Quiz Question

Number 268 of a series

The Quiz Questions have been too easy recently. It’s time to get serious.

Here is a box with a lid on it. The interior of the box measures 5 by 5 by 5. The box is filled with balls. Each ball is 1.5 in diameter. What is the maximum number of these balls that can be contained withing the box?

Post your answer in the comments section below.

Bad Joke of the Week

Number 409 of a Series

Parody on Father Guido Sarducci

Vita est Lavorum. That means “life is a job.” That’s-a what-a we found out — life is hard, you think it’s difficult sometimes? That’s-a because it’s a JOB! We’re all-a getting paid $14.50 a day. It don’t sound like much. I mean, $14.50 a day, but, you know, over a period of, like, 60-70-80 years… it’s-a nothing to sneeze your nose at.

And-a, what happens to you when-a you die… you know, it’s like-a the soul leaves the body, it’s like a little bubbling 7-Up. You know? It just-a- goes-a shooting up, and-a you see yourself going down this-a long tunnel — but you’re not afraid. And then, when you get to the end, you see your whole life go by you. You know? From when you was a little-a baby… ’til the day you die. And then… they pay you. God and his-a helpers. You know, they bring-a in all of this money, and then… God goes over all-a of-a your sins. And you get FINED. You know, it’s like, uh… like, maybe like stealing a car’s like $400. Murder is… maybe, you know, the worst — it’s like $50,000. And masturbation… eh, maybe, you know, like twenty-five, thirty-five cents. You know. That’s-a cheap sin. You know, but-a for a lot of people, you know, it can amount up. It-a just-a shows, you know — there is-a NO free lunch.

So I’m-a thinking. I get to heaven, and San Pietro, he examines the ledger, and he finds my entry. Yes, I’m-a in the book. And wouldn’t it be my luck. I’m-a 35 cents short.

I’m-a telling you, that’s life.

Quiz Question

Number 267 of a series

Here is a problem of interest to every red-blooded citizen.

Suppose you have captured the notorious arch criminal Slade Snively; the man who raped your daughter, shot your dog, and voted for Trump. You have him in your power, and you want to dispose of him in the most permanent way possible. You have a rocket, and you have two options:

  1. You can fire him off and into the sun.
  2. You can launch him into interstellar space, never to return

However, you are a bit strapped for cash. You need to save on rocket fuel. Which option do you choose?

Obviously there are two choices, so you can take a guess and have a 50% chance of being right. Use some physics and be 100% right. Explain your choice.

Don’t post your answer on Facebook. Post it in the comments section below.

Update and Solution

Somebody posted this on Facebook, and I took a quick look and had a solution immediately. Wrong-o. My first thought is the sun is closer and interstellar space is so far, and you have to escape the sun’s gravitational well. Except…

Except do the math. Earth is in a nearly circular orbit around the sun, and for an object in circular orbit, the escape velocity from that object is √2 times the orbital velocity. Bur first you have to escape Earth’s gravitational well, but it is the same whether you are going to the sun or going into interstellar space. To go into the sun all you need to do is cancel out Earth’s orbital velocity, and you will drop straight in. To go into interstellar space you need to go √2 times your orbital velocity, but you are already going 1 times your orbital velocity, so all you need is an extra 0.414 times the orbital velocity. 1.0 compared to 0.414 tells you interstellar space is closer, energy-wise, Go for interstellar space, and Trump will never be the wiser.

Quiz Question

Number 265 of a series

A shadowy figure in the previous World War was Nazi military operative Otto Skorzeny. He is famous for his elaborate operation to free Benito Mussolini from prison, and later he headed up an operation to subvert Allied defenses in the Battle of the Bulge. He and his men dressed up as American soldiers and infiltrated American lines. They spoke perfect English, but Americans caught on and began to ask suspicious characters questions from American culture. Like, who or what are the White Sox?

Decades have come and gone, and we now learn American troops are finding a bounty on their heads. We can never be too careful. That stranger you meet on the street could be a Russian assassin. Here are some questions you should ask. Only a real American can answer correctly.

  • How many days did it take to hitch hike from Saginaw?
  • So, you drove your Chevy to the levee. What did you find there?
  • Where did you leave your heart?
  • You should set your feet to the sunny side of what?
  • What does Old Man River keep doing?
  • “Ain’t …” What is it you ain’t doing?
  • You need to get out of the way of Old Dan Tucker, because he’s too late to get what?
  • There are no stars up in the sky. Why?
  • I can’t get no… What is it I can’t get no?
  • If you got the previous one, then this will be easy. I see a red door, and I want to paint it what color?
  • How long is the Camptown racetrack?
  • What can you get at Alice’s Restaurant?

You know what? If a stranger can answer all these correctly he’s obviously a Russian agent. Shoot him?

Quiz Question

Number 263 of a series

See the diagram above. The top figure shows a steel bar supported at its ends. It is one inch thick, and it will support 6000 pounds.

The contractor does not have any one-inch-thick bars, so he stacks two 1/2-inch-thick bars instead. How much weight will this arrangement support?

Post your answer in the comments section below. Extra points if you explain your answer.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a Continuing Series

It’s time for an atheist joke.

As a young boy, a Jew survives the Holocaust. Years pass, and he grows old and dies. He goes to Heaven.

When he gets to Heaven he requests to meet God. So the two meet, and they talk. The Jew tells God, “Let me tell you a joke about the Holocaust.”

And God says OK, and the man tells the joke. God is puzzled, and he says, “That joke’s not funny.”

The man remarks, “Well, I guess you needed to have been there.”

Quiz Question

Number 257 of a series

I usually pull one of these from something on the Internet. I made this one up. I’m sure it’s already in somebody’s geometry book.

The diagram above shows two intersecting spheres. Each has a diameter of 4. The distance between their centers is 2. What is the volume shared by the two spheres?

Post your answer in the comments section below.

The Red Phone

Revisiting a Tale from the Past

I was reviewing a movie from 1975, and it featured a place that brought back memories. It came about this way.

Twenty-six years ago I was looking for a job, and I hired on at a company in Richardson, Texas. It was an interesting bit of enterprise. It was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chrysler Corporation, and it did military contracts. They were in a rush to get their software done, and they were scrambling to fill in some slots.

I worked that project to death, and this forced my employer to either fire me or to find something to keep my hands busy while they looked for someplace to put me. They told me, “Why don’t you go over and work on the Secure Digital Switch (SDS) project.” I knew the company had this contract, and it was a different kind of work. It was 100% telecommunications. Some elaboration.

Your government does not content itself to operate on the nation’s commercial phone system. they have their own, especially for talk that involves national secrets. So decades ago they re-invented the T1 line, what commercial phone systems have been using since 1962. Since Alexander Graham Bell developed the Bell System in the 19th century voice had traveled over wire in analog form. Your voice is a train of air pressure waves, and for nearly a century telephone sets always converted these pressure waves into electric waves, the peaks and valleys of the electrical waves mimicking the pressure waves of your voice. T1 and later versions in the series carry sounds as trains of numbers, each number representing the value of the pressure wave. A T1 line carries 24 separate voice links along a single wire.

What the United States Government did was to add another channel to carry signaling information. Yeah, there was no way you could tap a commercial line into an SDS wire and make that work. Anyhow, the SDS incorporated a features to not only encrypt the communication channels, but to control which phones could participate in which conversations. If some Air Force majors were holding a conference call with their secret clearance, and the general barged in with his top secret clearance, the switch would drop all phones not cleared for top secret from the conversation.

And that all worked nicely, and my employer had the contract to manufacture and maintain the switches. They also made the phones. See the image above. They are called “red phones” for no good reason, because they are as you can see.

But there was a problem, and I’m guessing nobody else wanted to work on it. And that’s where this place comes in.

That’s the Allied Forces Southern Europe command center in Naples, Italy, and they had one or more of our switches. Secure phone links ran from here to various other bases, and they had a method for testing the links. They would have somebody at the opposite end of a link, e.g., in Germany, break a link and feed it back to Naples. Then they would send out stuff from Naples, and determine the same stuff came back. It’s called a loop-back test. And when the test was completed they would undo what they had done, and the link was usable again. Only there was a problem.

If, for example, the general was talking on the phone to Germany when somebody ran the test he would lose his connection momentarily. Then it would come back and the general would continue talking with a puzzled look on his face.

And sometimes not. Sometimes the disconnect and reconnect would interrupt a control signalling packet, and the switch on the other end would never get it. And the communication link would lock up. Permanently. Have you ever seen a speechless general?

Anyhow, they said, “Fix it.” And I said, “I think I might need some help, like where is the code for the switch, and not only that, where is the code for the line multiplexers?” They said, “Here are some copies of the source code, and, by the way, the code for the switch runs on a Motorola 6803, and it’s in assembly language, and the code for the multiplexer runs on a Motorola 68000, and it’s written in C. And also, there is this guy named Dave on the third floor who used to support this code, but he’s not available to help you, because we don’t have the budget to pay him. You’re on your own.”

The switch had VME boards, which you could pull out and put on an extender so you could get at the circuits while the switch was running. It was necessary to clamp a logic analyzer onto the pins of the processor and track the execution of the code to see what went wrong when the link locked up.

And that’s what occupied the next six months of my life, and that’s why the Southern Command in Naples will always have a dear place in my heart. So when I was watching the movie The Human Factor, and I saw where the George Kennedy and John Mills characters worked I nearly fell out of my seat.

To wrap up the story, I eventually worked out a fix, and I tested it, and it worked. When the connection was broken and reconnected, the new software detected what had happened and fixed things up. The fix required changes to the switch software and the software on two kinds of multiplexer boards. That done, I realized the phones would need to continue to work while people were switching out the software in the switches and multiplexers, so I had to make changes in the phone software. That’s how I got to see the inside of the phone that sits on the President’s desk. Rather, one just like it. The neat thing about these phones is you don’t need to take one apart to change the software. The software is changed by essentially calling up the phone and sending it some special signals along with the new code.

Years later I was doing a visitor’s tour of the Pentagon, and I saw one of the phones on somebody’s desk. I resisted the temptation to pick up the unit and see the company name on the bottom.

The picture is not all that pretty. Before I finished with the phone software I got a better offer from another company, so I dropped by my boss’s desk and gave him my 30-day notice. He assigned another guy to complete the work, and I worked mightily to bring him up to speed. Not only was he too inexperienced, but he had zero fascination for the work. He was, himself, shopping around for another job. I do not know to this day whether the phone software got fixed.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a Continuing Series

This is an old one, but so is about everything these days.

Wilbur and Clyde were hunting rabbits in the cedar breaks when Wilbur pointed to the ground. “Look, Clyde. Rabbit pellets.”

Clyde had an idea. “Let’s put them in this here Mason jar. We can play a joke on your cousin Elmo. He is so stupid, he’ll fall for anything.”

So on the way back to town they stopped by to see Elmo. Clyde said, “Elmo, you’re about to graduate first grade. Are you thinking about going to college?”

Elmo shook his head. “I can’t go to college. I’m too stupid to go to college.”

Clyde told him, “Elmo, you don’t have to be stupid all your life. What you need are some smart pills.”

“Elmo said, “Yeah, that’s right. I need me some smart pills. I wonder where I can get some.”

Clyde held out the jar. “It so happens I have some right here. I’ll sell you the whole jar for $10.”

Elmo paid him the money and said, “Clyde, you are so good to me. When I get smarter I’m going to make all up to you.”

A few days passed and Clyde and Wilbur were passing by Elmo’s house again, and he came out to see them. “Clyde, I’ve been taking them smart pills.”

Clyde said, “Yeah?”

Elmo told him, “Clyde, I think you cheated me. These here ain’t no smart pills at all. These are rabbit pellets.”

Clyde was amazed. “Elmo, see? They work. You’re getting smarter already.”


Prince of Dreadful, Part 6

This series is devoted to answering that ageless question, “Are you tired of winning yet?” If you think we’ve been winning too much lately, my aim is to disabuse you of that construct. Here to assist me is a person I have employed in this effort. Right now he’s out in Washington, D.C., drawing a salary of $400,000 a year, but trust me, he’s worth every penny. Nobody repudiates “Are you tired of winning yet?” like President Donald Trump.

I am even less alone in this enterprise in so far as I pull from an army of news reporters, and even comedians. Without charging me a dime they follow the TiaS around, capturing his words for posterity and making them available on YouTube and similar outlets. Today I got up early and dialed in yesterday’s episode of A Closer Look, with Seth Meyers. In truth, this show pulls from other outlets, which is why you see them credited in the screen shots I use.

On Tuesday our Turd in a Suit cajoled us with the message he intends to cut this country’s funding to the World Health Organization. Rev.com made a transcript available, and I will paste it below. First some screen shots with snippets of monologue overlaid.

Following are excerpts from the Rev.com transcript.

We see that tunnel, and at the end of that tunnel, we see light. We’re starting to see it more than ever before. We’ve held our rate, the numbers, everything we’ve done. We’ve been very, very strong on it and very powerful on it.

Would we be able to prevent Americans from dying because we couldn’t get them ventilators, and the ventilators that they needed and they needed immediately. I instructed my team to move heaven and earth to make sure that this didn’t happen. We started to smartly ration and distribute the ventilators that we had and that others had. And I got daily updates on the supply we had, from requests coming in and people wanting to have updates. We had a great group of people working on it. I instructed my team to use the Defense Protection Act.

Donald Trump: (12:58)
And the Defense Production Act was used very powerfully, more powerfully than anybody would know. In fact, so powerfully that for the most part, we didn’t have to officially take it out. It was a hammer. It was a very powerful hammer, in order to manufacture as many ventilators as possible. Last year, America manufactured from a dead start, 30,000 ventilators. And this year the number will be over 150,000 ventilators. It could be as high as 200,000. Far more than we’ll ever need. So we’ll be able to stockpile, we’ll be able to talk to states about stockpiling. These are high quality ventilators. We had a choice. We could do inexpensive, less productive ventilators or high quality. We’ve done a high quality ventilator, so we should have anywhere from 150 to 200,000 ventilators.

People, this is the President of the United States speaking. How many different ways are there to spell “LOSER?



In case you missed the earlier installments, this series is dedicated to a months-long take down of presidential candidate Donald Trump. While I promise not to stoop to personal attacks, such as comparing Donald Trump to a turd in a business suit, I will allow readers to come to that conclusion on their own.

This is a sub-series of the series—all segments being takes from an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which played on HBO 29 February 2016, before it was considered possible the Republican Party would select a turd in a suit as their nominee. Anyhow, the show included clips of people on the street explaining what they liked about candidate Trump. The one at the top shows the woman saying she liked him because, “He tells it like it is.”

Yes! That’s why you should like Donald Trump. Donald Trump tells it like it is. Or like it is not, depending which ear you are listening out of.

Here is a reality check. Those who check up on what people say have determined statements of fact coming from a turd in a suit are false 75% of the time. Keep in mind, turds in suits were put on this Earth to give used car salesmen a good name.

Let’s do some more. In a tweet candidate Trump chided comedian Jon Stewart for changing his name.

Oops! The turd in a suit never said that.

I am thinking turds in suits take offense at stuff John Oliver says, and candidate Trump explained why he has never appeared as a guest on John Oliver’s show, despite being invited several times.

Not necessarily Donald Trump, but some turd in a suit out there said on a talk show, “John Oliver. He asked me to be on his show 4 or 5 times.

No. He did not. John Oliver checked, and nobody ever asked Donald Trump nor any other turd in a suit to be on his show.

That’s a turd in a suit telling it like it is.

Keep reading. The election is not until 3 November, and there will be a lot more about a turd in a suit coming your way.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.