Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Quote of the Day

A lot of the Boomers on social media are griping about all the weather talk. "Bah! It barely got above zero in July when we were kids, and we didn't call it any kinda 'polar vortex'! We called it 'winter' and went skinny dipping in the old liquid methane swimming hole!" - Tam

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

More Old Radios

Get in the car to go to lunch, turn on the radio and what's this? It sounds like Russian. I wasn't aware of any Russian language radio stations in our neck of the woods. Could this be coming from Russia? I mean we got that Polar Vortex thing going on, bringing real arctic weather to the Midwest, Maybe somethin's goin' on with ionosphere and I'm picking up a broadcast from Moscow.

Well, no, turns out it was a local station, 1010AM, supposedly some kind of Christian station. I mean that's what the web site says, but I don't understand Russian so I have no idea what they are actually saying.

Still kind of surprising. There seem to be almost as many Spanish language radio stations as English, but I hadn't heard any other language until today.

Short Wave Receiver
This radio showed up on Reddit the other day, supposedly from a Communist country. Something funny about this story. I thought radios were pretty much outlawed in the Soviet Bloc. I mean they went to a great deal of trouble to jam foreign radio broadcasts. But maybe the radios were too useful in spreading the regime's propaganda, so they didn't wage war on the equipment, but rather on the airwaves. And maybe only the party faithful, the ones who could be trusted not to listen to any of the lies from the imperialist running dogs, got radios.

Radio Dial
The push buttons at the bottom of the front panel are kind of curious. They are labeled O, P, L, M, S  & US. L, M & S likely refer to Long, Medium and Short wave bands. US might refer to the FM band. O & P are anybody's guess. Does this mean that Europe didn't have FM?

Sherman Tank Radio form WW2
Reader Eck!  pointed out that the moonshiner's car radio was an BC603 tank radio from WW2. With a little digging I figured out that the moonshiner's radio was only a receiver. The complete Sherman radio set (shown above) consisted of one transmitter (the big box on the left) and two receivers (the two smaller boxes on the right, the ones with the military grade speaker grills) (and the push buttons).

Sherman Tank Cutaway Drawing
The whole thing weighed 800 pounds and was mounted in the back of the turret (the white box opposite the gun). The bulge that makes up the back of the turret is for this radio.

Soldiers change out radio receiver
Look at it full size and you can even make out the receiver's push buttons

Civics Lesson

Dad vs. the Dress Code, an essay by Elizabeth Crook is assigned reading from Iaman's book club. It's quite the tale, and very instructive about people and politics.

Update May 2019 added "San Marcos" so I can find it next time I go looking for it.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Isla La Orchila

Russian Tu-160 aircraft make flights in Venezuela

Russia has been flying TU-160's to Venezuela occasionally ever since Hugo Chavez came into power. The TU-160 is a supersonic bomber. It's the only large supersonic aircraft still flying. It's obsolete as weapon, but it is still big and impressive and so these flights make good propaganda.

La Orchila. 2 mile long airstrip in orange.
There has been some talk about Russia opening an air base on La Orchila, a desert island off the coast of Venezuela near Caracas. There is a big airstrip there, but not much else except rocks. It's under the jurisdiction of the military, and so off limits to everyone else. A group of ham radio operators got permission to set up camp there and run their radios, but no one else has shown much interest in it.

Los Roches, La Orchila & Caracas, Venezuela
La Orchila is about 80 miles off the coast of Veneuela and about 30 miles east of Los Roches archipelago, which is a National Park.

My take on this whole thing is that while the upper class was getting along very well in Venezuela before Hugo, the poor were not, and their frustration / desperation was what brought Hugo into power. Now we have Maduro in power, and he doesn't seem to understand the first thing about business, which is why oil production has fallen off and whole country seems to be going to hell. You'd think hanging with Putin he'd figure out that he needs to get his oil business running properly.

But maybe Putin is waiting until Maduro is really desperate so he can step in and save his sorry ass, for a price naturally. Can't really blame Putin for messing about with Venezuela, not after all the messing we (the USA) have done in his neighborhood (the Ukraine). Besides, all these despots need to stick together. Hah. Like they would. Stab each other in the back first chance they get more likely.

I suspect that property rights are at the root of this whole debacle. Pretty much all of Latin America runs on a 15th century model of property rights where the governor doles out land to his cronies and everybody else is screwed. As long as the upper class continues to squash the peasants, the communists are going to have people who are willing to listen to their bullshit, which is where we get revolutionaries.

If you want things to change, you need to give people an opportunity to crawl out of their hole without getting crushed in the process. Problem is, the upper class think they have to give up something, but if they can give the peasants an opportunity, they will reap rewards much greater than anything they are getting now. Hard to imagine, and that, I think, is the problem.

Friday, January 25, 2019


ROMA | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

I suppose you might call this a 'slice of life' film. We have an upper class family in Mexico, probably Mexico City, back in 1970 and some of their trials and tribulations, but our viewpoint is from one of their servants. Heartwrenching.

Update the next morning: Just discovered that Roma is a neighborhood in Mexico City.

Pic of the Day

Col. Robert P Pasqualicchio in his P-51 Mustang

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Camera Work

Notorious - Key exchange scene

If a movie is done right, you never notice how much trouble making this shot would have caused the camera men. I never used to notice things like this, I was wrapped up in the story and how the shot got made wasn't any of my concern. I wanted to know what she was going to do with the key now that she had it. I mean, that's why I watch movies, I want to become immersed in the story, I don't want to worry about all the technical details. I suppose that might sound strange, being as I seem to spend most of my time agonizing over technical details.

The Criterion Collection has an expose on the camera work involved in making this shot. They don't explain the crane work, but we would need a crane man to explain that, and this little bit is probably all most people can absorb in one sitting. I know my brain is full. Or maybe it's just that my belly is full of pizza.

Via Posthip Scott.

Question Of The Day

If thieves wear sneakers and artists wear Sketchers, do linguists wear Converse?

Stolen from Joe Sherlock.

Win Friends and Influence People?

Getty/Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast
The Daily Beast has an interesting story:
"A shadowy startup claims it can target an individual Facebook user to bend him or her to a client’s will. Experts are… not entirely convinced. 
You don’t have to be a hostile foreign power to covertly influence people on Facebook. For as little as $29, a U.K. startup called The Spinner will individually target a special someone in your life with a barrage of Facebook ads subtly designed to influence their behavior, whether it’s persuading a spouse to initiate sex more often, or swaying a troublesome co-worker to quit their job."
I wouldn't be surprised if it actually works. I know I can certainly be led around by the nose, given the right scent to follow.

Via Detroit Steve

Isla Aves

Venezuela Protest
Came across a report about Internet access being blocked in Venezuela. Not surprising given the situation (zillions of people protesting the tyrant Maduro). Looking at the list of websites being blocked and I notice They've blocked somebodies blog? It must be really radical to get the attention of Maduro's thugs. Let's go take a look, well, we'll take a look at Google's translation. It starts out with a piece about the financial clubs the US government is using to beat on Maduro's supporters. It's all rather complicated, but it might be having some effect.

The next story is completely different:
-On December 26, three Navy personnel assigned to the Simón Bolívar scientific-naval base, on Isla de Aves, went to sea in a small inflatable boat. Soon after, they lost sight of them, and since then nothing else has been known about them. The zodiac-type boat-equipped with an outboard motor-was manned by the first sergeant Víctor García Navarro, and the second corporal Gustavo Fuentes Vera and Yohander Bravo Colmenares. The first known part about this situation indicates that the military went out to do a "sea trial", and that at approximately 4:30 pm the visual contact between the crew and the base, which operates in a palafito-type building, was lost. 
Aves Island with research station
Isla Aves (bird island) is not much more than a rock (it's about 500 yards long), but since Venezuela claims it is an island, they can lay claim to a 200 miles economic zone around their rock, which brings them into conflict with just about everybody else in the eastern Caribbean.
Analysis of the case of Maritime SAR of Isla de Aves made by the Humboldt Rescue Organization.
There was some kind of search mounted for the sailors, but nothing was found, so they might be lost. Or they might have motored over to another nearby island. Guadeloupe is 125 miles away, which is a bit of a stretch for a Zodiac, but with good weather and enough fuel they ought to be able to make it. I think the above map shows they would expect a boat drifting from Isla Aves to wash up on the Yucatan peninsula after two or three months. This is the opposite direction from Guadeloupe, so if our intrepid sailors were trying to escape, the Search And Rescue team would be looking in the wrong place.

Some places that have made it into this blog before.
Top to bottom:
The Dry Tortugas (links to Amazon)
Scorpion Reef
Treasure Island
Swan Island
Isla Aves (this post).

The Dry Tortugas is on this list because I read a book that was set here. I thought I had put up a post about it, but evidently not. The book is Flashback by Nevada Barr, who has written a whole series of murder mysteries, all set in National Parks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Newark, Ohio

Swisher Sweets
Back when I was a kid, back when smoking was still a common practice, Swisher Sweets were a popular brand of small cigars. When I was in high school the nearest sizable town was Newark, Ohio, which, it turns out, was the birthplace of these same Swisher Sweets. The company started there back in 1861. By 1895 they are making 300,000 cigars a day.

Jacksonville, Florida
In 1924 they packed up and moved to Jacksonville, Florida. All this comes from the company's web site.

Newark has shown up a couple other times here.

Via California Bob.

USS Fitzgerald

USS Fitzgerald damage above waterline
The destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a commercial cargo vessel off the coast of Japan back in 2017.  Seven sailors died, drowned when their compartment was flooded. There was a lot of noise about the incident at the time, but now that things have had some time to shake out we might be getting a better understanding of what happened.

USS Fitzgerald patch over hole below the waterline
The Navy Times has the story, and it paints a pretty sad picture of the state of affairs in everyday shipboard operations. It's all very nice to have a ship full of fancy weapons and electronics, but all that fancy stuff needs people who know how to use it, maintain it and repair it when it goes wrong. If you aren't going provide the necessary funds to staff the ship, you may as well not buy the ship in the first place.

Same thing with Trump's wall. You can build the wall, but you are going to need a small army of people to patrol it, and paying for that army is eventually going to cost more than the wall itself. But building the wall will be a grand gesture. Maybe that's all Trump is after, getting recognition in the history books for his 'great wall'.

Via Comrade Misfit

P.S. You can measure the distance between two points on Google Maps by right clicking on your first point and then selecting 'measure distance' (imagine that) from the popup menu, and then clicking on the second point. Using this technique I was able to determine that the Fitzgerald's collision happened about 75 miles south of Tokyo.

P.P.S. If the type on this page, or any other, is too small, then CTRL+ is your friend. I have to hit it two or three times on most any page in order to make it large enough to read. I probably should put this in the banner.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


The Iliad - what is it really about?

Lindybeige is Jack's latest prize, plucked from the mass of YouTube, and I must admit he's entertaining and possibly elucidating. I meant Lindeybeige is entertaining, not to say that Jack isn't entertaining, he can be, but he doesn't make YouTube videos, at least not yet. Jack, however, gets the credit for discovering Lindeybeige.

Via Jack. Oh. I guess I said that already.

Keeping Time

My own Discworld "Vetinari Clock"

Inspired by a comment on a Reddit joke.

When I was in high school there was a wall clock in each classroom. The clocks were all controlled by a master controller in the office. After school the power was shut down and the clocks stopped. In the morning, the power is turned on, and the master controller pulses all the clocks rapidly until they caught up to the correct time. At any rate, that was the story I heard. Now that I think about it, they could have just stopped the clocks at 6PM and then resumed at 6AM and it would have accomplished the same thing.

It seems like an awfully involved system for keeping the clocks running on time. I suppose the one advantage it has is that if there is a power failure, you only have to update the time on the master clock. You don't have to go around to all the classrooms and set the time on each clock individually. It might have been an IBM system. It sounds like something they would do.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Ocean's 8

OCEAN'S 8 - Official Main Trailer

Pretty girls (well, they're all younger than I am) playing at being master criminals. Entertaining.

The Maharajah of Nawanagar wearing the necklace by Cartier-London in the drawing at right that inspired the necklace in ‘Ocean’s 8’. Photo Cartier Archives London © Cartier
The target is a diamond necklace, supposedly worth $150 million. Although Sandra promises each member of her crew $16.5 million each, I expect they would only realize 10% of that, being hot merchandise and all. The Adventurine has the backstory on the necklace.

Jewels are very nice and all, but they aren't particularly useful. Oh, you can use them to cut glass, but a simple carbide point can do that. They occasionally show up in movies at the focus of an evil mastermind's laser weapon, but a professor in Washington wanted some big diamonds so he made his own. They have no real, practical value.

I guess it's kind of like art and fancy cars. When you have more money than you know what do with, you go looking for things you can buy, things you couldn't buy when you were a poor schmuck like the rest of us. It's the magpie gene, we like shiny things.



La Neta dining room
My wife and I met younger son for brunch yesterday at La Neta, a new restaurant in a new hotel in Portland's Chinatown. The food was good, but being as this is some kind of hip, trendy place, the food was hip and trendy, I guess. $60 for three, with coffee, no alcohol, out the door.

Downtown Portland is a compromise location, about equally distant for both of us. It saves driving the winding roads over the hills, but I really don't like downtown. There are two reasons for this. One, driving in downtown is like driving in a parking lot. You can't go more than about 10 MPH and the streets are cluttered with pedestrians and cyclists. The other is the large number of bums you see everywhere. Most of them behave themselves, but there is always one who is making a scene, hollering or accosting people. Even the well behaved ones are a little scary. You just have to put on a brave face and have faith in the law of averages that says that scary looking guy isn't a psychopathic killer. And I'm not going to even mention the $10 it costs me for parking every time I go there.

The Hoxton Hotel some months ago
You gain entrance to the restaurant through the front door of the hotel. The entrance is kind of cool, but I couldn't find any pictures of it. This Streetview image is all I could find and it is from when the place was under construction. I should get my camera fixed, or get a new one. Get a new one goober, I haven't done anything about getting any of my old ones fixed for months and it's unlikely that I will.

Nothing to see here
The restrooms are accessed through a door in the rear of the dining room that leads to a hallway. There is a door to the kitchen there and this sign was posted on the door jamb.

Dick Cepek Mud Terrain Tires
Younger son bought a new set of tires for his pick-em-up truck. I was surprised to see they were Dick Cepek tires. Dick was the original big tire guy. Hadn't heard the name in a long time.

Penzeys Spices
Our last stop was Penzeys Spices. I'm not much of a cook, but my wife was intrigued, so we went in. She found a couple of items to buy. I was surprised by the low bill. I had been expecting thimble sized bottles of stuff for precious prices, but they seem to be on par with what the local supermarkets charge. I suppose something like this is a natural response to the expanding number of hip & trendy eateries and the growing population of foodies. I hope they succeed. Spice of life, you know.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Wall

Hadrian's Wall
President Trump wants to build a wall along the US border with Mexico. Other people have built walls with varying degrees of success. The Great Wall of China, Hadrian's Wall (above), and the Berlin Wall all spring to mind. I have been meaning to say something about this and today Windypundit puts up a post and that pushes me off the dime. I start with a comment on that post:
Are we going to let the government decide who can cross the border and who can't? I'm pretty sure that has been one of the functions of government since the beginning of governments.
Building the wall is a bad idea. It would only work if you had an army of people to patrol it, and that would end up costing many times more than the wall would cost in the first place. Eventually, funding for that army would fade away and the wall would become just another barrier to be crossed, like a river, mountain or desert.
I've said it before (I'm sure), but I'll say it again. If Mexico wasn't such a mess, we wouldn't have so many people desperate to leave their home and travel north to that alien land of the gringo. Of course, it's not just Mexico that's a mess, pretty much all of Latin America, from the Rio Grande River to the tip of Tierra del Fuego is a rotten, stinking mess. Some of it is our fault, things like the War On Drugs and our incessant meddling in the governments and our ruthless commercial exploitation of anything we could find to exploit haven't helped matters.

But a bigger problem, one that goes back to the colonial era, is the system of property rights, or the lack of such a system. Near as I can tell, all property belongs to the head honcho, who is backed by the Catholic Church. Everybody is dependent on the governor granting them some property.

Previous related posts.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Hamilton Pool

Hamilton Pool
Came across this picture on Reddit. Reminded me that I went swimming there a few times 40 years ago. It was cool, but kind of an expedition to get there, so we didn't go that often. Wikipedia has an article about the place.

Made in China

Man welding steel in Chinese Factory
Seems like everything is made in China these days. Well, all our electronic gee-gaws anyway. A couple of people I know make frequent trips to China to deal with various technical problems.

Recently I've come across a couple of stories about getting stuff made in China, both are about getting things made out of steel rather than electronic widgets. They make some interesting reading.

The first is Lessons Learned From 7 Years of China Factory Visits by Dan Andrews.

Business end of a Corvair Crankshaft. Above is the sleeve that was put on the crank. The stock crank has the same diameter as the outside of the sleeve. In this case, the Chinese had all the crank forces going through the thin section with threading on the inside.
The second is Chinese Crankshafts by William.

Via Michigan Mike.

Pic of the Day

Spillway gates for the Akkat power station dam in Sweden
Playing Geoguesser this morning and this bizarre artwork showed up. From some road signs I deduced it was in Sweden, but I still ended up 300 kilometers from the dam. A little Googling got me to a Wikipedia page that names the artists responsible.

When I first saw this I thought it might have been native American Indians from the Northwest USA, then I thought maybe from the Southwest, but these paintings look like they were deliberately crudely painted, something you don't see in any public display of American Indian art.

I don't quite understand this tendency towards ugly. I ran into some exceptionally ugly paintings in a brew pub in downtown Portland last week. If that is the best you can do, well, okay, I guess, but why would anyone put it on public display? I suspect limousine Bolsheviks, people who are well ensconced by a thick wad of money, but have no appreciation for any real beauty or talent. It reminds me of Inland Empire, a horrible, pointless idiotic film by David Lynch. I've seen several other of his films and I thought they were pretty great.

Maybe this is the low end of class warfare. Some people are exceptionally talented, and they are celebrated and praised. Then we have our average folks who go about their jobs, raise their families and drink their beer. Then we have people who got short changed in the valuable skill department, but are still doing their bit without much in the way of recognition, so they do things like this.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Cold War Gadget of the Day

HP 5061A Cesium Beam atomic clock
For sale on craigslist. I especially like the "MUSEUM ITEM DO NOT DISPOSE" sticker on the front panel. I also like that Wikipedia has the same picture. You don't suppose this is a scam, do you?

The Univesity of Queensland has a good summary of this device.

Via Posthip Scott.



Not a great murder mystery, but not bad either.  We finished the last episode this evening. It's got all your standard European cop show elements, I don't know exactly what they are, but when I watch one it's kind of comforting the way all the standard elements behave as expected. I get irate when someone does something they aren't supposed to. That didn't happen too often, so it's better than average. This show was exceptional in the number of red herrings, and how far off the track they drug us.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Pic of the Day

SOFIA soars over the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains with its telescope door open during a test flight. Image: NASA/Jim Ross
Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a 747 Jumbo jet modified to carry a reflecting telescope with an 8 foot diameter mirror. Being as the aircraft can operate at 45,000 feet, that gets them above most of the atmosphere, which should make viewing conditions very good. But you are in an airplane traveling at 500 MPH which is liable to make any kind of observation a little tricky.  We won't even think about problems with vibration.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Star Trek R Us

Language Translation Device

This ad popped up on YouTube and I my mind instantly drug up the universal translator from Star Trek. This isn't quite that advanced, I mean we don't have any aliens from other planets we can try it out on, but it apparently works with several human languages.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Far Side of the Moon

Chang'e 4 Lunar Landing In Detail

Mr. Manley does a good job here. But how is it that we know any of this at all? When we sent Apollo spacecraft to the moon 50 years ago, they were cutoff from communication when they went behind the moon. So how are we getting these pictures? We have sent probes around the moon and they have taken pictures, but they had to come back into view before they could transmit their images. This Chinese probe is on the moon, it isn't coming back into view, ever. Have the Chinese invented a new kind of super-quantum-licious communications technique that allows them to transmit through a thousand miles of rock? No, they sent another satellite, a communications relay, out to Lagrange point 2 which is out beyond the moon.

Queqiao relay satellite enters L2 orbit

Notice that this satellite doesn't just sit at the 'point', the 'point', after all, is unstable. Any slight disturbance from this location will cause the satellite to fall away from the 'point', never to return. Also sitting at the 'point' wouldn't do us any good, as the 'point' is directly opposite the Earth and so is blocked from radio communications by the moon. Instead the satellite goes into a halo orbit where it never actually crosses the point, instead it orbits the 'point'. The James Webb Space Telescope will be using a halo orbit when it eventually gets launched, which is expected in a couple of years.

Pic of the Day

Winter in Toronto, Canada

Friday, January 11, 2019

Pic of the Day

Great White Fleet anchored off Coronado, April 1908.
Couldn't manoeuvre in San Diego Harbor.
Via Posthip Scott

Thursday, January 10, 2019


One year Ethereum price history
It's been a while since I checked on my Ethereum holdings, so today I took a peak. The current price is roughly $125 per imaginary coin, down from the $300 it was just over a year ago. My 'wallet' has accumulated 0.18 of an Ether coin, which works out to $23. So not as good as originally forecasted, but it hasn't completely disappeared either, so I guess I will it ride.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Pic of the Day

930M Caterpiller Small Wheel Loader at the scene of the crime
This is what passes for excitement here in suburban Hillsboro. Two o'clock this morning a couple of people stole this wheel loader and used it to flatten an ATM. They then gathered up the cash and sped off into the night.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Something is Rotten in Downtown

Hooverville under the Ross Island Bridge - July, 1936
Arthur Rothstein
Downtown Portland Oregon is booming. New high-rise buildings are going up left right and center, so somebody thinks we are going to need the space these buildings will provide. Which means there are going to be people wanting to rent these spaces, either for work or to live. Meanwhile we have the homeless camped out on any spare patch of ground they can find, including sidewalks, the shoulders of freeway ramps and patches of woods that are too steep to build on.

Then there are a large number of vacant ground floor storefronts. Given how difficult it is to get into downtown in a car, and the large number of vagrants wandering around, I am not surprised retail operations are staying away.

Lastly, there are a large number of food trucks downtown. There is at least one entire city block given over to them. When I was working construction umpteen years ago, food trucks (aka roach coaches) would swing by once or twice a day to dispense soft drinks and candy bars. Now we have them permanently parked on what has to be some of the most expensive real estate in the city.

Hooverville NYC Central Park 1932
I am trying to figure out why the vacant store fronts are vacant. It could be that the owners are asking for too much rent. But why would that be? Could be they are hoping a miracle will happen and some magical retail operation will suddenly swoop in and sign a 25 year lease for whatever imaginary price they set? This situation has been going on for years, and no retail angel has appeared.

I suppose it could be that if all the upper floors are rented then they are taking in enough money and they don't need any income from the ground floor. But that doesn't make sense. They are businessmen. The reason you build or own a commercial building is to make money. Nobody does it out of the goodness of their heart. Okay, there might be the occasional odd-ball here and there, but I don't think they figure into the problem under discussion. The purpose of the building is to make money, so you make as much as possible by insuring that all of the space is rented out and generating income. But not all the space is occupied, so it;s not generating income, so something is wrong.

I've read some stories that suggest that cost to finish these ground floor spaces and then the hassle of maintaining them are too high, but that doesn't make a lot of sense to me, unless,

  1. everything has to be super fancy / science fictiony, which means very expensive build out costs,
  2. they expect a rowdy clientelle busting up the place every night,
  3. the government and the unions are imposing onerous costs, or
  4. they feel that only the right kind of store would suit the image they want to project, and such an image is vital to their campaign to make their building the most expensive place to rent and therefor the most profitable.
I am kind of partial to the last one, but with so many empty store fronts, certainly someone would cave and go for real cash money now instead of waiting for imaginary cash winnings in the future.

Hooverville NYC Central Park 1932
I don't know what's going on, but something is definitely rotten.

Now that I've thought about this a bit, I am beginning to think that this is a manifestation of a political battle being fought between the big landowners and some politicians. The homeless people and the 'quality of life' downtown are just pawns in this contest. The problem is that no one really knows what to do about the homeless. I am pretty sure that most of the homeless are not living in tents out of choice. Oh sure, there are a few, who actually like their vagrant lifestyle, and there are problem a few crazy people, though some recent experiences make me think that there is a similar percentage of crazies living in houses.

You know, if we can't give them houses, you'd think we could at least turn a field into a campground. And what brings them to downtown anyway? Are they working? I mean if you can find a place to shower once in while, there's no reason you couldn't hold down a job while living in a tent. I mean it would be a colossal pain, but look at all the money you would save on rent.

They might be panhandling, but not that many, not compared to the number of tents I see. There are some soup kitchens, The prospect of a free meal could keep them hanging around, especially if they don't have anywhere else to go.

Many small towns in Oregon were devastated by the collapse of the timber industry. (It did collapse, didn't it? Something about the spotted owl comes to mind.) Maybe we should set up some soup kitchens in one of these small towns? Put the homeless in the empty houses. I can why it hasn't been done. Everyone would object. It would put paid to the political battle that is going on.

Top photo via Posthip Scott

Monday, January 7, 2019

Golden Apples

How Does Apple Make so Much Money?

I sort of knew most of what's in here, but some of the numbers were very surprising. I am now carrying a cell phone with me. I've had it for a year or two, but recently my life has gotten a little more complicated, so having it with me helps. It's just a flip phone from Tracphone with a miserable camera, but the cost is negligible.

I guess the biggest surprise is the business about "easy to use". I don't think Apple products are easy to use. Seems to me like they make you take a zillion steps to do the simplest things. I think people like them because the endless maze of menus gives them something to play with. "If you just do this, and this and this and this and this and then this other thing you can send a smiley face to your BFF." Wonderbar. Not. But since Apple is making money and I'm not, I must be wrong. I still think their products are overpriced crap.

Ural Motorcycle with sidecar
It's kind of like Ural Motorcycles that way. Ural Motorcycles might be decent bikes now (I don't know), but a few years ago they were the epitome of Eastern European junk. They were cool though, if you were into 60 year old mechanical designs, and they were cheap. But they were unreliable, the dealership network was non-existent, so your best hope of getting any help fixing your broken machine was from another Ural rider, and so a network of Ural riders grew up. Sort of the same thing with iPhones. Kids saw other kids do cool things (for some value of 'cool') with their phones and the best way to find out how to do that cool thing was talk to other iPhone users. Which is what iPhone people like to do: talk to other people. Me, I'm more like Sargent Joe Friday of Dragnet: just the facts, ma'am.

Map of the Day

Lower 48 Elevation by Scott Reinhard
Interesting color choices, but it certainly points out the flat nature of the Midwest.

Via Detroit Steve

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Dogs of Berlin

DOGS OF BERLIN Trailer (2018) Netflix Series

This isn't the best show in the world, but it's got something, "je ne sais quoi". It's a cop show, in Berlin, with a whole cast of unsavory characters: Neo-Nazis, Turkish gangsters, German gangsters, officious busybodies and run-of-the-mill scumbags. Every one of them has some kind of major personality defect, but they manage to get through the day, somehow.

Watching this show, and from some comments I have heard from people recently, I am beginning to understand that much of the crazy shit people do is because it makes them feel alive, something your everyday, humdrum life doesn't. Much of modern life is designed to make life easy, safe and comfortable, but christ-on-a-crutch, it can also make you feel like you are being smothered. There is a fine line between feeling safe and secure and feeling like your life is killing you.

Update March 2020 replaced missing video.


Wonderword Puzzle

Teleword is a word search puzzle that appears in The Sunday Oregonian. The daily paper carries Wonderword, an identical puzzle. Both are produced by the same guy: David Q. Oullet, who makes these puzzles by hand.

The aren't particularly difficult, all you have to do is locate the words from the list in the grid. It takes a little time and seems to go slower as you locate more words. It can be downright tedious when you are down to two or three short words and the entire grid seems to have been marked off. It's not my favorite puzzle, but if I am not ready to start my day, it's a good way to procrastinate.

Anyway, I got to wondering how hard it would be to generate such a puzzle, so I put my programmers cap on and set to. It didn't take long before I had solution. Well, I had a program. Let's run it and see if it can generate a square from the list of words in Sunday's puzzle.  I let it run overnight. It was still running the next morning and still hadn't found a solution. Hmm, maybe this problem is tougher than I thought.

Let's do a little analysis. The square is 15 letters across and 15 rows tall. There are 38 words with an average length of, let's say, 7. So any one word, on average, can fall roughly 500 different places

(         8 starting rows
times 8 starting column
times 8 directions).

means each word has 500 possible positions, so we have 38 (words) to the 500th power possible combinations, which is like a number with a thousand zeros which may as well be infinity. There isn't enough CPU power on the planet to try that many combinations. But maybe the problem isn't that tough and we'll get an answer in a some kind of reasonable time frame, like overnight.

When it didn't find an answer, I went back and revisited the code. I made some minor changes which I didn't think should effect it, but evidently it did because it returned a solution in about an hour. A solution, not THE solution. The puzzle I used as a model has ten extra letters, which would be spaces in my solution, and my program's solution only had three. Well, if we can generate one solution in an hour, maybe if we run it for a day it will find more solutions, and maybe one of those will have the required ten spaces. So some more minor changes to the code and I fired it up again.

Here's what it has so far (it shows its current state every one million attempted word placements):
 R H S M T S Y D O N O V A N G
 O O U P O H E A R C L A R K E
 C N L L R O E A R E       R O
 K E H L L I D A R D A H C A R
 A Y E E I A N Y N C B M   M G
 N C R H R N B G B I H I E E I
 D O M S O M G A F L M E R R E
 R M I Z P L A S L I U A R D S
 O B T F O E L N T L E E L S S
 L S S H R M N I S O O L S S J
 L       E E B C E B N O D S E
 B I L L Y W D I E S L E S K R
   A L L I C H D E R   A S N E
 P E T U L A   O I S     C I M
   Y T S U D S G G O R T   K Y
dimensionof(words): 38    wordcount: 8
placed: 30                counter: 164000000

This program is CPU intensive, which means everything else gets slow. I was thinking it would be handy to have another computer to run this program so I could go web surfing without having to drag this CPU hog around with me everywhere I went, and then I remembered that there are sites out there on the web that will let you write, compile and run programs on their servers, free. Well, shiver me timbers, let's try that. So I pulled up a few, loaded my program (copy & paste, it's only a couple of hundred lines long) and pressed the GO button. Here's the ones I tried.
  • - still running
  • OnlineGDB - kicked off after roughly 30 minutes, but no explanation
  • CodeChef - kicked off after 5 seconds
  • Rextester - kicked off after 5 seconds
I'm still dinking with the program. I will post it on github if I am ever satisfied with it.