Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Negative Reinforcement

A Robot Shoots Me When I Get Shot in Fortnite

There's some foul language in here, but it's pretty funny. It's also pretty impressive the way he has strung so many disparate elements together.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Lost In Space - New Series

Lost in Space | Date Announcement [HD] | Netflix

I watched a couple of episodes. I suppose it might be a good show for kids. It was a little juvenile? elementary? Not that great. The special effects were pretty good and there is a bit of real space physics, so that was interesting. Okay, it was more of a passing acknowledgement that, yeah, physics might have some bearing.

The story is a bit apocalyptic, which, now that I think about it, is a pretty common feature in Science-Fiction. I mean they blew up an entire planet full of people in Star Wars. But we like survivor stories. Kind of like fairy tales that way.

I think the thing about the Earth becoming unsafe for human life is kind of a poor motivator. Yes, you can motivate people with fear, but they don't always make the best decisions when they are scared, do they? Me, I'm more in favor of a lets go see what we can do attitude. There are a lot of naysayers out there who will question whether it's a worthwhile endeavor. "Why would you ever want to do that?" they'll say. "Why don't you come and sit with me and Mrs. MacGyver. We'll have some tea and cake." Christ on a crutch, just what I want to do. Get away from me you old biddy. I wouldn't actually say that, of course. I'd go and have tea and biscuits, but all the time I'm gonna be thinking about how are we going to go places.

The thing is, well, let's Wikipedia give us the premise:
In the aftermath of an impact event that threatens the survival of humanity, the Robinson family is selected for the 24th mission of the Resolute (24th Colonist Group), an interstellar spacecraft carrying selected families to colonize the Alpha Centauri star system.

Before they reach their destination, an alien robot breaches the Resolute's hull. Forced to evacuate the mothership in short-range Jupiter spacecraft, scores of colonists, among them the Robinsons, crash on a nearby habitable planet. There they must contend with a strange environment and battle their own personal demons as they search for a way back to the Resolute.
There are 14 stacks of Jupiter Spacecraft arranged around the inside of the big ring. How many ships are in each stack is debatable. It might be as few as four, or and as many as a couple of dozen.

The way I remember it, the Resolute wasn't carrying more than about a hundred of the Jupiter spacecraft. How many people on board a single Jupiter? Kind of hard to tell. We've only seen a half dozen people or so, and they seem to have plenty of room.  Given the available space, in an emergency, you could probably cram a couple of hundred people into one ship, though you wouldn't want to do for more than a day, and then only if you can provide enough air for everyone to breath. For long term habitation, a Jupiter might only be able to support a small family.

Jupiter Spacecraft

Doesn't matter really. From what we know, some of the Jupiters made it down to this planet. Don't know many, don't know how many were destroyed on the way down. Durn these cheap communicators. This means, of course, that any time they need a new character, they simply need to find another ship that managed to make it down to the ground intact.

Hand Dancing

Anton Ishutin feat Note U Be My Lover Sharapov Remix

The tune is tolerable and there are plenty of dancing girls, which is always a plus, but it's the hand dancing (I don't know what else you would call it) that captured me. She shows up at the beginning and intermittently throughout the video.

I thought it was cool enough that went looking for more and found this guy.

"DUBSTEP FINGERS" | Finger Tutting Hand Dance | PNUT | Skrillex Kill everybody

My fingers are a little on the stubby side, so I would hard pressed to duplicate this performance. Okay, I would be hard pressed to do something that might be recognizable as a poor imitation.

Hand dancing has been mentioned here before.

Update July 2022 replaced missing video.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Crime & Punishment

Gnarls Barkley - Crazy [video] Album Version

It occurs to me that one reason why the Catholic Church has such a problem with pedophilia is that dispensing justice is not in the Church's purview. The church is in the business of forgiveness. You can bet that those who committed a sin while in the grip of some hormone induced compulsion, when they get to confession they will be truly repentant and will whole-hearted promise to sin no more. And the church, being the church can only accept them at their word. But people are animals. No matter how much we might like to think we are in control of ourselves, it's the hormones that are actually in control.

Ping Pong

ping pong carnival (卓球芸人ぴんぽんまとめ English Ver.)

Could this be the reincarnation of Bruce Lee?


Aluminum and Mercury

Very strange.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Dayz of Summer

Aerosols World Wide
  • blue - sea salt (storms)
  • red - carbon (fires)
  • purple - dust
A couple of days ago about 10 in the morning I went outside and looked at the sun. It was so dim and red I could look directly at it. Shows you how much smoke is in the air.  Started looking around, trying to figure what was going on in the forest fire department, and what I found is politics. There are several big outfits all pushing their own agenda, and since big money is involved they are pushing pretty hard. I did find a couple of things. One is that the federal government has given the Forest Service some money to pay for fighting fires, so the Forest Service no longer has to steal money from their operating funds to pay for fire suppression. This is good because because the fire fighting business had gotten go big that it was pretty much consuming their entire operating budget.

Another was that something 75 out of a hundred and some forest projects have been hamstrung by environmentalist lawsuits. Seems the environmentalists want to let nature take its course which means letting these fires burn.

The last was that fire season has grown from lasting a couple of months 30 years ago to where it now lasts upwards of six months, mostly due to warmer weather.

Our natural response (actually not natural, conditioned is more accurate) is that fires are bad and should be put out. But that leads to an accumulation of fuel which leads to bigger conflagrations which is why the air is full of smoke.

Eventually all this surplus wood should burn and then things should go back to normal, whatever that is.

All this talk about haze and summer prompted my recollection of this song, though I don't think I've ever heard the whole thing before.

Nat King Cole - Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer

Thursday, August 23, 2018


Custom Toyota Supra Engine
All I need is a little paint and polish to satisfy my craving for fancy machinery, but for some people that is not enough. Apparently these engraved pieces are real gold and silver. The silver might be Argentium which is a special alloy that employs Germanium. Sterling silver is typically an alloy containing about 7% copper. The copper gives it strength, but it can also cause discoloration when the metal is heated. Argentium solves that problem.

Argentium is Firescale Free

This is all new to me. I've only heard of germanium being used in high-performance transistors and solar cells. High-performance usually means more expensive because if it was just as cheap as regular performance no one would use the lower performance product, every one would use the high-performance version and we wouldn't call it 'high-performance'. So germanium must be at least semi-rare, or difficult to mine. Just over 100 tons is produced annually, which is pretty small potatoes when you compare it to things like aluminum (59 million tons) and steel (1.7 billion tons).

Germanium is produced as a by-product of zinc mining. Zinc is mined all over the world. Ivanhoe Mines has resurrected an old mine in the Congo that promises to be a good producer.

Kipushi Project

So even though there are a number of shitheads running around making trouble, capitalization marches on, and as long as they are providing decent jobs, they are the good guys.

Update the next morning. I got to thinking that Periodic Videos probably had a video about germanium. They do, but he doesn't tell you much other than it is opaque to visible light but transparent to infrared light.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Norway's Coastal Highway Project

Norway’s $47BN Coastal Highway | The B1M

This project sounds almost as difficult as the plan to put a tunnel under the Bering Strait. People used to talk about it anyway. The difference is that this highway in Norway would get used and, two, thanks to their North Sea oil business Norway has the money to pay for it. I'm always impressed when I hear about a big new engineering project. I'm not sure why. They keep getting bigger and bigger. You might think I would get used to that, but I don't. One of these days one of these mega-projects is going to fail and it will be bad when it does. But I guess that has already happened and we charged on regardless.

I know I've mentioned Norway before, but I just checked and was surprised at the number of posts I have about Norway.


The Coronation of Charlemagne by Friedrich Kaulbach
Illiterate promoter of literacy.

Came across this question on Reddit. The answer was so cogent I thought it worth sharing.
Q: Why do some letters have a completely different character when written in uppercase (A/a, R/r, E/e, etc), whereas others simply have a larger version of themselves (S/s, P/p, W/w, etc)?

A: First of all, let's talk about the words 'uppercase' and 'lowercase'. These words come from the early history of printing, when a person called a typesetter would assemble each page of a book letter by letter. Each letter was a profile on a piece of lead, called a sort. The sorts were kept in boxes called typecases, which had compartments for each letter. There would be a typecase for each font (also called a fount), which was a typeface at a specific size, at a specific weight (bold, medium, etc.), in a specific shape (upright, italic, etc.). A typeface is what we nowadays call a font on computers. There were actually two typecases for each font, and they were kept one on top of the other. The one on top was called the upper case, and contained the 'majuscule' letters; the one on the bottom was called the lower case, and contained the 'minuscule' letters. So the proper names for 'uppercase' and 'lowercase' are 'majuscule' and 'minuscule', respectively.
Now, on to your actual question.
Letters are just simple drawings that have phonetic meanings. (In other words, the symbols represent sounds.) The nature of the symbols is affected by the thing the symbols are written on. For example, one of the earliest writing symbols we have is cuneiform, which was written by making marks with a stylus in a piece of clay. The shape of cuneiform marks is strongly determined by the shape of the stylus.
This is important, because the majuscules and minuscules were originally two forms of the Latin alphabet that were used for writing on different materials, and the same thing applies to the Greek alphabet.
Majuscule letters were originally inscriptional, which means they were carved into stone. The Roman emperor Trajan had his military victories depicted on a carved stone column called Trajan's column; at the base of this column is some writing, in the style of Roman square capitals: this style is common on Roman monuments, but Trajan's column is one of the best known examples. These letters were designed by a scribe painting them on to the stone with a brush; a stonemason would then carve out the painted areas. The motion of the brush created little flairs at the beginning at end of each brush stroke; these flairs are now known as serifs.
However, Romans writing out documents would use Roman cursive. Roman cursive, like all cursive writing forms, is basically a bunch of shortcuts in writing the 'proper' letters.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Roman culture continued to hold considerable sway amongst the barbarians. The same writing styles were preserved, until the Carolingian Renaissance under Charlemagne (Charles the Great) in the Frankish Empire (now France) in the 800s. Charlemagne was a great believer in literacy, and despite never learning to read himself, ordered the creation of a single style of handwriting to be used across his empire, to prevent documents from being misinterpreted. The end result was a pairing of these two writing styles into the majuscule and minuscule letters of a unified alphabet. The minuscule letters, being easier to write quickly, were use normally, but the majuscule letters, with their grand and elegant forms, were used for proper nouns and emphasis. Over the succeeding thousand years, different nations would slowly adapt these letter forms and the relationships between them to their needs: the Italians developed the Humanist minuscule, which later became the italic script; the Germanic peoples developed the blackletter scripts; the Irish developed the insular script. This development continues today, with hundreds of typefaces released each year by type designers.
I don't know why we need hundreds of new typefaces every year. You don't have to go too far down that rat hole before you can't see any difference between supercaligoobilicous and adventualicus. Well, I can't. Those are probably fighting words for people who live in that world.

Cutting letters into stone v-CUT lettering carving letters

Realized while I was working on this that printing and fonts are a recurring topic here.

Pic of the Day

Into the Woods - Asher Durand - 1895
Via The Woodpile Report

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Spacey Car Thoughts

1962 Ford Thunderbird

I've been thinking about buying an old Ford Thunderbird again. From a mechanical standpoint it would be straight forward project, but even if you got it running like it was new, it would still be a 50 year old car, loaded with a bunch of 50 year old gee-gaws and without any of our modern safety features. And then I started thinking that you could rip out the entire interior and replace it with something new. At one fell swoop you could eliminate all the 50 year old gee-gaws and gain some safety belts. But interiors are trickier than mechanical work. Maybe not for interior people, but for a gear head like me it's like black magic. I mean how the heck do you sew a straight seam? Sewing machines sew, I get that, but driving one in a straight line? I'm not even going to try.

Ford Thunderbird Dashboard

Okay, so what do you want it to look like? I like the old instrument panels with all the glitz and chrome, but the seats just don't cut it.

Hyundai Nuvis concept
The Nuvis is a dumb looking econobox, but I like this interior.

It needs to look like something out of the Jetsons. There is probably someone in Portland who could create something like that, but to actually make it would take some financial commitment. I'm guessing it would take about $25 grand to make a good start in making a Space Car out of a 1961 Ford Thunderbird, and I'm not quite ready for that.

Big Toyota

Big Toyota
I took my car to Scottie's Body Shop on Monday to get some dents fixed. They needed it for a week so I walked across the street to pick up a rental at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I was just going to get some econo-box, but the econo-box wasn't ready, so they gave me this monster with red, green, yellow and black New Mexico license plates. New Mexico must have changed their plates recently because I have never seen any that look like this.

The monster is a Toyota Highlander, at least that's what a couple of people have told me. I have seen any insignia to indicate anything other than it's a Toyota. It's very like my wife's Mitsubishi Endeavor, though it seems bulkier, but maybe that's just the swollen looking body shape.

It works fine like you would expect a late model rental to work, though there are a few little quirks that I have not yet learned to appreciate. The cruise control is one. On my old Dodge truck, you could not set the cruise control any lower than 35 MPH, which kind of sucks when half of the time I spend driving is on streets with a 25 MPH limit. Yes, I know, it only takes a minute to cover six blocks at 25 MPH but it feels like a friggin' eternity, especially when the road looks like it could handle 100 MPH traffic. Well it could if it wasn't for all the people toddling out into the road. You can set the cruise control in my car, a Hyundai Sonata, or the Endeavor to 25 MPH which is great. Keeps me from blasting my way to a suspended license. So I'm thinking plus one for Asian cars. But not this monster. This one the lowest you can set it is 28 MPH. Why 28 for Pete's sake? Don't tell me, I don't wanna know.

But 28 is okay, I am unlikely to get a speeding ticket for going 28 in a 25 zone. Out on the freeway it's fine. Or is it? Cruising down the Sunset and the car starts slowing down. What the heck? What are you doing you stupid machine? I set the cruise control for 60 MPH and I expect you to stay right on 60 MPH, not go wandering around the speedometer. I can do that all by myself, thank you, I don't need any help. It took me a while but I eventually realized that it only did that when there was a car ahead of me, and it wasn't that close, maybe ten car lengths. This car has RADAR. Too bad it isn't also equipped with Sidewinder missiles.

The windows in the front doors will go all the way open or closed with just a momentary touch of the button, which is great except when it's 90-odd degrees out. Then you want to leave the windows open a fraction of an inch so the inside of the car doesn't turn into a superheated oven when you have to leave it parked in the sun. Getting the windows to stop at the requisite position takes considerable fiddling. If it was my car I am sure I would eventually figure out how to get it to behave, but right now it's kind of a pain.

Ultrasound helps heal broken bones

This 3D-printed cast uses ultrasound to heal broken bones 40% faster.
NCBI has an article. EXOGEN is a US company that makes the equipment.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Donald & Alex

Donald & Alex, sitting in a tree, K, I, S, S, I, N, G.
 "Your reputation is amazing."- Donald Trump speaking to Alex Jones
Wow, that statement is just amazing. I don't think I have ever heard a statement so amazing. It's so full, full I tell you, of nothing. No one has ever made a statement that was more full of nothing. I am impressed.

I know about Alex Jones the same way I know about Donald Trump, they are both in the news a lot because someone is complaining about something one of them said. I tried listening to Alex once, but I couldn't do it. He's not telling me anything, he's just making a bunch of mouth noises. This might be why I don't like talking on the phone, and generally don't care for sports announcers, and I never, ever listen to the fucking news. Sorry, I really hate news programs.

But back to the quote. We know Alex Jones has achieved some notoriety and with that he has acquired a certain reputation, or more likely several reputations, ranging from that of a prophet to that of the devil himself, and of course how we see those reputations depends on where you stand. Since Donald has not specified a particular reputation, we are going to just go for notoriety. But why is Alex's reputation amazing? Is it because he is more famous than Trump? (I'm sure he'll get his 15 minutes of fame if he hasn't already.) Is that what amazes Donald? Or is it because he can't believe anyone would listen to the drivel Alex spouts long enough for him to ever develop an audience and a reputation? I mean, Donald is right, Alex's reputation is amazing. It's amazing that he has one.

Via Monday Evening

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Economy

A guy I know is working for a start-up company in the Bay area. They've been going for a year or two now and have 50 or so clients. It doesn't really sound like a viable business, but then I don't know how much revenue they are getting from each client. From where I sit I can't see how they could be making more than about $100 per week per client, which would add up to $250,000 a year. That might be enough to pay for 2 or 3 employees, which is less that half of what they have. So they might need to add a bunch of new clients, which is a slow, labor intensive operation. But so far venture capital has been funding them. We shall see how it goes. It is unlikely to be another E-Bay, but if they keep on it could be a nice solid business that is actually providing a useful service. Or it may never reach profitability and the guys who are funding the operation will pull the plug and kiss their money goodbye. Of course, if you are investing in speculative operations kissing your money goodbye is the probably the first thing you should do. That way if you get to the point where a rational man would pull the plug, you aren't tempted to make any heroic rescue efforts that result in doubling your loss.

Talking to my stock broker the other day and it looks like stocks and bonds are making about 3% a year, which is pretty miserable. 50 years ago banks were paying 3% interest on savings accounts, but 50 years ago inflation was a dirty word. Now real inflation is somewhere between 5 and 10%, never mind what the government says, so all those stocks and bonds that make up the bulk of the business in America are losing real value at the rate of maybe 5% a year. That sucks big time.

Which is why venture capital and real estate are booming. Anyone who has any money is looking for somewhere to put their money besides in traditional investments. It might have something to do with why Trump got elected as well.

Meanwhile, on the recommendation of Bayou Renaissance Man, I am reading The Kek Wars by John Michael Greer. He's got some funny ideas, like the use of magic to change people's minds. Regardless, he has a very different perspective on the current situation and that can very useful in times like these.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Quote Of The Day

By the time I learn enough about a news story to realize I don't care, it turns out to be bullshit anyway. - Jim Treacher 

Via Car Blog

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Quote of the Day

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Found on a Reddit post about The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear. - G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (1909)

The more nonsensical our political conflicts become, the more I wonder about who we are. Society has been evolving for ten's of thousands of years (I could have used 'millennia', but for some reason 'tens of thousands of years' sounds better).  Most of what underpins our rules of behavior has been taken for granted for so long that we know longer know why we do what we do. Well, I don't anyway. I never thought fairy tales were harmful, but I never knew why felt that way, and I suspect most people don't either.

P.S. Could it be that the copyright on Peter Rabbit has expired? I think it must have.

P.P.S. St. George has appeared in these pages before.


The Beaver Ballad

The Beaver Ballad

Songs about machines seldom make the top 40. This one makes up for not being top-of-the-chart material by listing a bunch of airplanes made by DeHavilland named after animals. Note this is the Canadian offshoot of the original British company.

If I was going to own an airplane, I would want something at least as capable as a Beaver.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Encoding Curses

Yes, I am not a robot.

I do not like people I don't know calling me on the telephone and telling me some kind of bull$#!+. If I am feeling charitable I simply hang up. If not, I reach into the gutter and pull up some kind of garbage and spew it into their ear. The later is worse than useless as it is unlikely to change the situation and subjects the caller to verbal abuse. If the caller was the instigator that would be fair, but usually that is not the case. Usually they are working for someone else who has somehow managed to find a way to make money badgering people.

It must work, right? They make a thousand phone calls a day, 50% of them don't connect because the numbers have been abandoned or the phone is off or something. Half of those that connect don't answer, and half of those that answer hang up immediately. So right off, just using wild-@$$ guesses for numbers, we have over a hundred people who will talk to the caller. Now in ten days, one caller might actually talk to a thousand people, and out of that thousand they might get one person who actually signs up for some kind of bull$#!+ that will cost them $10 a month.

How much is a perpetual agreement to pay $10 a month worth? A thousand dollars? That would take ten years to pay off. I'm thinking it might be worth $100. Some people will cancel immediately, some will cancel after a few months, some will keep it until they change credit cards or phone numbers or something so they might keep it for a year. A very few will keep it longer than that and that's where you make your money. If you were in the business I would expect you would know exactly what the percentages were for each of these situations, but I'm not so we're stuck using 50% for everything.

So if you are paying your operators a dollar a day, and it takes them ten days to make a sale that puts $100 in your pocket, you just made $90. I think English speakers in India are getting more like a dollar an hour, which would make the margins a little thin. Then there are those in the US for whom any money is better than nothing and they are willing to work for promises of commission. To me, it sounds like a horrible job but I imagine there are people who are suited for it. Hard to imagine, but I suppose it's possible that there are people who actually enjoy it.

What I really want to know is why no one has put a spike button on the telephone keypad? A button that would spike the caller and prevent them from ever making any more telephone calls. You know the telecom companies could do it, but if you ask why they'll give you some kind of bull$#!+ about how they can't keep track of who is making those robo-calls. But you know they d@mn well do know who is making those calls, and they probably give them preferential treatment because they are paying their bills.

The original version of this post contained a bunch of curse words spelled out using punctuation symbols from the numeric keys on the keyboard (like you see in the @#$%^&* comics). I got to looking at that and I started wondering if that set of keys is large enough to encode all the letters in all of our popular curse words. Turns out no, the number keys only give you ten symbols and my list of popular curse words contains 16 letters. There are three other keys in the number row of the keyboard that each contain two characters, so you could do it, but then you still have to figure out how to assign the letters.

Looking at the ASCII code for those characters shows me that most of them differ from the letters of the alphabet by 0x20 (20 hex = 32 decimal), so we would have an easy correspondence for the first ten letters of the alphabet. But not all of those first ten letters are on our list.

Anyway, I thought maybe a spread sheet could help me find a solution, but the first thing I wanted was to do some hexadecimal arithmetic, so I ask for help and it points me to an article on the help forum, an article that I wrote about eight years ago.

Okay, that's enough of that.

Railroad Turntables

Comrade Misfit posted a video of the Texas State Railroad. Alas, it has vanished, but now we have a dedicated turntable video.

TEXAS STATE RAILROAD #28 in Maydelle on the turntable
Aaron McCreight

I remember being enthralled by railroad turntables at an early age. They used to be fairly common, not as common as kitchen stoves or even locomotives, but every major railway depot had one. They are very simple in concept, but massive in construction. There are not too many of them around now, which I suspect is why this one caught my eye. Here it is on Google Maps:

Texas State Railroad Turntable in Maydelle, Texas

There is one is Sioux City, Iowa.

Turntable at Sioux City Railroad Museum, Sioux City, Iowa

1961 Central RR Of New Jersey Round table and Locomotive Yard - Communipaw NJ
Turntables were necessary for steam engines because steam engines were only happy going forward. Turntables started fading away with the advent of diesel-electric locomotives, which didn't care which way they were pointed.

Update March 2021 replaced missing video dedicated one.

Quote of the Day

Plastik kalıp parlatma / Plastic mold polishing 21434

"The mold is well-constructed and has been polished to a very high level - I'm guessing a three-micron mirror finish - something not often seen, even in America, and unusual for a budget Christmas display." - Joe Sherlock
First time I have heard anyone talk about what goes into making a mold for plastic injection molding, and only the second time I have encountered it.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Curiosity Rover Mission Animation

NASA Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission Animation [HDx1280]

I just came across this video from 2011. I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Previous posts on the subject:
How The Spirit Rover Got To Mars
Sunday! Be There!

Forest Fires

Superman v. The Gummint
Azadi Square is in Tehran, Iran
It's fire season again here on the west coast and once again I am wondering what the hell is going on. Bayou Renascence Man has a post up that pretty much condemns the government's policy regarding the nation's forests. The post links a story on The Daily Caller written by Michael Bastasch, who quotes Bob Zybach. Ask Google about Michael and it points to the DeSmog blog which says:
"Michael Bastasch is a reporter for the conservative news site The Daily Caller where he focuses on energy and environmental issues. Bastasch has published over 3,000 articles on The Daily Caller and has regularly provided a platform for climate change skeptics."
At this point I could write all these guys off as right-wing gun nuts, I mean "climate change skeptics"? In some circles that's as bad as being a racist. But the issues raised in the story are the same issues that get raised every year and nothing seems to have changed. On one hand I like to think that we have top men working on the problem, even as we speak. But it wouldn't make any difference whether we have top men working on it or bottom men, because in either case they are going to be so bound up by laws, regulations and lawsuits that nobody, not even Superman, can do anything.

The problem behind this problem, I suspect, is that forestry is small potatoes. It doesn't have the grip on the public's attention like Stormy Daniels (nsfw) does. Since it doesn't occupy the public's eye, it is not going to occupy congress, so any environmental legislation is going to get tacked onto some other bill, and what gets written into that bill is hacked out with some horse trading in the back rooms.

So getting some kind of real solution to the immediate problems is going to take a very patient, politically astute individual who is equipped with unparalleled determination.

Some people would argue that the EPA is overreaching or overzealous or over- something. I would say that we got the EPA because people had been very careless of the environment for such a long time that eventually the situation did make it into the public's attention and thence into Congress's. Things got so bad that Congress passed a law, and as we all know, the law is a blunt instrument. It's kind of like when you're kids playing in the sandbox and the situation gets a little out of control (Mom! Danny's throwing sand on me!) and the parents come out and boom! Down comes the club, and you retreat to your corner and hang your head, but as soon as Pop's head is turned you start up sniping at the enemy.

I would like to be able to recommend a story on this subject, but I don't know what the real situation is, and I don't have the time to find out. It all comes down to who you can trust, and it seems like most news sources are in somebody's pocket. I guess that's okay if they are presenting a true picture of the situation. The ones I don't like are those that are not, either through distortion or outright lying. But finding out what the true story is can be a never ending journey.

If I really wanted to be right-wing fundamentalist I would say that the wildfire situation is just the west coast getting what it deserves for being such a left-wing bastion of liberal idiocy. I wouldn't say that but sometimes I think it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The TRUTH Why Modern Music Is Awful

The TRUTH Why Modern Music Is Awful

I knew I was right not to like modern music. This video is from Thoughty2. He mentions a couple of songwriters: Max Martin and Dr. Luke. The links go to Wikipedia.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Oil on the Moon

Elon Musk, SpaceX and the BFR have got me really pumped about space. I'm thinking we might have people on the moon within ten years or so. Yes, I know, all the jibber-jabber seems to be directed at Mars, but while Mars is a lofty goal, there is so much we could do with the Moon and the Moon is right here, just two or three days travel time away, not months like going to Mars would take.

The thing about having a base on the moon is that we would need to have a reliable shuttle service to get people and supplies back and forth. Having people die up there because we had a haphazard shuttle service would be very bad.

Since rocket fuel is the biggest component by mass of space flight, it would be very nice if we could refuel on the moon. If order to do that we would need to find some kind moon rocks that could be turned into rocket fuel. Water would work, simply apply hydrolysis and you get hydrogen and oxygen, which can be kept conveniently stored at cryogenic temperatures, which means anywhere you are in the shade. The biggest drawback to this is that electrolysis is slow. You can make it run faster, but it takes more power, which means a bigger power plant. I see three ways of making electrical power on the moon:
  1. Photovoltaic solar cells
  2. Solar heating -> steam turbine -> generator
  3. Nuclear reactor -> steam turbine -> generator
We might see fusion power one of these days, but I'm not holding my breath.

Most garden variety rocks on Earth are made of some kind silicon oxide. I suspect the same holds true for the Moon. Heat those rocks up hot enough and they should give off some oxygen. Of course, at that kind of temperature, the silicon is going to be molten and some of it will go doubt vaporize. Not too worry, I'm sure some whiz-kid can figure out a way to get rocket-fuel-grade oxygen out of a rock. So we've got oxygen, what are we going to use for fuel? Don't know of anyone using silicon or any kind of metal for rocket fuel.

On Earth we have fossil fuels in the form of deposits of natural gas and crude oil buried deep underground. The story we tell ourselves is that crude oil comes from millions of years of dead dinosaurs. I heard another story one time that suggested these fossil fuel deposits were the result of geological processes and if life had never appeared on Earth they would still be there.

Think about this for a minute. The primary components of fossil fuels are hydrogen and carbon (hydro-carbons, eh?). The dinosaurs didn't make these atoms. They were already here. They are fairly common near the surface, because like silicon oxide they are relatively light (less dense) than the heavier metals, which have mostly sunk to the core (right?).

So the Moon might very well have hydrocarbon deposits. If it does, we could build a rocket fuel plant on the moon which would make it possible to carry a whole lot more stuff to the moon and back.

Quote of the Day

"When you meet Jesus, be sure to call him Mr. Christ." - Ned Flanders (from The Simpsons)
Via Joe Sherlock

Binocular Vision

Binocular vision allows us to judge distance to objects that are nearby to us, I would say things that are up to ten feet away. After that, the difference in the angle of our eyes gets pretty small which would make it very hard to tell the difference.

The F-35 has a fancy system that allows the pilot to see in any direction, even right through the floor or through the back of the seat. Well, I read a story one time that said that was the plan. I don't know whether they ever got it working or not.

Now it occurs to me that with the advances in electronic cameras and flat panel displays, we could conceivably do away with windows completely. I don't think that's going to happen any time soon, not as long as computers keep getting hacked, crashing and breaking down.

However, I wonder if you mounted a couple of cameras on the wingtips of an aircraft and aimed them forward and down, at like a 45 degree angle maybe, and then connected them to one of those VR displays, if they might allow the pilot to more easily judge the distance to the ground, which could make landing easier.

Just don't blame me if you kill yourself trying this out.

Sunday, August 5, 2018


Taylorcraft TG-6
The Taylorcraft TG-6 is a training glider built during WW2 to train glider pilots, some of whom flew during the Normandy invasion. The TG-6 was developed from the L-2, a single engine airplane. A disposable aircraft to teach disposable pilots to fly big disposable gliders. Logistics can be a cruel taskmaster.

Intense D-Day Glider Landing

Piloting a glider required a certain amount of bravado, I mean, these guys are flying into farmer's fields littered with who knows what kind of obstacles, at night, in enemy territory. Sounds like a good candidate for a "here, hold my beer" award. Since everything was done in a rush, there was no time to train glider pilots to do anything else. So if you managed to survive the landing in Normandy, your job was done. Just keep your head down and stay out of the way.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

International Unit

Insulin Vials

Reading about some drugs (Invega, Depakote & Zyprexa), I find that dosage is given in "mIU/L" which means milli-International Units per Liter. Milli- and Liter I understand, but what is this International Unit? The only time I can remember running across this before is with insulin, I think. Isn't insulin measured in International Units?

International Unit is a term used by people in the medical industrial complex to tell themselves something. If you aren't a member of the inner circle, you don't really get to know, nor do you want to, because each and every compound used in medicine has it's own International Unit and it's own circle of experts. Since there are zillions of compounds in use you could spend your entire life learning just what an International Unit is for each of those compounds.
In pharmacology, the international unit is a unit of measurement for the amount of a substance; the mass or volume that constitutes one international unit varies based on which substance is being measured, and the variance is based on the biological activity or effect, for the purpose of easier comparison across substances.
. . .
Since the number of IUs contained in a new substance is arbitrarily set, there is no equivalence between IU measurements of different biological agents. For instance, one IU of vitamin E cannot be equated with one IU of vitamin A in any way, including mass or efficacy. - Wikipedia

Friday, August 3, 2018

Phantom of the Opera

"Zoom-thru" of The Phantom of the Opera US Tour

Went to see Phantom of the Opera Thursday night at Keller auditorium. I didn't really enjoy it. I hadn't slept well the previous night and I spent several hours standing around attending a house inspection in North Portland so I was doubly tired. Really, all I wanted was a drink and bed.

The sets, being mechanical things, connected with my inner gear head, so there was that. Keller has a turntable within the stage and they made good use of it, rotating castle walls to the front to convey you to the depths of the Paris sewers (how romantic to take your girl for a ride in a Venetian gondola through the water filled tunnels under the theater). The happy couple descended from the top of the top along a flight of steps, each step being projected from the wall just in time for them to step on it. This wall is big, and this theater troupe is on tour, so when they have finished their run in Portland, the roadies are going to have to take all this stuff apart and load it into trucks to haul it to the next town. Somebody put a fair amount of work into designing and building these sets.

The turntable must be a fairly standard feature in theaters now, for them to build a set that was obviously meant to be used with one. I suspect the turntable may have more than one moving part. I believe I saw a show once where the outer edge of the turntable was turning in one direction while the center was turning in another. I didn't see any evidence of that Thursday night, and I am not positive I have actually seen it before. But I wouldn't put it past them.

I looked for a video that had some of the show, but the only ones I found were either bootlegs with poor sound, the wrong production, or full on promotional barrages. I like this one with the behind the scenes shots.

Service Calls

The O-man came by today. He wanted to get the oil changed in his car. I advised him to call Eric Heaton and schedule an appointment. I suspect that he drove out here to visit Eric's in person because he is like me, he likes to deal with people face to face. And he might have been able to get the oil changed on the spot. It used to be that sometimes worked. Lately though he's been very busy.

Whatever, we've got company, let's put him to work. What can we do? Well, for starters there's that floodlight over the driveway that's been burned out for a couple of days (weeks? months? years? how about friggin' decades?). Last time I worked on this, I wasn't getting any juice to the fixture. It was one of those "there's nothing wrong, but it doesn't work" situations. And then the inside of the attic where the light is mounted got plastered over, and, well, yeah, that kind of put paid to that project.

But today we got out the ladder (substitute 'O-man' for 'we' whenever the story includes someone actually doing something). We climbed the ladder, replaced the bulb, and boom! 500 Watts of halogen in your face! (I just learned that Halogen is spelled like halo, so halogen is like an abbreviation for 'halo generator', or maybe 'halo genesis' if you're into Latin.) The light switch has been sitting on 'ON' all this time. Probably should have checked beforehand. On the other hand, while turning the switch off beforehand would have eliminated the smack-in-the-face, it would have meant doubling the effort, as some would have had to:
  • run up the stairs to turn off the switch.
  • run back down the stairs to steady the ladder, while
  • his partner climbs the ladder, replaces the bulb,
  • climbs down.
  • Now number one runs back up the stairs and turns the switch on.
  • His parter confirms that the light is on, but number one can't really see it,
  • so he runs back downstairs to see that the light is working,
  • runs upstairs to turn off the light
  • runs back downstairs to acclamation and celebration!
The bulb is a flower, very delicate, and during our first attempt it got cracked right near the end of the glass envelope. This allowed it to work for a few minutes (Hip, hip, hooray!) but eventually either the halogen leaked out or air leaked in (or maybe they were just exchanging ions as molecules are wont to do) and it appears the element combusted.

Halogen 500 Watt floodlight bulb after all the Watts escaped.

Down, but not out, we ventured once more into the breach, climbed the ladder (after making sure the switch was off), and replaced the bulb. I left it on while my wife and I went to Amelia's for dinner this evening and it was still on when we got back, so maybe it's fixed.

The rain sensor is our next project. A couple years (decades?) ago, I replaced the original irrigation timer with a fancy new Rain Bird SST 600s. This new timer came with a 'sensor' that allowed the machine to adjust the watering cycle based on the weather. The old timer worked fine, it was an economy model and the numbers on the switches never aligned with the switch position. It was just kind of annoying. Then a couple people recommended these new fangled gizmos, so I let myself get talked into it.

Knowing how much the time the sprinklers are set to run is really kind of pointless because all you can do is adjust the time, but nobody really knows what a 'good' time is, so you have to experiment. Mostly it involves picking a random number and then letting it run for a few days (weeks? months?) until you notice that the lawn is waterlogged or turning brown. I really don't even need to notice, my wife or Rob Benton, our lawn guy, will make it a point to inform me. Kind of an odd situation. I am become Keeper of the Irrigation Timer!

Anyway, a red light appeared on the timer's control panel indicating the sensor was out of whack. We took it down, cleaned it and put it back and it seems to be working. It appears to use a couple of CC's of cork on a spring scale to measure the rain and a thermistor to measure temperature. The spring scale looks like it uses touch-pad technology to measure the deflection of the scale. Nothing but a nylon stylus sliding over some pads on the circuit board.

Now there's the garage door keypad. This thing has been trouble since day one, well day ten maybe. I had a lot of trouble finding one that would work, and then when I did, I found I had to reprogram it several times to get it to work. I quickly got tired of that program and just gave up on it. Nobody uses it, so it doesn't really matter. But gol durn it, I paid good money for that gizmo, it ought to do its job. So we open it up and poke and prod and look up the instructions on the Internet and reprogram it and it seems to be working. I think the instructions might be better than the ones that came with it.

We've done so well, maybe we should reward ourselves with a little basketball. Um, the ball's a little flat. That's okay, I've got a little 12 volt compressor we can use to pump it up. Except it plugs into the cigarette lighter in the car and we aren't getting any power. Check the fuses for both the cigarette lighter and the auxiliary power outlet and they are both blown. What the heck was the previous owner doing that he blew both fuses? I know, something shorted and the first blew, so since his machine died, he assumed the problem was with the outlet, so he plugged his machine into the second outlet and blew that one too. But then he crashed the car so it all evened out.

No side hole
With side hole

We get new fuses, but now we have another problem. Hook up the compressor to the car, attach the needle to the nozzle, insert said needle into ball, turn on the power and pressure immediately builds to infinite (as indicated by the gauge), but the ball isn't getting any fuller. Examination of the needle reveals that it is only a hollow tube. Conventional inflation needles (at any rate, the ones I am familiar with) have a blunt, solid tip and a hole in the side of the tube a fraction of an inch from the tip of the tube. I find such a needle hiding in the secret compartment on the bottom of the compressor. Correct needle works and the ball inflates. One fat old man and one whippersnapper square off on the court. My first dozen shots were all airballs. All that could be said was that they were headed in the general direction of the basket. After I warmed up a bit I made a couple of good, on the move shots. Impressed myself, I did. But that lasted maybe 10 or 15 minutes before I was shot.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

50 Let Pobedy

50 Let Pobedy
50 Let Pobedy is a Russian, nuclear powered icebreaker. It is the world's largest. I just saw it on Reddit and it reminded me that I put up a couple of posts awhile back about Russian icebreakers. You can see them here and here.

The post on Reddit gave me a name so I wanted to check it out, and that's when I come across this bit:
Russia currently operates all existing and functioning nuclear-powered icebreakers. The first one, NS Lenin, was launched in 1957 and entered operation in 1959, before being officially decommissioned in 1989. It was both the world's first nuclear-powered surface ship and the first nuclear-powered civilian vessel. - Wikipedia
Hey! Now wait a minute! I don't remember every hearing about the commies having any nuclear powered civilian ships, all I remember hearing about was this one:

NS (Nuclear Ship) Savannah, the first commercial nuclear power cargo vessel, enroute to the World's Fair in Seattle.
I remember it pretty well. I was only 11 when it came to Seattle. Took a tour while it was there. I remember it looked too pretty to be useful.

Now I read this bit about how the Soviets had a nuclear powered civilian ship before we did, and then I think about how the Soviets took an early lead in the space race and I'm thinking we've got some real dunderheads in Washington. But that's nothing new. At least we didn't have Stalin. If you are a corrupt despot you can direct the energy of your country any way you want. If you are a big shot anywhere else, you have to hire an advertising agency to make your pitch. After WW2, I think we coasted on our laurels a bit. No matter how much the hawks promoted the red scare, people just weren't scared enough to finance some scientific boondoggle.

I'm disappointed we don't have a base on Mars yet. Shoot, we don't even have one on the moon. When the Soviets failed to put a man on the moon, we relaxed and went back to arguing about politics or sports or whatever you feel like arguing about. I think arguing is our national pastime.

Or maybe our effort to put a man on the moon showed us how much we didn't know, so we pulled back and started going over what we had done and seeing how it could be done better. And we probably have a bigger pool of talent to draw from now. More people understand more about going into space that ever before, and maybe that's what you need to get there: a critical mass of people with the necessary knowledge.

Now it looks like SpaceX may build a rocket that could make building a moon base possible. I suspect the government is the only one with the wherewithal to fund such an operation, but if SpaceX reduces their costs as much as they promise, we could have tourists going to the moon, and Hollywood might even make movies up there. In ten years the moon could be a very busy place.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Motoviolino originale Motoviolin

Motoviolino originale Motoviolin

Violin imitating a motorcycle. Pretty darn good if  you ask me. Compare with the real thing here (at the 2:20 mark).

Via Reddit

Garage Door Snafu

Garage Door Mechanism
Getting rid of stuff. Noticed some stuff up on some tall shelves in the garage. By standing on a step stool and using an ax handle I was able to reach it and push it off the end. Looks like old plastic parts I took off of a car that I no longer have. But there's also a long aluminum pole up there. Not sure what to do with it just yet, so I left it.

Press the button to open the garage door and it does, almost all the way, but something goes squawk at the very end. That stupid pole has managed to get in between the leading edge of the door and the door frame around the side door. That was enough to upset the finely balanced mechanism and the cable jumped off of the drum at the end of the torsion shaft. Now everything is out of whack and the door makes horrible squawking noises when it is moved.

Torsion Spring, Tube, Drum & Cable

I was able to fix it, though it took some doing. First lower the door all the way, or as far as it will go. There is a thin steel cable that runs along the edge of the door that translates the force of the torsion spring into a counter balancing lift on the door. It had escaped past the weatherstripping on the outside, so I tucked it back in. Next I wind up the torsion spring maybe one more turn, just enough to relieve the tension on this cable so I can get it off of the axle and back on the drum. 3/8"square drive extensions (from my mechanic's tools work) work okay, but after a half turn, I need more force. One slip at this point and things will go flying.

Winding the torsion spring
Beware the Force. If it's with you, great. But be careful. If you aren't watching it will whack you upside the head.

I looked around for something better and finally found a couple of pieces of 3/8" threaded rod about 3 feet long. I was a little dubious at first because these rods can be bent fairly easily. Not to worry. They worked fine. Three foot long rods can be bent fairly easily, but a six inch long rod, not so much, and that's where all the force is. If it's 100 pounds at six inches, it's only 50 pounds at one foot and 25 at two feet. Having a three foot long rod to wind the torsion spring made it easy.

When I got the spring wound tight enough the end of the rod was sticking out in space, so I stuck a piece of 2 by 4 about a foot long between the door and the end of the rod. The tension on the spring was enough to hold the block of wood securely, even with a three foot long lever. Now I can move the cable back onto the drum. Used a bungee cord to pull sideways on the cable to keep it in place as we let off the tension on the spring and the tension returns to the cable.

Thought I had it fixed, but when I tried it, the cable popped off the drum at the other end. So I fixed that. Then it popped off the first drum again. Okay fine, fix both of them before we move the door. That did it and it seems to be fixed.