Monday, May 30, 2011

The Night of the Living Car Alarms

Spent the night in Brooklyn, on the way home to God's Country. It was warm, (actually it was damn hot) we had the windows open, hoping for a breath of air. All night long it went, beep beep beep, dong, dong, dong, one damn car alarm after another. No sooner than one would shut up, the next would go off. Loud and louder. Pain in the tail.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mufflers for city buses

Been staying at daughter's place in DC, right off 14th St. It's noisy from the traffic. The cars are quiet, with only a slight hiss from the tires. The city buses are humungously loud, all from engine exhaust noise that a decent muffler would silence. Your car needs a decent muffler to get an inspection sticker. Cities would be pleasanter places if the inspectors got as tough on the buses as they are on private motor vehicles.

Rand Paul Takes 2nd place in NH.

Read the headline here. This is true but somewhat misleading. Mitt Romney was first with 32% and Paul had only 9 percent. A more honest headline might have been "Romney increases lead in GOP primary."
Could it be the writer is pro Rand Paul?

Friday, May 27, 2011

More museum pieces

The Smithsonian has a huge hanger full of airplanes out at Dulles Airport. All the stuff that won't fit in down at the mall is packed in here. They have a space shuttle, an SR 71, the first Boeing 707, a P38 Lightening, a P40 Warhawk, an F105 Thunderchief, a couple of Migs, a SPAD, a super Constellation, a Boeing 307, and some incredible German planes from WWII. There are nearly 200 planes inside the place. If you are a plane buff you have to see this one.
They have a really strange German fighter with two engines, one in the nose and one in the tail. Each engine had 2000 hp, so the plane was pretty hot for a piston engined job. I'd read about that one, but never seen one, apparently the Smithsonian has the only one to survive WWII.
They also had a F35, the brand new joint strike fighter that is so new it isn't even in squadron service yet. Plane becomes a museum piece before it becomes operational.

Museum pieces

We (son and I) did the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The air conditioning is nice. They had a lot of neat old things like antique vacuum cleaners, early electric motors and generators, steam engines, cars. No planes, those are all over at Air and Space. The curators must be on a super greenie tear. No lights in a lot of cases making it impossible to see the stuff in the case and/or read the tags. Surely the US of A can afford the electricity to light museum cases.
The curators also have a bit of trouble writing tags. They have a groovy old telescope hanging from the ceiling. It's all polished hardwood and brass, about 15 feet long. The tag talks about Maria somebody-or-other famous woman astronomer who used this gadget at Vassar and is credited with discovering a comet. Didn't bother to say if the telescope was a reflector or a refractor, how big the mirror or lens was, how it was aimed and tracked, whether it could do photography. We learned a lot about lady astronomer Dr. Maria somebody-or-other of Vasser but little about the telescope hanging from the ceiling. Maybe they should have had her hanging from the ceiling, properly stuffed of course.
Then it can make you feel old. In the electric gadget display they had a pair of electric socks. I can remember when my father gave my mother just such a set of battery powered socks. In the GM sponsored automobile display they had some classics, including our old family car, an '88 Dodge Caravan. 22 year old son commented that it made him feel old to see the family car in a museum.

When he got there the conductor told him

One more nickel. Charlie couldn't get offa that train. Had to use the super modern electronic fare systems on both the New York and the DC subway. What a pain. The machines don't make change, they have a tendency to take your money and not issue a ticket, they break down a lot causing long lines.
And, they keep the change. I had to feed the machine with a $5 each time. The actual fare is supposed to be $4.50, but the system keeps the fifty cent change. I don't get it back. Nice little fare hike.

Back on the air?

Blogger just suffered another whoopsie. I have not been able to log in to post to my blog since Tuesday. One of the blogger support sites said they were working on it. After waiting a day or two I did some more web surfing and it was suggested to clear my cookies. Which I did from within Firefox. Try Tools->Options->Privacy and do clear all cookies. That let me log into blogger.
I would have dug into the matter earlier, except that Blogger died earlier this month and it took some days before it came back to life. I figured this was more of the same. Plus I'm traveling and don't get to blog all the time. Anyhow I'm thinking about getting my very own URL and blogging from there. I've been using blogger 'cause it's easy to get going, and it used to be reliable. After two outages in one month, Blogger is looking much less reliable.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Becoming a Veteran Parent

With the college graduation of my youngest child yesterday, I become a true veteran parent, one who has raised 'em,loved 'em, and gotten 'em all thru college. I done my duty and now I can relax. Whew.
Graduation from Brooklyn Poly Tech was not held on campus, instead we subwayed down to the Lincoln center at 66th street, an hour ride each way. And very few seats. We only got two tickets, so Mom and Dad went; siblings, uncles, and aunts had to watch it on U-Tube.
The graduates at this engineering school all had names like Gupta, Patel, Wang, Lee,and Nguyen. Very few Smiths, Jones, Clarks, or Johnsons. Operation of America's industry will be in the hands of the children of recent immigrants. Children of the older Anglo Saxon families are not bothering to learn engineering. Let's hope they can find jobs in this economy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So here I am in Brooklyn

Youngest son is graduating tommorrow from Brooklyn Polytech. I drove down. Spring has just barely taken hold in the up country, but down in the lust lowlands, it has arrived. I took in the Connecticut Trolley Museum on the way, to break the 7 hour drive. The Trolley's have a parking problem, the place was all parked up and people were parked up and down the road. The local cops were running around threatening to tow every single car. I wound up parked at a strip mall a mile away and took a shuttle bus. The Trolleys had one vintage open seat car in like new condition, varnished wood gleaming, brass polished, paint bright, and giving rides. And a half a dozen fixer-uppers in the car barn. I took some pix and then pressed on. Gas is $4.25 in Connecticut, up from $3.89 in the northwoods. Took the Hutchison River Pkwy all the way to the Whitestone bridge. Traffic backed up on the Whitestone tolls and remained back all the way to Brooklyn. One good reason to retire to New Hampshire.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Massey Mine explosion

Massey Energy Company's big branch mine in West Virginia suffered a massive explosion that killed more than 20 miners and destroyed the entire mine. This was about a year ago. Massive finger pointing ensued. Miners, the union, and the mine regulators blamed the company, the company claimed it was an unforeseen act of God.
Yesterday a blue ribbon panel appointed by the state governor issued a report. NHPR offered an unsatisfactory summary, a few sound bites, and no meat. We want to know what specific act[s] of omission or commission caused the disaster, and the NHPR summary said nothing substantive. I did a bit of web searching and was unable to find much better.
There ought to be regulations about gas alarms and mine ventilation. Was Massey in compliance with those regulations? Are the existing regulations stiff enough? Inquiring minds want to know.
Statements like "The company put production ahead of safety" tell us nothing, they are just partisan sound bites.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Obama was giving his daily speech, this time at the State Department. He explained that the entire secret of fixing the Bahrain problem was "dialogue". The audience of cookie pushers gave him a big hand for that one.
Too bad so many people believe in "dialogue". Talking only works when the two sides have something in common that they wish to preserve. When the sides hate each other's guts, and have like or nothing in common, remember old Otto von Bismarck.
"Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided - that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849 - but by iron and blood."

Herman Cain polls FIRST in Iowa

The headline says it all. Article here. I like Cain.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

UAV or manned aircraft?

Aviation Week has a nice cover story on the AT-6, a newish light fighter. It's a single engine two place turboprop that looks pretty much like the classic WWII P51 Mustang. Such an aircraft is much cheaper and has better loiter time than a pure jet. So long as it never encounters enemy jet fighters, it's good cheap air support for your ground forces.
The Aviation Week article doesn't talk much about those issues. They do a lot of talking about the "network centric" features that allow rapid data transfer. Not that I would buy a fighter plane to do rapid data transfer, I buy fighter planes to put ordnance on target. Then they enthused about the "intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance" (ISR) capabilities, in simple words you can load camera pods on the wings and do photo recon with it. That's nice, and versatile and all, but that's not the reason I buy fighter planes.
Then they opine that something like this can be superior to UAV's, which is true. Two sets of eyes in a cockpit is better at spotting ground targets than any amount of camera pods.

America's Most Wanted List

With the recent unlamented demise of Osama Bin Ladin, the FBI's ten most wanted list got updated, according to the Wall St Journal. The top slots are filled with Islamic terrorists, but the last slot is Daniel Andreas San Diego. Mr. Diego is a US citizen and is wanted for animal rights terrorism. He is accused of bombing two companies, Chiron a vaccine maker, and Shaklee a maker of vitamins and shampoo. Mr. Diego objects to the use of animals in testing their products.
Does this mean that animal rights terrorists are the next bad guys, after we deal with Al Quada?
How tough can animal rights terrorists be, compared to Al Quada? Could this be the famous light at the end of the tunnel?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Natural Gas to power trucks.

Article on same in today's Wall St Journal. T Boone Pickens and the natural gas industry want a federal subsidy for the purchase of natural gas burning trucks. United Parcel just purchased 48 tractors (the engine and driver part of an 18 wheeler). The standard diesel version costs $95,000, the natural gas burning version costs $195,000. UPS managed to wangle a $4 million dollar subsidy from Uncle Sam to defray expenses. They also said the company won't buy any more natural gas burners without more subsidy.
Some thing is wrong here. A natural gas burning engine is about the same as a diesel engine. It should cost about the same to make. I can see paying a little extra, say 10%, but paying twice as much is a rip off. If we should be so stupid as to put in a subsidy, we will be subsidizing rip off artists.
Natural gas is cheap compared to diesel fuel, like half the price. For an 18 wheeler, which gets 6 miles per gallon, and does a lotta driving, natural gas will save money, assuming you don't get ripped off buying the truck in the first place. Subsidies are not required.

Words of the Weasel. Pt 19

I saw this on

By Frances Symes

"Tax expenditures are revenue losses attributable to provisions of tax law that allow for special exclusion, exemption, or deduction or provide for a special credit or deferral of tax liability. The associated loss in revenue totals is estimated as equaling around $1 trillion each year."

Not so. "Tax expenditure" is democrat-speak for the amount of money that could be raised if they hiked taxes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Alternate Energy at Mittersill.

Sounds better than just stacking firewood doesn't it. Here we have a full cord dumped on the lawn. I could have paid K&K Brooks, my wood supplier, to stack it, but I'm cheap, and the exercise is good for me.

Here we are half way done. I can hear the grass rejoicing as each piece of firewood is lifted off, allowing the grass to straighten up and see the sun. For all that work, the pile doesn't look much smaller does it?

All done. Only took me three days, counting Sunday which rained all day so I didn't stack much. That will keep the fireplace burning for the next two winters. It's green, but it has the rest of the year to season, it will burn OK by Christmas and burn really well next winter.
By the way, Blogger kinda sucks at placing photos and text. It insists on putting the text next to the wrong photographs. Sorry about that.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The world oil market is a futures market.

We have countless democratic pundits on the air, in the media, claiming that increased oil drilling in the US won't bring down gasoline prices. They say it will take too long to bring new production on line, and there won't be enough of it, and oh dear oh dear we will just have to tough out $4 a gallon gasoline.
This is all malarkey. The oil market is a futures market. Users of oil (refiners mostly) sign deals to take delivery of oil from producers. The price they agree upon is based on what they think the price will be in the future. If they think prices are going up, they will pay a little more to get their needed crude. If they think prices might be going down, they will postpone signing a deal, hoping for a better price next week.
Should the market become convinced that the Americans are serious about bringing new oil to market, the price will fall. Obama made a speech the other day promising to increase production. Trouble is, nobody really believes him. The market figures Obama is just talking to make political points. They think Obama is too deep in hock to the greenies, who hate production of damn near anything, to actually do anything to increase oil production.
As for timely, the industry could get production from the "Alaska National Wildlife Refuge" (ANWR) flowing down the Alaska pipeline in less than 12 months. The much ballyhooed ANWR is just another piece of frozen tundra above the Arctic circle. There is a zillion square miles of tundra up there. We will never run out of frozen tundra.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Morning at the shooting range

Finally got out to shoot my new rifle. Put the Marlin 30-30, targets, ammunition, tape measure, patching tape and binoculars into the car and drove out to the range. Weather was flaky, threatening rain, but it didn't. I set the target up 100 yards out. Doesn't seem like very far, but upon returning to the firing position, that target looked awfully small.
The Marlin, a classic from the 1950's, has an action smooth as glass, and a beautiful even trigger pull. This is the first time I've shot centerfire rifle since training for Viet Nam back in 1967. I squeezed off a string and then peered down range thru the binoculars. No luck, my eyes cannot see bullet holes at 100 yards even with 7 power binoculars. So I walk down range and take a look. Not too shabby. All the rounds are high, but inside the target, grouped inside a 7 inch circle. So I adjust the sights one notch and try again. Must have been the wrong way, the string goes clean over the target. Zero holes. So, I adjust the sight one notch the other way, try again, and I get a 4 inch group, a little high, a little right, but inside the target. And this with iron sights.
The Marlin has impressive report and a solid recoil. 30-30 is clearly enough cartridge to deal with anything I'm ever going to encounter in New Hampshire. The gun buffs don't say much about 30-30, 'cause it is so established, and what's to say about it? I looked up the ballistics, 30-30 isn't as powerful as the WWII rifle cartridges like 30-06, but it is a good deal more powerful than the ammo used by modern assault rifles like the M16 and the AK47.
After burning thru $30 worth of brand new 30-30 ammunition I switched guns, tried out my Ruger 10/22 on same target. My first try gets a 9 inch group and my second a 13 inch group. Net result, I can shoot the heavier 30-30 somewhat better than I can 22. Might be the shorter barrel on the Ruger, might be the heavier trigger pull on the Ruger. The Ruger trigger is smooth but heavier than it might be. Might also be after a couple of hours on the range I'm getting tired.
So, better luck next time. I still have two rifles, lying on the kitchen table, needing cleaning.

Words of the Weasel Part XVII

Subsidy. Sen Chuckie Schumer uses subsidy where he should say "tax break". There is a difference. A subsidy is a cash payment from Uncle Sam to a favored industry. It can be spent, on inventory, wages, rent, tooling. It's real money. A tax break is different. It only pays off after the industry makes money. You cannot buy stuff with a tax break, you have to earn real money first.
Of course Chuckie knows this, he uses subsidy because it sounds worse. He's manufacturing a sound bite.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Global Warming caused Mississippi floods

At least that's what NPR was pushing this afternoon. This isn't true, the Mississippi has been flooding in springtime since the end of the last ice age. This one river drains the entire center of North America, of course it's going to flood from the spring snowmelt. This year's floods are much worse than usual, about as bad as 1937. The floods work terrible hardships upon the people living along the river.
I find it distasteful to hear NPR pundits using this disaster to push their narrow political agenda. After blaming global warming they moved on to blame federal funding cuts, something about a single weather satellite not getting replaced on schedule. Talk about single issue politics.

Are we back on the air?

And, my last, terrible witty post seems to have vanished, at least for now.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The OBL raid according to Aviation Week

The helicopter that crashed was a previously undisclosed stealth chopper, a heavily modified Sikorsky H-60 Blackhawk. The one chopper to crash was brought down by a miscalculation of air temperature in and outside the compound. The Blackhawk ran into lift trouble due to a 15F difference inside the courtyard said Rep. Buck McKeon(R-Calif). "They couldn't hold the hover."
Two Blackhawks and two Chinooks carried the raiding party in. Four choppers is plenty of lift for only 40 raiders. Even after the loss of a chopper they had plenty of seats to get everyone out.

Cats of War

This one is funny.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

That $4 billion oil industry tax break

Obama has been running around and running his mouth about a $4 billion tax break for the oil industry. Unfortunately Obama never actually says just what this tax break might be. Some net surfing suggests that he might be talking about Section 119, the Domestic Manufacturing deduction. This is a deal that allows all companies (and individuals too) to deduct 9% of their earning from domestic (US based) manufacturing, construction, movie production, and a few other opaque things, one of which apparently is drilling for oil.
This is a fairly general US income tax loop hole drilled back in 2004. Reading the opaque language of the statute hints that the intent of the statute was to give a tax break to domestic manufacturing to encourage investment at home, rather than in China. Just about every kinda company is eligible, it's by no means an oil industry tax break. It must have been buried pretty deep in the 2004 tax cut law, I never heard of it before.
Obama gives no indication of what he wants to do, close the loophole (raise taxes) for every one, or just oil companies.
At a time when cutting spending is the serious problem, why is Obama touting a chicken feed tax hike on the oil industry? Does he think the voters can be distracted from their quest for spending cuts by promising tax hikes on unpopular industries?

Egypt to go Islamist

Apparently Egypt is going the way everyone, yours truly included, predicted. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist extremist group older than, more extreme than, and just as violent as, Al Quada, is going to control the Egyptian parliament. This comes from an Egyptian who is likely to become president, which means he has a fairly good idea of what's going down. The Muslim Brotherhood has been around since the 1920's when it worked to drive the British out of Egypt. It has survived severe prosecution by Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarik. They are the group responsible for the assassination of Anwar Sadat. They are survivors, and they are the only organized political party in Egypt. There is nobody to resist them.
Once in power, the Muslim Brotherhood will make trouble for Israel, impose Sharia law on the population, prosecute the Christians (10% of the population) and team up with Iran to cause trouble for the United States.
Egypt is important. It is the center of the Arab world. Cairo has the same prestige in the Arab world as New York City has in the real world. Egypt sets the tone, writes the books, makes the movies, prints the newspapers that go all over the Arab world.
Aren't you so glad that Obama called for Mubarik's ouster?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Soldering Iron

I needed a real soldering iron (150 Watts) to do some brass bar stock. These are pretty much obsolete, no store up here carries them anymore. You can get soldering guns in that wattage, but the biggest irons are little 30 watters intended for semiconductor work.
So, what do you do when it is not sold in stores? Simple, E-bay. Some one on the Bay had a carton of cheap ass 150 Watt irons from China. Couple a bucks for the iron, $9 shipping and handling. So I ordered one. It came in after a week.
It's Chinese, and it's cheap ass. The packaging has some amusing Chinglish on it.
"It's normal for heating elements to have a slight fever with smoke after the first electricity, they'll disappear after 10 minutes." "Thermo elements and iron head are strictly prohibited to be demolished or replaced when iron is in electricity." "Mada in China."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Unregulated Tattoo Ink

Monday must be NPR's day of woe. After the autism piece, they ran a second piece about the dangers of unregulated ink used to tattoo humans. They dropped the amazing statistic that 30% of Americans have tattoos (really?) and then bemoaned the lack of government regulation of tattoo ink, and by implication regulation of the entire tattoo business, probably with an eye to shutting it down.
Now I don't hold with tattoos myself, I think they are dumb looking, and likely to cause infection, but if others want to tattoo them selves, it's none of my business, and none of the government's business.

The rise of Autism

Long piece on NPR this morning claiming that autism is much more widespread than thought. They did a study in a Korean city and declared that better than 2% of the children in the city were autistic. They went on to explain that a large number of cases were discovered even though the unlucky children had been doing well in school and not in difficulty.
The piece did not explain how these "hidden" cases of autism were detected, nor how bad the situation was.
I reflect upon a couple of young boys I know, who seem like perfectly ordinary boys to me, but whose mothers both informed me that the they were autistic.
Is autism becoming the new Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a diagnosis beloved of teachers, because it releases them from responsibility for the child's academic difficulties?

Leaf Day

In the high mountain passes of New Hampshire, the trees are putting out leaves, finally. Hurray.
Let's hope it doesn't snow on them.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Upstate NRA dinner

National is right on the ball, and forwarded my name and contact info to the local NRA organization, and they invited me to attend their dinner Friday night. So I went. It was held in the Littleton Elks hall. About 100 people turned up, all ages from two, thru teen age, thru old geezers like me, and a fair number of girls considering the nature of the event. Dress was informal, I was overdressed in coat & tie.
The event consisted of talking, eating, and auctioning. They auctioned off a raft of cool stuff to raise money, including a fair number of firearms. Two guys from NRA national turned up, which is not bad considering the remoteness of Littleton, NH from most of the US of A. On the other hand, 100 votes is enough to tip a lot of elections up here, and most of the 100 people present were NRA members. Who will probably pay close attention to NRA recommendations about who is and who is not, a supporter of the right to bear arms. I know for a fact that Charlie Bass, our current US rep, owes a lot of votes to a letter the NRA mailed to all New Hampshire members just before the 2010 election.
Gives one some appreciation of the effectiveness of the NRA as a lobbying organization.

Firefox 4

My Firefox has been nagging me to upgrade to V4 for some time now. I googled Firefox 4 and failed to turn up any bad reviews of it. So I upgraded today.
Be golly, Firefox 4 is faster than 3.6. I'm getting less "site not found", and when I click on a site it comes up faster. This is good. It promises a world of head spinning inprovements, about which I don't care much, but it is faster, about which I do care.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Al Quada gives the US a freebie

According to Fox News, Al Quada has admitted, on a website somewhere, that Bin Ladin is dead. With that, we no longer have to release photographs of the body to convince the Mid East that we really got him and it ain't a propaganda play. Al Quada has done that for us. Probably a quid pro quo for all those times our CIA announced that some scratchy audio tape was really from Bin Ladin.
It may also be, that between gunshot wounds to the face and a coating of blood, the photos don't look much like Bin Ladin. Which limits the value of releasing them.

Debate, Debate, whose on the Debate?

This was a Fox news show. They had Bret Bahr, Shannon Bream and Ron Williams, Fox regulars all, asking the questions. It was a little rough on the candidates, the newsies had done some homework, and the questions all started off "On such-and-such a date you said thus and so. Do you want to retract that tonight, right here on national TV?" They had hot potatoes to go around. Rough it may have been, but it did get the candidates to speak in concrete terms, rather than the usual meaningless motherhood and apple pie verbiage.
The five candidates were stood up behind podiums on stage. Annoyingly, the podiums lacked signs giving the candidates names, which makes it tough on viewers who don't know all five candidates by sight. One of the purposes of these debates is to let the voters get to see the candidates. If you don't know who they are, it's sorta meaningless.
Herman Cain is my favorite, and he did well, looked good, handled questions well. Tim Pawlenty looked pretty good too. Ron Paul had some feisty answers that brought a lot of applause.
The Donald, Romney, Newt Gengrich and Sarah Palin were not there, probably on the theory that when a better known and a lesser known politician appear on the same stage, the benefit goes to lesser known politician.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What do you do with terrorists other than shoot them?

Victor Davis Hanson makes this point here. The US justice system has had a Gitmo full of terrorists for ten years and they have not done squat, other than grilling them. Osama bin Ladin was shot resisting arrest partly because every one feared some US judge would set him free after capture.
We ought to be able to bring captured terrorists before a reliable tribunal that will conduct a public televised trial with the purpose of convincing the entire world that defendant so-and-so deserves what we are going to give him. The tribunal needs to be able to sentence enemy soldiers, those who merely carried packs and rifles under orders, to indefinite confinement, even if they are otherwise innocent of crimes.
It's worth letting the enemy know that capture isn't an automatic death sentence. The enemy is more likely to surrender if he thinks he has a chance of surviving captivity. If the enemy thinks the Americans will just waterboard him and bury him at sea, they are apt to fight to the bitter end.
The tribunal has to allow captured terrorists to be grilled for intelligence, grilled harder than usual police practice, and still put them on trial, and use the intel they furnished under duress against them.
It has been ten years since 9/11 and we don't have a method of dealing with captured terrorists. So we shoot them.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pakistan, Country of Confusion

One thing we have to remember about Pakistan. The only road into Afghanistan runs thru Pakistan. Without Pakistani permission, the only way into Afghanistan is by air. We do NOT want to support our 40,000 man army in Afghanistan by air. So we have to make nice to the Pakis.
The Pakistani establishment, the landowners, the businessmen, the Army, the upper class, are inclined to side with the US. They fear India, which is five-ten times their size and which still bears grudges going back to 1947. They want an American connection to keep the Indians at bay.
The regular Pakistani's are sharecroppers, illiterate, poor, and scratching out a living farming with hand tools. They are Muslim fundamentalists, anti American, anti Indian , pro Al Quada, pro Bin Ladin, what education they have comes from madrassas, and they are all kinds of touchy about Islam, Paki sovereignty, and four or five other obscure issues that I don't understand.
The Paki establishment has to pander to the regular Pakis, lest revolution happen. Up until 9/11, the Paki establishment was attempting to take over Afghanistan using the Taliban as a cats paw. After 9/11 Bush told the Pakis they had a choice, dump the Taliban and support the US, or suffer the consequences. General Pervez Musharref, the Paki leader at the time, threw his lot with the Americans, and told his security apparatus, the ISI, to cool it with the Taliban.
So we have today's Pakistan, an ally with mixed feeling about everything. They have to cope with elements of the establishment who used to deal with the Taliban and wish they still could. They have to pander to the ordinary Pakis in the street, and they are putting up with American affronts to their sovereignty (Predator strikes and helicopter raids). That Bin Ladin was able to operate from a compound in Abbotabad for years is not surprising.
But we have to put up with it. We cannot break off relations and tell the Pakis to stuff it, so long as we need road access to Afghanistan.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Canada, Oh Canada

The Canadians ran off a national election yesterday and the results are wonderful. The Conservatives got enough votes to give them a real majority in parliament, so Stephen Harper remains prime minister, and he doesn't have to mess around with a coalition. Even better, "Bloc Quebecois", the old Quebec separatist movement disappeared. Poof. The Quebec separatist party dropped down from 60 odd seats in Parliament to a mere four. That's too small to qualify as a "serious" political party under Canadian election law, so they loose government funding.
This marks the end of the Quebec separatist movement, which has been a thorn in the side of the Canadian body politic for 40 years now. There was a time, ten or fifteen years ago, when Quebec came within a gnat's eyebrow of seceding from Canada. Thank the good Lord that didn't happen, and now it looks like it never will.

Coffee, making thereof

I have improved my coffee technique to the point where I can enjoy it black, no milk and artificial sugar needed to conceal bitterness. Start with real ground coffee, instant just doesn't cut it. Need not be a fancy brand, I get excellent results with Maxwell House and Shur-Fine, the local store house brand. Keep the opened coffee can in the fridge, the low temperature slows the evaporation of volatile essences. Use one heaping tablespoon of coffee to each cup (each 8 oz measuring cup, not coffee cup)of water.
Coffee maker must be spotlessly clean inside and out. The flavorful oils of brewed coffee coat the entire inside of the coffee maker and then go rancid if not washed off.
The coffee maker must be cleanable. This lets out percolators, the inside of the perk tube is uncleanable. French presses, Mr Coffee style electric makers, drip makers, and the all glass vacuum coffee makers will make good coffee. The maker ought to be the right size. You don't want to fill up an 8 cup coffee maker to make coffee for just you. Find a two cup coffee maker to make coffee for yourself.
Don't let the stale coffee and leftover grounds sit in the pot, the rancid odor can sink into the inside of the maker and disflavor the next pot. To make coffee again before doing the dishes, rinse the maker with hot water, add a drop of liquid dishwash and fill it with hot water. Let it stand until it's coffee time again. The soapy water will dissolve any stale coffee that might be left in the pot.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hallelujah , Finally Got the Bastard

Woke up this morning hearing the news on NHPR. Even better, he's dead, shot resisting arrest. This way the US justice system does not get a chance to bungle his trial.
Killing Bin Laden won't end the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. But it's a solid victory that heartens us and discourages our enemies.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Metrics that don't measure

The Economist ran a long piece explaining what America ought to do to shape up. Included in the mix was a long rant about "infrastructure", and the lack of "investment" (read spending) upon it. To prove the need for more infrastructure they show a graph of commute times for various countries around the world. The US is nearly the worst with an average commute time of 43 minutes.
Trouble is, commute time is a measure of how long we are willing to commute, not of the quality of the roads. When job seeking, the jobs are located in a circle centered up on your house. The longer you are willing to commute, the bigger that circle, and the more jobs contained therein. Improve the roads, and we can commute farther in the time we are willing to spend commuting. So we tend to find jobs farther from home and the commute time stays the same.
We don't need or want more roads. Boston, which suffers as much from rush hour traffic as anywhere, defeated an attempt to add two superhighways into the center of town. The state highway people tried to run I95 right into, and thru, the downtown. This occurred back in the 1980's. The folk whose homes would have been taken to build I95 rallied politically and defeated the construction plan. Boston, left with two ring highways, and four divided highways into the center of town, has all the road the land and the people will bear.
The famous Boston "Big Dig" merely buried the unsightly elevated central expressway in a tunnel. The fabulously expensive project did nothing to improve automobile access, it merely freed up some very nice downtown real estate that used to have the expressway standing upon it.
We don't need any more "investment" in new highways, we have all the road we can stand.