Monday, December 31, 2012

You Know You are Getting Old

When you need water pump pliers to get the cork out of the champagne bottle. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Murder as a hate Crime?

That's what they are charging Erica Menendez with after she confessed to pushing a man to his death in front of a NYC subway train. 
   What's wrong with plain old first degree murder?  That's been a crime since Moses brought the ten commandents down from Sinai.  The punishment for murder  under the law is harsh enough for any one's taste.
Why invent a new crime with a fancy name?
Welfare for lawyers anyone?

Over the cliff?

Who knows.  Obama was on Meet the Press this morning talking about it.  He spoke all the the usual platitudes but avoided the use of numbers.  Or anything else of substance.  He did say "We all agree on what to do."  Which obviously isn't true 'cause they haven't done anything. 
   The newsies aren't giving any information.  Like who's on what side, like what the sticking points are.  Boehner must know that the Republicans and the House will look better if they pass anything.  The last attempt was Plan B which failed to gain enough votes. The newsies haven't told us why it went down, who was for it and who was against it and why. Either the issue is too complicated for the average newsie to understand or nobody trusts newsies enough to talk to them.
   All Obama talks about is the need for soak-the-rich tax hikes.  And how it is all the Republican's fault for not passing them.  He doesn't mention that going over the cliff will bring in more revenue, giving him more money to spend.  He's gotta be in favor of that. 

Cannon Mountain Ski Weather

We got another 2-3 inches of nice light powder yesterday and last night.  It's below freezing, overcast, and calm. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Retaliation against orphans

You would think the Russki's could find some other way of getting back at the Americans.  In retaliation for an American law ostracizing Russian gangsters/security agents, (the Magnitski amendment) the Russians decided to forbid American adoption of Russian orphans.
   For an orphan,  I have to believe that adoption by Americans beats the hell out of living in a Russian orphan asylum.  Even Russians have to know this. 
   I can understand the Russians desire to retaliate for the Magnitski amendment, but surely they could have found some way to do it that did not penalize their own most vulnerable citizens.  A tariff, extra paperwork, canceling US copyrights, hiking prices on exports, there has gotta be some other thing they could do that would irritate the Americans without penalizing their own. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Diane Rehm pushing wind and solar on NPR

She had a bunch of "alternate energy" enthusiasts on, pushing hard, claiming that reducing fossil fuel use would solve global warming and save the earth.  Trouble is, wind doesn't give you any juice when the wind stops blowing.  (It has been dead calm all day up here).  Solar quits when the Sun goes down.
  Up here we need juice all the time.  Without juice the oil burner doesn't work and the pipes freeze.  I want electricity to run the lights AFTER the Sun goes down.  Electricity isn't optional.  In winter we cannot just wait in the dark for the power to come on.
  So, the utilities have to build real power plants,  the kind that work all the time, enough of them to serve all their customers  when the wind stops and the Sun goes down.  And, the real cost of electricity is paying off the cost to build the plant in the first place.  Fuel costs and payroll are neglible compared to paying off the plant.  And, they have to pay off the plant whether it is running or not.  So, my outrageous electric bill just gets more outrageous when ever PSNH gives money to wind or solar producers.  Buying "alternate energy" does not reduce the need to make the mortgage payments on the real power plants.  They have to pay the mortgage on time even if the plant isn't generating electricity.
  In short, "alternate energy" just raises my electric bill.  Even if "alternate energy" were as cheap as real energy, buying it raises my electric bill.  And it ain't cheap.  "Alternate energy" costs about ten times as much as real energy.
  So why do we want to mess with "alternate energy" since it is just a cost enhancer?   Is it the desire of the greenies to return to a Hiawatha standard of living?  Is it a desire for the political power that comes from control of the electricity supply?  Is it a belief that 380 parts per million of carbon dioxide has a noticeable effect compared to 300,000 parts per million of water vapor?  Water vapor is as strong a green house gas as carbon dioxide, and there is a lot of it, and with most of the world covered with water, its gonna stay abundant.  Is it failure to notice that the world hasn't warmed up at all in the last ten years?   

Cannon Mountain Ski Weather

Yesterday it snowed.  I have 7 inches on my porch this morning.  It's nice moist thick snow, that will stick to the trails and stand up to traffic.  The mountain is in the best shape it's been in all season.  Just about all trails are open, all the important lifts, (except the Mittersill chair) are running.  Best skiing of the season, and really good conditions by any standards.  If you miss this weekend you may be missing the best skiing of the season.  It's 20 F and not a breath of air stirring. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Advertising budget but no product

That's where Ford Motor is at.  The Lincoln brand has been fading for years.  Lincoln used to compete with Cadillac.  Not any more.  Caddy sells 50 times more cars than Lincoln does.  Lincoln's are just Ford Crown Victoria's with a different grille.  Where as Caddy is a real product, with it's own styling, engine, ads, the whole nine yards.
   Anyhow, Ford had decided to revive the Lincoln brand.  So they are running ads.  Funny thing, the ads show classic Lincolns from the '30s and the 60's.  Nothing in current production.  In short, Ford is running ads when they don't have any product to sell, not even an artist's conception.
  This is how to sell cars???

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cannon Mountain Ski Weather

For Christmas day we got 3-4 inches of nice light powder snow.  That's the most natural snow we have all winter.  Temperature dropped down to 10 F last night and ain't much warmer today.  The TV is promising heavy snow starting after dark today. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

the World as seen by the Economist

Good news is coming to us.  They show a line graph of GNP growth.  They have lines for Europe, Japan, China, and the US of A.  The line for America is pointing up at 45 degrees, showing growth and progress. The lines for the rest of the world are flat or drooping.
  Wow.  To look at this graph you'd think things are booming here.  We all know they aren't.  But if there is any truth in this graph, then the rest of the world is deep into hurtsville.  Worse off than we are, and that's gotta be bad. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Salt may be innocent

Right now conventional wisdom says that salt is bad for you, and contributes to high blood pressure.  This has resulted in an avalanche of "low sodium" (aka unsalted) products to clutter grocery shelves.  I always wondered about the evils of salt.  The saltiness of your blood (which is also the saltiness of all your body) is controlled by your kidneys.  There are a lot of chemical reasons for the body to maintain a constant saltiness. When the kdneys sense to low a salt level, they retain some salt to keep the saltiness of blood up.  Contrary wise, when the kidneys sense excessive blood salt, they filter it out and you excrete it in the urine.  If things work this way, then the amount of salt you eat doesn't matter much.  Within limits that is.
  Now comes an article in Scientific American supporting the "salt doesn't matter" view.  It makes sense to me.
   Of course the medical community probably isn't on board with this.  And may never be.  And, Scientific American is no longer the gold standard it once was.  Twenty years ago Scientific American had real science articles written by real scientists, and was authoritative.  No longer.  Journalists  began to rewrite the articles and they got so bad I dropped my subscription many years ago.  The article linked to is short, written by a non scientific type, and merely quotes half a dozen studies performed by others.
  But it's worth watching, especially if you find the "low sodium" products tasteless. 

NRA meets the Press

David Gregory had Wayne LaPierre, NRA chief, an the show as a guest this morning.  Despite a lot of badgering from Gregory, Lapierre did pretty well defending his position.   He, and the NRA, advocate stationing armed policemen in schools to defend them against homicidal maniacs.  In actual fact, this would be pretty effective.
   It would be expensive, although not as expensive as the TSA grope and scan operation.  My little town has a single school and a 5 or 6 man police department.  We would have to hire at least one more officer.  Neighboring Bethlehem has three schools, and would need to hire three more officers. 
   Not so clearly stated, is the NRA's objection to an "assault weapon" ban.  "Assault weapon" is a propaganda term.  There are no objective differences between deer rifles and  "assault weapons".  The NRA fears that an "assault weapon" ban would broaden to ban deer rifles and eventually all firearms.  And, in fact, that is the gun control people's plan.  The gun control people know they can't pass a law to ban all firearms in one fell swoop, so they will use the camel's nose in the tent strategy.  Ban a few at a time.
   In real life, all firearms are deadly, and the Connecticut shooter would have killed as many no matter what sort of gun he used.   Calling the 22 caliber semi automatic rifle he did use an "assault weapon" makes it sound like the weapon is responsible for the killing, not the homicidal maniac pulling the trigger.   

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Car Dashboards

My car has a regular dashboard with analog indicators for oil pressure, water temp, fuel level, and voltage.  The analog indicators ( a red needle) are easier to read at a glance than digital displays.  But it could be better, for no cost increase. 
The gauges could be marked with real numbers instead of just H and L.  This way you would have something meaningful to pass on the the mechanic on the phone.
 The scales could have a green band to show normal and proper levels.  And a red band to indicate trouble.  And they could be arranged so that all the needles point up at 12 o'clock when things are good.  That makes a quick glance at the instruments more meaningful.
   Too bad the stylists rule in Detroit.  

Cannon Mountain Ski Weather

It's cooled down, it's now below freezing and we have a few flakes drifting down from the sky.  No accumulation yet.  It was too warm to make snow last night.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Arming Teachers

Well, any of the formidable grownups who taught in my grade school,  Miss Shirley, Miss Gaudette, Miss Percy, Mr. Convery, Mrs Falby, would have no trouble handling firearms, and preventing a massacre of students. 
    Teachers might be more willing to carry if the school provided good student proof gun safes in each classroom.   And didn't make a fuss about firearms locked up in privately owned automobiles on the  school parking lot.  And some state laws protecting them from  lawsuits by the shooter's lawyers. 

Cannon Mountain Ski Weather, It's Bad.

It's warmed up to 40, it's raining, and the snow is vanishing.  Not good. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012


CCleaner is a marvelous freeware program that deletes the numerous unnecessary disk files cluttering your system disk.  The typical CCleaner run will free up a half a gigabyte of disk space.  It's safe, I run it every few weeks and never a hiccup. 
  In this day and age of 200 Gigabyte hard drives, why do we care?  Zapping clutter off the hard drive makes file searches go faster, makes anti virus runs go faster, makes Windows Explorer load faster and paint new screen faster.  It makes browsers go faster.  Viruses (Virii) malware has to hide on your hard drive somewhere.  It's easier to hid in a few gigabytes of clutter. 
   Google will find you a download site for CCleaner.  The site will attempt to sell you a fancier version that costs money, but the free one is all I need.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Running out of hard disk space?

Try WinDirStat.  It can be down loaded, Google for a download site.  Windirstat looks at every file on your hard drive and draws a cute graph showing how much space each file is sucking up.  Rolling the mouse over the file symbol in the graph calls up its name in the bottom text window.  Gives you a a good feel for where to look for fat to cut.
 First place to go is Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Add & Remove Programs.  That pops up this window.

It lists every program on your machine.  Now is the time to zap all those craplets and games your machine came with and you never use.  Be careful, this window lets you zap darn near everything on the disc, including parts of Windows itself, your browser , MS Office.  It's like a chainsaw, cuts fast and cuts anything. Useful to be sure, but you gotta be careful.  The Programs with the MS icon of a Computer Monitor, CD and CD  Box you mostly want to keep. 
When you click on anything to remove it, it will tell you how often you used it and when it was used last.  Things that haven't been used since the bought the machine can probably be spared.  

Cannon Mountain Ski Weather

We got a measly inch and a half of new snow last night.  It's cooled down to right around freezing.  That's marginal for snow making.  I'm told the guns will snow at temps up to freezing due to the chilling effect of the compressed air expanding, but you get better snow when its solidly below freezing, in the twenties, which it ain't right now. 

The Hobbit

We saw it last night.  To give some perspective, I am a long time Tolkien fan, I read Tolkien as a child, I read Tolkien aloud to my children when they were young, I saw all three Lord of the Rings movies in theaters, and I have DVD's of them as well.  So I was going to see this movie no matter what.
   Criticism of movies based upon widely read books is tricky.  Many will trash a flick for the smallest departure from the words of the book, no matter how much sense the change makes from the standpoint of a movie.  Movies are different from books.  It's much harder for a movie to show a character's thoughts than it is for a book where the author can go on for pages expounding upon inner most thinking.   Whereas a single movie shot of landscape or interior or street scene can replace pages of descriptive text. 
   This movie has the sets, the costumes, the scenery, and many of the actors  that made the LOTR movies such wonderful viewing, and so true to the original.  It's long, three hours.  It only takes the story up thru chapter 6, out of 19 total, so there is plenty of room  for more movies before Bilbo returns to Bag End.  It moves slowly, scenes are longer than need be, too many scenes are flashbacks or side issues that don't move the plot forward. The movie bungles a couple of beloved scenes from the book.   Gollum mumbles his lines so badly that I couldn't understand the riddles he was posing to Bilbo.   My children have better table manners than the dwarves in the movie. 
   The widely hyped 48 frame per second filming made no perceptible difference to my eye.  We chose to see it in 2D over in Lincoln rather than 3D in Littleton.   Focus was softer than it ought to be for a movie.  I don't know whether this was the fault of the Lincoln projectionist or  the 48 frame per second process, or the 3D filming.
   Anyhow, it's enjoyable.  Take the kids.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Death Porn Control

The MSM have been in a total feeding frenzy over the Connecticut massacre since Friday and there are no signs of it dying down yet.  Death porn.  The perp, who sounds like one of those total losers, has now achieved national and even world wide notoriety.  Which is probably what motivated him in the first place. 
   One reason we have these horrible massacre is the media hype them so mercilessly and that attracts the unstable losers, who see themselves transformed from faceless non entities to world wide celebrities with a pull of a trigger.  They used to pot shot presidents (Lincoln, Garfield, Kennedy, and Reagan) but the Secret Service has tightened security and it's pretty tough to score these days.  Elementary schools are softer targets.
   We ought to do what we can to curb the flow of death porn.  The offenders should be mocked, and sponsors should make their voices heard too.  Fox TV News has gone pretty far overboard this time, with ceaseless drivel.  I'm not ready to scrap the First Amendment, so we can't make laws against death porn, but we ought to try social pressure.  It would be more effective than another "assault weapons" ban.

More Cannon Mountain Ski weather

It warmed up and rained.  It's raining now.  It got so warm that the snowmaking crew knocked off early last night. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cannon Mountain weather

We got an inch of snow last night, but it is warming up.  It was 26 early this morning and now it has warmed up to 34, too warm to make snow.  The weather forecasts are flaky, using words like warm and rain. 

Protons to the rescue

Something new in the never ending struggle to raise medical costs.   Someone decided that using a beam of high speed protons instead of  Xrays would improve radiation therapy.  They sold this idea around.  Trouble is, the machine to make the proton beam costs better than $100 million and is big enough to fill a gymnasium.  Whereas you can get all the Xrays  you want from a glass tube about the size of a cantaloupe.  Needless to say proton beam therapy  cost  $50,000 as opposed to half that for conventional radiation therapy.
   Now comes a study indicating that the results of the pricey proton beam therapy are no different from conventional therapy.  I could have told them that.   Radiation therapy works by using a beam of radiation to kill cancer cells.  It doesn't really matter if the cell dies from being hit with a proton or being hit with an Xray, dead is dead. 
   Perhaps we can  save some money and not put in any more proton machines. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Blood Dancing for Gun Control

That's what David Gregory did for an hour on "Meet the Press" this morning.  He had Diane Feinstein, senator from CA promising to ban "assault weapons".   Lotta welfare for lawyers there since there is no objective difference between a deer rifle and an assault rifle.  He had  Michael Blomberg, NYC mayor, pushing Obama for "more leadership on gun control".  Blomberg didn't actually come out and say just what he wanted to outlaw, which makes me think he fears the political damage he might incur if he made a substantive proposal.  Blomberg spent a lot of words trashing the NRA.  He doesn't seem to understand that the NRA is a democratic organization of gun owners who merely want to prevent people like Blomberg from confiscating their guns.  They have a large membership, which gives them power at the voting booth.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ultimate Tearjerker, worse than Love Story

What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams, 1998.  I netflixed it by mistake.  The movie opens with a romantic meeting between Robin Williams and a beautiful loving young woman.  They court, they marry and things go well for years.  Then bad things happen, their two adorable teen age children die in a car crash.  Robin Williams is killed in traffic attempting to rescue a victim trapped in a wrecked car.
  The movie is a total downer from then on in.  It so depressing I turned it off before the end.   At least in Love Story they had good times together before Ali McGraw dies of cancer in the last reel.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The word you want is "horrible"

Bret Bauer said "Amazing" in conclusion of some of the Sandy Hook school massacre coverage this evening.  No Bret, it's not amazing, it's horrible.
   My sincerest sympathies go out the the parents and families of the slain.  It's totally inadequate, but it's the best I can do.  
   If the homicidal maniac who committed this atrocious crime had been under restraint in an insane asylum it would not have happened.

Porkulus funding to bug transit buses.

According to this, CONCORD NH, is spending $1.2 million of "stimulus funds" to place eavesdropping microphones on transit buses.  To fritter good money away on hi tech gadgetry is bad enough.  To violate privacy is even worse.  Apparently the system is accessible from the public internet, like a web cam.
   Un mentioned in this article is how the system separates voice conversations from the roar of the engine, but presumably an extension of the "hands-free car kit" technology can do it. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I've got one, I think.  I was pretty sure I had one until last night when I lifted the phone and no dial tone.  So I walked up to the Mittersill Inn to see if their phone still worked, and if so, to call in my number as broken.  Fairpoint, our local phone co had three or four trucks working the phone line up three mile hill to my place.  The trucks were gone yesterday but they had left a couple of those little tents hanging off the phone wires.  I was pretty sure they must have broken something up there.
  The girl on the desk at  the Inn was unsure as to whether their phone worked.  She didn't understand the difference between an outside line and calling a room inside the building.  I  finally knocked on the door of a nearby chalet that was showing lights and begged the use of their phone to call Fairpoint.    The Fairpoint service desk took my name and address and promised a crew would be out tomorrow, anytime between 6 AM and 6 PM.
  And, wonder of wonders, they did show up around 1 PM.  A big Fairpoint truck with a cherry picker pulls up in front of the house, and the phone rings.   It's the guy in the truck checking to see if he had fixed things.  As I had thought, the workers on three mile hill had broken something.  The other interesting item, the work on the hill is putting in a DSL booster to bring DSL up to Mittersill.  Right now all we have is cable modems.
  Anyhow, I'm thinking about getting a cell phone, if only to call Fairpoint when the landline conks out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Obama wants a tax hike, Republicans want cuts

And, the Republicans keep asking Obama to "make some cuts".   Nice work if you can get it.  US government doesn't work that way.  Congress appropriates money by law to run the government.  The president signs the appropriation bill.  In principle he could veto a truly objecionable one, but somehow that never happens.  Appropriation bills are law,  the sequester is just a wish of Congress.  Appropriate, or better don't appropriate, is the name of the game. 
  In short, if the Republicans want spending cuts,  they have to pass them thru the House (which they control) and then dare the Democratic Senate to trashcan them.   The Senate doesn't want to be accused of driving the economy over the fiscal cliff.  For any reasonable bill, there will be a lot of pressure on the Senate to pass it rather than be left holding the blame. 
   Given a bill passed House and Senate, Obama will have to sign it, or take a lot of blame for all the things that are going to go wrong. 
  But it has to start with the House passing something.  Asking Obama to make spending cuts is a waste of airtime. The House has to do it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Time for some Sequestration

The Air Force has been muddling thru the business of buying tanker places for some years now.  The current tanker fleet is largely the KC135 tankers purchased back in the Eisenhower administration.  Worthy planes, but after 50 years of service it's time for replacements.  After quite a bit of bungling, Airbus bids, court fights and hassle, USAF gave a contract to Boeing to make tankers based on the Boeing 767 jetliner.  This should have been straight forward,  make some more of a well proven civilian jet airliner, leave out the seats and put in tanks to hold jet fuel.  So simple.
  USAF has managed to do significant cost enhancement to this job.  First off, they are having Boeing replace the existing 767 cockpit with the newer and jazzier cockpit from the brand new 787.  This means changing all the instruments over to work off the 767 airframe.  It also means reprogramming the 787 stuff.  $oftware is spelled  Money and Program Delays.  The existing 767 cockpit  worked just fine and is still flying hundreds of 767 from here to everywhere, but that wasn't good enough for USAF.  They had an urge to spend tax money, just for the hell of it.
   This procurement program has been running for nearly two years.  They don't expect to deliver any aircraft for another FIVE well paid years.  Boeing plans to spend a whole year working on the refueling boom.  This is just a piece of pipe sticking out the back of the tanker, to which  client aircraft plug in to fill up.  A year to do a piece of pipe is craziness. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Meet The Press

David Gregory spent a good deal of air time boosting Hilary for 2016.  Heh Gregory, ease up, we are still recovering from the last election.  Don't we get any time off from pundits like you pushing their favorite candidates? 
   Gregory showed that 57% of something (voters, democrats, likely voters, man on the street, who knows) would blame the Republicans if we go over the fiscal cliff.  Even his leftie guests didn't buy into that one.  Bob Woodward said the the president owns the economy and if going over the fiscal cliff prolongs Great Depression 2.0, Obama will own that. 


The Economist (a London based newsweekly) is running a cover story about the potential for Britain leaving the EU.  Amusing cover cartoon showing Britainna in full costume (Roman helmet, Union Jack on shield) riding a fighter plane style ejection seat.  Apparently Brussels bureaucrats have riled up the ordinary Brit voter to the point that they might vote "leave" if a straight forward "In or Out" referendum were presented to them.
   Unfortunately, 50% of Britain's trade is with other EU members.  If Britain withdrew then all this trade would be subject to EU tariff, which will hurt, a lot.
   If the Brits are so dumb as to stiff arm their best customers, we ought to offer to let them into NAFTA.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cameras, Cameras, Cameras

My trusty but aging Kodak Z1485 all plastic Point-n-Shoot is showing its age.  It's getting flaky, I have to whack it with my hand to get the color to show properly in the view finder.  It refused to take pictures under indoor lighting the other day.  The paint is wearing off the plastic making it look shabby.
  So, when a Nikon flyer fell out of my Wall St Journal, I gave it a look see.  Overwhelming.  Nikon is advertising 20 different models at prices from $79 to $2999.   They break down into three broad classes, the Coolpix point-n-shoot ($79 to $299), the Nikon 1 a larger point-n-shoot with interchangeable lenses($499 to $999) and the big black pro cameras with interchangeable lenses and thru the lens viewfinders  ($479-$2999). 
   Looking at the meager specs provided with each camera, it wasn't clear what each model offered, other than price.  The all claimed 10 megapixels and up.  9 megapixels gives as good an image as 35 mm film ever did, so even the bottom of the line $79 model can make photos as sharp and crisp as anyone needs.  Nikon doesn't talk about batteries.  I have no idea if batteries are included, rechargeable, buy-able at the super market, Lithium Ion, how long they last, and will the camera show you the state of charge? 
   All have zoom lenses.  The point-n-shoot lenses are speced as such and such a power (10x, 14X and so on)  The interchangeable lenses are speced in millimeters  (18-55. 30-110)  It is beyond my mathematical ability to convert from one to another. 
  And, Target is the store that carries all this hi tech goodness. Lots a luck trying to get a Target salesclerk to give you anything more than the price. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

There will be consequences

Such as?  Obama was trying to jawbone Syria's Assad away from using nerve gas on his own people.  He was trying to sound tough, like he was uttering a threat. 
  Didn't sound very tough to me.  Probably didn't sound very tough to Assad  
  Making vague threats make you look flaky.

Greece, has largest merchant marine

From the Wall St. Journal.  The legendary Greek shipping magnates are still legendary.  Greece has 4072 merchant ships.  More than Japan, or Germany, or the US.  More than any one nation in the world. Not bad for an economy swirling down the drain. 
  According to the Journal, the shipping interests threatened t o pack up and move elsewhere back in the 1970's.  The Greek government caved, and Greek shipping enjoys low taxes and freedom from regulation to this day.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hobbit, the movie

It  hasn't come the Littleton yet.  Internet reviews are equivocal at best.  Most make the observation that there isn't enough material in the single volumn Hobbit story to fuel three movies.  Probably true.  I'm an old Tolkien fan, I'll see the movies anyhow. 
   The Brit papers have been making a big thing of technology.  The flick is in 3 D and 48 frames/sec.  The Guardian quotes viewers claiming that the extra frame rate gives them headaches and makes them dizzy.
Well, 3D can do that.  I suppose.  I find 3D annoying, the glasses never fit well, and the focus isn't very good.
  But the 48 frame/sec is harmless.  In fact, movies have been projected at 48 frames/sec since the 1920's.  The frame rate has to be high enough to prevent flicker, which is quite annoying.  The exact frame rate needed to smooth out flicker is variable, depends upon the circumstances.  Darkness helps, which theaters have.  American TV runs at 60 fields per second in well lighted rooms.  European TV runs at a mere 50 fields per second, and you can see it flicker.  It's bad enough that the Europeans were selling "100 hertz" TV sets to eliminate flicker caused by the 50 fields per second sets.
   Motion illusion is different from flicker.  Good motion illusion requires a far slower frame rate than flicker reduction needs.  In fact, some one back in the depths of time (1920's) discovered that although the projectors had to run at 438 frames per second to suppress flicker, they did not have to change the picture that fast.  A 2:1 savings in expensive 35mm film occured when the projector advanced the film on every other frame.  So the film advances at 24 frame per second, and the projector displays each frame of movie film twice.
   For the Hobbit, they are claiming to use revolutionary technology, and advance the film on every frame.  Newsies, and reviewers have been talking this up, claiming a miraculous improvement in the viewing experience.  Which gives great joy to the Hobbit marketing droids.  But in real life, it won't look any different from standard movies.   

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sell your Greek Bonds, for 35% of face value

The Greeks are making an offer you can't refuse.  They will buy back their bonds.  But they will only pay 35% of the face value.  Your choice is take  65% haircut now, or risk getting nothing in the future.  The Wall St Journal recommends bond holders take this deal now. 
  Can't say I don't agree with the Journal. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

So who gets blamed if we go over the fiscal cliff?

Good question.  If hitting the bottom of the fiscal cliff hurts as much as we think it will, fingers will be pointed.   Paychecks will get  smaller in January as withholding bumps up and as the FICA tax holiday comes to an end.  Ordinary folk will probably see their withholding tax double.  That ought to bring 'em up fighting mad.
   If Congress passes anything, Obama will have to sign it, otherwise he will take the blame for all the bad stuff that follows. John Boehner probably has the House in hand enough to pass anything reasonable.  He ought to do so.  The Senate will be under tremendous pressure to pass it, what ever it is, 'cause if they don't, everyone will blame them.  And no Senator likes that idea. 
  The circular firing squad is in place.  Who ever fails to keep us from going over the cliff will get shot.

Cops want access to old text messages too

According to CNET, law enforcement types want Congress to mandate internet server providers to store all text messages for two years and allow them to go fishing for evidence pretty much any time they want.  I favor requiring the providers to erase text messages and email as soon as it it successfully delivered. 
  If law enforcement is investigating, they can obtain a warrant from a real judge and see any messages sent AFTER the warrant is issued.  They should not have the right to go fishing thru every message you ever sent looking for something to hang you with. 
   Note to the wise.  Never put anything confidential or  incriminating in a text message.  Your competitors, random hackers, and the cops will read it.   And you will be toast.

English Muffins

A tasty breakfast.  I usually buy run of the supermarket house brand stuff, (Surefine) to save a few pennies, but I pay full boat for Thomas.  They are worth it.  I have given up on the fork torn muffin however.  They are tastier when divided into two equal sized pieces so they toast up evenly.  Fork torn too often gives one plump half and one skinny half which burns before the plump half is decently brown.  Bread knife sliced is the way to go.  There are plenty of nooks and crannies in a sliced muffin.
  Once sliced, a toaster is good, but buttering them and browning them under the grille is better.  I set the ding-ding timer for seven minutes and they come out just golden brown in my oven.  Just about the right length of time to let the coffee brew.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Have you ever heard of UN CRPD?

Well neither had I , until this morning.  The phone rings, and it's a robo caller urging me to call my senator to oppose it.  So I did a little web surfing and I find CRPD is a UN treaty on the rights of disabled persons.  If ratified by the Senate, it would replace all American law (the Americans with Disabilities Act mainly) with UN law.  Which is a good reason to vote it down.  Nobody knows what is in it.  Ratifying it would be buying a pig in a poke.  We have pretty good law on the subject, that was worked out in Congress some years ago and we are mostly satisfied with it.  It would be dumb to replace what we have with a mystery treaty written by the UN which is full of little countries that don't like us much.
   Apparently, in an effort to avoid dealing with the fiscal cliff, Harry Reid decided the CRPD is just what we need to pass in this lame duck session of Congress. 
   That's keeping the best interests of the United States in mind.  Good show Harry.

NH General Court gets started

I surfed down the NH legislature "bills pending" site.  Wow.  The 2013 session hasn't even started yet and we have 397 bills in the hopper.  NH seems to be a reasonably well run state and yet our gallant law makers have nearly 400 changes to NH law that they want to make.  So far all we have a titles, and the titles seem fairly innocuous.  There isn't text for them yet.  Some are harmless time wasters like a bill to establish a Franklin Pierce day.  There are likely some that are really bad ideas, but you wouldn't know it from the title.   

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Meet the Press

As usual I tuned in my Sunday pundits.  David Gregory had some democrats and republicans on Meet the Press, talking about the fiscal cliff.  He had Timmy "Turbotax" Geithner, US treasury secretary, claiming that his administration has planned trillions of dollar in spending cuts.  Then he had tax gadfly Grover Norquist on claiming that Obama wasn't offering a dime in cuts, but instead trillions in new spending.
   They can't both be right. One of them is lying.  The moderator, David Gregory, offered no help in sorting out who was the liar. Gregory isn't contributing to a useful debate so long as us viewers are saying, some one is lying, so nothing anyone says is worth listening to.  'Cause we cannot tell who is lying for sure, although we have our suspicions. .
   So what happens next?
1.  Congress fails to pass anything.  In which case taxes go up for everyone and some painful spending cuts take place real soon now.  This is called "going over the fiscal cliff".  Doing nothing is easier than doing something. 
2.  Congress does what Obama wants, passes a soak-the-rich tax hike. Most of us escape the tax hike.
3.  Congress does some serious spending cuts (Medicare reform) and gives Obama his tax hike in return for signing the spending cuts. 
   Place your bets. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Email ought to be as private as Snail Mail

Law enforcement, (and anyone else) should be required to get a warrant signed by a real judge in order to tap your email.  Or read old email left on  servers.  Email carriers should be forbidden to keep copies of email on their computers, and be required to erase records of transmission from sender to recipient as soon as the email  is delivered. 
  Investigations should be limited to emails sent AFTER the investigation begins and the warrant obtained, investigators should not be allowed to  read every email a subject sent since he grew old enough to type. 
   And even if this is made into law, the wise citizen will suspect cheating and never write anything incriminating in email.  Or facebook, or anywhere else. 
   This would be a good issue for the Republicans.  I mean who is in favor of cops snooping thru their email?
   Law enforcement will be agin it, but they always are.  Tapping email and phones with a warrant is enough, they will just have to make do. They don't need to troll thru every email the suspect ever sent.

Fashion for Men

The Wall St Journal now does pieces on men's fashion.  That must be the Rupert Murdock influence.  Anyhow the article had photos of young slender male models wearing stuff that would get them laughed at any place I ever worked and any school I ever attended.  And at any party I ever threw or attended.  There was the pegged lime green cargo pants with combat boots and a navy blue blazer.  There was a poorly fitting loud checked wool suit, belt up above the navel, and baggy everywhere.  There was a guy in a plain gray shirt and a matching plain gray turtleneck. 
   Any guy would have to be totally naive to turn up anywhere dressed like that. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

More Topic Changing

NPR is still pushing for an immigration bill.  They have a new twist this morning.  We just give them green cards without a "path to citizenship".  Translation: we let them in to work but we don't give them the vote.  Sounds like we make them second class citizens, eligible to pay taxes and work long hours, but not eligible to vote.  That's good old liberal NPR's idea, not mine. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

HIstory Channel, Mankind, Story of Us

Mankind, The Story of Us, now playing on the History Channel, which I get on cable.  It's one of those re enactment shows, actors in period costumes waving swords and such.  It has some problems with production values.  Such as a show lamenting the terrible death toll of the 14th century plague.  Lots of gruesome shots of awful skin lesions, corpses tossed into the river, mass graves and other such gruesome stuff..  But the background score, instead of being something solemn and slow, is this perky little dance number with a  strong drumbeat to it.  While the voice over is saying how awful, the score is saying, show me some more of this.
   The don't use maps much.  They keep mentioning interesting stuff happening at out of the way places that I never heard of before.  They never bother to cut to a map and show where that out of the way place is.  They do a lot of talking about the Mongols, all with shots of Mongol horsemen in full costume galloping across the plain.  They show a map of the Mongol empire at it's peak, but then it's back to those same horsemen galloping.  Then don't talk about how long the empire lasted.  There is no mention of the conquests of Russia and India.  No mention of Subotai's invasion of Western Europe, aborted only because of Genghis Khan's death, and the recall of all senior Mongols to the Gobi to select his successor.  Harold Lamb feels that Subotai's army might well have reached the English Channel if Subotai had not been recalled on account of Genghis Khan's death. 
   They did another episode spent trashing the Crusaders.  No mention of the Byzantine Emperor's appeal to Pope Urban for a Frankish army to save his empire.  No mention of the extra ordinary projection of military power across a thousand miles by a pre industrial society.  No mention of Muslims roughing up Christian pilgrims headed for Jerusalem.  No mention that Palestine was a Christian land recently conquered by Islam. No mention of the extraordinary feats of arms where by a handful of Christian knights, at the end of a thousand mile supply line, beat vastly superior Muslim armies.  The producers wanted to trash the Crusaders and they proceeded to do so.
A low grade TV show.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Topic Changing

With the "fiscal cliff" only one month away, you would think the lame duck session of Congress would concentrate on doing something about it.
  This morning I hear NPR pushing for an immigration bill in the lame duck session.  Nice idea, but the immigration bill doesn't have a 1 January deadline.  Plus its a controversial issue, which will soak up more time and hot air than we have between now and 1 January.  Unless its a ploy to drive us over the fiscal cliff, we ought to do immigration after New Year.
   And, the presenter was taking the opportunity to push the "Dream Act" (green cards for college grads and veterans) which failed to pass a little while ago. 
   How about some lesser steps that might have a chance of passing?  Such as awarding full citizen ship to anyone who serves honorably in the armed forces.  Such as awarding green cards to college graduates in science, engineering or mathematics?  Such as clearing up the current logjam of immigration applications.  It's fair to give each applicant a yes or no answer within two months of putting it their paperwork. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tax and Spend

Obama is doing a full court press for a soak-the-rich income tax hike.  Not a peep about spending cuts.  Obama clearly hopes to get himself a nice little tax hike to stave off bankruptcy for a little while.  The Republicans aren't saying boo.  They ought to be saying, "Do some real spending cuts and THEN and only then will we talk tax hikes." 
  As things are going, Obama will get his tax hike.  And no spending cuts will happen. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Legalize Downloading

This is the youth vote issue par excellance.  Republicans could take it up and attract just about everyone who owns an Ipod.  Not a peep out of Republicans or Democrats on this issue last election.  It's like they never heard of it.
  That probably comes from two reasons.  Pols are mostly old fuds in their 60's who don't even do email, and have lost contact with the college age generation.  They don't understand.  And the labels have given lots of money to keep downloading illegal.  Money talks to most pols.  Money may not vote, but it does talk.
   Just making downloading legal would be a fairly drastic step, it would mean the end of copyright.  Authors depend upon copyright for their livings, many of them would stop writing if copyright went away.  Movies need big money to make.  Without copyright protection they could not raise that big money, so we would be reduced to watching things like the Blair Witch Project.
   A decent  halfway step, would be to reduce the length of copyright.  Used to be copyright and patents ran for 14 years.  The last copyright law revision, aided by Disney and the labels, jacked copyright up to life of the author plus 70 years, halfway to forever.
  With copyright set to 17 years, most of the music sloshing around the internet would be legal.  The young are playing and downloading mostly stuff that was popular when I was in college, and that was more than 17 years ago. 
   Trouble is, making a policy of "17 year copyright" meaningful to the young would take a heap of doing.  Most of them would have difficulty connecting "17 year copyright" with "most of my music would be out of copyright" and "downloading out of copyright music is legal".

Sunday, November 25, 2012

War for Women, Part 3

Daughter visited for Thanksgiving.  We did some political talking.  She sees the Republican loss as due to no free contraception.  Jobs, the economy, cuts little ice with her.  Even with an unemployed boy friend and unemployed brother, it was lack of free contraception that got her turned on, even shouting.  Discussion of jobs and the economy held no interest for her.  She is employed and that's good enough for her.  She doesn't see Great Depression 2.0 as anything much.
   If her viewpoint is typical, the US of A has some serious trouble in store. 

Walmart's on light gray Sunday

Time to refill my prescriptions, so off to Walmart on Sunday.  Place is busy, but not really crowded.  Run into my niece and her two daughters in the toy aisle.  Passed bins of low price DVD's.  Mostly Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.  Looks like those are the last decent movies out of Hollywood, and that was quite some time ago. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bookstores in Concord NH

Discovered two very nice bookstores in Concord today.
 Liberty Book & Comic 75 Allison St.  Just off South St.  Shows up in Google maps if you need more directions.  Has a good stock of modern (in print) comics, a lot of good classic young adult books, used paperbacks, survival stuff, and interesting political works.  If you are homeschooling, you will find good material here.  I spent a pleasant hour browsing and came away with four books.  Good stock, fun to browse.
  Then I hit Annie's Bookstore, 132 Loudon Road.  It also will show in Google maps if you need more directions.  It's bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside.  It's a used paperback place, heavy on romances.  But a lot of stock, a good browsing place.
  What with the dying off of bookstores up in the North country, we need places like this.
  I was going to post a comment about these two stores on Google maps, but Google demanded that I sign up for GooglePlus, which I don't want to do. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Looks like there is political opposition in Eygpt

According to this, the headquarters of  the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the party of president Morsi, were torched by a mob.  Sounds like Morsi has a bit of an opposition.  Question, are we in touch with the opposition?  Even if we like Morsi better than the opposition, we will find Morsi easier to deal with if he has to watch his back. We ought to be giving the opposition a little friendly support. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hope. Lots and lots of hope

Today's junk mail included one from the New York Times.  A one year subscription for ONLY $797.90.  How can I resist this opportunity to read half truths, lies, the democratic party line, and slander for only $2.55 an issue?
Hell, I get the Wall St Journal, for only $125 a year.  And the Journal is ten times the paper the Times will ever be.
 The Times is hoping for revenue.  Lots of hope , little revenue.

Argh. The Endless Campaign.

Today internet websites started running stories about 2016 presidential candidates. Don't we deserve even a one month break from the endless campaign?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Silence gives assent

Democrats ran anti Romney attack ads for months.  They accused Romney of being a vulture capitalist who bought up companies and closed them down, throwing the employees out of work
Romney should have said something like this "At Bain we financed this successful company, that successful company, some other companies, who are employing a fantastic number of workers, full time  with benefits."   Romney didn't say that, or anything else. He was silent.
   And voters like me begin to think the attack ads might be right.  If Romney doesn't deny these really awful accusations, maybe they are true.
Rule of thumb, you have to answer attacks.  Ignoring attacks doesn't make them go away.  Some political "consultants" will say that denying an attack just spreads it.  Not true.  Lack of a denial hurts Romney, and the democratic newsies will spread it no matter what you do.  So deny all attacks.  ASAP.
  That's not the only reason Romney lost, but it's a big one. 
  Dukakis could have told him about Willie Horton.

Maybe Obama wants to go over the fiscal cliff?

It would give him a solid broadbased tax hike.  He thinks tax hikes will solve the deficit problem. Obama is not one to believe a big tax hike will hurt anything. It will take a solid whack at military spending, and Obama doesn't like our military much.  The other cuts don't hit Obama's sacred cows much, if at all.  Best of all, he won't have to sit across a table from John Boehner and negotiate, without his teleprompter telling him what to say. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Feds holding hearing on Patent Trolls

And about time.  In the industry you have to budget substantial money for lawyers.  Any thing your company makes will draw a troll, waving some obscure patent that should never have been granted, and demanding money or he will sue.  The biggest score by trolls so far is $600 million extorted at lawyer point from the Blackberry makers back in 2006. 
   Trolls feed armies of lawyers, a noxious life form, and raise the price of everything. 
   This could be fixed.  Change the law to allow challenging the validity of the patent at patent infringement trials.  Most of the infamous patent cases revolved around truely awful patents, ones which were well known ideas (prior art) or so obvious that anyone "skilled in the art" would immediately do things that way 'cause its the obvious way to do things.  We ought to clamp down on the patent office and insist that patents not be issued unless the idea is really new, really clever, and non obvious.  We should stop "business methods" patents, and software patents.  It is unreasonable to have lawyers quibbling over a patent on using one click to make a purchase on a website. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Trip to Boston via Manchester

Daughter Karen flew up for Thanksgiving.  We picked her up at Manchester airport and 9:45 in the morning, and seeing as how Manchester is better than half way to Boston, we pressed on the to big city.  I93 was still under construction south of Manchester and little progress was to be seen.  The plan is to widen it to 6 lanes to handle the morning commuter rush.  The state highway department has been whining about lack of money.
   We did Quincy Market.  Took I93 right over fancy bridge and got off underground and came up right at the entrance to a parking garage.  I had looked for that exit on Google maps without success, I was pretty sure it was there, but not finding it on Google was a surprise.  The garage was $35 for any stay over 80 minutes.  Ouch.  But we are tourists from NH now, rather than the wily locals that we used to be. 
   Quincy was full of pedestrians, not too full, and on a fine sunny Saturday.  The central food court is as good as ever and all the storefronts are rented out and doing business.  No boarded up shop windows.  The Big Dig is fully dug and the rusty old central artery is gone, and Boston now has a beautiful green park running right thru downtown and the financial district.  It ought to be nice, it cost taxpayers plenty.
   Shopping is OK, but most of the shops are clothing stores, less than interesting to the male of the species. No book stores, no gadget stores.  They did have a Newbury Comics store at which we found a new model Tarzan comic.  Cover art shows Tarzan, in his customary garb (loincloth) but with a Thompson sub machine gun tucked under his arm.  This is revolutionary for Tarzan.  Tarzan never used firearms.  He specialized in lying on a tree branch, waiting for Numa the lion to pass beneath, at which point Tarzan would drop onto the lion's back and stab it to death with his long hunting knife, inherited from his long dead father.  Needless to say we bought it. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Technology marches on.

My nice Panasonic DVD player croaked the other day.  It had been getting fussy, and rejecting certain disks as unplayble, but it would play some.  Finally died by announcing that all my disks were unplayable.  It ran well for seven years, longer than a big Samsung TV (which died after four years) and a Mitsubishi VHS player (5 years).  They don't make consumer electronics the way the used to.  I remember a couple of Sony TVs that ran for 20 years, Radio Shack stereo receivers running for 30.
   And you cannot fix consumer electronics anymore.  The chips are all surface mount which requires an artist to change, with pins spaced so close you cannot get a scope probe on them.  When the TV, and later the Mitsubishi VHS died, I did some calling around, looking for anyone who might try fixing them.  No luck.  I didn't even bother looking for someone to fix the DVD player.  
  So down to Walmart.  They had Sony, Magnevox, Lucky Goldstar and Samsung.  The DVD versions were all cheap ($35) , about a third of what I paid for the dear departed Panasonic.  They all had Blue Ray versions for double that, but since I don't own any Blue Ray discs, I didn't care.
   Bought the Magnevox.  It was much smaller than the old Panasonic, and it has digital output, HDMI they call it.  One thick cable with funny 8 pin connecters (not included with the player) and bingo, the digital bits coming off the disc get shipped right to the digital TV, skipping the analog-to-digital conversion in the DVD player and the inverse analog-to-digital conversion in the TV.  My day job used to be care and feeding, design and sales of  AtoD and DtoA converter, and believe me, there are a zillion ways a converter can mess up the signal. 
   Anyhow, the direct digital connection gives even nicer video.  DVD video has always been good, but the HDMI connection made it even better,  crisp, clean, fine textures visible.