Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Drone Security

Hawk vs. Drone! (Hawk Attacks Quadcopter)

The snafu at Gatwick a few days ago got me thinking about drones. My first thought was that every drone that could be a hazard needs to carry a radio identifier of some sort. My next thought was what do you do about a drone that is misbehaving? If it is carrying an identifier, then you can track down the owner and call the kid's mom and let her bring the smack down on him. But what if it isn't carrying an ID? You might be able to jam the control signals, or possible even override them, but that assumes it is being controlled via radio. What if it's not? Then you need some way to intercept it and bring it to the ground. Birds can be employed for this. The Dutch police have squad of birds and bird men for this purpose. I can see where that there could be situations that a bird could not handle. Night flying, for instance. In that case you are going to want an interceptor drone. I suspect we are going to have an escalating drone war. DARPA may already be working on one. If they aren't, they should be.

Update January 2019. We have visited this issue before.


Isotopium Chernobyl - Game Teaser

Could this be the next step in gaming? Some Ukrainians have combined video games and RC (Radio Control) model vehicles into a game that is played over the internet.

It looks like fun.

Isotopium game page here.
Kickstarter page here.

Saturday, December 29, 2018


Old Dare Devil

I've watched this several times and I am still not sure just exactly what he is doing. His path through the cones is very convoluted. He doesn't knock any down though.

Liquid Metal Battery

Don Sadoway | Innovation in Stationary Electricity Storage: The Liquid Metal Battery

This video is a little long (nearly an hour), but he covers a wide range of issues pertaining to batteries. The bit about Volta (32:20) was fascinating. The general idea, as I understand it, is to build large batteries that can be charged when consumer demand for electricity is low, but your solar and wind power systems are producing. Elon Musk / Tesla are doing this successfully with Lithium-Ion batteries in Australia.

This video is a couple of years old. Mr. Sadoway's company, Ambri, had a couple of problems but they are still going strong.

Wikipedia has an article about Molten Salt Batteries which includes a section on Liquid Metal Batteries.

Via Marc.

Dead Link in the middle of the road


Iaman reports:
I am clearing off my HP desktop to git rid of it.   Too bulky for my minimalist style and the text is wonky on the screen. Googling a fix,  one sites says  involves 20 steps....then find out the video card is no longer supported.

Exported my chrome browser bookmarks,  then finding more than half of those links are dead,  being 10 years old or so.
"Go to Texas, it will be warm" they said.
Texas Pollen
 A couple days ago I got sick with postnasal drip, along with all of central Texas,  cedar bloom from hell.  Couldn't get a decent sleep,  cough kept me up even with Snoring J gone.  Contemplating if I should go to eastern Louisiana, Northern Colorado or west Arizona.  None of those particularly appealing.  So I went to Walmart Pharmacy,  the antihistamine aisle was packed 4 deep with snifflers.  My Loratadine not working,  picked up Flonase Allergy and Cetirizine Hydrochloride.  $15.00 hope it works, better than driving all over.
Dead Skunk was big hit on the radio back in the early 70's. It's a great tune, though I only need to hear it once every ten years or so.

Update January 2021 replaced missing video. Google had age-restricted the last one. This one is very similar. I have no idea why this video was included in this post. Just one of the quirks that makes this blog so special, I guess.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Mohammad Gunn

Peter Gunn Theme by Henry Mancini

This tune has been popping up on YouTube lately. It's kind of a cool tune and I enjoy listening to it. Then I noticed that the group of performers is the Qatar Philharmonic Brass, which struck me as a little odd, so a-Googling I go.

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser
The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra . . . was founded in 2007 by Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, the then Emir of Qatar's consort. - Wikipedia
Sheikha got her money the old fashioned way: she married it.
[Emir of Qatar] Hamad seized power in a bloodless palace coup d'état in 1995. During his 18-year rule, Qatar's natural gas production reached 77 million tonnes, making Qatar the richest country in the world per capita with the average income in the country US$86,440 a year per person. - Wikipedia
LNG Rivers, a Liquified Natural Gas carrier

I presume the 77 million tons is an annual figure, which is a goodly quantity in anybodies book. Natural gas can be liquefied and then transported by ship, much like oil is transported in tankers. However, this an inconvenient process as the gas must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures.

Crude Oil Price since 2000

There is a process that can convert natural gas into liquid hydrocarbons. It was discovered in 1925 by some German chemists, but it also a complicated procedure that requires expensive equipment.  The run-up in the price of oil that started around 2005 convinced some people, including the Emir, that building a plant to perform this conversion was a worthwhile idea.

An aerial view of Shell's gas-to-liquid plant in Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar

ORYX GTL Plant. Just down the road from the Shell plant in Qatar.

It appears that two of the biggest plants built for performing this conversion are in Qatar, a small country located on a peninsula projecting from the western shore of the Persian Gulf. Billions of dollars have been sunk into these projects which makes them comparable to the big integrated circuit factories that make our computer chips.

Qatar on the Persian Gulf

Temperatures during the summer can be 110 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not much different than Phoenix Arizona, but the humidity is much higher as you might expect being as it is surrounded by the sea. But then I checked the weather today and it is a balmy 70 degrees. So, for six months of the year it is nice, much like many places on Earth.

Previous appearance of Peter Gunn here.

Die Hard 30

Shots Fired At Nakatomi Plaza

I remember seeing Die Hard in the theater when it came out 30 freaking years ago.

Via Comrade Misfit

Monday, December 24, 2018


A Day in Pompeii - Full-length animation

I thought this cool. Shopping for house designer.  Working on my house plan,  trying to figure out volcano proof design. - Iaman
A volcano proof house? I think your first requirement would be to obtain an adequate supply of unobtanium. Hmmm, that sounds like a paradox.

Friday, December 21, 2018

St. John's Bridge

St. Johns Bridge, looking west towards Forest Park

Younger son bought a house in St. Johns this summer. St. Johns is also known as North Portland on account of it being due North of downtown. Hillsboro, where I live, is 10 or 15 miles due west of downtown Portland. Between Hillsboro and St. Johns there is Forest Park and the Willamette River. Forest Park is a large wooded area that starts near downtown and heads northwest along a range of hills. The hills continue for several miles. If you want to get from Hillsboro to St. Johns you have to cross them, one way or another. There are three prinicple routes across these hills. There is Cornelius Pass Road which heads due North out of Hillsboro. There is Germantown Road which branches off of Cornelius Pass Road and heads northeast, and then there is the Sunset Highway, also known as Highway 26, which heads due east towards downtown Portland and crosses the hills by going through the Vista Ridge tunnel.

Germantown Road

All three routes have their pluses and minuses. Cornelius Pass and Germantown roads are both windy, two lane blacktop which means your speed is constrained by the traffic. Generally it is pretty good, but you can often get stuck behind a truck on Cornelius Pass Road which can slow you down to a molasses like speed. Germantown Road is so windy that trucks don't use it. Except coming home yesterday afternoon I passed a semi going the other way as I crossed Skyline Boulevard (at the top of the hill). I thought sure I was going to read about the disaster this was going to become in the morning paper, but no sign of anything going wrong this morning. I'll bet that driver doesn't do that again.

I want to know what they do with the rest of the mole.

Germantown road is insanely windy. It would be perfect for one of those automobile commercials, except the vistas on the Western half are fields and suburban development, and there are no vista on the Eastern half because you are buried in forest primeval. It could be a very enjoyable road if there wasn't so much traffic, but there is and all these people are trying to get somewhere. They aren't interested in the road itself.

Highway 26 is a straight shot until you get within a couple of miles of downtown and then traffic generally grinds to a half and you get to play creepy crawly until you break free on Interstate 5 northbound, or, if you are perverse, Highway 30 heading northwest.
Sunset Highway, Fremont Bridge, I-5 North, Columbia Boulevard

When highway 26 comes into downtown Portland, you are presented with three choices: 405 North, Market Street into downtown proper, and I-405 South. We take 405 North and then over the Fremont Bridge and onto I-5 North until we get to Columbia Boulevard, where we head back west to St. Johns.

Cornelius Pass Road

All three routes take roughly the same amount of time, about 45 minutes, but they all depend on the time of day, traffic, and a large helping of luck. Germantown road is the shortest but most driver intensive. Cornelius Pass is my preferred route, not too much traffic, and not too windy. It is a little farther than Germantown Road. Taking the freeway (26 & I-5) is longer distance wise, but if you don't get caught in gridlock it doesn't take any longer. And long stretches are smooth freeway cruising.

Taking Cornelius Pass or Germantown Road, either way you end up using the St. Johns Bridge to cross the Willamette River. The St. Johns Bridge is old. It was built during the heydey of bridge building in Portland, back in the 30's. I suppose building it was something akin to putting a man on the moon. It was the longest and tallest bridge in Portland until the Fremont bridge was built 75 years later. Back then it was such an accomplishment that nobody minded any of the minor nuisances that came with it, like the west of end of the bridge dead ends into a mountain and the only access is through narrow little two land blacktop roads carved into the face of this wall of dirt. The east end isn't any better. It dead ends right smack into the middle of downtown St. Johns, which is desperately trying to be the center of St. Johns. This wouldn't be so bad except for constant stream of heavy trucks traveling through this otherwise bucolic small town center on their way from the dockyards in northwest North Portland and the northwest industrial district.

Back in 1931 these were minor inconveniences that were easy to overlook in the face of this giant accomplishment. But that was almost 90 years ago and no improvements have been made to the approaches. It's like city planners think we reached our peak when they made this bridge and no further improvements have ever been needed. Goes right along with the City Council's preferential treatment for pedestrians. Between the  blissfully unaware pedestrians, the bicycles and scooters, the limited parking, the lanes given over to buses and trains, and the constant road closures from construction, driving in downtown Portland is an odious chore to be avoided at all costs. You don't suppose that turning download Portland into an impossible-to-solve maze has anything to do with all the empty store fronts in the downtown area, do you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Wish Sandwich

Blues Brothers - Rubber Biscuit

Listening to KQRZ on the way home and this really weird tune comes on. Don't ever remember hearing it before, so I looked it up when I got home. I suppose it might have been in the movie. Got to give Dan credit. Never heard anybody make any sounds like that before.


Steam hammer in operation at Westinghouse Electric, 1904. Edison film.

Compare with a recent video from China:

Chinese smiths allegedly forge a LARGE flange on the street

Hit it again, Mac. No, I don't know why the word "allegedly" is in the title. Maybe somebody learned a new word.

I posted the Chinese video once before, but then it vanished and I replaced it with more modest forging, though it looks like the same hammer.

Via Posthip Scott.

No Milk Today

Herman's Hermits - No Milk Today (1966)

Beaverton schools were in lockdown today because some useless twit made a death threat. "Lockdown" mean nobody comes in or out, like the milk delivery man, so the kids got water today instead of milk with their lunch. "Nobody comes in or out" is not exactly true because many parents came and picked up their kids.

Anyway, the business about the milk reminded SWMBO of this tune. They used to play it at the public swimming pool. I don't remember it at all, possibly because in 1966 I didn't have my driver's license yet and so didn't have access to the car radio.

Update April 2022 replaced missing video.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Cook My Meat

Reverend Horton Heat - Let Me Teach You How To Eat

This video is the prefect companion to Cook My Meat by MIT.

Via Detroit Steve

Original money ball?

The Electronic Coach

The YouTube blurb:
Computer History Museum
Published on Sep 2, 2010
[Recorded: circa 1959]
"The Electronic Coach" is a short film made by IBM describing the use of computers in the management of a university basketball team. The film features computer science legend Don Knuth, then a junior at Case Institute of Technology. For all four of his undergraduate years at Case (1956-60), Knuth was manager of the basketball team and sought ways to improve his team's play by analyzing a series of special statistics he captured during games. The scoring method was unusual in the weightings it gave to activities not necessarily associated with traditional coaching but Knuth's insights into basketball, combined with his computerization of the reams of data he collected, helped Case's coaching staff make their basketball team a winner. The computer used is an IBM 650.

Moneyball was a recent movie (2011) about replacing old school gut-instinct player selection with cold, hard statistics in baseball.

Donald Knuth is something of a god in Computer Science. I remember he was the author of at least one of my text books when I was in school.

The IBM 650 was the world's first mass-produced computer.

 Via Detroit Steve.

Friday, December 14, 2018


JUSUF. NURKIĆ. In a vaaaaaaaan!!

Jusuf Nurkic (sounds like you-sef Nurkich) plays for the Portland Trailblazers, a professional basketball team. He's a recent immigrant from Bosnia, he's big (7 foot tall, 280 pounds) and he is one of the starters and one of the stars. And he did this ad. Don't know if this will lead anywhere, but it's fun now.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Pic of the Day

Tumpak Sewu waterfall at sunrise with Mt. Semeru in the background
East Java, Indonesia
Looks like Jurassic Park.

After Dark - Tito & Tarantula

Tito & Tarantula - After Dark (HQ + HD)
with Salma's snake dance

This tune is one my favorites these days. It's from From Dusk Till Dawn, a goofball vampire adventure with a bunch of big names like George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino and Salma Hayek.

Update March 2019 replaced missing video.

Hyundai Alternator, Again

Cutaway drawing of Alternator
It appears that the alternator has crapped out on the Hyundai again. It failed several years ago. They warned me at the time that there was an oil leak right above the alternator that I should probably get fixed. Not too long ago I took the car in for an oil change and ended up with half of an engine overhaul. One of the things they were going to fix was this oil leak. Didn't. Couple of weeks go by and it's pretty obvious from the smell and from the fresh oil covering the alternator that they hadn't fixed the leak. Turns out the valve cover was cracked. The car was in a front end accident before I got it, so the valve cover might have gotten hit in the accident, and gotten hit hard enough to start a crack that has gradually grown until it has become a real problem.  Or it might have been a flaw in the casting that was there from the beginning.

Whatever. They Fed-Ex'd a new valve cover in and replaced it, so the oil leak is fixed. However, it appears that the spirit of the alternator has gone to alternator heaven and its earthly remains will have to be removed and a new, live, alternator installed in its place.

Which got me thinking about tow trucks. (Cars break down and sometimes when than happens you are left stuck and you have to call a tow truck.) When I was younger, say 40 or 50 years ago, nobody ever called a tow truck. Nobody's car ever broke down, or if it did, you fixed it yourself, you didn't call for a tow truck, those things cost money! Nowadays I don't hear people complaining about the cost of a tow truck. My last run-in a couple of months ago cost about $100, which is chunk out of my weekly allowance, but not all that bad.

So what I am wondering is - have people in general quit complaining about the price of tow trucks, or do people still complain about the price but I just don't hear about it because I don't hang around with those folks (because I'm old)?

Update: next morning. Just started the car to take it to the shop and the red battery indicator was out. Checked the voltage at the battery and it was 13 point something, so the alternator is back on the job. The check engine light is still on, so something is not right. The Hyundai expert at my local repair shop had a heart attack last week, so they aren't going to be able to look at it till Monday. I guess I'll keep driving it and pray it doesn't die and leave me stranded and looking for a tow truck.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Boots the Chemists Ltd

Anne Louise Avery has written a brief history of the Boots' lending library, which got me started on a wiki-wander. Stories about England are always interesting because they point out subtle differences between our two countries. Boots is pharmacy chain in the UK. I imagine it is similar to Walgreens or Rite-Aid in the USA. From Ms Avery's story it appears that public libraries in England got a much later start than they did in the USA. Of course, we had Andrew Carnegie and they didn't.

She starts by mentioning a scene from the movie Brief Encounter from 1945. YouTube has the whole movie. Here is the scene:

Brief Encounter - David Lean (Legendado) - 1945 [HD]
Laura (Celia Johnson) nips into Boots the Chemist

In this scene, Laura picks up the latest novel by Kate O'Brien, who was a real writer:
Sisters Nancy & Kate O'Brien
The [movie] soundtrack prominently features the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto no.2 op.18 - Anna Fedorova - Complete Live Concert - HD

I'll have to listen to this sometime.

Update, a couple of hours later. Realized I hadn't looked up the prime instigator - Florence Boot, so I did.

Jesse and Florence Boot
Found this picture on the "theislandwiki, a gateway to two historical websites featuring the Channel Islands, a group of small islands in the English Channel, close to the French coast, which are possessions of the British Crown and part of the British Isles."

Via reddit

Sunday, December 9, 2018


Qwerkywriter S
Michigan Mike muses:
I wrote a lot on manual typewriters. If this jammed and made too much noise it might be okay.

I remember hearing typing on a manual once and it really annoyed me. I certainly did enough myself, in apartments. I wonder if my neighbors hated me.

You could actually feel it in your feet. You had to hit each key solidly or risk  backing up and hitting it again. I wonder if good ribbons were wool?
The sound a mechanical typewriter makes when being heavily used could be very annoying or reassuring, depending on context.

Speed Typing Test (Halda Star Typewriter)

I found the above video right off, but then I found this video, which mentions ASMR, and when I look that up, I found this one:

ASMR 10 Triggers to Help You Sleep

I use a Dell plastic keyboard. I tried being particular about my keyboard once, but then I got pulled out of my cocoon and had to use some other random keyboard and it was so disturbing that I forswore all custom keyboard input schemes.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Link of the Day

Depiction of Ulfilas or “Wulfila” preaching to Gothic Warriors

Is There a Point to Life? Excellent explanation of Marxism and modern politics in general. Via Dustbury. I would have stolen the whole thing, but I'm not up to reformatting a dozen paragraphs this morning, so I just stole a picture from another site.

Thursday, December 6, 2018


Three Blind Mice

California Bob has something to say: 
Anosognosia - A new term to me, but the concept will be familiar to all; you don't know everything that you don't know.
"A neurological condition in which a disabled person is unaware of his or her disability. He stated: "If you're incompetent, you can't know you're incompetent ... The skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is."
Here's a short, fun read: The bad news on human nature, in 10 findings from psychology

...and a more boring WIKi entry [Dunning–Kruger effect] but with a lot of pithy content, like:
"...Cognitive bias evident in the case of McArthur Wheeler, who robbed banks with his face covered with lemon juice, which he believed would make it invisible to the surveillance cameras. This belief was based on his misunderstanding of the chemical properties of lemon juice as an invisible ink..." 

"After learning their scores, the students were asked to estimate their rank in the class. The competent students underestimated their class rank, and the incompetent students overestimated theirs..." 
More [Shall We Serve the Dark Lords? A Meta-Analytic Review of Psychopathy and Leadership] -- we elect jerks who turn out to be destructive jerks:
"Results showed a positive correlation for psychopathic tendencies and leadership emergence, and negative association for psychopathic tendencies and leadership effectiveness..."
For some reason I always confuse the Dunning-Kruger effect with the Voight-Kampff Test from Blade Runner, perhaps because both are compound names made from unfamiliar names, i.e "two weird names coupled together, must be that test from Blade Runner".

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Too Hot

UpTown Spot

Pretty slick robot trick.

Acetylene & Me

Me with a bottle of acetylene between my legs.
I'm wearing gloves because the tank is cold.
Osmany has been fighting with the water heater using a MAP gas torch and he's not getting anywhere. Time to break out the big gun. So I borrow Jack's Prest-O-Lite torch which burns acetylene, which requires a tank, regulator and hose. I borrow those as well. Soldering half inch pipe where the total length of connected pipe is less that 20 feet? Then a MAP gas torch is just fine. Soldering 3/4" pipe that is connected to 200 feet of copper pipe? Then you need the big gun.

A prudent person would have secured the tank to the bed of a truck. We didn't have a truck handy. I might have been able to secure it in the back seat using the seatbelts and some rope, but it was only a short jaunt across town. We couldn't put it in the trunk because if you lay the tank on it's side WeIrD tHiNgS could happen. Criminently, let's just go. If we get in a car wreck that is serious enough to break open the tank, I'll likely be dead before it blows up. If we get in a less serious car wreck the tank could easily injure me, but not any worse than your average automobile accident. Just don't have a wreck, Osmany,

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - Let's Call The Whole Thing Off HQ

This tune popped up on the radio the other day. It's old (1937). I remember hearing it when I was a kid, probably my dad singing a few snatches as he was wont to do. And then I got to thinking (always a bad sign) that I should show it to Osmany, who is trying to perfect his English. Would it help? Or would just aggravate the tar out of him. Tar. Haven't used that expression lately.
Update June 2019 replaced missing video. The old was taken down due to a copyright claim by Warner Bros. Wonder what will happen with this one.

The Avenger

Flight 19 Close Encounters

Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush was a pilot for the U.S. Navy during WW2. His exploits were chronicled in the very excellent book Flyboys by James Bradley. He was shot down near Chichi Jima in the western Pacific Ocean while flying a Grumman TBF Avenger topedo bomber. The Post Office is closed today (and most other Federal government offices as well, I suppose) in honor of his passing.

Artist's depiction of the five Grumman TBM Avengers from Flight 19

Reading the paper this morning and I notice their little "Today in History" column mentions that Flight 19 disappeared on this day in 1945. Flight 19 was composed of five of the same type of aircraft, the Grumman TBF Avenger. Is this a coincidence, or are mysterious other-worldly powers making themselves felt? Enquiring minds want to know.

Flight 19 disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle and mysteriously reappeared in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind (the video clip at top).

George has been mentioned here before.

Pic of the Day

1912 Umatilla County, Oregon. Science teacher preparing for class at the Milton Freewater
high school. Behind him on the chalkboard is the name of the next lesson:
Part IV, Radient phenomena and Radiation energies.
Milton-Freewater is in the northeast corner of the state, just down the road from Walla Walla Washington and about 20 miles east of where the Columbia River turns north into Washington. Umatilla County is where we stored our nerve gas when Reagan was getting hard nosed about the Russkies.

Via Posthip Scott

Monday, December 3, 2018

In the Afterlife, Part 2

Squirrel Nut Zippers "Hell" - Music Video directed by Norwood Cheek and Grady Cooper

Looking over this here blog I realized that my post about the afterlife didn't have a title, so I gave it one, and then I said to myself I said, there's a tune with that title. Well, not actually, but it uses that line in the song, so I looked it up and found this amusing video. It's kind of goofball, but what would you expect from a band with a name like the Squirrel Nut Zippers?

Report from Europe

Freedom Coffee Shop, Amsterdam,
Iaman reports:
Hello from Amsterdam, Dam to the locals.

Found nice pool blocks away on the edge of a canal. 5eu entry fee gets you an encoded wrist ban for entry/exit and opens a locker. Coed locker room (with individual booths) and showers, people shower with suits on.

Swimming became crowded 8 of us looping in a lane, most everyone oddly breaststroking. Met swimmer Wilma, she said the Dutch are required as children to first master breast stroke, then to master swimming fully clothed including shoes. So much water to fall into.
She was indifferent to Trump. Wilma explains the difference between Mediterranean and northern Europe due to effective accurate tax accounting in the north and the black economy of the South.

My compatriot anxious to sample Dam's "coffee shops" bought a 3eu spliff at the American Freedom coffee shop. Lighting up back at apartment, he chokes on the tobacco smoke, 90% tobacco. That is the preferred blend here, 100% pot needs to be sought out, harder to find.

I don't know what's going on, but the text in all of Iaman's emails run off the right edge of the screen. Word-wrap, which is what fits the text to the available width of the display is an old, old technique, so I don't understand what's going on here. It may be a turf war between Microsoft and Google, or it might be that text coming from a smart-phone is wrapped in some kind of package that regular email cannot decipher. I have a cell phone, but I'll be damned if I am going to sign up for some $100 a month package so I can read text messages on an itty-bitty screen.

Bad User Interface

From the 2008 Hyundai Sonata Owners Manual:

Dome Light

Interior Light - The interior courtesy light has two buttons. The two buttons are:
  • DOOR - In the "DOOR" position, the interior courtesy light comes on when any door is opened or when a door is unlocked by the transmitter. The light goes out gradually 30 seconds after the door is closed. However if the ignition switch is ON or all vehicle doors are locked when the door is closed, interior light will turn off even within 30 seconds.
  • ON - In the "ON" position, the light stays on at all times. 

The dome light didn't come on when I opened the door. What's up with that? The map lights work, and when I push a button the dome light comes on. The dome light I notice has two buttons, but only one bulb. Both buttons have the same effect: they turn the light on. Are there any markings that might indicate what these two buttons are supposed to do? Well, yes, there is. I can feel that there is something embossed in the buttons, but I cannot see it from where I am sitting in the front seat and given my eyes I would probably need a flashlight and my reading glasses along with some contortion in order to make then out. So I downloaded the manual. I still have to sort out which button is which, but now that I know what they are supposed to do, I should be able to handle it.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

In the Afterlife

Panel from The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, completed in 1432 by Jan van Eyck

Question on Reddit: What would happen if a groundbreaking scientific discovery disproved the afterlife?

My Bond-ish answer: Never say never, but disproving the existence of anything is pretty tough, and with something as intangible as the afterlife, I am confident no proof is possible. It's kind of like saying the word 'afterlife' doesn't exist. I mean you could eradicate every printed and digital version of word, but then someone would say it and someone would write it down and now here it is again. And you spent so much effort getting rid of it. Well, the eradication effort was a big boost to the defense industry and so our economy.

Being as I am who I is, I went looking for a picture to accompany this post, and one I found (top) got me to thinking about how the whole church thing got started. I suspect leaders found that saying a few words to their people helped them with whatever was on the board for the week ahead. It evolved into ritual, then acquired trappings both physical and mystical. And if you were brought up with it, it was the natural order of things. It's only when you encounter something that shakes your world view that you would even begin to question your religion.


Pic of the Day

Sigiriy, Sri Lanka
2,500 years ago King Kasyapa built a palace on top of this rock.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Out and About

Packing: The Diamond Hitch

Helped younger son move some furniture to his house today. While I was tying down the furniture in the back of his pick-em-up truck he remarked that this was the fifth time he has seen me do that. I learned how do the diamond hitch at Boy Scout camp when I was in junior high school. (The diamond hitch is a little complicated and requires a certain amount of judgement on how long to make certain sections. It's used for securing loads to the backs of pack animals. We never got to the live animal stage, I think we practiced on barrels.) I learned it well enough to pass the class / earn the merit badge, but I forgot it soon after. Never used it. Use it or lose it.

Steps for tying a tautline hitch
I still know the square knot, the bowline and the taut line hitch. The taut-line is the most useful knot in the world. Simple as sin, easily adjusted and holds tight. Great for securing loads in the back of pick-em-up trucks.

Went to Walmart this evening so me wife could get her second shingle's shot. A complete shingles vaccination requires a series of two shots. She didn't have to pay anything but somebody paid the pharmacy $167 for this shot. Seems there is a waiting list. The pharmacy got a shipment in today and called her. When she asked the pharmacist how many doses they received, thinking it would be the dozens at least, she was informed that they received two doses. How the heck does this make any sense? Somebody put on a big promotional campaign to convince people they needed to get a shingles vaccination, and then they don't prepare enough vaccine to meet the demand they know they have created? Makes me wonder if they didn't create an artificial shortage just so they could pump up the price. On one hand, I can't blame the drug companies. Developing drugs is hellishly expensive and that's just the first half of the battle. Then you have to get them approved by the government, another insurmountable battle. On the other hand, blood sucking vampires, they need to have stake driven through their heart. I mean they are frigging killing the patient with these constant demands for more money.

So I'm sitting there in Walmart, waiting for my wife, and I am looking around and I see all this stuff, stuff that I do not need or desire. And then I got to wondering, just how much stuff is there here? How much did Walmart have to spend stock this store? (Yes, I know they probably didn't spend any of their own money, it's all borrowed or fronted or something. But still, there is a heck of a lot of money tied up in all this inventory.) And how much did they spend to stock all the Walmarts in the country? And what about all the other big retailers like Target and Freddies? Well, shoot, what about all the retailers in the country?

Turns out it is a heck of a lot: $1.967 Trillion. That's trillion, with a capital T. With a population of 325.7 million people, that means there is just over $6,000 in inventory for every person in the US. Not near as much as I thought. I was think it was on the order of $100,000. Scientific notation would have helped. 1.967 trillion = 1.967E11, 325.7 million = 3.257E8, so the rough estimate of the dividend would have been 10^3 or one thousand. (11 - 8 = 3).

China Wok
We stopped at China Wok to pick up some Chinese food for dinner. Little hole in the wall place, half a dozen people hustling to fill an endless stream of orders, most of which were dispatched by a half dozen dedicated delivery drivers. It took a while for our food to be ready, I suspect most people must be ordering over the internet. That's okay, it was great fun watching this crew working at a frantic pace but still having fun. Bonus: the waitress wrote our order in Chinese.


Common Name Abbreviations
This struck my funny bone, hard.

We went to Hawaii a couple of weeks ago. Our flight arrived around 11PM. We rent a car and my wife pulls out her smart phone and it starts telling us how to get to the resort. This works great around home because I recognize the street names, but here it's no help at all. "Turn left at hokohokohooky street", "turn right on hokohokohokohoony street". Wait, what? It was like the phone was speaking in a foreign language. It was no help at all. It wasn't a complete disaster, we only made a couple of wrong turns. I mean it's an island, there are only so many places you can go.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Furnace Troubleshooting: Hot Surface Ignitor

Messing about with our furnace I got to wondering about the ignitor (Blogger wants to spell it with an e, not an o, but o is correct). I kind of sort of thought that it was a spark ignition device, but when we pulled ours out, I could see that it was not. It's just a resistance heating element. Okay then. So it must get pretty hot, but we use resistance heating in toasters and small room heaters, and you need to careful with them because they can set stuff like clothes and curtains on fire, so sure, you could use a resistance heater to ignite the gas in the furnace.

Hot Surface Ignitor

So how hot does it need to be in order to ignite the gas-air mixture?
Natural gas has a high ignition temperature, approximately 1163 degrees Fahrenheit. - ERPUD
That's a little warm. Paper, as we all know, thanks to Ray Bradbury, ignites at Fahrenheit 451. So our Hot Surface Ignitor (HSI) must likewise get pretty hot.
The HSI heats up to around 1,800°F to 2,500°F and glows red-hot. - The Spruce
That's almost hot enough to melt steel (2500 degree F). So what are these things made of?
In 1993, the furnace industry moved away from the standing pilot light ignition system in all furnaces. One of the most popular styles of ignition used today is a Hot Surface Igniter (HSI). The first HSI’s looked like a “fork” and were a silicon carbide material. While this type of igniter is very dependable, they are fragile. The newer style HSI is made out of Silicon Nitride, which is a more durable material. This is the type of igniter that our technicians stock on their trucks. While they are more expensive to purchase up front, you can expect a longer life out of them. - Santa Fe Air

Efing Whirlpool

Water heater flamed out again this morning. Fine, time to see if Whirlpool has a solution for this problem that has been going on for years. Call customer service and the first thing Robo-cop wants me to do is tell them my phone number. WTF? Everybody and their dog all over the world has caller ID and these clowns can't figure out what my phone number is? This isn't good. I get to a person in short order, who transfers me to 'water heater technical support' where I get to listen to some horribly distorted muzak. Why do they do that? Is it because they are too cheap to buy a decent radio? Or is it a deliberate attempt to drive people away?

Whatever. After a few minutes Robo-cop comes back on the line and asks if I would like to have them call me back instead of just waiting. Sure, that would put a stop to the noise coming out of my phone. And hey, it appears Robo-cop knows my phone number after all. Bozos.

A few minutes later I get a call back and the operator starts interrogating me: name, rank, serial number, address, blah, blah. I answer her first couple of questions, but then I tell her no more, I want to talk about the water heater. We exchange a bit more and then it becomes apparent that they still don't have a solution for this problem. Call me when you have one.

I suspect there is a 'weak' electrical connection somewhere between the controller and the sensor and any little change in temperature causes the connection to fail which causes the controller to flag the sensor as bad. Then I come out and glare at it, and the connector contracts in fright, contact is restored and the water heater lights up again.

I could be wrong about all this, but I can't imagine what else could be causing these intermittent failures. I suppose it's time to get out the soldering iron and make some new connections.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Norman at Nor-Mon

Failed Furnace Igniter Control Relay
I've had a spate of electrical problems recently. The hot water heater I replaced a few years ago has gone out and I had to relight it three or four times in the last month. Since it seems to work fine most of the time, I suspect a connection in the wires that lead to the temperature sensors is at fault. The weather turned cold about a month ago, the water heater is in the garage, so it's going to feel those temperature changes. The best I can imagine right now is the change in temperature caused the metal in the connectors to contract just enough to lose contact. I unplugged the sensor wires from the the controller today and then plugged them back in. This might have dislodged any insulating oxide that had formed (i.e. corrosion) that could affect this connection. Remember these are very low current, very low voltage circuits so even the slightest barrier to conduction could easily cause failure.

Reliability has always been a bit of a black art to me. To make a machine is a pretty straight forward business. There are numbers and laws for strength and pressure and power, so if you do your math right you can make a machine that will run. How long that machine will run is another matter.

According to one theory of business, reliability is a key feature for gaining sales. If the business leader subscribes to this theory, at least some money is going to be spent on investigating reliability. The longer a product is around, and the more popular it is, the more it will improve. It may take a while, but electro-mechanical devices have been around for 100 years now, and I think they could do better with electrical connections. I am a little aggravated by this, I had to take a cold shower this morning.

A few days ago I fired up the furnace for the first time this fall. It didn't turn on. It's not a big deal, we use the gas fireplace for most of our heating. We only use the furnace when it gets really cold. But if we're going to have a furnace, we should keep it in working order. We might really want it one of these days. The furnace has failed twice before. Both times I called a furnace guy to come take a look at it. Once the only problem was that the filter was clogged. Cost me $100. That was embarrassing. The other time the igniter had burned out. This time Osmany and I opened it, poked around and discovered that the controller was kaput. Specifically the relay the supplies current to the igniter had failed. If I could have found a relay with a 24 VDC coil and 10 Amp, 120 VAC rated contacts, we could have replaced it ourselves. But I looked on Mouser and Digikey and couldn't find one. Maybe I wasn't holding my mouth right.

I looked on the Internet for a 50A50-112 furnace controller, but didn't find anything. Found an outfit in Pennsylvania selling something similar, but when I called them the couldn't find anything that would work. So now I look for furnace parts in Portland and I find two. I think this tells you something about the reliability of furnaces right there. Everyone has a car and there are hundreds of repair shops in Portland. I think furnaces might be a tad more reliable than cars. Of course, furnaces are much simpler than cars.

I called Nor-Mon with my part number and he tells me to bring it in and he'll match it up. So today Osmany and I drive into Portland and visit with Norman at Nor-Mon. The man talked incessantly about everything under the sun, his family, vacations, furnace controllers, devices you strap on your shoes that let you walk on ice (they have little carbide studs, kind of like studded snow tires for your car), the hardware business. I had to drag Osmany away or we might still be there.

There used to be thousands of different furnace controllers. Imagine with a population of 330 million people, we probably have somewhere in the neighborhood of a 100 million furnaces. If a production run of furnaces had 10,000 units, and each production run had their own unique controller, you would need 10,000 different controllers to control all those furnaces. A lot of them were probably minor variations of previous models. Somebody wanted a new feature, or they wanted more or different connection points, or they just wanted it to look different. Anyway,  a few years ago, White-Rodgers saw all this madness and decided to do something about it. They figured out what difference were and made a controller that can be configured as any one of a hundred different models. Now they only need a hundred different controllers to ensure that they will have viable replacement on hand to cover the 10,000 different controllers that have been deployed all over the country. (All these numbers are just supposition on my part.)

Anyway, Norman looked in his file of index cards. He had hundreds, maybe even a thousand, all arranged in cardboard trays and taking up six feet of valuable counter space. He looked in his file and found a replacement that ought to work. It has the model number of my controller, along with about a hundred others, printed right there on the box.I bought it for $200, which included a 5% surcharge to cover whatever tariffs are going to be coming into effect as part of Trump's trade war with China.

Monday, November 26, 2018

All I want for Christmas

Gifts for the Handyman

Shopping for new tools is one of my favorite pastimes. It's kind of pointless though if you aren't actually going to buy anything. Just about every day that I work on my son's house I find I need another tool, which gives me an excuse to go shopping, so I've been having some fun. Even picked up a garden hose at Harbor Freight. It wasn't the combo model with the built in extension cord. Too bad, that would have been exciting.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Pic of the Day

Steam locomotives of the Chicago & North Western Railway in the roundhouse at the Chicago rail yards (December 1942)
I haven't been reading much, mostly, I suspect, because I haven't been sleeping all that well. But when I sit down for lunch today I pick up a book that's been sitting on a pile that's due to be sold to Powell's and it pretty much captivated me.

The books is methland by Nick Reading and it is about the methamphetamine craze (epidemic) that swept the nation, especially the way it has affected small town America. The first town he focuses on is Oelwein, Iowa (I'm still reading the prologue.), which has a roundhouse. Cool! I like roundhouses, so I go looking for pictures, but I don't find much. The photo above is the best of the lot and it has a tenuous connection to Oelwein: The Chicago & North Western Railway extended to Oelwein Iowa.

Looking at Google Maps, it looks like there is still a big rail operation there. There is a big yard with 100's of cars. Looking at the Open Railway Map, you can see that the only active line goes to Des Moines, all the other tracks heading out of Oelwein have been abandoned. I suspect the only reason they are keeping the track to Des Moines open is that Oelwein has a big yard where they can store a large number of railroad cars.