Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Competition or FCC to "regulate" online search?

The FCC, founded in the 1930's to assign frequencies to radio broadcasters and do price fixing for the telephone company, wants to expand. They want to regulate Google and make it "fairer". They are supported by loads of webbies who feel their websites arn't getting good positioning on Google.
Google has competitors. If Google's service and site rankings don't please the web surfing public, they can and will go elsewhere. That's all the regulation needed. I see no reason to give FCC bureaucrats a say-so in how a search engine ranks websites. In fact, that could get scary, the current FCC would tell Google to rank Democratic sites above Republican sites.
Article here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's the crotch bomber.

ABC has a picture of the infamous bomb. It was 80 grams of PETN fixed in the bomber's jockey shorts, right between his legs. If it had detonated, the bomber would be unable to enjoy the 72 virgins promised to jehadi warriors in paradise.
Pat down searches for this kinda bomb will be embarrassing for all concerned.

The ABC story claimed that 80 grams (about 1/6 pound) could "blow a hole" in an airliner. Fortunately, well built jetliners can continue flying with a hole blown in them. 80 grams isn't much. Air to air missiles carry much bigger warheads (5 pounds) and do not always bring down their target.
I remember an F105 jet fighter that took a missile hit in the tail. Heat seeking North VietNamese missile flew right up the tail pipe and exploded. Blew the crap out of the tail section, but the aircraft returned safely to base. The engine kept running, and the rudder and elevons kept working.
I don't believe a crotch bomb has enough power to crash a Boeing jetliner.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What's the difference between a database and the circular file?

What's-his-face Obama's press secretary was on this morning explaining about how they let the leg bomber on the plane. The government has a 500,000 name data base containing derogatory information. The leg bomber's father called the US embassy to warn us about his son's radicalization. The embassy entered the leg bomber's name into the 500,000 name data base. This ain't much different from putting the name into the circular file.

Words of the Weasel Part XIII

Mitigation. When something goes wrong we don't fix the problem, we mitigate it. We create a "mitigation plan" . Which looks real good in the cover-your-ass file after the disaster. The Sunday pundits were grilling Janet Nepoliotano about the leg bomber this morning. She explained the government had a mitigation plan and exercised it. Which is easier to say than to explain how that turkey got on the plane with a bomb strapped to his leg.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Leg Bomber

The Christmas day story of a Nigerian attempting to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight with a bomb strapped to his leg is going around. Question. Would the leg bomb have enough power to destroy a Boeing airliner?
By the way, I hope the burns the leg bomber received hurt a lot.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Congressmen used to vote their district

Used to be, Congressmen always voted their district. Any issue which the voters in the district cared about, the Congressman would vote the way his voters wanted him to.
Somehow that is gone this year. The districts are against Obamacare by better than 50% (depends whose poll you read, but they all show the voters don't like Obamacare). Yet we have the Senate voting Obamacare in by 60%, a supermajority.
What are those Senators thinking? Can they believe their district doesn't care? Or that the district won't remember which way they voted come next November? Or that currying favor with the Democratic Congressional leadership is more important than what the district thinks?
It's a puzzler. Congress didn't used to work this way. I think the voters will remember in November this time. Too bad they won't be able to repeal Obamacare then. Firstly you can't take goodies away from people. Second, Obama would veto a repeal bill. So we are stuck with it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why ObamaCare is a disaster.

The Senate voted for cloture on the ObamaCare bill in the wee hours of the morning. That required 60 votes. Actual passage of the bill only requires 51, so passage looks highly likely. (Would you believe a done deal?)
Right now the United States spends twice as much on health care as any other country in the world. US public health is not the best in the world, a number of other countries have greater life expectancy and lower infant mortality than we do. In short we are wasting vast sums of money on health care.
Obamacare will make tens of millions more eligible for medical benefits. This will pour another god awful amount of money into health care.
America cannot afford today's health care costs. 18% of GNP gets poured down the health care rathole. Obamacare will jack that up a lot.
Obamacare does nothing for the malpractice scams that enrich lawyers, does nothing to allow interstate sale of health insurance. and does nothing to permit importation of cheaper prescription drugs.
Obamacare is going to pay for itself by taxing healthcare. This ain't gonna work.
In short, the costs of Obamacare are great enough to drag the United States into a permanent recession. Kind of like the lost decade in Japan.
Start tightening your belts folks, life is gonna get a lot worse.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dark Matter "discovered"? part II

Ars Technica has a much better write up of the dark matter experiment than the New York Times.

SAAB to die

GM will shut down SAAB. A pity, the cars were cool. They had some buyers for the company. You would think GM would do better by giving SAAB away, selling it for $1. Turn SAAB over to anyone. If it flies wonderful. If it goes bankrupt at least it isn't GM's fault. Just shutting SAAB down makes it all GM's fault, and is just as expensive as giving it away.
On the other hand, GM senior management has been brain dead for decades. Looks like the new guy (good old whats-his-face) is no smarter than dearly departed Waggoner or Henderson.

Words of the Weasel Part XII

"Progressive". It's what liberals want to call themselves now that "liberal" has become pejorative.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dark Matter "discovered"?

Dark matter is an idea going back decades. Some astronomer noticed that galaxies rotated faster than expected. Each star in a galaxy orbits the central mass of the galaxy. Newton published the formula for the orbital speed of a satellite, the more massive the primary, the faster the satellite revolves.
When the faster galactic rotation was discovered, it was obvious that the galaxies were more massive than previously believed. It had been assumed that the mass of galaxies was made up of stars, bright objects that can be see in telescopes. Initially the nature of the extra dark matter was thought by some to be weakly interactive massive particles (WIMPS) and by others to be massive compact halo objects (MACHOS). Wimps were unknown sub atomic particles, MACHOs were chunks of rock floating in interstellar space where the sun doesn't shine. No sunlight, no see um.
When first announced, I always thought the MACHO idea was an fine explanation. Somehow over the years the WIMP concept has dominated, MACHO's are obsolete, and physicists are out looking for WIMPS.
According to the NY Times (reliable source that) the physicists are claiming to have detected a couple of WIMPS. The experiment has been running at the bottom of an old mine (to screen out cosmic rays) for years. Over all than time two, just two, events occured that signified the passage of WIMPS.
The experimenters did admit that the two events could have been caused by radioactivity in the rocks making up the mine, so they were only making a tentative claim of seeing WIMPS.
If I had been nursing an array of sensitive cyrogenic detectors in the bottom of a mine for years and years, I'd expect a few glitches from time to time. Hell, I get more glitches than that in my Compaq desktop.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hacking Predator

Even the Wall St Journal's reporters can fall for technical baffle gab. The enemy has been receiving video from our Predator drones for nearly a year. This is kinda serious, it essentially puts US drone reconnaissance at the disposal of the enemy. Damn near as good as having your own fleet of drones. The drone electronics broadcast their video in clear, not encrypted.
The obvious fix is to encrypt the video in the drone. Encryption at video rates (18 megabits/sec) could be done on a printed circuit board maybe 5 by 7 inches. There is room inside the drones for such a card. So why hasn't that been done?
"The difficulty, officials said, is that adding encryption to a network that is more than a decade old involves more than placing a new piece of equipment on individual drones. Instead many components of the network linking the drones to their operators in the US, Afghanistan or Pakistan have to be upgraded to handle the changes."
Journal reporters Siobhan Gorman, Yoichi J. Dreazen and August Cole printed this bit of malarkey in a front page WSJ story Thursday. They should have known better.
Networks move bits from place to place. They don't care what the bits are, what they say, whether they are encrypted or not. All the network does is move the bits from one place to another. Nothing in the network need be changed to move encrypted video. The unnamed officials are offering excuses and bad excuses at that.
And three clueless journalism school graduates fell for it. Even the best newspapers go brain dead occasionally.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

NH Hampshire does its bit for the housing market

According to NPR, NH building code will require sprinklers in all residential construction, starting next year. Just the thing to spark the sale of new houses, shiny chrome sprinkler heads sticking out of the living room ceiling. To say nothing of the extra few thousand dollars added to the price of the house.
This bit of user friendliness is brought to you by the fire departments of America who lobby for anything fire suppressive. The firemen are the largest group on the building code committees and they pushed this one.
The insurance companies did a good imitation of a hole in the ground on this issue. They figure it's a wash. Fewer fire claims but a whole bunch more water damage claims when the sprinklers sprinkle down the house when they shouldn't.
We are probably stuck with it although the NH legislature could overturn if they cared. If we can do some good work next November, maybe this irritant could be rolled back.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pratt & Whitney goes to Russia

The Russian Irkut company selected Pratt & Whitney engines for their new MS-21 medium sized airliner. Pratt will supply the ultra modern geared turbofan PW1000G engine.
Hmm. The Russians are going to stay in the airliner business. Right now Aeroflot advertises that ALL their international flights use Boeing aircraft. The old Russian built Tupolevs are uncomfortable for passengers, hard to maintain, and scary to ride in. And plenty of them are still in service on Russian domestic flights. Looks like the Russians want to fly in made in Russia airliners even if the engines come from America.
That's the way to bring unemployment down, make world class products and export them. The Russians came to Pratt & Whitney because their engines are the best, not because they love Americans.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How many CAT scans are being billed?

Listening to NPR this morning. Someone was ranting about CAT scans, excessive Xray exposure from. The ranter did not, as is typical of ranters, have any numbers on the amount of radition (number of REMs) in a scan. Journalism school graduates are innumerate. This one slipped up and let out that 72 million CAT scans were billed last year.
Wow. The population of the US is only 300 million, that means nearly a quarter of the population was CAT scanned last year. That's a hell of a lot of CAT scans. If each scan cost $1000, that's $7.2 billion worth of scans.
Are all these scans necessary? I doubt it. Would they have occurred if the patient had to pay for them? I doubt it.
Note: I used to design CAT scanners many years ago.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (movie)

Well, the movie made it to DVD the other day. My little low speed video store had a whole wall of copies ready to rent. Didn't seem like all that many had been rented. So I rented one, mostly 'cause they didn't have anything better.
Half Blood Prince is the weakest of the Harry Potter movies. It suffers from the curse of the sound man, you can't understand the dialogue. Poor mike placement, score overpowers the dialogue, and the actors mumble. The plot is difficult to follow, even for someone who has read the book. The scene jumps from here to there and back again in a pseudo random manner. For instance in a dramatic scene Voldemort's followers attack Harry. They throw a ring of fire around the house and Harry goes tearing off thru a head high field of some-thing-or-other, wand out, in hot pursuit. Lots of zap flash bang, but at the end of the scene you can't tell what happened. Did Harry get Bellatrix? Did someone scare her off? Did Bellatrix kill someone? The scene fades out leaving me wondering what happened and what was the point. The final quest with Dumbledore for the Horcrux is unclear. How did Dumbledore know to search this wave swept rock? Why does Dumbledore incapcitate himself drinking from the font? How does Harry fight off the cave monsters and drag Dumbledore back to Hogwarts? And why does Dumbledore send Harry away and let the bad guys kill him? In short, the movie ends on an unsatisfactory note, Dumbledore dead for no good reason, the Horcruxes still at large, and Harry vowing to leave Hogwarts and pursue his anti-Voldemort quest.
Finally, the camera work is poor. Dark unlit scenes, low contrast, and you can't figure out where you are. A lot of "fade out the color to black and white" effects which are irritating to this viewer who thinks his color TV is dying when the color goes away. Shots of the Hogwart's Express steaming across an open midwest prairie, rather than English countryside. How did the train get onto the prairie from lush green England?
Too bad. And no wonder it doesn't seem to be renting all that well.

Dr. Christina Romer on Meet the Press

She is a middle aged woman, blond, bright red suit, no jewelry and little makeup. She is on, or head of, the presidents council of economic advisors. This is the first time I even heard her name. Host David Gregory pressed her to explain how Obama could do yet more economic stimulus without going deeper into debt. In the course of this discussion she said "The administration has down everything possible in the health care bill to reduce the cost of health care". Gregory let her get away with this spin/lie/whopper/untruth/what-do-you-call-it. In actual fact, health care cost reduction means malpractice reform, selling insurance across state lines, and allowing the import of drugs from all first world countries.
None of which is in the healthcare bill. She knows it and so does Gregory.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Getting charts out of Excel

Like many, I use Excel for charting nearly any kind of data. And, if I need the chart in any other MS Office application (Word, PowerPoint etc) I just cut and paste. What about moving an Excel chart to a non MS application or the web?
It can be done but the how-to is non-obvious. You have to do "Save as WebPage" from the file menu. This produces TWO files on your disk. The first file has the extension .HTML which is a wrapper of HTML code, and a second .gif file which is the actual graphic file of your chart. The .gif can be uploaded, merged or even edited with a graphics edit program.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Excel plots of world temperature.

On top is the Excel plot of the raw temperature data from NOAA file v2.mean. Notice, no hockey stick. It's just a wiggly line rising from say 9 degrees in the 1700's to 14 and a skosh in 2009.

The lower plot is adjusted mean temperatures from NOAA file v2.mean_adj. The NOAA readme file says that v2.mean_adj was computed by adjusting the data from v2.mean for various things. They didn't say what those things might be. Notice the adjustments trashed all the data from 1701 to 1838. After 1838 the adjustments flatten the temperature curve, and the last ten years show a small decline, supporting those who say world temperature has declined since 1998. The downward glitch in 2006 might be explained by a drastic reduction in the number of temperature readings that occured in 2006.
I lack faith in NOAA's adjustment process. I have not yet found an explanation of what the adjustments might be. Trashing the record from 1701 to 1838 is not a confidence builder. The 2006 glitch has got to be an error. I remember 2006 and it wasn't that cold.

Color me confused. The raw mean temperature says the world have been warming since 1701. The adjusted mean temperature says the world has been about the same since 1838. Who you gonna believe? I don't believe the science is settled.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thermometers thru the ages

After Climate gate broke, I got interested in seeing what a real plot of historical temperatures might look like. I found the NOAA data files at ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ghcn/v2/. Net rumor from the various global warming sites says the NOAA records are the primary sources, the temperature records at other institutions, like the recently hacked Hadley CRU, are said to be derived from the NOAA files.
This is an FTP site, Firefox will take you there but it can only download files one at a time. Filezilla, a free ftp program, can be told to download them all in one fell swoop.
NOAA stores the files zipped, and after FTPing them onto my computer and unzipping, I found the main file, v2.mean, is 44 megabytes of "mean" temperature records. The file is oldfashioned, showing its IBM punch card ancestry. It's what you get for reading boxes and boxes of punch cards onto a 9 track magnetic tape, and later posting the tape on the web. It's in ASCII, and each record is exactly 76 characters long, a 12 character station number, four character year, and 12 five character fields for each month's mean temperature. No spaces, comma's or separators between the fields, which is old fashioned punch card style.
I wrote a short program in C to sort the temperature readings out by year and compute the average temperature for each year. I compute the plain average (the one we learned in grade school) of all temperatures for each year. The earliest year is 1701, the last 2009. In the early years there are only 30 or 40 separate readings, by 1989 the number of readings swells to 100,000 per year, and then declines to about 14,000 in 2009. Either the NOAA funding for data entry ran short, or someone stopped recording (or removed) temperatures from stations he deemed unimportant or inaccurate. Some net commentators have claimed that stations in cold locations and higher altitudes were deliberately removed to make the warming trend more obvious.
I plotted the results in Excel, and sure enough, the rather fuzzy plot shows world average temperature at 9 or 10 degrees Centigrade in 1701, rising to maybe 14 degrees Centigrade in 2009. 1701 is deep in the little ice age. Plus, in the early years, the 30 to 40 reading come from temperate-to-chilly locations like Britain, Germany, France and the American colonies. By the peak in 1980 there are a lot or readings from steamy hot places like the Sahara desert and the Amazon basin.
We see maybe 4 to 5 degrees warming over 308 years, call it 1.5 degrees Centigrade per century.
There is a lot more to do. There is a max temp and a min temp file to be plotted, and then there are files of "adjusted" data. It will be interesting to see what they look like. I ought to convert the temperatures to Fahrenheit which has more juice for Americans. I ought to compute the standard deviation of the temperature readings, and add some error checking code to spot way out of whack ridiculous temperatures.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow is over?

Hard to tell how much we got. TV is saying 6-8 inches but you couldn't prove it by me. Had a vicious wind thru Franconia Notch all day, which blows the snow off my snowgage/porch railing. Also blows it off the ski trails. Snow stopped a couple of hours ago, the sun came out. It's warmed up above freezing now. If we get more precip, it will be rain (boo).

The walls come tumbling down. Jericho on the Potomac

The marble walls are falling off the East Building in Washington DC. The ultra modern windowless building, constructed in 1971, houses paintings of the National Gallery of Art. The marble slabs are 2 * 5 feet and weight 438 pounds. Enough to really smart should one fall on some unlucky person. The Gallery is planning to spend $85 million to redo all the marble in 2013. Until then they plan to use hedges, rope barriers and the like to keep people away from the walls.
I.M. Pei was the architect. Pei is a man who has trouble keeping the walls on his buildings. His masterpiece, the John Hancock skyscraper in Boston, suffered from falling windows. The Hancock was completely covered in plate glass, 5 * 11 foot panes weighting 500 pounds. As soon as the building was closed in, a pane fell into the street. A few days later another pane fell. Falling glass continued, they had to close the street on windy days. Eventually after a vast exercise in finger pointing, all the glass was replaced with thicker glass. While the new glass was on back order, the old glass was removed and replaced with plywood, yielding the world's tallest plywood skyscraper.
I checked Pei's Wikipedia page just to see if he was still alive. He is, although at age 92 he is retired.
Anyhow, looks like I.M. "Windy" Pei never did learn how to keep the walls on his buildings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Where have all the jobs gone? Part II

Yesterday the EPA claimed the right to regulate CO2 emissions. The Supremes backed them up on this. So, we now face regulations on damn near everything in the country, cars, trains, planes, chain saws, outboard motors, building codes, power generation, barbecue grills, power mowers, lighting, oil refining, farming, logging, home construction, all manufacturing. And more. Nearly every human activity uses energy and hence become subject to regulation.
Wanna bet EPA regulation raises costs?
Wanna bet business reacts by moving even more business off shore? Make the US sufficiently unattractive, and business, investment, and money will flee.

And if it doesn't use energy it's probably health care. Between the two, Obama is bidding for total control of all aspects of life in the US.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bode Miller flies again

Watching the FIS ski race in Colorado. Bode Miller, local Franconia boy, is in first by 0.39 sec after a wild run. He fell/nearly fell on a tough turn, but somehow he recovered and finished. The stop action shows Bode falling with both skis off the snow, but somehow he righted himself and pressed on.
There are a lot of racers yet to run, so Bode's time may not hold up, but moving into first is good sign.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Maybe Bin Ladin is dead?

Defense Secretary Gates says there has been no good intelligence on Bin Ladin in years. Either his security is air tight, or he is dead.

Snow has started

Doesn't amount to much, just started a couple of minutes ago. But maybe, hope, we get enough to open Cannon next weekend.

Air Pressure 14.7 lb/sqft

Suck It in.


You will enjoy this video.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Where have all the jobs gone?

Would you believe to overseas producers? Take a walk thru Walmart. Nearly all the product on the shelves, the clothing, the shoes, the plumbing parts, the house wares, the consumer electronics, the hand and power tools, the auto parts, is made in China. When I was in high school, the product on the shelves in Sears (Walmart hadn't been invented then) was all made in USA.
Why is everything made in China? We all know, it's cheaper. Chinese workers get paid little to nothing, they don't unionize, and there is plenty more of them wanting to take a job.
We need to do something to reduce the cost of manufacturing stuff here in America. Start with the cost of labor. For every dollar paid to the worker, another dollar is paid for "overhead". The overhead doubles the cost of labor and the extra money doesn't go to the workers. It goes for health care and retirement and workman's comp and the union, and a lot of other places. We need to reduce that overhead. Maybe not to zero, but surely we can do better than the 100% markup we suffer from now.
Then we have regulations and taxes and unions and tax collection duties and Sarbanes Oxley and licensing and featherbedding and city inspectors and mafia protection shakedowns and high interest rates and scarce bank loans and pollution regulations, all of which make it harder to start a business or to survive in business.
We need to remember that business men create jobs. The government ought to be making things easier for business men if it wants to create more jobs.
Democrats are all in favor of employment, it's employers that they can't stand.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Congress is working on a journalist shield law

Used to be, when a court wanted someone's testimony in a trial, that someone received a sub poena and that was that. There were some exceptions, clergy were not required to testify to things learned in the confessional, doctors were not required to testify against patients, lawyers were not required to testify against clients, and wives were not required to testify against husbands. Other than that, judges held persons refusing to testify in comtempt, and jailed them.
Used to be, newpaper reporters were required to testify just like real people. The reporters cried and wailed about protection of "sources" and in some states managed to get "shield laws" passed to releave them of their duty to testify in court. The reporters claimed that no one would talk to them if the reporter might be forced to repeat what they said in court. Actually, sources speak to reporters to get their story into the papers, and long as sources have stories they want printed, they will talk to reporters.
Up til now, federal courts stood for no nonsense from reporters, testify or go to jail. Nor long ago, a lady New York Times reporter spend months in jail for refusing to testify in the Valerie Plame affair.
The reporter's union just got a federal shield law into the hopper in Congress.
InstaPundit observed that a couple of lawmakers want to amend the shield law to leave out bloggers and protect only the MSM reporters.
Me, I feel both reporters and bloggers have a civic duty to testify in court.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

$4 Billion in Porkulus money goes to smart electric grid

According to this, $3.4 billion was awarded in October and a follow on $0.6 billion today.
So what is "smart grid". Good question. Sounds like a deal where "smart" appliances (water heater, TV, air conditioner) can communicate with the electric company, reporting power usage, perhaps even which channel the TV is tuned to, ambient temperature, and accepting commands from the electric company such as "shut down to conserve power, right now".
The power industry loves it. They like the funding and they love the load leveling capability. System load a little too heavy this morning? Order all the hot water heaters in the city to turn off. Customers will hardly notice that it takes an extra hour for the water to get hot after all the morning showers. Or, order all the air conditioner thermostats up to 80 degrees. It will be hours before the customer notices the house is kinda warm, and he will probably blame it on the air conditioner anyhow.
The gadget makers love it. Sell a new smart electric meter to every building in the US? There's real volume. Sell a smart box into every water heater, TV and air conditioner? More volume.
We are going to have to pay for it. Figure an extra fifty bucks per appliance to make it smart. Figure a couple of hundred for a new smart electric meter. Figure more money for the transmission equipment to tie all this together.

There is another way to do this. Skip all the communication stuff. Make the smart meters charge less for off peak electric use. Once I know that juice is cheap at night I might buy a smart water heater that gets the water good and hot on cheap overnight electricity and waits til after the morning peak before reheating. I might have my electric car hold off recharging until juice is cheap. I might even run the dryer just before going to bed.
If I could trim fifteen bucks off my ninety dollar electric bill, I might do quite a bit to use cheap overnight electricity and conserve juice during the peaks.
I'm suspicious of a smart grid that tells the power company when I watch TV, what channel I watch, where I set my thermostat, when I go to bed, when I get up, and probably some other stuff that is none of their business.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Party Crashers

The news is loaded with stories about the White House party crashers. I'm listening to Glenn Beck pontificate that White House security is so tight that no one could just crash the party, it must have been an inside job.
Sorry Glenn, no security is that tight. Show up at the right time, dressed right, looking like you belong, have some paperwork, doesn't have to be the right paperwork, anything will do. You will probably get in.
Back during the Cold War we used to keep nuclear armed aircraft on alert. We took this seriously, and had pretty decent security on the flight line. Everyone had badges, we had a fence, armed guards on the gate, the whole nine yards. But, every time we had a security inspection some thing would get written up.
There was this colonel on the inspection team who had a trick security badge. It looked OK except instead of his picture on the badge, there was a picture of his dog. That bastard always managed to fake out some gullible security guard with the fake badge. The colonel looked like a colonel, was dressed right, and his paperwork was almost in order. That was enough to get him thru the gate and get us a writeup for a security violation.
I think you crash a White House party the same way. You look right, you dress right, and your paperwork is almost in order.

Climategate head will "stand aside" pending a review

Doctor Philip Jones, head of the hacked into East Anglia University Climate Research Unit announced he will "stand aside" while the hack is investigated. His is the first head to roll. Temperature data and computer programs released by the hacker[s], or inside whistleblower, show deliberate faking of the published historical temperature graphs. Official press release is here.

Bacon is good, but this goes a little too far.

This is as good as those legendary effective herbal remedies.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Easy come, Easy go.

Saturday we got ten inches of snow, just what we needed to get Cannon to open. Prior to Saturday's snow, Cannon was completely green, it has been too warm to make snow. The ten inches of natural snow covered all the trails and put the mountain into fine shape to open on the traditional opening day, this coming weekend.
Too bad. Today the temp is up over 40F and it's raining. It hasn't rained it all out yet, but a helova lot of that wonderful snow is gonzo. Less it cools down and snows again, Cannon probably won't open this weekend for lack of snow.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tree rings warm the world

The global warmists look in many places to find the temperatures in times gone by. The thermometer wasn't invented until 1654, and the Farenheit temperature scale wasn't defined until 1724. In consequence we only have thermometer data going back a few hundred years. For temperatures before the thermometer it is necessary to look at other indications, types of pollen in sediments, various kinds of isotope analysis, date of grape harvest, accounts of the freezing of lakes and rivers, accounts of the extent of alpine glaciers.
To my surprise, the global warmists now look at tree rings as an indication of temperature. Trees lay down thicker layers of new wood in good years and thinner layers in bad years. The patterns of thick and thin rings are distinctive and have been used for dating for more than 50 years. It's possible to match up the ring patterns of living trees with the patterns in trees long dead and in this fashion extend the tree ring dating back many thousands of years. Timber from ancient Indian pueblos was dated in the 1930's. Timbers from a sunken Viking vessel were both dated and located by tree rings. The ring patterns indicated the vessel was built of Irish oak.
The global warmists looked at tree ring data (there is quite a bit of it) and decided that ring width was controlled by the temperature, wide rings in warm years, thin rings in cold years.
There is a problem with this approach. Moisture, rain fall, is much more important to trees than temperature. Nice moist years, even cool moist years, are good years from a tree's point of view. In short, the width of tree rings has little or nothing to due with the temperature and everything to do with the amount of rainfall.
The global warmists noticed that their tree ring data didn't show a warming trend in modern times. So, they merely dropped the tree ring data for the last 50 years from their graphs.
The hacked Climate Research Unit files show us the use of questionable tree ring data, and even more reprehensible, the editing of the already questionable tree ring data to make the hockey stick graphs look more alarming.
In short, don't use tree ring data to indicate ancient temperature, 'cause the width of tree rings doesn't vary with temperature.

Running barefoot, no antivirus

I finally decided to pitch the anti virus program. I have used a bunch of them over the years, Norton, Mccaffee, Eztrust, Fprot and AVG. I have scanned the disk for years without finding a virus. The scans take hours, the downloading of fresh virus definitions slows the internet. The newer antiviruses (antivirii?) have moved beyond scanning the harddrive and now stay active all the time, soaking up CPU time, diskspace and RAM, inspecting web links, slowing the computer, and never catching anything. So I'm now running barefoot, no anti virus installed.
You have to be a little bit careful. I run a router on my cable modem. The router has a pretty solid firewall to keep the internet from infecting the computer thru the various holes in Windows XP security. I never click on email attachments. I don't file share. I don't use thumb drives. I have auto-run turned off. I don't use Internet Exploder. I'm a home user, I don't plug into a company network. I run Windows Update and install the patches regularly.
We will see how long this lasts.

Another Thanksgiving successfully executed.

My sister in law did the honors. We had myself, two children, one son-in-law, my mother, a three week old granddaughter, and a second cousin. The menu was the traditional, it always tastes good. Weather was decent. Today's weather is not so decent (rain with snow promised) and dark.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What makes a Republican?

After the NY 23rd disaster, where the RNC backed candidate withdrew and then supposed the democrat, I suppose we need to make it a little clearer who is a Republican and who is not. The RNC has offered this: My comments are in italics.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee identifies ten (10) key public policy positions for the 2010 election cycle, which the Republican National Committee expects its public officials and candidates to support:

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
Awkward wording, but OK

(4) We support workers' right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
I am uncomfortable with this one. Immigrants become intensely loyal citizens. I’m for cutting them as much slack as possible. Current US immigration law is a tangled mess and decent hardworking people who apply for admission wind up waiting for decades. We are a country of 300 million, we ought to be able to assimilate a million immigrants as year.

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
Good, but it could be shorter and sweeter, just a plain “We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan. Period.

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;
Weak. Are we willing to use force to deny either country nuclear weapons? If not, then giving them a diplomatic cold shoulder after they test their first nuke seems irrelevant.
And speaking for myself, the use of force seems awfully drastic.

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;
I’m against this one. It’s a divisive issue that offends as many voters as it gains. If two guys or two girls what to shack up and call it marriage, I don’t approve, but I don’t need to make it illegal.

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing, denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and....
Seems redundant. We are against Obamacare, and if we can defeat Obamacare then this becomes irrelevant.

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms.

RESOLVED, that a candidate who disagrees with three or more of the above stated public policy positions of the Republican National Committee, as identified by the voting record, public statements and/or signed questionnaire of the candidate, shall not be eligible for financial support and endorsement by the Republican National Committee.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cannon to construct a new chairlift next year.

Cannon Mountain is on a roll. This year they renovated the Peabody Slopes base lodge, added a Cannonball Pub, a Peabody family room, more ski shop space and a bigger deck. Now they announce plans to put in a new chairlift, running up the old Baron's Run chair track. This will give chair lift access to the Mittersill slopes. Right now you have to climb the Saddle to ski Mittersill.
Cannon gained owner ship of the Mittersill slopes early this year in a land swap. The State of NH gave the US Forest Service a bit of state land containing part of the Appalachian Trail, in return NH gained rights to ski on Mittersill trails which were cut thru Forest Service land. Cannon mowed the trails and cut the brush back this summer. This winter will be skiing for souls hardy enough to climb the Saddle. No grooming or snow making this season. Next year the new chairlift will be operating and presumably some grooming will be done.
Bicknell's Thrush is still hard at work slowing things down. There was an assessment of the impact of skiing on the Thrush's habitat. "There is so much habitat it's hard to disturb it." said John Devivo, the Cannon Mt manager.

Roger Aldrich receives WWII medals from Jean Shaheen

Front page news in the Littleton Courier. Who is Roger Aldrich you ask? He is a helova nice guy, I know him, he is a friend of my mother, he is a pillar of the local community, he and his family operate Polly's Pancake House up in Sugar Hill.
US Senator Jean Shaheen got some nice local news coverage for clearing up 60 year old Army paperwork, and getting Roger's WWII medals awarded to him, some 60 years later.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Global Warming Data hacked

Some 61 megabytes of data, computer programs and emails was extracted from Britain's Hadley climate research unit and posted on the internet a couple of days ago. The Hadley troops have admitted to the data loss. This blog posts a very damning email admitting to data fudging to avoid showing a temperature decrease. The blog goes on to explain how the data was being "smoothed" to make it "look better".
Smoothing data by computer used to be my day job, so I know a little about it. The discussion in the blog makes no sense at all to me. "Smoothing" can be abused to create "trends" where no real trend is present. I think this true of the Hadley data.
The amount of global warming detected by the warming true believers is only a fraction of a degree. The raw data jumps around more than that. In short, the global warming is not really visible in the raw data, only after the data is "smoothed" heavily does a tiny trend emerge.
It's always best to look at the raw data, on a graph. The human eye is superb at detecting tiny trends. If you cannot see trend by eye looking at the raw data, the trend probably doesn't exist.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Innumeracy and Mammograms

Quite a bit of heat, but little light, has come from the government's recent declaration that yearly mammograms are no longer necessary for women under fifty. Neither side has shown any numbers defending or attacking the proposition. How about some graphs showing deaths from breast cancer over the years, number of breast removals, number of less drastic treatments, survival rates after treatment, number of mammograms administered, number of false positives for mammograms, false positives from breast self examination, number of breast cancers detected by mammograms, number detected by other means.
The proposition that yearly mammograms after age 40 saves lives, and/or reduces breast removals, is a numerical proposition, and the advocates on either side could strengthen their arguments with some numbers. If the numbers cannot be found, perhaps a study could be funded.
So far the public debate has been number free.
Probably because reporters are innumerate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In Fed We Trust by David Wessel

Good read. Blow by blow account of the Fed and the Treasury reacting too, and dealing with, the onset of Great Depression II last year. Describes how Bear Stearns, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, and AIG failed, and the decisions to bail them out (all except Lehman that is). The story is told largely from the Fed's point of view. Essentially the senior government money men, Hank Paulson at Treasury and Ben Bernanke at the Fed feared total system collapse and decided to pour in taxpayer money to keep the system afloat. Much as they would have enjoyed watching the stupids go broke, they didn't dare, for fear the country would be thrown into a bottomless economic disaster. At first Paulson and Bernanke used Fed money. By fall things were so bad that they went to Congress for the $750 billion TARP appropriation. As Wessel tells it, things were so bad that fall that Congress passed the TARP within days. The money guys walked into the room and said Great Depression II would start next week without TARP, and Congress believed them.
The writer is a Wall St Journal reporter, so he knows some of the stuff. The weakness of the book is the failure to describe why these enormous financial companies failed. What killed them? For instance Lehman folded up after rumors of insolvency ran around Wall St and nobody would loan them any more money. He doesn't tell us how the rumor got out, how it spread. What mistakes did Lehman make that turned them into a pariah? Was it mortgage backed securities? Credit default swaps? some big loan going sour? Bad karma? Wessel is silent in this most interesting aspect of the disaster.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

GM lost $5000 per Saab sold for the last 8 years.

From The Truth About Cars. GM senior management had brains made of solid concrete. Buying into SAAB was a dumb idea in the first place, and running it at a loss for 8 years is even dumber. SAAB made an interesting niche car that had a loyal fan base. But you can't make money on niche cars. They don't have the sale volume to afford the mass production tooling needed to get the cost down to compete with real volume makers like Toyota. If they reduce costs by replacing expensive handmade European engines (and other items) with nice cheap dependable Detroit production line V-8's the loyal fan base stops buying, insulted by the presence of mass produced Detroit iron in their beloved European hot rods. It's a no win situation for a US company buying a European luxury maker. If US management had been real car people they would have understood this and saved their money. But at GM senior management is all bean counters and MBA's.
Ford made the same mistake getting mixed up with Jaguar. But Ford brought in a savvy CEO (Mullaly from Boeing). He figured out that Jaguar and Volvo were losers and was able to sell them back before Great Depression II made raising money for takeovers impossible.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It ain't political correctness, it's ultimate job security

So why wasn't something done about Major Hasan before he ran amok at Fort Hood. How about excessive job security that makes it impossible to fire anyone short of a felony conviction? Back when I was in USAF we had GS civil servant types who did nothing but cash their paychecks, substandard enlisted men who were just a burden on the unit, and marginal officers who just slowed things down.
No way could we get rid of any of these jokers. Unless you got 'em a felony conviction, you were stuck with them, forever.
Even if FBI and NSA had shared Major Hasan's emails to Yemen with his Army superior, the only thing that superior could do is write Major Hasan a bad Officer Effectiveness Report (OER) that might deny him a future promotion.
Since Hasan seems to have made major recently, looks like not even that slap on the wrist was administered.
In fact, we ought to be demanding publication of Major Hasan's OER's. Let's see what his superiors thought of him over his service career.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Economical Health Insurance insurance taxed

The most economical health insurance comes from your employer. It's good stuff, pays for everything for you and your family, and only costs a few bucks in co pays. Unbeatable.
However if you are self employed, un employed, or work for a small place that doesn't do health care, things get expensive fast. The insurance companies want about $12,000 a year for that kind of coverage. That's new car money, every year.
A better deal is "major medical" or "hospitalization" insurance. It doesn't pay for everything, just the break the bank stuff. You pay for everything else, office visits, prescription drugs, CAT scans, out of pocket. It's a good deal. The insurance only costs $3000 a year, leaving you with $9000 savings to cover the out of pocket stuff. Unless your health is really really bad, you won't spend $9000 a year.
Obamacare outlaws "major medical" insurance. Under Obamacare all insurance policies must be the $12,000 cover everything kind. If you don't buy it, Obamacare will sock you with a $2500 a year fine. In short, the Volkswagen health plans get taxed right along with the Cadillac health plans.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So what is wrong with a few show trials?

The Obama administration's decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammad and four henchmen in federal court in NYC has provoked a lot of criticism/comment. The idea is derided as a "show trial".
Got news for you newies. The purpose of a public trial is to show that the bastard is guilty so people feel right about hanging him. This goes way back, thousands of years. If you don't bother to show the bastard is guilty, the bastard's friends and relatives will start up a blood feud.
So let's have a show trial. Should have done it years ago. Let's hope the US judiciary understands their duty and makes a decent job of it. Lots of testimony from grieving loved ones. Ugly pictures of smashed bodies and people jumping to avoid the flames. Introduce every sort of derogatory evidence. Allow recorded testimony. Don't rule out incriminating evidence just because the accused was made a little uncomfortable in the course of gathering said evidence. Deny defense requests for classified information. Trial conducted in English, with on-line translation into Arabic, by our translators, not Al Jazeera's translators. Don't allow the accused to make speeches, limit him to answering questions put to him by counsel.
Get it moving, and don't waste time. This kind of show is good for a week or two on TV. Don't drag it out like the OJ trial.
Keep in mind that the purpose of this trial is to convince the entire world that the bastard is really really guilty.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Snow Blitz rides again

Years ago cores from New England pond bottoms suggested that the last ice age came on fast, with in a year or two. If I remember aright this was based on analysis of pollen grains in the pond bottom cores. This was called "snowblitz" at the time. People pointed out that snow is positive feedback. The white snowcover reflects mucho solar heat back into space, so that once the northern hemisphere bcomes snowcovered, it won't melt out. This was a topic of discussion back in the '60s or '70s when people worried about the ice ages coming back.
Right here is another pond bottom mud core study, this time in Ireland, where the investigators show another rapid onset of an ice age.
The global warming people have backed off a little since the world started cooling down ten years ago. This report suggests that it could get a lot colder, real fast.

Hacking thru the radar Part II

"In the famous "Suter" series of electronic attach experiments as Nellis AFB Nev. a data stream was fired into an integrated air defense network's antenna's by an EC-130 Compass Call electronic attack aircraft. " So saith Aviation Week.
Cool. Couple of years ago Aviation Week reported that the Israeli's used this technique in the air strike on the Syrian nuclear reactor.
Couple of things to wonder at. How do radio frequency data streams get inside the "integrated air defense network"? The network antennas are radar antennas which are mostly analog, mixed with Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system. Transmitting analog signals can confuse the radar, but the process is called jamming and has been around since WWII. Sending phony IFF digital signals is called spoofing, and has been around just about as long. Neither process would be called "firing a data stream" by any one in USAF.
"Firing a data stream into network antenna's" implies the airborne attackers are getting into the digital data links between the radar sites and the fighter/missile direction centers and inserting false targets, or erasing real targets, or doing other kinds of mischief. It's a neat trick, but the counter measure is simple, use land lines or optical fiber for the data links. Don't use radio data links. No way can radio frequency energy emitted by aircraft get into plain old telephone wires or optical fibers.
I dare say some air defense systems use radio data links 'cause you just have to aim the antennas and switch on the power and your data is linking, out for maybe 50 miles. Might take a week to string wire or fiber that far. But was I in charge, I'd order the boys out to string the wire or fiber the day I arrived in theater, and after a week, I would have secure data links. And I would no longer be transmitting "here I am, come bomb me" over the air. For a radar site the extra emissions probably don't matter, but a fighter/missile direction center, fighter base or missile site could maintain radio silence and become harder to find.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Windows worm grounds French Air Force

According to Aviation Week the "conficker" worm got into French air force mission planning software. Rafaele fighters were grounded because they were unable to download flight plans from infected databases. Once on the loose, the "conficker" worm got into French Navy networks, the Villacoublay air base, and 8th Transmissions Regiment. French investigators think someone plugged an infected thumb drive into a machine on the network.
Additional grief happened in Britain where a virus infected Royal Navy and Royal Air Force computer networks, including aircraft carrier Ark Royal, and was emailing god know what intelligence to a Russian internet server.
The Americans got theirs last year about this time, when a cyberworm got into Pentagon computers. The US thinks they were infected from a thumb drive, since they banned use of all such devices shortly afterwards.
Wow. James Bond would be proud. So would Kevin Mitnick.
Lesson to be learned. Any Windows computer on the Internet is totally vulnerable to hackers. They can take over the machine, run their own programs, and cover their tracks so well that no one will really notice. Even if you keep the Windows computers off the internet, the thumb drives can still infect them.
Bottom line, never use Windows computers for anything important. Linux is life.
And, never computerize anything that you don't need to computerize.
For instance, that French mission planning system isn't really necessary. In USAF we wrote out flight plans with pencil and paper and filed them over the telephone. Worked just fine. If the fancy software goes west, the French should have been able to go back to the good old manual way of doing things.
The thumb drive problem is harder. The things are so convenient, so small and easily concealed (about the size of a 50 cent piece) that just putting out an order not to use them ain't going to cut it. Just plugging an infected thumb drive into a Windows machine will infect it because of a Windows "feature". It's a feature not a bug. And you can believe as much of that as you like.
Back when CD-Rom drives were new, Microsoft arranged for CD-ROMs bearing software to "auto-run". Just inserting the CD in the drive was enough to start the install program on the CD running. Or a music CD playing. Cool. Trouble starts when the CD contains a virus instead of new software. Microsoft is so in love with this "feature" that they added it to the USB ports, and now thumb drives with viruses will infect whole networks.
I'm glad I'm not a security guy trying to keep my computers un infected today. You gotta figure that sooner or later someone will stick an infected thumb drive into one of your computers. That infects the first computer. The infection then spreads itself over the network connection or thru any other thumb drive ever inserted in the infected machine. If the infected machine is networked, it will infect all the other machines on the network within a short time.
You really cannot remove the USB ports that thumb drives plug into because the computers need those ports for mice, keyboards, printers, cameras, et cetera, et cetera. You can disable the "autorun" feature in software, but it has a tendency to come back to life spontaneously. You'd have to inspect every computer every day to make sure it was still disabled. That could be automated I suppose, but it would be a major PITA.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

V, the new series on ABC

Disappointing. For those that don't know, V is a remake of a science fiction miniseries from nearly thirty years ago. It is/was an invasion of earth by nasty aliens plot. The original wasn't bad, not Shakespeare, but watchable light entertainment.
The new episode on ABC last night suffered from the curse of the soundman. You couldn't hear the dialog. The actors mumble or whisper, the mikes aren't placed right, and the score and the sound effects drown the actors out. PITA. It's early in the story, we in the audience are trying to sort out the good guys from the bad guys, and half the time I miss a key revelation 'cause I cannot hear the dialog.
Cast is all new faces except Morena Baccarin of Firefly fame. She gets the snooty and villainous alien leader role, which isn't going to do her any favors, careerwise.
Plot is weak, it has five or six sets of characters, all doing unrelated things, and the camera cuts from one to the next to the next with wild abandon. There is a lady FBI agent (didn't catch her name) who is fighting with her superiors, hiding important evidence, and generally being an unprofessional. Scully and Mulder were more effective investigation wise.
I'll watch a few more episodes but I fear the worst. ABC Tuesday night at 8 Eastern.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Terrorism or Treason?

Lot of talk on the TV about that Major Hasan, the Ft Hood shooter. Is he a terrorist? Who knows, and what's a terrorist anyhow. Skip that. He is a traitor though.
"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, providing them aid and comfort." US Constitution, Article III section 3.
I'd say shooting 30 or 40 US soldiers, on an Army post, is levying war against the United States. It's treason for a plain civilian, and it's infinitely worse when the shooter is a commissioned officer of the US Army.
And it is also premeditated murder.
So what to charge Major Hasan with? Let's not grant this awful man the glory of political martyrdom. Let's charge him with plain old murder, which still carries the death penalty in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Let him plead the insanity defense. Better to have him proclaim to the world that he is a maniac rather than a glorious martyred jihadi.
Our enemies are trying to make Major Hasad into a hero of Jihad. Let's not help them.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Compact Fluorescents go blue

In order to bring light to the shaving mirror, a four bulb (60 W per bulb) fixture was installed over the medicine cabinet many years ago. Couple of years ago I replaced the 240 watts worth of plain old light bulbs with those curly que compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). After 3 years of service one of the CFL's died. So I did the ordinary thing, bought a new CFL down at Franconia hardware.
Put the new bulb in service, turned on the juice, everything lit up. But WOW. New CFL shines a bright blue along side the three old bulbs which glow a cheery pink. Put the cover on the fixture an it does look odd, a bright blue spot in the midst of cheery pink.
Looks like the CFL maker in China decided to save a few pennies on phosphors. Phosphors for blue and green are cheap and bright. Red phosphors are expensive and not so bright. The old line fluorescent lamps were done in "Cool White" a very blue mix popular for years that was cheap but threw an unpleasant shade of light. Which is why fluorescent lamps never made much headway in the home, the light was just plain ugly and made rugs and furnishings look ugly.
When the CFL bulbs first came out, they had the more expensive red rich phosphor mixes and the light looked pretty good, for a fluorescent. Looks like that's going away now that the CFL's have caught on. Back to cool white ugliness.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Massacre at Ft Hood

The terrible news from Ft Hood dominated the TV news yesterday. At this point it seems that one man, an Army major and psychiatrist, named Nidal Malik Hassan is the sole murderer. He was shot resisting arrest but is alive and may recover to stand trial.
My heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones.
One unasked question. How did this weirdo stay in the Army long enough to make major without anyone noticing that he was homicidal? Doctors come in as captains, to be a major this guy had to have been on active duty for at least 18 months. He was supposed to have a superior officer write an Officers Effectiveness Report (OER) on him once a year. I wonder what those OER's say. For that matter, how did he get thru med school ?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"V" rerun on SciFi (SyFy) channel

V was a TV miniseries way way back in the early '80s. Aliens come to earth in mile wide flying saucers. They look just like humans and after the humunguous saucers hover over all major cities, alien ambassadors establish friendly diplomatic relations with earth. Some earthlings go for this, but the doubts grow. Gradually, over several episodes, it is revealed that the aliens are green and scaly, wear "human suits" to sooth the earthling suspicions, and have repulsive table manners. A resistance movement forms and the war is on. There are some good scenes. Such as alien antigravity shuttlecraft parked on a California street. An innocent looking little old lady walks past, extracts a Molotov cocktail from her shopping bag, lights it with a Zippo, and flips it thru an open cockpit window, producing a most satisfactory explosion. Or, a resistance camp is under air attack from alien shuttlecraft. Reinforcements come roaring up in a trash packer truck, the truck's rear hatch pops open, and the resistance fighters pass out M-16's and shoulder fired missiles. We see a couple of alien shuttles crash after taking missile hits.
The series has everything, dedicated resistance fighters, cynical mercenaries, quislings, traitors, scumbag alien enemies as well as honorable aliens. Every cold war hawk vs dove hot button (except nuclear weapons) is pushed at least once.
I saw this thing just once back when it first came out on over-the-air TV. To my knowledge it never went into reruns. Saturday's airing of all episodes (some 12 hours worth) was the first time I'd seen it since the '80s. Apparently ABC is planning to revive or remake the series on TV, and the SyFy channel piggybacked on the ABC publicity. It will be fun to see if the new series can push as many hot buttons as the old one.
The old series shows hawks as heroes and doves as race traitors. I figure that slant was a turnoff to TV people and the reason it never went into reruns until now.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NY 23rd, Why did Hoffmann loose?

Hard to say, since the media gave little-to-no coverage of the candidates. There was one very short clip of Hoffmann speaking and it didn't go well. He sounded inarticulate and tongue tied. I wonder if the real situation was like the situation up here, lack of decent candidates. It's hard to find intelligent articulate candidates who are willing to put up with the abuse and the long hours of running for public office.
From what I hear, Scozzafava was the choice of the Republican party leadership in the district, but didn't appeal to the voters much. That happens, as a very narrow gauge Republican leader myself, I like to think I know what Republican voters want, but I can easily be wrong. I can visulize a dozen guys, part timers, getting together to find a candidate, and settling on Scozzafava as the only experienced politician willing to run. They are all good old boys, and a daresay Scozzafava was a good old girl, and well known to them, whereas Hoffmann was a total amateur, new to the district, and so they didn't consider him.
Net result, the Republicans nominate a weak candidate. A third party candidate comes out of nowhere and blows her away. But that third party guy, Hoffmann, isn't all that strong a candidate himself, and the Democrat wins the election.
So, rather than a Republican electorate moving to the right, we really have a Republican party unable to come up with strong candidates.
As I said, I don't really know all this, but based on personal experience, that's the way it might have been. Too bad we don't have any real reporters up there in NY 23 to tell us what really did happen.

Dark Sun by Richard Rhodes (1995)

This turned up at the Franconia library booksale. It's a long thick history of the development of nuclear weapons, starting back before the Mahattan project. We see the physicists, the spies, the politicians. Rhodes is not a very technical guy so the coverage of the technology, the great industrial efforts, and the military efforts is a little thin. He does have a fascinating look at the Soviet nuclear program. The Soviets couldn't spare the resources for atomic weapons until after WWII, but they had a lot of good scientists, who working from a limited industrial base, and aided by brilliant Soviet espionage, acheived a bomb very early.
It's a good read. Could have been better if the author had been more sympathetic to the subject. He clearly feels the entire nuclear weapons effort was misguided and only the grace of God prevented destruction of the world. Writing in the safety of the mid 1990's, after the Soviets collapsed, (and before 9/11) it isn't hard to make the quest for the hydrogen bomb seem foolish. But as one who lived thru the cold war, that forty year faceoff with a nuclear armed super power, the desire for thermonuclear weapons (and an Air Force to deliver them) seems perfectly rational.
Rhodes tells the story of the nuclear spies, Fuchs, the Greenglasses, the Rosenburgs, Burgess and McClain, Philby, Harry Gold, and the rest. There is plenty of detail, we learn of nearly every dead drop and brushpass. Rhodes skims over the most interesting part of the spy story, the motivations. What made these people risk their lives to give the secret of the atomic bomb to Stalin? Rhodes doesn't even speculate.
Rhodes has it in for General Curt LeMay. He accuses LeMay of empire building, disrespect of superiors, unauthorized provocative actions, and offering bad advice to Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. He fails to mention the famous Kennedy quote, "If we had a war tomorrow I'd want Le May in the lead bomber. But other than that, he's a wild man".
All in all, interesting. Could have been better, but it's still pleny OK.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Health Care according to Democrats

Fox News interviewed a Democratic Congressman this morning. This fellow claimed that the $1 trillion 2000 page health care bill would save money. "Well, yes costs do go up, but it would be worse without the bill. " Then he says "Health care costs inevitably rise".
Actually, US health care costs are twice the costs of ANY OTHER country in the world. They could be reduced by half and we would still spend as much as anyone. Two steps toward reducing costs. Medical malpractice reform ought to save 10% or more. Allowing health insurance companies to sell insurance thruout the United States would bring real competition to many places.
Far as anyone can tell (with 2000 pages to read, who knows anything really) Obamacare does not do either thing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Regulate Wall St

Wall St is supposed to finance economic growth, funnel society's scarce capital into things that make us healthier, wealthier and wiser. Most economic activities require a lot of cash up front before they pay off at all. You have to pay construction workers while the building is under construction. Money from the sale of the building, or rent, doesn't come in until AFTER the building is finished. Manufacturing automobiles, airplanes, consumer goods, machine tools, damn near anything, requires paying the workers, and the parts suppliers, long BEFORE the product is shipped and paid for. To say nothing of paying for the factory. Most business is like this, you need to borrow money to get things going long before the profits come in. No loans, no business.
Wall St firms are SUPPOSED to take investor's spare capital and lend it to businesses that need it. Unfortunately, a lot of them were using investor's funds to play poker with each other. The entire "credit default swap" swindle was such a poker game. Credit default swaps sank AIG for $150 billion taxpayer bailout. The "secondary mortgage market" aka mortgage backed securities, sank Lehman and Merrill Lynch. In short, regulation should encourage loans to real businesses, and discourage gambling between themselves.
Banks in particular need regulation to keep them from gambling with FDIC insured funds. The real free market, where firms fail and go out of business when they do stupid things, or are merely unlucky, is stressful. Bank failures are painful, not only for the bank, but for all the depositors who loose their savings. The pain was so intense, that back in FDR's time, Uncle Sam guaranteed bank deposits. If the bank goes broke, Uncle pays off the depositors. No too big to fail here, Uncle guarantees EVERY US bank. With that kind of backup, we need stiff regulations to prevent banks from doing risky things with taxpayer money.
For instance, the depression era Glass-Stegall act used to prevent banks from playing the stock market. Banks lobbied against Glass-Stegall for 50 years and finally got it repealed under Clinton. Big mistake. Great Depression II was caused by banks speculating in mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps, and the stock market. We ought to outlaw all three activities for FDIC insured banks.
Let the un insured hedge funds do the gambling, not taxpayer insured banks.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cap Wall St Salaries

Watched Meet the Press with David Gregory this morning. He interviewed Tim Geithner (Obama's Treasury Secretary) . Geithner managed to evade most of Gregory's questions, but when the conversation drifted around to salary caps for bailed out companies it did get interesting. Geithner is unhappy to see companies taking tax money and handing it over to the suits who drove their companies over a cliff, and took the world economy down as a side effect. Gregory worried that salary caps would cause a flight of talent.
Not to worry David Gregory. The people having their salaries capped are the turkeys who caused Great Depression II. They are not talent, and the companies would be well rid of them. Plus in the toughest job market since 1929, they are unlikely to find work anywhere else.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Union Leader backs off of Web

According to Now Hampshire, the Union Leader will no longer post political news and columnists on it's website. You want to read 'em, you gotta buy the paper. The Now Hampshire article is filled with wailing and whining about the unfairness of it all.
Let's see how this works out. The Union Leader has clearly decided that they only get revenue when people buy the paper. This is not rocket science. They have it right. So, they have decided to stop giving away the paper's best stuff on the web for free. If the content is that good, people will buy the paper to get it. And if it isn't that good, they won't.
And if it isn't that good? I think we know what happens then.
The business model of newspapers is straight forward, and in the absence of competition, it works. You get revenue for ad sales and paper sales. The business model for websites/blogs is unclear. Unless you are the Wall St Journal, people won't pay to read a website. Advertisers are harder to come by and don't pay as much as print ads. Websites/blogs are essentially free to operate, no bills for ink and paper, no wages to printers, delivery truck drivers and paper boys. It is doubtful that a Union Leader website could bring in enough revenue to support the reporters and editors they have now.
Dunno how this plays out in the end. Newspapers competed with radio and TV by offering more comprehensive coverage, and were readable on the commuter train. Webby competitors can be just as comprehensive, and if the WiFi ing of America works out, they will be readable on the commuter train too. Plus, who takes the train to work anymore?

Too big to read

The health care bill just porked up again. It's now 2000 pages long. Last month it was 1000 pages. Then it hit 1500 pages last week and yesterday it plumped up again. At this rate it will be 3 or 4 thousand pages after it gets out of the House-Senate conference committee.
This bill should be opposed, just 'cause it is so long. It's so long nobody knows what all is in it, what it will do, and what it will cost. Within 2000 pages of gobble-de-gook to search thru, a halfway bright bureaucrat can find a paragraph that permits what ever it is he wants to do. Or forbids what ever he doesn't like. So can lawyers and judges. In short, this bill turns control of health care over to un-elected bureaucrats, lawyers, judges, and pressure groups. And we have no control over any of these people. The bureaucrats are all protected by civil service and cannot be fired. Lawyers are like crab grass, they pop up everywhere and kill off the decent grass, and judges serve for life. In short, we give control of health care, 18% of the economy and growing, over to a bunch of people you wouldn't invite into your home.
Write your congress critters before they sell us down the river.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Too Big to Fail

Long discussion on the Lehrer News Hour about treatment of businesses "too big to fail" such as AIG or CitiBank/Group/Whatever. Not once during the discussion did anyone mention making them smaller. We pride ourselves on being a free market country. Well, you can't have a free market and have monopoly businesses. Once a business acheives a monopoly, it can charge whatever the traffic will bear, there are no competitors left, and we customers get robbed. Any company "too big to fail" is big enough to be a monopoly.
We used to have an anti-trust policy in this country. Anti Trust goes way back, to the 1880's with the passage of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. This was used to break up Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller's monopoly oil company, a hundred years ago. There is still an "Anti Trust" division at the Justice department, which was active enough to attempt a breakup of IBM back in the 1960's, and did acheive a breakup of the telephone company in the 1970's. Too bad they went to sleep and haven't done a thing (save draw their pay) for the last 20 years.
Antt-Trust used to go to court to block mergers of big companies. That was useful, 'cause the way companies grow is by merging, taking over, or buying out their competitors. If anti-trust have been doing its job, AIG never would have acheived the size it did before self destructing.
The Justice department would have objected to the mergers on anti trust grounds.
In short, the solution to the "too big to fail" company problem is simple, don't let companies grow that big, and break up the ones that have. We used to do that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"At little or no cost to you"

You must have seen those Scooter Store and Hoveround ads on TV. They are right up there with the Gieco Gecko ads on Fox News. I got junk mail from them today. "You may be able to get a power chair or scooter at little or no cost to you with Medicare and private insurance." it says right up front.
Translation: They are so pricey that no one buys them with their own money.
Question. Should health insurance pay for power wheel chairs? As opposed to the standard you-push-it type? Are they not luxuries that ought to be purchased by the individual? Why should my tax money or insurance premiums go the the Scooter Store?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The well equipped home workshop

The well equipped shop needs an electric bench grinder to keep tools sharp. So far so good, I got one of those. Then of course you need a wheel dresser, a gizmo to flatten out any rough spots on the abrasive wheels. They used to be an all steel gizmo of no particular classiness.
Times have changed. You can now get a diamond wheel dresser, complete with a 1/4 caret diamond tip, for only $62.50 from Lee Valley, a maker of lovely but pricey tools. Quarter caret is close to engagement ring size. A replacement diamond, in case you get clumsy and break one, is only $21.50.
Them man made diamond folks are getting better and better at it.

Photographic film RIP

Nice big flyer from Hunt's Photo turned up in the mail yesterday. Not a single film camera in the whole thing. All digital now. Some old camera names, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, and Leica. Some new camera names like Sony, Casio and Panasonic. Some computer names like Epson and SanDisk.
Kodak is missing completely.

Monday, October 26, 2009

American military thinking

Good article in this month's American Rifleman about trench shotguns. Back in WWI, everyone was looking for more firepower for the infantry. The Europeans played around with a variety of unreliable sub machine guns. The Americans went for good old 12 gauge pump action shotguns. I saw one of these babies for sale at InterarmCo in Alexandria VA many years ago. It was worn, but the bore looked humunguous, and it had US Govt markings on the action. Not something one would care to face in a trench. Or anywhere else for that matter.
Machine guns achieve rapid fire thru a complex action that has to cycle without fail for each shot. Shotguns achieve rapid fire thru a much simpler design, they simply pack a bunch of lead balls into one big barrel. Notice that shotguns are still for sale at Walmart, where as the Tommy guns, the Schmeissers, the Stens, the grease guns, and their ilk are now museum pieces.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Perfect Storm (movie)

Finally saw the movie on cable the other night. I'd read the book, so I knew how it was going to come out. The shots of Gloucester Harbor and the draggers coming in and out were good. I've spent time in Gloucester, and it looked right on. The closeups of the crew getting ready to go to sea, saying goodbye to girlfriends, hanging out in waterfront dives were appealing as well. I watched it to the end.
It was ultimately unsatisfying as a movie. The Andrea Gail sinks with all hands in the last reel of the movie. We knew that was going to happen. Efforts of the crew to keep her afloat were like cliff hangers, you see them battling loose gear, mountainous waves, and failed equipment. But you know all this heroism isn't gonna save them.
The movie veered between blaming the sinking on a greedy owner, or a skipper's fanatical quest of the great white swordfish, or a broken ice machine, and portraying the storm as an act of God, against which no man can resist. In short, I turned off the TV at the end of the movie wondering what was the meaning of it all.
The skipper is portrayed as a likable guy, good seaman, who is willing to run some serious risks to bring back a full load of swordfish. The key scene has the Andrea Gail far out in the Atlantic, with fish holds full, and the ice machine broken. They know the weather is going bad. They could stay offshore out of the worst of the weather for a couple of days before heading in. But, the ice would melt, the fish would spoil and the voyage would be a bust. They decide to risk it, head back to Gloucester thru the teeth of the hurricane. The whole crew concur, they all want their share of the poceeds of the voyage. Watching the movie, it seems like a reasonable decision at the time. The boat is seaworthy, the crew is all old pros from Goucester, the saltiest fishing port in North America.
Somehow the movie fails to convince me that they die from folly, or from lack of seamanship or guts. Nor does it make it clear that they perish as an act of God. The owner gets some bad press, he is a nasty cheapskate, but he isn't shown skimping on boat maintenance or supplies. A Coast Guard rescue helicopter fails to accomplish an air-to-air refueling in atrocious weather, runs out of fuel, and crashes at sea before it can get out to help the Andrea Gale.
So, good photography, decent acting, but overall a so-so movie.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sprinklers in your living room

The forces of fire safety are pushing to require sprinklers in New Hampshire residential construction. If the firemen get their way, new homes will have tasteful chrome sprinkler heads sticking out of the ceilings. Homey they are.
Pricey too. This "safety" requirement will add 4 or 5 thousand dollars to the price of new homes or condo's. Just the thing to make affordable housing less affordable.
The insurance companies are maintaining a low profile on this issue. They figure the increased claims for water damage will make up from any savings in fire losses. Sprinkler systems will discharge accidently. I have a vivid memory of the time the sprinklers went off in the old Waltham Watch factory, right in the computer room. It was a tropical downpour, only indoors. We saved the computers by whipping big plastic trash bags down over the equipment racks. This could happen in your new living room.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hybrid Powered Navy Ship

Fox news has been running a piece on the newly commissioned USS Makin Island, a big assault carrier. Fox describes a "new" propulsion system using electric motors. It is so efficient that the ship's radius of action is doubled and the cost of fuel is cut in half. Wow. A sea going Prius.
Well, it doesn't work that way. Makin Island's propulsion system is diesel, augmented with gas turbines. The gas turbines are cut in only when full speed is required, the much more economical diesels furnish power for regular cruising. This rig is claimed to be more efficient than regular steam turbines. Probably is, diesels are very efficient. Both diesels and gas turbines are small and light and I would expect the new power plant takes less room below than boilers, stacks, turbines, propeller shafts and reduction gears.
So where does the electric motor come in? This is a retro idea going back to the roaring 1920's. Back then a number of big US warships were built with electric propulsion. Steam turbines turned generators that powered electric motors to drive the propellers. This design eliminated the propeller shafts, the shaft tunnels, and solved the reduction gear and reverse problem. Turbines run at thousands of RPM, whereas big propellers want to run at a hundred RPM or so. Gear boxes doing 10:1 reduction and not breaking while handling 25000 horsepower are expensive and hard to make. Turbines only run in one direction. Electric motors can go from full ahead to full reverse at the flip of a switch, which is very attractive to skippers easing a big ship along side a dock.
The down side to electric drive is salt water. Should battle damage let salt water into the electrical gear bad things happen. Because of this, and improvements in gear boxes, the Navy dropped electric drive by the 1930's, and all the WWII warships had straight mechanical drives. Reverse was handled by an auxiliary reverse turbine. This didn't give full reverse, it gave a reverse thrust only about 25% of full ahead thrust. Skippers were told to dock gently or use tugboats.
Sometime in the 1990's the Navy revived the electric drive idea. I worked on an early project to do this. The motors were huge, fancy, brushless, solid state controlled with the semiconductors handling really massive currents. I asked what the purpose of the electric drive was. Someone told me the Navy had been watching too much Star Trek. They wanted to be able to divert full power from the propellers to the shields or the lasers or the radar or whatever. I got off that project long before it left the laboratory and came anywhere near salt water.
Looks like the electric drive project panned out, and USS Makin Island is equipped with it.

Health care, new handout to the drug companies

According to NHPR this morning, the 1500 page health care bill now extends patents on drugs by 12 more years. Talk about a pay off to big pharma. Talk about a cost enhancer.
Right now the drug companies get plenty of incentive to develop new drugs. They are making solid profits. We don't need to pass them more taxpayers money.
New drugs still on patent cost like crazy and the drug companies make money hand over fist on them. After 17 years the patent expires and other companies start making the stuff. And the price goes down by a factor of ten. Hundred dollar pills become ten dollar pills.
Extending the life of drug patents takes money out of everyone's pocket and gives it to the drug companies.
Write your Congress critters.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Net neutrality, Good or bad?

Used to be "net neutrality" meant internet service providers (your friendly local ISP) would treat all data packets the same. Your email, the website you are viewing, the music you are downloading, at bottom are just bits (ones and zeroes) traveling over the net. For convience the bits are grouped into "packets" of perhaps 2048 bits per packet or more. Each packet has an address that tells the various routers and computers and hardware of the net where to send the packet.
Right now all packets are treated equal. No packets have priority over other packets. When the net slows down, everyone's packets travel slowly. Misery is shared equally. that's net neutrality.
Some folks want to change that and allow priority schemes where high priority packets go first and low priority packets wait their turn. ISP's might offer priority service, pay more and your packets go first, your website loads faster. Taken to extremes it might mean the less well heeled websites might never load at all.
It also means that folks downloading movies and music can no longer tie up the net. Some ISP's have already been accused of packet sniffing, i.e. looking at the contents of packets, and putting the music and movie download packets on the slow boat to nowhere. This lets them maintain decent response time for websites and voice telephone calls (Skype) without putting in more fiber and more routers and more money.
What to do? On one hand I like the idea that my packets go as fast as anyone's and all websites load at the same speed. On the other hand I have nothing against putting download packets at the bottom of the heap, so my web service doesn't grind to a halt when some kid downloads the Beatle's White Album.
I don't like the idea of Uncle Sam regulating the internet in the interests of net neutrality. Some how I suspect that Uncle Sam's regulation would raise my costs, slow my service and make it harder for new players to enter the internet market. "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."
In my humble opinion it would be adequate to rely upon the free market to sort this out. Some ISP's will compete by offering "pay-for-speed" services and some won't. Customers will be free to choose which ISP they subscribe to.
One other thing to watch out for. Some people's idea of net neutrality has nothing to do with packet priority and delivery speed. When these people say "net neutrality" they mean political neutrality. Political viewpoints of which they approve go thru and ones they disapprove of don't. These people are pushing for censorship under a disguised name.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A 1:87 size American icon falls.

Back in the depression racked 1930's, Irv Athearn started a small company to make model trains. Athearn survived the depression, squeaked thru the material shortages of WWII and blossomed in the post war years. The signature product was a series of kits. For a couple of dollars (way less than the cost of a single piece of Lionel) you got a kit that assembled into a very decent HO car. These kits stayed in production from 1950 right up until a few days ago. Generations of railroad hobbyists had bought zillions of the "Blue Box" kits and enjoyed them.
Last Friday Athearn called it quits. I got an email from them announcing end of production. No more $5 kits, from now on all you get is $18 fully assembled (ready-to-run they call it) . Irv Athearn died years ago, the company was sold to "Horizon Hobbies" and a new bunch of suits (managers) first moved production to China and then decided they would make more money selling $18 ready-to-run rather than $5 kits. Athearn kits were always easy to assemble, we used to call them "shake-the-box" kits (shake the box hard enough and the kit will fall together). The suits figure they can have a few pennies worth of Chinese labor put the kits together and raise the product price by a factor of three. Nice plan if it works.
Somehow, I don't think it's going to pan out that way. Hobbies are the ultimate discretionary purchase. People, kids especially, have only so much money to spend on a hobby. I think the Athearn suits are gong to find that their revenues stay about the same, as people buy fewer ready-to-runs at $18 than they did of kits at $5.
As the fond owner of a vast fleet of Athearn models, I decided to buy up a few more kits before they were all gone. It was a beautiful sunny day, the leaves are still pretty bright (although past peak now) and I drove out US 302, up thru Crawford Notch and down to Hartmann's RR hobby shop just north of North Conway. US 302 had smooth black new asphalt, NH has been aggressive in getting and spending Porkulus money. $49 later I had 6 new Athearn kits for building later this winter.

Health Care bill grows again. 1500 pages now.

Can nothing stop it? At 1000 pages last month no one could read it. Now its grown another 50% just to make sure no one can read it. Story here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wood Lathe

Finally got this baby turning wood. It's cool. Craig's list led me to this fifty year old Craftsman for only $50. Had to borrow a pickup truck to get him home. He spend a few weeks on the garage floor but the coming of winter added incentive to get the project moving, so I could get the car into the garage and out of the snow.
Step 2 was to build the bench you see under it. I am too old to grovel around on the floor working on stuff and I didn't want to tie up my only workbench for however long the restore might take.
Step 3 was to scrounge up a motor and buy a pulley for it. The motor was free but the damn pulley was $25 over the 'net. Also was able to locate a set of chisels, a set of brass punches to take it apart with, and the missing tool rest on the 'net.
Step 4 came after first power up. It ran but was making a really dreadful noise. The "I am a bad bearing" kind of noise. I pulled the bearings out of the headstock and ordered new ones from good old Accurate Bearing Co. The nice lady at Accurate apologized for only having Chinese made bearings. I said they would do and she put them right in the mail. USPS got them to me inside of two business days.
Yesterday it all came together. New bearings purred like kittens, chisels dug right in and presto, I have something round. Next to get some better looking wood than old two by fours and turn something decorative.
Just to add to the feeling of honest self satisfaction, the mail man dropped off the woodworking magazine with a cover story "Four Mini Lathes for your shop". These groovy little machines cost $600-$800 each (new) and don't have a half the capacity of my $50 antique.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Wall St Journal blinks

Back in August I found out the Journal wanted $375 to renew my subscription for one year. Wow!. The WSJ is a fine paper but it ain't that fine. I called their subscription department. How about a discount 'cause I'm a senior, a veteran, a republican, retired, a New Hampster? No deals. Pay up or else.
New subscribers can get the Journal for $134 a year but renewal is $375. So I let the subscription run out.
Then the Journal capitulated by mail. I received an invitation to renew for $134 a year in the mail. Sent in the check yesterday.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Slate's science needs to go back to highschool

This article on Slate claims the invention of an artificial black hole. Too bad that the device described is really a "black body" rather than a "black hole". A black body is a device that is a perfect absorber of radiation, no radiation is reflected, it is all absorbed. In principle an ideal flat black paint would form a black body. In practice an opening into a box, whose interior is painted black will be even blacker than the paint alone.
A black hole is a gravity field so strong that the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light.
And Slate doesn't know the difference. Typical poorly educated newsies.

Banks have come into money again

I just received no fewer than three letters from my credit card companies with those free checks inside. Just cash one or two or three with a limit of some thousands of dollars. Sort of like free money only you have to pay it back.
They gave up on this promotion during the dark days of 08 and 09 presumably cause they were all going broke. Looks like their balance sheets have improved and they are now pushing consumer loans again.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why all the RINO news coverage?

Yesterday the Senate finance committee passed its health care bill (there are others in other committees) by 14 to 10. All the news coverage centered on RINO Olympia Snow of Maine voting for the bill. All the other Republicans on the committee voted against it. If Snow had voted against it, it still would have passed 13 to 11. So what is the big deal about Snow's vote?
Could it be that the democrats, and their media, want a Republican stamp of approval on the bill, so that when it becomes a disaster, the democrats can say it must be OK, the Republicans voted for it too?
I hear the "bipartisan" word thrown around a lot these days. Actually, in real two party democracy the two parties are supposed to advocate different policies and are under no obligation to support the opposition's policies. The intense desire of the democrats to get a bi partisan Republican OK on their health care bill is not real two party democracy in action. Not quite sure what it is, but I am not sure I like it.
The Republicans ought to have figured out that Obamacare is a disaster that will bankrupt the country. When that happens, it should be clear to all voters that the democrats brought the disaster upon us and they could get relief by voting in Republicans.
When RINO's like Snow buy into Obamacare then it gets harder to point the finger of blame at the guilty party.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Family Reunion Weekend

Right at peak leaf season all three children came up to visit. House was full, both of people and computers. More computers than people actually. One laptop had suffered a close encounter with a lemonade and had succumbed to terminal stickiness. A simply disassembly followed by a wash in the kitchen sink revived that one. Then we threw a combined birthday party for my mother (91) and Christopher (28) Baked a cake, dug out the fine china. Had ten people for dinner, something of strain on the chair supply, but we borrowed a couple and made out.
Monday I drove two out of three children down to catch buses to Brooklyn and planes to DC. Gorgeous day, sunny, bright leaves everywhere.
Approaching the state liquor stores southbound on 93 we run into traffic. At the toll booth they tell 93 is closed southbound and everyone is detoured down old four lane 293 right thru the center of Manchester. We nearly miss the plane.
Turned on the radio to find out what was going on. NHPR didn't know anything that we didn't already know. Little things like why the road had to be closed, and how bad the traffic back up was. It eventually had traffic backed up to Tilton, some 50 miles north of the road closure.
Today it's snowing. Two to four inches forecast. Bye Bye fall, hello winter. Global warming strikes again.

Friday, October 9, 2009

So what does the CBO really mean?

Like how much the health care package is going to cost. I heard a ten year cost of $830 billion or so over ten years. That's a little less than a trillion, but not all that much less. But now it is "deficit neutral" what ever that means. How did that happen? And how realistic are the CBO numbers? Do they require impossible acts of Congress to work?
And over what period of time? I heard the Healthcare bill even if passed doesn't start paying off until 2012 where as the extra taxes/fees/whateveryoucallem kick in next week. Do we get four years of higher costs before we see any benefits?

Obama Wins the Nobel Prize.

Wow. I thought one had to actually accomplish something to become eligible. What does he have to look forward to now?
On the other hand, the Nobel committee probably thought Obama was as deserving as Jimmy Carter was.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Republicans running for Paul Hode's House Seat

Paul Hodes, my democratic US house rep, is not standing for re election, he is running for US Senate. That leaves his House seat open. This morning's radio informs me that Jennifer Horn is going to run for the seat. Jennifer is a very nice person, she ran for Congress in '08 and lost. Her TV speaking is weak. Her platform last time was confused.
And, Charlie Bass is making noises like he will run. The seat in question was Charlie's until Hodes beat him in '06. Charlie is a good old boy, pleasant, good man with a smooth, if somewhat empty, line of talk. He didn't do much except vote a straight party line when he was in Congress. He got slack on the matter of answering his constituents mail, something that Hodes is very conscientious about.
Somehow I wish my party could come up with better candidates.

How to win in Afghanistan

Simple. Take Mao Tsetung's famous phrase, guerrillas are fish that swim in a sea. The sea being the civilian population. Plenty of Afghans know who is Taliban and who is Al Queda. All they have to do is drop a dime, call the Americans or the Afghan police and that bad guy becomes a "detainee" in about 45 minutes. If enough Afghans did this, Taliban and Al Quada would be toast. This can happen. Ask the Iraqis.
Why doesn't this happen in Afghanistan. Fear. Anyone who rats on the terrorists gets killed, and his whole family gets killed too. The terrorists don't do Miranda warnings, they just pull the trigger. The Afghans know this. And, the bad guys will be there forever, whereas the Americans are fickle as the weather, here today, exit planned tomorrow. Any Afghan who risks his life, and the life of his family, by passing intelligence to the Americans might get hung out to dry tomorrow. They all know about the American bug out after Charlie Wilson's war.
The Obama administration's dithering over Gen McChrystal's request for more troops is hurting our cause. The longer the dithering goes on in the public press and on Fox News, the more the Afghans get the idea that the Americans are going to pull out, real soon now. Obama needs to do something and do it now. Longer he dithers, the more Afghans get the idea that the Americans are not serious.