Alcohol Breath Tests Are NOT Reliable

What a surprise! Bureaucrats ignoring the truth to make themselves look better. And if it puts people in jail? Well, no one cares about the little people. These Machines Can Put You in Jail. Don’t Trust Them..

But those tests — a bedrock of the criminal justice system — are often unreliable, a New York Times investigation found. The devices, found in virtually every police station in America, generate skewed results with alarming frequency, even though they are marketed as precise to the third decimal place.

Judges in Massachusetts and New Jersey have thrown out more than 30,000 breath tests in the past 12 months alone, largely because of human errors and lax governmental oversight. Across the country, thousands of other tests also have been invalidated in recent years.

The manufacturers are covering their assets. The people in the states responsible for the machines are just lying through their teeth. And DAs are only interested in winning, not in Justice.

“A small, mobile city with a giant buzz-saw attached to the front end.”

Although my series on 60s technology probably shouldn’t include a machine built in 1995, but Bagger 293 has a string of siblings going back to 1958. And it truly is a super machine. It is the world’s largest bucket wheel excavator.

Bagger 293 is 96 metres (314.9 feet) tall (Guinness World Record for highest terrestrial vehicle, shared with Bagger 288). It is 225 metres (738.2 feet) long (same as Bagger 287), weighs 14,200 tonnes (31.3 million pounds), and requires five people to operate. It is powered by an external power source providing 16.56 megawatts. The bucket-wheel itself is over 21.3 metres (69.9 feet) in diameter with 18 buckets, each of which can hold over 15 cubic metres (529.7 cubic feet) of material.

It can move 240,000 m3 (8,500,000 cu ft)[3] or[clarification needed] 218,880 tonnes of soil per day (the same as Bagger 288).

Here is an excerpt from a longer documentary on Bagger 293.

And because you find strange things when researching via the internet, there is a video about Bagger 288 (a slightly smaller bucket wheel excavator) that either makes me laugh, or confuses me, depending on when I watch it. There are a lot of videos about Bagger 288, because it was constructed in 1978, so it has been at work for a while. It was the largest land vehicle when it was completed, surpassing Big Muskie. It in turn was surpassed by Bagger 293

Kincade Fire Evacuations Start To Be Lifted

And the power is coming back on. Kincade Fire: Relief washes over Sonoma County cities once in blaze’s path.

Containment is up to 30% on the Kincade Fire.

In Windsor, Healdsburg, Geyserville, Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, tens of thousands of people were allowed to return to homes that many spent days worrying they might never see again, after Sonoma County authorities lifted mandatory evacuation orders Wednesday afternoon.

And the lack of cash was an issue.

“Unfortunately, without gas and money, many of them were stuck here,” said Kate Young, CEO of the fairgrounds. “And personally, I couldn’t just close the gates. The community needed this.”

Now lack of gas could be no power to the pumps. Lack of cash is a proxy for lack of understanding and a lack of preparation. “I always use Apple Pay,” doesn’t work when there is no internet. And there is no internet with no electricity. You should take that into account. And by that I do NOT mean having a stack of 20s. You need various bills and change, or everything will cost you 20 bucks.

Does a School Getting Hit with Ransomware Qualify as News?

And are they ever going to learn? Ransomware Attack Causes School ‘District-Wide Shutdown’.

At least the Las Cruces Public Schools didn’t cancel classes because the computer network was shut down.

Swift action does not save the day

The district activated the crisis response team and is working to restore critical services. It is unclear at this point how long the systems will be down.

The IT department discovered early Tuesday morning (7 a.m.) that some servers were compromised and reacted quickly by shutting down the entire computer network of the district.

Communication with schools in the district is done via phones and handheld radio stations.

However will they survive without the Internet?

Kincade Fire, Power Outages, and the Complete Lack of Preparation

So the good people of California are not prepared for living in the 19 Century. Strong winds stoke flames, fears as Kincade Fire rages on.

This update was posted by the Mercury News Tuesday night, but in typical newspaper fashion it sounds like it was written on Wednesday morning. Deadlines are a funny thing I guess. Anyway, there is a lot of good info on what took place on Tuesday. Apparently during the day winds were in the 40MPH range. When I checked at about 9:30 Tuesday night (Windy.com) they had dropped to about 14 knots (or 16 MPH).

But this is the part that really caught my attention.

At the same time, temperatures around the Bay Area are expected to drop significantly this week — in some places hovering at freezing or below — potentially making it hard for residents without power to keep warm.

Now partly this is a media organization fanning the flames of panic. OMG!!! Freezing temperatures? Humans can’t survive under those conditions! But there is probably a lot of truth in that statement as well. If 10 percent of the population was prepared for anything like this I would be very shocked.

Now granted, even though PG&E has been talking about preemptive power outages for a year, or more (certainly since before the Camp Fire), the real test will be next year. Now that they know power outages are real, that they will last more than 4 hours, and that there may be more than one a season, will they do anything? Will they have kerosene heat? Or a wood stove? (Though California frowns on those) Will anyone buy a propane refrigerator, or a whole house generator? Will they have canned goods on hand, and a way to cook? Or will they be as completely helpless and useless as it seems they are this year. My guess is that they will do nothing, except bitch and moan about how it is all completely unfair, or that the .gov should take care of everything. Or something.

Rule one of prepping. Have something to drink on hand that doesn’t require ice. I have Scotch, and Bourbon. And a few other things. After a day or 2 of living in 19th Century conditions, you are going to need a drink. OK, OK, maybe that’s rule 4, not rule 1.

2019 Hacks and Other Cyber-insanity

I usually see this kind of “the year in review” stuff in December. The scariest hacks and vulnerabilities of 2019.

It’s a surprisingly long list. It includes things like hard-coded password left in a car telemetry app, that could make cars vulnerable, F*c*book storing millions of passwords in plaintext on one of their servers, personnel data from LAPD was stolen, Louisiana school districts and Texas cities were hit with ransomware, and SIM jacker could target any phone with a 2g or newer SIM card. Then there were the hacks that cost a lot, like the $95million hack that hit Demant, a Danish company.

Two months to go.

First Login to ARPANET – Oct. 29, 1969

50 years ago today, the Internet was born. Sort of. I think that says it all.

On October 29, 1969, at 10:30pm Pacific Time, the first two letters were transmitted over ARPANET. And then it crashed. About an hour later, after some debugging, the first actual remote connection between two computers was established over what would someday evolve into the modern Internet.

Funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (the predecessor of DARPA), ARPANET was built to explore technologies related to building a military command and control network that could survive a nuclear attack

The Kincade Fire

So California wildfires are in the news, and like the 2018 Camp Fire, early indications are that the source of the ignition for the Kincaid Fire was a PG&E high-voltage transmission line, but it will be a while before they actually say what was the cause of this fire. More on that later.

First let’s look at the current status, as of Monday morning. Kincade Fire in Sonoma County grows to 66,000 acres, 5 percent contained.

More than 180,000 people are being evacuated from the devastating Kincade Fire in Sonoma County. The blaze has now burned more than 66,000 acres and is 5 percent contained, according to CAL FIRE. There are 80,000 structures threatened and 96 structures destroyed, including at least 31 homes.

New emergency evacuations were enforced in Santa Rosa Sunday night as large flames spread quickly toward homes in the areas of Markwest, Larkfield, and Wikiup. Police drove through the streets, blasting sirens as a final warning to get out immediately.

For comparison, the Camp Fire burned a total of 153,000 acres before it was through.

And although this hasn’t been positively identified as the source of the fire, it does have that potential. PG&E says transmission line broke as Sonoma fire began

PG&E had been shutting off power to residents to avoid fires sparked by electric lines. The utility company said nearly 28,000 people in Sonoma County, including Geyserville and the surrounding area, lost power when distribution lines were shut off at 3 p.m. Wednesday. The company said transmission lines, which operate at a higher voltage, remained energized at the time the fire started.

CalFire said they found a broken jumper cable on one of the 230,000 volt transmission lines in the area where the fire started. So while PG&E turned off the regional distribution lines, and put a bunch of people in the dark, they left the high-voltage transmission lines energized. As usual, Juan Brown of Blancolirio, has the best information. Be warned, he streamed this video to YouTube from the top of a mountain, and so the quality is pretty low, even if the information is top notch. Mt Patterson, Ca. 11,000′ PG&E UPDATE Kincade Fire, Sonoma Co, CA. He has apparently headed, with his family, to the eastern Sierra mountains, since they had their power cut off at home.

If there is any good news this morning it’s that the winds in the area are down to 2-to-5 knots in the area of the fire. (See Windy.com for info.)

And it may be the NY Slimes, but they do have some stunning photography. The Kincade Fire in Pictures.

Our Aging Infrastructure

So when does this constitute a crisis? I’m only going to cover dams today. Not the California power outages (plural). I am going to limit myself to dams. For today, anyway.

In my post, The Coming Dark Age, I reference an article by Victor Davis Hanson: Members of previous generations now seem like giants — When did we become so small? One of the things he talks about is dams, and how we don’t build any. Of course it appears we aren’t even maintaining any that we have inherited. Then I ran across a gif of a dam failure, and I went looking for more data. And found more than I could have realized.

On May 14th of this year, part of the spillway of a Texas dam failed. Aging steel suspected in dam failure at Lake Dunlap.

The lake is both a source of fresh water and an economic driver through recreation. Boating seems to have been (past tense) a particular driver of the economy.

What caused the failure is still under investigation, but the river authority released a statement Thursday evening saying it believes that “aging structural steel” played a role.

A similar spill gate collapse occurred in 2016 at Lake Wood, 4 miles west of Gonzales, after structural steel inside that gate failed.

This is video from May, showing the exact moment of the dam failure. You can spare the 30 seconds involved.

Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) owns several dams, most over 90 years old, and apparently all in need of repair. And two have failed. Unsafe zones identified in study. These dams are 90 years old. That they would eventually need repair/replacement is NOT a secret. That fact was known the day they were built. So why no plans, no savings, no action? Because as Hanson describes in the link at the top, we are a generation of social-media addicts, who can only castigate previous generations, generations who built all of our infrastructure, for their perceived failings. As if we were perfect.

The river authority has said the aging dams — all upwards of 90 years old — need their spill gates replaced at an astounding cost. Officials have said the authority has no funds to make the necessary upgrades, which has led to safety concerns with the prospect of injury should someone be on a lake or near a dam when the next spill gate fails.

So what has the authority been doing for the past 90 years? All their dams need repair at once, after 2 have failed.

And of course it isn’t just Texas that has an issue.

Warning unheeded: 2010 dam collapse in Hopkinton was destructive, and predictable

At about 5 p.m. on March 30, 2010, as record rainfall pounded Rhode Island, Blue Pond Dam collapsed, releasing 179 million gallons of water that raced through nearby woods before tearing into a road and washing out a bridge over Canonchet Brook.
[SNIP]
Dam failures are almost never expected, but in the case of Blue Pond Dam the warnings were clear.

And it isn’t only one dam in Rhode Island. Dozens of dams across R.I. are considered unsafe or potentially unsafe. ‘We are literally one storm away from loss of life,’ says one expert.

The state does not know who owns 32 unsafe dams. Actions against 60 dams were pursued, but only 3 were fixed.

The State of Oregon is going to finally pony up some money to fix a dam that has been operating at 72% of capacity since 1994. Planning underway to replace Wallowa Dam. If you click thru and look at the image, it looks like the dam has failed, but apparently they reduced levels before it became a disaster.

Anticipating funding would one day become available, the district hired McMillen to draw plans for a new dam. Because of the risk of a failure, he said the dam has been running at 72% of capacity since 1994. The rehabilitated dam would provide more water to irrigators and allow for more water to be released, increasing stream flows for fish.

Plattsburgh, a city in New York, has voted to just remove a dam. City votes to petition removal of dam. Because it isn’t worth “fixing something that is broken.” (Funny, I’ve had any number of cars towed to a mechanic over the years. I didn’t realize it wasn’t worth it, and I should just buy a new car – every time an alternator or water-pump failed.)

The Mesta 50 Heavy Press

I ran across this machine recently while doing some research on the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War. The Mesta 50 is a 50,000 ton closed die press.

Closed die presses were developed by Germany during the period between the first and second world wars. The large forgings enabled Germany to build large numbers of strong and light fighter planes, and other things as well. After the war, the Soviets took the biggest press and we took a couple of smaller ones, and so the Cold War Heavy Press Program was born.

The Mesta 50 broke down in 2008, and while they considered scrapping it, it is just too important. An overhaul and replacement of cracked parts was undertaken. Shortly before the overhaul was due to be completed The Atlantic magazine ran an article on the Press. Iron Giant: One of America’s great machines comes back to life.

It is this power, combined with amazing precision—its tolerances are measured in thousandths of an inch—that gives the Fifty its far-reaching utility. It has made essential parts for industrial gas turbines, helicopters, and spacecraft. Every manned U.S. military aircraft now flying uses parts forged by the Fifty. So does every commercial aircraft made by Airbus and Boeing.

The Mesta 50 is no longer the largest press in the USA. A 60 ton press was recently built in Los Angeles by a German company, The SMS Group. A larger press was needed because the parts required by the aerospace industry are getting larger. And Mesta 50 wasn’t the largest in the world anyway. (The video embedded below has details.) So maybe we haven’t lost the ability to build amazing things, though it doesn’t surprise me that Germany designed it, and Great Britain and South Korea produced the large castings… We’ll get to that machine another time.

I won’t try to explain what it does, since the video does a tolerable job and isn’t so long, at just over 12 minutes, you can’t watch it over a cup of coffee. Or see The Atlantic link above. There is another video linked below, but I’m not sure I can recommend it.

What follows is a 12 minute video on the Heavy Press program and the Mesta 50. America’s Iron Giants – The World’s Most Powerful Metalworkers.

An original film from the Air Force detailing how the Mesta 50 was used. It is 30 minutes, and very dry.

For some thoughts on why I find this stuff is interesting, see the post on The Coming Dark Age.