Sunday, August 31, 2008

Democrats slam Palin

Chatting with some democratic neighbors. "I can't understand how he could pick some one with just a journalism degree from Idaho. Couldn't he find someone from a decent school?" "And then she had that child, when she knew it was going to be defective."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

"The Strongest Tribe" by Bing West

Great book on the Iraq war. Tells the story from the beginning right up to a couple of months ago. Tells of the combat, the units engaged and what they did, the political maneuvering in Washington and Baghdad, and gives thumbnail sketches of colorful American soldiers doing their best under tough circumstances.
Bing West, the author, was a Marine infantry man in Viet Nam, so he knows something about counter insurgency warfare. He has spent much time in Iraq, out in the field, ever since 2003. West is a well informed man with practical experience and first hand observations.
West details policy blunders by Washington and by the generals, but shows how the sheer excellence of the American fighting men overwhelmed the enemy and turned defeat into victory. US troops never flinched, never faltered, and always ran toward the sound of the guns. They endured back to back tours in Iraq, 120 degree summer heat, IED explosions, and enemy snipers. Out in the wild west of Anbar province, the front line soldiers made the connections with the tribal sheiks that sparked the Anbar Awakening and won the war. They used email and blogs to keep home front political support alive. With guys like this, anything is possible,
Great read.

Sarah Palin will be a great VP

That's the consensus of Republicans up here. Everyone loves her. Every one admits they never heard of her before McCain picked her, but they think she is great. The general feeling is any one who can raise five kids AND become state governor has got a lot on the ball. The other observation is that the other names (Romney, Huckabee, Guiliani and company) are boring and dull. Up here a gutsy and independent pick plays better than a conventional and boring pick.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Michael Totten says the Russians started it

Michael Totten is a free lance journalist who has spent much time in Iraq, out in the field with the troops. His dispatches on the Internet were/are the best reporting to come out of Iraq. He takes good photographs too. Any how Michael is in Tbilisi the other day getting a briefing from an American doing media relations work for the Georgian government. Sitting in on the meeting is Tom Goltz, old Caucausian hand, author of "Georgian Diary" and "Azerbaijan Diary", fluent in Russian, Georgian and various other dialects. Both men, Totten and Goltz, are highly creditable, experienced men of good judgment, and they are on the scene, not commenting from a cozy TV studio in New York.
They say the Ossetian "militia" , untrained and closer to bandits than a military, started the war by attacking and shelling existing Georgian positions. When the Georgians moved up re enforcements, the Russians called it an attack and rolled in the tanks.
There is a lot of different stories about who started it flying around. I'll believe Totten and Goltz 'cause I have read their stuff in the past and found it good, neither of them is a taker of sides, and they are present on the scene.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to college

Youngest son starts his sophomore year at Brooklyn Polytechnic. All his stuff fit inside the Caddy, didn't have to borrow a pickup truck like last time. It's 700 miles, round trip from here. Did it all in one day. Had son drive the way down, I drove all the way back. Caddy is still running well, A/C is powerful, 26 mpg, with a load.
New York roads are even worse than New Hampshire's. Giant axle breaking pothholes, continuous construction areas, miserable signage. Good thing it was Sunday, no rush hour traffic.
NYPD has plenty of budget. Cops on foot patrol everywhere. To protect the precinct station next to Polytech from drive by shootings, they have the street blocked off at both ends with police cruisers, with cops sitting behind the wheel. On Sunday.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Drilling vs "comprehensive energy bill"

The Republicans want to pass a law allowing off shore drilling. Nancy Pelosi calls for a "comprehensive energy bill". I think Nancy wants a "We let you do a little drilling but we get some big subsidies for worthy causes" bill. A compromise where some democratic programs that lack the votes to pass, get pushed thru in return for allowing America to increase the supply of fuel and bring the price down. Doesn't sound very public spirited or non partisan to this blogger.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Arctic Ocean is NOT melting out. See photos

At least not this year. The Register has satellite photos from this month and this month last year posted. This is interesting 'cause the scariest global warming evidence I ever saw was a pair of similar photo's showing a north pole meltdown in progress. The Register photo's contradict those older pix.

Patent trolls are everywhere

In the vast big buck world of HO model railroading, a patent troll has surfaced. The troll, Real Rail Effects, sent letters to makers of Digital Command Control (DCC) equipment demanding royalties based upon a US patent. The troll used to be in the DCC business but hasn't advertised any product for sale since 1997. Under threat, the other DCC makers rallied behind the banner of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) and challenged the troll's patent.
The NMRA pointed out that the system in question had been described in the open literature (Model Railroader magazine, a slick paper hobby magazine with wide national and international circulation) in 1992, two years before the patent was issued.
It's hard to understand the troll's thought process. The model railroad business is small, and the hobbyists are mostly retirement age. There isn't enough money in the business overall to make the trolling pay off. It's not like the Blackberry business which had to pay a troll off with $600 million last year.
It's also hard to understand how the Patent Office granted the patent in the first place. The prior art was plain to see, and the subject matter, an electronic encoding system, was obvious to anyone (like myself) skilled in the art. This patent was the equivalent of patenting the QWERTY keyboard layout.
The US patent system no longer advances the useful arts, it's placing obstacles in the path of advancement. Patents no longer protect inventors, instead the patent system allows parasites to steal money from those who have actually advanced the state of the art.
The model railroad business is tiny and unimportant, the real industries like Blackberry are under constant attack. We would advance the state of the art by abolishing the US patent system. While we are at it, we could repeal the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and restrict copyright to 17 years.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Aviation Week praises Georgian air defenses

The Russians admit to loosing three jet fighters and a Backfire bomber to Georgian SAM's. The Georgians are claiming fourteen kills. Look at the zero losses suffered by the Israeli air force bombing the Syrian nuclear reactor last fall, and the Georgians look like dead shots. Or, the Russian electronic countermeasures (ECM) isn't as good as Israeli made.

Tanker tinkering

They are about to release the latest Request for Proposal (RFP in Pentagon-speak) for the USAF tanker. This is the bungled Boeing/Airbus competition that they are doing over again. According to Aviation Week, the new RFP will favor the larger Airbus offering. There will be a scoring system giving extra points for more range, cargo capacity, fuel offload capacity and more passenger seats. Translation, for out of touch Boeing suits in need of hearing aids, the Air Force wants a bigger aircraft. If Boeing wants the job, it needs to rebid a tanker based on the bigger Boeing 777 , rather than the smaller, older, going out of production, 767. Or even the brand new, not yet in production, all plastic 787 Dreamliner.
Of course, the Air Force should have decided how big a tanker they want to buy in the first place and put that in the original RFP. That might have prevented the disaster of the previous bid, where the losing Boeing protested and GAO subsequently upheld Boeing.
Aviation week opined that switching from the 767 to the 777 would be too hard for Boeing to do in the time allotted. I don't believe that. The bid paperwork (all 50,000 pages of it) is on a computer. Someone tells the computer to go thru and change 767 to 777. The actual engineering is simple, omit the seats, add some tanks. Bolt a boom on the tail. Keep everything else the same as the civilian version so you can use the same parts, flight simulator, flight trainings and so on.
If Boeing thinks this is too much trouble, Airbus gets the job. That's not the end of the world. Airbus uses American made engines, and engines are half the price of the finished aircraft.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Words of the Weasel Pt 9 Nuanced

After the Obama-McCain show at the Saddleback church last night, the CNN after action commentators repeatedly describe Obama's talk as "nuanced", or "highly nuanced". Doesn't sound that bad does it? Actually, I thought Obama was vague and evasive. McCain on the other hand came right to the point. The audience, gave Obama some polite applause, but the gave McCain a whole lot more. When asked if he believed in the existence of evil and what would he do about it, Obama spoke at length, without getting to the point, McCain's first words were "Defeat it".
So, "nuanced" is a democrat's word for vague and evasive.

Lakes of oil, on Titan

Aviation Week has an image of a 150 mile long lake of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan. It even has a beach. They figure it is oil because it's so smooth and dark that it has to be liquid, and the only thing that stays liquid at Titanian surface temperatures is stuff like ethane. Water would be frozen solid and hence not show up as dark and smooth as this lake does.
Too bad it's on Titan. We could use it here.

Space Shuttle Tank workforce layoffs coming

Aviation Week reports that Lockheed Martin will begin reducing the 2445 man workforce on the Space Shuttle external tank project. That's the big round tank that goes inbetween the two solid rocket boosters. It's just a tank, no engines, avionics, or auxiliary equipment.
2445 men to make a handful of tanks a year? Used to be a whole fighter wing, 90 aircraft, flying 100 combat missions a day, only had 900 men on the ground. That's crew crews, armament men, mechanics and electronics techs. Them tanks must be hand made, and accompanied by a mass of paper work as big as the tank to have 2445 guys charging tank work on their time cards. Can you spell featherbedding?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tractor Supply, a small box store, opened in Littleton

A small box store going for the guy business. Eclectic mix of hand tools, automobile parts, garden stuff, pet feed, some clothing of the work boot, cowboy hat and blue jean sort. Brand new store building, across the parking lot from Wal Mart. All merchandise marked "China". The marketing dept was live wire enough to mail me a "grand opening" flyer with a $10 discount card.
So I visited them. Walked clean around the store looking at stuff. Despite the discount card, got out again with out buying anything. Didn't need car parts, the hand tools were nicely chromed and polished but I couldn't help wondering if the underlying steel was any good. Didn't have anywhere to stash a 50 pound sack of cat food, and cowboy hats aren't my style. I wish them luck, but they need someone else's money, rather than mine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Save the world for $10 billion

The Wall St Journal had Newt Gengrich and Jerry Brown each explain how they would improve to condition of the world if they had $10 billion to spend. As one might imagine there was a divergence is approach.
Jerry plumped for improving efficiency of appliances and cars and such, conserving energy. He would blow his money on efficiency programs. Hmm. Are not the current prices of fuel and electricity incentive enough to sell the most efficient possible devices and hand the expense? Look at the Prius sales compared to SUV sales this year. Prius is efficient and expensive and selling well. They are giving away SUV's and pickup trucks cause nobody wants to pay for filling 'em up. Far as I can see, Jerry's plan won't anything that the free market isn't already doing. I'm sure he could spend the $10 billion. What ex politician ever had trouble spending money? But it won't make any difference.
Newt on the other hand, favored offering prizes for technology we need. Like a malaria vaccine, a cheap sea water desalinization process, cheap travel to low earth orbit. I was a little disappointed in Newt when he proposed a prize for a hydrogen car engine and a nuclear fuel rod recycle plan. Ordinary car engines can run on hydrogen, and nuclear fuel rods can be recycled for a profit, they are rich in valuable uranium and plutonium. The only reason we don't recycle them now is fear that the plutonium might get diverted into terrorist nukes. I used to think Newt was well informed. Not so sure about that now.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Forty days and forty nights until the sewers back up

We are working on forty. By my count we are up to twenty back to back rainy days. We now get "Emergency Flood Warnings" with an attention getting urk urk urk noise on the FM radio. We have grass assaulting the house 'cause it's too wet to mow. It's so chilly we light the fireplace, in August. Must be more global warming...


Finally upgraded the home computer inkjet printer. The ten year old HP 600, with the erratic paper feed, got retired to the town transfer station (aka dump) and replaced by a one year old HP 4260, kindness of youngest son who won't be needing it at college.
XP's plug&play detected the new printer but lacked a driver for it. Since all good drivers are on the net, I was able to down load the right one from the HP website. 35 Megabytes of printer driver. Oink. The old 600 driver came on a pair of 3.5" floppy discs, total capacity 2 megabytes. So, software to do the same task, has grown 17.5X fatter over ten years. Are all the competant programmers retired or what?
Also noticed the new drivers didn't use plug & play (aka plug & pray). HP was very firm about loading the driver BEFORE hooking up the printer, which totally defeats the plug and play logic in XP. Plug and play was supposed make driver loading dead easy for the user. XP polls the hardware to see what was out there at each boot time, and only if it can't find a driver does it go thru the "New hardware detected; Please insert diskette" routine. Good idea, but MS never got the bugs out of it I guess. I did a plug&play driver back in Win 98 days, and the intense pain required to get it to work is still fresh in my memory. Looks like the pain is still there, causing the HP guys to bypass plug&play. One of the reasons for XP's sluggish boot up is all the time spent polling all the hardware, every time it boots.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I survived Service Pack 3

Microsoft Update (trusty little piece of nagware) has been nagging me to download service pack 3 (for XP) for a couple of weeks now. I held off, not wanting to be the first one to debug it. After two weeks, with no bad news about SP3 on the net, I decided to go with it. My computer survived the upgrade, and in fact appears to run a bit faster.

Russia invades Georgia. And the US does what?

The Georgia invasion did make the two Sunday pundit shows, after discussions of banking reforms and the John Edwards scandal. Give the pundits that much. But no pundit really grasped what's going on here. The Russian army is invading a European country that is a US ally. If the US does nothing, (diplomacy is nothing) then the entire world learns that what the Russians want, the Russians get, and resistance is futile. If the US sends troops to defend Georgia, like we did for Kuwait, then we risk getting into a shooting war with the Russians. Both alternatives are horrible.
It's clearly up to the US. The Europeans are already scared of the Russians, except for the British they lack an effective military, and they are divided politically. They aren't going to tell the Russians to pull out or else. Maybe, with strong US leadership, a few of them would help us out a little, but that's about all. The disasters in ex-Yugoslavia (the Balkans) since Tito's death demonstrate what happens when it's up to the Europeans. Namely nothing.
For America, we are between a rock and a hard place. Nobody wants to get into a scrap with the Russians, at any time. For the fifty years of the Cold War we managed to avoid putting American troops within shooting distance of the Red Army, lest an outbreak of firing escalate into the Last Nuclear War. That's still a good policy. You don't crack open the door to Hell just to see if the fires still burn down there.
On the other hand, the Russians are taking South Ossetia today, and next step is all of Georgia. If we rushed a US division into the Georgian capitol (Tbilisi) tomorrow, the Russians might settle for promises of protection for the Russians living in South Ossetia, as opposed to conquering all of Georgia. Might.
The Russians want all of Georgia to gain control of the BTC pipeline, the only way to get central Asian oil out to the West. Look for crude oil to jump back up to $150 a barrel as soon as the BTC pipeline is closed to the West.
If we let the Russians conquer Georgia, it will give them the green light to take over all the over places that used to be part of the old Soviet Union, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania,Poland, Hungary,Czechoslovakia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and all the rest of the 'stans. The Russians mean to reverse the enormous loss of territory that occurred at the breakup of the old Soviet Union back in 1989. If we don't oppose them, it will happen. After re acquiring their empire, what next will they try? They would be in a position to restart the Cold War.
McCain has called for resistance. Obama favors "diplomacy". I don't like either alternative, but I'm inclined to reluctantly back up McCain.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

China puts on one hellova show

Watched the opening of the Olympics on NBC last night. Enormous show, thousands of dancers and drummers and such, all dressed in gorgeous costumes, filling the field of the "Birds Nest" stadium. A smoothness and precision to the dancing that must have taken months of practice to get so smooth. Fireworks, heavy continuous bursts of fire, like the grand finale of a 4th of July over here, but going on and on. Loved it. It's clear the Chinese spared no effort and no expense to put on the show, and they impressed this couch potato.
It took a couple of hours for all the contestants to enter the field and stroll around it. The Americans, all 600 odd of them, were looking very preppy in blue blazers, white ducks, and white golf caps. Not as good as the Western shirts and cowboy hats of years ago. Plenty of athletes in fancy native costumes. Some stick-in-the-muds in dark business suits and ties. The South Koreans send a huge contingent, young, all dressed in white, smiling and laughing and singing. The North Koreans were older, fewer, dressed in dark business suits and none of them looked very happy to be there. The Iraqi's got a big hand when they appeared.
NBC camera men were bad. Constant zooming, panning and scanning, too quick jumping from camera to camera, and failure to get closeups of the hordes of beautiful young men and women, wearing fantatically good costumes. The voice over commentators spouted the usual drivel, and failed to name the performers, or tell us anything about them, probably 'cause they didn't know much. I hope the Chinese got to watch better coverage on Chinese TV.

Friday, August 8, 2008

What did China do to the NewsHour?

Dunno. But the Newshour with Jim Lehrer has been bashing the Chinese every night. Stories about Beijing smog, lack of greenness, suppression of dissidents, freedom for Tibet, earthquake crushed schools, hit the show every night this week. Not that a little China bashing is bad mind you, there are plenty of things not to like in China. But after the tender concern the liberal media used shower upon Soviet Russia, Castro's Cuba, the North Vietnamese, and other wretched regimes, you'd think they'd cut the Chinese a little slack.
I have a bit of sympathy for the Chinese. They are so proud of pulling their country up from third world toilet status into the big leagues, becoming an important world power. They are trying so hard to pull off the greatest publicity stunt/national celebration/Olympic games. And here we have the Americans raining on their parade, every night.

So did Dr. Ivins really send the anthrax letters?

The FBI thinks the late Dr. Ivins is the anthrax killer. They seem to base their suspicions on a genetic match between anthrax in the deadly letters and anthrax in a jar in Dr. Ivins laboratory. Ivins, was a civilian scientist working for the Army on anthrax and anthrax vaccines, so having a jar of anthrax in the lab is to be expected. But I thought anthrax was anthrax, just like the common cold is the common cold. Does each germ bear a unique genetic fingerprint that makes each one different? Or in actual fact, does every anthrax sample in the world match up genetically? Does anyone really know?
Given the FBI's terrible track record (the Richard Jewell case, the Waco case, the Wen Ho Lee case, the total failure to forestall 9/11) and the ambiguity of the genetic evidence, I remain skeptical.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

On the need for a USAF requirements writing office

Long article in Aviation Week bemoaning various recent Air Force project disasters such as the tanker mess, a troubled recon satellite program, a follow on UAV program, and pontificating upon a fix. The author blames bad specification writing, in particular bad requirements specification writing as the cause, and calls for a special corps of requirement spec writers as the fix.
Do I believe that a bunch of well trained paper pushers can solve all the problems of military procurement? No. However better requirements would certainly help.
Back in ancient history, the F105 and F106 fighters from the Viet Nam era, maintainance of which was my duty in those days, we had a pair of hot fighters loaded with fancy gadgets that never worked or were never used. The F106 flew with the Tactical Situation Display inop, the retractable beacon lights fully extended, and the doppler mode of the radar inop. The F105 never put bomb one into it's fancy internal bomb bay, the doppler navigator and the UHF radio were so flaky the planes flew in groups of four, hoping that ONE doppler and ONE UHF would be working upon return.
These "issues" (down right failures actually) started at the requirements spec level. Nice to have, but troublesome and non essential requirements, burdened the aircraft with gear that took up space and weight but didn't work. The space and weight would have been better dedicated to carrying more fuel and armament. Had the requirements spec been trimmed of excess fat before going into production, considerable taxpayer expense would have been saved.
So the issue of proper requirements is a real one. If we speced it right, a lot of time, money and aggravation would be saved. When we spec it wrong, or fail to spec it at all, trouble insues.
The best requirements spec writers are experienced operators. Want a good requirements spec for an aircraft or a tank or even a jeep? Get the users together and let them write the spec. You might need a secretary from the bureaucracy to clean up the language, but the users know what's essential and what's a frill. Specially trained requirements spec writers won't.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Outrageous Patent granted to IBM

Slashdot reports that IBM was granted a US patent for cash register software that remembers "paper or plastic" for each customer, relieving the clerk of the onerous task of asking. This trivial and obvious idea is worthy of patent protection? Can you say "patent troll"? Can you say "welfare for patent lawyers"? Can you say "Patent examiner with the IQ of an Ipswich clam"?

Do you believe in the market or in CAFE?

With fanfare and political posturing the Congress jacked up the mandatory fuel economy from 25 mpg to 35 mpg just this year. Despite wailing and gnashing of teeth from the auto industry, it is perfectly possible to build 35 mpg cars today. In fact, you can buy an Aveo, a Yaris, or a Prius today and obtain 35 mpg or better. In a 35 mpg only world, you are limited to tiny econoboxes or pricey hybrids.
Automobile technology has been pretty well worked out since Henry Ford's time, and there is only so much you can do with it. After 100 years, the technological avenues are worked out and well known. The only way to get 35 mpg is build a very small light car (Aveo & Yaris), or install dual propulsion machinery, gasoline engine and battery electric, (Prius) which doubles the cost. Or do like the Europeans, soften the emissions requirements to permit diesel cars. The diesel Rabbit did 40 mpg back in the 1970's.
Of course, if you want a bigger vehicle to bring the kids along, bring sheet goods home from the lumberyard, or furniture back from the auction, you are out of luck.
Market demand causes the car makers to build everything from tiny econoboxes to Hummers, giving citizens the right to buy what they want. 35 mpg CAFE standards pretty much outlaw anything bigger than econoboxes. Me, I'd rather live in a country that allowed citizens to spend their money the way they like.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Where does all the oil go?

I totaled up my personal oil consumption, furnace oil and gasoline. Last winter the furnace used 616 gallons, and the car took 370. Call it a thousand gallons for the year in round numbers. Call it three gallons a day, again round numbers. For a ball park estimate make the average family size three, divide the population of the country by three and get 100 million families, using three gallons a day,or 300 million gallons a day. Divide by 55 to make it barrels and get 5.4 million barrels a day for consumer use. Actual US crude oil consumption is far higher than that, 20 million barrels a day.
That makes 14.6 million barrels a day going into industry. I wonder where it all goes and how much is necessary. Can we find ways to economize in industry?
For instance, A TV ad this morning claims 60 billion pounds of plastic bottles are made each year. Convert that to barrels per day assuming 7.5 pounds per gallon. I get 400,000 barrels per day. That's 2% of daily oil consumption going into plastic bottles. Suppose we went back to real glass bottles, the kind you return, wash and refill?
Where does the 14.6 million barrels per day industrial use really go? Can it be reduced?

Why CAN'T we drill our way out of the oil shortage?

The democrats and Obama keep saying it. "We can't drill our way out of it". Why not? Estimates of the size of oil reserves in US territory start around 20 billion barrels and go up to 83 billion. There is every reason to believe that more will be found as we drill. The country only uses 20 million barrels a day. That's enough oil to fill ALL our usage for 3 to 11 years, going from today's figures. When drilling finds more reserves, which it always does, then we get even more time.
Granted, 3 to 11 years isn't for ever, but it's a long time, long enough to do a lot of things.
Up here we can't run the furnace on alternative energy and we can't drive to work on it either.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The rebels had it right (on some things)

Been reading Shelby Foote's Civil War book[s]. Right after secession, the Confederate government wrote a Constitution for the Confederacy. As one might expect, it borrowed heavily from the US Constitution but there were some worthwhile improvements.
Each bill brought before the Confederate Congress must address only one subject, announced in the title of the bill. That should eliminate those scummy "riders" attached to important bills. And, the Confederate President had the line item veto, he could cross out porky items in appropriation bills without vetoing the entire thing.
Things never change much. These issues from 1860 still resonate in 2008.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Whither GM, and whose fault is it anyway?

Megan McArdle offers this gloomy forecast for GM's future. She thinks they will be bankrupt inside of ten years. She may well be right. Skimming thru the raft of comments, and finger pointing following her post, I find a couple a things missing.
Most important cause of GM's trouble is simple; lousy cars. They have small sedans, but who wants 'em?. Styling varies between drab and ugly. Gas mileage no better than my 99 Caddy DeVille. Mostly painted grey. Reputation for breaking down often, followed by GM's reputation for gouging on repair part prices. Same car sold under multiple names which dilutes the effectiveness of advertising and blurs the brand names together. Cars sold under new made up silly sounding names that nobody has ever heard of. Awful dealer service. Lousy resale value. Everyone would rather buy a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Accord than anything in GM's lineup.
This is management failure, the union doesn't control this. GM needs a real car guy like old Lee Iacocca. He is the guy that invented the Mustang, the K cars, and the minivan. Revolutionary cars, that no committee would ever have approved, but Iacocca pushed them thru and they all sold like gangbusters. The few car guys at GM are doing Corvettes and Camaro's, nice enough cars, but niche markets. There aren't enough guys with Corvette/Camaro money to keep a behemoth like GM running. So, number one GM problem, crummy cars. Fix that and a lot of things get better.
Number two problem is expensive labor. UAW workers get twice as much pay and fringe benefits and Toyota and Honda workers. That's Toyota and Honda workers in the US. This is a legacy of wimpy management in the past. Back then, GM management caved to the UAW by promising rich retirements, rather than a pay hike. The retirement benefits wouldn't come due on their watch, whereas a pay hike takes money now. Back then, gutsy management would have taken a strike to hold wages down, in fact, wimpy management kicked the can down the road. That's history now. We are down the road now, and that can is right there, big as ever. GM cannot pay the rich retirement and health care deals promised in the past, one way or another the company will welsh on it's commitments. Bankruptcy is one way to skip out on your debts.

A400M, new Euro transport, twice as big as C130

Cover of the new Aviation Week shows the A400M rolled out on the ramp. It looks like a C130 only with bristly looking 8 bladed propellers. It's a join Euro project finally coming into production. Hasn't made it's first flight yet, but that's scheduled shortly. About time too.
The A400 project started 26 years ago and still has a ways to go. Lockheed was originally a member of the consortium, got tired of all the delay and dropped out to do it's own C-130J project.
Interesting thing about the A400M is the size. It's roughly twice the aircraft that a C130 is, twice the engine power, twice the payload, longer and wider. Now the 50 year old C-130 is one damn big airplane, even today. You gotta wonder about the market for one twice as big. They have commitments for 200 aircraft from the various European airforces. Whereas, Lockheed has already delivered some 180 C-130Js by now. No interest from USAF, who has plenty of C17 jets, and plenty of C130's. That won't help the A400m sales effort, lot of countries think USAF service is a good house keeping seal of approval, if the Americans fly it, it must be OK.
The A400m reminds me of the big old C133, a troubled aircraft. It looked like a C-130 but was twice as big, with 10,000 hp turboprop engines swinging humongous 18 foot three bladed propellers. The 133 was such a maintenance nightmare that USAF retired them all thirty years ago. I'm sure Lockheed is secretly hoping the same fate overtakes the A400M.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Where is Obama coming from?

On TV Obama stated that it will take 10 years minimum and maybe 20 years to bring in a new oil well. This is completely false. Drill rigs make the hole deeper by tens to hundreds of feet a day. That gets down a thousand feet in ten to 100 days. Ten thousand feet (really deep) takes a hundred to a thousand days. Allow 6 months to drill the average well and another six months to put in the pipeline or tanks and loading facilities to get the oil out to the refinery. Say a year. You probably don't commit to constructing the pipeline/loading equipment until the well actually comes in. Spending all that money and then have the well turn into a dry hole doesn't make a lot of sense. But still, a well will come into production in a year or two.
Obama ought to know this. If he doesn't, he is ignorant and been listening to the wrong folk. That's a down check as far as this voter is concerned. A president ought to know a few things. Or, he knows the truth but is saying ten to twenty years because he thinks it will get him elected. That's a down check for two reasons. First 'cause saying things you know are not true is a character flaw. Second, he must figure there are more rabid greenie voters than there are plain folk who just want gasoline to drive to work and fuel oil to heat the house. If he really thinks the greenies have more votes than ordinary people, then he is out of touch with the voters. Either way it's down check.

Plus, just announcing the start of drilling will bring the price of crude down even if the well won't come in for a while.