Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Not So Much Blogging, Afterall

Sigh.  There hasn't been much blogging here the past few weeks, unfortunately.  There's just too much I'm trying to get done before Christmas, for both Day Job and Real Life.  Too much distraction.  I'm coming home simultaneously too keyed up and too drained.  Maybe after the holidays. 

Speaking of which, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Do You See the Light?

Over at According To Hoyt the other day, a commenter linked to a NASA composite image of the Western Hemisphere at night.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Román, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

I find it interesting how distinct and obvious some of the metropolitan areas are. The Salt Lake City and Denver-Colorado Springs areas are little vertical splashes of light among a sea of dark, while Saint Louis and Kansas City stand out as larger bright spots among a bunch of smaller bright spots. Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth are large splotches. The Northeast Corridor cities, on the other hand, kind of run together - but the near-straight horizontal splash that is Long Island makes it possible to pick NYC out of the mess. 

Map above blown up with captions added by me
You can also see how quickly the light falls off as you get a bit west of about 96 degrees west.  Between about 96 and 103 degrees west (it varies a bit), the population density drops off.  With the decline in population density comes a similar decline in density of the road network and the lights.  This is where the land transitions from the wetter, more fertile lands that support many types of crops, to the drier lands more suitable for ranching and grains.  This is the area once known generations earlier as the Great American Desert, though it is not really.

And I think that's all I shall touch on tonight.  Good night, world!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Blogging to Resume

It's been a few days since I last blogged.  Day Job became a bit hectic, thanks to a major performance problem that cropped up with an instance of one of the commercial software products.  After nearly two weeks of time-consuming and fruitless investigation, involving people all over the world, the problem disappeared as suddenly as it appeared.  The server and network admins performed monthly maintenance in the data center, and all of the sudden the problem went away.  The root cause is still not understood, but nobody is hounding me to get the problem resolved.

So expect blogging to resume tomorrow.  I have a few books I can review, and maybe I can wrap things up on that Shapes series I mentioned a few weeks ago, now that the nightmare at Day Job isn't send me home late, frustrated, and drained each evening.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


I have something of a puzzle at Day Job, one that is drawing far too much of my time and brainpower.  A closed-source web application we use suddenly began performing about fifty times slower than normal, under practically no load (i.e. one user).  We've already tested network latency and bandwidth, and the responsiveness of the underlying database.  Everything appears fine.  Every other instance of the web application, running on other servers, works fine.  There were supposedly no OS updates pushed to the server.  But now that commercial web application is performing fifty times slower.  The home-grown web applications hosted on the same server are performing normally.  And neither our data center team nor the vendor have a clue.  Alas, I'm expected to solve, or coordinate the solution of, this problem.  Yay.  Go, me!  So rather than a longer blog post, I shall merely wish everybody well and get to bed so I can face the world bright eyed and bushy tailed in morning, and resume tackling the problem.  Goodnight and best wishes, world!

Bizarre Dreams

Last night I went to bed early, and made no blog post.  Instead, I had bizarre dreams. 

I was living in house, but it wasn't quite like any house or apartment I'd ever lived in.  It had five bedrooms and three baths, one bedroom and bath being in the basement.  A cousin and his wife came to visit.  So did an internet acquaintance.  The cousin and wife were just staying the night, en-route elsewhere, but the internet acquaintance was supposed to travel with me to somewhere else.  But in the morning I forgot she was there, and drove a few hundred miles until I remembered she was supposed to be in the car, and when I stopped I found her denouncing me as a fool on her blog. 

When I drove back home, it was empty again, but then my mother (who in real life lives 750 miles away) showed up to castigate me.  I then drove off with my mom to meet my dad and an aunt and uncle on the approach to a bridge over a wide river in a vaguely St. Louis-ish environment. The bridge approach had been closed to traffic so people could sit around in lawn chairs and listen to a baseball game on the radio. 

We were having a great time up until a tug pulling a long train of barges down the river at highway speeds (how?!?) hit one of the bridge supports, and the approach collapsed, falling into the river.  We had to swim to shore.  Then I drove everybody, soaking, back to my house to get cleaned up.

No rhyme or reason, really.  And stranger than fiction or fact.

Sunday, December 3, 2017


As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I was working on my ancient Airstream, which involved a lot of crouching and kneeling.  I'm fine while seated or walking.  The transition between seated and standing, though, is currently a bit painful - I probably look like an eighty year old at the moment.  Oh, well, should be better in a few days.  As it is, I'm about to go out in the reamining hour of light and try to make more progress.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Airstream Progress Report

As I've posted about before, I've been (very) slowly restoring an "ancient" Airstream travel trailer that was in fairly desperate condition.  The major aspect that's underway now is replacing the old, rotted floor, after which progress should be much more rapid.  As it is, I'm not at my best when crouching and kneeling, which doesn't help any.

The last of the old floor left the trailer months ago, but revealed that some of the aluminum floor joists had corroded in places.  I fabricated reinforcements back in late summer, half of which I installed before summer's end.  Then my mother's birthday, various yard work, stuff with Day Job, the Thanksgiving holiday, weather, etc. intervened. 

Finally, this week, the weather was cooperative.  Today, I riveted the rest of the reinforcing pieces to the original joists.  Tomorrow's forecast is promising, so I'll likely crawl under the trailer, put a few more rivets in from below, and install patches over the worst of the corrosion in the aluminum belly skin.

Progress.  It is nice to be making progress once more.  I'll try to remember to take some pictures to share.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Review: A Call to Vengeance

The eARC for A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and Thomas Pope was released within the past few days by Baen Books.  After getting some work for Day Job out of the way, I purchased and read it.  It is the third book in the Manticore Ascendant series, set in the same universe as Weber's Honor Harrington stories.  However, it is set several hundred years before Honor's time, before the discovery of the Manticore Wormhole Junction and the growth of Manticoran naval power. 

This book picks up mere weeks after the end of the events of the previous one.  The young Star Kingdom of Manticore and its navy are recovering from the aftermath of the unprovoked attack by hostile warships whose origin and motivates are a mystery to Manticore.  Of course, Manticore can't just be left in peace to recover. . .

As in the previous two books in the Manticore Ascendant series, the main character in A Call to Vengeance is Travis Uriah Long.  This book, though, spreads the points-of-view a bit more widely than the previous volumes.  The earlier books focused mostly on Travis, with a bit from the view of the antagonists, and only brief segments from the view of others.  In this book, Long's colleague (and potential love interest) Lisa Donelly also gets a good portion of the book, as do some members of the Winton dynasty that rules the Star Kingdom of Manticore.  Various movers and shakers of interest also get some scenes.

These different perspectives and scenes form what seem to be two nearly-distinct plot lines.  One features Travis Long, Lisa Donnelly, and their colleagues in the Manticoran navy and intelligence agencies trying to track down who attacked Manticore and why.  The other deals with the small Winton family and (primarily domestic) Manticoran politics.  The two different plot lines overlap only lightly.  Thus it feels to me slightly disjointed.

However, I also thought both plots are well executed.  The quality of the prose itself was fine, nothing that I took note of but also nothing that got in the way or proved distracting.  Even though this was an eARC (electronic Advanced Reader Copy), there were few spelling, grammar, or continuity errors to distract. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  I hope there are more to follow, because there were too many threads left somewhat hanging at the end.  I should note that it doesn't seem to me a good candidate for a stand-alone novel.  In my opinion, you should probably check out the two prior books in the series, A Call to Duty and A Call to Armsfor the added background before tackling A Call to Vengeance.  I definitely recommend reading this book. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Quiet Today

I've been rather quiet today, tied up with Day Job.  But tomorrow is Friday.  Hopefully that will give me a chance to come up with something.  Until then, good night.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Digging Into the Past

The other day, I was trying to look up some information about an interurban trolley company in northwestern New Jersey.  As is often the case, the internet was of only a little use in this regards.  Popular interurbans, the well-known lines situated in metropolitan areas and were lucky enough to last past World War II, usually have a little bit about them online.  This was not one of those.

Online, I found one brief thread on a discussion forum, and a paragraph in an online preview of a recent print book about Phillipsburg, NJ.   Offline, I found a single paragraph in The Electric Interurban Railways in America by Hilton & Due.  A few sentences are interspersed into Morris County Traction Company by Lowenthal and Greenberg, which also contained a map of unstated origin that covered the line's actual and project map (though not in detail).  That exhausted the regular web searches and my printed secondary sources.

From all that I really gathered only a few facts.  The line lasted a little over a quarter century.  It operated between Phillipsburg, NJ on the west and Port Murray, NJ on the east.  Most of the route followed the Morris Canal.  The owners hoped to extend eastward to Netcong, NJ, to connect with the Morris County Traction Company, which never managed to build its extension to Netcong.  They hoped to expand west to Easton, PA by crossing the Delaware River, but contentious relations with the company operating streetcar service there and in Phillipsburg prevented it.  Ultimately, that company bought the interurban out.  The company changed names a few times along the way.

I'm leaving out a few dates and proper names, but those are the bare facts a couple hours of research gave me - roughly the same information I started with from Hilton & Due, except for the marginally-useful map and the fact that the line followed the canal.


Next up, reading what primary sources are available from hundreds of miles away: decades of railway journals scanned by Google and made available online.  Not so easily searchable as a simple web search, though, for a variety of reasons (poor OCR quality being one of them).  When I have a chance, I'll see if I can ferret out anything more.

Anyhow, after Sarah Hoyt's recent "Facts are Facts" post, I thought I'd mention my own attempt to dig up some facts from the not-so-distant past.  It hasn't been going so great.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Canvas Test

This post is a test to see if I can use the HTML5 Canvas and JavaScript within a Blogger post.
If you see a circle below, it worked. :)

It worked for me, in preview. I used some very simple examples from the w3schools.com HTML5 Canvas page. I'm going to have to consider doing the Shapes series I was working on as HTML5 Canvas + JavaScript rather than the C# I was originally working on, so people can play with it interactively.

Link: Genetics and Extinction

Author and scientist Cedar Sanderson has an interesting blog post today about genetic paucity and extinction.  I found it quite fascinating, and worth a look.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Terminal Moraines

This is just a brief musing on the impact of glaciers on terrain.  I won't go getting into the science of it too much, but glaciers can create or alter terrain features in interesting ways - in addition to being terrain features in their own right.  One of the features they leave behind after they retreat are terminal moraines.

Moraines are masses of rock that the glaciers convey to their edge.  The rocks vary in size, all the way down to the size of gravel and sand, and they accumulate.  When the glaciers retreat, the accumulation that is left behind forms a hill or ridge.

On an otherwise relatively flat landscape, such a hill or ridge could stand out.  It need not be uniform, especially after erosion may have redistributed it.  So you can get irregular or lumpy ridges.  Or a collection of hills.  Or, if moraine was left in what is now a lake or sea, islands.  Many of the islands in Long Island Sound are the remnants of the terminal moraines from the last glacial maximum.  Some are not though, the Thimble Islands for example being the remnants of rocky hills that were partially ground away by glaciers.

Voting Can Make a Difference

I was talking with some of my family over the holiday, and they mentioned the recent elections in their town.  The councilman for their district won by one vote.  If my relatives had not gone to the polls, the councilman would have lost. 

Sometimes it seems like who we vote for doesn't matter - the politicians get in anyway.  But even when there aren't good candidates, when the choices are unpalatable, there are often reasons to pick one candidate over the other, if only to keep the worst candidate out of office. 

Sometimes one candidate may have such overwhelming support a few people not showing up to the polls one way or the other.  If enough people do that, though, it can start to make a difference.  And sometimes that one vote, or two, or three, is enough to make the difference.

Bad Football, Good Holiday

The Thanksgiving holiday was a wonderful time spent with family and family friends.  Food and fun were in abundance.  A good, new hike was found.  New foods were tried.  And football. 

Bad football.  I watched the Giants-Redskins game on TV Thursday evening.  It was a pitiful display by the Giants, but at least it was only on TV.  We could just shut the TV down, and wander off to our beds.

I watched Michigan State-Rutgers game in person.  Traffic enroute was tolerable.  The weather was perfect.  I got a nice intercampus walk from where I parked to the stadium.  I saw some family friends I hadn't seen in ages at the tailgate.  And that was all the positive that can be said.  Rutgers looked even more pitiful than the Giants had two nights before.  The stadium suffered a water pressure and was redirecting people to the portable toilets outside.   

At least Ohio State beat Michigan, so random residents of the state of Michigan will not be making as many derisive remarks.  Not that I went to The Ohio State University (note the definite article), nor am even a fan of Ohio State.  But I do live in the Buckeye State, which seems to be a sufficient condition for obnoxious Michiganders to start talking trash in years Michigan won.  Why?  Maybe it dates back to the "war" for the Toledo Strip, maybe it is more recent.  Anyway, another year I don't have to deal with it.

And now I'm home, and shall resume normal blogging again in the morning.  While resuming ignoring football as much as possible.  Not that I don't enjoy watching the occasional game, but its more fun watching with friends and family - and none of my family are local and none of my friends are football fans.  Without that extra bit to it, I might as well read a book or take a walk.  Thus ends the ranting and raving.  Have a great morning, everybody!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Grasping for the Crowns

The latest book in Alma T.C. Boykin's The Power series, Grasping for the Crowns, has just been released.  I haven't yet had a chance to purchase and read it yet, but I've waiting for this sequel since I finished reading the first book.  I shall likely review this one at soon time.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope anybody reading this is sharing a delicious meal with loved ones today, and that there's much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

NYPD: Not Your Polite Driver

We've all been there.  Rolling down the highway in the left lane, stuck, unable to pass because the driver of the car ahead won't put the pedal to the metal and pass the huge truck in the right lane.  Sometimes a whole line of cars forms in the left lane, waiting for that one darn driver to pass.  What you don't expect is for the car beyond you, the one that decides to tailgate, to be an NYPD van.

Especially when you're not in New York state and are hundreds of miles from NYC. And if it is such a van, surely more than a half car length is called for at 70 mph. Or at least not swerving wildly out of control.  Just saying.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Book Review: 1637: The Volga Rules

About a week ago, I posted a short note about the recently-released electronic Advanced Reader Copy (eARC) for 1637: The Volga Rules, a new novel in the Ring of Fire (1632) series.  This one novel has as its authors Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett, and Gorg Huff, and it is a direct sequel to the earlier 1636: The Kremlin Games.

This most recent installment continues the tale shortly after it left off in The Kremlin Games.  It focuses the continuation of the struggle between Czar Mikhail and Director-General Sheremetev for control of Russia and its future.  Only two uptimers feature prominently in this tale, for it is mostly the tale of the Russians of the alternate universe and their struggles.

It is a story of compromise, determination, of striving for freedom, of accepting the necessary.  There are politics, there are battles, there are betrayals.  There is love, there is hate.  There are surprises.  And there is some of the expected.

If you enjoyed The Kremlin Games, I believe you'll enjoy The Volga Rules.  If you were primarily hoping to see more of the "main cast" like Michael Stearns, Rebecca Abrabanel, Harry Lefferts, Ed Piazza, Gretchen Richter, Gustavus Adolphus, etc. or find out more about the events happening in vicinity of Vienna, you may be disappointed.  As it was, taking the tale for what it was, I quite enjoyed it.

Unsurprisingly, the political situation in Russia and Eastern Europe remains very much in question at the end of the novel.  We must await further stories to learn more about what awaits Russia, Poland, and their neighbors.

Genes for Longer Life?

Scientists recently published a paper about some interesting genes found among the Amish of Indiana.  Those who possess the genes tend to live 10% longer than those without.  Very interesting stuff, especially given the recent experiment with in vivo genetic engineering in humans.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Book Review: Shikari

As I mentioned previously, I recently purchased and read Shikari, a new science fiction novel by Alma T. C. Boykin.  As I mentioned at the time, I enjoyed the novel.  It is set in the far future, on a distant colony world settled by humans before they realized their was an indigenous species of sophonts present.  These sophonts, the Stare, had a relatively primitive civilization, and welcomed the humans.  The story follows two human teenagers who begin to unlock secrets of the past that are a mystery to human and Stare alike, while dodging the ire of those who wish the past to remain buried.

The novel is a lot of fun.  The mood and setting are reminiscent of tales set in the India of the Raj.  Rudyard Kipling or Talbot Mundy (with aliens!) would not be a bad shorthand.  There's a sense of wonder, of the exotic, and of danger, in the story. 

Production values were good.  It was virtually free of typos or formatting issues to distract from the words themselves.  And in my opinion, the words, and story, flowed well.

I eagerly devoured the tale and was disappointed only in the fact that it came to an end.  Thankfully, Ms. Boykin appears to have several more in this series planned.  (Yay!)  I look forward to more.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

JavaScript fun for 3D

Yesterday I wrote about a few of the JavaScript libraries I found that would help solve some needs at Day Job (tm).  Today I'll mention another one I played with yesterday evening that may be of some interest.  I'd heard of three.js before, as it was used in the web-based planet generator I've mentioned in the past, but this was the first time I really looked at in depth.

three.js is a JavaScript library for loading, displaying, and interacting with 3D graphics inside a web browser.  WebGL was introduced as a web version of the venerable OpenGL technology years ago, but OpenGL (and, by extension, WebGL) are very low level.  three.js provides a higher-level interface, with support for loading models in various formats.  The website offers a multitude of example web pages with working examples.  It even has a few examples using fractal methods to generate a terrain that can be moved around in.

Alas, there aren't built-in loaders for the formats I need for Day Job (tm), but that's simply a matter of writing a compatible loader, or a separate converter program to take models in the formats we have them in and convert them to formats three.js can load.

Beyond work, though, it has the potential to be useful as the display end for some of the other things I've been experimenting with for fun.  I wouldn't want to write the code to generate things in JavaScript, but a web page using three.js to display the results would be entirely feasible. 

Surprisingly, three.js even offers a web-based 3D scene editor.  It isn't Blender, SketchUp, 3D Max, or AutoCAD, and there's no real mesh modeling support, only primitives like box, sphere, cylinder, torus, etc.  Nevertheless, it can be used to create a 3D scene relatively easily, and does have import capabilities so that models in other formats, like OBJ, can be imported.  It can export to OBJ, STL, and its own JSON-based format.  It can even publish scenes and a web page to view the scene.  Pretty slick.

Anyhow, if you need 3D on your web page, this is worth checking out.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Useful JavaScript and More

My Day Job has been keeping me rather busy the last few days, so I haven't had a chance to wrap up the series of Shapes posts I was working on.  Instead, I'll give a quick shout out to a few useful bits of JavaScript I've done a little experimentation with for Day Job.

First off, there's jsTree.  jsTree is JavaScript for a tree-like user control.  It can be created and manipulated via script, or the script can be applied to a set of nested HTML lists or JSON data to "tree-ify" it.  For what I was prototyping, it took less than ten minutes to read the jsTree documentation, mock something up in an HTML file, and then apply the jsTree script to turn it into an interactive tree.  A stylesheet reference, two script references, and about eight lines of JavaScript was all it took.  Pretty sweet.

Second, there's the svg-pan-zoom script.  A single script reference and about six lines of JavaScript allowed me to take a large SVG diagram that was loaded onto a web page and make it possible to pan and zoom.  It was a very large diagram with many fine details.  Before the pan and zoom script was applied, the fine details were illegible.  With the script, it was easy to zoom in and navigate in the diagram.  It took me just a bit longer to get this working right, perhaps twenty minutes.

And third, we have ViewerJS.  ViewerJS offers the ability to easily view PDF and LibreOffice/OpenOffice files on a website, without the need for plugins or any special executable code to be placed on the server - its all pure JavaScript.  This took me about twenty minutes to figure out the basics.  Since many of you have files in Microsoft Office format, I should mention that LibreOffice can be run at command line, and scripted, to convert one or many files to formats ViewerJS supports.

The developers of these components have done an excellent job development, packaging, and providing useful demos and examples.  Nice work!  All three are also open source software. 

And finally, not JavaScript, but icons.  Google has a source of 900+ icons as part of its Material Design effort.  There initial Google icons plus a whole bunch more can also be found at the Material Design Icons web site.  I'm using a good number of them with the experiment; I just wish more of them were a good fit for the domain the program relates to.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Geology-related Travelogue

Over at Cat Rotator's Quarterly, Alma Boykin has a couple recent posts on a trip between Amarillo, TX and Albuquerque, NM.  While the space in between is in many ways very boring, Ms. Boykin's post covers some of the interesting geology and terrain features of the region.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Real-life Genetic Engineering in a Live Human!

The Associated Press report that US scientists try 1st gene editing in the body.  This pretty exciting news.  They're actually trying to cure a disease called Hunter syndrome in a 44 year old through gene editing. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thickening with Falloff

Yesterday I was looking for a way to generate decreasing intensity extending outward from initial shapes.  It is something that  may be useful for some other techniques going forward, though is of some limited use in and of itself, and the effect itself is somewhat interesting.  It might look nicer with some smoothing, though.

Here's a more : Given a raster representation of some initial geometry, this program calculates distance of pixels from the initial geometry, then visually represents the distance as a gradient between white (initial geometry) and black (at and beyond threshold).

The program has two required command line arguments (input and output files) and an optional argument specifying the threshold in pixels.  Here's an example of the arguments I was using:

Thicken.exe -in C:\test\input.png -out C:\test\output.png -threshold 48

In the input image, black is treated as no geometry, any other color counts as geometry.

Input was a 512 x 512 PNG file
Output image with a 48 pixel falloff threshold

I'm releasing the C# source code under the MIT license, with no warranty.  Use at own risk.  Since I used the Vector2 struct you'll need to add the System.Numerics.Vectors package (which can be done with Install-Package System.Numerics.Vectors -Version 4.4.0 from the Package Manager Console in Visual Studio) or substitute your own implementation of Vector2.

using System; using System.Collections.Generic; using System.Drawing; using System.Linq; using System.Numerics; using System.Text; using System.Threading.Tasks; namespace Thickening { class Program { private static void ReadImageAsMap(string fileName, out int[] map, out int width, out int height) { // Read input image into map array. Any non-black pixel is a starting point. Bitmap inputImage = (Bitmap)Bitmap.FromFile(fileName); width = inputImage.Width; height = inputImage.Height; map = new int[width * height]; for (int y = 0; y < height; y++) { for (int x = 0; x < width; x++) { int i = y * width + x; Color c = inputImage.GetPixel(x, y); if (c.R > 0 || c.G > 0 || c.B > 0) { map[i] = 0; } else { map[i] = -1; } } } } private static void Thicken(int[] map, int width, int height) { // Find starting points (zero). List<Vector2> current = new List<Vector2>(); for (int y = 0; y < height; y++) { for (int x = 0; x < width; x++) { int i = y * width + x; if (map[i] == 0) current.Add(new Vector2(x, y)); } } // Iterative set distance around starting points or points // where distance has already been calculated. while (current.Count > 0) { List<Vector2> next = new List<Vector2>(); foreach (var curr in current) { int cx = (int)curr.X; int cy = (int)curr.Y; int val = map[cy * width + cx]; // Look at neighbors. for (int y = cy - 1; y <= cy + 1; y++) { if (y < 0 || y >= height) continue; int ny = y; for (int x = cx - 1; x <= cx + 1; x++) { int nx = x; if (nx < 0) nx = width - 1; else if (nx >= width) nx = 0; int j = ny * width + nx; int nval = map[j]; if (nval < 0) { Vector2 neighbor = new Vector2(nx, ny); if (!current.Contains(neighbor) && !next.Contains(neighbor)) { map[j] = val + 1; next.Add(neighbor); } } } } } current = next; } } private static float Clamp(float min, float val, float max) { if (val < min) return min; if (val > max) return max; return val; } private static void WriteMapAsImage(string fileName, int[] map, int width, int height, float threshold) { Bitmap outputImage = new Bitmap(width, height, System.Drawing.Imaging.PixelFormat.Format32bppArgb); for (int y = 0; y < height; y++) { for (int x = 0; x < width; x++) { int i = y * width + x; int val = map[i]; Color c = Color.Black; if (val >= 0) { // Calculate percentage closeness to initial geometry. // Intensity is 100% at initial geometry, // 0 % at or beyond threshold. float closePercent = (threshold - val) / threshold; closePercent = Clamp(0, closePercent, 1.0f); int val2 = (int)(closePercent * 255.0); c = Color.FromArgb(val2, val2, val2); } outputImage.SetPixel(x, y, c); } } outputImage.Save(fileName); } private static string ParseForArgumentValue(string[] args, string argumentName, bool caseInsensitive = true, string defaultValue = null) { if (args == null || args.Length == 0) return defaultValue; string prevArg = ""; foreach (string arg in args) { bool isMatch = false; if (caseInsensitive) isMatch = (prevArg.ToLower() == argumentName.ToLower()); else isMatch = (prevArg == argumentName); if (isMatch) return arg; prevArg = arg; } return defaultValue; } static void Main(string[] args) { if (args == null || args.Length == 0) { string msg = "Thicken.exe -in input.png -out output.png [-threshold 32]"; Console.Error.WriteLine(msg); Environment.Exit(1); } string input = ParseForArgumentValue(args, "-in", true, null); string output = ParseForArgumentValue(args, "-out", true, null); string thresholdString = ParseForArgumentValue(args, "-threshold", true, "32"); int threshold = 32; bool thresholdOk = Int32.TryParse(thresholdString, out threshold); if (!thresholdOk) { string msg = "Invalid value for -threshold argument. " + "Omit -threshold argument or supply a valid positive integer " + "less than two billion."; Console.Error.WriteLine(msg); Environment.Exit(2); } try { int width, height; int[] map; ReadImageAsMap(input, out map, out width, out height); Thicken(map, width, height); WriteMapAsImage(output, map, width, height, threshold); } catch (Exception ex) { Console.Error.WriteLine("Unexpected error: {0}", ex.ToString()); Environment.Exit(3); } } } }

Monday, November 13, 2017

1637: The Volga Rules

This isn't really a full review of 1637: The Volga Rules, the latest installment in the 1632/Ring of Fire series.  No, it's an explanation that reading the eARC of the new novel is gripping and has distracted me from the post I was planning to make today, about an algorithm I was playing with earlier today.  So algorithm and pretty pictures tomorrow.

Coming Soon: Shapes!

Coming in the near future shall be Shapes!  Shapes is a (possibly) exciting tutorial series on some programming techniques that do interesting things with shapes.  However, I've still got some more example code to finish, text to write up, screenshots to take, etc. to give it some polish.  Expect something sometime next week.  Until then, I leave with you with a few simple, not-particularly-exciting images that emerged from parts 1 and 2.  (Yes, parts 3 and later are some

Example output from part 1

Example output from part 2
Example output from part 3

Sunday, November 12, 2017

An Interesting Map

I was perusing DeviantArt looking at some of the maps, and map styles, that people have dreamed up.  Some people are very creative in their cartographer.  Some of them are truly works of art.  I'm not sure this one fall into that category, but it sure is creative.  It may be useful, too, if you want to know where the US, Canada, England, Russia, Japan, etc. lie in relation to Middle Earth, Westeros, and Tamriel. 

What I've Read Lately

These aren't proper reviews, just a few quick shout-outs to some books I've recently read and enjoyed.  Shikari by Alma Boykin features two teenagers having exciting adventures on an exotic colony world far from Earth.  Pure Poison and Flying by Pam Uphoff are the latest installments in the Wine of the Gods series, and mostly focus on characters and events in the Presidential Directorate on One World. 

Chain of Command by Frank Chadwick is an exciting space opera set in the same universe as his earlier books How Dark the World Becomes and Come the Revolution, but with a vastly different tone and set of characters.  I have to go back and finish that one.  I got to the end of the first part that was released and somehow forgot to go back and read the rest after it was released, something I just realized today - but the half I did read was great.

Sanborn Maps of New Jersey

Apparently, in the time since I last wrote about map resources, the library at Princeton University has made available the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for New Jersey.  They're a great resource for seeing town patterns, and the New Jersey patterns are so different than those of the typical Midwestern town.

The older portions of most Midwestern towns are laid out in a regular grid, often aligned with the cardinal directions (North-East-South-West), though topography sometimes alters that arrangement.  In contrast, many of the older New Jersey towns are laid out in a less regular manner - there are fewer right-angle intersections for the major roads.  Those that saw significant growth before the mid 20th century seem to have grid-like additions tying in.  Jersey Shore towns seem to follow the regular grid more than many other Jersey towns.

The link is below for the interested.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Haven't Had Much To Say Lately

It's been about six months since I posted.  (Actually, my last post was on May 11, so exactly six months.)  Life has been rather busy but with events of note, little forward progress has been made on anything, and I was feeling rather down, so I wasn't posting much on what I was reading, even the new stuff.  And there have been some new releases by some of my favorite authors, so I'm sorry to have missed plugging them here.  More posts will likely be coming soon.

And a happy Veterans Day to any American veterans out there.  Thank you for your service.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

More Recent Reading

Over the past few days I've read a few new works of fiction. Henry Vogel's The Fugitive Snare is an action-packed sci-fi thriller, the third in a series. I found it just as hard to put it down as the first two in the series. I definitely recommend it. The other novel was Pam Uphoff's Fort Dinosaur, the sixth volume in her Directorate series. It was also a lot of fun.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Recent Reading

I haven't quite been up to writing reviews lately, but here's a quick list of what I've been reading lately.

I practically devoured J. L. Curtis' Rimworld: Into the Green on Sunday. Both Sarah Hoyt and Peter Grant had posted links to it on their respective blogs. I found it an engrossing read that was slightly out of the ordinary, but lots of fun.

Cedar Sanderson's Tanager's Fledglings was also a fun-filled. It is the first story in a planned series, though the second in that universe. It was quite a bit different in tone from the novella that introduced that universe, being something of a coming of age.

Both were a lot of fun for me to read, and I hope you'll give them some consideration. I may review them once I've gotten some other stuff dealt with and am more in the mood to do such once more.


Downtown. Center City. The Central Business District. Whatever it is called, most American towns of any size and age have an area where most of the businesses were concentrated. Suburbanization, interstates, consolidation, and globalization have often take their tolls on such districts, but most towns continue to have such districts. Usually, such districts are reasonably central to the city. But not always.

Most of the exceptions are found where there is a terrain feature influencing development. Rivers, lakes, and seas can present a formidable obstacle or outright block to extending development in some directions. Hills, mountains, and valleys can have a similar influence. Sometimes even the angle of a slope itself can affect patterns of development.

Take the city of Cincinnati, Ohio for one example. Downtown is roughly centered with respect to east and west, but north and south is another matter entirely. The broad expanse of the Ohio River, beyond which lies the state of Kentucky, meant that any expansion southwards was not part of the city. And hills to the north of downtown were largely restricted to residential development. So downtown Cincinnati exists at the extreme southern edge of the city proper.

Toledo, Ohio is flatter than Cincinnati, but the obstacle presented by the width of the lower Maumee River slowed development to the east. Toledo's downtown is closer to centered than Cincinnati's, but it still isn't precisely balanced.

An extreme example of such a lack of balance in the position of a downtown can be found in the large village of Montpelier, Ohio. As a town of nearly five thousand, Montpelier has a nice little concentrated business district. Despite the relatively-flat terrain, this district is nevertheless located almost at the extreme northwest of the village's development. The vast majority of residential development extends south and east from the downtown. Why? I've got no clue, but it is a bit noticeable when looking at overhead imagery of the area.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Geography and Spelling

The names given to roads, rivers, parks, towns, and mountains vary significantly. While you might expect the spelling to be reasonably consistent, it isn't always, even when in close proximity.

Take the Allegheny and Allegany. Pennsylvania has Allegheny County (home to Pittsburgh), most of the course of the Allegheny River, and most of the Allegheny Mountains and Plateau. New York has Allegany County, and a town of Allegany, which is actually in Cattaraugus County. Pennsylvania is home to Allegheny National Forest. Directly across the state line, adjoining the lands of the National Forest, is New York's Allegany State Park.  Thankfully, the river and other geographic features don't change name where they cross the border.  That would just be confusing.

Southwest of Allentown, Pennsylvania lies the town of Emmaus.  Emaus Road runs from the southern outskirts of Allentown to Emmaus.  Some maps (Google Maps, Bing Maps) show it as Emmaus Road, some as Emaus Road (Google Earth). Google StreetView images show "Emaus Ave" on the sign at Emaus and 4th Street.

Another example is simpler. Between the towns of Harrison, Ohio and Bright, Indiana lies a road named Jamison Road. Much of it runs along Jameson Creek, a tributary of the Whitewater River.

It certainly makes inconsistencies in spelling more understandable at times. Variant spellings aren't two surprising, really. But variant spellings for two things in close proximity?  Really. Much as it grates on my nerves, it happens in the wild.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Stuff from Some Good Authors

Sorry for the scarcity new posts lately. Real Life (tm) has just been a bit overwhelming lately. For fellow readers of science fiction, I have this quick post on some works I've been following

Sarah Hoyt has posted a short story, "Lost and Found" up at the Mad Genius Club blog, a prequel of sorts to her recently-released Darkship RevengeCedar Sanderson's new novel Tanager's Fledglings has been released. I haven't read it yet but plan to purchase and read it shortly. If I understand correctly, Pam Uphoff's Fort Dinosaur, the latest installment in her Directorate series, is expected to be released Very Soon.

Baen Books released the e-ARC for The Alexander Inheritance, a time travel/alternate history novel by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett. I read and enjoyed it, though I'm skeptical of a few elements in the story. I may review it here at some point in the future.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

This May Khipu Occupied for a Bit

National Geographic has reported upon recent discoveries related to the Inca khipus. It is hoped that the recent finds may eventually help unravel the information encoded into the braided strands. The article may khipu keep you occupied for a brief bit.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Joys of Home Ownership

Sorry posts have been sparse the past week or so. I've been facing some deadlines at work, traveled 1500 miles over Easter weekend, and have been a bit under the weather courtesy of allergies. But what has really gotten me is my house.

I own a home. There are a lot of benefits. Even in the most cramped of subdivisions, you achieve a bit of separation from the neighbors, a vast improvement over apartment life or even condominiums. With a house, I don't have to worry about a notice from the landlord giving me 24 hours to get everything two feet away from the walls for electrical work. I have more room for hobbies and projects. I build equity every month rather than seeing cash simply disappear out the door in the form of rent. Alas, there are some downsides.

Like taking care of things when they break. Doing yard work. Especially during Spring, the lawn occupies far too much time. I've mowed twice in the past seven days. Tonight, for the first time this season, I pulled out the trimmer/edger and found it didn't work. And a downspout fell down. It is currently sitting in the tall grass at the edge of the house. Sigh.

Reviews, trailer progress, and other interesting stuff will likely start appearing over the next few days, as I work through the home and yard issues and get some time again.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Sometime simple acts and events send ripples through history. For want of a nail...  One small example: A small air raid ends an empire.

We are about a week away from the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. A few months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought about US entry into WWII, the US retaliated with an air raid on Tokyo. Sixteen specially-modified B-25 Mitchell bombers took off from the deck of U.S.S. Hornet and bombed Tokyo, then escaped to the Asian mainland. Nearly all the planes were lost in Japanese-occupied territory, and several of the aircrews as well. They inflicted minor damage, destroyed a few important buildings, damaged a Japanese aircraft carrier that was nearing completion, and killed a few hundred people. As a morale-boost, striking back for Pearl Harbor, it was valuable, but the damage inflicted was almost insignificant.

The indirect effects, however, were far more significant. During the attack, the Japanese military made widespread use of coded transmissions in an attempt to coordinate the response to the attack. Japanese leadership decided to rearrange their defenses, and wanted control of Midway Island. The bounty of transmissions the Japanese produced allowed US cryptographers to decode Japanese naval signals and ambush the Japanese carrier fleet. The Battle of Midway was a major victory for the US and a turning point in the war in the Pacific.

What Do You Call...

What do you call a large group of priests or preachers driving around in motor homes?

The Holy Roaming Empire.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sunday Trailer Progress

I made a little progress on the trailer Sunday. The previous Saturday I cut and fit a patch for the "hole" in the belly skin just forward of the street-side wheel well. Sunday has been permanently affixed with rivets and proper sealant. Small progress. I'm doubtful of much more progress this week, as I have yard work and taxes I need to catch up with. If there is more progress I'll report it here.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Songs and Circumstances

Over the course of my life, there have been a number of times where I've been listening to music and the lyrics have proven strangely appropriate to the circumstances. Almost eerily so. A few in particular stand out.

For example, I was taking a vacation out west, including a few days at the Grand Canyon. One day I'm driving along from the campground near Grand Canyon Village over to the east side of the park, to visit the Desert View Watchtower. I was playing on the stereo at the time, and just as I pulled into the parking lot at Desert View it advanced to the next song, "All Along the Watchtower."

A year or two back I was driving along here in greater Cincinnati listening to a classic rock station. I came to the intersection I needed to turn left onto, but the light was red. As the left turn signal on the traffic light turned green, the street sign for the road registered. I was turning onto state route 747. The song that was playing: Steve Miller Band's "Jet Airliner."

Last night, I went out to eat in Northern Kentucky (the 51st state?). Afterwards, I was driving back home via I-75 well after dark. A bit south of Ohio River, several miles south of Cincinnati, the highway descends several hundred feet toward the river valley through a wide bit of curving excavation known as The Cut in the Hill. As a northbound car descends the grade a wonderful view of the Cincinnati skyline comes into view. Last night was fairly clear, so the city stood out brilliantly, the tall buildings fairly glowing against the backdrop of the night sky. The song that was playing was The Doors' "L.A. Woman," with its lyrics of "city of light" and "city of night" and "driving down your freeways."

(Not included are the number of times "Route 66" came up on my mix while driving down old historic route 66, since I had several covers in the mix and was taking a Route 66 trip.)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Monkey Girl

Now here's something you don't hear everyday. A news article reports on a ten year old girl in India who was spotted nude, running around with a pack of monkeys. Police responded to the reports and had to fight the monkeys off to "rescue" the feral girl from her simian companions.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung. Everything is greening up even more than it had before, and more trees and flowers are blooming. The pollen is in the air and my allergies have noticed. Despite allergy medicine I've been a bit tired and my sinuses ache. Instead of writing that review of Peter Grant's awesome Rocky Mountain Retribution like I planned to last night, I went to bed early and regrettably woke up late. Ugh. More later, hopefully.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Lost in Other Worlds

On Saturday morning I finished reading Peter Grant's Rocky Mountain Retribution. Seeking something else to read, I stumbled upon Pam Uphoff's Directorate series, which in turn led me to Amazon to purchase the first book in the series, which in turn led me to start reading her Wine of the Gods series that is set in the same universe. I've read nine books since Saturday afternoon.

I had to force myself to go to work and not stay home reading another book in that lengthy series. I'll try to write a review of Rocky Mountain Retribution later (TL:DR version is awesome!), prior to reading the next book.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday Trailer Progress

My work Saturday was limited. I have more or less fixed the "hole" I mentioned several days ago. It is by no means aesthetically perfect, but it should keep the elements out.  I am waiting on tomorrow's expected warmer temperatures before applying sealant and riveting into place. Today's temperatures were marginal. Tomorrow will also hopefully see the rest of belly skin work done.  If all goes well, the wires for the brakes, the insulation, and the middle section of plywood floor can then go in, and the old floor in front can come out. We'll see.

Patch being held in place by clecos, pending riveting

Before the patch was applied

Airstream on Mars!

Airstream announces special Airstream trailers for Mars!

Artist's rendering of Airstream trailer on Mars. From the Airstream website.

Yes, today is April 1st.

Columbus Interurban Terminal

Much like Lima, Ohio, the city of Columbus, Ohio was also home to an interesting interurban terminal of decent size. Like that one, this one was also a product of the Ohio Electric Railway, an electric interurban railroad that served much of western and central Ohio during the early part of the twentieth century. The Columbus station had both passenger and freight facilities, located in two adjacent buildings fronting on Third Street, between Rich and Town. Like the Lima facility, it had individual canopies/trainsheds situated between or alongside the tracks, rather than a large trainshed covering all of the tracks and waiting area, like at the Indianapolis, Muncie, or Akron interurban stations.

Alas, unlike the one in Lima, it hasn't survived, but there are a few web pages out there with some decent coverage, including one with the content from a 1912 Electric Railway Journal article. A number of photographs of it exist in various publications, including in Jack Keenan's excellent 1974 book Cincinnati & Lake Erie Railroad: Ohio's Great Interurban System. There's at least one photograph of the station in use available online in the Cincinnati & Lake Erie gallery on New Dave's Railpix, copied below.

Photo of C&LE 110 at the Columbus station, from Bill Volkmer collection.
Found at http://www.newdavesrailpix.com/candle/htm/usr_h_candle_110_columbus_1938_cle15.htm

The Ephemeral Nature of Things

I was reading Peter Grant's Western novel Rocky Mountain Retribution when a brief mention of Buckskin Joe set of a cascade of memories and thoughts. Buckskin Joe is the name of a former mining town in Colorado, now a ghost town, and that is what the novel references. However, it bequeathed its name to a facility west of Cañon City, Colorado, a  1957 Western movie set turned tourist attraction. The only direct connection between the ghost town and the movie set/tourist attraction was Horace Tabor's general store, moved from the ghost town to the movie set; the rest of the set's buildings were acquired from other locations in Colorado.

The towers of the Royal Gorge Bridge perch on the rim of the Royal Gorge, nearly a thousand feet above the Arkansas River

I encountered Buckskin Joe's in 2009, on a road trip and vacation to Colorado squeezed in between summer and fall quarters at college. I was en-route between Colorado Springs and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and had decided to make a brief stop at the Royal Gorge Bridge to break up the trip. Buckskin Joe's was right along the road up to the bridge, and looked really cool, but I didn't have time for it, or for the associated mini-railroad that ran from Buckskin Joe to an overlook on the rim of the Royal Gorge. I spent a couple hours at the Royal Gorge Bridge and did a few of the attractions, but not all, and I planned to come back some day and leave myself enough time to do more there and to visit Buckskin Joe's.

Portion of a photo taken from Royal Gorge Bridge, 2009. The railroad from Buckskin Joe's to the rim of the gorge runs across the middle of this photo, to the observation area just left of the center of the photo. The views of the bridge from the observation area in the afternoon must have been amazing.

Billionaire William Koch bought Buckskin Joe's lock, stock, and barrel in September 2010 and moved it to his ranch. The old buildings are gone. The railroad is gone. I discovered this when planning a 2011 trip to Colorado. So that departed my itinerary.

Incline Railway from rim to floor of the Royal Gorge

Still, the Royal Gorge Bridge and its related attractions were interesting enough I was considering a visit to them again when I was planning vacation for summer of 2013. Then a wildfire in June 2013 destroyed most of the "far" side of the bridge attractions. Some flames made it over to the "near" side and wreaked havoc, there, as well, destroying the aerial tram, damaging the incline railway, and causing assorted other damage and destruction. Glacier National Park in Montana suddenly seemed better than any thought of another Colorado trip for 2013.

Locomotive and caboose at edge of Royal Gorge Bridge parking lot.
The caboose was destroyed and the locomotive damaged by the June 2013 fire.

Why do I bring all this up? Simply because this all flooded back and reminded me that everything is ephemeral. People, places, things, everything is ephemeral. So carpe diem. Talk to people when you have the chance. Visit places while they're still there to be visited. See things while they're still there to be seen. You never know when a person will move or pass away, a scenic place may be destroyed by rockfall or fire, or an institution close.

Even that which is set in stone may change. In 2003, New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain, the ancient and iconic rock formation that was the state's choice for its quarter, collapsed. Change happens, and sometimes it is destructive change. Make the most you can of whatever comes your way.

Friday, March 31, 2017

April Showers

"April showers bring May flowers." If this saying is correct, I suppose we should expect a bountiful crop of flowers come May. We're not even out of March and into April yet, but here in Cincinnati we've been averaging 3-4 days a week of rain showers. Everything is starting to green up, and some trees and flowers are already blooming. Spring has sprung.

Alas, my allergies took notice and flared up accordingly. Thank goodness for meds. Hopefully this weekend's weather will be amenable to work on the trailer and nice walk or two. If I could see the sun again (it's been a few days) it would be really nice.

Lima Interurban Building

On July 1 of 2005, I took a long and winding drive through northwest Ohio taking photos of remnants of the interurban electric railroads that once stretched through the area. In particular, I made a stop in Lima, Ohio, where in 1910 the Ohio Electric (later Cincinnati & Lake Erie) Railroad had built a two story brick passenger station at the northwest corner of Market and Central. This was a more modest interurban station than those found in Saint LouisIndianapolis, or Akron, as befit a smaller city, but it was still an attractive structure. Thankfully, it still stands today, housing the Allen County Board of Health.
Photo of front of former Lima interurban terminal, taken July 1, 2005.
Tracks and canopies were on the other side.
The building had a deep lawn with landscaping in front, and the three station tracks were in the rear. The mainline ran east-west on Market Street, with tracks on Central and Union connecting the station tracks to the mainline. This track arrangement allowed the trolley cars to enter whether they were headed east or west, and leave in either direction as well. Heading eastbound led to mainline to central and southern Ohio. Westbound led to three different lines that branched off toward the northern part of Lima.
Very rough approximation of track plan at Lima station

Waiting passengers were protected from the worst of the elements by canopies running parallel to and between the tracks. The area where the tracks and and canopies once lay is now a parking lot, with little of interest to see. Electric trolleys ran from this station to Fort Wayne, Indiana; Defiance, Ohio; Toledo, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan; and to points in southern and central Ohio, such as Springfield, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati. By 1938, though, the trolleys were all gone; some of the routes had been abandoned earlier in the decade, in the depths of the Great Depression.

I understand it may have seen service as a bus station for some time, but that was no longer the case when I visited in 2005. However, Greyhound's modern Lima bus station is located at the north end of the same block, facing High Street.

Historical marker for the building.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

First Falcon 9 First Stage Reuse

I was reading space.com this evening and was intrigued by their coverage of the successful takeoff, deployment, and recovery of a SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage. SpaceX has done that before, but what makes today's story exciting is that this is the first time a used Falcon 9 first stage has flown. This same first stage launched a Dragon cargo capsule toward ISS back in April 2016; today it flew again and launched a satellite. Congratulations to the SpaceX team on this historic accomplishment, and kudos to space.com for the nice coverage.

Too Late!

I first heard about Trolleyville USA sometime in the early years of the 21st century. It was a trolley museum of sorts up near Cleveland, a collection of privately-owned vintage trolleys that ran on a stretch of track that had been laid out when a mobile home park had been opened, sometime after World War Two. Unfortunately, their web site was not frequently updated, and when I checked it out I kept finding notices about closings, reopenings, temporary suspensions of services, etc. For years whenever I thought of it and checked their web site, the web site was either offline, years out of date, or proclaimed a temporary closure.

One day in 2006, almost exactly eleven years ago, I decided to drive up to that neck of the woods and see for myself what the story was. That's about 3.5 hours of driving, so I had a few other things on my virtual agenda if Trolleyville didn't pan out. And in fact, it didn't.

Interurban trolley car (formerly Chicago Aurora & Elgin 453) being prepared
for shipment from the defunct Trolleyville USA on March 29, 2006.
I arrived to find all operations shut down, the storefront office/station empty, and collection being hauled off. Their immediate destination was a dingy warehouse on the Cleveland lakefront, but that's a story for another day.

Upon Further Consideration...

Yesterday I mentioned the effort I went through to remove a small section of aluminum "belly skin" from the trailer. As I was thinking about it at lunch just a few minutes ago, I realized much of that effort was unnecessary. It shouldn't present any problems, but was a waste of time. I've got a decent solution for the torn metal problem, better than I thought up last night. If weather cooperates, I may have it in place and have pictures this evening. If not, then not. And now back to work.

Fantastic Photographs

I was checking the weather forecast for the day when I noticed an article on the weather web site. The article is a very brief, mentioning French diver Gabriel Barathieu and his wonderful underwater photographs. However, the article is also filled with over a hundred photographs, covering a wide variety of subjects: aquatic life like octopus, tropical fish, and sharks, amphibians and mammals swimming as seen from below, sunken ships and submarines, and sunken planes from World War II. Some of them are simply amazing. They're well worth a look even with an add popping up every five images or so.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday Trailer Progress - or lack thereof

I noticed a couple of days ago that some of the belly skin just ahead of the street-side wheel was torn, but it wasn't until I went to take a look tonight that the exact position and the extent of the damage registered. The tear is high enough that it sits at the level of the plywood floor, which means it needs to be fixed to keep the plywood floor dry. The proper solution would involve replacing the entire sheet, but that would cause at least two weeks of delay for an order of aluminum in the right size and allow, and for more rivets, and for all the work involved in removing and replacing the existing sheet - all outside during the month known for its showers. And it has to be addressed before much more progress can be made. 
The torn aluminum belly skin is unfortunately torn above the level of the plywood floor
Despite the fact that I'd rather replace the whole sheet, I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to install a smaller replacement piece that extends downwards from the top to fill the hole. This bothers me, but less so than the prospect of major further schedule slippage. So today I removed the remnants of the aluminum that is still riveted in place above the tear. This involved drilling out all the rivets on the left half of the above image, then a few more further to the left to give me enough wiggle room to slip the snips into place to cut. It was a far more time consuming activity than I'd expected, and removing it required well over an hour. The sun had set by the time I was done. About the only other things I accomplished were to figure out what I shall do about the wire runs for the brake line, and 

Tomorrow shall involve fabricating the pieces I need to fix the hole as well as for the rest of the middle section belly skin fixes, and hopefully cutting and fitting the insulation. Due to the weather as forecast, the exterior work such as riveting the new pieces into place in the photo above will likely have to wait until the drier whether expected this weekend.

Rocky Mountain Retribution Released

Peter Grant announced that his latest novel, the western Rocky Mountain Retribution, has been published. I liked his previous Western and hope this one will be as good.

Akron Terminal Station

The Akron terminal station was constructed by the Northern Ohio Traction & Light Company, which once operated a system of interurban electric railroads in northeastern Ohio, roughly centered upon the city of Akron. When the new terminal building was constructed on the corner of Main Street and West Federal Street in 1918 it was a four story stone and brick building with waiting room, stores, and offices, behind which sat a steel train shed covering eight tracks. Behind the shed were some smaller brick buildings and a substation that fronted upon High Street, the road paralleling Main but a block eastwards.

Akron Interurban Terminal, from the northwest
As the interurban trolley gave way to the bus, buses began to use the station as well, and by 1932 it became station for buses only, while it continued to serve for some time as the headquarters of the power company. In recent years it has been used for county offices. It remains mostly intact (save for tracks), although two additional stories were added to the main building. The surroundings have changed dramatically, however. When built it stood on a corner, but the road to the north was eliminated and a highway constructed just a bit further north. The intersection was realigned and the area to north and to much of west became parking lost.

West facade. 

Interurban cars reached the train shed by way of a track that turned off Main and then ran along the south wall of the building, through where the gate is now. They departed by turning left/west onto West Federal Street and then turning again north or south onto Main. For 14 years, passengers could catch an electric interurban trolley car, or even a multi-car train, to various points in northeastern Ohio. At one time passengers could ride from Akron north to Cleveland, east to Ravenna, west to Wadsworth, and south to Canton, Massillon, Dover, New Philadelphia, and Uhrichsville. Via connections with other electric interurban railroads at Canton, Ravenna, and Cleveland, a rider could reach much of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and parts of Pennsylvania and New York. At Cleveland steam railroads and steam boats offered even more transportation options.

View from the North
While this station is smaller and less impressive than the one that once grace Indianapolis, it does have one amazing attribute that great structure lacked. The station building in Akron is still extant, with train shed, long after the larger structure in Indianapolis was demolished. In fact, which several impressive interurban stations remain here in America, I believe that only the one in Akron retains a train shed, that wonderfully-obvious sign of its railroad past.

Electrical substation on High Street. It converted AC to DC for use by the trolleys.

New Battery Technology

Over at Peter Grant's blog mention was made of a new battery technology. The article that was linked to describes the new technology as the work of a team led by 94-year-old John Goodenough, co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery. The inventors claim the technology is safer (less combustible), faster charging, has greater energy density, and a longer life (number of charge/discharge cycles). If it pans out that'll be quite an improvement. I guess Goodenough decided the lithium-ion battery wasn't good enough.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuesday Trailer Progress

This evening's work consisted of attaching the "bridge" pieces to the two pieces of plywood floor for the middle section of the trailer. I dry fit them again after the glue had a few hours to dry.

Dry fit of middle section plywood floor
I was a bit tired tonight so there's still much more than I'd like that needs to get done before that plywood can finally rest there permanently. That includes fixing the belly skins, insulation, and getting the wiring runs for the brakes into place.

Illinois Terminal Railroad Station in Saint Louis

In the early part of the Twentieth Century, the Illinois Traction System operated a series of electric interurban railroads in central Illinois and southwestwards to Saint Louis, Missouri. It had its own entrance to Saint Louis over the McKinley Bridge, named for the company's founder, William B. McKinley (the congressman, not to be confused with the U.S. president). In 1928 the system was reorganized as the Illinois Terminal Railroad, merging with several shortline steam railroads in the Saint Louis area. In 1930 it replaced its original freight and passenger stations in Saint Louis with a new building on the north edge of the central business district. The freight and passenger facilities were located in the basement. For about a quarter century, long passenger distance trains to central Illinois and suburban service to Alton, Granite City, Venice, and other Illinois towns operated from the basement. Now it is the home of the Globe Democrat newspaper. The only obvious trace of its railroad past is the railroad car in the bas relief work above the front door.

The station as it appeared on the morning of March 24, 2017.
Next time I should come by in the afternoon for better light.

Things That Go Bump in the Night

I was just getting ready for bed when I heard the sounds. I wasn't sure at first what I was hearing. Was it the sound of heavy rain being driven into the windows by the rain? Was it my garbage can, or recycling can, or a neighbor's, being blown around in the wind? Did something from the trailer renovation get lose?

I listened for a few minutes. It definitely was not the rain. And as I listened more, it seemed to be coming from outside behind my bedroom, where the trailer was. Concerned, I went to the back door and switched on the rear light. Staring at the trailer, I could see I left the trailer door open, and it was being held open by the "door holder," so it wasn't the door blowing in the breeze. What could it be?

Then the raccoon darted out through the open trailer door and across my patio. He scurried under my shed and disappeared from view. It was the furry bandit who'd disturbed me! He'd probably been knocking things around inside the trailer before my turning on the light disturbed him. I dashed outside, closed the door to the trailer, and finished getting ready for bed.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Trailer Progress

This evening's session of trailer work was rudely cut short by the rain. As lightning accompanied the rain, I haven't been out to check for leaks. I did make some progress before that happened, though. The curb-side piece of plywood floor for the middle section of the trailer was cut, filed, and sanded until it fit properly. Then I cleaned any sawdust or debris and painted any raw wood that had been exposed by the cutting with a coat of thick, oil-based paint. I had just cleaned up from the painting and taken a few measurements inside the trailer to fit the "bridge" pieces at the plywood seams when the rain began. The plywood went into the shed to stay dry and I closed up "shop" for the evening. Due to the storm-induced end to the work session, I was too rushed to take any photos, and the lighting was poor besides.  I do have a few bits of fabrication I could do in the basement, part of the belly skin fixing for the middle section of the trailer. Maybe if I'm feeling ambitious later I'll do that fab work. If not it shall wait for another day.

The forecasts for Tuesday and Wednesday are promising. This should hopefully let me have a longer work session on Tuesday to get the belly skin work done, the "bridge" pieces glued and screwed into position, and insulation cut and attached. If that goes well Wednesday could see the installation of the middle section of plywood floor. That would make 60% of the floor replacement more-or-less complete (there's still a few screws to be screwed and glued in a few places farther back). It would also allow me to start of the removal of the front and middle-front sections of plywood.

Thankfully, the absolute worst of the current storm system appear to be passing by to the south. Here in southwest Ohio we're only being subjected to the outer edges of the mess that is plaguing so much of the south right now. May all go well for them in the hours to come. Stay well everybody!

False Steps

I ran across the False Steps blog while searching for a diagram of Skylab. What is False Steps? It's a blog covering some of the alternate concepts and proposals that were developed during the Space Race and the Cold War, like using a Gemini capsule to reach the moon, and some of the proposed Apollo variations. Interesting stuff IMHO, and well worth a look.

A Tasteful Post

Cedar Sanderson has a post aver at her blog entitled "Food Anthropology: From the Beginning." I think it is worth checking out.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Trailer Progress

The progress today was minimal. I dry fit the pieces of plywood floor for the middle section. The street-side piece fit well enough and looks to require no additional work. The curb-side piece almost fits, but it is catching on part of the wheel well. It looks like I'll need to trim a little bit off the plywood to make it fit properly, and will then need to paint the edge. Tomorrow's forecast calls for rain but perhaps there'll be a nice break in the storms or maybe I can do the cutting and painting. We'll see.

I also did a bit of leak detection during this evening's rains. The added sealant along the drip caps above the rear side windows and where gaps were seen seems to have worked. The sealing near the middle street-side window seems to have been less successful, as I saw some damp debris in the floor channel below that window. I'll have to wait until things dry out Tuesday to investigate that problem further.

In addition to getting the middle section of floor ready, tomorrow will probably also involve work on fixing up the belly skin in that area, and cutting insulation to fit.