Another Reason to be Cheerful…

March 30, 2011

Ahhh, you probably haven’t had experience with stuff like microprocessor design or computer math or the pitfalls therein, but here’s a crash course (pun intended) on just one aspect. According to ancient technical sage Gordon Moore, the number of transistors (or “on/off” switches) we can pack on a bit of silicon doubles every two years. And that’s a good thing considering the fact that you can now go the the local CVS and buy a calculator with more computing oomph than we had on Apollo 11. But here’s the down side — humans are greedy. We want yet more hp in our HP… And that means shrinking and goosing the suckers…


Problemo… Electricity is nothing more than the piling up of electrons (measured in volts or electrical potential) and the rapidity of commuting (amperage) said electrons from a place of higher electrical potential to a place of lower. But here’s the trick… If you make the commute path narrow enough, some electrons just don’t want to play by the rules, and what started out as one signal becomes quite another. (Think of fine stereo becoming static.) Such is the hassle of the end of Moore’s theory. By 2020, we’ll have pushed the little electron wee beasties as far as they can go, and then we truly will be porked with our pants on.


So what is to happen? Well… We have options… We can learn to write tight code again just like we did in the 1950s, ’60s, and 1970s… We can fall back on multiple chip levels (like the Intel Quad) and multi-processor machines… We can use dispersed networking like SETI… Or… We could bust a cap and go for the mother load — optical computing… Here’s the deal… Traditional computing theory struggles with many things, but chief amongst them is something called the “Von Neumann’s Block” — the nasty sequential nature of calculation. The way around that would be to stop worrying about KHz, and MHz, and GHz, and start looking at lens processors that could multitask using light photons instead of single-lane chips and frumpy old electrons. (Don’t scoff… We’ve been doing this sort of thing in the lab for decades… Hell!!! A.G. Bell used light to modulate phone conversation back in 1880.)


Anywho… It looks like we’re coming up on the end of Moore’s Law… And that might just might make you want to re-hash plans for 2020…


Two cats blogging by the racks…


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.

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Summer Shandy Back In Stock… Are You Prepping for Warmer Days?

March 25, 2011

Well… The countdown is on…




Ah yes… Leinenkugel… It may be trying to snow outside, but spring is irresistible. But one question begs the asking… “Are you ready for warmer times?” Is your grill clean and 100% functional? Have you penciled in your cook outs? Have you done the pre-blossom pruning in the yard? And, as always, do you have that special bit of grape and hops set aside for the inevitable surprise visitor??? (Remember these words… You’ll kick yourself later in the season when you didn’t stock up!)


Waiting by the racks for those lazy hazy crazy days of summer by the racks,


Two cats blogging


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.


Blue Angels and Van Halen

March 22, 2011

Ah… What could be better???

24 years later, and it still stirs…

Bet you didn’t know HSS is into aviation…

Two cats rockin’ and bloggin’ high by the racks…

P.S. Watch for a nearby air show this summer… Let’s just say a birdie told you…


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.


Identifying Hawks

March 18, 2011

Hey, Cisco the blogging HSS cat here…


Bet you didn’t know that I’m a bird watcher. (Then again, given my feline proclivities, maybe you did…) Anywho, I’m forever on the lookout for good bird books, and this time I’ve found an absolute ringer…




The kind folks at Princeton University Press sent me a copy of this book for review, and here is just one of my reviews: Buy the book. Period. (Now that was easy!)


Kidding aside, this is an absolute “must have” for anyone who has ever even briefly wondered, “What kind of hawk was that?” Here are just a few of the reasons you cannot live without this field guide…


  • The author’s approach to hawk identification is both novel and brilliant. Indeed, bird maven David Sibley said of this tome,

    Jerry Liguori’s book takes hawk identification to a whole new level.

    The reader can study migratory and location patterns, closeup and distance shots of all 20 species (the 190 pg. book contains a whopping 577 photos, 19 of which are magnificent full-page), black and white shape prints (30 to 40 per bird)… The list of ID options is just right.


  • I love the ease of this thing. If you’ve looked at other birding books, just the “How to use this book” section can tangle you up in knots; not so with this puppy. This is literally a “crack it open and you have a clue within 60 seconds” reference. I especially like the effort put forth to explain what birds can be confused, and how to sort things out.

  • There’s another feature that is long, long overdue IMHO — the use of bold font to shout out the most important points. Example:

    In glide, Cooper’s Hawks look compact, similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks, but their heads and tails extend farther, and they show longer, less squared “hands” in comparison.

    Any questions?


  • It is ruggedly bound in a 6 1/8″ by 8″ footprint and consists of clean, acid-free paper…

When all is said and done, Liguori’s “Hawks at a Distance, Identification of Migrant Raptors” is as practical and beautiful as Sibley’s “The Sibley Guide to Birds” is thorough and beautiful… If you have even the slightest interest in birds, you should own this book.


Two cats reading and blogging by the racks…


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.


Before and After Tsunami, and Nuclear Info…

March 14, 2011

Hey!


Cisco the blogging cat here… Random thoughts on a world gone insane… The pic below is the area around Sendai Japan, close to the epicenter of the recent 9.0 quake… On the left is “before”, on the right is “after”…




So, setting aside the unthinkable loss of life, suffering, and mourning (Red Cross), here are just some observations from a news hound, engineer, and former student of both biology and chemistry concerning the nuclear situation in the Fukushima facility…


  • There has been a second explosion at building number two… Not good… Should the primary containment vessel fail on any of the buildings, we’re probably looking at a complete meltdown.

  • A true and complete meltdown of fissile material occurs at around 5,000°. When that occurs, not much can contain the molten slop, and it’s ideally suited for transmission to air, soil, and water.

  • Should the worst occur, we can only do a couple of thing… Try to seal the beast in a concrete sarcophagus a la Chernobyl, and also just watch the weather. If it’s windy (depending on the direction) tens of thousands of people will be put at risk. If it rains, the radiation will be localized and concentrated. Take your pick. In the case of the former USSR, a “dead-zone” of 35 mile radius was (and still is) declared.

  • The plant at Fukushima is a GE MK I – a plant we stopped licensing in the mid 1970s. Lest you fail to understand the scope of this thing… From: DC Bureau

    Both United States and Japanese governments have for decades allowed re-racking of the pools to reduce the originally-designed minimum safe distance between the assemblies so that more rods can be stored in each pool. Utilities complained they were running out of storage space on site at the reactors. The problem is if the spent fuel gets too close, they will produce a fission reaction and explode with a force much larger than any fission bomb given the total amount of fuel on the site. All the fuel in all the reactors and all the storage pools at this site (1760 tons of Uranium per slide #4) would be consumed in such a mega-explosion. In comparison, Fat Man and Little Boy weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki contained less than a hundred pounds each of fissile material.


  • But what the Hell… Let’s be optimistic and say that all we have is a few small hydrogen explosions and then wrestle the beast into submission… We’re still looking at small-scale irradiation via uranium, plutonium, cesium, and strontium… And some of those guys and their ilk head for the muscle and bone. Sucks to be a first responder… Cancer…


Sad and worried by the racks,


Two cats blogging…


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.


Japan 3/11/11

March 11, 2011

Hi,


Given what has happened to Japan over the last 24 hrs, I don’t think it’s appropriate to write about beer or wine. Thoughts…



  • First… The scale of the disaster is mind numbing… So many thoughts and prayers go out to those poor people… If you care to help, here is the Red Cross contact info… Simply heart broken here…

  • Beyond all the horror, there are massive geo-economic worries. Japan’s already-weak economy carries one trillion dollars of our debt in the form of U.S. treasury bonds. If the Japanese government has to call in those bonds (penalties or not), where are we going to get the money to cover them? (For weeks, the two parties in Congress have been bloviatingly chest thumping over a $50 billion difference in the short-term budget. What happens when we have to immediately face twenty times that amount?) At this point, I doubt that the Chinese will “lend” us one more dime in the form of yet more “T-Bonds”. (We owe the PRC a trillion also.) In short, this natural disaster could well lead to an equally stunning economic meltdown of two of the world’s most powerful economies.

  • When it rains it pours… Enter the geo-political… The Middle East is teetering, and don’t for one minute think that “The House of Saud” and Col. Qaddafi won’t take our tragic distraction to full advantage. Expect more brutal repression in both Saudi Arabia and Libya.

  • Finally, expect the ominous nuclear power situation in Japan to stall once and for all our thoughts of nuclear power here.

Sad and scared by the racks,


Two cats blogging…


Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.


How to Buy a Used Tool

March 10, 2011

Hey,


Cisco the HSS blogging cat here… Enough about wine for the moment… And now for something completely different…


Should you have the woodworking inclination, given these tough economic times there are great deals on used equipment to be had out there… Consider the 10″ radial arm saw below…




That’s a $700 – $1200 near-new workhorse purchased for $100.


So what’s the secret to finding these sorts of deals? Brace yourself…

  • First, make Craigslist your best friend. Study it every which way to Sunday.

  • Know your tool. Don’t wander into a purchase because something “looks good”.

  • Buy quality. Old no-name junk is even worse than new no-name junk.

  • How is the tool structurally? Are there rattles? Binding spots? Slop? Is the thing rusty or broken?

  • Make sure that the equipment is complete including manuals and accessories.

  • Can you get replacement parts? If not, walk away.

  • Will your shop hold the beast? Be honest!

  • Can you move the thing? Again, be honest!

  • Overall, what’s your impression of the tool and its owner??? If it looks like the owner was Attila the Hun, do a Dione Warwick and walk on by.

  • Plan on spending 25% of what you would on an equal new tool, and at the same time getting 99% longevity and functionality – it’s a buyer’s market. Don’t be afraid to walk away.

  • Finally, when the time comes and you’ve found the perfect deal… Pounce!


    We’ll be in those frugal racks… Two cats blogging…


    Wine Glossaries

    * Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
    * eRobertParker.com: “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
    * GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

    Beer Glossaries

    * ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
    * beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
    * alphaDictionary.com: A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.