Sunday, August 30, 2009

Clueless Sunday Pundits

After endless Ted Kennedy funeral coverage the ABCers got to talking about the great CIA prosecution flap. One newsie said that Obama didn't want to prosecute but his hands were tied. Wow. Decision to prosecute always been at the discretion of the prosecutor. Eric Holder, the prosecutor, is Obama's attorney general. I believe that Mr. Holder will defer to the president's wishes at all times. Obama picked him for the attorney general job for just this reason. I ain't gonna believe that Obama is opposed to the prosecution.
I still don't understand why Obama is doing it. Conservatives and independants are dead set against it. CIA as an organization is dead set against it. CIA might proceed to destablized the Obama administration the way they did the Bush administration with embarrassing leaks of classified information. Why mud wrestle with a pig? You get dirty and the pig seems to enjoy it. Is it really worth stirring up this much bad feeling just to distract voters from Obamacare?
The newsies did not discuss those issues at all.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Al Jazeera more objective than CNN or BBC?

Roger Simon, vacationing in Italy, says yes. Which is another way of saying that CNN and BBC are truly awful news sources.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sunspots affect the weather? Really?

Short article here. Trouble is, before I believe that, I have to see a graph of temperature or rainfall or something that varies with an 11 year period. Lacking such a graph, I don't believe it.
Sunspots have been known for better than 400 years. They do have a strong effect on radio propagation, something well known to any ham radio operator. Long distance, or over-the-horizon, radio communication is much easier at sunspot maximum.
Somehow it is hard to believe that only now, in heat of the global warming crisis, that suddenly a correlation between weather and sunspot activity is discovered.
If the very small variations in solar heat caused by sunspots makes a difference then global warming can be linked to longer term variations in solar heat. Satellite observations of solar activity only go back 30-40 years. The satellites all show the sunspot cycle clearly, but the long term trend is unreadable. Each new satellite launched (and there have been a dozen) reads the solar activity a little bit different from its predecessor, due to tiny variations in instrument calibration. After this effect has been corrected, the long term trend is read as nothing by some, and as improper corrections by others.
The referenced article contains no data at all. The scientific articles linked to are all "pay-per-view". Being a cheapskate, I'll try and find something on the net that is free before putting up real money to satisfy my curiosity.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is Obama prosecuting CIA to take heat off Healthcare?

The Obama administration has decided to prosecute CIA people for harsh interrogation of Al Quada prisoners. You have to wonder why. Only the deepest lefties care much. Ordinary Americans are all in favor of squeezing intelligence out of Al Quada people by any means at all. People who blow up skyscrapers full of US citizens don't get much sympathy.
Prosecuting CIA people will render CIA even less effective than it has been. With the threat of criminal prosecution hanging over then, CIA agents are less likely to press hard, or take risks. Conservatives are unhappy about the national security risks incurred by weakening CIA.
All and all the issue seems like a loser for the Obama administration. So why are they doing it?
Could it be that they want to divert attention from the health care issue which doesn't seem to be going their way? Perhaps they fear they will lose on health care and are looking for something else to put on the front pages? Seems like a dumb idea to me, but with Obama you never know.
Some have suggested prosecuting CIA people is a way to get at Dick Cheney. That seems like a stretch to me. Cheney was vice president, not CIA director. Plus, how many real people really care about getting revenge on Dick Cheney? Especially now, when he is out of office?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Meet the Press, or Newies for Horserace reporting

We had Sen Chuckie Schumer (D-NY) and Sen Orrin Hatch (R-somewhere out west) on the show, topic Obamacare. The senators each launched into the merits of Obamacare or no Obamacare. Every time they got into a discussion of real issues, the moderator, newsie David Gregory, would interrupt and ask them to comment on the bill's odds of passing, or who had taken sides. In short, Gregory covers the issue like a horserace, all he cares about is who is ahead, he doesn't care about what it means, he just wants to predict a winner. Any winner. He sees no obligation to burden voters with facts or issues. Just pick the winner of the horserace.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bipartisanship is the Holy Grail

In American political folklore, bipartisan bills are virtuous, wholesome, and god fearing. The rationale being that if both parties agree that the bill is a Good Thing, then it must be OK (or at least non-toxic).
Needless to say, both parties want their bills to gain the label of "bipartisan" and they accuse the other party of "obstructionism" if they fail to jump on board. Once the minority party has voted for a bill, they cannot campaign against it. The Obamacare bill, currently raising political blood pressure is a fine example.
The real question for the minority party is whether a majority party bill is of sufficient worth to support. The working politician firmly believes in "scratch my back and I will scratch yours." Unless the bill is really really bad, the minority party is tempted to offer "bi partisan" support, in return for a promise of earmarks, committee assignments, and support for it's pet projects.
Trouble with the "go along and get along" strategy comes at election time. The voters have great difficulty seeing much difference between the two parties, especially when they have been "bi-partisan" all the time.
So far this administration, the Republicans have been good about opposing things that smell really bad. They voted against the Porkulus, Cap and Tax, and Obamacare. They need to keep it up, any weakening will cost them in 2010.

Lets fix Copyright Law

US Copyright law now runs for the life of the author plus 75 years. Call it a century. The publishers like it, but in actually practice it takes scads of books off the market. Most books only stay in print for 10 or 15 years. Once out of print, they are unavailable, but, still under copyright so Xeroxing a few copies is illegal. They don't enter the public domain for another 90 years or so. Keeping them on copyright earns nothing for the author, although the publishers are in favor lest old books compete with sale of new ones.
We ought to reduce copyright to the original 17 years. All the money the author gets will be gotten inside of 17 years. After that time, the big sales have been made. Plus the author ought to get off his duff and write something new. It's proper to reward authors, but 17 years of royalties is enough reward in my book.
Big plus, most music is more than 17 years old, so most downloading becomes legal. The labels haven't found new artists in the last twenty years. Don't believe me? Just hit signal seek on the car radio. Can you find a song that isn't twenty years old on the air?
Then copyright should restrict only the right to SELL copies. Making copies, giving away copies, and downloading songs isn't selling. It ought to be legal. Taping music off the air is legal, taping movies off the air is legal, why is downloading off the internet not legal?
During this summer of healthcare discontent, it's hard to focus on anything but healthcare, but we ought to broaden our horizons. The young voters see downloading as a fundamental right. The party that supports it will gain a lot of votes. It might cost them bribes/campaign contributions from the publishers and the labels, but votes and voters are more important than cash for getting re elected, the prime objective of all politicians.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A mouse in the house

After getting the kid's old laptop to play, I needed a real mouse. The usual laptop built in thumb pad is a pain to use, and this one way getting flaky, it occasionally left clicked all by itself with unfortunate consequences, like accidental file deletion. So I grabbed the mouse off the dying desktop. No go, lap top doesn't have a mouse port to plug it into. All it has are USB ports.

USB was supposed to replace the keyboard port, the mouse port, the speaker& mike ports, and the printer port thus saving five electrical connectors on the back of the laptop. One trouble with this plan. USB doesn't work until Windows boots all the way up. If for some reason Windows croaks, your keyboard is dead, making it impossible to boot from a recovery disk, program the BIOS, run diagonostics, and in general try to fix the problem. Lesson learned. Don't buy a desktop that lacks a real keyboard port.

Anyhow, the old standard mouse won't plug into USB, I needed a USB mouse. So ho off to Staples (the only vaguely electronicky place up here) to buy a mouse. Staples had a regular house house with a dozen different mice. I settled for the cheapest $15 mouse from Logitech. I passed on the fancier wireless mice costing as much as $99. Plugged in the new rodent and lo and behold, it works. Windows carries the code to work USB mice as well as standard mice, and Logitech had followed the standards closely enough for it's mouse to work with Microsoft's software.

Next step, read the instructions, printed in English French Spanish and Lower Slobbovian. The instructions promised a mouse powered orgy if only I would download Logitech's mouse driver package. Being somewhat stupid, I Firefoxed out to the Logitech website and looked for the driver. Logitech has been making mice for many years, and the download page offered pictures of about 100 different mice. Just pictures, no part numbers. On the internet all mice look alike. I began to doubt the wisdom of proceeding when I found out the driver (Setpoint 4.72) was a 52 megabyte file. That's bloatware supreme for a mouse driver.
Doubt rose higher as the install took a good 15 minutes. After the install finished the laptop slowed down. A lot. Bad sign. Plus, all that Setpoint 4.72 offered was to switch the left and right mouse buttons, not something anyone in their right mind wants to do. So, bring up "install and remove programs" and try to remove the mouse driver. All that did was cause failure messages saying the driver could not be removed until Windows had been rebooted. Arrgh.
At least, the reboot worked, I was able to blow Setpoint 4.72 into the big bit bucket in the sky.
That's the last mouse driver I'm ever gonna download.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Promoting the bean counter

Today's Wall St Journal has a piece entitled "Move over, CEO: The Time is Right for the Chief Financial Officer to be a Co-Leader". Written by Philip Tulimera and Moshe Banai, both professors of management.
Real companies manufacture and sell products. Success of the company depends upon economical and high quality manufacturing, effective advertising and sales, and brilliant engineering that produces new products. The head of a real company ought to have experience in all four key activities.
Chief Financial Officers are staff, who keep the books and borrow money. They may know Excel spreadsheets backward and forward, and may be buddy-buddy with the banker, but they are totally ignorant of the key operations, manufacturing, advertising, sales, and engineering. No way should a bean counter (aka CFO) be in a position to call the shots or veto the decisions of the CEO. He just doesn't know enough about the real operations of the company.
Successful companies are run by CEO's who have a clear vision of the company's business and its customers. They make the key decisions about where company resources are invested. They make the projections of return on investment and weight the risks involved in each move. The bean counter only knows the costs, he has no idea of the potential return from the move, or the risk of the move failing.
GM and Chrysler had internally promoted bean counters as CEO's. Ford had a real executive from Boeing. Look who went bankrupt and who didn't.
Leave corporate management in the hands of the CEO.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Meet the Press dodges the health care issue

Just finished watching it. They had Senator Tom Coburn, Tom Daschle, Dick Armey and a new face to me, newsie Rachel Maddox (sp?). David Gregory, the moderator, started off talking about the horrible violence of the town hall meetings and blaming it on the vast right wing conspiracy. They showed a clip of Arlen Spector coping with a voter. And still pix of Obama posters with toothbrush mustaches. Everybody nodded and tut tutted.
Strange, the U tube videos of town halls show a lot of voters with an attitude, and video cameras, and tough questions, but no violence. The newsies are calling tough questions and harsh words violence. About what you'd expect from journalism majors. In the real world, violence means wounding, killing, and burning. As kids we used to say "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me." The newsies probably never went out on the playground as kids.
At least the Republicans brought up tort reform, and interstate sale of health insurance. The democrats were against both ideas and after a statement from both sides the discussion moved on.

How to charge an electric car

Been reading here and there on the net about the great blackout that will happen when a zillion electric cars are plugged in to recharge.
Not to worry. The electric grid sees a great fluctuation in power demand, with, as you might expect, a drop of 30% or so in the early AM. Between midnight and 6 AM there is plenty of reserve electricity that could charge a zillion electric car batteries. It would be trivial to have the car's microprocessor[s] start the charging at midnight and monitor it so the battery doesn't overcharge.
If the electric company would offer an incentive, like say twelve cents a kilowatt hour instead of the sixteen I usually pay, I'd hit the "economy charge" button in the car as I plugged it in. Even better, the car ought to default to "economy charge" and require you to press a "Hang the expense, Charge it NOW" button should you need the car sooner than tomorrow morning.
Power companies could install electric meters with built in clocks that would record "off peak" (midnight to 6 AM) electricity use separately from the "peak" (daytime) use. You get a discount on off peak use. In fact, doing so might be a good idea. If I got a discount on juice after midnight, I might take the trouble to run the clothes dryer after midnight. Right now I don't bother, 'cause there is nothing in it for me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Who is smoking what?

From the Wall St Journal editorial page:
"As a political strategist, Big Pharma lobbyist Billy Tauzin is starting to look less like Dr. Faustus and more like Jack, trading away his industry for magic beans.
Last week Mr. Tauzin ostentatiously blabbed to the media that his industry's deal to help fund ObamaCare with $80 billion in prescription drug discounts was really protection money. In particular he bragged that he had secured promises from the White House that President Obama would fend off Congressional Democrats who want to "negotiate" drug prices, which in practice means price controls. "
First off, Billy Tauzin is smoking something if he thinks ObamaCare won't insist on lower drug prices, like CanadaCare does in Canada. Once the US has one big healthcare bureaucracy doing all the contracting, the bureaucrats will demand lower prices, and since they will be the only game in town, the drug companies will have no choice. Why the suits running the drug companies haven't figured this out I'll never know. I guess the drug companies are all run by myopic bean counters.
Second off, Obama is smoking something if he thinks a drug company offer of price discounts means anything. "List" prices for drugs are about 20 times the "street" price. Walmart fills my prescriptions for $48 for a three months supply. Medicare Advantage tells me the same drugs have an average sales price of $1023. Translation, a "discount" off a sky high and wholly fictitious "list" price doesn't mean a thing.
Anyhow Big Pharma is still planning to spend $150 million in advertising supporting ObamaCare. Talk about a death wish.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Microsoft discourages Windows 7 upgrade

According to Walter Mossberg, computer columnist for the Wall St Journal, Microsoft is making an upgrade to Windows 7 from XP totally unattractive. Microsoft demands that XP hard drives be totally erased and reformatted, destroying all your email, photos, letters, spreadsheets, applications, and drivers before installing Windows 7. Nobody in their right mind wants to risk the losses that reformatting can produce, so figure the army of XP computers will stay with XP and not risk the upgrade to Windows 7.
You have to wonder why Microsoft is willing to take this revenue hit. Used to be people would line up out side computer stores for the opportunity to buy the latest Windows over the counter. Microsoft used to schedule a new Windows release whenever they needed some money. Windows 95, 98, 2000, and XP all sold mucho copies to upgrade existing computers.
The reformatting step is totally unnecessary. A new Windows install will work just fine leaving the data on the disk intact. It worked that way for all previous versions of Windows. The reformat the hard disk requirement will be enforced by the Windows 7 install routine, something which a super hacker might be able to defeat, but is beyond the ken of ordinary mortals.
So why is Microsoft discouraging upgrades? It might be that they don't have Windows 7 drivers for the humungous numbers of older machines out there. Each computer is somewhat different, and little bits of hard to write and hard to debug software (drivers) take commands from Windows and make the computer's screen, network port, sound chip and other peripherals do the right thing. Microsoft changed the way drivers work between XP and Vista. XP drivers don't work in Vista. It was a terrible hassle for Microsoft to get the new Vista drivers written for the Vista release.
It may be that this level of hassle was just too much to bear and Microsoft decided to make things easier for themselves. Upgrading from a Vista machine means the machine already has Vista drivers which will work in Windows 7. Upgrading from XP means that Windows 7 must provide Windows 7 drivers for every computer manufactured over the last 12 years. That's a lot of drivers. And a lot of help calls when the machine fails to work after upgrading to Windows 7.
Me, I'm gonna take the hint from Microsoft, and not upgrade from XP. Especially as nobody has given any good reasons for running Windows 7. By all accounts it's fatter and slower and buggier than XP and doesn't work any better. Why bother?
Especially, if the upgrade to Windows 7 fails, you may not be able to get the computer to run XP again. If you can no longer find ALL the CD ROMS that came with the machine you may no longer have the needed drivers to make XP work again. In which case you are up the creek without a paddle.

The Second Civil War Ronald Brownsteen

"How Extreme Partisanship has paralyzed Washington and Polarized America" reads the subtitle on the cover. It has some interesting Washington stories from the old days but settles down to explaining how its all Bush's fault. The text slides from one opinion to another opinion with few examples. Stuggles over legislation are always explained in terms of conservative or liberal, with the expectation that the liberals ought to win most (or at least some) of the time. He talks about "poison pills" and "the olive pit in the jelly doughnut" (small but controversial amendments to bills) but never explains just what they are/were, and what they mean.
Ronald's theme is Bush destroyed a happy jolly bipartisan Washington DC because he didn't have Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi over for dinner often enough.
It could be, that Harry and Nancy were pushing for unacceptable policies that Bush felt honor bound to oppose. Since Ronald glosses over just what the policies under dispute were, this reader finds it hard to take sides, one way or the other. For that matter, Ronald avoids discussing the role of the press in all this. Aside from mentioning that Fox news started up in 1997, the press might as well not exist.
Recent political history might also be interpreted as the country is evenly split over policies such as Iraq, gay marriage, abortion, immigration, and the rest of the hot potatoes and neither side has the votes to impose it's solution.
It's too bad. The subject is interesting, but Ronald's lightweight coverage of the situation makes it an unsatisfying read.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Extra Solar Planet Discovered

From Aviation Week:
"NASA's Kepler Exoplanet hunting observatory's instruments are working so well that the have given astronomers their first image of the glow of a hot gasbag planet larger than Jupiter as it circles the backside of a star.
The star, HAT-P-7, and its companion planet, P-7B, are located about 1000 lightyears from earth. Their existence was known but the precision of Kepler's observatory has encouraged astronomers as the undertake a planned three-year mission to look for Earth like planets, exoplanets, in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way."

Wow. Star Trek here we come. Detected a planet 1000 light years away. Science fiction. Article accompanied by a really convincing graph of the light curve, showing a big dip as the planet crosses in front of the star.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Cadillac succumbs to the blands

Saw a brand new Caddy yesterday, had to be new, the black paint was flawless and shiny. It bore a "DTS" badge (Caddy doesn't call them DeVilles anymore) and "V8" badge but no "Northstar" badge. Caddy never seemed to get the respect for it's highly advanced engine that Chrysler gets for the low tech iron pushrod Hemi. Leaving off the "Northstar" badge shows Caddy has given up selling the Northstar. Caddy marketing droids probably figure that nobody cares about engines anymore.
It's shorter and blander than my '99 Deville. All new sheet metal, but after spending serious money on the dies to make it, the new one is much less distinguished and less distinctive than the '99. Most people who spend $43K on a car, want something that looks like it cost $43K. The new DeVille doesn't look like all that much. And it lacks the cavernous trunk of the '99. I can get six people into the car and 6 bags, or all the stuff one college student brings to campus, into the '99's trunk. That never will happen on the '09 Caddy.
In short the Caddy marketing droids converted a distinctive luxury car with a world wide reputation into just another four door sedan. Somehow I don't think that's gonna make GM profitable.
Over at Ford, the Lincoln suffers from being nothing more than a Ford Crown Victoria with a different grille. It shows. But at least the Lincoln is still a big car, which appeals to a lot of people who might otherwise buy a SUV.

Video of Jeanne Shaheen's Town Hall

Joey Daubin has good video of Jeanne Shaheen's town hall meeting. There were a bunch of people there, with video camera's and an attitude, but they were not violent, not shouting, and in general behaving as reasonable citizens.
By the way, there is a good crowd gathering in Portsmouth to give Obama a warm welcome. Signs, lots of signs. The Obama folks are hoping a delay and some rain will wear the crowd down. The event was announced for 9 AM, people started showing up really early. Fox News, while interviewing in Portsmouth, announced that the event doesn't start until 1 PM.
I gotta feeling a New Hampshire crowd has the patience to wait four hours, outdoors, in the rain. It's a warm rain at least.

Monday, August 10, 2009

If you build it they will come

Otherwise known as the Field of Dreams marketing plan. Manchester Airport was something like that. It's a nice little airport. Ten years ago they had virtually no scheduled air service. Drove down to pick up youngest son last night. Plane was late (thunderstorms in Illinois was the excuse this time). While waiting, they had 5-6 planes an hour coming in and going out. Now they have several flights a day to NYC, Baltimore, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia and Florida. In short Manchester now has pretty decent air service to the rest of the country. Things are so good they now call themselves "Manchester-Boston Regional Airport".
In actual fact, Manchester is as easy to get to as Logan for everyone on the north side of Boston, to say nothing of all of NH. Parking is cheap and plentiful.
You could start up a business in NH now and count on air service to get your salesmen and service techs out to customers, and get customers and vendors in to your site. Used to be a startup had to be on Rt 128 to fly out of Logan. Now a startup can be in NH, with lower taxes, and fly out of Manchester.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday Pundits on Health Care

Newt Gingrich on the ABC Sunday show said that most employers would be overjoyed to stop buying health care in return for an 8% payroll tax. Howard Dean (same show, other side of the table) said this number came from an insurance company supported think tank and was false. Newt didn't object and the talk moved on.
Got to thinking about that. Family health care runs about $12K, and costs the company the same for new assembly line hires as it does for high paid executives. $12K is more than 8% of all salaries less than $150K. In short, 8% of salary would be cheaper than buying a family health insurance policy. Also less hassle to the company.
So, corporate America has no problem with an 8% payroll tax instead of company health care. It will save them money. In short, the health care bill will wipe out company paid health insurance, the kind of insurance most of us have. Leaving us to the tender mercies of Government Health Care, Inc.

Unemployment is down, Hurray

The official un employment figures show a slight (0.1%) improvement this month. Then the Lehrer Newshour spent a lot of time explaining about how this was a statistical fluke, and if you looked at the real figures things are worse, and on and on. Seems like the Newshour would have been happier with worse unemployment numbers.
For me, I want the un employment numbers computed the same way this month as they were last month and the month before. Doesn't matter if the method has some problems, I just want to see if the economy is getting better or worse. If you change the accounting rules, you change the results. I want the results to reflect changes in the real economy, not changes in the way the statistics are computed.
I wonder why the Newhour seemed unhappy that the economy might be getting better, or at least not still getting worse.

Hunt for Red October, or calling Sean Connery

Sunday pundits (the Mclaughlin Group) were waxing indignant about Russian submarine operations in the Atlantic. While I'd just as soon the Russians stayed in port and let 'em rust in peace, they do have a perfect right to steam in international waters. It's called freedom of the seas, and has been a big thing in US foreign policy reaching all the way back to Thomas Jefferson's administration.
Used to be, international waters started three miles offshore. We held to that standard for a long long time. Only in the 1980's did the US finally assert the right to control fishing for 200 miles offshore. Not sure if that included the right to exclude ordinary shipping or foreign navies that far out, but even so, the Atlantic is 3000 miles across, and most of it is still international waters.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Time to write your Congressperson

Two astoundingly bad bills, health care and cap & tax, are in Congress. Congressional mail is running against them, and the recent town hall demonstrations have made the popular opposition to these measures clear. If we keep up the pressure, we can defeat both of these two nation wrecking bills.
Write your Congressman a letter. Use a good strong lead sentence such as "Please vote against the Health Care bill". The letters are opened and read and counted by staffers. You don't have to be eloquent about why, just make it clear in the first sentence which way the Congress person ought to vote.
These matters are balanced on a knife edge right now. Just a few more letters will tip the issue.
It's worth a 44 cent stamp.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tolerances, from Aviation Week.

The F-35 fighter (the latest, even later than F22) is having a few problems with costs. Some parts have having a 50% scrap rate, i.e. half the parts produced are out of tolerance and are tossed into the scrap bin.
Then we enconter this odd statement.
"The issue is not just producing parts that are within tolerance, Brig. Gen Heinz says, but insuring the variability within the tolerance band in minimized so that when parts are assembled the tolerance "stackup" is also within limits. "It's too early to tell" whether GE/Rolls will encounter problems."
Uh Oh. General Heinz doesn't understand manufacturing. Each part has a drawing, which calls out the dimensions, and the allowable tolerance on those dimensions. The shop folk work from the drawing. If the drawing says dimension "x" has a tolerance of + or - 0.005 inches, then the parts will vary by 0.005 inches. If the tolerance is tighter, the parts will be held to tighter tolerances. The shop builds to the drawing.
Tolerance "stackup" is a problem when the overall design isn't right. If all the parts in the assembly are at the limit of the tolerance, say they are all slightly oversize, they may not fit together, or require excessive force (a big hammer) to jam them together. The solution is to tighten the tolerances on the parts until the worst case will fit.
This in the principle of interchangeable parts. In the bad old days, parts were filed to fit the assembly. This required a lot of expensive skilled handwork, slowed production, and made it impossible to fix assemblies in the field. If the parts don't interchange, you can't cannibalize parts from a wrecked unit to fix another one. In this country Eli Whitney pioneered interchangeable parts way back in the end of the 18th century, and it is the basis of mass production.
If the F-35 requires "minimizing the variability within the tolerance band" before things fit, it's a good bet that parts don't interchange, they have to be custom fitted. Which is a bad thing.

Put AIG on Ebay

Yesterday's Wall St Journal front page mentioned that Wall St firms might get $1 billion in fees for breaking up AIG and selling off the pieces. That's one hell of a commission, to be paid for by us long suffering taxpayers.
We could put all of AIG up on Ebay for $10 or so.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Obama's cybersecurity person resigns

Wll, I'd resign too. It's an impossible job. We standardized on totally vulnerable Windows computers. With every computer on the net vulnerable to any highschool hacker, what can anyone do to beef up security?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why don't they?

Why don't car manufacturers mark the places a tow chain can be attached? The other night I managed to get the car stuck in a deep ditch, in the dark, in the rain. With the rain running down my collar, I'm on my knees in the mud, with flashlight, looking for somewhere solid enough to take a towing hook. Can't use the bumpers, the various plastic undercar bits ain't strong enough, and a unibody car has no frame.
How nice it would have been to see a proper sized hole, outlined in bright yellow, with "tow here" stenciled next to it. This wouldn't cost all that much to put on at the factory. While we are at it, how about giving the jack pads the same bright yellow treatment? Make a mistake locating the jack, and it will punch a hole right thru the floorboard.

Ads on my blog

Yesterday, just for grins, I enabled advertising on my blog. This morning I logged in to post, and bingo, there was a condom ad (Trojans) right on top. That's sort of offensive to me, especially the full motion ad featuring, well lets not go there. So, I turned off ads. Sorry about that.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Too big to pass.

Powerline suggests that any bill too big for Congress people to read is too big to pass. How true. The 1000 page Obamacare bill has all sorts of truly scary provisions hidden in the darker corners. Like the government can take money right out of your bank account, without your consent, to pay medical bills. Those big 1000 page bills tranfer authority to bureaucrats, lawyers and courts to do pretty much what they please. Give me a 1000 page law, and I can find language in to somewhere to support anything at all. No limit.
Needed reform. Plan A. No federal law shall contain more words that the Constitution of the United States. Plan B. All bills much be read aloud on the floor of House and Senate before a vote. A quorum must be present for the reading.
Either plan would slim bills down to understandable length.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

DAR: Defense Acquisition Regulations

Aviation Week reports yet another attempt to clean up the defense acquisition mess. The system that brings us cost over runs, late delivery, outrageous costs, and $600 toilet seats.
" An effective defense acquisition enterprise must ... be trust based and founded upon ethical comportments by all parties. Today a lack of trust interferes with the relationship between Congress, the Defense Department and the defense industry. While the causes are varied, the predominant among them is the adversarial nature of the government industry relationship that has evolved over the past decades. The result is a damaging increase in legal wrangling, protests concerning contract awards and lack of candor between the government and the private sector."

Take the Air Force tanker bidding fiasco. The Air Force (my old service!) issued a vague request for quotations (RFQ). It failed to spec the size of the aircraft desired but had pages and pages of "scoring points" (so many points if the plane can do this, so many points if the plane can do that etc). Boeing bid a plane the size of the existing tanker (KC135), on the theory that fifty years of satisfaction with the KC135 means that size is the right size. Airbus bid a much larger aircraft, mostly because that's the only size they had in production at the time. Airbus won the contract. Boeing, faced with the loss of a giant contract, enough work to keep the company going for 20 years, double checked the Air Force scoring. They found the Air Force had slanted the scoring process to tip the contract to Airbus, and a court agreed with them. In short, the Air Force was not candid with Boeing. They wanted a bigger plane, but they didn't tell Boeing. Worse , the Air Force RFQ failed to spec the desired aircraft size.
Result. Years of time wasted, a number of reputations trashed, zillions of dollars down the drain, and a whole lot of angry Europeans, who think they are getting robbed by the Yankees. It doesn't get much worse than this.
In this case, the Air Force instead of running an honest competition, tried to tip the job to Airbus. And they were so clumsy that they lost in court.
Probably there were some Air Force officers with a grudge against Boeing on the tanker selection board. Nobody ever talked about it, but that's about the only explanation for such a screwup.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

F22 performance figures

From Aviation Week.
"The F22's variable cost per flying hour $19000." Not exactly cheap. Assuming fuel consumption in the ball park of the old F106, and $2.69 a gallon, fuel would be $6000, so the rest, $13000, is wear and tear, tires, and brakes, and drag chutes, and engine overhauls, and black box repair & replace.
"The mission capable rate has increased to 68% from 62%." Not good. We were required to maintain 71% mission capable rates on the F106, and that was a vacuum tube airplane forty years ago, whose avionics needed repair after every single flight. F22 is all solid state and the black boxes ought to last ten times longer than vacuum tube ones.
"Mean time between maintainance action has matured from 0.97 hour in 2004 to 3.22 hr demonstrated in Lot 6 aircraft." Fair. Assume average sortie time of two hours, that means half the sorties will come back unbroke, ready for the next sortie for merely refuel and rearm. The F106 was worse, most sorties came back broke and needed fixing before the next sortie.
"The current software's stability exceeds 20 hr." I think that means the software crashes hard about every 20 hours. Let's hope the pilot has a reset button. Windows XP is better than that, and that's not saying much.
"The diagnostic software detects system faults and isolates them 92% of the time." Not bad. The F106 lacked diagnostic software. We fixed it by swapping black boxes until it worked again. Fortunately the black boxes were mounted in very easy to access racks, with quick change fasteners.
"Direct maintenance man-hours per flying hour have improved to 10.48 this year from 18.1 in 2008, exceeding the requirement of 12 manhours/flying hour." I can't remember what it was on the F106, but 10 manhours is pretty good.

F22 is now out of production as of last week in Congress, but the 187 aircraft already bought will be flying for decades.