waiting at the traffic light at the corner of 82nd and Air Cargo Road, four F-15's took off, one after another in quick succession. That was pretty cool. I've seen them parked at the airport before, but I've never seen them in motion. While we are marveling at seeing these aircraft take off, four F-16's take off in quick succession. That's the most jet fighters I have seen flying all at one time.

Driving back there was some kind of kerfluffle involving the police and an ambulance. It looked like someone had run into a light pole alongside the road. It's 35 MPH through here so they would have had to work at it, or something went wrong.

Police Cars
That evening my wife calls me from her car in the Washington Square (fancy shopping center) parking lot to tell me that she is surrounded by the cops but she is going to try and make a break for it. Seems that just as she was getting ready to leave when four cop cars showed up to bust some shoplifters who were parked nearby. Eventually one of the cop cars moved and she was able to escape.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Broken chair repaired
I might be getting old. I repaired a broken chair today. All I have left to do is cut off the protruding ends of a couple of screws. It won't make it perfect, but there will be less risk of milady snagging her nylons or some drunken lout gouging the s*** out of his leg. I have a Dremel tool and a kit full of attachments, there should be a cut-off disk in there somewhere, so it would be short work to actually make the cuts. But grinding things with a high speed grinding wheel generates grinding dust which needs to be cleaned up. Okay, cutting two quarter-inch screws isn't going to make that much dust, I could probably get away with sweeping it into the corners, but there's something about grinder dust that I just don't like. Maybe it's the way it goes everywhere. You might collect most of it with broom or a vacuum cleaner, but you know you are going to be finding traces of it in out of the way places for months to come. Or maybe the way that's it a nasty kind of dust being as it is made of not-quite microscopic chunks jagged rock and likewise tiny torn bits of metal. You don't want to get any inside of any electronic, or even plain old electric equipment. Could be the death of the equipment, or even you.
Dremel Model 300
The obvious solution was to take it up to the garage, but now that I've been thinking about it, I should probably take it outside. Let the microbes and natural corrosion work it over for a bit, turn it into sand.

This chair and its twin were the last things we loaded onto my truck when I moved younger son home a couple of months ago. Turned sideways, I didn't think they would struggle with the wind much, and they're made of wood so they ought to be able to handle being outside in the wind for a day. Well, they were fine, until this one wiggled around in his restraints enough to turn sideways and then we got on the expressway and wind broke the seat back off of its support. We didn't discover this until we stopped to check the ropes and the load. I don't know when it actually came apart, it could have been one minute or ten. In any case, the back of seat was still on the truck, caught in something before it fell off. So I had all the pieces.

DAP Plastic Wood
Well, almost. A strip of plywood got ripped out of the back of the seat back. It was only one ply about three or four inches wide. I patched it with some plastic wood. Nasty stuff. There's a reason they warn you to use with 'adequate ventilation': I came down with a killer headache. Took me a while to realize what the problem was, but when I did I turned on the exhaust fan (specially installed for just this purpose) and left it running for a day.

Testor' Gloss Black Spray Enamel
File and sand the patch to match, painted with some old Testor's black spray paint I had lying around. I just realized what a fortunate coincidence it was that the chair was black. Black is easy to match, especially it it's the back. Can you imagine if it was red or orange or something? It would be impossible to match, you would have to either paint the whole chair, or settle for a third rate repair like you might find at a ten dollar motel.

Gorilla Glue
Glued the bracket back on with Gorilla Glue. Did you know that Gorilla Glue needs water? Sounds a lot like the masonry cement Osmany used when building my daughter's stairway to heaven. Glue was strong, but not strong enough to handle an amateur weight lifter. Okay, he abused it some, but given the structure, glue wasn't really enough.
60mm x 6mm x 1 flat head machine screw

That's what brought us to screws. $1.78 at Lowe's for (2) 60mm x 6mm x 1 flat head machine screws and $1.78 for a package to 10 matching nuts. They also had a package with 4 nuts for the same price. I only need two for this project, but my inner hoarder says I am liable to need some of these, someday, so let's get the ten-pack. I was a bit worried that the screws might not be long enough. The seat back is about a half of an inch thick, the seat back support is about 3/4 of an inch, the 'rubber' spacer adds another 1/2". Add in the fact that these pieces are all curved, there was a very real possibility that the 60mm screws (that's 2 3/8") wouldn't protrude far enough to be able to engage the nuts. Such was not the case, obviously, or I wouldn't be worried about cutting off the excess. I think my error here was thinking that 60mm was two inches and not considering how much of a fraction extra there was. But it doesn't matter, these were the longest Lowe's had, the next shorter size would have been much too short.

Once I had the screws in hand and the rubber support glued back in place, it was child's play to drill and countersink holes in the seat back, run the screws in and fasten the nuts. One of the washers is kind of groady. I thought for sure I would have had plenty of washers to at home, but the only ones I found were these two. One is shiny new, but the other looks like it came out of the swamp.

Testor' Gloss Black Enamel
I painted the screw heads with some more Testor's black enamel, this time from a bottle. Now all I need to is trim the screws.

The 'rubber' spacer is a pair of metal and rubber circular concoctions, each about two inches in diameter. Two machine screws come in from the support and six wood screws go into the seat back. These six wood screws only went in about a quarter of an inch, and it's these six that let go when the wind caught the seat back. I tried to dissect this spacer, but given its inner steel structure, it was going to a hammer and tongs effort which would likely render unusable. Therefor, the choice to perform a second rate repair using glue and a couple of through-screws.

Battle of Stonne

French WW2 Tank Char B1
Memorial in Stonne, France
The Battle of Stonne occurred during the opening days of WW2 when the German's invaded France. Stonne is a tiny farming village just south of Sedan where the Germans entered France. John Hamill has a good story about the battle. Via Posthip Scott.

Update January 2022 Google Map here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cobalt, Not Carbide

3/32" Pin Diameter, Pin Punch
Similar to the one we used
Jack is refurbishing an old gun. Step one is to take it apart. He has stripped it down to the receiver. There are two press-fit pins that go through the receiver. One comes out easily but the other one, which is the pivot for the trigger, won't budge. I think he is being timid with the hammer, so I carefully line up the punch with the pin, give it a good whack with an 20oz ball pein hammer and the punch bends. Looks like we are going to have to drill it out.
20oz ball pein hammer
Clamp the receiver to the milling machine and chuck up a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the pin (which is like one-tenth of an inch in diameter), carefully line up the drill bit with the pin and start drilling. We make good progress for about a tenth of an inch. We can tell because we see chips coming off of the dill bit. But then it stops. No more chips, and when we press on the drill we can see the bit is bowing out to the side. Hmmph. Maybe the drill is dull. We try another bit but it doesn't produce any results either. Hmmph. We must have run into some hardened steel. You would think that if the end of the pin was soft enough to drill, the whole pin would be the same, but this gun is 100 years old, and maybe the pin is supposed to be hardened, but the treatment didn't affect the ends.

IRWIN VISE-GRIP Original Curved Jaw Locking Pliers with Wire Cutter, 10", 502L3
Jack orders some carbide drill bits from Amazon and we manage to drill a quarter inch deep on one side and almost as far on the other side before the carbide bits quit as well. It isn't enough to free the trigger, and in any case our hole is close enough to concentric that we haven't impacted the walls of the hole. (We used a magnifying glass to adjust the position of the drill.) But maybe we have done enough that a punch will now work, and so it does. We manage to move the pin, but the business end of the punch is not long enough to drive the pin all the way out. Some grinding on the shoulder of the punch elongates the business end and allows us to push the pin a little farther, far enough that we are able to grab it with Vise Grips and wrest it from the hole.

DEWALT DWA1240 Pilot Point Industrial Cobalt Drill Bit Set (14 Piece)
I just now realized that the Amazon page calls the bits cobalt, not carbide. Carbide drill bits are available, but are considerably more expensive.

No work photos becasue my Lumix camera bit the dust. I have another one I can use, but I need to get a case for it before I start dragging it around.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Burt, Babbitt and Thomas

Pouring a 28" Babbitt Pedestal Bearing
Pouring Babbitt Bearing Beaumont

I had a video clip from the movie The Train (1964) that had Burt Lancaster pouring a Babbitt bearing for a locomotive connecting rod. Alas, it has vanished, so now we have new guys casting a really big bearing.

A while back I put up a post about Babbitt bearings. Today, Jack points out this scene in The Train where Burt Lancaster is casting a bearing for a locomotive. Watching the movie, I got to wondering about some things, like was Paris really an "open city", and did they really haul a train load of paintings off to Germany? Well, yeah, mostly.
Fifteen masterpieces filled railroad boxcars were sent to Germany with Goering's personal train. - Wikipedia
On June 12 [1940], the French government, in Tours, declared Paris to be an open city, that there would be no resistance. - Wikipedia
So when the French Army was defeated by the Germans at the opening of WW2, France declared Paris to be an open city to prevent its destruction. However, did that declaration transfer when the Germans took over? I don't think so. Germany was still fighting and I'm not finding anything that says they declared Paris to be an open city. So while the Parisians might want it to be an open city, they were infested with vermin that needed to expelled or exterminated. So, yeah, there's going to be collateral damage.

The Métro repair shops in St Ouen were also destroyed during the same Allied bombing raid
St Ouen is a suburb of Paris
The most terrible bombing raid took place on the night of April 21, 1944 in the area of the Porte de La Chapelle, in the 18th arrondissement. The entire area was destroyed (Anglo-American bombers targetted the La Chapelle marshalling yard, which they largely missed). - brisavoine
Reading about the movie, I follow a chain of links that aren't really connected:

Paul Scofield, who played the villain in The Train, also played Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons, which was not about Thomas Becket, nor was it about Thomas Aquinas. All three Toms were Roman Catholic clerics of one sort of another. I have a hard time keeping them straight.

Beckett gets mentioned in the The Pillars of the Earth as something of a villain, being as he is part of the feeble power structure that is doing a sad job of ruling England. He doesn't actually appear in the story. I have almost reached the end of the book, which takes place in the 1100's, and Henry has just invaded England.

The cathedral being built in The Pillars of the Earth is inspired by the cathedral in St Denis, which is next door to St Ouen.

Map of train stations from the movie

Update: the movie is available on Netflix, but only on a DVD.
Update March 2021 replaced missing video with something related.

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Ruben Navarrette Jr.: In California, 'sanctuary' is like a Hollywood illusion

This column appeared in The Oregonian yesterday (we now get the paper on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday). This morning I go looking for this story online so I can give you the link and Tulsa World is the first one that pops up. I don't bother looking in The Oregonian because there seems to be a serious disconnect between what goes in the paper version and the online version. The Washington Post seems to be Ruben's main post, but they want you to subscribe before they will let you in. The Daily Beast has a bunch of Ruben's columns, but not this one, at least not yet.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Neutron Stars

First Ever Light & Gravitational Wave Cosmic Event!

Okay, maybe there really are gravity waves and neutron stars. Neutron stars were staple of Larry Niven's science fiction stories, and now we have some (more?) evidence that they really exist. I'm not sure any of this is going to do us any good, not with our propensity for killing each other. Maybe we'll eventually develop a faster-than-light method of travel which will allow us to spread the disease of life to other places in our galaxy. More likely any practical developments will be subverted by the military-industrial complex and lead to something like bobbles (as found in The Peace War) or anti-bobbles (as found in The Gone Away World).

Update a week later. Tracked down the bobble book.

Let's Hear It For Advertising

Official Call of Duty®: WWII Live Action Trailer – “Reassemble!”

Most of the advertising that pops up in my field of view is obnoxious crap, but every once in a while something really great shows up. This little comedy gets four stars.

Monday, October 16, 2017


!false T-shirt
Programmer humor. The exclamation mark means 'not' in some programming languages. Via Reddit

Sunday, October 15, 2017

St. Helena Airport

Bits of the British Empire
A news report about commercial flights from Johannesburg starting this month contained some semi-hysterical statements (which is normal for The Telegraph) that prompted me to do a little checking. First order of business is to plot key locations on a map (above). Gold stars indicate:
  • RAF airbase Brize Norton in the UK is at the top. 
  • Johannesburg is at 4 o'clock. 
  • Windhoek, Namibia is just to the left of Johannesburg.
  • Port Stanley is in the Falkland Islands.
The Falkland Islands are a heck of a long way from the UK. Having a friendly airport at St. Helena would make a military response to Argentine aggression in the Falklands a little easier. If you are going to have an empire, you need to be prepared to defend it, even if parts of it are tiny and half a world away.

St. Helena Airport

St. Helena basics:
It is one of the most remote islands in the world, and was uninhabited when discovered by the Portuguese in 1502. It was an important stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa for centuries. Napoleon was imprisoned there in exile by the British, as were Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo (for leading a Zulu army against British rule) and more than 5,000 Boers taken prisoner during the Second Boer War, including Piet Cronjé. - Wikipedia

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Blizzard Entertainment

How Blizzard Conquered the Gaming World

I was just talking to someone yesterday about how wildly successful Blizzard Entertainment is and then this video pops up on Reddit this morning. People spent five million years playing games from Blizzard last year. If the average player plays an hour a day, six days a week (you know they go to church on Sunday), that means there are like 150 million players, or 2% of the world population.

The last minute of the video is an ad for programming lessons, just so you know.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Funny Money

Poking around on YouTube and I come across a video from Russia Insider about a Russian citizen, arrested in Greece, being extradited to the USA. The charge is money laundering using Bitcoin, not that it matters. This quote summarizes the situation nicely.
"Unfortunately, in most cases, such decisions are politically motivated. The fact is that Vinnik is a Russian citizen, and, in the presence of two similar requests, the decision should have been made in favor of his extradition to Russia, but in most jurisdictions, the United States has such an unspoken preemptive right to extradite citizens upon their requests. And, in my opinion, in this case, this is what happened." - Yevgeny Korchago, Chairman of the Lawyers Board
I suspect that the news coverage of the Harvey Weinstein dust-up is likewise politically motivated, though not at such a high level.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Accumulation from Yang Minha on Vimeo.

Commercial art in a public space:
Installed new artwork "Accumulation" at the main gate of Le Meridien Seoul
"Accumulation" symbolizes the history from Ritz Carlton Seoul to Le Meridien Seoul.
Via Indy Tom

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

GENESIS - I Can't Dance (Remix)

GENESIS - I Can't Dance (Remix) Shuffle Dance
Km Music 1

This is one of my go-to tunes. The lyrics are kind of dumb, but the sound is great. Play this and play a hand of Spider Solitaire and I am calmer and might be ready to tackle my next tedious chore. Plus dancing girls.

Update July 2022 replaced missing video.

More Toast

The Trouble & Coffee Coconut Club
Pacific Standard has a fine story about the artisanal toast craze that is sweeping the country. Er, make that was sweeping the country, three years ago. Never saw any sign of it here, but then I'm cheap and I ain't much of a social butterfly. Via Iaman.

Previous post on the subject.

1963 HONDA T360

1963 HONDA T360 - First Honda car made

This ad for the Honda T360 mini-truck plays just like an ad for one of today's big American pickups: carrying heavy loads uphill, splashing through water, rumbling over rocky roads, but it does it all in miniature.

Back in 1960 Honda only made motorcycles, they had not started making cars yet. MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) issued an edict that there were only going to be so many car manufacturers. If Honda was ever going to build cars, they were going to have to start building them now, whether they wanted to or not, which led to the S500.

1963 Honda S500
Well, it's snazzy, but how many are they going to sell? Not enough, so they decided to build some light trucks, which got the same dual-overhead-cam, 4 cylinder motorcycle engines that turned 9,000 RPM. Crazy old man Honda. Think he might have been a little obsessed with high revving engines?

Via Road & Track and The Truth About Cars
Update March 2021 replaced missing video.


Wondermark Chimney
Sounds a lot like my house.

Type Me a Story

1927 Coin Operated Typewriter
Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a coin operated typewriter in 1950. A coin operated typewriter! One complicated mechanical contrivance piled on another! All these complicated, precision, mechanical devices are being replaced by electronic gee-gaws. In 100 years they'll all be gone. In a thousand years there won't be any evidence that they ever existed, which tends to support my theory that all the paintings on the walls of the tombs of the ancient Egyptians are really flat panel displays that froze when they ran out of juice.

Writing the first draft of the novel cost Ray $10, which according to the government inflation calculator would be roughly the same as $100 today. Since the government has no idea what the real fate of inflation is, or they are lying, I'm going to say it's more like $200. So, not a pittance, but if you're serious, doable.

The linked story suffers from rigid formatting and a tiny typeface. Blow it up (with Ctrl+) so it's big enough to read and the page is too wide to fit on the screen. I copied the text into a blogger page. You can find it here.

Monday, October 9, 2017


Salisbury Cathedral, reflections on the baptismal font
The cathedral in The Pillars of the Earth was modeled on Salisbury cathedral
I've started reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It's not a great book, but it's a good story about building a cathedral in 12th century England. The story is painted in broad brush strokes. The hero is brave, strong and true, the princess is beautiful and the villain is despicable. In this way it is similar to Ertugrul, the Turkish soap opera we've been watching about a tribe of nomads in 13th century Turkey / Syria.

Today I figured out why I like these stories. It's because they include many of the details of everyday life back then. Most scholastic history is all about names and dates. 'So and so went to war against these other people and defeated them at the battle of the slimy swamp', which is all very well if you want to chronicle the power struggles that were going on at the time. But that shit is endless. There is always somebody picking a fight, and someone betraying his allies and somebody getting their ass kicked, but it doesn't really tell you very much about the how or why of something happening.

Now occasionally a small group of motivated, and presumably talented, warriors will score an unexpected victory, but more often it is a matter of training, tactics and superior weaponry. And those come from a society that is rich enough to spend time developing these things. And you get a rich society from free trade, free minds and the rule of law.

The Pillars of the Earth is more nuts and bolts, building a cathedral requires a great many craftsmen making things. The politics, so far, has all been of the local variety. Ertugrul is more like propaganda: the Muslims are good, the Templars are bad, but it does a good job of portraying life in a nomadic encampment, well at least life among the one-percent-ers.

U Robot

Experimental Legged Robot for Inspection and Disaster Response

Honda does things with their money besides restyling their cars every year. Oh, wait, Detroit's the one that is all about style, not Honda. This robot is a little slow but it's considerably faster than the ones being developed for DARPA just a few years ago.

Via Road & Track


Changing The Transmission Oil on a Subaru
In other news, my 20-something neighbor stopped by to ask about a problem with his car.  He'd just changed the oil in his pretty new Subaru, and now it was screeching and bucking.  Long story short he had drained the tranny fluid, and drowned the engine with an additional 4 quarts of oil. 
The tranny fluid was not red, but dark; in appearance it could pass for oil. - California Bob
There are two kinds of people in the world, those who are good with things and those who aren't. You can get by perfectly well with being mechanically incompetent, but you have to be willing to deal with people and pay them for dealing with your mechanical problems. Honda, Apple and Sony's promise of extreme reliability is what has made them so successful. Which is why they can charge a premium for their products and why I won't have anything to do with them.


Ashes on San Francisco Patio - California Bob
California Bob reports:
Big fires in Napa and North Bay started last night.  The smell of smoke woke me up around 3AM.  There are often bonfires a the beach, and we can smell them outside, but these strong odors, inside the house, at 3AM, didn't make sense.  And it smelled different than a bonfire.  Anyway I didn't see anything, figured it was a house fire somewhere, and went back to bed.
This morning saw the news about the wildfires, and the patio was covered with fine ashes. These ashes are from 60 miles away.
I noticed ashes on my truck last month. This is the first year I recall something like this happening. Is it a freak occurrence, is the world going up in smoke, or do I just not remember all the times it has happened in the past? I mean, it didn't really affect my day-to-day life. Why would I remember something like this?

Engine Failure

Damaged engine on Air France Airbus A380 - miguel.amador_ @theamadoor
An Air France plane en route to Los Angeles from Paris made an emergency landing Saturday in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., after one of its engines blew out over the Atlantic Ocean.
Seems to happen on a regular basis, though the damage is not often this extensive. Guess I shouldn't be surprised since there are like a zillion airline flights every day, but why do they always seem to happen in the frozen far north? Perhaps because being in such forbidding territory makes the event newsworthy, whereas an emergency landing of a flight across the eastern USA isn't terrifying enough. I dunno.

North Atlantic Airports. The star at the bottom is Goose Bay N.L.
Airplanes landing in Greenland show up here now and again.

Via FlightAware

Cold Water Swimming

Crazy people in the Himalayas
Iaman gets his exercise by swimming. Some people like swimming in cold water. We had a pool when we lived in Phoenix. In the spring and fall it was great. In winter the water was too cold, some people had gas-fired heaters. In summer it was too hot, it was like bath water, which wasn't much fun when the outside temperature is 110. After the sun went down you could get some relief from the heat by going swimming, but not while you were in the pool. It was only when you got out that you got any relief. The water evaporated into the dry air and cooled you off. This didn't work during the day time because any cooling effect was canceled by the sun was blasting you.

Lone Swimmer offers a cold water temperature scale for swimmers. He starts at 72°F and goes all the way down to freezing. At 50°F, the intervals drop to 1°. At 41°F a tenth of a degree becomes significant.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Trouble and Toast

Iaman goes to church, and reports to California Bob:
The talk/sermon this morning at the Cedar Park Texas Universalist church was on was on Trouble and Toast, referencing the coffee shop a couple blocks from your house.
The gist of the story is the Owner of the chain is a friendly schizophrenic tattooed woman who perfected the art of couch surfing for years between friends houses in SF, not having a place of her own. Wanting a place she set up a coffee maker and a toaster calling her  sidewalk cafe "Toast" "its not about coffee its about place and belonging to each other". It had a appeal, now people wait in long lines for $4 coffee and $4 cinnamon toast.
While I was couch surfing/squatting at your place  I tried to go there but was rebuffed by the long lines. i did not know the story then.
Small world. Some people like to travel. I used to, when I could drive. Now everyone is too busy to drive, so I fly.

Flic of the Day

Round Blue - created by Armand Dijcks in collaboration with Ray Collins

This image is a cinemagraph, though I am not sure how it is different from a GIF image. Iaman sent me a link, but the images on that page seem to suffer from tiny little hesitations that spoil the viewing.

Okay, so I published this post and when I looked at the result, the image was huge and it was suffering from the same sort of hesitation. I edited the html to put limits on it and now I'm not sure if there are hesitations or not.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Pic of the Day

1953 Buick Special waiting on the train
The composition of this photo is just great. It really puts you (me) in the scene. I stumbled over it while looking for something-er-other. I don't remember where I found it, and Google's image search wasn't much help. It might be a scene from the movie Emperor of the North, starring Earnest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. The movie was made in 1973 and is set during the great depression in Oregon.

Update hours later. I just realized that while it could be a scene from the movie, a 1953 car would be an anachronism.

The Internet Music Video Database

The Dandy Warhols - Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth

Some music videos are fabulous mini-movies. Some have only a single still image acting as a place holder. They aren't really videos at all. So I'm wondering who makes the fabulous ones, but there seems to be a dearth of information. But then it occurs to me that there ought to be an Internet Music Video Database out there somewhere. I mean we've got the Internet Movie Database, the Internet Movie Cars Database and the Internet Movie Firearms Database, we should have one for music videos, and, as it turns out, we do: The Internet Music Video Database

I've listed them all in the sidebar under the heading Online Tools.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pic of the Day

Svabard Satellite Station
SvalSat is a satellite communications facility in Norway. Svalbard is an island about 500 miles north of mainland Norway and about 750 miles from the North Pole.

Las Vegas

The man was seen standing in defiance (Picture: Shaun Hoff)
A distant relative died at the recent Las Vegas massacre, someone I did not even know existed until now. Family policy prevents me from naming her.

To my mind, we need to have guns on hand in case a real fascist government comes to power, or civil war, or something similarly unlikely. Keep them clean and oiled and take them out occasionally to make sure they work, but otherwise keep them locked up. If you are going places where you feel the need to carry a gun for protection, well, don't go there. I don't suppose that's a very helpful bit of advice.

I've been down the gun-control rat-hole before, and I'm not really interested in going down there again, but Roberta X has some cogent things to say, and so does Leah Libresco over at The Washington Post (Roberta provided that link).

Monday, October 2, 2017

Quote of the Day

"They told me that when I quit smoking, I'd get my sense of smell back. What they didn't tell me was how much of the world smelled like hobo piss." - View From The Porch

Sunday, October 1, 2017



I've been listening to several tunes from Ratatat, and this one might be okay, but it's the video here that caught my attention. It looks like they are using some kind of fluorescent tubes to produce low resolution, but very large, graphics, except I've never heard of anyone getting colors out of a fluorescent tube, and especially not a variety of colors all at once. It's like science fiction come to life, which seems to be happening more and more often these days.

Update 2 days later: This was bugging me, so I did some checking. The lights are strings of LED's enclosed in tubes.

Zig Zag

Aircraft leaving zig zag contrails over the Arecibo radio telescope
I came across this while I was mapping Big Antennas, and I wondered what could have caused the contrails to zig zag like that? Are there narrow bands of contrary winds blowing north and south? Is the plane following the conture of the ground while flying over hills? Neither of these explanations seemed likely.

Aircraft leaving straight contrails over the Arecibo radio telescope
Then it struck me that is was likely an artifact of Google's imaging program, and sure enough, change to the 3-D view, spin the orientation 180 degrees and tilt the view a little bit and those contrail lines straighten right out.


James Clapper, President's Trump envoy to North Korea
Iaman sent me the link to this clip. If I understand correctly, he picked out this four minute segment from an hour long press conference. There are some cogent bits in here, nothing we haven't heard before, but having it told by someone who has been there, and has some credibility, reassures me that we do understand the situation. Plus, he uses the word 'sycophants', which I don't think I have ever heard anyone pronounce.


Kohler Elliston Faucet
I don't know whether to be disappointed with how miserable this whole business of plumbing is, or whether to be impressed with how well it all works. Our kitchen faucet has been leaking for a couple of weeks. If you turn the handle just so, it stops, but that's a nuisance, and so is the dripping. It's basically a valve, and when it's off it should be off, not sort of off, or mostly off, except for just this little, tiny insignificant leak. Bah, double bah and humbug.

Delta ball valve
So Friday afternoon I set about fixing it. It shouldn't be a big deal, all I need to do it remove the handle, unscrew the  top ring, lift out the ball and replace the two little seals that actually do the sealing. I've worked on this faucet before, and in fact I have a complete new faucet that Delta sent me the last time I ran into trouble, so I shouldn't even need to run to the store. Hah, fat chance.

The handle is held in place with a set screw. I locate the correct Allen wrench and, grunt, it won't move. I apply an adjustable wrench to the Allen wrench to get more leverage, and the screw breaks loose, which is good, and it starts to turn, which is also good, but after a bit it becomes apparent that it is not unscrewing. It is just going around. Now, technically, one shouldn't need to completely remove the screw from the handle, loosening it a couple of turns should do the job.

Delta ball valve
But as I recall, the pin that the handle mounts to has a flat spot milled into it, and if you don't unscrew the set screw far enough it will impact the end of the pin that has not been milled flat and the handle won't come off. Simple solution is to simple remove the screw completely, that way you know that the screw is not going to interfere with the removal of the handle. Except the blamed thing won't come out. It just goes round and round. I suspect that what happened when I applied the adjustable wrench to the end of the Allen wrench is that the screw just ripped the threads loose from the body of diecast handle.  Well, poop. Maybe the screw is loose enough that we can pull the handle off. No, that is not the case. Applying a hook end of a crow bar with extreme prejudice produces no change in the status quo. The handle stays in place.

Well, like I said, I have another complete, brand new faucet. Replacing the faucet will be a pain, but cost free, and since it is the same make and model, it should be relatively problem free. Hah, double hah, and triple humbug.

Business end of Delta faucet showing evil, gray plastic plug.
I manage to get the faucet replaced without too much difficulty, but when I go to hook up the water lines I discover that there is a little gray, plastic plug in one of the lines. Why I didn't notice this before is one of those questions for the ages. In any case, it shouldn't be a big deal, it should just pop out. Except it won't, and none of my exhortations or conniving or cursing persuades it to move. Nothing for it but to pull the faucet back out and then when I have it lying on the bench I am able to apply my trusty Sears Craftsman Channellock, er, sorry, "arc joint", pliers and pry this evil spawn of the devil from its chosen abode and cast it into the abyss.

Reinstall the faucet and assemble the ball valve at the top, which for some reason was not assembled.  Put it together and turn on the water and the ball valve is leaking, not out of the faucet, but out of the top where no water should ever appear. Bah, bah blacksheep, have you any wool? Yes sir, I do, but it's all water logged.

I fiddled and fussed, but Saturday morning I finally decided I needed some new parts so I head down to Lowe's, but I can't get there. Someone has effed up on the road and traffic is massively snarled. I end up going to Freddie's and buying an off-brand seal replacement kit for $5, but by the time I've gotten home, I've written off trying to fix this faucet and decide to make another attempt to get to Lowe's and this time I buy a new, different faucet.

Well, of course it's different. We've had the Delta faucet for untold years. The last time I had a problem with it was nine ((9!) years ago. While it used to be you had a choice of maybe two or three faucets, there are now dozens, and since they are now fashion items (the plumbing department at Lowe's is called Fashion Bath), there are new models every year. I look over the selection and there are several models of several different makes. I need one that will mount in a single hole, so that eliminates the cheapest faucets. I want one with a chrome finish. I think our original faucet was white, and if you get something with an odd-ball (i.e. not chrome) finish, and something breaks you are going to have a hard time getting a part to match. This eliminates the most expensive models, which have some kind of brushed metallic finish. Besides, chrome goes with anything. So now I'm looking at the middle tier and there are several brands. Whether it's my own experience or the relentless advertising, the only ones I am comfortable with are Kohler and Delta, and I've just spent a bunch of time fighting with my Delta faucet, so let's get something different. It might not be any easier to work with, but it will at least be different, so to keep myself amused, I get the Kohler.

Steampunk Squid
When I open the box it is immediately obvious that the Kohler is different. Instead of short copper pipes protruding from the bottom like the Delta, there are a trio of long, black plastic hoses. Makes me think 'steampunk squid'. Both faucets are secured to the counter and sink by a brass nut that threads onto a big brass screw. Delta has threaded one of the three pipes emanating from the faucet. Kohler has threaded a big brass tube that encloses all three of the water tubes. In both cases the screw is about six inches longer than it needs to be (for my kitchen, maybe there are other counters where you need the longer screw) which means you get to spend a minute or so screwing the nut onto the shaft.

Master Plumber Ed Del Grande installs a Kohler kitchen faucet
The Kohler has a couple of screws that go through the ring (nut, photo above) that are to be tightened after you have the ring all the way up. This would not be a problem except that the screws turn easily in their holes, so easily that while I am spinning the ring up the big brass tube, one of the screws unscrews itself and falls out. Well, poop, that's annoying, but I should be able to screw the screw back into it's hole, except I can't. I am lying on my back under the sink and the ring is an arm's length away and I cannot get the screw lined up. I can get it started, but it is quickly apparent that it is not properly aligned and is now jammed. No help for it but to unscrew the ring so I can get it to a place where I can see what is happening. More fussing and fiddling but I get it done.

All that's left now is to connect the supply lines. The Kohler lines are equipped with fittings that connect directly to the shut off valves, so I need to remove the old supply lines, which is just as well as the hot water line was too short to connect to the new Delta and would have to have been replaced.  One of the shut off valves is leaking and I am thinking that once I make the connection it might still be leaking, but at least it will quit dripping, so I put a little more force on the wrench and it twists the tube, which crumples. Loosen it back a bit, put my channellocks on the ferrel and tighten it again. No help, the valve is still dripping. Now I realize that the valve is leaking around the stem, and not just through the valve seal. So over tightening the hose fitting was probably not a good idea. Let's hope I didn't do any permanent damage.

Keeney Shutoff Valve
The shutoff valves require a dozen or so turns to open or close. New ones are ball valves and only require a quarter turn. Replacing the shutoff valve requires turning off the water to the house. The valve to do that is twelve feet into a crawl space. I've been thinking about making an access hole in the wall so I could just reach in from the basement and turn it and since this is now day two I resolve to do something about it. I pick up an access panel from Lowe's, use an ice pick to mark the location from inside the crawl space, and then cut a hole in the drywall to mount the access door. Worked well, especially since the hole ended up being adjacent to massive storage shelves and not behind them.

Houses really should be designed that the plumbing connections are accessible from behind sinks instead of underneath, that way ordinary people could work on them. This might put a few plumbers out of work, but how many would it save from crippling injuries? The only people who should be doing this kind of work though are kids, who are flexible. Teenagers could probably handle it okay, it would be easy enough for grade school school kids and a piece of cake for babies. That's the ticket, plumbing companies need to make their fixtures so easy to install that babies could install them.

I got annoyed with the problems I was having on day one, so I cracked open a bottle of wine. Normally I will have a couple of glasses during happy hour, but by the time I had given up fighting with the faucet for the night I had finished the entire bottle. Usually when I exert myself on a strenuous mechanical repair project I will be sore and achy the next day. Did not happen this time. Oh, I had a bit of a hangover, but not debilitating, after all I was able to get the faucet installed, connected and working.

Oh yes, Delta has a lifetime warranty, and if I hopped on this problem when it first appeared, Delta would no doubt have sent me the replacement parts, no charge. But the problem is a couple of weeks old and it's time to fix it and $200 for a new faucet is cheap compared to the 500 or $1,000 that a plumber would charge.