16 November, 2006

I love this town

File under a fit of self indulgence

Sanatorium sanctum lies a few miles east of a small town – here are a few things that are unique to the area

For starters, a few year ago some book proclaimed it as in the top 10 places to live in North America (number 6 actually) and number one in CA zzzz’s

The Doobie Brothers dedicated a song to it (On the Captain & Me)

We have a bit of last century Americana roadside kitsch

There is this place
City of 10,000 Buddha’s – used to be an insane asylum - no further comments

We also had one of the few Masonite plants (since closed, the aroma was not quite as bad as the pulp mills in Eugene Oregon or the Beet processing in Rigby Id, but it was unique)

we have one of these – one of 6 Latitude Observatory’s on this 3rd rock from sol
Photo from NOAA archive

In 1899 the International Geodetic Association reached an agreement to establish a program known as the International Polar Motion Service. Six observatories were built for the purpose of measuring the variations in latitude caused by the earth's wobble on its polar axis. These were all placed at 39 degrees 8 min north latitude (to simplify the computing, which was all done by ‘hand’) and were located here and in Gaithersburg, Maryland; Cincinnati, Ohio; Mizusawa, Japan; Charjui in Russian Turkestan; and Carloforte, Sardinia, Italy.

Economic constraints forced the closing of the Cincinnati observatory in 1932. The Charjui station was lost in World War I, and an observatory was substituted for it at Kitab, near Samarkand in the Soviet Union.

This one was used until 1977 and will be undergoing renovation one of these years as an educational resource for local schools

And the first Brew pub in CA since Prohibition (well, they started just south of here but the brewery is here now)

Speaking of Prohibition, We are one corner of the Emerald Triangle

There is also some infamy with the area, Jim Jones set up camp just north of here before going to Guyana and the Kool Aid binge

Bonus Round

I’m willing to wager a reasonable amount of the local brew(s)that your town does not have one of these!

located at N39° 8.951' W123° 12.453'

03 November, 2006

Airport insecurity part, er, whatever the next one is…

For a more detailed story please see link

As a video ‘pro’ one thing I learned early on was that a graphic was a graphic, as long as it wasn’t on too unique of a paper - if we wanted an extra back stage pass or two it was simple enough to scan and make our own and laminate as required, since then any paper or even lamented cred is easily scanned and duplicated

Since 1999 starting with Alaska Airlines you have been able to ‘check in’ to your flight from home and print your boarding pass – this and a picture ID that matches the name on the boarding pass will (as long as you don’t have that SSSS on the bottom of your pass) get you through security into the ‘sanitized’ zone as it is referred to these days.

The problem is, it’s a computer graphic file, anyone who has ever used Photoshop or any other image editing/creation tool can immediately see that it is not difficult to alter the image, couple that with the realization that there is no cross checking of boarding passes at the initial security checkpoint with any of the flight manifests, let alone even a simple body count – so, what happens when someone points out how insecure it is?

Well, as Bruce Schneier wrote about back in 03 and has been written and spoken about several time since then to no response, one could likely infer that this is ‘not an issue’

So, if you are a security concerned citizen and flyer and want to illuminate this gaping flaw, what happens if you gin up a quickie bogus boarding pass generator on the web?

Well Christopher Soghoian did just that last week - and guess what?

You get your door busted down and your computers and personal belongings confiscated, does not matter that even o’l Chuck Schumer point out this particular vulnerability.

The person who commented about the emperor’s lack of clothing is the one explaining – and fighting for their freedom and property, this is flat out wrong!

- what about the people responsible for the existing policy? Um, nothing yet, and I don’t recommend holding your breath

And this particular idiocy can not even be credited to the current administration!

The Airlines created the policy!


To keep folks from re-selling non refundable tickets

Back in 1996!

That’s right folks, the most significant security barrier in air travel today was not implemented to provide better security, is not designed to protect you - or even your aircraft, it is designed to allow the carriers to renege on already paid for seats.

So, in little doses

You present a boarding pass and photo ID that match – you are into the ‘Sterile Zone’

The boarding pass you present at the gate (usually without any photo ID) does not have to match the one you presented at the insecurity check point, it just has to match the flight manifest – and there is no cross check!

And I’m supposed to kowtow to Homeland Security? How about when they show some?

Since September 11th 2001 I’ve lost more personal electronics and tools in checked luggage on domestic flights than 20 + years prior

Anyone else see anything wrong?



29 October, 2006

Format wars – Consumer Video

Format wars – Consumer Video

(O.K, I know, it’s been over two weeks – I do have a life)

For those of you old enough (and most of my 5 readers are) the Beta vs. VHS format wars on the home front along with the much smaller market of VideoDisk vs. PhonoVision and the DVD vs Dvix

Now there is a another battle looming between the “Blu-Ray” and the HD-DVD camps, for those of us who live outside of the larger DMA’s and for whatever reasons don’t have a DTH dish the only way you will see a true HD picture for some time is going to be from one of these.

One of these (Blu-Ray) uses a higher frequency laser with a shorter wavelength (4050 Angstroms) than the current DVD (and CD) of 6500 Angstroms so the cost of backwards compatibility and retooling of existing manufacturing means the dual layer HD-DVD will hit the market first and at a much lower initial cost.

Blu-Ray has the edge in storage, currently at about 50GB capacity for a single layer vs 30GB for dual layer HD-DVD and potential exists for multi layer capacity of over 100GB with is enough to store over 100 hours of standard definition video – all of the original Star Trek including bloopers and outtakes on one disk anyone?

If we go back to the Beta vs VHS wars there were several factors that contributed to the outcome

Betamax was a (marginally) better format, based on a ¾” industrial transport and threading scheme scaled down to a ½” form factor - also used in the pro BetaCam. Initially the consumer format limited to 1 hour per tape (BI on 500M) then BII had two hours but with a noticeable degradation and then eventually BIII with a tape speed so slow you could edit out commercials without a glitch during recording with the pause switch, initial consumer units were Mono for some time and until BetaHiFi the standard audio was nothing special and at BIII was awful.

VHS was cheaper to make, the modified M wrap is a less precise mechanism than Beta and the quality was never quite as good as the equivalent Beta although the SVHS format was quite good for its day it only showed its advantage if the tape was recorded from a
S-Video source (and displayed on a S-Video input monitor) and no rental distribution tapes were ever recorded that way. VHS had two other advantages, it started with two hour capacity so most movies could fit on one tape, and one of the dirty little secrets of the video rental industry – there was porn on VHS and not on Beta.

So the real driver of this battle will be the content providers, if you search the ‘net you will find 1000’s of hits for HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray, funny thing is most of them are over a year ago debating the ’05 holiday season – the content providers are reluctant to release their product in HD without some control over copying – a loosing battle.

09 October, 2006


Got a set of questions from a gate keeper at some 800lb gorilla of a company on at least it’s 3rd attempt to control a portion of the glass teat (nod to Harlan Ellison), makes one wonder just how anything gets done there

1) What are the NTSC & PAL frame rates?

NTSC (color) is 29.97 Frames per second (Monochrome - B&W) is exactly 30 Frames per second
PAL (and SECAM) is 25 Frames per second

2) Are you familiar with Telecine?
an open question, a Telecine is a device for transferring motion picture images from film to video, when transferring to PAL from the typical 24 Frame Per Second (actually, modern film is "double shuttered" each frame is projected twice for 48 images per second) there is a one to one movie frame to video frame correspondence slightly slowing the run time of the film when viewed, for transfer to NTSC (other than film shot as Todd AO which is 30fps) a 3:2 pull down sequence is used where alternating frames of movie are 'written' as 3 fields then 2 fields maintaining a realtime correspondence between the movie and video

Most MPEG encoders have an 'inverse telecine' function where repeated fields are detected and only process the first instance of the image

3) What is full D-1 resolution for NTSC & PAL?
the question is not correctly phrased and shows ignorance of the subject matter at hand - thanks for playing - don't call us, we'll call you

image resolution is the result of a combination of factors determined primarily by objective size, lens MTF (Modulation Transfer Function), Imaging device type and size

D-1 is an un compressed component digital video tape format that records a 270Mbps serial digital stream

this stream specification is correctly specified as ITU-R BT.601 (formerly known as CCIR 601) or SMPTE 259M and supports both PAL and NTSC line and frame rates (PAL is 625 lines including Vertical blanking, NTSC is 525 lines at the frame rates noted above) sampling the luminance at 720 (with at least 8 bits of resolution) and the two chroma difference values (at least 4 bits of resolution) at 360 times Per line often referred to as YUV 4:2:2 encoding

4) Are you familiar with H.264?


we'll see if I get a call back, until then, I’m not holding my breath

27 September, 2006


Real World is sucking most of my time at the moment, I’m working on some upcoming entries when I can, until then browse on over to the latest Skeptics Circle over at Salto Sobrius – don’t forget your tinfoil hat!

15 September, 2006

Science in Action

Astronomy text books have been re-written a few times since I last took an astronomy class (back when the Steady State Theory was leading - OK so I’m dating myself, nothing new, move along now) one of the enduring unsolved questions that has interesting implications (as well as more than a few tenures and seats at various institutions of higher learning) is how galaxies maintain their shape.

Galactic rotation curves

I won’t go in to the messy math details but it boils down to this, either our understanding of gravitational effects at galactic distances is inadequate or there must be several times more mass distributed throughout (and beyond) a given galaxy than can be inferred from observation in order for the galaxies to maintain their spiral shape for more than a rotation or two.

According to our understanding of gravity as described by Newton, the further a given star is from its galactic center the slower its orbital velocity should be. This holds true at the solar system level, where from Mercury out each planet’s (and minor planet’s) solar orbital velocity diminishes according to F=ma, when these velocities are plotted they produce a smooth diminishing curve. However, when the motion of stars orbiting at different distances from a galactic center are plotted something strange happens, at some point the curve flattens and the stars near the edge of the galactic disk have the same orbital velocity as those closer to the center maintaining the spiral structure over many galactic rotations.

Dark Matter

The current leading theory invokes something called dark matter, a so far invisible, undetectable theoretical construct that (allegedly) makes up at least 80% of the matter in the universe – the implication of this is that we can only account for 1 out of 5 parts of the universe around us – that means for every star we see, every planet we can infer there is the equivalent of at least 4 times as much mass somehow hiding in plain sight.


One heretical alternative named MOND (for Modified Newtonian Dynamics) was explored back in 83 when Mordehai Milgrom published 3 papers in volume 270 of The Astrophysical Journal that were received with thunderous…


Since then it has been attacked and ridiculed but no one has so far proven it wrong, it has recently attracted some renewed interest and has been expanded by Jacob Bekenstien into a MOND theory called TeVeS – acronym for Tensor, Vector and Scalar that describes how matter and energy react with space and time and can explain the phenomenon of gravitational lensing. First predicted by Einstein and given as the first proof of general relativity when during a solar eclipse the apparent position of a star ‘behind’ the sun was displaced by the amount predicted.

In the next few years one of these two theories will be consigned to the “nice try” bin along with luminiferous aether (although a modern replication of the Michelson Morley experiment with current state of the art instruments would be interesting) and a few academic careers – but that’s what happens in science as opposed to faith.

And the debate continues, a recent paper suggests that the x-ray halo surrounding the colliding galaxies 1E0657-556 (the bullet cluster) is direct evidence of dark matter. The two galaxies are ‘colliding’ (passing through each other) at 10 Million Mph and there are some interesting lensing effects – that some researchers infer as caused by dark matter.

Personally, I have a gut bias against invoking something (dark matter) that can’t be seen or detected, on the other hand Newton’s laws hold up remarkably well and by invoking dark matter can explain the rotation problem - however, if someone tells you that we know all about gravity and the electromagnetic spectrum gently ask them to explain the two slit problem.

However the answer turns out - that is the beauty of the scientific method

07 September, 2006

Who’s the UbberNerd?

Open challenge – somewhere out there are an elite few who scored higher, I bow to those few

I am nerdier than 99% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Arising to Janet's challenge – and ably answered by PZ and Orac among others and no I can’t top PZ’s portrait

1 yah, punched cards, learned COBOL, watfour, watfive, FORTH etc but due to the slowness of the hardware any real time work was done in machine code – same with FORTRAN and promptly forgot all of it when no longer needed, although a FORTH program was pointing the telescope up until a few years ago

2 build computers from liquid cooled over clocked game screamers to resurrecting discarded 286 & 386 for Linux projects

3 did the Rings and Dunes in my teens but was more influenced by Eric Frank Russell, Heinlein & Clarke than Tolkin or Herbert

4 I traveled with a Silent 700 terminal, logged on from payphones in airports circa ‘79

5 not much of a D&D or any of the role playing games however at onetime a bit of a FPS junkie and still grab the occasional fractional hour of yoke time on the flight sim

6 ditto on the trinkets although I did have a Revenge of the Jedi poster and a few tidbits from Sprocket Systems

7 At one point in time had all the original Star Trek on ½” eiaj reel to reel video tape, then on Betamax

Speaking of Beta…

8 still have 3 functioning SuperBetaHiFi decks and an industrial beta deck and a few hundred tapes

9 without implicating myself or former coworkers, lets just say we had access to ‘preview copies’ of the original 3 Star Wars, Blade Runner (do androids dream of electric sheep?) Close Encounters and a few others, sometimes before the theatrical release

10 obscure brit SiFi – StarCops – one of the few shows that was technically accurate with regard to space & the moon – had a great theme song

11 comics, outgrew the typical ones once I hit puberty however I have all the FFF Brothers, Crumb, and a few boxes of various underground comics from the late 60’s through the 80’s along with all the Calvin & Hobbs, Shoe, Bloom County and of course Doonesbury

12 I’ve had a three letter @ email address since the mid 80’s and the same domain since 91

02 September, 2006

Further adventures in air travel

AirTran Flight 47 1 September 2006

With a larger than normal crowd at Atlanta airport the Friday evening before the long holiday weekend Just checking in to the flight was an exercise in standing in lines, once actually checked in there was some minor gate shuffling after the pleasantly brief security check.

Flight was scheduled to depart ATL at 2122 arriving in San Francisco at 2347, which would mean I’d get home about 3am – ‘wheels up’ didn’t actually happen until 45 minutes after that, not too bad for the typical Friday delays

About two hours into the flight the pilot announced that we were diverting to Denver, seems there was a passenger (male, mid 20’s and looked to possibly be Malaysian) who was behaving strangely, he went in to the bathroom with one of his bags and was in there for a long time and making some strange sounds and refused to come out, then they forced the door apparently was sniffing something and had acted suspiciously moving something between his bags, - for some reason he had bags on both sides of the overhead and had pulled the ear buds off the headphones exposing bare wire – this was several rows behind me so I did not witness that incident until they escorted him back to his seat and then kept getting up and getting in to his bags – I’m trying to find something in the news .

All I can find so far is this http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/09/02/saturday/index.html?section=cnn_latest

Scroll to the bottom

We actually landed at 0300 and I think there was only one baggage ape on duty – made it home at 0600

(From the CNN link above)

AirTran captain diverts flight due to 'unruly passenger'

DENVER, Colo. (CNN) -- The pilot of AirTran Airways flight 47, en route from Atlanta to San Francisco, made an emergency landing Saturday at Denver International Airport after a male passenger "was acting in a bizarre manner," Tad Hutcheson, vice president of AirTran Airways marketing and sales said.

During the flight, some of the 99 passengers on the Boeing 737 became "nervous" after a male passenger collected air sick bags throughout the plane and then walked to the front of the cabin, where he then paced back and forth in front of the bathrooms, Hutcheson said.

"He'd go in the lavatory and come out, and go in and come out and the flight attendant said please return to your seat," Hutcheson said. The passenger, however, did not listen to the crew's directions and the pilot was notified.

The captain then requested an emergency diversion to Denver, where he landed at 11 p.m. MT (1 p.m. ET).

The plane sat on an isolated tarmac while Denver International Airport Police boarded the plane, arrested the man and removed all his luggage, Hutcheson said. The man is being held in police custody.

All passengers on the plane remained on board and, after a new flight plan was mapped and the police searched the aircraft and gave the "all-clear," continued on to San Francisco.

Flight 47 is expected to arrive in San Francisco at 12:30 a.m PT (3:30 a.m. ET), approximately an hour and a half late, Hutcheson said. (Posted 2:46 a.m.)

As per my past experiences the news report and personal observation are a bit at odds but at least some parts jive.

And I’m back to ATL on Monday…

29 August, 2006

Odd Jobs

Traveling this week, Atlanta

On one of my few forays outside of “TV” I worked for an analytical instrument company that made some interesting lasers and laser based instruments (this is late 70’s) – with one YAG model you could get several watts of power – continuous, they also made a flash lamp pumped tunable dye laser that depending on frequency could give instantaneous peak power levels of a few thousand watts – one cool trick with that one was to tune the beam to a maximum absorption frequency of a specific ink and ‘zap’ that and only that ink away – the paper would twitch as you actually creating tiny explosions as the pulses would vaporize the ink.

This was before practical solid state lasers so they all involved glass tubes - either gas or a rare earth doped rod or liquid die – the smallest one I had was an alignment laser that was about the size of a large beer (think Fosters) and required AC power – and was just the thing to drive our cats crazy, I could have them climb half way up the wall trying to catch the beam – or hit the stop sign from a block a way – just as a car approached late at night.

Actually did some real science, we measured the distance to the moon a few times with pulsed laser, some of the Apollo landings left what are known as corner reflectors, they return a reflected image in (almost) any direction directly back to the source, we’d mount the laser on the scope and track the moon and (once we found one) measure the time between the outbound flash and the reflection – divide by the speed of light and there you go.

The tricky part is the ‘beam’ is only a few meters in diameter – at most, and each pulse is only 20 meters long or so, so hitting the reflector is as much luck as it is skil.l

It took several ‘negative results’ evenings before we got our first hit, once we had recalibrated the tracking and made minor adjustments to the scope mount we could get consistent returns once we found the reflector but finding them is difficult.

18 August, 2006

Television History part one

HDTV Production Truck

For all of you out there who work in or watch “TV” did you ever wonder who invented it? A brief, non technical history and minor Who’s who of the folks who helped couch potatoes everywhere.

Now, obviously today’s TV in all its digital high definition, PVR’d and PVP’d glory is the result of hundreds of different inventions and developments - most of them by corporate teams. But there are a few who developed the initial inventions that made the dream of Distant Vision – television possible.

As early as 1827 Sir Charles Whetstone describes image scanning and also coins the term microphone (audio, that bastard stepchild of video that makes it work) – this was 50 years before Emile Berliner actually gets around to inventing one.

Baird & Televisior

Various mechanical devices were developed in the early 1900’s cumulating in 1925 with the Scottish inventor John Logie Baird’s Televisior producing the first recognizable face and in 1927 Herbert Hoover was the first American president to appear on “TV” – the camera is actually a mechanical device with spinning wheels and the display is square-pixel flat-panel video screen.

But arguably the one man who brought television out of the 19th century mechanical world into the electronic 20th century is a self taught math wiz whose work in a small lab on Green Street in San Francisco laid the foundation of all subsequent developments in electronic television including computer displays. Yet I’m willing to bet most readers (all three of you) have never heard the name, Philo T. Farnsworth.

This Saturday (19 August 2006) marks the 100th solar orbital anniversary of his birth

- Thanks Philo, it sure beats digging ditches!

  • The Mercury News

  • The definitive Philo site

  • Another unknown name is the man who lead the team that developed the first commercial Video Tape Recorder that is the direct ancestor of your TiVo. Yes PVR’s are a lot smaller and have a much better user interface than the 1000 above but at the basic level they are identical in the core function, that is to record and play back synchronized pictures and sound – one name from that team almost everyone will recognize even if most under 40 will think of the musician not the engineering student who worked on the team led by Charles Ginzberg

    - the engineering student? Ray Dolby who goes on to found the company that bears his name and provides the audio processing that gives us “Dolby AC-3 5.1 surround sound”

    - the musician? Thomas (Blinded me with Science) Dolby

    And no, despite rumors to the contrary, I’m not in the picture above

    article from Mercury News link above - reposted with permission

    Philo Farnsworth, TV's invisible inventor, was born 100 years ago

    By Frazier Moore
    AP Television Writer

    Fish don't know they're living in water, nor do they stop to wonder where the water came from.

    Humans? Not much better, as we share a world engulfed by television. And the deeper our immersion becomes, the less likely it seems we'll poke our heads above the surface and see there must have been life before someone invented TV.

    That invisible someone was Philo T. Farnsworth, who was fated to live and work, then die, in sad obscurity. Now, on the centennial of his birth on Aug. 19, 1906, his invention plays an increasingly powerful role in our lives -- with less chance than ever of him being recognized.

    How ironic! In this media-savvy age, not only should his name be as widely known as Bell's or Edison's, but his long, lean face with the bulbous brow should be as familiar as any pop icon's. He should be the patron saint of every couch potato. Instead, we regard TV not as a man-made contraption, but a natural resource.

    Nonetheless, it was Philo Farnsworth who conducted the first successful demonstration of electronic television.

    The setting: Farnsworth's modest San Francisco lab where, on Sept. 7, 1927, the 21-year-old self-taught genius transmitted the image of a horizontal line to a receiver in the next room.

    It worked, just like Farnsworth had imagined as a 14-year-old Idaho farm boy and math whiz already stewing over how to send pictures, not just sound, through the air. He had been plowing a field when, with a jolt, he realized an image could be scanned by electrons the same way: row by horizontal row.

    The prodigy at his plow had already made a fundamental breakthrough, charting a different course from others' ultimately doomed mechanical systems that required a spinning disk to do the scanning. Yet Farnsworth would be denied credit, fame and reward for developing the way TV works to this day.

    Even TV had no time for him. His sole appearance on national television was as a mystery guest on the CBS game show ``I've Got a Secret'' in 1957. He fielded questions from the celebrity panelists as they tried in vain to guess his secret (``I invented electronic television''). For stumping them, Farnsworth took home $80 and a carton of Winston cigarettes.

    In 1971, Philo Farnsworth died at age 64.

    But his wife, Elma ``Pem'' Farnsworth, who had worked by her husband's side throughout his tortured career, continued fighting to gain him his rightful place in history, until her death earlier this year at 98.

    Fleeting tribute was paid on the 2002 Emmy broadcast to mark TV's 75th anniversary. Introduced by host Conan O'Brien as ``the first woman ever seen on television,'' Pem Farnsworth stood in the audience for applause on her husband's behalf.

    It was a skimpy challenge to the stubborn misconception that the Radio Corporation of America was behind TV's creation. This is a version of history RCA was already promulgating as its president, David Sarnoff, was plotting to crush the lonely rival who stood in his way.

    Ultimately, Farnsworth would go head to head with RCA's chief television engineer, Vladimir Zworykin, and a vast company whose boss had no intention of losing either a financial windfall or eternal bragging rights. With that in mind, Sarnoff waged a war not just of engineering one-upmanship, but also dirty tricks, propaganda and endless litigation.

    In 1935 the courts ruled that Farnsworth, not Zworykin, was the inventor of electronic television.

    But that didn't stop Sarnoff, who courted the public by erecting a wildly popular RCA Television Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair and, after announcing that the RCA-owned National Broadcasting Co. would expand from radio into TV, transmitted scenes from the fair to the 2,000 TV receivers throughout the city.

    Thanks to Sarnoff, money woes and the lost years of World War II (which put TV broadcasting on hold), the clock ran out on Farnsworth's patents before he could profit from them.

    Now, few even working in the industry that Farnsworth sparked know who he is. But one who does is Aaron Sorkin, the playwright, screenwriter and creator of ``The West Wing'' (as well as ``Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,'' a TV drama that probes the inner workings of a fictitious TV series, which premieres next month on NBC).

    A decade ago, Sorkin briefly considered scripting a Farnsworth biopic. Later on, he opted to write a screenplay that instead would focus on the battle between Farnsworth and Sarnoff.

    Then he decided a play would be the better form for this tale. The result, ``The Farnsworth Invention,'' will have a workshop production at California's La Jolla Playhouse next winter, with a possible New York staging in fall 2007.

    It's unlikely such a theater piece will make Philo Farnsworth a household name. But as Sorkin wrote in a recent e-mail, ``The story of the struggle between Farnsworth and Sarnoff seemed like a nice way to invoke the spirit of exploration against the broad canvas of the American Century.''

    The struggle between them was fierce and unfair. But in his sad fashion, Farnsworth won: The force unleashed as television was his doing, however blind the world may be to what he did.

    16 August, 2006

    Airport insecurity

    I’m on my way back from a brief trip to Mexico (left Monday at 3:30am, should get home about 1am Wed) for a demo as I write this – both jr Edge and Mrs Edge were still up watching horror movies when I left.

    Airport insecurity these days is, um ‘interesting’ is a polite way of expressing it, I got to SFO 2½ hours before my flight out Monday, cleared security in 10 min. (leaving me sitting in the terminal for two hours) coming back yesterday, I went through a open bag check in Monterrey Mexico as well as a full wanding and pat down, then in ‘shrub’ (George Bush International Airport) not only the usual immigrations and customs procedure but two additional security checks and bag scans, after several days of announcements that no liquids are allowed on board the gal in the seat across the isle has a full Wendy’s meal including a full soda! – when pointed out to the flight attendant, his only comment was “…they don’t look Islamic”

    09 August, 2006

    More Science Fun

    Over the years I’ve participated in some of the various distributed computing projects, first donating (few) spare CPU cycles from i286 & i386 machines on one of the Pi projects, then on to the classic SETI@home and now the current BOINC offerings. As cool as these things are they are mostly passive eye candy as a screen saver - however there is some real active science you can do at home – looking for Stardust!

    Check out

  • Stardust

  • The Planetary Society Stardust FAQ

  • The project uses Aerogel a very bizarre material, specifically it is a “Solid, Glassy Nanofoam” that is only a few times denser than air and has a unique property in that it can capture particles traveling at several miles per second and above. When particles traveling that fast strike any other material they simply convert their kinetic energy to heat and vaporize.

    The two Arogel collectors were sent to chase comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt" 2). Launched in 1999, one of the collectors was used to sample the cometary dust and one to collect interstellar dust – the collectors were returned to earth January 2006.

    Now that they have been imaged the fun begins, this is a unique distributed project in that your eyeballs are needed to process the raw data

    Check it out, have some fun and make a real contribution to science!

    31 July, 2006

    More of histories mysteries

    I’ve been neglecting my blog again - lots of travel of late and just about every trip has had delays, 20 hours to get to Denver from Sacramento, a day trip to Seattle that ended up being a 25 hour day – it does not matter which airline, what day of the week or where.

    Here are a few things that I’ve been following

    The Antikythera Mechanism

    Elias Stadiatos, a Greek sponge diver working off the island of Antikythera discovered the wreck of a cargo ship in 1900. The ship was loaded with luxury goods - statues, jewelry, pottery, fine furniture, wine and bronzes that dated to the 1st century BCE. However the most valuable find was a few lumps of a corroded green clockwork like device.

    Nothing like this instrument is preserved elsewhere. Nothing comparable to it is known from any ancient scientific text or literary allusion.

    Various attempts to reverse engineer and decipher the mechanism over the last 100 years have been less than successful however with the latest X-ray technology a group of academic researchers and Hewlett Packard scientists are rapidly teasing a wealth of detail that is changing all previous attempts to classify and reconstruct this fascinating artifact from the past.

    Check out
    The Antikythera-Mechanism

    The Archimedes Palimpsest

    Aside from yet another example of religion run amok The Archimedes Palimpsest is unique door to the past – check out the live webecast this Friday 1600 PDT (that’s 4pee emm for those of you who can’t deal with a 24 hour clock) for some real live science in action!


    Originally a manuscript by one of the greatest mathematical minds, the hide was scraped and rebound at right angles and overwritten as a Byzantine prayerbook, it was sold at auction to a private collector on the 29th of October 1998. The unnamed owner deposited the manuscript at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland where it has been studied, imaged and even the subject of a Nova episode

    Now, in collaboration with the Walters Museum, The Exploratorium is hosting the live webcast as the Palimpsest is subject to an intense scanning X-ray produced by the Stanford Linear Accelerator in an attempt to ‘see’ some of the original Greek text underneath gold foil that was applied by the previous owner in a vain attempt to increase the value of the Palimpsest.
    The Archimedes Palimpsest

    02 July, 2006

    Past lives

    No, not that kind - just the phases of lifestyles my path has taken.

    File this entry under a fit of self indulgence

    A bit over 30 years ago I found myself the managing resident in a communal home that had gradually passed out of a borderline Pentecostal cult with a strong personality driving the local congregation that had a network of (single sex) communal homes to just a communal home – the unifying factor for all the residents of the later population was a common experience at something called CREDO

    At the time CREDO was operated by the chaplains office out of the 11th Naval District HQ - I won’t bore the reader with details of that program other than to note it is loosely based on the Catholic Cursillo movement of the late 60’s and that at its core experience it is a long weekend in a isolated facility that is effective at dealing with interpersonal communication issues and is used as an adjunct resource for a variety of treatment programs including substance abuse - yet any given workshop would include a variety of folks – remember, this was a time when the protracted end of our involvement in Viet Nam was current - all of the participants had some sort of active duty connection either as the service member or dependent.

    How I ended up there

    For a while, in my post ‘south east asia fun and game days’ I wandered between various faiths but found only false prophets and disappointment that reinforced pre service personal awakenings that involved Pentecostals and (years before the Kool Aid in Jonestown, Guyana) Jim Jones and his former co-divinity student “Roland Chambers” (name changed) who both ended up in Mendoland – primary reason was because of the fallout maps of the cold war in the late 50’s early 60’s that showed this area as a ‘most likely to survive’ location in CONUS – Mr. Chambers even built a fallout shelter in his backyard (an 1,100 square foot tract home with a backyard that barely contained the 400 square foot shelter)

    Mr. Chambers was my 4th grade teacher for half a year (that was the year of the great Mustang theft and subsequent divorce of my Manic Depressive Mom from the alcoholic disenherated scion of the great something or other lumber, real estate & stock market patriarch) and later home away from home as his son and I started playing music together in high school – we were (way - way) pre cursers of to today’s ‘white punks on Christ’ then ‘eyes open’ after watching Jim Jones perform (hey, I studied ‘magic’ as in performance magic and was involved in theater - I know a cackle bladder when I see one) and the revelation that (perhaps, I did not witness it, so I can only relate what I was told by all three of the brothers) Mr. Chambers ‘had knowledge’ of his daughters as the biblical phrase is turned, these two blows along with a number of minor discrepancies between professed faith and actual lives caused me to examine my recent conversion and find it lacking.

    Skipping ahead a few years, as a horny young sailor with no local family the appeal of the communal lifestyle (even if under the auspices of this splinter Pentecostal sect) and access to lots of young single females was an overwhelming temptation until further revelation reviled the sordid truths about the cult and it started fragmenting. The owners of the last house I was living in didn’t care who lived there as long as the rent was paid and the place kept in shape.

    For the last year of active duty I was detached to CREDO as the A/V guy and started taking psychology classes, ended up doing some intake evals and facilitating the workshops and upon my release from active duty was offered a staff position – only trick was I could not leave one day in uniform and return the next in civvies – this lead to my first peacock network experience. The day after I was released from active duty I got a call from a technical recruiter about an interview that afternoon at one of the airport hotels for a short term (6 week) gig as the tech on the ‘news’ crew following candidate Carter around the last few weeks prior to the elections, I was hired on the spot and given 2 hours to pack my bag - but I digress from the ramblings at hand.

    The latter occupants of the 28th street house were an ever changing mixture of active duty and civilians, officers and enlisted, there were very few rules
    1. your mother does not live here, clean up your own mess
    2. public rooms are for public activities - unless you want to share
    3. pay your own phone calls
    4. if you take the last one, buy the next one
    5. no hard drugs or alcohol - unless you have enough to share
    6. weekly meetings coincided with the Sunday evening Dr Demento radio show

    it cost each of us less than $50 a month for rent and utilities for a 3 story house that had three separate apartments with separate entrances. After election I returned to the house after literality six weeks on the road. And commenced my job as a civilian at CREDO – until Carter started slashing the budgets that provided my paycheck and I left for the new tech Mecca of what would become known eventually as sillydotcom valley – shortly after there was the PSA jet crash that landed in the canyon behind the house and the final residents moved on. Some of us have kept in touch over the years and there were several marriages that have lasted to this day from various inmates of the Golden Hills Sanitarium.

    18 June, 2006

    Blogging from my front porch

    My Sunday ritual (when allowed – perhaps 5 or 6 time a year, I guess Fathers day qualifies) is to take my coffee and local Sunday rag on the front porch, I’ll usually finish the rag before the first mug - the New York Times it’s not – which sort of explains why I’m blogging from my front porch

    Sanatorium Sanctum lies near the end of the road about 3 miles from town and during the morning hours my front porch can be quite nice - at moment it’s a pleasant low 80’s (still in shade) but it will be likely reach into the 90’s before the day is out. Watched one of the cats chase something in the oak leaves on the hill, then the turkeys paraded through a bit later - that same cat, who adopted us a few years ago whom daughter christened Bart, later amended to PsychoBart, attempted a few times to attack the Turkeys – that and his wrath when not worshiped in a manor to his pleasure necessitated the amendment. My uphill neighbor (the Judge) just returned from his ride (victim of a mid life crisis, he bought a new HD sportster a few years ago, it balances out I suppose, his wife works in the ER)

    Last night we hosted a party for son (the rock god in training) at one of the local halls – 6 bands, about 100 showed up (based on the amount collected, but there were a bunch that didn’t pay) Punk-a-billy was the style (if you don’t know - don’t ask) – this is the 14 - 17 year old NorCal skateboard crowd, dressed and made up such that I could do a month of fugs if I’d taken the camera, scary enough looking that the straights avoided the crowd on the sidewalk, yet as polite and (mostly) courteous as one can expect from that age group in the best of behavior (just don’t go into the mosh)

    15 June, 2006

    Still kicking

    Well, I’ve woefully neglecting my blog for the last month, I can only plead work overload with too much travel.

    A few subjects have crossed my FOV this last month. First off, I’m on some strange email lists (beyond the mass that the first layers of filters catch). One of which is a conservative book and DVD club - filtered into the ‘right wing agitprop’ folder along with missives from the GOP and others (there is also a left wing agitprop folder as well).

    What caught my attention was the subjects selected

    Ann Coulter’s new ‘expose’ of the godless left where she proves Darwin wrong, regurgitating Phillip Johnson’s nonsense from Darwin on Trial and Reason in the Balance with help from Dembski of the ID movement. Not sure what credentials Ann brings to the debate but judging from some of her other recent comments she is nothing more than yet another entertainer hustling her latest book.

    And one on that medieval fraud The shroud of Turin purporting to prove that the radio carbon dating and McCone’s exhaustive visual microscopic exam (along with a confession of the forger) are all wrong - that it really is the burial shroud of hay-soos - this time it seems that the Carbon14 dating results was either the result of the fire and repair or perhaps by the transmutation (OK, sure…) and this nonsense about “3D” spatial information encoded in the 2D image – any image that has light to dark transitions can be interpreted as a “Z” vector value (i.e. the 3rd dimension)

    And of course the obligatory bashing of The DaVinci Code

    – look folks, its FICTION!

    And not very good fiction at that - it was loosely based on the since repudiated “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and nailed shut with the confession of Plantard back in ’96

    There is a good article on this over at this month’s Skeptichick
  • Bad History
  • by Dr. L Davidson

    As I’ve noted in a prior missive, my political persuasion can be best classified as a rational anarchist. This “right wing/left wing” nonsense is just that, unfortunately there are masses of people on both sides who have checked whatever higher level connections their neurons made at the bedpost never to be used again who actually plan their day around radio talk shows, who accept as gospel every word – including glowing endorsements for homeopathic nonsense and magnetic therapies

    Air travel these days, well, what can I say? last Friday night’s flight from ATL to SFO was supposed to get off the ground at 2030, wheels actually went up at 2350 (EDT) giving a landing time of 0145 (PDT), by the time I retrieve my checked bag, bus to Long Term Parking and dive home made for a full 24 hour day, not a happy camper

    Next week is the Society of Cable Engineers conference in Denver – as (once upon a time) a broadcast engineer, there used to be a bit of snobbery between the two – running joke on the broadcast side was “SCTE was last week, all three of the cable engineers got together…” And like all interfaces between such societies there was an element of truth. As cable has evolved the requisite knowledge and skill set has grown far beyond simple addition and subtraction and pulling coax – a modern cable plant not only provides about 50 analog channels, it also provides up to 250 channels of compressed digital programming, often using some fairly esoteric technologies like Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing on optical fiber and hybrid fiber-coax distribution to bring customers features like Video on Demand (any one actually use it?) Voice over IP (just don’t try and call 911) and high speed internet access – and the dirty little secrets the cable companies don’t tell you about, like logging every key stroke on the remote, every URL browsed, to targeted advertising – based on viewing habits, zip code and ‘other’ demographics – privacy?

    04 May, 2006

    The joy of business travel

    well, I might make it to Billings in with enough time to do the demo and hop back on a plane hope I make it back to SMF before midnight Friday, as it is I’m spending the night in SLC as a guest of Delta – got two $7 meal chits – after all the airport concessions have shut down for the evening.

    But for once I happened to have 2 large Guinness in my bag so I’ll manage to survive the evening

    as a CalifKid, reality is that one of the most important part of one’s identity most everywhere in CALI is your car.

    Exposed at an early age to the likes of my Dad’s MG TC, ’63 T-bird convertible, ’64 Mustang, (– back story follows below)

    Folks who grew up in areas where local transportation is available or distances are walk able have no clue what wheels mean to a California kid, there is little in the way of public transport in most areas and the geographical area of Ca is large.

    Another early influence was Dr. SI Hayakawa’s The sexual symbolism of the American automobile from the early ‘60

    One of the few perks of my life is I get to drive a lot of different (rental) cars – in the last month I’ve driven a mustang convertible, a Ford focus, Ford 500, Ford F-150 (hey, it was Houston, OK? I fit right in) Mazda MX3, Toyota Avalon.

    The mustang was my ride for a mendoland to palm Desert and return a few days after the rain finally stopped in CA – but as it was a mostly a straight blast down I5, it did not inspire enough confidence to push it on the twisty parts of Hwy 20 – other than some dermal inflammation due to excess solar radiation I have little to say about it except that after 40+ years they should be able to get rid of the ‘enk-enk’ of the front suspension when breaking, the top went up and down with only a touch of a button but took a few minutes to complete a full cycle – far longer than any stop light, the exhaust made a, well, interesting I guess is appropriate word, not the note of a big V8 but more of a 6 with some acoustic trickery, the acceleration and handling were nothing to get excited about and the gas mileage was only about 22 mpg – abet during long blasts at somewhat more than the posted 70Mph speed limit.

    the 500 was an interesting ride, it's not a crown vic, you will only get one normal sized goomba in the trunk and there is a disconcerting lack of ommph at mid speeds with discrete throttle input - mash it and it wakes up and the speedo spools to the right nicely but it's not subtle, the sun roof gave just enough air/noise at 70mph to be interesting but not obtrusive, handled like a smaller car and was light and responsive to steering input with good feedback, did not push it to breaking but handled nicely, averaged 26mph over the trip

    The focus and MX3 are just what they are ecconno boxes that when new work rather well but the most impressive car I have driven in several years is the new Toyota Avalon – while not my favorite type of ride I must admit it was not only was the most comfortable, best behaved vehicle I’ve driven some time (both on I5 and over the twisty parts of Hwy 20. It got decent (+/-30Mpg) gas mileage as well.

    Back story on the Mustang, when my Mom separated from my Dad, she not only took us 4 kids but his new ’64 Mustang, black with white convertible top, biggest FoMoCo V8 and a 4 speed Hurst shifter, I will remember that ride for the rest of my life – but then, Dad was a binge alcoholic and Mom was a diagnosed Bi Polar Manic Depressive, life was a lot of thing going up but it was never boring

    02 May, 2006

    NAB 06

    Year of the mergers

    (following paragraph is pure techno babble)

    Just prior to NAB several “Glom and devour” acquisitions (CISCO buys SA, Tandberg buys SkyStream, Avid Buys Sundance etc) MPEG 4 (H.264) HD STB are (almost) ready for deployment (I have emails promising me H.264 STB’s over a year ago, at least there were units on display that had real circuit boards and drives – but none were actually in use) more players looking at triple play (video, voice & data on one pipe)

    This year the housing deity was kind and I was ‘upgraded’ to a (moderately) high roller (the next to the top floor) in one of the larger, older, off strip, behemoth hotels – spent an hour and a half Tuesday morning getting my internet connection working and they have the gall to charge me 10 bucks a day for maybe a one Mbps connection.

    I guess I don’t fit the high roller profile, all I want is a bed free of other occupants, in room coffee, internet and a TV that gets PBS, Discovery and History,
    instead I get:
    – A room with an entrance hall for no apparent reason other than to have one
    – The main room was larger than some apartments I’ve had
    – A early faux 3:4 HDTV – with a crappy analog cable feed
    – a bathroom has three rooms!
    o why do I need a separate room for a toilet?
    o why would I want to talk on the phone when so occupied?
    o Why do I want to watch TV in the dressing room – but not the throne?
    o And why does the bathroom TV get a ‘normal’ channel lineup and the big one gets only the filtered hotel-o-vision (actually, I know the answer to that one but it ain’t nice)

    other than it seems like every restaurant that isn’t a all you can eat buffet has delusions of grandeur at least as far as prices, but I had a few meals where the per head tab was well into the three figures (heck one place, if you had a starter, main with a side and a desert you could hit 3 significant figures and with few wines under $100…)

    one the road once again, Houston then Billings

    18 April, 2006

    100th anniversary of the Great Quake in 1906

    lets face it folks – if you live in California (actually, the entire west coast) as I’ve noted prior, you live on or near a known, suspected or unknown fault – deal with it!

    The 1989 Loma Preita quake was one of those ‘life path altering experiences’ for me. Aside from missing the only air date in my professional career it also clearly marked my shift out of production and back into pure engineering as the quake managed to destroy my facility. For the next two years we were the ‘techno homeless’ as we designed and built a really very nice facility – as well as several iterations of temporary facilities in the interim. – lots more to that story

    Short entry for now, at the present I’m in Denver, then back to Mendoland, to Palm Springs, back to mendo and then the haj to lost wages for NAB

    14 April, 2006

    Defend Science

    Please check out
  • this site
  • and do as you need to. while we only have the fundamentalist religious right to deal with – at least so far they’ve not killed anyone over a cartoon – some of the soundbites from the religious right differ only in a matter of degrees from the imams. While science has its share of frauds and scoundrels it does tend to be self correcting – at least in the hard sciences (ones where you can measure and test), although it may take a while. Religious fundamentalism of any sort is dangerous to thinking.

    Back in the saddle again

    Home again in mendoland after a week in ATL for The National Cable Show.

    As “one of those” (tech nerd) trade shows like NCTA (mostly programming and regulatory) are not my true venue however when you have such interesting juxtapositions as the Gospel Music Channel stuck behind Hustler TV and next to Penthouse TV (O.K. - I’ll concede 2 points for ‘creative layout’ but I’ll say it again in case you didn’t read it the first time - ITS ALL SHOWBIZ!).

    The content shows do have the best swag though, for me the bet one this year is a nifty, tinny universal IR TV, Sat & cable remote, about the size of a half dollar, has only three buttons and two rocker (volume and channel up/down) switches but as far as I’ve been able to test (walking around the show and turning off or changing channels), so far worked on any set I’ve tried, great for the sports bar (got to watch Discovery) more fun than Mitch Altman’s
  • “TV off” fob
  • which just turns them off.

    Random show note, one of the stranger shows I’ve done is the NRB (The National Religious Broadcasters) convention, after all, everyone there is in a literal mission from god.

    Some observations, the bar was never crowded. They would congregate at the top and bottom of the escalator or in the narrow portions of the hall with no regard to anyone else’s desire for passage, after all, they are all on a mission from god.

    When coming in before the exhibits opened to turn up the equipment there was a prayer meeting going on in my booth (in tongues no less, while my language skills outside English are limited to ordering beer and inquiring directions to dispose of said. The former I manage to master in quick order, the latter has the universal sign language of jumping up and down on one leg and holding the required portion of my anatomy - for some reason its always down the hall to the left - and there are some who will argue that my mastery of English is not much better – suffice it to say I’ve heard a lot of different languages and that ain’t one that anyone else uses) and they all want it donated!

    06 April, 2006

    No one bothers the astronomer with a .44

    …at least, not more than once…

    don’t get me wrong, given the opportunity, I’m a coward – but read Hienlein’s definition before ye judge me

    One of my life long interests has been astronomy, initially specifically optical / photographic and then as technology advanced attempting realtime and compressed time video sequences of Halley’s comet and others since, and on to other wavelengths/energies above and below the narrow amount that we discern with our eyeballs. This interest has brought me to some ‘interesting’ places (isolated hilltops accessible only by 4x4, chain saw, winch and determination - funny thing, the same attributes are required for some aspects of my ‘day - job’) there are some other tools that should be considered for such work

    First and foremost - a Leatherman or other ‘multi tool’ - then a flashlight (I carry at least three, and two have red lenses - don’t you? – why not?)

    As I reside in one of the few counties in CA that is perhaps too permissive with CCW permits (Carry Concealed Weapon) its (IMNSHO) far too easy to obtain a one - I have had one from a former position in Santa Clara in the late ‘70’s when it was somewhat more difficult to obtain - with justification and qualification (company I worked for then did surveillance and access control systems for, um, well, ‘interesting’ places - including those where deadly force is authorized, and, as I was often a ‘first responder’ – “…hey, the video camera just went dead…” - -‘nuf said)

    I will admit however, since my Bien tui rod and gun club daze, having been shot at in anger, I’ve become a tad, um, ‘careful’ - ‘paranoid’ implies delusions that ‘they’ are out to get you, having been the target of someone who what doing his best to kill me changed my POV somewhat.

    I’ve packed (when possible) for the last 30 years or so - legal or not (I’d much rather be the one explaining why there is this dead body laying there than ‘be’ the body…) current ‘best friend’ is a model 36 Glock.45 caliber ACP (for Automatic Colt, Pistol – refers t the round it chambers), a ‘compact’ (relative term when attempting to carry concealed if you are of slight stature and have any fashion sense, one of which eludes me) but it should settle any arguments with some alacrity.

    If you make the decision to carry, there are a few details you need to come to grips with;

    First and foremost, a pistol (or a rifle) is not a magic wand (notice, I did not say ‘gun’ - having endured peer refereed remedial rifle drill I will never make that mistake again), it will not make anyone you wave it at do as you wish, it has but one purpose, to propel a metal slug via a chemical reaction, which usually results in a void where the slug passes through.

    If you present, your next action is to fire at the center of mass at the target(s) presented to you.

    In truth (to date) I had to present once since ‘those’ daze, I was the last one out, late at night in a very industrial area in San Jose, there were these two guys in a secluded area of the parking lot involved in some activity that involved a small blow torch in close proximity to their faces, who for some reason objected to my presence, when one approached me and presented a switch blade, I responded (rather awkwardly as ‘Gaston’ was in my backpack, dropping, unzipping and presenting was a bit of acrobatics that I don’t recommend under those conditions), however in this instance they decided it was their turn to be cowards – or, “…don’t’ bring a knife to a gun fight” – oh, Gaston has one of those nifty laser sights – way cool…

    A few other bits to note (us gun nutz are sticklers for proper nomenclature), unless you are shooting a M1 or a few other (rather esoteric and historic) firearms, you don’t have a ‘clip’ - you have (with most semi auto pistols) a ‘detachable box magazine’

    Where I live (when not ‘elsewhere’) rural NorCal, as such, it’s 28 miles in a straight line out my back door to the nearest ‘anything’ – road, house, ranch, whatever, we’re on the edge of ‘civilization’ as such is in NorCal, we’ve had large kitty sightings and I found one paw print between our house and our uphill neighbors (The Judge and The Nurse practitioner) – it was over 4” across and there were no other prints for 15’ feet in either direction, kitty was booking through…

    And the odd bear (Hey Hon, bring out the Ruger….(44 Mag.))

    The saddest thing is the deer (mostly fawns) that get hit by idiot drivers who then drive off and leave the crippled deer on the road, Gaston has helped more than a few.

    30 March, 2006

    One of history’s mysteries

    How & why did beer become a historically universal beverage?

    The why part is the easy one, because it gets you intoxicated - Making beer however, is nether a natural or intuitive process and to extrapolate lifetimes of trial and error happenstance that somehow cumulated in drinkable beverage is a true corundum, one of those problems where the end is known (how?) and the path there is not obvious – at least to my feeble collection of synapses that pass for a brain.

    Let us examine the steps required to make a simple brew

    First, you have to ‘malt’ some suitable grain (extract the natural sugars or precursors) - for some reason a lot of things fall in to the category of suitable grain, Barley, Rice, Corn, Rye, Wheat – that I’ve tried (for this exercise we’ll exclude Mead, wine and other ‘fruit’ based fermented beverages) this typically involves soaking and then cooking the mash to the point where all the fermentable starches and sugars are extracted from the grain and the resultant mash can be converted in to wort –this can take hours to weeks depending on the grain and the other prep work required.

    Then cooling and ‘pitching’ the prepared yeast – at the correct temp and then most deliberately containing in a pressure vessel and leaving the resultant concoction alone for anywhere from several weeks to months before attempting to drink. – this is not natural behavior for primates.

    So the question stands, what set of circumstances caused some human to set aside some fermenting mash (could not have smelled too good either) and then whatever in the world provoked them to drink it weeks or month later? ( I’ll bet it was a dare, - “betcha can’t drink this”) – once the genie was out of the bottle (so to speak,,,) the course is more obvious, but the question remains who were the first brewmisters?

    27 March, 2006

    Rabbit holes

    JFK, The Gemstone File, KAL 007, TWA 800, 9/11

    These events have had path altering effects on my life from the obvious travel related concerns to a three year hiatus in international work of any sort.

    As I sit here on the eve on yet another solar orbital anniversary (never mind which save to say if I was sipping Arminac of the same vintage it would cost me deep in the purse) the following comes to mind - To paraphrase (out of context) William Gibson

    Politics, acting with the death penalty

    (side note, his original title was “Singapore; Disneyland with the death penalty” – and it is)

    For me, my first journey down the rabbit hole was something called the gemstone file over 30 years ago (interesting document, some of it is/was actually verifiable) and over a decade of obsessing over the JFK assassination up to the point of lugging all the volumes of the Warren Commission and almost every other book written on the subject around for more than 20 years

    In the end the only conclusion I could come to was there was a conspiracy – and that was about it.

    for every election cycle I was cognizant of (and despite rumors to the contrary I was not quite old enough to vote for Estes Kefauver) and an intense 12 weeks following candidate Carter around for the peacock network it has occurred to me that for most races it is a matter of surface cosmetics between the candidates – little to no structural differences, when both go to the same BoHo Grove rituals and burn effigies and dance nekid in the woods, attend the same Bilberger group conferences, subscribe to the “the new world order” I came to the conclusion that its all show, modern day circus maximus to keep the great unwashed from asking important questions, to divert attention from the hidden agenda – the only problem I have is

    who’s agenda?

    14 March, 2006

    Random thoughts on a spring drive

    Drove from sanatorium sanctum in mendoland down to so-cal Santa Barbara, a pleasant 7 hour spring drive - hey, limited phone, can listen to what I want and no one bothering me? And all I’ve got to do is keep it between the dotted lines? - and I get paid?

    My first day at new job.

    O.K. I’ll admit it, I’m prejudiced and opinionated, having traveled and worked over a fair portion of this rock (mostly covered with water – there is lots of water, some of it is hard), I like NorCal (to be fair, I like major portions of real estate west of the Rockies and north of the Tehachapi’s) I suppose a major factor is my family has been in the area for a few generations. While the land may not be part of ones DNA, for me the sights, sounds and smells of childhood invoke powerful memories.

    Growing up in mendoland in the late 60’s was, um, ‘interesting’ is accurate but not nearly inclusive enough, suffice it to say I could not wait to get out of the area and due to various factors and choices spent the next 20 years ‘elsewhere’ before moving my family to Mendoland 15 years ago.

    I realized long ago that for me, there would always be a portion of my work that would have a location requirement of ‘elsewhere’ and indeed there has been a lot of elsewhere over the years. I was always one to push the edge and realizing that with laptop and connectivity, location requirements become relevant only for face time and hands on time, my personal epiphany came a decade ago when I was controlling two TV stations in Baltimore before the FCC and congress from my hotel room in Singapore.

    Recently, I’ve configured a 200 channel IPTV Headend from my living room sofa - and if you had been to the Headend, a environmental enclosure in a cornfield in very rural Kansas, closest ‘accommodations’ were 20 miles away with culinary choices limited to Sonic after 2000 and the best choice before was the Chinese buffet (that’s 8 pee emm for those who went ‘unh?’) you would want to be just about anywhere else anyway. On the other hand, I had a recent client in Atlanta who would not grant me remote access and paid full rate for two full days, air, car, hotel and meals for 40 minutes and one button push onsite – sold those stocks as soon as I could…

    Random, I tell yee, random!

    The tricks for me are finding the balance and leveraging chances to take my family

    I’ve avoided commenting on politics, for much the same reason as I avoid comments on religion, if forced to, I’ll admit to being an rational anarchist, small l Libertarian and will attempt to confound any attempts to pigeon hole me.

    My favorite uncle (great) was described as ‘a gregarious hermit who lived alone on a mountain, a tattooed pillar of the community, a gun toting long haired redneck organic sheepherder/rancher/farmer (who had been confined to a wheel chair for the last 20years of his life, the name of the award the local Business and Professional woman bestow each year is named in the honor of his wife – who died a decade before) for the last 40 years of his life they raised cherries, there are generations of folks who visited the ranch, feed the Emu’s and picked cherries and were only charged on what they had in the bags after an afternoon of climbing trees on a sunny summer afternoon.

    I said random

    Women have the rights to control their bodies
    Abortion is the termination of a potential person – this is a decision I can only face as a male and as such I don’t have much to say, I have been the shoulder cried upon.

    08 March, 2006

    Mortality, we’ve all got one.

    Was just informed of a long time friend and coworker’s passing

    posted with permission
  • Mercury News

  • Posted on Wed, Mar. 08, 2006

    Chung: Chu Lin paved path for journalists

    By L.A. Chung
    Mercury News

    Irascible, abrasive, utterly professional and exhaustingly demanding, Sam Chu Lin would have been hard to duplicate. And now that he's gone -- too soon -- at age 67, that high challenge is nigh impossible.

    The Sunnyvale resident died suddenly Sunday in Burbank, where he worked as a television reporter -- commuting, as he had for more than a decade, from the Bay Area. Locally, he hadn't been on TV since the mid-'80s on KRON-TV, but he was unforgettable.

    If you worked for Hewlett-Packard, you might have seen him as host of that company's in-house video magazine. His trademark bass voice was heard on KQED Radio's Pacific Time program and he wrote intelligently for Asian Week or Nichi Bei Times or the San Francisco Examiner.

    ``He is someone whom I was lucky to call a peer, but even more blessed to call a friend,'' Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta said in a statement. In Chu Lin, Mineta and U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, no doubt shared a history, a view of the world and a time-earned respect.

    Chu Lin's broadcasts on CBS News out of New York was the network's first word of the fall of Saigon. His discovery of the creators of Superman living in destitution brought them late-won money. And his tireless reportage for decades on the civil liberties issues of Asian-Americans loomed large in their lives. He interviewed presidents and world leaders. He was a son of Mississippi done good.

    Before Connie

    In the parlance of some, Chu Lin was also ``a pioneer,'' another word that both Mineta and Honda used. And indeed he was.

    Sure, a lot of us have heard of Connie Chung, and seen the legions of female TV newscasters her popularity begat. But Chu Lin was one of the first Asian-Americans in television news, along with Mario Machado and Ken Kashiwahara. As a high schooler who convinced his hometown radio station in Greenville, Miss. that he could find sponsors and host a show in 1956, Chu Lin was on his way when Chung was still in knee socks.

    And of course there was That Voice. Chu Lin had that ultimate broadcaster's voice -- deep, authoritative, commanding.

    ``When you were in a room with Sam, his voice preceded him,'' said Felicia Lowe, now a documentary filmmaker and then, in 1975, a young reporter at KGO-TV when Chu Lin came to San Francisco.

    Kashiwahara and Chu Lin were among the first Asian-Americans to rise to network news. Other things, however, came with being a pioneer. Chris Chow was a newcomer at KPIX-TV in 1971 when he first talked to Chu Lin over the phone, a sort of ``welcome to the business'' call. ``He said: `I hear you're doing well. I heard you've done a documentary on youth gangs. I hear you have long hair.' ''

    Tenacity and advice

    Then he said in Toisanese: ``Jeen tow fat'' or ``Cut your hair,'' if you want to make it in this business.

    Those were the days when Chinese-Americans were so few, they mostly spoke the same dialect and took a family-like interest in helping each other succeed.

    Chu Lin recalled proudly, when he was honored in Salinas by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance last year, how he persuaded Walter Cronkite to tell the story of Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, the forgotten creators of Superman.

    ``I will never forget visiting the shabby apartment of Joe Shuster,'' Chu Lin said. The story resulted in Shuster and Siegel receiving retirement benefits and having their creative bylines restored. It restored his faith that Superman once again stood for ``Truth, Justice and the American Way.''

    For Chow, no longer a journalist, Chu Lin's career echoed that well.

    He was, indeed, a son of Mississippi done good.

    RIP Sam

    For more than a decade Sam and I worked together producing a ‘video magazine’ for some sillydotcom valley icon and shared a level of personal intimacy (and for those dirty minds out there – you know who you are…) nothing physical – well, nothing beyond placing the lavaliere microphone. The intimacy that comes from spending 12 or more hours in a dark room hammering out something resembling a sow’s ear out of spun gold to mangle a metaphor or three, from doing the endless takes in the announce booth and “walkie talkies” on location and the inevitable editorial changes from on high.

    Always the consummate professional (there was a antidotal report of a mistaken celebrity identity incident in LAX that possibly triggered aberrant news pack reactions but as I was not there I won’t vouch for it). He was gifted with a set of pipes that commanded attention with the education and discernment to use it well.

    Thanks to Sam I have an audio tape of Sir Author C. Clarke saying hello to me personally - a bit of my own hero worship frustration as there had been an opportunity to interview Sir Author in person that for various reasons (local revolutions, economic down turn, piddling things) did not work out.

    I last worked with Sam in the early 90’s, we kept in loose touch for a long time and about a year ago started threatening to ‘do lunch’ damm.

    My deepest condolences to the Chu Lin family

    04 March, 2006

    O.K, so I've been busy

    Ack, its been almost a month - somehow I find myself once again in 'max' mode, the esoteric techo world I inhabit has gone hot once again and doing my best to avoid a “dooce moment”, names have been redacted so the last week went something like this

    Sunday evening DD decided to cause undue angst and I did not make it to bed before 0130 with a 440 wake up for a 1000 meeting at a partner site, with the storm and traffic it took 5 hours to drive.

    Turned down one offer (company called Xxx - does IPTV for rural telcos - base pay was embarrassing for the amount of work required and commission does not in and of itself motivate me) have an attractive one on the table from XXX in Hotlanta (they don't want me to move but I would be traveling some) and current contract has gone into panic mode and now wants to make an offer - this is after downsizing me while on vacation last Sept and calling me back for 'consulting' a month later

    Tuesday was ever so much fun, starting with a 0630 flight to sandy egos that airport insecurity made sure I missed (even though I had my boarding pass and got to the security check in line almost an hour before departure, I got singled out of one of those closer searches and missed scheduled flight down - they had all sorts of fun looking through my bag - almost as much as I had putting everything back in) to weather delays on the return (which was one those good things as I actually make the flight I booked even though I didn't make it to the gate before scheduled departure). Made it back to sillydotcom valley at the time the last flight should have landed

    06 February, 2006

    Was there a game yesterday?

    Did not watch the game, even the $2M commercials and in general don't follow sports.

    Last week I was asked by local paper "question woman" what my favorite winter Olympic sport was, my reply " …having worked several Olympics the favorite crew event is how many wine bottles we can snatch from the celebrity table"

    and they published it in Sunday’s paper

    30 January, 2006

    Old News

    A long time friend of mine who defines Marin New Age recently sent me the following
  • link
  • as if it were recent revelation

    Googling some of the relevant names reviles a history of fantastic promises the never seem to be delivered.

    The interesting part is that there is a real ‘Zero Point Energy’ – google ‘Casimir effect’

    anyway, my reply;

    um, hate to be the one to point out that's talking about four years ago and he's still not produced a working model - I agree it would be a really great thing but he's got to prove it and so far he's yet to produce one.

    Just because he managed to secure a patent does not mean it works.

    The Casimir effect is real (Zero point) but does not seem to have any relation to Bearden et al and at any distances we've been able to achieve the effect is barley detectable and measurements are only within 15% to 25% of the calculated value but it is an effect taken into account on the nano scale world of microelectromechanical systems

    "For two perfect, plane, parallel mirrors in a vacuum the Casimir force is therefore attractive and the mirrors are pulled together. The force, F, is proportional to the cross-sectional area, A, of the mirrors and increases 16-fold every time the distance, d, between the mirrors is halved: F ~ A/d4. Apart from these geometrical quantities the force depends only on fundamental values - Planck's constant and the speed of light."

    the 16x increase in force for every halving of distance is interesting -

    now, if/when someone comes up with a method of achieving proximity on the order of 10nm then the force is equivalent of one atmosphere (1.033kgf/cm2) and you can start to do some interesting things but that's on the order of 100 times the diameter of an atom - tricky...

    28 January, 2006


    Those simple initials mark the annual haj that I’ve embarked on for over 30 tears now (I think I’ve missed 4 or 5 over the years) and right now about evenly split between ‘Exhibitor’ and ‘guest’.

    NAB and it’s international cousins IBC and Communications Asia are where the software, hardware and services are sold to the folks who sell you everything you see or hear on your TV or radio.

    The National Association of Broadcasters annual convention has recovered from the post 9/11 slump and last year was once again well above the100,000 attendees mark. While it does not have the pure marketing hype of, say a CES (Consumer Electronics Show) or Comdex the amount of hardware (more often than not these days it’s a black box in a rack) is truly impressive

    As an Exhibitor, I’ve usually been the technical lead on booth and depending on who I was working for a the time can become an all consuming time suck starting after New Years and cumulating at the strike of show in late march or April with the final few days before the show opens reaching 26 hour days, and if all goes well it’s finished the night before it opens.

    There have been times when it did not go well.

    Once the show opens, if I’m an Exhibitor, I’m usually the first one in and the last one out each day and in between answering technical questions and meetings.

    As a guest, the schedule is one of my choosing, however the times when I’m not on the exhibit side I’m walking the show as a Chief Engineer or systems integrator, and it’s a big show to walk and at times the entire show is not long enough to see everything I wanted to see – in either instance I’m on my feet all day and talking all day.

    Various NAB’s over the years have made indelible memories

    - after seeking special dispensation from the over master of the conference I came in at 3:30 the morning before the show opened. I had been working for an innovative silicon valley company that had recently been acquired by one of those military industrial conglomerates that we were warned of so may years ago – needless to say there was a steady hemorrhage of experienced people but I digress - other than to note that said conglomerate at the time could provide everything from the cameras and microphones to towers, transmitters and dishes and everything in between. I had the largest dish in the parking lot, the latest in 1” video tape machines and rolled tape on the launch of maiden flight of the space shuttle. When it landed on the last day of the show the entire convention center came to a standstill as everyone crowded around any booth that had a feed then spontaneous applause and cheering when wheel stop was announced – I still have the original tapes.

    - There was the classic time some bum (literally, he just walked in from the street -although I’ll be the first to admit that in a crowd of broadcast engineers he did not stand out) walked up to the podium where President Regan was accepting a large glass award, snatched it out of his hands and proceeded to smash it before the Secret Service tacked him.

    - the year the two students went on their rampage in Columbine every bit of ENG gear and truck disappeared

    - or years later when our government barbecued 80 some of it’s citizens (admittedly probably not the best neighbors but there was no justifiable reason for what happened) mostly woman and children (stepping down from soapbox)

    - the last year NAB was in Atlanta was interesting as there was a Grateful Dead concert at the same time. Made for some interesting interactions between the suits and Jerry’s kids - but after 4 days of being panhandled going to and from the Omni center and finding a large psychedelic sticker on the windshield of the rent a car finally prompted me to put in a Doors tape and smoke the tires as all the tie dyed scattered. There was also a somewhat amusing interactions with some of the locals the first day, I stopped to ask for directions at a gas station. Dealing with someone who looked like an extra from Deliverance (I could swear I heard Dueling Banjos in the distance) complete with missing teeth and one strap holding up his coveralls and obviously not too happy dealing with a suited Yankee but his directions as strange as they were actually worked, as I commented to the guys in the car “…I don’t think they surrendered”

    - or the deja vu moment when I realize I’m looking at the Texas school book depository and the grassy knoll driving back to the hotel

    NAB started first in Washington DC but even then was so large there were several venues and getting back and forth between them was interesting. The last year in Chicago (late ‘70’s) there was some union problems, when I came in to turn on the booth, things started arcing and sparking, someone had shorted several power cords and poured soda into some of the machines – that was the last year for the windy city. But mostly it’s been in Los Vegas.

    Having spent an average of two weeks a year there over the last 20 plus years it is astounding how this most improbable of places has grown. However, as I don’t gamble, don’t have time for the few shows I’d like to see and having witnessed the ‘ladies of the night’ going home after a hard days night by the cruel harsh light of the desert’s dawn there is surprisingly little to do there. At least the food and drink has made vast improvements, for a long time it was “bud, coors and gallo” and endless buffets – all serving the same bland food catering to middle America.

    Truth and lie part II

    While I've never been a fan of 'the richest woman on TV' I owe her a profound apology. Not only has she recanted her endorsement of his fiction she confronted James Frey and his Publisher called them to account on her show.

    When is ratings week?

    23 January, 2006

    Hammers, not just for nails

    Wabbit Stew

    A friend of mine was the reluctant recipient of not one but two bunnies last Easter. As the bunnies grew and were adopted as family pets by his kids, his worst fears were realized..... he had a male and a female. As they matured he told me that he had no desire to be a wabbit farmer, so I sent him my special recipe for Roadie's Homestyle Wabbit Stew, hoping it could solve his problem before he ends up with a backyard full of the things.

    Hope you are hungry, here's the recipe!


    1 wabbit

    1 large pot w/lid

    1 onion

    1 head garlic

    duck tape


    a hammer

    1 bunch carrots

    First, get a wabbit. You seem to have this covered. Then get a bunch of carrots, well.............. maybe you should get the carrots first, 'cause it might make it easier to catch the wabbit. Then get an onion and a roll of duck tape, a head of garlic and a hammer with a wide head. If you only have a ball-peen, use it sideways. Get a large pot and put it on the stove. Don't turn the fire on, you're not ready for that yet. Take the duck tape and wrap it 359 degrees around the equator of the onion, and leave a courtesy tab to grab it with. Use more tape and do the same thing to the whole head of garlic. If you wrap the tape 360 degrees or more around either the onion or the garlic, you might as well throw 'em out and start over from the beginning*. Take one carrot and give it to the wabbit, and offer to take the wabbit to a movie after dinner. Don't look hungry when you do this, as they are very sensitive to ulterior motives. Under no circumstances should you offer cash to the wabbit. Fill the pot with water and light the fire, then offer dessert to the wabbit. While it chooses between the cheesecake and the chocolate moose, sneak up on it with the tape and wrap the wabbit securely, in a spiral pattern, making sure to stick tape to all the furry parts, without sticking the tape to the tape*. ( *we know what a nightmare THAT can be!) Be sure and save enough tape to cover the mouths of the screaming wife and children protesting, and/or cheering your questionable treatment of their pet.

    Offer the wabbit a soothing hot bath to relax from the trauma of being taped, and line up the ingredients on a cutting board, left to right, in this SPECIFIC order. First, the onion, wrapped in tape, sticky-tab facing down. Then, the garlic, wrapped in tape, sticky-tab facing down. Then the wabbit, tab facing up. Hold it if it wiggles. Not the head. (If you are left-handed, hold it with your right hand.) Now get ready, because the next part happens really quick. It's pretty exciting, so you might want the family to watch, but no closer

    than the kitchen door is the advisable safe distance.

    Take a deep breath............. Relax...................... Visualize fine dining.

    Unless you're really good at taping wabbits, the water should be boiling by now.

    Pick up the hammer, and prepare to hit three blows of increasing strength, a tap, a smack, and a full wallop. Concentrate on the three taped ingredients lined up on the board and take aim.

    Grip the hammer tightly. Ready, set, GO!

    Three hits with the hammer, once on each, left to right, bing, Bam, BOOM!

    Then take the lid off the pot and hit it with the hammer like a gong or cymbal, for effect. Your rapt family gasps, or perhaps cheers. Throw the hammer in the trash. Pick the onion up by the tab and snap it into the pot with a sharp flick of the wrist. This should peel it nicely. Then pick up the garlic by the tab and

    do the same. You will be amazed at the efficiency of the tape in cleaning the garlic, but remember, good aim is essential for proper seasoning. Pick up the wabbit and hold the tab with both hands, thumbs facing up.

    Take a step back and hold it above your head. With a brisk motion like throwing a soccer ball onto the field, snap the wabbit into the pot. This move should remove all fur from the wabbit and cause a pretty good splash. We will save the flambeau method for the advanced class. Pick up the nearly forgotten bunch of carrots, and walk to the kitchen door. Toss them over your shoulder and into the pot. Ask someone to put the lid on the pot. Proceed to the living room, turn on a Sportschannel and relax.

    Simmer for 24 hours and tell the family you threw it out and you're having beef stew tomorrow.

    The kids will love it.


    Chef DeJour


    A fellow walks into his doctor's office, complaining that he thinks he might have a tapeworm.

    The doctor makes a physical examination and listens to the symptoms, and concurs with the self-diagnosis.

    "I want you to come back tomorrow, to start treatment. And bring a banana and a cookie with you" said the doctor.

    Despite the seemingly odd request, our hero complies, and returns the next day with a banana and a cookie. The doctor says "Okay, now drop your pants and bend over. This is going to hurt a bit." Although leery about the turn of events, the patient drops his pants and bends over.

    The doctor peels the banana and with one deft motion rams it up the guy's ass. While the doctor consults his watch, our hero dances around the room shouting at the doctor. "Okay, one minute is up, and we have to complete the second part of the treatment if your truly want to get rid of this tapeworm" advises doc. Despite the pain, the patient does want to be cured, so complies with the order to bend over again. Again, the doctor takes the cookie and rams IT up the patients ass.

    "Okay, tomorrow I want to see you here at the same time, and bring anothe banana and a cookie" says the doctor. The now humbled patient, with tears of pain in his eyes, nods his head.

    Next day, the same routine ensues. First the doctor rams up a banana, waits exactly one minute, then rams up a cookie.

    And the next day, and the next day and the next!! Every day UP goes a banana, wait one minute, then UP goes a cookie.

    After one full week of treatments, the doctor finally says "Well, tomorrow is the LAST day of treatments. I want you to bring in a banana and a hammer." "Not a cookie?" asks the very frightened patient, trying to imagine what a hammer was going to feel like.

    "Nope, a hammer" confirmed the doctor.

    The last day the doctor says "Okay, you know the routine". So the man drops his pants and bends over. UP goes the banana, and the doctor looks at his watch and picks up the hammer. One minute passes. Then two minutes. Three. Four minutes pass. Then a little head pokes out the patient's ass.