04 November, 2008

Stop Sylvia Browne

update (and yes I know I'm late) the website run by Robert Lancaster has been hijacked - read about it at JREF

10 August, 2008

I call BS!

In homage to that great dynamic duo of Penn & Teller

Last week’s home newspaper pile (I tend to collect them for a week and then kill a few cups of coffee on the porch Sunday mornings, as there are only a few pages that I glance at its not a time consuming endeavor) ran across this gem on the front page Ukiah Daily Journal and call up July 28, 2009 pdf and check out the lead article “Pond system targets weeds”

A little searching and you can find the correct site for the company, interestingly, there are several entities that go by some variation of “Eagle Research” and there is the tinyurl.com/AquaFraud product – wow $1,795.00! a cursory glance at the product blurb raises a few warning flags (sic)“… the very best in electronic design and homeopathic frequency technology” right, not sure how homeopathic and frequency technology apply to keeping a pond free of a specific plant or “targeted parasites”

The article does make critical thinking optional once he mentions “biodynamically” ah R. Skinner – did you know that preparation 506 calls for (sic)“the Flower heads of dandelion fermented in cow mesentery” um, you read that correctly, not sure how long you’re supposed to marinate the dandelions and I for one don’t really want to see the guy on “Dirty Jobs” take on the collection of the other ingredient – of course, since its homeopathic (sic) “All these preparations are diluted and then activated or energized by a special stirring process known as ‘dynamization’. For those who don't know homeopathic preparation procedures, you then take a small sample of the fermented mess in to a container of water and shake vigorously (exact length of time spent shaking is unclear, different references give different times) then take a small bit of the first solution into another container of water, shake and repeat several times - in other words, you dilute the fermented mess until there is nothing left. In homeopathic terms, the more diluted the better and the chances of even one molecule of the original fermented mess in the final dilution are slim to none.

Anyway, back to the Aquafraud (sic) “ There are no side effects or environmental dangers, and it is completely safe for humans and animals. It does not harm the fish or any other living species other than the targeted parasites… OK, that’s nice to know – how does it work? “Changing the application programming and set-up takes only minutes with no special tools required. The Aqua Guard has the ability to house glass vials that are specially designed frequency collectors inside the unit. These frequencies are radiated out through the stainless steel enclosure of the instrument” notice no mention of what frequency(s) or even if they are talking about electromagnetic, audio or ethereal frequencies – so how do you know which vials to use? “Proprietary vials for weed elimination are available from Eagle Research”. this is contradicted by the article in the paper in which (sic) “Ekert said each vial is the antidote to a particular kind of weed or algae living in the pond. The antidotes are made from samples taken from the pond. Each one targets a specific plant, leaving all the rest of the ponds life alone.” That’s nice to know - and there is even the AquaFraud Plus for only $1,995.00 such a deal! – the article goes on to note (sic) ““The change is quite sudden,” he said. “In three or four weeks we’ll see the weeds start to die,” Ekert said.

I’ll admit I’m not a biologist and my only experience in pond maintenance is dealing with a 38,000 gallon pool. Let me just state that a “sudden change” is on the order of a few hours not weeks, but then I guess I’m just too 21st century to wait weeks for results.

I’m going to attempt to examine the Aquafraud and get some pictures this week but from what I can determine there is some electronics assembly but since as the article notes “ batteries in the device will last for about a year before they need to be changed, but Ekert said the antidotes will continue to work, though new ones will have to be added if a new type of weed starts to grow in the pond. I suspect that the electronic portion is only to flash the lamp and that somehow the ‘vibrations’ of the ‘proprietary’ or is it local samples vial continue to ‘work’ by emitting some – erm some what? “wavelength”? what? What kind? From exactly what?

a few other howlers on the Eagle site

“Structured Water” for only $34.95 you get 16oz. Of “High Vitality Structured Water” in a special blue bottle

And there is the Excel Cold Laser for only $2,500 that will (sic)“ The Excel amplifies the beneficial wave lengths of light. It does not burn or cut, yet it produces a multiplicity of cellular effects” since a laser by definition is a mono chromatic device (as in, it only produces one wavelength of light) so its entirely unclear what the beneficial wavelength(s) of life is/are

Initial communications to the author of the article and to Eagle Research have not been returned to date

09 August, 2008

One summer day in NorCal

(all pictures - click to enlarge)

Oh, that’s not something good

Don’t know the details of how or exactly where it started – from my vantage point it looks like somewhere between the gun club and the reservation but there is brush and terrain in my line of sight so that is preliminary

Update; fire was stared at the gun club

Its good to see the aircraft I know from more trying times still active, these used to be called S-2’s, had jet engines that sounded like a Hoover vacuum on steroids and shorter wings, now with some serious turboprops and a serious wing span - they are a welcome sight

Ah, now that's the good stuff!

even the old H1 is still dropping 300 gallons on the few hot spots

its under control now and almost out, the ground crews are out doing their bit to keep it that way.

Update; fire crews worked for a few hours clearing a break around the charred area, then back to camp and prepare for the next call

they don't pay any of those folks near enough


25 July, 2008

Hum, fly etched in the urinal, ah, must be Schiphol

Been an interesting month or so, on June 15th (the weekend before the ‘dry lightning’ and the subsequent fires in NorCal) I was with daughter and her SO seeking a Geocache upon Sanhedrin Mountain near N 39° 30.00 W 123° 05.00

Funny thing, the cache was hidden in some rocks like this

according to the geology textbooks this type of rock is laid down in layers of sediment far out in the ocean at depth, is then subducted or otherwise compressed and heated – then bent – and then somehow ends up sitting at 7000’ elevation atop much younger rocks – things that make you go - humm…

On the ride up came across two bear cubs wrassling in the road - about the time we realized what they were, momma came charging from the high side of the road yelling "get off the road, you idiots!" and swatted them down the hill following right after them - and its not a minor slope!

while discussing bear hair color, I remarked that the local brown bear comes in a range from almost black (the cubs) through reddish browns (mama was a brown) to almost a blond (which got the "no way" response) on the way down we startled a almost blond surfer dreads bear with darker 'handcuffs' that was much closer than I'd care for while we were parked at the summit

These “Pussy Paws” were starting to bloom

Then a week in Brest with the reminders of the last world war and older bits of history

Then finally several days of vacation

Went to Lassen and smelled the SO2 vents

Walked through a lava tube

- wait, that last one was from the light house neat Brest

Found some more geocaches near Hat Creek

And ended up the day at a fish hatchery

Wait, where did that blue one come from?

16 July, 2008

Touching history

Long time between posts, real life does intrude!

In the past two months I’ve spent time in the Temple Complex (as close as they let us infidels get) and had lunch in Brigham Young’s house that he built for his affectingly termed ‘heffers’ er, that would be in today’s PC world “alternative polygamous fundamental LDS life style” er, his many wives. Good lunch, no ice tea or coffee though…

As a self identified “Rational Anarchist” I really don’t give a whit how consenting adults chose to live, but I would like some consistency in descriptions and reporting - and for the sake of many I won’t delve into the just the first order logical contradictions at this time and move along, I will note the place is “squeaky” clean – even the underground garage was ultra clean, and no I didn’t’ notice all the suits with clear curly tubes in their ears, no, not at all

Then spent some time at JSC and by pure accident managed to log about 30 seconds in the old Apollo/Skylab mission control Flight Director’s seat - ultra old techno geek high!

Just returned from a week in Brest France – nice place, only a few buildings older than 50 years or so beyond the old fortress or lighthouses – and of course the infamous U-Boat pens prominently featured in the great film “Das Boot” along with random pill boxes and other fortifications that are only “around the corner”

28 April, 2008

It’s still an Analog world

“Television is great for engineers, you get to deal with a frequency range of DC to beyond daylight, power levels from Pico Watts to Mega Watts, computers and software that run the gamut of user indifferent to downright user hostile, with enough analog left to require some precision”

Another two month lacuna in blogging. I must admit continual wonder at those who are such prolific posters, but then I realize real life and work demands are such that this is (for me) a bit of a luxury – while I spent an inordinate amount of time parked in front of a monitor and keyboard I’m often not connected (for a variety of reasons) to the outside world.

Recently completed the annual pilgrimage to that most improbable of places for the National Association of Broadcasters convention to Las Vegas. This year corporate had rooms at both the Marriott directly across the street from the convention center and the Wynn (having been informed that we were no longer welcome at the previous accommodations – still trying to get the back story on that one!) The Marriott was my first choice but setup crew had priority and due to various reasons I was not on setup or strike this year so ended up at the Wynn. Yes, it’s a very nice place, large rooms elegantly appointed, fancy eateries (didn’t try any except room service the first night - $60 for pasta with 4 prawns and a glass of white wine) and no coffee in room for less than $25 or stand in line – the room did have a decent flat panel TV that actually got a few HD programs (including PBS – although did not make it back in time to see Nova).

For the last decade or more the “Broadcaster” portion of NAB has become less and less a relevant portion of the show (and in light of the February ’09 cutoff date for Analog transmission could well become a historical oddity) not that the convention has become irrelevant (although Apple/Avid was not there) it is still the premier venue for anything to do with recording, creating & distributing moving pictures and sound – some portion of which may actually be broadcasted over the air – which brings me to the subject of this entry.

Until the mid ‘70’s with the first introduction of the Digital Time Base Corrector, every image, every sound was recoded, edited, played back and broadcast with analog technology. Even well in to the ‘90’s almost all recording and post production was done with analog decks, admittedly lots of digital devices and circuits became involved in the process but everything was still passing through analog I/O (Input/Output).

The first affordable digital tape decks did a rather simple 8bit quantization of the entire composite analog waveform providing only 256 levels of gray between black and white (actually something less that that as “00” and “FF” and the several steps ‘below black’ were not used) resulting in a digital approximation of the analog waveform. This digital approximation has several virtues, it can be replicated without further degradation an infinite number of times, stored on a variety of media and faithfully reproduced on demand and will always be the same, it is however only an approximation of the original analog waveform. In a pure digital signal path this would not present any problems but when passing back through that analog I/O and back to another digital approximation the opportunity for all sorts of distortions and errors arises requiring constant attention to that pesky analog portion of the signal.

In this 21st century, analog decks are still around although they are seldom (if ever) used in the more progressive facilities where once the image leaves the imaging device at the camera it stays digital throughout the entire production, post production and distribution stages only reverting to analog at the display, either on the input to the display (VGA or Component inputs) or when viewed with the ‘ol mk1 eyeball. This is not to say that the string of digits coming off of the Analog to Digital converters on the first stage of the camera electronics is unchanged in the process but digital compression is another series of rants I’ll not touch upon at this time.

In the (good old days? Not really, Tubes are interesting devices but B+ is a shocker!) Analog world sound and pictures were a continuous undulating waveform starting at the microphone or off the scanning beam of one of the three plumbicon tubes (OK, I’ll admit I know what an Image Orthocon is and that some cameras had 4 tubes and the scanned area had a several minute duration wobble to avoid burn in but that is ‘ancient’ technology) and at almost any point in the signal path you could look with an oscilloscope and see the current representation of the original analog waveform in all its nuanced glory (well, within the limits of frequency response and other analog woes) in the world of audio one could compare the waveform of the microphone and the waveform of the amplified signal to the speakers and match the two to several orders of magnitude – color television is a bit more complicated in that the method of encoding the color information on a composite signal requires determining the phase offset from a precise reference frequency, however the black and white signal is still recognizable once you know what you’re looking at.

But the ultimate fact remains – its still an analog world, the camera and microphone are analog devices, your hearing and vision are analog processes and if you really want to mangle an analog signal, do it digitally!

29 February, 2008

In praise of POTS

As in Plan Old Telephone Service

In this age where a growing minority (according to some reports now the majority – at least in the USA, several developing countries have bypassed land lines and gone directly to cellular) of folks have abandoned traditional land line telephone service in favor of either cellular or VoIP. While there are compelling economic reasons for such a shift there are a few things to consider particularly if you live in a more rural area and subject to prolonged power outages.

This winter has made some of these apparent, for the VoIP customers if you don’t have power, unless you have a UPS on your cable modem, router & VoIP gateway chances are very good that you won’t have phone service, especially if you are trying to use a wireless (not cellular) handset & base station, and even then the cable may (or may not) last as long as their UPS. Same applies to Cellular service, chances are – again if you live in a more rural area the local towers will shut down a few hours after the power goes out unless they have generator backup which is not common for cellular towers and how do you charge your cell phone?

Other things to consider;
Both Cellular and VoIP have interesting results when you dial 911
Both systems are subject to service affecting glitches that may not be related to the service

Returning to the humble twisted pair of copper telephone line, while you won’t get a guarantied data rate for your modem other than the line being broken about the only thing that will disable a POTS line system is more than 80% of its handsets being off the hook at the same time, besides uncommon mass voluntary usage exceeding the limit the only event that can disable a well designed POTS is a major earthquake.

And as recent travels in flyover country have shown, not every where has WiFi.

Neglecting my blog

Once again its been busy time for whatever it is that I do for a living, since the calendar flip I’ve been to France for a few days, two trips to Indiana, landing at Newark and dealing with the NJ Turnpike at 1am the day of the worst snow to date, dodging rampaging 18 wheelers and attempting to avoid crossing the GWB (twice) arriving at the hotel before 3am and no one at the reception desk, so I popped a Bigfoot and made myself comfortable, for some reason the clean up crew objected a while later and managed to wake up the desk clerk who checked me in for a nice 3 hour nap. This week started with a trip to Long Island for a few days then down to Miami during the black out for a day, bringing the cold down from NY, throw in several day and over night trips within CA and its been a busy two months.

Latest Skeptics Circle

Is up over at Conspiracy Factory

01 February, 2008

Zen and the art of Muscle Car Maintenance

With apologies and deep respect to Mr. Pirsig.

The beast (as announced below) has been here for 3 months now and as proven to be yet another avenue for irregular Zen lessons

First, it lost all but the headlights one rainy (of course) night, after visually inspecting the fuses and confirming that the wiring was intact to the tail and interior lights decided to replaced the light switch (which requires removing part of the dashboard) only to no avail, then after carefully “ohming” out the various sockets determined that there was indeed no problem with the wiring, then in almost desperation checked the fuses with the ohm meter and there it was, a very normal intact looking fuse that had been working just fine was in fact was an open circuit.

A few days later it wouldn’t start in the morning – no click clack, not dead but nothing happened when the key was turned to the start position, not having time to investigate took the truck and that afternoon when I tried it again it started right up, so I tried it again several times with no problems and it ran fine for a month or so.

Then a few weeks ago making an evening mercy run to the pharmacy for son the rock god in training who was suffering various symptoms – after grabbing the indicated drugs, proceeded to hop back in the beast only to have it not start, starter motor would not turn – O.K., that’s why I pay for AAA, call them up and a while later the tow truck shows up and proceeds to try the various methods to get it started (jumping the power) nope (rocking it on neutral and throwing the transmission in park) nada (finally jacking up the front and whacking the starter with a small sledge hammer) zilch.

O.K., tow the beast home, of course the weather for the next week is cold and wet so I don’t get to it for a while but did locate a new starter and first day not raining went to check it again, same results, plenty of battery power but the starter was not engaging, visually inspected the wiring to the starter and (try not to make the same mistake more than a few times - but then, I’m a slow learner) checked the relevant fuses with the ohm meter this time and they are all good.

As son is still not up to par I jack the beast up and proceed to remove and replace the starter – trust me, it’s a lot easer to type than actually performing said tasks, with limited access and awkward contortions mange to get the existing one out and the new one connected the first day, 2nd day I finally mount the new starter, jumper the power to check flywheel clearance, button it back up and drop it back down on its wheels – and it still doesn’t start.

O.K., search the web

find some tips

one says check the ignition switch and proceeds to give erroneous instructions on how to access said switch (ain’t wiki’s wacky?) indicating that the steering column needs to be dismantled – after another trip to the auto parts store (after several calls to find the ignition switch and the special tools required) and discovering the brittle state of the turn signal switch, find out that the ignition switch is not where the wiki said, after finding a decent manual for the beast determined that model year it was relocated further down on the steering column and all you need to do is drop the column (two nuts) to access the switch.

After reassembling the steering column and steering wheel (which I’m going to have to do again once the new turn signal switch arrives) drop the column and finally access the ignition switch only to discover that two of the connectors were only half seated.

The camel has slipped out of the tent – for now

Regarding the subject of the previous post - due to the minor but national firestorm kicked off by the initial post over at The American Thinker, the state has backed down and has removed the mandate for PCT from the 2008 California building standards – however the announcement goes on to say;

“The Energy Commission strongly supports demand response strategies, and believes that the programmable communicating thermostat offers a valuable tool to dampen peak electricity use. Demand response strategies are an important alternative to building costly new power plants that only operate during peak demand times of the year.”

So look for it to come back in the next year or two

07 January, 2008

Is it just me?

First it was the toilet, mandating the installation of lower volume flush designs that cost more and often require more then one flush to get the job done.

Then Freon was outlawed (one more thing to cross the border for)

California even mandated MTBE as an ”oxygenate” in gasoline only to find out that it cause more problems with groundwater pollution than any supposed benefit - of course the price went up when it was mandated and again once it was discontinued.

As a Christmas (Sol Invictus day? Mithras Day? Mid-Winter Solstice?) gift the Feds recently passed legislation that outlaws the 100 watt incandescent light bulb effectively forcing CFL on us, (things that make you go “Humm?” didn’t we ban mercury thermometers? I used to have a large vial of mercury - perhaps that and the lead paint explain a lot) Liquid mercury is no where near a health hazard as the mercury vapor in a fluorescent light (if you break one, open all windows and evacuate for at least 15 min.) We use CFLs and standard fluorescent tubes where it makes sense to use them but as they don’t work well with dimmers or come in chandelier sized sockets, or tolerate cold and take 15 minutes to come to full brightness they don’t work everywhere. I also have some LED bulbs but they cost considerably more and have other limitations that preclude more common usage.

Now California in its 2008 proposed title 24 revisions is mandating something called a "programmable communicating thermostat" or PCT.

If adopted as proposed this will require every new home and any change to an existing residential HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) system to be controlled by one of these. Programmable thermostats are nothing new; the catch is the communicating part. Your home thermostat must also now have a “non removable” FM_RDS receiver that will allow “The Power Authorities” (whomever they may be, I don’t recall voting for any) to override any locally programmed set points and times – in addition (to encourage “interoperability” - interoperability with what?) the PCTs are also required to have expansion ports that will allow utilities and other service providers to add communications modules and establish links to other devices - what other devices? My stove? Refrigerator/freezer? Microwave? Cable & TV? Hot water heater? Washer & dryer? House lights?

If you live in California and don’t like this latest "camel nose under the tent" (nose under the tent? Heck, the entire syphilitic beast is spitting in your couscous) you’ve got until the end of January 2008 to make your legislative representative aware of your thoughts on the subject.

Calendar Flip

a new year has started and I’ve not posted in over a month once again, even missing the 2nd solar orbital anniversary of the blog, oh the shame