Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
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Friday, March 31, 2023

C-46 Commando

Curtiss C-46F Commando

First Nations Transportation Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando

Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando
Flying Over The Himalayas Between India And China During WW2

C-46 is kind of an odd duck. It has was designed to be a pressurized airliner. In order to be pressurized, the fuselage has 'double-bubble' cross section the idea being that two smaller tubes can withstand more pressure than a single large one. However, none of the aircraft sold to the Army were pressurized, and near as I can tell the Army was the only customer.

In terms of power, size and carrying capacity the airplane was roughly 50% bigger than the DC-3 / C-47. Roughly 3,000 were built, or a third of the number of DC-3 / C-47's. The C-46's biggest claim to fame came from flying 'over the hump' from India into China.

Vikings: Valhalla - Netflix Series

Vikings: Valhalla - Season 2 | Official Trailer | Netflix

I'm not too sure about this show. It's a good story, and the production values are pretty good, but I think they bit off more than they can chew. For example, they have Viking long ships, but they look pretty small, but this was back around the 10th century, so maybe the size is accurate.

There are three story lines. We've got Queen Emma of England dealing with her minister Godwin and some sort of treachery. 

We've got Freydis who escaped from Hagar's raid on Kattegut. She ends up in Jomsburg in Pomerania (coastal area of Germany and Poland). Jomsburg is ruled by a tyrant but Freydis prevails, though it's a close run thing.

Leif Eriksson and Harold end up in Russia where Harald comes up with a plan to get rich by taking a boatload of furs to Constantinople. At first I thought they would sail west through the Baltic, past Denmark, through the English channel, around France and Spain to Gibraltar and thence through the Mediterranean. But no, they are heading due south via an ice covered river. It's 900 miles as the crow flies, but given how twisty and turny the river is, it's probably twice that. Plus, the rivers don't connect. There is one flowing north toward Vogrovod, and there is the Dneiper flowing south past Kiev to the Black Sea, but it doesn't look like they connect. Since the route didn't jump out at me, I posted a question on Quora and Boris Ivanov confirms my thinking.
Would it have been possible to take a boat from Novgorod, Russia via rivers to the Black Sea back around the year 1000 AD?
No, that was impossible. The real route was more complicated, and it included travels by land. Here is a description from the Russian Primary Chronicle:
There was a way from the Varangians to the Greeks and from the Greeks along the Dnieper, and from the upper reaches of the Dnieper you can portage boats to Lovot [the Lovat river in Russia and Belarus], and along Lovot you can enter Ilmen, the great lake; Volkhov flows out of the same lake and flows into the great lake Nero [Lake Ladoga], and the mouth of that lake flows into the Varangian Sea.
The Dnieper Rapids were also usually crossed by portaging, because they were too treacherous to sail through them.
1,800 miles (two times 900) at 18 miles a day would take a hundred days. At one point in their journey someone mentions that they have been traveling for two months, so okay. You could probably make a entire show just about this journey, but we only get the highlights, like when the ice dam breaks and when the go over the water fall. Then there is the run-in with the savage Penchengs who capture our two heroes and decide to amuse themselves by cutting them.
Novograd to the Black Sea

The black lines trace the easily visible rivers. The rivers extend further but they get very small and very windy. Very small is a relative term. At Mogilev, which is about half way between the ends of the two black lines, the Dnipro (aka Dnieper) river is 250 feet wide.

They went to a lot of trouble to shoot the ice boat scenes:

Vikings: Valhalla Season 2 | Behind the Scenes: Ice River | Netflix
Netflix: Behind the Streams

Wikipedia page here.
Season 1 post here.

Wrong Side of the Tracks Season 2 - Netflix Series

Wrong Side of the Tracks ENTREVÍAS Trailer YouTube
Trailers Kind Brain

Our three favorite veteran curmugeons are back: Tiros, the grumpy grandfather, made in the mold of Clint Eastwood's 'get off my lawn' character, Pepe, the overweight bartender and Sanchis, who has something like a stutter. Tiros is grandfather to Irene, the beautiful adopted Asian teenage girl. Irene is in love with Nelson, a Colombian immigrant, daughter of Gladys, the voluptuous cleaning lady who is living across the hall from Tiros with an old lady. Entrevias, where they all live, is an old neighborhood in Madrid and is suffering from an influx of street corner drug dealers. Amanda is the lovely women cop in charge of a task force charged with getting rid of the big drug dealers. Ezequiel is / was a detective with the gift of gab, who also happens to understand exactly what's going on in the streets of Entrevias. If you want something done, good, bad, legal, shady, Ezequiel can make it happen. 

The best part of the show is the subtle actions of the main characters, the emotions, the word play, the subtle digs friends make. Gladys is not just voluptuous in the physical sense, her personality is just as overblown as her body which makes her irresistable to Tiros, though he denies it until he is happily caught.

Turns out Amana and Tiros's sister, Jimena, are lesbians, although Jimena hasn't quite figured it out yet. In the scene where they are smiling, no, make that beaming, at each other it becomes obvious that it's going to happen and in short order it does.

P. S. Watched this a month ago. I could say more, but it's basically a show about a bunch of characters. There is an overall plot that arrives at a happy conclusion, but it's the ride it takes us to get there that makes it all worthwhile.

The Recruit - Netflix Series

THE RECRUIT Trailer (2022) Noah Centineo, Drama Series

Newly graduated lawyer gets a job working for the CIA. Hijinks ensue. On one hand we've got political squabbling going on in the office and on the other we've got him flying hither and yon trying to figure out whether this woman locked up in an Arizona prison has any real dirt on the CIA. A lot of it is fairly contrived, but some of it, like the general office ambiance, seems fairly realistic, i.e. pretty effed up. Our boy stumbles constantly and often gets beat up, but he ain't dead yet.

P. S. Wrote this three months ago, probably had more to say about it, but I don't remember what that might have been, so, post it.

Update April 2024 replaced missing video.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Unseen - Netflix Series

Unseen | Official Trailer | Netflix

Very meek cleaning lady goes looking for her husband, missing since he got out of prison the other day. She goes looking for help but she keeps running into big bullies. With threats or cruel words they push her over the edge, much to their dismay / demise.

There's a couple of incidents that don't make much sense, like the time she agrees to meet her landlord at an abandoned meat packing plant. Like she doesn't know what he wants? And couldn't this guy find a better place, like her bedroom?

Then there is the secretary at another meat packing plant, this one is still a going concern. She has got to know about all the shady business going on there, but she goes and squeals to the cops about the cleaning lady, even after her boss specifically told her not to do it. She acts like she thinks she is doing the right thing. The question is, is she stupid, or just confused six ways from Sunday?

We have several scenes where she walks right by numerous people and no one even notices her. I don't know about this. Magicians use misdirection all the time to conceal what they are doing, and there have been many examples of people concentrating on one thing and missing something else that is right in front of them. But a woman walking by? I suppose it could happen if the timing was just right. She probably has a lot of experience in being innoccuous, so she may have developed some subconcious sense of when people are watching her and when they aren't.

Sky High - Netflix Series

Sky High: The Series | Official trailer | Netflix

The title in Spanish is Hasta El Cielo which translates to Up To Heaven. It is set mostly in Madrid, but there are also scenes in France, Lisbon and Lagos, Nigeria.

Sole, widow, mother and daughter of the leader of a criminal organization, is trying to break out from under her father's umbrella and establish her own reputation. To this end she has taken over her deceased husband's gang of thugs. Because she's got the nerve she's managed to become the leader of the pack. Her guys pull off some audacious heists, mostly smash and grab, but big smashes and big grabs. It isn't all a bed of loot though, she is operating in the established criminal web and there are all kinds of obligations and prohibitions she has to cope with.

Chinese Vase - screenshot from Netflix

in Episode 4, Sole is trying to settle a dispute with the Chinese. She offers them money, but that is not good enough. They want this vase that is on display in France at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. The (fictional) vase is originally from China. It was taken in 1860 when the British and French troops looted the Old Summer Palace during the Second Opium War.

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte - screenshot from Netflix

The place is well guarded. Grabbing the vase would not be difficult for these guys, but getting away without getting caught, well, that's going to be a bit of a trick.

P. S. After taking a tour of the chateau they are driving around town and they notice the cops are following them. This puzzles them because they haven't done anything wrong (on this trip, anyway), they're just playing tourists. They flew in on a commercial airliner, rented a car and drove to the chateau, a popular spot with tourists, what reason would the cops have to pick on them? Then Compi fesses up. He didn't actually rent the car. He saw it just sitting there at the airport unattended and took it, i.e. they're driving around in a stolen car. He just couldn't help himself, it's in his blood.

Episode 5 opens with them stealing the vase. They estimated it was going to take them four and a half minutes to get in, steal the vase and get out. I paused the show as soon as they all got in the get away car and drove away. Time: 4:44. Cute.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Hinkley Point C nuclear power station

Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor, UK, still under construction - AP

Looking at the thumbnail for this puzzle, I thought it might be a stadium, but it's not. I didn't know anyone (except maybe the French) were building nuclear reactors these days, but here we are.

Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is under construction in Somerset, England. The project is financed by EDF Energy and China General Nuclear Power Group. EDF is a French company. China General Nuclear Power Group is a Chinese state-owned energy corporation. Is the UK becoming a colony?

The cranes are placing a 5,000-tonne water intake head onto the seabed

There are tunnels leading from the power plant out into the bay and the intake (and outlet) heads are placed on the seafloor to preserve the integrity of the opening into the tunnel. The concrete block suspended between the two cranes is the intake head. To give you a sense of scale of this scene, the intake head is 150 long and 25 feet tall.


An artist's depiction of Lunar Flashlight looking for ice in a crater on the moon. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Silicon Graybeard reports on the Lunar Flashlight, a shoebox sized spacecraft.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?

Blood Sweat & Tears - And when I die

Variety has a review of What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?, a documentary about the band's 1970 tour of eastern Europe. Owen Gleiberman fills us in: 

As the documentary explains, David Clayton-Thomas [BS&T lead singer] was from Canada, where he had grown up as a delinquent troublemaker. As a star, he still had traces of his wild ways; when he was arrested for allegedly threatening a girlfriend with a gun, the U.S. officials decided to deny him his green card. He was going to be kicked out of the country — which meant, in a pop-music landscape even more America-centric than it is now, that the band, in effect, would be finished.

Rather than accept this fate, Blood, Sweat & Tears cut a deal. In an arrangement brokered by the lawyer Larry Greenblatt, they agreed to become the first rock band to play in countries behind the Iron Curtain, in a cultural-exchange tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Why would a government headed by Richard Nixon make this offer, even as it was threatening to deny Clayton-Thomas his green card? It was a form of blackmail. The reason that the State Department felt like it needed Blood, Sweat & Tears — maybe more than the band needed them — relates to the special place the group occupied.

In 1970, the revolution was still officially on. (All those middle-class kids hadn’t quite realized yet that they were just…middle-class kids. That would take until about 1971.) Rock ‘n’ roll was still the voice of the revolution, and the counterculture, enraged by the atrocities of Vietnam, despised anything to do with the Nixon establishment. To play ball with the State Department was to make a deal with the devil.

Yet the success of a band like Blood, Sweat & Tears was already knocking down those kinds of perceptions. The band’s members were against the war, but except for the guitarist Steve Katz (who we see in one clip sounding like Dustin Hoffman playing Tom Hayden), they weren’t really political. Offered the chance to salvage their success by spending June and July of 1970 touring Yugoslavia, Romania, and Poland, they thought, “Why not?”

The footage we see makes the case that there was actually a powerful moral reason to do the tour. The State Department, in its blunderbuss way, wanted to open up a kind of détente with the citizens of Communist Eastern Europe. This sort of exchange had actually begun in 1954, but with classical and jazz musicians. So why not rock ‘n’ roll — or more to the point, a rock band that straddled categories in a way that could bridge the free West and the oppressed Eastern Bloc?

I graduated from high school in 1969, so I was aware of Nixon, the Vietnam war and Blood, Sweat and Tears, but I don't remember hearing anything about this tour.

Update April 2024 replaced missing video.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Model T Bakery Wagon

Model T Bakery Wagon


2011 ArtPrize Entry - Cherry log mortised bench, carve formed

Uniberp made this a while back. Its on permanent loan to and displayed in the lobby of Spectrum Theatre at GRCC.

Folding Table

I leaned against this table a few weeks ago and half of the screws holding the steel reinforcing rail to the top popped out. This happened once before and I replaced all the screws with larger ones. This time I decided to replace the screws with flat head machine screws. This required some long range planning. I wasn't going to make a special trip to Home Depot to buy a handful of screws, so I had to wait for another, bigger project came along, and one did. A couple of weeks later, younger son wanted to replace a couple of sheets of drywall in his house and I got drafted. I picked up the screws when we went to Home Depot to get the drywall. Double bonus, I got him to pay for them.

Osmany helped me replace the screws. Well, he did the work on the table, I did the fetch and carry. This required countersinking the holes in the top, but the surface is hardly pristine so that didn't matter. The trick is to get the countersink the right depth. Osmany did a creditable job by futzing with the first hole until he was satisfied and then marking the countersink with a Sharpie so he could better judge how deep it was. Worked very well and now the table is stronger than ever.

Standard procedure in modern America would be to buy a new table and throw the old one out. Problem is the new tables are plastic, you can't get tables with particle board tops anymore. Getting rid of the old one would either mean an expensive trip to the dump or taking it apart (not too difficult with an electric screwdriver) and then cutting up the large pieces so they would fit in the trash and / or recycling. I suppose the top could go in the composting bin once it was cut up into bite size chunks. Probably would have taken as much time and effort, though less skill.

Printer Table

Osmany put this table together from scrap lumber a few months ago. The printer had been sitting on the floor for months and it just grated on me. It shouldn't be on the floor. Fancy machines shouldn't be sitting on the floor, someone might kick it. We won't talk about how dust accumulates at floor level.

Dining Table

The girls have decided to remodel the house and the first order of business is getting rid of old furniture. They placed an ad for this table and chairs and someone came and bought the chairs. Paid full price but didn't want the table, so now we need to find a new home for it. We might send it to a furniture reseller in Beaverton. That would be the simplest solution.

My mother-in-law, god rest her soul, paid around a thousand dollars for the table and six chairs shortly after we got married thirty odd years ago. With the way inflation has been going I expect a similar table would cost around five grand today, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Dining room sets can be had for around $1,000. Deutsch Furniture Gallery offers a similar style table, made of solid wood, for around two grand. The top on our table, fancy as it looks, is made of particle board with a veneer skin.

Decrepit office chair

A week or so ago, younger son hired a dumpster to get rid of a bunch of junk, so we hauled some odds and ends over the hill to take advantage of his benevolence. I got rid of my old office chair and replaced it with my wife's old office chair. It suffers from the same leaking pneumatic cylinder problem, so I stole the block from my old chair and installed on the new-ish one.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Float Plane

Qatar Airways Cessna Caravan

I don't particularly like the Cessna Caravan, it's kind of ungainly. It isn't sexy or pretty or fast or cool, but people all over the world use it.


Soirée in the Studio (1905)

Put together this digital jigsaw puzzle last night. It was only 150 pieces so it was not too tough. Nice thing about Jigsaw Planet is you can choose the number of pieces you want, up to 300. 300 pieces can take hours. It might be a little easier with a larger screen, but we're getting distracted.

This painting was done by Laurits Tuxen, one of the Skagen Painters, so called because they hung out in Skagen, Denmark. When I look on the map for Skagen I find that it is at the end of a narrow strip of land sticking out of the top of the main peninsula. I always thought of Denmark as being vaguely shaped like the lower peninsula of Michigan, and it is, except for having this worm-like appendage sticking out of the top (and being composed of 400 odd islands).


The red line near the bottom, above Hamburg is the Kiel Canal, "is the world's busiest man-made water- way navigable by seagoing ships. It is used by a similar number of ships as the Panama and Suez Canals."* The canal is in Germany, but it is like the natural dividing line between the continent and the peninsula, not like the actual border (the black line just above it that goes to Flensburg).

Back to our painting. The English title is "Soirée in the Studio", but the Danish version is "Aftenselskab i atelieret på Strandvejen" which Google translates as "Evening party in the studio on Strandvejen". And just where is Strandvegen? Strandvegen is the "beach road" that runs north from Copenhagen to the ferry terminal in Helsingør, a distance of about 20 miles. It's the blue line on the map. You need to zoom way in in order to get a clear view of it. It also refers to the northern section of Copenhagen where all the swells live.

The blue line started as a driving route that Google drew for me, but Google used a main road that was a bit inland so I dragged it over to the beach. Google offers the option of asking for a bicycle route, but then it also highlights ALL the bicycle routes which, as you might suspect of a country like Denmark, pretty much obliterates the map. So we'll stick with the redirected driving route.

* Quoted by Google from a PDF that was very slow to load. 

Friday, March 24, 2023

Horse & Rider

Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome, with exercise rider Willie Delgado up, makes his way onto the track at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa. September 2014 - Bill Denver AP

Caption via USA Today

Knowledge, Information, Propaganda and Opinions

Thor Hammer Strike

Not too long ago I was talking to some people I know and the subject of COVID and vaccinations came up. A couple of the guys seemed to think that COVID was a real threat and the vaccinations were the proper defense. This was contrary to my view of the situation. What they were saying really grated on me and I felt myself getting angry. Something told me getting angry wasn't going to help, so I went off to the kitchen to get a drink.

Thought about this later and I realized that we all got our information from news media of some sort, the only difference was our choice of sources. The upshot is that we were both relying on what other people are telling us. Unless you are personally engaged in researching the biology and biochemistry and statistics of this plague that is all we can do.

This particular subject has become so politicized that it is virtually impossible to discern the truth. I gave up trying to get to the bottom of the matter a long time ago. All I feel comfortable with is gauging the amount of heat and smoke that any particular story gives off. From this I have constructed my view of the situation. Am I correct? I have no idea, but I am satisfied with my viewpoint. For the moment.

In the French TV series The Bonfire of Destiny, the villain is a high level politician who has no compunction about sending an innocent man to the guillotine in order to inflame the populace and ensure his victory in the upcoming election. Watching this guy and all his underhanded dealings (including treason) made me think of Joe Biden. A recent post by Matt Taibbi reinforced that view. Now I'm waiting for the indictments. There's going to be indictments, right? Right? There are going to indictments aren't there? Ha. As if.

I picked up Line of Sight by Mike Maden (Tom Clancy, Jack Ryan). Tom Clancy stories are always entertaining but this one isn't starting out so good. The opening incident with the thug is just fluff, but when we get to the home cooked meal with Jack's parents (the President and his wife) and it's like the author has slathered icing on a rotten corpse in order to make it appear appetizing. Is my bias showing yet?

But what am I going to do about it? In The Bonfire of Destiny, a couple of players finally stand up against the big bully and he slithers off stage. It would have been better if he had been executed, but he's vanished which is something. Those two players were part of his inner circle and so had some standing, not like you and me, out in the waste land howling at the moon.

That's what we need, we need people of good character to stand up in public against these self serving criminals. Theoretically, I could, but as a practical matter I'm not going to. My gut reaction when confronted with criminal behavior is to fly into a rage and crush the offender with Thor's hammer. Not appropriate if you want to avoid a civil war.

I wonder if there is something that happens to people when they spend a lot of time dealing with other people, in person that is, not at keyboard length. Does dealing with rotten people somehow infect good people? Or are they like me, so repelled by these criminal jackasses that they just retreat behind their front door and let the morons run wild?

Update October 2023 replaced 'populous' with 'populace'.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts


Far future science fiction novel. Sunday, our lead character, is on an asteroid that has been made into a giant spaceship. The ship is on a mission to build a series of wormhole jump gates all around the galaxy. Naturally, this is going to take some time, like zillions of years, so Sunday and all the rest of the crew spend most (like 99.999%) of their time in suspended animation. The A. I. (artificial intelligence) brain that runs the ship revives a portion of the crew whenever it's time to build a new gate, something about human brains being better able to cope with unexpected phenomena than the computer.

This mission has been going on for a while (zillions of years) and some of the crew start to notice that not everything is as copacetic as they have been led to believe. In particular, it seems that life support for a small fraction of the hibernating crew (3,000) was cut off and they all died. When they ask the A. I. (Chimp) about this he claims he does not know anything about it. Well, he's a computer, if the data that recorded such an event was erased, he wouldn't be able to remember it even if he wanted to, would he?

This prompts Sunday and a few of his / her (hir gender, nor any of the other characters, is never made clear) cohorts conspire to destroy the A. I. This is going to be a bit of a trick because the Chimp has sensors  almost everywhere. He has a neural link to every person on board. Further, the ship is riddled with computer hardware and since Chimp can relocate himself as he sees fit, there is no telling where the Chimp resides at any time.

To evade detection, the conspirators set up a music school / club where they write music. They encode their messages / information using special notations in their musical scores. They might even have written them out with paper and ink to further remove them from the Chimp's purview.

The conspirators are finally able to locate the Chimp by measuring the latency of signals being sent to it.

The ship is powered by a small black hole. Each wormhole they create is also powered by a black hole, a black hole that they create on the fly by aiming a bunch of grasers at a target (presumably a small ball of matter). This process is akin to setting off an atomic bomb. Each graser must fire at the exact same time otherwise bad things will happen.

The conspirators have deduced that the Chimp resides near the chamber used to build the black holes for the jump gates. Changing the firing parameters for one graser will result in Chimp's destruction. Cool. Except things go wrong and a couple of here-to-for unknown players enter the scene. One of the key conspirators has a secret agenda that upsets the applecart. Another is a person I don't remember, he may have shown up earlier, but it's been a while since I started this book and I don't remember him. Anyway, he's got another agenda. The third is a computer program whose existence was never even suspected. It has been dormant, just waiting for the shit to hit the fan.

So all this happens at the very end and it's a little confusing as to just who is trying to accomplish what. The production of the black hole was successful, as usual, but because of the sabotage, they have lost control of it and it takes off on a course orbiting the black hole that powers the ship. Because it is so small (microscopic even) and so dense, it just blasts through everything leaving destruction in its wake. 

The survival of the ship would seem to be in doubt. Chimp coaxes Sunday to enter a hibernation chamber.

Goodreads has a page about this book.


STS-134 ISS EVA4 view to the Space Shuttle Endeavour

STS-134 was 12 years ago. It was the next to last Space Shuttle mission. The Shuttle flew 133 successful missions.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

More Speedway

Neils-Christian Iversen - Peterborough Panthers

I like speedway racing, it's something you can do on a small oval that is in full view of the grandstand. And then there is the whole thing of being in a barely controlled slide the entire time. Plus relatively simple bikes. I don't follow racing so I hadn't heard of Niels before, but evidently he's something of a terror in Europe:

Niels Kristian Trochmann Iversen is an international motorcycle speedway rider. He is a seven times national champion of Denmark and was part of the Danish teams that won the Speedway World Cup in 2006, 2008, 2012 and 2014. - Wikipedia

I didn't even know that speedway racing was popular in Europe.

New Speedway Boogie

The Record Company - New Speedway Boogie (Dead Covers Project) 2013
The Record Company

Chillin' this evening and this song comes on and I say (to myself I say)  'I recognize that tune'. Well, you oughta, it's been around since 1970, the year after I got out of high school, as if you care. It was originally done by the Grateful Dead. Songfacts has a few words to say:
"New Speedway Boogie" was written about the disaster at the Altamont Speedway concert in 1969 when the Rolling Stones hired the Hells Angels to work security. The lyric: "In the heat of the sun, a man died of cold" refers to Meredith Hunter, an audience member who was killed by the Hells Angels. Garcia referred to the concert as "...a nice day in HELL."

Cardboard Drones

Aussie company SYPAQ develops cardboard drones for defence of Ukraine | 7NEWS
7NEWS Australia

Via Defence Blog. Meanwhile I can't remember whether defense is spelled with a c or an s.

Tried and True

From Is America turning into Pakistan? by Cheryl Benard:

The man responsible for his demise was Zia ul-Haq, who became President via military coup in 1977. His turn in power ended in a mysterious plane crash in 1988, believed to have been caused by a bomb concealed in a box of mangoes.

From Blood of Victory by Alan Furst (p. 27):

He then introduced Goldbark, who rose graciously to speak just as a Turkish porter pounded on the door and hauled in a donation from Mahmoudov's grocery - a crate of fat, shiny eggplants.  ... [Explosion]


Depreciate versus Deprecate

I'm reading away and I come across 'deprecate'. I've come across it before and I sort of know what it means, but then I notice that it is spelled exactly like depreciate, except depreciate sticks an i in the middle. So now I wonder just what is the difference between deprecate and deprecate?

Bottom line: to deprecate is “to disapprove,” but in “self-deprecating,” it means, “to belittle.” In the world of computing, deprecated means “phased out” or “soon to be phased out.” Depreciate is for talking about loss of monetary value.

Monday, March 20, 2023


Hungarian Parliament Building

This is the largest building in Hungary. It took almost 20 years to build and was completed in 1904. I don't understand how big projects like this get started, much less completed.

The Age of Conspiracy


This post on PJ Media is so great I just had to steal the whole thing.

The Age of Conspiracy by Richard Fernandez

Perhaps the reason there are so many “conspiracy theories” is because individuals are seeking to explain phenomena that they find difficult to understand or accept. The tide of homelessness, the perceived betrayal of the institutions etc. are like Egyptian pyramids risen suddenly on the plain. Conspiracy requires two essential ingredients to exist: mystery and mistrust. If you see a familiar kind of deer in the woods it doesn’t set your mind churning. But if you see something you never saw before — or didn’t even think possible — when no existing theory of causation seems to fit, then you get to thinking up new ones.

Mistrust has been rising for a long time. A UN study found that “In the United States, trust in the national government has declined from 73 per cent in 1958 to 24 per cent in 2021. Western Europe has seen a similar steady decline in public trust since the 1970s. However current European levels of trust are not as low as in the United States.” Social mistrust is often correlated with hard times. Economic decline reduces confidence in institutions; lower confidence reduces the public’s participation in those very same institutions and the downward spiral continues. Once mistrust starts, it keeps going.

It’s fair to say that the “conspiracy theories” go both ways. Many Democrats think Republicans are working for the Russians. And didn’t you know?

  • Nixon: Sabotaged the Vietnam War peace talks to win in 1968.
  • Reagan: Encouraged Iran to hold on to US hostages to win in 1980.
  • Trump: Aided and abetted Putin’s covert attack on the US election to win in 2016.

This kind of thinking is understandable for exactly the same reasons of mystery and mistrust. The Democrats remember the good old days of FDR’s fireside chats, or the times when Walter Cronkite could say something and everyone would believe him. The present mistrust of the media, in this context, fills them with incredulity. To progressives, seeing Donald Trump in the Oval Office is like seeing a bipedal cryptid, nine feet tall and crowned with horns, in the woodlot behind your house. None of the regular explanations fit; they had to make up a new one. It must be the Nazis. It must be the Russians.

It must be the Other. Both sides are now bristling with extreme explanations.

But in a manner of speaking the rise of conspiracies mean that the current paradigm is now inadequate, because the Internet and social media explosion has created observables that can’t be explained away in the old manner any more. Just as the invention of telescopes revealed moons orbiting other planets,  what were once far-fetched ideas have to be incorporated into a new political orthodoxy, to reconcile them with the facts. They will eventually be resolved.

Going forward there are likely to be three kinds of conspiracies history must deal with: 1) the cons, 2) the heresies that turn out to be wrong and 3) the heresies that turn out to be right. The way to spot the “cons” is to follow the money. From this point of view it is actually climate change ironically that looks most vulnerable. Heresies that turn out to be wrong tend to get empirically weaker over time, while heresies that are ultimately right become gradually more accepted. The lab leak Covid origin theory may prove an example of a conspiracy that eventually proves true.

What used to be called “conspiracy theories” now characterize the way left/right, democrat/republican sides routinely regard each other. What’s worrisome is that both sides have hung up the phone. In a sense nobody cares about fixing the model any more, just getting even. And in the silence each side is thinking: “I tried, really tried to be reasonable. Gave you the chance to say sorry and you didn’t. Was even willing to include some of your points in the plan. I really tried. What happens next is your effin fault. Die MF. Die.”

Waterfalls of Money

Hector Falls - Royce L. Bair

In my post about Serebin I mentioned that their project was being funded by a 'waterfall of money'. Then I got to thinking about how impressive waterfalls are. There is just a torrent of water rushing by breakneck speeds. You keep your distance if you are smart because you just dip a toe into that stream and it's liable to jerk you off your feet and drag you to your doom. On the other hand you don't need to actually touch it, just standing near will get you soaked.

Government is like a whole series of waterfalls. Up top we have a reservoir that is constantly being replenished by the streams of imaginary money from the misty mountains of Mordor. Of course, we have an army of servents / slaves / true believers passing buckets of water up the hill to help to fill the reservoir, though I wonder why we bother since we can apparently get all the water we want from over the hills and far away.

The reservoir is up at the top of our mythical mountain. There is one big gate which controls how much water flows out. It's usually wide open and water is rushing out in a torrent. Occasionally Congress gets in a snit and threatens to close the gate, but its' not something I worry about. 

The torrent from the big gate falls into a big pool a little ways down the hill. This pool has a bunch of gates directing water / money to any number of industries, departments, companies or consortiums. These gates are also pretty much wide open all the time. Occasionally the flow in one or another might be restricted a bit and sometimes an old will be shut and a new one will be opened, though usually the newness is just a new name painted on the gate.

The streams from all those gates fall into smaller pools that also have a bunch of gates, and those streams flow into even smaller pools that also have a bunch of gates, and so it  goes on down the side of the hill until it gets to the point that a gate is directed solely into somebodies pocket.

However, each time water flows through a gate, it is going to give off a spray, as I noted earlier, you can get pretty well soaked just by standing near the stream. Those who are higher on the mountain are going to get the spray from the big streams so they are going to get very wet. Now imagine all that water is money. There are probably as many people standing by the waterfalls as there are people actually getting their pockets filled at the bottom of the mountain.

The thing about waterfalls is that they are all impressive. Big ones are more impressive, but even a small one viewed from up close is impressive, especially if you are thirsty. It's all a matter of perspective, i. e. how high you are in the pecking order. So project Serebin was working on was probably way down on the mountain, but viewed from an individual's perspective, it was still pretty impressive.

The government spent 6.27 trillion dollars last year. That's 200 thousand dollars per second. One second of that stream would undoubtedly make your life easier. I should also note that if we divided the 6.27 trillion amongst all the citizens we would each get like 20 grand.

Paying Bills


I get my internet connection from Ziply Fiber. I consider the price to be fairly reasonable - forty odd dollars a month. I got a notice this week that if I sign up for paperless billing they would knock $10 off my monthly bill. Cool, I can go for that. Normally I am adverse to having people suck money out of my checking account, but that's how I pay all my utility bills, so what's more piglet at the trough?

Got signed up for that, now I need to cancel the automatic payments I have set up at my bank. Point and click and scroll. I can find everything except how to cancel this automatic payment. I finally call my daughter and she points and clicks and in two seconds she has found it and boom! It's canceled.

I suspect businesses that run active websites keep changing things because they need to have people on hand to keep an eye on things, and if they don't have something for them to do they are liable to get bored and they might start looking for trouble, and that's the last thing we want. So every six weeks they revise the web site and anybody who was used to the old way gets to spend time finding their way around the new website.

I also got a refund check from my insurance company for $1.25. That's one dollar and twenty-five cents. I almost threw it in the trash, but then I realized that it probably cost the insurance company ten dollars to mail that check to me, so now I feel obligated to deposit it and close the circle. So I photographed the check using the camera in my phone, pressed the Share button, selected upload to Google Photos. Go to my computer, open Google Photos, open the images and crop them. Check the image size, they are like four mega pixels. Check with my bank, maximum image size is two MP. Cannot rescale them using Photos, but I can using the Chromebox imaged editor, so I download them, rescale them and upload them to the bank. The amount of time I spent doing this probably matches the ten dollars the insurance company spent so the scales are balanced and karma is preserved. 

I probably could have done all this from my phone, but there are only a few things I am comfortable doing with my phone, and anything having to do with money is not one of them. I also like having buttons that I can push. Touchscreens are amazing, but half the time it gets it wrong and then I have to spend extra time and concentration correcting it. Give me a $10 keyboard and a 20 inch display any day.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Shadow and Bone Part 2 - Netflix Series

Shadow and Bone: Season 2 | Official Trailer | Netflix

We started season 2 this evening. It promises to be just as good as season 1.

Serebin the Hero

Anya Taylor

I keep falling back to Alan Furst's stories about espionage in Europe on the brink of WW2, I'm just in that kind of mood. I see this picture and I realize this is exactly the kind of thing you would run into in his stories.
The book I'm reading right now, for the second or third (or fourth time?), Blood of Victory, follows one Serebin on his travels around Europe, running errands for the big shots (his betters?) who are plotting to disrupt the flow of oil from the Ploesti oil fields in Romania to the factories in Germany.

Serebin gets an allowance that is like three times the average clerk's wages, so he's fairly comfortable. He's not a big shot, but he's well supported. He spends his time going to meetings or one sort of another. Some are in a community hall, some are in bars and cafes, some are in private residences, and some of those meetings are with girls, like you might see in the picture above. Funny thing is I didn't really have any idea of what those girls might look like until I saw this picture, possibly because I don't recall Mr. Furst mentioning anything about furs. But I think this is the caliber of people we are dealing with. Beware, because grading caliber by appearance is only valid on a couple of scales, and really has no bearing on their loyalty or honesty which are really the only measures that count. But if you are operating at this level, at least some of the players are going to have this caliber of appearance. And certainly all the girls Serebin has relationships with.

So Serebin's life goes on, he travels across Europe, mostly on trains, and he meets people, stays at hotels and eats in restaurants, much like any traveling salesmen does now. (Are there still traveling salesmen?*) But eventually the big shots decide they have enough information and decide on a course of action. And who do they ask to do the job? Well, none other than their man on the spot, Serebin. Up till now he hasn't done anything really dangerous. Mostly he's just had to endure the normal bureaucratic hassles of having his papers checked by Nazi thugs every time he crosses a border. Remember, technically we aren't at war with Germany. Yet. He has traveled using false papers, but very good false papers. Remember, this isn't a budget operation. The powers that be are pouring a veritable waterfall of money into this venture because if it succeeds it could bring this war to a close before it really gets started.

Things are different now. There are liable to be people with guns who are going to try and stop him, if they somehow get wind of what he's doing, and because the people with guns are very aware of how critical this supply of oil is, are going to be very sensitive to the least little whiff of trouble coming their way.

But for Serebin, there is no hesitation. This is what he signed up for. Everything up till now has just been the equivalent of cleaning your gun and filling your magazines. Here we go. He's really just like James Bond - he's one of the good guys, he's competent, he's got a mission and he's going to do his duty. He doesn't plan on getting killed or seriously injured, but he realizes that is a real possibility, and he's okay with it and he goes ahead on.

* They cover less territory, see more clients, spend more money, earn more money and stay away from home less. Now, there are more customers than before with more income and more buying impulses and, as a result, there are now more traveling salesmen, an estimated one million according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. - The New York Times in 1971!

P. S. Anya Taylor was the star of Queen's Gambit.

Delivery Drones

Amazing Invention- This Drone Will Change Everything
Mark Rober

This guy is a little too bouncy and cheerful for my taste, but he brings some good info to the party, so I'll let him slide. He talks about two different delivery drones being built by Zipline. One kind is a quadcopter  that delivers packages to your backyard by lowering them on cable. The other is more like an airplane. This one is being used to deliver packages, including emergency medical supplies. They are doing this in, of all places, Rwanda. Rwanda? The country with a zillion dead Hutu and Tutsi? Apparently things have changed and Rwanda is now a relatively prosperous country. The BBC has a decent summary. Wikipedia has a very long and very tedious article. I read a couple of pages before I gave up.

Small Planes, Small Towns

Piper PA22 Pacer at Roy's Motel & Cafe

Roy's is in the 'town' or Amboy, California, population 4. It is roughly in the center of a triangle with Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix at the tips.

Rome Station, Oregon

Rome Station is the sole business in Rome, Oregon, population too low to count. It's equidistant between Portland and Reno, and just a little farther to Sacramento.

Peddling Across Norway

My Electronically Enhanced Gym

I've been riding an exercise back lately. I got tired of the built in videos that Peloton provides, so I thought I'd try YouTube. There might be a way to get YouTube on the Peloton screen, but maybe not. Not my Peloton, so I don't want to mess with it. Besides there's a big screen TV on the wall. I think the girls had the idea of turning this into an exercise studio, but I think I'm the only one using it. I'm using my laptop to play a YouTube video over the HDMI cable, and YouTube Music to play tunes using the headphone jack which is connected to an old soundbar I had laying around. Both audio and video are coming over WiFi, but the Peloton is connected to the internet with a wire. It's supposed to have WiFi but for some reason the WiFi doesn't want to cooperate.

The video is the view out the front of a train as it travels from Trondheim north to the Arctic Circle. It's 10 hours long. At the rate I'm going I should be there by summer. I posted a short excerpt from a trip from Birgen to Oslo.

I used to ride real bicycles outside in the real world and it was great, some of the time. Then my heart flaked out and I realized why it was only some of the time, so I gave it up. Also meant I wasn't out playing in traffic which always made me a little nervous. I mention this because I drove over to St. Johns today and because the weather was pleasant the bicyclists were out in force. I don't like having to watch out for them, it's a little nerve racking to be bombing along a country road and have a cyclist suddenly appear on the scene. Where there is a straight road without much traffic, it's not too bad, but the road to St. Johns (Germantown) is neither straight nor low traffic. Nobody in their right mind would take a bicycle up Germantown road, but today they were there, lunatics anonymous, peddling their little hearts out.