Friday, February 24, 2017

Combat Readiness

No military unit is ever 100% combat ready.  Troops will be taking leave, some weapons will be out of commission, there are always some shortages in compliment, authorized slots unfilled, some gear worn or obsolete.  So,  something less than 100% is as good as you can do. 
   Back when I was pounding a flight line in USAF, the standard was 71% of squadron aircraft ready to fly every day.  We had to report our percent in commission every morning at 4 AM.  That gave maintenance most of the night to fix the planes that the pilots had broke flying them the previous day.  We had 20 fighters and to make 71% operationally ready, we had to have 15 aircraft in commission, every single morning.  We usually had one aircraft in periodic inspection which took days to complete.  Or undergoing engine change, which took a day and a half.  So we could only afford to have four aircraft down for maintenance after the witching hour of 4 AM.
  Aviation Week ran an article this week about readiness rates.  Somehow USAF was still making 71%, but just barely.  Army, Marines and Navy were only doing 50%.  Back in my day, a USAF squadron commander who failed to make 71% got relieved of duty.  Dunno how the other services feel about the issue, nowadays. 
   Distorting the numbers is the huge amount of aircraft out for depot level maintenance (DLM we used to call it).  At squadron level we only had to report on squadron aircraft.  If we sent an aircraft off for DLM, it no longer counted as assigned to our squadron.  About once a year we would send a plane off to depot, and it would take depot a matter of months to get it back to us.  So something like 2.5% to 5% of the force was in DLM.  That was then
   Now, the Marines are reporting 171 F/A18 fighters assigned to squadrons and 109 F/A18 fighters in DLM.  That's 38% of the fleet out of commission for DLM.  That's bad. Really bad. 
   Aviation Week (staunch industry supporter that they are) is calling for more funding for aircraft maintenance. 
    I wonder how you rate the combat readiness of infantry or tank units. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Harbor Freight comes to town

They took up half the space in a small deserted strip mall, giving them a big store, about the size of a Staples.  They remodeled, and opened for business the other day.  I stopped in to browse this morning.  They have a lot of stuff in there, hand tools, power tools, ladders, jackstands, welding rigs, a neat little metal working lathe ($569) just about anything you might want. 
  I hope they prosper.  They have to overcome a terrible reputation for quality, actually lack of quality.  I looked hard at the stuff on display trying to judge the quality.  The stuff looks OK, the socket wrenches are nicely polished and bright chrome.  With sockets the only way to tell quality is put the socket on a two foot breaker bar and give it the old heave ho on a stuck nut.  Low quality sockets will break under this stress test, good ones will survive.  Their prices are right, rock bottom low, and for Harry Homeowner who doesn't use his tools nearly as hard as the professionals do,  Harbor Freight can be a deal. 
  I did like that little metal working lathe for $569.  Didn't buy it though. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mosul, Iraq

The TV has been talking up the battle of Mosul.  They claim to have taken the half of the city on the west bank of the Tigris river, and are now talking about taking the half the city on the other bank of the river. 
   The TV does not say if allied/Iraqi forces have surrounded Mosul and cut it off from food and supplies.  Since the TV doesn't talk about it, I guess that the surviving ISIS half of Mosul is still in contact with the rest of the ISIS lands.  Which is not encouraging.
   Thruout all history, the way to conquer a city has been to surround it and starve it out.  It's been true since the Greeks besieged Troy.  The Germans tried to take Stalingrad by frontal assault rather than surrounding it.  Did not work out for them.  Cities are man made defensive works.  Fighting from house to house with grenades and assault rifles is the toughest kind of fighting anywhere.  If you have the combat power to push into a defended city, you have plenty of combat power to surround it and then just wait for the defender to get hungry. 
   So what are we doing in Mosul anyhow?  Do we have any US newsies with our forces at the front?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Whither the retail business

I went shopping with youngest son on Saturday.  We went to the North Shore Mall on Rte 128.  I worked on the north shore for ten years, back before I retired.  Used to stop into the North Shore Mall  regularly.  This was the first time back there in ten years.  It was a nice Saturday, no snow, temperature in the 50's, sunny, a nice day.
   And the place, a truly big mall, was far from crowded.  There were some shoppers, but not all that many, compared to what they used to have.  And the shops were women's clothing, cosmetics, GMC herbs, new age crystals.  Nothing much to attract a guy. No Radio Shack, no men's wear, no hardware. The North Slope didn't have ski gear or snowshoes, or ice fishing stuff, or winter camping gear.  They only had two colors of parkas, black and International Orange. I don't like either color.   We did find a Lego store, and a Brookstone, but that was about it as far as stores selling guy stuff. 
   Any how, I'm glad I don't have to make a living in retail.   Let's guess, Amazon and Walmart and Target, and Home Despot have taken the North Shore Mall customers. 

How to tell fake news from real news

Graph department that is.  The Internet is awash in graphs claiming to show the growth, or shrinkage of all sorts of things.  Net Worth, employment, GNP growth, income inequality, and on and on.  The graphs typically show a bunch of colored lines, rising dramatically, and implying that something is getting bigger, or better, or worse, or something.
   Lies, damn lies, and statistics.  How can you tell a real and true graph from fake data trying to convince you of something that isn't true?
   These tricks may not work all the time, but they will weed out a lot of fake data graphs.
1.  Are both axes labeled?  With what they represent and what the units are (gallons, pounds, feet, furlongs per fortnight, dollars, whatever).
2.  Are the scale divisions of the axes uniform?  A graph with scale divisions every 10% except for a few on the end scaled out to 2%,1%, and 0.1% is attempting to bend the plotted curve somewhere.  Any graph with non-uniform scale divisions is trying to lie to you.
3.   Does the vertical axis go all the way down to zero?  I can take a straight line and turn it into a jagged mountain range if I expand the vertical scale enough.  If the vertical scale doesn't go down to zero, the graph is trying to make bumpiness bigger than it really is.
4.  If its a graph of something versus time, does the time axis go back before 2007?   Great Depression 2.0 started in 2007 and just about everything went down the drain that year.  A graph that starts in 2009 will show a steady increase as we pulled out of Great Depression 2.0  Same graph restarted in 1997 will likely show a great dropoff in 2007 and may show that things have not recovered to where they were in 2006.  Two different messages.  
5. Do the numbers at the extremes of t he graph make sense?   For instance I saw a graph claiming that of the top 0.1% income individuals in the country, 40% of them had not completed college and were out of work.  Somehow I just don't believe that. When I find one unbelievable data point, then I figure there are more that I don't find.  Put that graph into the damn lies category.

    I'm picky.  If a graph fails any one of these tests, I put in into the "damn lies" category.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Got a call from my old Alma Mater

It was a young female student, a senior, getting in some work for the alumni office, calling to thank me for a contribution I made a few weeks ago.  We got to chatting, about majors and the job market and how things were back when I graduated better than 40 years ago.  She thought things must have been better back then, especially after I mentioned that I had a job offer before I graduated.  I asked here what shw was majoring in.  "International relations" she said.  I refrained from saying anything while I thought to myself, "A real dead end major unless you want to join the State Dept or the CIA."  So I asked her if she had taken a course in computer programming.  "No, but I wish I had" was the reply. 
   After the phone call was over, I thought to myself, "There goes a nice young woman who is graduating with a major that won't help her get a job.  Let's hope she can marry the right guy."
   Lesson: if you are a student, or a parent of a student, you need to do some serious thinking about your college major.   The right major will get you a job upon graduation.  The wrong major and you are out of luck.  Decide now what you want to do for a living when you graduate.  Pick your major to make you employable in your chosen field.   Engineering (real engineering, chemical, electrical, mechanical, or civil) worked for me,  is fun to do, plenty of jobs, and decent pay.  The sciences, computer programming, business administration, and mathematics are also good bets.   
   Avoid the talky-talk "sciences" (sociology, anthropology, psychology, ecology) and anything with "studies" in its name (ethic studies, gender studies and so on). 
   If you just cannot stomach a STEM major, learn to write.  There is a tremendous demand for good English writing in business, industry, and government.  An English major or a history major will teach you how to write. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Words of the Weasel Part 46

"What did he know and when did he know it".  The old Watergate cry.  Congressional Democrats are in full cry on TV this morning.  This is an accusation of thought crime.  And I don't believe in thought crime.  Liberty means the right to think anything you please.  Crime has to be action of some sort. 
  The proper questions  are "What did he do?  When did he do it?  Where did he do it? And what evidence do you have? "  To be a crime it has to be an action.  Thought (or knowledge) is never a crime.