Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Monday, April 30, 2018

Egg Spoons

The chef Alice Waters cooking an egg over a fire in her Berkeley, Calif., kitchen using her beloved, hand-forged iron egg spoon. - Alex Welsh for The New York Times
California Bob has a few words to say in response to a story in The New York Times:
Even moreso than someone having something that we CAN'T have...when someone enjoys something that we don't enjoy, it seems to infuriate us... even moreso than, say, someone having something we covet.

"I wish I had a Ferrari like Bob.  But Frank cooks his eggs in a weird pan! What a jerk!"  

Is this syndrome what is behind the persecution of the Christians, the hatred of fags, the mockery of "culture?"
Uniberp replies:
Wood fire smoked eggs are nice, even though the eggs themselves are corporate farming products. 

For me to be interested in one of those egg cookers, I would need to know the provenance of the coal smelters iron used, even the origin of the coal itself, plus have a notarized record of the poems memorized for recitation by the blacksmith during the forging and wielding. (note: "wielding" , not "welding). 

There, that should piss a little higher.
I think they have covered the subject well.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have a couple of things to say about the story. I didn't read the whole thing because I have very little interest in cooking. I can grill meat on the barbeque, I can order meals at restaurants and I keep the refrigerator stocked with food that doesn't require cooking.

I'm not linking to The Times (except for the caption under the picture) because they are big stinkers and they want me to subscribe. I was only able to read this story because I am under their monthly allocation, and I am under because I avoid them because I don't want to see another one of their cut-off notices. Yes, I could subscribe, but as Tam has pointed out numerous times they are voice of East Coast stupidity. And if I subscribed to them, I might be tempted to subscribe to The Atlantic and I might start sending donations to Wikipedia and The Guardian, and then where does it stop? Pretty soon you are spending hundreds of dollars a month for stuff that you don't have time to read.

I am still waiting for someone to start a text subscription service. You pay a flat fee every month, they count up all the web sites you visit and divide up your payment accordingly. I could do it, but someone would need to convince some of these big news sites that it would be a good idea. And then I would need a small army to actually implement it.

P.S. There is some debate as to whether moreso is a valid word. Grammarist has a page on the subject.

Mental Exercise

I figured out why I don't do any web programming: it's not that interesting, at least not from a puzzle solving point of view. Putting up a web page mostly involves displaying a bunch of data. You might also want to collect some data from the user which you will pack up and send to the host, but it's all pretty straight forward. Now it might get a bit gnarly when you have to interact with a complex data base system residing on the server, but that's mostly a matter of minding your p's and q's in the protocol you use. Once you have a web page up, things could get a little complicated, but it takes a bit of work to get to that point.

I enjoy working on the programming puzzles on Coding Games because all that boring display stuff is cut out of the problem. On the downside, they ask that you don't publicize your solutions because their main purpose (aside from keeping me entertained) is to screen people as candidates for companies that want to hire programmers. Since the world is full of people who would be willing to pass off somebody else's work as their own, and I am opposed to that sort of thing, I keep my Coding Game solutions to myself.

When a puzzle shows up out in the real world that lends itself to being solved with a computer program, I am very happy. Plus I am free to share the results of my genius / obsession with the world.

The 10,958 Problem - Numberphile

I came across this video from Numberphile the other day talking about using a sequence of digits in a mathematical expression and then,  by changing the operators between the digits, you could end up with pretty much any number you wanted. For instance:
1 + 2 + 3 = 6
1 - 2 + 3 = 2
1 x 2 + 3 = 5
1 + 2 x 3 = 9
Some whiz kid who didn't have anything else to do compiled a list of expressions for all the numbers up to 11,111. He found an expression for every number except 10,958.

Not too long ago I wrote a program to solve a Coding Game puzzle that involved computing the value for some simple expressions, so that gets me to thinking that I could write a program to generate all possible expressions using the same sequence of numbers and see if I can find one that will produce 10,958. If I do, well, yahoo! But if I don't, well at least I'll have some confirmation of this guy's results. I'm working on that. I'll let you know how it turns out. Assuming I get that far.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of the video, Matt Parker writes the expressions for some random numbers. How did he do that? Does he have some rule he follows that allows him to do this? No. He did it by memorizing the first one thousand expressions. Okay then. That is not something that interests me in the least. Matter of fact, it sounds downright painful. But it takes all kinds to make the world go round, so if that's how Matt wants to spend his time, well fine, go ahead on.

This memorization bit reminds me of a penance doled out to inmates of the cloister in Anathem by Neal Stevenson. If an inmate was found guilty of an infraction, the penance was to memorize a number of pages of a book that contained a zillion digits of pi. Minor infractions might be punished with memorizing a single page, but more severe infractions, or repeat offenders might be assigned entire chapters. I suppose there might be a feeling of accomplishment in being able to complete the assigned memorization, but it sounds awful to me.

There was also a show I saw once, it might have been an episode of The Twilight Zone, or maybe the tail end of Fahrenheit 451. In any case, the society had banned books, so a small group of dissidents had formed their own community. They lived in some shacks along a river, kind of reminded me of Tom Cruise's place in Oblivion. Anyway, their whole thing was memorizing books. Each person would memorize a book, and then they would teach their children the book and so the knowledge would be maintained without having to resort to the actual printed copy.

While we are on the subject of memorization, it recently occurred to me that merely having a pretty face and showing up (per Woody Allen) are not really enough to be an actor. Memorizing your lines and then being able to repeat them is a prime skill.

'Hitting your marks' is another one. That is, walk where you are supposed to walk, when you are supposed to. When shooting a scene, you need people to be in certain places so the audience will be able to see what is going on. Okay, this is a non-sequitur but I came across the phrase recently and it stuck with me. And since I am talking about actors, I thought I'd throw it in.

Being a successful actor might bring great financial rewards, which can bring great freedom, but getting there is going to be a lot of work. Some people have talents that lie in that direction, and that's good. They keep us entertained. Like I said, it takes all kinds to make the world go round.

One last word about books. We accumulated a number of books while the kids were growing up, but now they are gone and we are in material reduction mode, so a couple of weeks ago I started hauling them off to Powell's a couple of grocery bags at a time. I took a total of eight bags of books there. They bought maybe 6, 6 books for which I got about $20 in store credit. I hauled the rejects home and this weekend we had a garage sale. Out of maybe 200 books we sold about 10. We ended up taking the rest to Goodwill.

There are novels that are entertaining and you might read them once and once you have forgotten the story you might read them again. You might run into a few books that you will want to read again. There aren't too many of those. Most books aren't worth the paper they are printed on. Comes from paper being so cheap I suppose.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Fairey Gannet

3,400 HP, 310 MPH, bi-fold wings, coaxial propellers, oldest flying Turboprop, Fairey Gannet

Looks like we are marching back in time. Started with Tektronix R7912 from the 1970's, then we had the Friden EC-132 from the 1960's, and now we have the Fairey Gannet from the 1950's.

This airplane has two engines, one for each of the propellers. You can fly the plane on one engine just fine. It needs help starting an engine on the ground, but once you have one engine started, you can use the wind blast from the propeller to start the second engine.

Coax propellers are unusual. I found a couple. The Antonov An-70 and the Russian Bear bomber use a single engine and a gearbox to drive the two propellers. The Electroflight uses separate motors, like the Fairey.

So I'm watching this video and I'm thinking that these guys weren't really afraid of the Soviet Union, they just wanted an excuse to play with all the technology that WW2 created.

Some people (like me) like to complain about the size of the defense budget, but a lot of the really cool technology we use everyday originated with the defense industry. And our strong military is what gave us the biggest and levelest playing field in the world.

So while a big defense budget may seem evil, it serves several purposes:
  • it keeps a large number of people occupied
  • it develops some amazing technology
  • it keeps the bullies off of our playing fields

Friden EC-132

An astonishing old calculator - Numberphile

This machine is from 1965. The acoustic memory is new to me. Here's one that uses air to store the bits of data. I enjoy seeing how people have combined apparently incompatible technologies to build new devices with new capabilities, like the Tektronix R7912.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Mount Trumpmore

Mount Trumpmore

I think this is a fine stunt.
Project Trumpmore is aiming to demonstrate climate change in a monumental way. A Finnish NGO wants to commission a 115-foot tall ice sculpture of Donald Trump’s face in the arctic region to demonstrate that climate change is happening. Like the former US presidents on Mount Rushmore, Donald Trump will have his face carved onto an arctic glacier, in order for it to melt. - Press release
Via Indy Tom

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tektronix R7912

Tektronix Logo
At lunch today Jack regaled us with a tale about a state-of-art instrument he worked on during his tenure at Tektronix. The machine used a convoluted method to measure very short transient signals, that is signals that only appear occasionally, and only for a brief period of time.

Tektronix R7912 CRT

The machine used a CRT from an oscilloscope and a primitive digital camera to record very fast transient signals. The CRT was buried inside the machine, it was not visible to the operator. The signal from the probe was used to draw the pulse on the screen of the CRT. The digital camera faced the CRT and digitized the projected image. This was back in the early 1970's, and the digital camera had a very low resolution, about one-quarter of a mega-pixel, to use today's parlance.

Preparation for an underground nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site in the 1990s

The big customer were the guys doing underground nuclear bomb tests. They would bury a bunch of these instruments in the ground along with the bomb. When the bomb was detonated, the R7912 digitizers would send out digital information until the detonation destroyed them.

Tektronix R7912 Front Panel
This gadget is so weird I thought I better include another description of it. From Tekwiki:
The Tektronix 7912 is a series of high-speed digitizers that take one 7000-series vertical plug-in and one 7000-series horizontal plug-in.

All 7912 models use the same internal CRT-based, digitizing scan converter tube (T7912) that is not visible from the outside. The signal from the vertical plug-in deflects a writing beam through distributed deflection plates. The electrons hit a small flat rectangular solid state target, conceptually similar to the image sensor in a digital camera. The resolution of the target is 512×512, giving 512 points in the time domain and 9-bit linear quantization of the input voltage.
With a 7B92 sweeping the whole X-axis in 5 ns, and the 7912 capturing 512 samples in that sweep, the 7912 performs the function of a 100 GSample/s A/D converter.
5 nanoseconds divided by 512 samples, means we are taking 100 measurements every nanosecond, which means our sample rate is 100 billion measurements every second, i.e. 100 GSamples/s.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Burning Down The House

Tom Jones, The Cardigans - Burning Down The House

Strange stuff pops up on YouTube sometimes. I would have never expected to see Tom Jones and Nina Persson team up to sing a song by David Byrne. The Cardigans and Talking Heads have appeared in this blog before. This is Tom's first appearance.

The Caslon Foundry

Casting Shop, with women breaking off excess metal and rubbing the type at the window
Spitalfields Life has a photo essay about The Caslon Foundry in London, England. They made type for printing presses for 200 years up till 1937. Not a particularly large establishment, merely a four story brick building in Central London. Not a huge campus like the the Colt factory in Hartford, Conneticut.

I was kind of wondering why the company would have collapsed just prior to WW2 just when the demand for newspapers would have skyrocketed, and then I remembered the linotype, another disruptive technology.

Via Indy Tom

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - Trailer

The Blazers got blown out of the NBA playoffs by the New Orleans Pelicans, so that's it for basketball for us for the season, so now we can devout ourselves full-time to watching murder mysteries.

Looks like there are four movie-length episodes in this series. The Murder at Road Hill House was the first one. It is set in England in the 1860 and is based on a true story. Everything is very similar to modern day police investigations, but everything is different. In particular, perceptive intelligence and rudimentary psychology are Mr. Wicher's primary tools. He figures out what happened, but it isn't until years later that he is vindicated. Is that a spoiler?

On Amazon Prime. There are also a bunch of videos on YouTube that claim to be the full movie, and with running times of an hour and a half, they might lure you into thinking that, hey, free movie! But the few I looked at turned out to be bullshit, ads for a streaming service of some kind.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

History Repeating

Propellerheads feat: Miss Shirley Bassey - History Repeating

At first I thought this was a mash-up of some new guys playing backup to an old song, but evidently this is all original.

I more I read and hear, the more I think Miss Shirley has it right.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Monarch 10EE Lathe

 photo IMGP0972.jpg

This is a test. This is only a test. If this was a real blog post I would have something pithy to say.

You thought the B-36 was big?


Paul Allen's scheme to put satellites in orbit by airdropping rockets from high altitudes. They've been working on this thing for years and it looks like it might be getting ready for flight testing, maybe even this year. Wingspan is 50% larger than the B-36 and maximum takeoff weight is threes times that of the Peacemaker.

Update August 2023 replaced dead link, edited labels.



This is one of the four remaining B-36 bombers. They were built during the 1950's and scrapped in the 60's. They were enormous. They are also an example of the military pushing the edge of technology. They used both piston engines and jet engines. Normally these two kinds of engines use different kinds of fuel. Piston engines burn gasoline and jet engines burn kerosene, but not here.
Four General Electric J47-GE-19 turbojet engines are suspended under the wings in two-engine pods. . . . The J47-GE-19 was modified to run on gasoline and was rated at 5,200 pounds of thrust . . . - This Day In Aviation

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tundra Timing Belt Replacement

Iaman reports on a maintenance project:

All the stuff in front of the timing belt
Toyota 2UZ-FE engine, I'm replacing timing & serpentine belts and water pump after 175,000 miles, looks like they could have gone another 90,000.  The red coolant has kept inside of motor water channels sparkling clean. (Dealer and manual say belt is good for 90,000.) I'm doing this cause I have a place to work, my landlord's Jeep in case I need parts and dealer wanted $1000+. Parts were $200.  Shop time 3.5 hours,  my time 3.5 days.

Immediate issues:
  • rounded off screw in ac compressor (need extractor),
  • think I heard the tinkle of a nut falling into frame
  • remembering reassembly process 30+ steps.)

Removing the crankshaft pulley

Belts, idlers, water pump installed. Oil changed. 3 days. Tested good. Yay!

I am impressed with the overbuilding in the Toyota engine. I am curious about the development cost of engines/drive train vs the rest of a automobile

Lingering issues,
  • replacement screw for the rounded off screw (impatience) came out by fingers after drilling off the head, go figure
  • Serpentine belt idler has a a squeak warming up for a couple minutes
  • Waiting for new serpentine belt to come in, Amazon sent wrong one, reinstalled old one which looks OK.
  • The specs call for the crankshaft pulley bolt to be torques to 225lbs!?! Why? It merely keeps the crank serpentine pulley on.
More importantly I have a shallow aluminum hole in the truck air compressor buried deep that I stripped the threads out of, tried many fixes short of special engineered helicoil, next thing large shallow screw involving 1/2 hour trip to hardware store where I left my magnetic screw starter last night when I was looking for the proper size bolt.

  • After 24 hours I drove back to hardware store and miraculously there in the parking lot, my lost magnetic-screw-starter and a missing screw.
  • I found the missing nut indeed in the frame using magnetic wand, this could have easily been avoided by stuffing rags in tactical positions
  • I have checked and rechecked the crankshaft bolt, tugging on it for all I'm worth.  Getting it off was easy, bumping the starter with a the bolt held by breaker bar, yet the web is full of stories of people trying to hold the pulley while yanking on the bolt to loosen.
  • similarly researching CV replacement, many sites have step that include disassembly of caliper and rotor, when they can merely be swung out of the way....and on my water-pump replacement more than one site had the unnecessary step of removing ac compressor.

Relative to replacing water-pump, changing the oil was a pure joy, instead of a dreaded task! Funny how that works.

Quote of the Day

It does seem that a lot of bums are using "social justice" as a cover to be sociopaths.  Well, it's pretty common among people, even nation-states.  Like Russia: "we're completely innocent of all wrongdoing and you're just picking on us because you're a global hegemon."  Completely hypocritical and cynical ploy.  Word to the wise, a lot of people are just no damn good. - California Bob

Monday, April 16, 2018

Binky Has Friends

Project Binky - Episode 16 - Austin Mini GT-Four - Turbocharged 4WD Mini

This might be slowest series in the history of the world. They put out an episode every 3 or 4 months, so at this rate they must have working on this project for years. (A quick check reveals that it has been nearly five years.) This episode is fairly typical, with lots of shots of pieces of metal being beaten into submission and plenty of snide remarks. There were a couple of scenes that tickled me. At the 2:55 mark, the narrator is commenting on the TIG welder currently in use. He makes a couple of ambiguous comments, and then says, "all we know is he is called the TIG", which if you have ever watched Top Gear, sounds exactly like the introduction Jeremy Clarkson gives the Stig (follow the link, you might enjoy it).

Then at the end, where you have a couple of blokes sitting at a table drinking tea while the credits role, there is a guy in the background sweeping up. I watch him for a bit and think, you know, he looks kind of like the tousle haired mechanic from Wheeler Dealers, and what do you know, it is. Edd China. He even gets a credit.

Project Binky has shown up here before.

Fun with Electricity

Breaker Box
Studying household wiring yesterday, we pull the cover off the circuit breaker box and take a look inside. The two big, fat aluminum leads from the power company connect to the two banks of circuit breakers, one lead to each bank. From there, black (hot) leads carry current all over the house. The white (neutral) leads complete the circuit. All of the white leads connect to a couple of bus bars that are connected together and to the neutral line from the meter. They are also connected to the ground wire that presumably goes to a steel rod pounded into the ground. Used to be you could use water lines for this purpose, back when water lines were made of steel. Plastic lines won't work for this purpose. Gas lines are still made of steel, at least some of them are, but somehow connecting up an electrical line to a gas pipe doesn't sound like a very good idea, even if it isn't normally carrying any current.

The bare, copper, ground wires coming into the box are also connected to the same bus bars as the neutral (return) lines. We really don't want any electrical device to not have a safe return path.

Cordless Phone

We finish our inspection and put the cover back on. A few minutes later my wife discovers that the phone is not working. That's weird, it was working fine a few minutes ago. What could have happened? A smart person would have realized that the boys were playing with the power and maybe they broke something. The first thing to check is that the phone is actually getting power. The cell phone modem (that the cordless phone plugs into), plugged into the same outlet as the phone, has got power, the little blue lights are all glowing happily. Tested the wall wart and it's fine. The phone must be dead. Order a replacement from Amazon for $25, be here Tuesday. Go to bed.

This morning at oh-dark-thirty my wife wakes me up to tell me that the coffee maker isn't working. Waaahhh? Go check the breaker panel and last breaker on the left bank is off. Must have hit it when we were messing about.

Verizon Wireless Home Phone

The cell modem must have a battery that enables it to keep the LED's glowing even when there is no power. Stupid modern gimcracks.

Plugged the phone back in and it's working fine.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


85-year-old swimmer set to break national, provincial records

One good thing about getting older is there is less competition in your age group for just about anything you want to attempt.

Via Iaman

Pic of the Day

Pilatus PC-12 on the ramp in Sacramento, California after a rain storm
The Pilatus is what a personal aircraft should be. Big enough to carry your entire family, all their luggage, and enough fuel to fly halfway across the country, and get there later today. But they are a little spendy.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Emergency Oxygen Mask with Smart Glasses
You'd think that with all the safety edicts there could never be a fire inside a commercial airliner, but as history demonstrates, people will find a way. Oxygen masks are standard emergency equipment on any commercial aircraft that flies over 2 or 3 miles high, but if smoke fills the cabin you won't be able to see where you are going, and if it's really bad, you won't even be able to see the instrument panel. Osterhout Design Group combined the oxygen mask with Smartglasses and cameras so pilots can breath and see where they are going even if the cabin fills with dense smoke.

This might be the first step towards eliminating windows completely, but it will probably be several generations (of people) before windowless designs become commonplace. Driverless cars are liable to be the first victims of this new cost-cutting measure. The AI system driving your car surely doesn't need any windows, and who wants to look at a grimy, decrepit urban landscape when you can be playing fantasy video games on your 8K screen in your little mechanical cocoon? Motion sickness might be a problem for some people, but we have pills for that. And if you don't agree with the new windowless policy, we have pills for that, too.

Via FlightAware
Title Song

Quote of the Day

Planck as a young man, 1878
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. - Max Planck

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Déjà Vu, Alaska

Déjà Vu, Alaska - A Flying Short Film

I was honored to attend the world premiere of Déjà Vu, Alaska at the Thursday night hangar hangout at the Hillsboro Airport. A fine film by any standards, but most especially by ours.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Sign of the Times

Sign at entrance to Ft. Hood, Texas

Ft. Hood is a big place. Here's a Google Streetview of a sign at a SE Entrance.

Via Iaman

Airbags for Motorcycles

Alpinestars Tech-Air airbag crash test | Visordown Product Review

Looks like it might be a good idea. Originally developed for racing. Via Iaman.

Bite your tongue, but not too hard

Iaman reports from Austin:

I was invited by a fellow church goer to participate in fixing up someone's house. I was thinking it was some local poor unfortunate.

Watch what you volunteer for.

I arrive (84 mile round trip ) at a small 1980s tract home is a well kept community, at 9 AM.

There are nice serviceable cars in the garage and driveway.

How does this house differ from any other in the subdivision?

There is a bustle of fellow volunteers arranging tools and materials.  Overgrown Trees and bushes have been trimmed, the result bundled on the curb. Some of the hardboard siding had already been replaced and caulked.

Closer inspection shows the wallboard to be damp, decomposing and needing to be replaced in another 8 years. This what we are to paint.

The house looks pleasant in its Tan and brown,  fitting nicely into the community.  The owners requested a festive Mexican style color change to Teal trim and white.  This of course requires more paint and more attention to detail. and that combo with brown brick is going to suck.

I bit my tongue. as I think: "fuck this, I'm not painting any fucking Teal paint!"  then another  "fuck that!" .

I wire brush the aluminum patio cover trim  of sticks and leaves,  looking top-side there is a composting pile of leaves, a foot deep,  and the junction of the patio and house roof.  The rot of the roof is palpable. No one wants to climb up there to expose a bigger job.

Thinking "what can I do that will occupy my mind and not violate my sensibilities"  I take to painting white  under the shelter of the patio cover from the cold 40F windy damp weather.  I'm being careful and more attentive to detail than this job deserves.   Looking up while painting under the kitchen window I see a large 300lb man very ably maneuvering through the kitchen building a large burrito, he guiltily catches me watching him. Next to cut-in the sliding door, inside is a woman younger than me watching TV, later she gets up again quite ably to drive her late model car out of the driveway to run errands.  Those two could have changed the entire experience for 20 people if they had come out and profusely offered their thanks, many times over (that's what you do for volunteers)....but no......just silence layering over guilt.

(in retrospect I should have asked more about the project beneficiaries and made a go/no-go decision from there, not because a nice person asked me to volunteer.  Oh well, live and learn)

I finish doing what I can without climbing ladders, listen to 4 men discuss the logistics of asking the homeowner whether it is OK that they can paint the black patio support uprights with enamel spray paint, vs brushing them with latex teal........ and I then skedaddle.

Weaving through traffic down to Deep eddy, air 40F, water 69F,  I swim 2.25 mile to bleed off my disgust with the illogical world. 

I'm the sole swimmer attend to by 6 lifeguards and attendants.

Watch,  the repainting project will go viral as a example of man's humanity to man.

Linux is Lovely

My Linux box crashed a little over a week ago and it upset my whole mental apple cart. I wasn't doing anything particularly bad, surfing the net, and maybe I opened one too many commercial, bloated websites, but it crashed the system but good. When I rebooted all I got was the command line interface, the GUI was gone. Okay, I am not going to try and figure out how to fix it, I'll just reinstall the OS. I've done that before, so it's not like I will have to learn anything completely new, though since it's been a year since I last had to do this it may seem like it.

As I recall, the last time I used an 8 gigabyte USB flash drive. I should still have it, I mean nothing ever gets thrown away, but rooting around in my pile of computer parts failed to turn it up. Okay, fine, download the latest version and burn a DVD, which means I need to fire up my old Zbox, because while my current box has a DVD drive, it is not a burner. The Zbox does. But the Zbox internet connection is screwed up.

So I boot the backup partition on my main box, download the 2 gigabyte iso image file, and copy it to an external hard drive (I have a stack of them. Pick one, any one), carry this external drive over to the Zbox, plug it in, and burn a DVD using Brasero.

Install the latest OS over the broken one and we're back! And then I turn to YouTube and there's no sound. WTF? We've had sound coming out of PC's since day one, how can there be no sound? Poke and prod and find that Intel makes 35 different versions of the sound chip my system uses and the driver doesn't necessarily recognize all of them. The recommended fix is to replace the kernel with a newer/older/different one. Now all I have to do it figure out which one I have, which ones are available, and how to replace just the kernel. I suppose I'll sort it out eventually, but it's kind of a pain.

I suppose a the smart thing to do would be to buy a new system, and if my time had any cash value that would be an option, but since it doesn't, I get to play plumber.

Huh? Follow me down an analogous rathole and I will explain.

The toilet in the master bath started leaking. The fill valve and its fittings are the usual culprit being as they are under pressure, but the underside of the shutoff valve (where the water supply line comes out of the wall) was dry, and any leak from the supply side will run down the line and drip off the bottom of this valve. So if it's not the fill valve, it must be the wax gasket where the toilet meets the sewer pipe. That's happened here a couple of times, but the toilet is solidly mounted, so maybe not. What else could it be? There is a little water where the tank mounts to the base. Could that be it? I've never seen one of those joints fail before, but it sure seems like the culprit. Pull the tank and the gasket. It doesn't look really bad, but it's doesn't look great either, so off to Lowe's where I pick up a couple of Kohler tank gaskets and a Fluidmaster flush valve kit. Get home and examine what I've got. The Kohler gaskets don't look to be quite right. Open up the Fluidmaster kit and, lo and behold! A perfect gasket! Put the toilet back together and we're in business.

If I had called a plumber to fix this, it probably would have taken a week to get someone to come out, and they would have simply replaced the toilet and charged me $500.

The Expanse Spaceships

I started watching season 2 of the science fiction series The Expanse the other night and I got to wondering about the space ship names. Names used in fiction are prime opportunities to offer homage to some past greats, so who are we honoring here?

Guy Molinari cargo ship
Gaetano Victor "Guy" Molinari is a former United States Representative and borough president of Staten Island, New York. There is also a Staten Island ferry named after him. How did this happen? Seems one of the original authors lived in NYC and rode the ferry. Staten Island Real Time News tells all.

Rocinante gunship
This one is odd as well. Rocinante is the name of Don Quixote's horse: "like Don Quixote, he is awkward, past his prime, and engaged in a task beyond his capacities." While this ship looks very capable here, it is pretty much outclassed by anything bigger.

Updated / rewritten from my earlier notes.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The N-Word

The N-word is one of my favorite expletives. I use it liberally when I am driving in traffic, surrounded by cars driven by incompetent white people. Near as I can tell, the N-word is shorthand for a useless person, regardless of color. It's usually applied to black people, either in a hostile manner by whites, or in a friendly manner by blacks, as in yes, we are all worthless bums. Whites don't generally apply the N-word to other whites, they are usually  more explicit in their condemnation, as in "a useless piece of s**t".

There was a scene in a movie that still sticks with me. I thought it was Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967), but it was actually The Landlord (1968). Someone, I don't remember who, asks if anyone knows the other meaning for the NAACP? "Niggers ain't always colored people" is the answer. The scene ends with someone having a tureen of soup dumped on their head.

I don't use the N-word much these days since I've learned how to keep calm in traffic (basically it means giving up on ever getting anywhere. Turns out you will get there eventually anyway, even if you have to crawl). Plus my kids give me grief about it.

I read a short piece recently about how the current social prohibition against using the N-word exacerbates racism more than the use of the word itself. I don't know about that, but then I live in a mostly white suburb in a mostly white city in a mostly white state, so it's not like I'm going to start a riot by using the N-word at an inopportune moment. It's more likely I'd get punched by a redneck.

Inspired by a blog post on Front Sight Press by Tiffany Johnson. Via Tam.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Horch 851

1935 Horch 851
I am nearing the end of Masaryk Station by David Downing and I come across a passage where an East German bureaucrat is sent down to Aue to talk to the leader of the local labor union. His boss gives him a Horch 851 automobile to drive to "impress the Russians". He's not keen on any of this, but it's his job, so off he goes. He hasn't driven in a long time and it takes him a while to get sorted, but once he does:
"He loved trains, and the chance they gave you to sit by the window and watch the world go by; but there was something just as liberating about sitting alone in a car, controlling your own direction and speed. An illusion of independence perhaps, but an intoxicating one nonetheless." - Page 311
I've been hearing about America's love affair with the car since I was a kid, but I have seldom heard any kind of cogent explanation, and here I find one in an aside in an espionage novel. I enjoy encountering little bits of clarity like this.

This book is set in the same time period as another espionage thriller I read about a year ago: Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon. The Wismut uranium mines in Aue and the Berlin Airlift show up in both books.

Sunday, April 1, 2018