Saturday, March 31, 2012

Europe bubbling like a pot.

The gloom and doom, end of the world, talk has died down in the MSM after the Greeks gave a haircut to their creditors. It's been a couple of weeks since I last saw a "The Euro is Doomed" article.
But all is not well in Euro land. Today's Economist has a cover story on the coming French bankruptcy. And the WSJ reports that the German central bank will no long accept bonds from Ireland, Greece. or Portugal as collateral for loans. And the European Stabilization Mechanism is only E500 billion. Which is just barely enough to bail out Portugal, but nowhere near enough to bailout Italy or Spain. And the Economist is still calling for "more European integration" by which they usually mean Germany will guarantee/bailout everyone else. The Economist thinks this is a wonderful idea. The Germans aren't on board with it, and the Economist blasts Angela Merkel and the Germans as reactionary stick-in-the-muds every time it hears a German begging for a little air.
We need to pay attention, 'cause we will be next.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Taxman Cometh.

Alder Brook Sportsmen's Association, a Littleton gun club of which I am a member, had a special meeting last night to approve new bylaws. Seems like our ever hungry town government has voided the club's tax free status, assessed the club property at $86,000, and levied $3800 worth of taxes. That's a lot of money for a couple of acres of scrub land, with no frontage onto public roads, so far out of town it's almost in the next town. $3800 divided among the membership would jack up dues by $100 per member per year. Alder Brook Sportsmen has been around since 1962, and after all that time we suddenly became taxable.
We got a lawyer, who claimed that if we did a load of gov'mint paper work, rewrote the club's bylaws, jumped thru a lot of obscure hoops, and filed paper work with Littleton, Concord and Washington, we could become a tax free non profit 501(c)(3) corporation. Thank goodness we have some dedicated volunteer club officers willing to wade thru this swamp. The new gov'mint written bylaws were adopted by unanimous vote.
If they make life this difficult for a little private club, imagine what a small business, which actually makes money, has to go thru.

The Alarm Cat went off last night

It's o'dark thirty and this high pitched piercing howl wakes me. I get up to inspect, and there is Stupid Beast, in fighting stance, back arched, fur fluffed up, tail fluffed up to a good two inches diameter, defending the front door. I flip on the porch light and I can see tracks in the fresh snow (yes it's still snowing up here). More tracks lead down the steps and across the street. I'm not enough of a woodsman to say what kind of tracks, but they were medium sized, say from a 20 pound animal of some kind. Any how the cat seems to have scared it off.
So I say some soothing words to Stupid Beast and go back to bed.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

You don't expect us to read 2700 pages?

So said a Supreme the other day, referring to Obamacare. Well, actually Judge, I do expect you to read the whole damn thing. And pass an examination on the contents BEFORE you judge the case.
The point is, we should never pass a 2700 page law. Give me 2700 pages, and I can find a clause in there somewhere to authorize ANYTHING I want to do. Give a bureaucrat a 2700 page law and you have authorized him to do anything he wants to do.
The court ought to declare the whole damn thing unconstitutional on account of terminal vagueness.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Richard Clarke says US did Stuxnet

Very Interesting. I'm not saying one way or the other. I don't have any facts myself. But Clarke has been around for a long time and is reasonably creditable.

It's still snowing up here.

Less than an inch but enough to keep the ground white. Our hard working town snow plow rumbled by the place early this AM. Not that there was enough snow to be worth it, but heh, we got a brand new town plow truck, gotta make sure it still works.

Why does Hugo go to Cuba for treatment?

As part of the press coverage of the Pope's visit to Cuba, it was mentioned that Hugo Chavez, dictator of Venezuela, was in Cuba for medical treatment of his cancer.
Hmm, Hugo is the dictator of a medium speed South American country, and yet he prefers Cuban doctors and hospitals. Does Hugo really think Cuba's medicine is better than that of his homeland? Or does he fear assassination in a Venezuelan hospital?
Also strange, Hugo, although I call him dictator, still has some political enemies alive at home. Yet he feels his regime is secure enough to keep the lid on, while Hugo flies to Havana for chemotherapy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Water, barrier or highway?

We look at maps, and we see neat boundaries where the land meets the blue sea. The British Isles, surrounded by water, North America with vast oceans on each side, we look at the map and see a blue barrier against invasion.
Actually, water is a highway. Cargo, passengers, invaders, explorers travel by water. Water transport is cheap, and fast. Until the coming of the steam railroad, water was the fastest way to go, and it's still fast enough to compete against even jet aircraft.
England suffered one water borne invasion after another, starting with Julius Caesar, going thru the Anglo Saxons, the Vikings, and the Normans. Only when the English Crown could field a Navy was the realm properly protected. As late as 1778 Yankee privateer John Paul Jones could put landing parties ashore in Merrie Old England to take hostages.
Prior to the railroad, cities had to be port cities because only by water could enough food be brought in to feed even a medieval city. Ancient Egypt's cities brought their food in by Nile river boat. Same goes for ancient Babylon. With out the Nile and the Euphrates, the cradles of civilization would have suffered Sudden Infant Civilization Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The oldest cultures were based on rivers, because rivers are easiest to navigate, no tides, land is never far away, and you can drink the water from the river. Not til later would navigation of Homer's wine dark sea be mastered, leading to the brilliant Cretan and Greek civilizations. The stormy North Atlantic would not be mastered until Columbus.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Are you a freeloader if you don't have health care?

The TV news, even Fox, is pushing this idea. If you don't have health insurance, then when you do go to the the hospital, you get treated for free, and the doctors jack up their fees on the insured to cover the free health care they give the uninsured. Therefore it's fair and just to demand that everyone buy health insurance. TV newsies have bought into this fantasy, which indicates that they are mostly of low IQ, and poorly educated to boot.
This isn't true. Not even now. If you turn up in the emergency room with out insurance, they treat you and then they bill you. In fact they play catchup and bill you double what they bill on an insurance job. And you have to pay up, there are courts and sheriff's to force you to pay up. They can garnishee your wages if you won't write a check.
If you are destitute, without money, unemployed and homeless, you cannot pay the doctor bill. Nor can you afford to buy health insurance. The only way the truly poor have health insurance is the government gives it to them, free. Or, free to them, but paid for with my tax money. This is an improvement?

It's snowing

They must have canceled spring. After three days of really nice warm weather, it's well below freezing and the ground is snowcovered again. It's supposed to drop below zero tonight.

Hunger Games, Good Flick

Went to see it last night. It's the third night running at the Jax Jr, and so the crowd was medium sized, the true fans saw it on opening night. I haven't read the book, and was seeing the movie 'cause of all the buzz on the Internet. This is a science fiction movie, set on Earth, in the far future. So far in the future that present day countries, institutions, and even personal names are gone, lost in the dim past. It's an impoverished world, with the 99% scratching out a living from the land, and the 1% living in luxury at Capitol. It's all live acting, with little CGI.
For a book based movie, it was very watchable, the plot was understandable, the dialogue was reasonable. Better than the later Harry Potter's, where the plot is unintelligible if you haven't read the book. The sound man did his job on this one and the dialogue was audible, unlike all too many films were the sound is terrible and the dialogue is lost under the score and the sound effects. Give this flick some points for that. The camera man started off with the annoying modern "shake the camera" and "fast cut piled upon fast cut" technique which has spoiled so many movies, but he wised up and used a tripod once the movie gets rolling.
Katniss and Peeta, the heroine and hero, are well written and beautifully acted. They are portrayed as decent, tough, caring, brave young people, thrown into a terrible situation. They are selected to compete in the annual Hunger Games, a "Survivor with live ammunition" type of gladiatorial game, televised for the entertainment of the 1%. The game continues until only one contestant is left alive. With this threat hanging over them, Katniss and Peeta manage to fall in love giving the movie a Romeo and Juliet type of attraction. Heh, if it works for Shakespeare, it can't be all bad. Katniss and Peeta are much more attractive characters than the Twilight protagonists who come across as whiny and flaky. Despite the unfairness of their treatment, and their world, Katniss and Peeta don't whine, they shoulder their packs and move out. Watching the movie, I fell in love with both of them, and rooted for them to win. It's been a long time since I enjoyed a movie character as much.
This movie has been marketed as a teenager's love flick. It's better than that. In fact it's the best Hollywood movie to come out in years. Go and see it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

So why did John Carter flop?

Disney is writing off the $35o million spent on John Carter. They figure the movie will earn no more than $150 million. It's too bad, there will be no sequels. So why? What did they mess up?
The fans have been generally supportive with their Internet reviews. The pro's have panned it from the beginning.
First off, the camera work was bad. Here we are on Mars, with big green men, exotic animals, strange scenery, and we want to see it, take it in. But the camera never steadies down to let us admire the view. For that matter we would like some good views of Dejah Thoris looking beautiful and John Carter looking heroic. In Avatar, we get a good look at the colorful, romantic, and beautiful world of Pandora. In fact Avatar was a National Geographic documentary of the wonders of far off Pandora. And we viewers enjoyed the show. On Mars, the camera never steadies down long enough to enjoy the view, and, what little we can see is dusty and shabby, not red romantic desertscapes under two moons.
Then the movie lacks the deep love between John Carter and Dejah Thoris. In the book it goes like this.
"I understand your words John Carter," Dejah Thoris said, " But you I do not understand. You are a queer mixture of child and man, of brute and noble. I only wish that I might read your heart."
"Look down at your feet, Dejah Thoris; it lies there now, where it has lain since that other night at Korad, and where it will ever lies beating alone for you until death stills it forever." replied John Carter.
No American man from this age of instant hookups, pre nuptial agreements, no fault divorce, and single parent families, is going to make such an irrevocable declaration of love and loyalty to a woman. Not in the 21st century. But oh boy, how we would love to meet a woman worthy of such devotion. This relationship made the Mars books what they are. The movie lacks it, and turns Dejah Thoris into Xena the Warrior Princess. Xena had many virtues, but you wouldn't want to fall in love with her.
In the book, John Carter and Dejah Thoris escape from captivity among the Tharks and set off riding double across the red ocher moss of the Martian desert. Along the way they are discovered and attacked by yet another tribe of green Martians. In an emotional scene, John Carter sends Dejah Thoris to safety over her protests, and takes his long radium rifle, with 100 rounds in the magazine, and another 100 rounds in a backpack, and stands off a charge of mounted green Martians. After expending all that ammunition, he lays into them with the sword. The movie skips the gunfight and cuts the sword fight down to just another passage of arms. They did not show John Carter pulling the strangely wrought Martian firearm from a scabbard on the riding animal, snapping down the bipod legs, and taking a prone shooting position hidden on a ridgeline. We did not see the crosshairs line up on a enemy, and the explosive round blowing the target off his mount. Couple more such shots, and we would believe that a great battle had occurred. The movie skips all this.

Friday, March 23, 2012


So I got it from Netflix. It's the 1979 version with Ian McKellan. Bad idea. No sets, no scenery, just a dark black stage. No costumes. The actors recite Shakespeare's verses in a sing song tone, no life, no warmth. Ian McKellan's black hair is all slicked down with Brylcreem. That greasy kid stuff. And it's all dark, just the actor's faces show in the darkness. No tartans. I mean what's Macbeth without at least a tartan scarf? The three witches don't even have a kettle simmering over a fire.
There must be better Shakespeare than this one.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Harden the electric power grid against hackers

NHPR did a long piece this morning. They talked about regulation, deregulation, and who was in favor of more regulation. Not once did they talk about what to do about vulnerabilities.
What to do is straight forward. Do not use the public internet to monitor or control generators, circuit breakers or other equipment. And do not use Windows computers for any of the same purposes.
Back when we were selling data acquisition equipment to the electric generating industry, I saw a remote controled generator. A big gas turbine unit was humming happily away. They had an ordinary desktop computer running a remote control program. The computer monitor showed an image of the turbine, a little arrow showed it was turning, instrument readings for oil temp, oil pressure, exhaust gas temp, rpm, amps, volts, engine pressure ratio, and more. It was about 10:30 AM, and the power station man sat down at the remote control and ordered the generator to shut down. It was a peaking plant, only run for the morning and evening power peaks, and 10:30 was the end of the morning peak period. A few key clicks, and the big turbine obediently shut down, we could see the RPM and EGT winding down on the display.
The turbine was l0cated a couple of miles away. The controller sent little messages (Start Up, Shut Down) over the internet. A computer at the remote generator listened to the internet and acted upon orders coming in from the net.
All an enemy hacker needs do, is learn the addresses and the codes used and send his own commands to the turbine. If the computer at the turbine is a Windows machine he can load his own code into it and really go to town. First step of such an invasive program is to reject all messages from it's proper owner, and only accept commands from the hacker.
The fix is simple. Connect the remote computer to the control center with a pair of your own wires, hung on your own poles, by your own people. Then the command link is secure against any sort of Internet attack. To gain control the hacker has to climb a pole and splice in a tap. Hackers are swivel chair people, they don't climb poles.
As for Windows, we all know how vulnerable Windows is to anything. The famous Stuxnet program that did great damage to the Iranian nuclear program spread via Windows "autorun" feature. Windows has so many security holes that it's beyond fixing. Computers running Linux, Unix, MAC OS, anything, can be made secure. Windows is so bad that it is beyond hope.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Israelis think an air strike will work

As in Israeli Air Force strikes Iranian nuclear sites. Blomberg News reporter Jeffrey Goldberg has a piece here. He spent some time in Israel, talking to Israeli officials. They talked about a favorable reaction inside Iran, a strengthening of the Iranian internal opposition, and the Iranians not immediately declaring war on Israel. And setting back the Iranian A-bomb project by 5 years. Goldberg writes mostly about the political angles to such a strike.
A weakness of the Goldberg piece is lack of objective data, such as how many nuclear sites do the Iranian's have? And how deeply are they buried? Are they buried under loose desert sand or under hard granite? Can Israeli deep penetration bombs go that deep? Do the Israeli's have enough planes to strike ALL the sites on the same night? Or would they have to fly multiple strikes on successive nights? Do Israel's aircraft have the range to fly the mission round trip, or will they need aerial tanker support? How many tankers do the Israeli's have? In short, would an Israeli air strike actually hurt the Iranian A-bomb project, or would it merely give the Iranians an expensive fireworks display?
And then there is disinformation. Was I running Israel, I'd tell my people to keep the Iranians worried about an air strike, just to make life harder for them. And to encourage Israelis who are under terrible pressure of events and could use a little hope.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Romney wins Puerto Rico

To bad Puerto Rico doesn't have any electoral votes, yet. According to CNN, Romney won by 83%, the best landslide ever.
I hear Puerto Rico has a referencedum on statehood coming up. I wonder how that is going to come out? Used to be, the Puerto Ricans liked the deal they have, no Congressional representation but no US income tax. Has that changed? I haven't seen anything about it in our hard working news media.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring It's Grill Day

It's up to 76 degrees. Sun is out, no wind. I rolled the Weber out of the garage and onto the deck. A steak is about to marinate on the kitchen table. Summer cannot be far away.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Sea Wolves 1980

Great flick (Netflix) It has Gregory Peck, David Niven and Roger Moore. It's WWII in British India. They are all British, and very proper, at least in polite company, the gentleman's club in Calcutta. They all are recruited for a cutting out expedition against a German ship anchored in neutral Goa. There is some really funny work with Roger Moore attempting to seduce a beautiful enemy agent while she is attempting to seduce him. And, proper or not, the British can be ruthless in action. German captives who make just one wrong move get tommy gunned immediately. No "Put your hands up" No "Stop or I'll shoot", just Brrap and blood all over the walls. Both Peck and Niven have great roles, and play them well.
No redeeming social values here, but a good action movie.

Friday, March 16, 2012

How to rein in Rogue Prosecutors

According to Nancy Gertner (former judge and present Harvard Law professor) and Barry Scheck (co-director of the Innocense Project), all that is necessary is for the judge to hold a pretrial meeting with the prosecutors and order them to be good. And, absent this meeting, rogue prosecutors cannot themselves be prosecuted.
Apparently "rogue" prosecution is not actually against the law. It only becomes a crime if and when a judge says it is. If the judge fails to call it, anything goes.
Wow. If only life were so simple. Just hold a meeting and the problem goes away. Yeah, Right.
So what is "rogue" prosecution? Two things, failure to give the defense attorney evidence that might let the defendant off. And giving false evidence at trial. Such as the gun or the grass planted on the defendant by cops, or intimidating the defense witnesses.
The way to deal with either kind is simple, hang the prosecutor out to dry. Not meetings or ruling, let's have a little punishment. Say ten years in slam. Repeat as needed, say once a year. Name some names. I notice the furor over the Ted Stevens prosecution, which doubtless prompted this WSJ op-ed, doesn't name any names. That might actually hurt some one's career.
And, no more of this "It's legal til the judge says it ain't" stuff. The law is written down in statute books, and applies all the time. If it isn't written down, it ain't law.

Signs of Spring (2012)

The radio is warning us to take in the bird feeders, 'cause the bears are coming out of hibernation.
And it's raining, not snowing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Corned Beef

There it was on the meat counter for $1.48 a pound. Such a deal in an age of $3.99 for hamburger. So I bought one. About 3 pounds. I/ve never cooked corn beef before. I have memories of Mom doing New England Boiled Dinner in a pressure cooker, but they are not fond ones. So I googled for a recipe. As expected, there were a lot of 'em. They fell into two groups, the braise and the oven roast. Most of the oven roast recipes attracted a blizzard of negative comments.
So, we will braise. I opened the package and dunked the corned beef in fresh water for about a half an hour to rinse off excess salt. Corned beef is a tough cut of meat that is soaked in brine to tenderize it. If you proceed immediately to cooking, it will come out VERY salty. Then I put Mr. Corned Beef into a Dutch oven with enough water to cover his bottom half, and the spice packet that comes packed with him. Bring to a boil on the stovetop and then simmer an hour a pound to tenderize it more. If you don't cook it enough, it comes out chewy as an old tire tube. Added carrots and potatoes an hour before it was done. They were nice red skin potatoes so I didn't bother to peel them.
Delicious. And cheap.
Left over corned beef slices and makes tasty sandwiches.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"The President has little control of gas prices"

I hear this bit of disinformation hourly on NPR, and even on Fox. It isn't true. Obama could resume permitting drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. He could OK the Keystone XL pipeline. He could lease oil sands in Colorado. He could issue off shore leases for the Atlantic coast and the Pacific coast. He could start drilling in the "Alaska National Wildlife Refuge" a bit of frozen tundra on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. He could scrap the boutique gasoline blending rules which prevent selling gasoline across state lines. He could stop closing gasoline refineries in the Caribbean.
Drilling does lower prices. The price of natural gas dropped from $12 a thousand cubic feet in 2008 to $3 today. That's a 75% reduction in price in just four years. All done by drilling.
And the price reductions come even faster. Oil and gasoline are traded on commodities markets world wide. Those markets are future oriented. Prices are set by trader's expectations of the price in the future. If suppliers expect to get better prices next year, they don't sell, they wait for next year. If buyers expect to higher prices next year, they will pay more this year to avoid getting ripped off next year. If the markets were convinced that the Americans were serious about increasing production, prices would fall. It would only take a few months for the markets to decide the Americans were serious.

Whither Afghanistan?

Last week's Koran burning and this weekend's shootings have done a lot of damage to US relationship with the Afghans.
There is a reason for US involvement in the Afghan snake pit. The locals are incapable of maintaining civil order. Left to their own devices, they allowed Al Quada to plan and execute 9/11 from their soil. There is little evidence that things are any better after nearly ten years of US liberation. When we pull out of Afghanistan, Al Quada and the Taliban will move back in.
Dispite the terrible events of this month, there is a chance of straightening things out. We should look at the American involvement in the Philippines, which started back in 1898 and lasted thru WWII. We had to suppress a bloody Filipino uprising at the turn of last century, but after 40 years of a decent American administration, the Filipinos took our side, rather than the Japanese side, in World War II.
Of course, for that to happen, we have to stay in Afghanistan, rather than pull out.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Will a 1% change in the unemployment rate matter?

The TV news is full of stories about the improving economy, unemployment rates dropping by fractions of a percent, and it's effect upon the voters. Personally, I think the voters are going on gut feel, their own employment status, the prospect of a layoff, the price of gas and groceries, and their prospects of a raise in judging Obama's performance on the economy. None of those indicators is very favorable. I don't think anyone pays much attention to a fraction of a percent change in unemployment. If the unemployment rate were to drop from 8% to 6%, that would get their attention, but that ain't happening.
Certainly, no one (except democratic activists) really thinks the economy has improved much.

Must be a slow news season

This is the second big talk about solar flares. Probably brought on by new satellites that give nicer images. The Sun has been flaring thru out geological time, and will doubtless continue to do so. It doesn't seem to do anything bad.
The power and phone lines are all hardened against lightning strikes, they shrug off thousands of lightning hits a day. Solar flares don't pack the punch of a lightning bolt.
Could the newsies be looking for an attention grabbing story that isn't a story?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

JOhn Carter,I saw the movie last night

It was opening night in Littleton, and I got my brother and my sister-in-law to come along for the fun. There was a good crowd at the Jax Jr. The movie is pretty good. On a scale of 1 to 10, where the original Star Wars is a 10, and the Jar-Jar Binks movie is a 1, John Carter is a solid 6, maybe a 7.
I've been waiting for this movie ever since I read the book as a boy. A Princess of Mars was Edgar Rice Burroughs first published novel, coming out as a magazine serial in 1911. Burroughs went on to write a lot more Martian stories. He didn't invent Tarzan until later. I always thought Burroughs Mars stories were cooler than his Tarzan stories, although I read most of the Tarzan books too.
Tarzan, requiring less special effects, made it into the movies early on, and had a long and successful run, both movies and TV. There was an effort to do a Princess of Mars movie in the 1930's (animated) but it didn't pan out. If it had, it would have been the first feature length animated film, instead of Snow White.
Anyhow, John Carter, the movie, is better than the Tarzan movies out there. So call it a success. Forbes magazine thinks John Carter will make a bundle of money and lead to profitable sequels. The movie is "live action" in that the hero and heroine are real actors, photographed in costume. The background is full of CGI Martians, exotic riding animals, ferocious monsters, fantastic aircraft, Martian cities, and marvelous terrain features such as the River Iss.
The movie takes substantial liberties with Burrough's original text, but that is nothing new. Movies never follow the book very closely. True believer fans will whine about this, but it doesn't bother me much. Had I been directing it there are a lot of things I would have done differently, but I wasn't directing, and so things are as they are.
If you are a Burroughs fan, this is a must see. It's a good action adventure story, lots of action, lots of strange places and creatures, it moves fast enough that you don't notice the two hour length.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Things come to you overnight

Thinking about railguns last night. It suddenly became clear that I had made a mistake. I computed muzzle energy of the conventional cannon as M * V . That's not right. M*V is momentum. Kinetic energy is 1/2 MV**2. So doing it right, the conventional cannon has a muzzle energy of 7,801,736 foot pounds. Which compares more favorable with the railgun at 23,603,200 foot pounds.
Onward to phasers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Go Mitt, Go

So Mitt comes out of Super Tuesday with a lotta delegates, and six wins, but his rivals, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul, gathered enough votes to keep their campaigns alive. Why cannot Romney win enough votes to crush the opposition?
'Cause Mitt is looking to the general election, a bunch of independent voters, who ain't as conservative as a lot of Republicans. Speaking from hands on experience as a local organizer, the Republican party has a lot of VERY conservative voters, much more conservative than the independents. If Mitt were to go far enough to the right to make the really hard core Republicans happy enough to vote for him, he would drive off the just-as-important independents in he general election.
So Mitt tries to keep the focus on jobs and the economy. Let us hope that enough Republicans can vote for a winner in the general election.


The US Navy is working on railguns, electromagnetic launchers capable of fantastic muzzle velocity. Conventional guns are limited by the speed of sound. The projectile is pushed up the barrel by combustion gas. That combustion gas only expands at the speed of sound. Grant that the speed of sound in white hot gas at enormous pressure is much higher than the speed of sound in air, but muzzle velocity in conventional guns is still limited to about 4000 ft/sec.
Railguns have no such limit and can achieve much much higher muzzle velocities. The Navy project is working on 32 Megajoule rail guns. To put that into real numbers, 32 Megajoule is 23.6 Mega foot/pounds. For comparison, the conventional 5 inch cannon has a muzzle energy of 0.185 Mega foot/pounds. The rail gun has 127 times the muzzle energy of the conventional cannon. This translates into amazing range, like 100 miles.
To power the railgun, the Navy is talking about a battery bank. That ought to be quite something. An ordinary car battery (still the best there is for this kind of application) holds only 4560 joules. Each 32 Megajoule shot would totally flatten 7017 car batteries. The Aviation Week article talked about a battery bank good for 20 shots. That's a LOT of car batteries.
Another science fiction project gets funding.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring is here?

It's 58 degrees and bright sun today. Maybe winter really does have an end?

And what is Near Money?

Consider the US treasury bond, the T-bill. Uncle prints them and sells them to investors. The investors give Uncle cash money for the bond. Do the investors feel any poorer after exchanging cash for a T-bill? Not really. T-bills are the safest investment on the planet, and there is an active market for them, which means the investor can convert his T-bill into back into cash with merely a phone call to his broker. It makes no matter to the investor whether his fortune is in cash or in T-bills in so far is behavior is concerned. The investor can convert all his money into T-bills and still feel wealthy enough to buy new cars, new houses, yachts, whatever. In short, T-bills are nearly the same as money. Near-money is what Paul Samuelson called them.
Note here. Uncle gains spending money, which will be spent, the investor doesn't really give up any money. Issuing new US treasury bonds is nearly the same as printing new money.
And, it has the same inflationary effect as printing new money.
The Obama administration is spending way more money than the IRS is collecting in taxes. It finances this by issuing US Treasury bonds, i.e. printing new money. Forty percent of the federal budget is financed by selling T-bills. The US budget is unimaginably huge. Forty percent of unimaginable is still huge.
Hold onto your wallets tax payers.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What is money, really?

Well, it used to precious metals, stamped into a uniform size, with a date and a portrait and milled edges to prevent "clipping" (filing off gold or silver around the edge of the coin, keeping the filings, and passing the coin off as full weight). And having money gets us out of the barter business, an obvious goodness.
Then we invented paper money. It took a while for paper money to become pure paper. I can still remember "silver certificates" which promised to pay $1 in silver coin upon demand. The "Federal Reserve Notes" looked about the same, but made no promises to redeem the bills in coin.
Once we moved on to a pure paper money, some wonderful things become possible. We can print as much paper money as we like. If you are the treasurer of the United States, and you need to meet payroll, printing money is a wonderful thing. You have no idea how surly people get when they don't get paid on time.
The not so wonderful part of printing money is inflation. Print dollar bills by the carload, and pretty soon everybody has dollars, and storekeepers ask for more dollars for their goods. Customers grumble, but they have the dollars and they want or need the goods. So prices go up. I can remember a time when gasoline was 4 gallons to the dollar. After half a century of dollar printing, it's the other way round, 4 dollars to the gallon.
Inflation is tough on savers. We all want to save money, for the house, for the college education, for retirement. But if the money we put away last year is worth less this year, we know we have been robbed. (Actually we have been taxed, but that doesn't make us feel any better about it.)
Borrowers love inflation. Borrow the money today and pay it back with tomorrow's cheaper dollars. Such a deal.
US monetary policy has been a hot political issue since Alexander Hamilton's time. The savers and the lenders want "sound money" (i.e. no printing of new money) and the borrowers want the opposite. Ron Paul's push for a pure gold currency is the modern form. Over all of US history, the savers and lenders have had the votes, just barely, to limit the printing, mostly. Only existential emergencies, the Great Depression and the two World Wars, pressed the US government into heavy duty money printing.
Today we are faced with Great Depression 2.0. And the democrats want to print carloads of money, supposedly to cure Great Depression 2.0 but also having carloads of dollars to hand out to friends and supporters improves their chances of re election.
Unless the voters get wise and figure out that all that printing, causes inflation, which steals their savings.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Internet privacy?

The Obama administration, after the defeat of SOPA and PIPA, is now pushing for internet privacy laws. They want to enforce "do not track" requests by law.
That's not what we consumers need. We need browsers that defeat trackers. A good browser, backed up by a secure operating system (anything other than Windows), would deny trackers any information, starting by refusing to accept cookies. The WSJ recently reported that both Internet Exploder and Firefox, would accept cookies, and even worse, give websites access to cookies, AFTER the users had told the browser[s] to refuse all cookies.
There ought to be a market here. I would pay reasonable money for a less treacherous browser. Say $50, for a browser that would never accept a cookie. Right now browsers are free, so the browser programmers write browsers to make money by selling you out to marketers. The programmers get paid to do that. Surely there are enough customers to pay for a secure browser?
At any rate, I feel more secure WITHOUT Obama writing internet privacy laws.
What's a cookie you ask? Why should you care?
Cookies are data files ON YOUR HARD DRIVE, that are written by a website. They can be read back later by that same website, and probably every over website on the net. Once a website decides that you are interested in X, or Y, or Z, it writes that into the cookie file. Next time you visit that site, it shows you ads for X or Y or Z. The cookie is memory for the website, This is how the website remembers what kind of ads to plague you with. Get rid of the cookies, and the website has no way of knowing what you did last time you surfed their site.
In the mean time, you can remove all the cookies from your hard drive. Firefox at least will delete all the cookies on your hard drive. Click on tools->options. Select the Privacy tab. Select "remove individual cookies". Once into the cookie buster, you will find as selection to crush ALL cookies. In Firefox, this really works, the cookies do go away.
They come back of course, but the new cookies can be zapped again.

More Snow

We got 4.5 inches last night. A decent little snowfall. And all without Winter Storm Watches, predictions of 4 to 14 inches, nothing. The radio just mentioned 30% chance of flurries. We got an inch more than we got last week after all sorts of dire warning. You ought to know that when the weather forecasters talk about odds, it means they don't have a clue.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ira Flato is a global warmist

NPR's Science Friday, host Ira Flato, did an interview with Michael Mann. Mann is a big warmist and the creator of the "hockey stick" graph of world temperature, the one that goes flat from the beginning of time until the 1900's and then soars up to the ceiling. The one that got him a freedom of information lawsuit when he refused to release the data from which he built the graph.
In the course of a lengthy half an hour interview, Mann refused to discuss the science of global warming, you know instrument readings, ice cores, historical records, real data. He had a lot to say about the habits and ancestry of his critics, but nothing to say about the science. He still thinks tree ring width indicates temperature, where as real people know that tree rings are influenced by rainfall not temperature. In short, Mann is a crusader for warming, he knows little about the science.
And it looks like Ira Flato is a supporter.

Train Show

In Essex Junction VT. It's only 80 miles as the crow flies, but it's cross country east-west, on two lane roads. The mountains all run north-south, so there is a lot of climbing up and down and it takes two hours. It snowed over night, so the roads were slippery enough to keep me doing no more than the speed limit (50 mph). I go faster when it's dry.
It was a big show, held in a county fairgrounds site. Lots of people. Aisles were jammed. They had a fine big G scale layout running, and some equally fine HO and Lionel layouts. I picked up a bright jade green NYC box car, and four head end cars (baggage and mail). Also, a beautiful Ford woody station wagon. And some tank car decals. After I got home, I discovered that two of the head end cars actually had the prized and long-out-of-production Central Valley trucks.
My feet gave out after three hours, and I had done all the vendors tables twice. So I drove into next door Burlington VT just for sight seeing. Oh boy. Talk about a college town. It gives Harvard Sq a run for it's money in terms of groovy taverns, trendy clothing stores, co-op food stores, and head shops.
Then I drove back, the southern way. The northern way is US route 2. The southern way is US 302. The southern way is a sportier drive, if you are into wrapping the car around curves, take the southern route. Both ways take 2 hours.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Well, we got two inches

Of snow that is. After a build up worthy of the blizzard of '78, it did actually snow, a little. Between this couple of inches and last week's 3.5 inches, that's more snow than we have had since October last year.
Skiing should be great.
New England skiing is best in March. (Old ski country marketing slogan).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We must be doing something right.

This NH Journal article got picked up and posted on Glenn Reynold's Instapundit blog. I surely do remember all the NH democrats wailing about heartless budget cuts, widows and orphans pitched out in the snow, and similar malarkey. And now we have a balanced budget, spending down 11% from its; democratic peak, and the wailing has died down. I haven't seen a widow or an orphan standing on the curb yet.

The Monkee's

I remember them. Used to watch them on Saturday morning TV back in the day. The airwaves are full of the obit for Davy Jones, an old Monkee. It brings back memories of a really great line from the show.
They are doing a Wild West skit. A Monkee is getting ready for the classic gun fight, you know, walk down the center of a dirt main street, draw the big .45 Colt, and blow the bad guy away. The Monkees are getting their man ready.
"Give me my lucky holster." says the designated shooter Monkee.
"Which one is that?" asks the number two Monkee.
"The one with the gun in it." replies the designated shooter.