Monday, April 29, 2013

Time Warner Cable going west

Something has gone wrong with the cable up north of the Notch.  First the TV just went black.  After it came back it was all fuzzy,  sound was OK but the picture is nearly unwatchable.
Cable modem internet service died too.  It took longer to come back.  I think it's working now, but it's SLOW.  TV was blacked out for 15 minutes, Internet for a couple of hours. 
Let's see if this posts.

Technical assistance or radicalization?

TV news keeps talking about technical assistance in bomb making for the Boston bombers.  Interesting and all, but to my way of thinking, not all that important.
Important, is how the brothers converted from reasonably successful immigrants into terrorist bombers.  Did someone preach Jihad to them?  Is it possible for just internet websites to turn reasonable people into bombers?  Without a live person to spread the message?  Are the brothers more pliable than anyone I know?
   Anyhow, I'm more interested in motivation, what turned the brothers into bombers, than I am in how they built the bombs.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Idling Firefox is writing to the hard drive

I wonder what.  With Antique Laptop powered up, XP running, Firefox 20.0.1 active, and laptop just sitting there, no one running it, I see continuous I/O writes in Task Manager, and I see the hard disk LED flickering all the time.
    Translation: when it has nothing to do, Firefox is stashing something to the hard drive.  I wonder what it might be.  Cookies?  That many cookies?  That's hard to believe.  A virus?  Has my Firefox been infected by something awful?  Should I wipe it off the hard drive and down load a fresh copy?  I ran Spybot, Malicious Software Removal, and Malware bytes just a few days ago.  No hits. 

Followup.  Problem seems to be an obsolete version of Adode "reader" the Firefox plugin, not to be confused with the Adode PDF reader.  Anyhow, run Firefox.  Click on "tools" on the Firefox menu bar.  Select "Add -ons"  This opens a window with four selections.  You want the one named "Plugins".  "Plugins are bits of computer code written be third parties that load into Firefox and can do nearly anything.  A defective plugin can do all kinds of evil things.  At the top of the list of plugins there is a highlighted text line reading "Check to see if your plugins are up-to-date".   Click on it and after a little thrashing it will tell you what plugins need updating. 
   In my case a plugin named "Adobe Reader", a Firefox plugin, not to be confused with an application of the very same name used to view .pdf files, needed update.  It's slow but it works.  The strange disc accesses went away after update finished.  Update is SLOW, but it does work. 
   The Adobe update is "bundled" with some McAfee anti -virus.  I failed to uncheck the teeny weeny camoflaged box to skip McAfee.  Which made the sluggish download more sluggish.  Just for grins I ran the McAfee antivirus and it locked up.  After waiting half an hour for something to happen, I killed it off with Task Manager and zapped it off disk with Add/Remove programs.

Chemical weapons and red lines in Syria

Why does killing with poison gas rate more Obama rhetoric than killing  with anything else.  Assad in Syria has been killing his opposition in vast numbers and the US does nothing, says little, and doesn't get excited.  Obama declared that killing civilians with poison gas was worse than killing them in ordinary ways.  I don't see that, killing is killing, doesn't matter what weapons the killing is done with.
   Anyhow,  Obama now finds that he has to do something or be branded as a paper tiger. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Economist trashes Maggie Thatcher

In the letters section of this week's Economist magazine we have all the letters expressing various hostilities to former and recently deceased Margaret Thatcher.  Not one friendly letter.   All letter writers were willing and able to speak ill of the dead.  Despite a couple of nice Thatcher obituaries last week, seems like the Economist (a very liberal rag) harbors some ill feeling for the Iron Lady. 

Signs of Spring in New Hampshire

Spring might actually happen this year.  It was 60 here, snow is melted out except up on Cannon ski trails, and the yard sale signs were out.  Alder Brook Sportsman's Club had the annual range cleanup.  The dirt access road is dry enough to drive upon.  Some twelve members, and two big $20 K privately owned John Deere tractors  on fancy trailers showed up.  Between the tractors, the pickups, the SUV's and just plain cars there must have been $200K worth of machinery out there.
    By hand the range was raked, getting up piles and piles of broken clay pigeons and shot gun wads and shot cups.  The tractors graded the access road.
   I'm getting old.  I get tired from just swinging a rake, which didn't used to happen. 
   So we are ready for another season of shooting.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Terrorists vs Freedom Fighters

Tennessee parents are objecting to a high school "textbook" that asks "Is bombing an Israeli pizzeria terrorism or a legitimate act of war by Palestinian revolutionaries?" 
    Dunno how that "textbook" answered the question. 
   Far as I am concerned, maiming and murdering innocent strangers with bombs is always terrorism.  Nothing ever justifies terrorism.  Legitimate acts of war are conducted against enemy soldiers, not against innocent strangers. 
  I fully share the Tennessee parents concern about that "textbook".  It sounds like Al Quada propaganda to me. 

Bird lovers versus cat lovers

NPR ran a nice little piece on feral cats, and a volunteer organization that does catch, neuter, and release.  But then the inner bird lover in the reporter surfaced, and she went on about predation of birds by cats.  She claimed that cats kill 2.5 billion birds every year and isn't that horrible.  I had to wonder where she got her numbers from.  Did someone go about interviewing cats?   Then she claimed that the house cat was an invasive species, not native to the western hemisphere and the poor birds had no natural defenses.  She forgot about the native bobcats, a little bigger and faster and meaner than a house cat. Besides, any bird dumb enough to let a cat get so close it can pounce before the bird can get airborne, is probably better off as cat food. 
   On their side, cats totally understand humans, and make themselves so friendly, so cuddly, and so attractive that most humans go ga-ga and feed them, pet them, and shelter them.  Birds don't compete in this league.  So there are gonna be plenty of cat lovers looking out for cats. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Think Boeing has it bad?

Boeing's 787 was only grounded for a couple of months and looks like it will fly again by the end of this month.  Bad, but read this.
Eurocopter EC225's (a big helicopter used to support North Sea oil drilling) was grounded in October of 2012 and looks to stay grounded until this fall.  Grounding was ordered by both the British and the Norwegian governments after two forced landings in the North Sea, caused by failures in the main gear box.  The main gearbox connects the engines to the rotor.  When that breaks the rotor stops turning and the chopper falls out of the sky.
  That's a lot worse than flaming lithium batteries.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Airline money sink, GEN-X

GEN-X is the FAA scheme to modernize the entire US air traffic control system.  Today's system works on ground radar stations, straight out of World War II.  Controller eyeball the radar screens and radio flight orders to airliners to keep them from colliding.  The radar beams are fairly tight, 3 degrees, but that means an uncertainty of plus or minus 2.5  miles when the plane is 100 miles from the radar station.  So controllers maintain a ten mile spacing between planes.
  GEN-X requires all aircraft to carry a GPS and a special transmitter to send the aircraft's GPS position to the ground station.  GPS is accurate to 100 feet and so the planes can be packed up tighter in the sky.
  The GEN-X equipment costs $500,000 per airliner.  Right now the airlines are supposed to pay for this, although FAA will make loans to airlines to fund GEN-X installation.  And, the airline gets no return on investment.  With or without the $500,000 GEN-X equipment, the plane gets from here to there at the same speed.  All GEN-X does for the airline is cost money.  It doesn't offer any benefits.
  The greater accuracy of GEN-X doesn't matter. Packing airplanes more tightly together in the sky won't help move more traffic.  There is plenty of sky to hold all the airplanes.  The bottleneck is airport runways.  An airport can only handle one flight a minute, and all the major airports have been running at capacity for twenty years or more.  I  picnicked on Castle Island, just off  Logan Airport, and watched a never ending stream of airliners, packed up head to tail, coming in for a landing.  That was 20 years ago on a nice sunny day.  It gets worse when the weather gets bad.
  Any how, FAA is pushing hard for GEN-X, for mysterious reasons.  Our tax money at work. 

So what do you do with an International Space Station?

Now that we have one.  Serious money was put into it.  Now it is up there with not much to do.  The earth imaging mission is handled by recon satellites good enough to spot a cigarette pack lying on the ground.  The astronomy mission is well in hand at Hubble.  They aren't enough tourists with money to make an orbital tourist hotel work.
  According to Aviation Week, they have space to spare for more scientists and experiments.  The only work on going is "micro gravity" (we used to call it weightlessness) what ever that means.  Could it be that the best part of ISS was the "International" part of the name.  That helped mightily at funding time.


The surviving Boston bomber has been charged with "using a weapon of mass destruction".  "Weapons of mass destruction" is diplo-speak for nukes.  Diplomats have trouble with the English language.
The Boston bombs weren't nukes.
  How about a charge of plain old murder in the first degree?  Four counts. Murder is murder whether it is done with bare hands, firearms, bombs, or anything.  Killing is the crime, not the weapon used.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Furlough bureaucrats, not air traffic controllers

FAA surely has a bunch of bureaucrats that could be furloughed to save money.  Instead FAA decided to furlough air traffic controllers to slow air travel and inflict as much pain on the public as possible.  We would never miss bureaucrats.  Air traffic controllers actually provide a needed service. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Common Core Curriculum

There is a national movement to create a nation school curriculum, the same in all states.  It is controversial, lotta folks think the school curriculum in their state is nobody else's business.  Lot of education folks like the idea of a national standard, to which they can point, when parents press them to soften up school standards.
The common core is posted on the web and Google led me to it.  I scanned the math standards for first grade thru high school.  They aren't very rigorous.  And the have a lot of new age time wasters.  For instance they try to introduce algebraic concepts in first grade.  High school geometry proves some of the easier theorems but does NOT bother to prove the Pythagoras theorem.  They don't understand the purpose of high school science labs. 
   In short, Common Core isn't going to improve anything.  On the other hand it doesn't look like it does much damage.

French Govt buys from and owns the French defense industry

Long article about this in Aviation Week.  The French government owns sizable chunks of stock in the big French defense firms like Dassault, Thales, and Sagam.  Which puts the French in a confusing spot when they are negotiating contracts with the industry.  There is pressure on the government to sign contracts generous to the contractors because the extra money will make the government's stock holdings worth more.  Which does French tax payers no good at all. 
  Apparently the French government fears  their companies will merge with companies in Germany and Britain, which will make it hard for the French to build up a French built armed force to fight a war with Germany or Britain.  So the French use their stock holdings to put a veto on international mergers.
   Aviation Week, an industry organ, is all in favor of defense industry mergers, it gives the merged company more pricing power.  As in when we merge with all the competitors, we can charge as much as we like, 'cause there is nowhere else to go.
   Fortunately the US government doesn't own stock in defense contractors. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Photobucket needs to shape up.

I only use Photobucket  as a work around to some low speed websites that don't handle their own photographs.  High speed sites like Facebook allow up to just upload your photos to their site.  Low speed web sites don't accept photos.  You have to upload your photo somewhere else and post a "link"   (long string of characters that serves as the internet address of the photo) into the low speed site.  The low speed site  doesn't have to supply the storage to hold the all the bits that make up a picture.
   The first thing Photobucket did to raise my ire was to move all my photographs with so much as a by your leave.  That broke all the links to my older posts on low speed websites, making the pictures go away.  Thanks Photobucket.  I love you too.
  Then you ought to be able to organize your Photobucket, put all the pictures of the cat in a folder named cat, all the pictures of the model railroad in a folder named railroad, and so on.  Otherwise you have a huge bucket of photos and you cannot find any of them.
   Photobucket  offers a truly brain dead organization scheme.  You have to move photos one by one.  No highlighting of a group of pix.  No drag and drop. It takes six mouse clicks per photo to move it.  You cannot upload to a folder, all uploads go into your main bucket and have to be moved one by one. 

787 to fly again. FAA approves Boeing mods

I heard this on NPR yesterday.  It kinda got lost in all the Boston Marathon Bombers stories, but it is good news for Boeing.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

And we caught the other one, alive

It was 10 PM last night by the time the TV declared Jokhar Tsarnaev "in custody".  Even  here,130 miles north of Boston, the relief was obvious.  Must have been enormously greater in Watertown.  The TV showed people dancing in the streets, waving American flags, and singing the national anthem. 
   Since he was taken alive, we will be able to ask him a few questions.  The number one question is how, after living in this country for ten years, getting a top flight education, having friends, winning awards, could he turn on us to maim and murder innocent strangers with bombs.  This act is abominable by anyone's standards.  Doing it after ten years living among us in Cambridge makes it treacherous as well as horrible.
   Was it Islamist propaganda?  mental illness? some affront offered him or his family?  Influence of some Svengali like religious figure?  Just asking him to tell us why ought to be instructive.
   Did anyone ever teach the brothers that murdering innocent strangers is horrible?  Where does their family stand on murder?  Do Cambridge schools teach ethics?   I haven't heard any Muslim clerics condemning the bombings yet.  Did the brothers attend a mosque?  If so,  what is taught there?
    There are plenty of clerics and websites preaching hate and violence.  Freedom of speech means we cannot censor them. But we could identify them, make them known as bad websites and bad people,  have the IRS audit them,  have the police tail their cars and ticket them, put them on no fly lists, get really difficult about visas and passports,  check their immigration status,  get difficult about credit ratings and credit cards.
   The FBI needs to let us know why they fingered the brothers.  Although the brother's drastic resistance to arrest makes them look all kinds of guilty, we need to know that there was good reason to pursue them in the first place.  Does FBI have photos of them carrying suspicious packages?  Leaving black back packs at the explosion sites?  Stashing pressure cookers in public trash cans?  If so, let's see them. It is important to convince everyone, at home and abroad, that we got the right guys.  The court that counts is the court of public opinion.
   I wonder how so many of the Tsarnaev family immigrated from Chechnya.  There is mother, father, and three children in Cambridge, an uncle and cousins in Maryland, an aunt in Toronto.  That's a lot of family members to get out of Russia, across the Atlantic, and into the US and Canada.  Where did the money come from?  Did they all get green cards? 
   At least we made it plain that if you mess with Americans we will get you.  We never give up.  Took us ten years to get Bin Ladin, but we got him.  We got the Tsarnaev brothers inside of a week.  Not a bad statement to make to the world.

Friday, April 19, 2013

One down, one yet to catch

TV news has been solid with Boston Marathon bombers.  Something broke loose last night, Suspects #1 and # 2 decided to knock over a Cambridge 7-11.  This put the cops onto them.  A car chase ended in Watertown and a shootout with police.  The older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died of gunshot wounds and/or bomb explosions.  The younger brother, Johar Tsarnaev, escaped somehow and is still at large.  The cops are turning Boston upside down looking for him.  They have turned off the MBTA, Amtrak, and put roadblocks up everywhere.  Everything is closed.  Nobody is going to work.
   The TV has been interviewing neighbors and classmates.  The younger brother graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin school (top ranked Cambridge public high school)  Classmates have expressed shock and surprise to learn of his involvement.  They all recall Johar Tsarnaev as well liked, lot of friends, honor student, athlete of the year, in short, a successful high school career. 
   Neighbors describe the Tsarnaev family as Muslim, from Chechnya in Russia, but they have been living in the US for 6, maybe 10 years, a long time to carry an old world grudge against anyone or anything. 
    I lived in Cambridge for a long time, and I know most of the places making it into this story.  WMUR Channel 9's TV crew is set up in front of Webster Auto Body on Webster Ave Cambridge.  I bought a used car radio from them many years ago.  They dropped a hostage off at a gas station on Memorial drive.  I commuted on Mem Drive for years, there are two gas stations, a Shell by the BU bridge and another one under a new high rise down close to Western Ave.  I have bought gas at both of them over the years.  Wounded were taken to Mt Auburn hospital which I know fairly well.  Strange to hear these familiar places coming out in the dramatic news coverage.

New Immigration Bill 844 pages long

And that's one VERY good reason not to pass it.  844 pages of  obfustication means the law will allow just about anything. If I have 844 pages to look in, I can find words to cover anything I want to do.  Long and wordy laws grant bureaucrats freedom to do as they please.
    The "gang of eight" should be told to boil it down to no more than ten pages, single spaced.  Then at least we would know what we are getting into.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Anger Management

We had a Fox News anchor interviewing a shrink about the Boston Marathon bombing.  The shrink and the anchor agreed that there is a good deal of anger in Boston, and presumably in the rest of the country.  Yeah, they got that right.  Then the anchor seemed to draw back and worried that such anger might get out of hand and lead to something bad.
   I don't worry about that.  A good old fashioned lynching might be just the right thing for that scum.  We could do it right in front of Fanuel Hall.  On live TV. 

Would you buy a used airliner from this man?

A series of articles in Aviation Week about end of life for airliners.  The airlines now retire an airliner after 20 years of service, which sounds kinda young for something that lasts forever.  I mean the B-52s have been flying for 50 years and will fly for a lot more.  Speaking as a passenger, the new airliners are no faster and no comfier than the old ones. 
   The brand new airliners have somewhat better fuel economy which the airlines figure will pay off eventually  Boeing and Airbus are claiming their next year's models will have 10 even 15 percent better fuel burn than current models.  I haven't worked the numbers, but it seems like it will take a long time to pay off a $100 million new airliner on 10% better fuel burn. 
   When parted out, the engines and avionics can be resold for big money.  It's possible to realize $15 million in parts sales from a tired airliner you can buy for $5 million.  Doing so requires good timing, the parts are only worth money as long as airliners of that model are still flying. 
   Boeing and Airbus have backlogs of a couple of thousand new airliners.  Due to the continuing Great Depression 2.0  air traffic isn't growing much.  Does this mean a couple of thousand new airliners causes a couple of thousand old ones scrapped?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Atlantic gets profound about North Korea

Joel Wit and Jenny Tower conclude their piece on the Atlantic magazine website thusly:

"The bottom line is that, even if this current crisis recedes, North Korea's WMD programs pose serious security risks in the region and to the U.S. that will continue to grow if not addressed in a direct and compelling way. ....   It may be distasteful given the nature of the North Korean regime, but there is no substitute for diplomacy and direct contact with Pyongyang."

Great.  "addressed and a direct and compelling way."   So what does that mean?  Talk at 'em, nuke 'em, blockade 'em, invade 'em, bury our heads in the sand, or what?  Just saying we ought to do something doesn't help.  You gotta say what you wanna do.  Especially if "something" involves a lot of pain, which doing a second Korean War would involve.

 Ah, here we get to it.  "there is no substitute for diplomacy and direct contact with Pyongyang". Been there, done that.  Both Clinton and Bush tried to cut a "economic assistance in return for stopping weapons development" deal.  The North Koreans signed two such deals and  reneged on both of them.  In actual fact, the North Koreans see nuclear weapons as the only thing that will keep the North Korean regime alive in the face of South Korean and American economic, political, and military pressure.  The Kim regime knows that all their citizens would join South Korea in a flash. As soon as the North Korean secret police and army loose their grip, even for a day or two, the regime is gone, the Kim's are dead, and  Korea is re unified under Seoul.  At least with nukes they don't have to worry about ground invasion or air strikes from the South.  No way are the North Koreans going to give up their nukes no matter what we promise 'em.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Another Retailer dies the death

Just got a "Going out of Business" sale post card from Pilgrim Furniture.  An ordinary furniture store in Littleton, it's been in business there for ever, 30-40 years.  A landmark.  My wall-to-wall carpet came from them and it's been down for 30 years.  Any how, they are doing the going out of business sale, and they probably mean it. 
  Either the owners are getting old and want to retire, or business is really bad, or both.  We will miss them.

I still hate doing Federal Income Tax

A complete pain in the tail.  I spend all day rummaging thru my files looking for dividend payment slips and deductible stuff.  More time trying to read gobble-te-gook instruction sheets cluttered with useless information.  I mean like who needs to know who has to file.  We all have to file, and we all know it. The lack of  any sort of general rules.  Like is Social Security taxable, yes or no?  They don't state any rule, they give you a 17 step work sheet, take this line, add that line, take a percent, and half an hour later you find out Social Security is a little bit taxable.  They pull the same worksheet dodge for capital gains and qualified dividends. 
   Then there are a myriad of deductions, exemptions, tax credits, and malarkey.  None of which help me or any one else, but you gotta read up on them just in case they might apply to you.  You feel really bad if you miss a tax loophole in your favor, so you waste more time checking them all out. 
   We ought to scrap the current personal income tax law[s] completely.  Start over with something like this.

                                       New 21st Century Personal Income Tax Law.

All income is taxable at the same rate.  Nothing is deductible.  No credits, no exemptions.  Capital gains is taxed the same as salary.  No loss carryover.  No income averaging.  Married or single, with or with out children everyone pays the same. No special deals for anyone.  Everyone pays something, no free riders.

    Tax Table

Yearly Income          Tax Rate
<$10000                  1%
$10000-$30000       5%
$30000-$125000     15%
>$125000                 25%

                                                              The End

Monday, April 15, 2013

We can't even do a foot race without terrorist attacks

The Boston Marathon, a simple foot race, been held for better than 100 years, attracted terrorists with bombs.  What used to be a happy day, is now a horror, with two dead and more injured.
   We need to find the perps and then get medieval on them.  Draw and quarter, boiling oil, nothing is too good for those cowardly scum. 

Jump Starting the 787

Can you hear the holding of breath?  Boeing finished up the modifications to the battery and battery box on 5 April and sent the paperwork to the FAA.  FAA has said nothing, and has a hearing scheduled for 23-24 April on the adequacy of the Boeing fixes.  With $200 million airliners piling up at the factory, billions of dollars of sales, American leadership in the jet airliner business at stake, FAA is under a lot of pressure to OK the fixes and get on with it.  Even an Obama FAA  doesn't want to torpedo American airliner sales, at least I don't think they do.
   Boeing's fixes are not confidence inspiring.  They never did figure out what caused the batteries to catch fire.  They made a number of improvements to the battery, but since they don't know what caused the fires, they don't know if the fixes will do any good.  They are putting their real faith in a fireproof stainless steel battery box to contain any fires and vent the smoke over board.
   If the FAA approves Boeing's fixes, and more trouble occurs, they will look really bad.  And they know it.  FAA could decide that nothing less than ditching lithium batteries and going back to something tried and true, like NiCad, or even lead acid will do.  If they feel this way, they should have let Boeing know back in January.  To let Boeing waste three months, hold up the program for three months, is inexcusable.  If FAA want's to be hard ass, they ought to have had the guts to make their feelings clear, back in January.  If FAA announces "no good" next week, it will take Boeing another couple of months to do a battery change.
   Anyhow, the breath holding at Boeing will continue.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Checking out the Infrastructure

The democrats are hiking the NH gas tax fifteen cents a gallon.  They claim that NH infrastructure (roads and bridges) is falling apart. Only a stiff tax hike will save NH from falling back into the stone age.
   I drove to a train show out in the sticks today.  Sutton NH, a tiny place way out in the boondocks.  I picked up NH route 11, an obscure two lane road at Tilton and followed it west for 30 miles.  The Mercury hummed along at 60 mph, smooth, no serious bumps, decent road.  It's mud season, when the town and country road agents post a 6 ton load limit on every road except I93.  Roads are better for the rest of the year. 
   If NH infrastructure is in need of another 15 cents a gallon you couldn't prove it by me.   Little old two lane rural NH 11 is in much better shape than I95 going thru Manhattan. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Tummy side up

Stupid Beast spends a lot of her time lying around the house.  Sometimes she sprawls out flat on one side, other times she does the make-a-cat-shaped-ball routine with all four paws on the floor. 
  Lately she has been cat napping on her back, all four paws in the air.  She doesn't really feel secure in this position, she flips right side up instantly when I get up from my chair to fix me a drink.  The sudden surge from flat on the back to ready to run must wear down something in the mature cat.  It's like leaping to your feet from a light snooze in a recliner.  That would wear me down pretty quick. 
   Question:  Why does not Stupid Beast nap in a less tension inducing way?

Friday, April 12, 2013

What is the US trying to say about North Korea?

The TV news is carrying the story that the North Koreans may indeed have nuclear warheads for their missiles.  The story comes out of the US defense department. 
   Truth or falsity of this report is unknown.  I doubt that CIA has any agents in the north.  NSA has probably cracked North Korean codes,  so we know what the North Koreans have put out over the air.  But how much would a top secret project in a paranoid state like North Korea put out over the air?  Korean CIA ought to have some agents in the North.  The North Koreans could have their own Rosenburgs passing information to the South, but who knows?  South Korean intelligence is probably smart enough to keep such an agent secret if they actually have one. 
   But, when the US defense department puts out the story, we give the story credence that it wouldn't otherwise have.  Why do we do that?  Are we trying to make the North Koreans look even more dangerous?   Practical minded Americans wouldn't mind a pre emptive strike against a truly dangerous enemy.  Up until now, practical minded Americans have discounted the North Koreans, we beat them once, we could do it again, and they know it.  We don't  want to react to North Korean name calling.  We don't think they are dangerous enough to justify a pre emptive strike, at least not right now. 
    If we think they have nuclear tipped missiles, that actually work, that attitude might change. 
    The Obama administration surely doesn't want a military confrontation with anyone,  certainly not the North Korean's and their sizable army.  Why would they release such a provocative report?
    May be a leak?  We have Secretary of Sate on Fox TV denying that report at this very moment. 

Annette Funicello

News of Annette's death hit me harder than I would have thought.  Firstly, it makes me feel older than a stone.  I remember Annette on the Mouse Club.  In those days that was the only TV show in the late afternoon that any self respecting kid would watch.  Annette was so pretty, so vivacious, she made the show.  Like most of my peers I had a crush on Annette.  And she was real.  Plenty of girls  had the hair color, the complexion, and the figure to look like Annette, she represented a real girl that one might, with luck, date and even marry.  The great movie actresses of the day were beautiful and all, but no girl in my high school had the peaches and cream complexion, the blonde hair, the figure, that Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield had.  And from a high school boy's perspective, they were old, old enough to be your mother, whereas Annette was just our age. 
   There were no scandals associated with Annette to shame her fans.  She didn't pose for nude photographs, she didn't get sent to drug rehab, she didn't have eating disorders, she didn't speed around her neighborhood in a Ferrari and get into altercations with the neighbors, she didn't show off her tattoos. 
   I'm sorry that the MS made her latter days miserable, and I'm sorry that she is no longer with us. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Can't Stand AARP? Try AMAC instead

After AARP lobbied in favor of Obamacare, many of us decided we would never deal with AARP ever again.  To take advantage of this wide spread sentiment, this morning I received a bit of junk mail from "The Conservative Alternative to AARP,  the Association of Mature American Citizens". 
   Never heard of them before, but the pitch is cute.   Only $6 bucks, send us your contact information, and we will do wonderful things.
   It's crumpled up under the fireplace grate, to light my next fire. 

You can tell the amateurs from the pros

By how they hold their guns.  Watching TV clips from Syria, with young Arab guys showing off, firing light machine guns from the hip.  Looks cool and all, but anyone with actual shooting experience knows that you have to aim the gun in order to hit anything.  I learned that when I was 12 years old, shooting 22 rimfire at summer camp.  I guess they don't have summer camp in Syria. 

Milk not sweet enough?

Making the TV news, some dairies want to add aspartame to milk, and not mention same on the milk bottle label.  Fox is running an interview with a sincere looking dairy farmer, out in the barn, surrounded by contented cows, explaining why he would never ever add artificial sweeteners to his milk.
   So what is really going on here?  Milk is tasty and sweet. Even as a child milk tasted good and we drank as much of it as Mom would allow.  Mom never served chocolate milk, just the plain white stuff, and as kids we lapped it up.
   So why would a dairy want to sweeten an already sweet product more?   Could it be their cows were giving really horrible tasting milk?   The pasture is full of garlic and wild onions, adding a strange taste to the milk that needs aspartame to cover up?
   Do they think children like things really really sweet and they can increase sales by selling super sweet milk?  Don't they realize that milk is purchased by mothers, not kids, and mothers will buy natural and wholesome whether the kids like it or not? 
   Personally I like ingredient labeling laws so when I care, I can find out what's in it.  Seems reasonable to require dairies to list aspartame, and any thing else that's inside a milk bottle. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

College Stabbing Outbreak

With an Xacto knife???    Even though I managed to put a nasty slice into my thumb with a #11 Xacto blade the other day, it's hard to take an Xacto knife as a serious weapon.  The perp in this case admitted to having fantasies of stabbing people since elementary school.  How does one have fantasies with a plastic handle?  What ever happened to Excaliber, bowie knives, switch blades, KaBar, Gerber, or even cut throat razors? This perp clearly runs to low speed fantasies.  Probably just as well, if he had used a real knife he might have killed someone.

Things sure change fast around here

This morning the Economist was doing a reader survey to find out how we readers would react to the end of Saturday mail delivery.  The Economist arrives on Saturday as often as not.  They take adventage of the fact that little news occurs on weekends to keep their news fresh.  Either they arrive on Monday instead of Saturday, making their news two days older, or the change their publishing schedule.
   Not a couple of hours after filling in the Saturday delivery survey, do I read an AP news article indicating that US snailmail is backing off, and will keep Saturday delivery after all.   So much for all the Economist's planning ahead.
   According to the AP, USPS needs Congressional approval to cancel Saturday delivery and has finally wised up to the fact that they ain't gonna get that approval.  Nor are they gonna get the OK to close any post offices.
   Dunno what's gonna happen.  USPS is losing money, Congress won't let 'em cut service. I guess postal rates are going up again.  Right now mailing out the month's bills costs $10-20 in postage.  Maybe it's time to start paying the bills on the web?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I  know it's a little bit late to comment on this movie.  But I missed it in the theaters and only got to see the Netflix DVD last night.  It's OK, but only OK, even for a Bond flick.  Daniel Craig does make a decent Bond.  He has a hard face, that looks right for a professional secret agent.  The movie opens with Bond in hot pursuit of a villain.  Bond jumps aboard as the train pulls out and finds himself on a flatcar loaded with Caterpillar backhoes.  Bond starts up one of the backhoes and motors up to the next railcar flattening a few shiny new sedans that happened to be in the way.  Pretty soon Bond is fighting it out with the villain atop the moving freight train.  A pretty young sidekick has been driving furiously to keep up with the moving train.  She gets ahead, grabs her rifle, jumps out of the jeep, and attempts to help Bond by shooting the villain.  She never gets a clear shot, and when she fires, it's Bond who is blown off the top of the train.  Then they do the credits over a background of Bond sinking to the bottom of a river. 
   Well, we all know you cannot open a Bond movie by killing off Bond.  Some how he comes back to life and the rest of the movie is a lot of action.  They manage to resurrect the Aston Martin DB6  of Goldfinger fame, but in the final showdown scene it gets blown to bits.  They also manage to kill off M (Judy Dench) in the last reel.  Of the two, I will miss the Aston Martin more than Judy's hard-ass M act. 
  I keep thinking Bond needs to carry a better handgun than that Walther PPK.  If you are going to menace someone, you need a big handgun, a little lady's model just doesn't look all that serious.  Several scenes of Bond moving in on the bad guys waving the tiny little Walthers around just didn't look right.  American gangster Clyde Barrow liked to carry a sawed off BAR under his overcoat.  Bond ought to carry something serious too. Ian Fleming started Bond off carrying a 25 cal Beretta.  After a lot of fanmail from gun buffs, Fleming wrote a scene where M and the Armorer upgrade Bond to the Walthers.  Some Bond flick could redo that scene and upgrade him to something British, like a .455 Webley.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Up Country Town Meeting

Our new democratic state rep, Rebecca Brown, held a town meeting last night at Wendles, a local sandwich joint.  Attending were about 20 democrats and yours truly.  Discussion ranged around the state.  Legalizing gambling drew a lot of attention.  The attraction is money.  Maggie the Hassan promised gambling would bring in $80 million.  Even the democratic controlled state house of representatives didn't believe this and the wacked Maggie's $80 million out of the budget revenue estimates. 
   Sue Forth, another state rep from I-don't-know-where mentioned that the teacher's union opposed the budget deal because it didn't have gambling revenue in it.  Sue said she didn't understand why the teachers felt that way.  A number of people in the audience piped up and said the teachers want gambling revenue to pay for their retirements.
   A lot of democrats present feel that NH needs more revenue.  That sounds better than "tax hike".  They pretty much understand about "the pledge"  (No broad based taxes).  So they like gambling.  Someone proposed putting a $1 a bottle tax on wine.  He claimed that would be enough balance the budget. 
   Rebecca floated the idea of tying Northern Pass to gambling, something like this.  "If you, the governor, will insist on Northern Pass burying the wires, we North country reps will support your gambling bill."  Response to this idea was no better than mixed.   Everybody present thinks burying a million volt transmission line is doable. 
    In real life it is so costly that they will find a right of way thru Vermont before they bury the wires in NH.  Nobody wanted to talk about all the property taxes the Northern Pass transmission line would pay to towns.  We oughta know up here.  Moore Dam taxes pay for a lot of stuff in Littleton.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The forty knot sailboat arrives

Nifty pictures here.  It's totally cool, a big racing hydrofoil up planing on foils.  I think they are going to sail for the America's Cup in this crazy contraption.
   This is an idea that has been around for fifty years that I know of.  I read a book "The Forty Knot Sailboat" back in 1967.  The idea is to cut the water drag by getting the hull up out of the water and up on plane.  Doing it with hydrofoils gives a smoother ride than banging the entire hull from wavetop to wavetop.  Ordinary planeing hulls will beat them selves to pieces if they are planed in all but the calmest of waters, so the smooth ride bit is important.
   The 1967 book claimed that a hydrofoil sailing yacht would be faster than motor yachts, fast enough to outrun a storm.  The author said that conventional sailing yachts could do little to avoid a storm, they just had to heave to, batten down the hatches and spend a day or so getting bounced around by waves and drenched by rain.  Whereas a hydrofoil could sail fast enough to get out of the path of the storm and avoid getting shellacked by nasty weather.
    Off shore cruising, say a run across the Atlantic, is still a sailing yacht activity.  Motor yachts cannot carry enough fuel to venture offshore, unless they are as big as a small steamship. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Private sector creates wealth, Public sector consumes it

You hear democrats pushing for more public sector jobs "to improve the economy".   They bewail the sequester and belt tightening at the state and local level that has laid off cops, teachers, and firemen, and they claim that hiring more public sector employees will reduce unemployment and make the economy grow again.
    Trouble is, public sector jobs are a drag on the economy, they take money away from workers and businesses.  This money does not produce any wealth. Take too much and  the businesses have to raise prices, and the workers demand more money, which again raises prices.
   Back in Keynes day, it didn't matter.  Today, when prices go up, people buy from overseas sources (China) 'cause its cheaper.  Go to WalMarts, everything on the shelves is made in China.   Back in Keynes' time there were no overseas sources.
   Today, countries that burden their businesses and workers with too many taxes  find industry leaves their country for lower tax (also lower wage) overseas.
  Can you say "Shoot yourself in the foot"?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Provocative? who is provocative?

The White House announced that it will stop making nasty noises at the North Koreans for fear that we might provoke them.  Oh really?
   All official and unofficial (the MSM mostly) statements that I have heard on TV are super bland.  Never a threat, always expressions of regret.  We flew a few fancy warplanes into South Korea, but they turned around and flew back to bases in the US and Japan.  That's not provovative, that's the bare minimum of support given to a loyal ally, an important trading partner, and a good friend facing extreme pressure.  The North Koreans have denounced the 1950's armistice agreement, which is equivalent to starting up the Korean War again.  The South Koreans are understandable worried (probably scared too) and they deserve a tiny bit of US support.  Which is all they got.  Tiny,  emphasize tiny. 
   The North Korean's are vigorously stirring all sorts of pots, for reasons that make no sense to us.  When they get over their mad, things will settle down.  What we say and do doesn't matter at all. It's all up to the North Koreans. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Can landowners shoot down snoopy drones?

It's a lovely day, warm and dry and sunny.  Friends and family are over and the barbie is hot in the back yard.  Suddenly a buzzy  helicopter drone with a  TV camera swoops over your backyard.
Question:  Can you take your shotgun and blow the pesky drone out of the air? 

How crazy are the North Koreans? Really?

Fox TV doesn't know.  They are beginning to think the NORKS are really going to kick off the second Korean War.  Which would be really crazy.  If they do it, they will force the Japanese and the South Koreans to go nuclear just to contain the NORKS   If the North Koreans actually nuke anybody, they will get nuked back.  They can do a lot of damage to South Korea, they have artillery pieces that won't quit lined up on the border, and Seoul, the South Korean capital, a major city in a class with New York and Chicago, is easily with in range of North Korean guns.   They could pound Seoul flat, inflicting a million casualties in a matter of hours. 
   Let's hope they aren't that crazy.

TV commercials grow funnier

The latest amusing TV  commercial has the AFLAC duck undergoing physical therapy,  swimming, arm and biceps machines, stair climbing and all the rest.  It's as funny as the GIECO gecko flubbing his lines filming a new commercial. 

Littoral Combat ships

Question:  What is a littoral and how do you combat it?   Most warships have names that suggest what the ship is supposed to do.  Destroyer, battleship, aircraft carrier, mine sweeper, and so on.  Even a land lubber can form an idea of what such a ship is supposed to do.  Where as combating littorals draws a blank, even among sea goers. 
   The dictionary defines littoral as seashore or coast.   So presumably the littoral combat ship (LCS) is supposed to operate close to shore.  In the old days such a ship was called "coast defense", but real Navy officers want to operate world wide and in blue water, and so "coast defense"  became perjorative (bad think) and we have "littoral combat" instead.
   The Navy wants a fleet of 50 odd littoral combat ships  and already has half a dozen in service or under construction.  They are small (2500-3000 tons) fast (40 knots) stealthy, and pricey ($440 million each) which is a lot of money for a small ship.  They don't carry the Aegis SAM system to save money, space, and weight.  Aegis is big, and effective and has been the standard anti air system on Navy ships for many years.  Without Aegis, the littoral combat ship will be in trouble if enemy aircraft appear.  LCS is armed with a single 2 inch gun,  enough to deal with a Somali pirate motor boat perhaps, but not enough to convince a regular merchantman to stop, change course, or obey orders, not enough for anti air craft work, not enough for shore bombardment, and certainly not enough to fight it out against an enemy destroyer. 
   LCS does carry a lot of other neat stuff, like a flight deck big enough to operate a couple of helicopters, a stern boat launch well to put Marine landing parties ashore, a dual power plant (gas turbines for the 40 knot dash and diesels for long range cruising).  The plating is all sloped to make it stealthy. 
    LCS doesn't have armor plate and is built to ordinary commercial standards rather than the tougher Navy standards.  The Navy has said the LCS is not expected to remain mission capable after taking a hit. A nice way of saying that one hit will sink it.  This is not unusual for a Navy ship, certainly WWII destroyers would sink after taking a solid hit. 
   I would feel better about LCS if they were cheaper.  A lot cheaper.  And carried a real gun. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Rutger's Cans a Coach

Some coach at Rutgers is in trouble, as like getting fired, for using bad language and homosexual slurs on his players.  The Fox Five talking heads was hashing this over, some of them saying good  riddance, others are saying this is the wussification of America, winning coaches have to get in their athlete's faces. 
   That's one of those things.  There is a fine line between pushing the team hard to win, and being an asshole.  Without being there, and knowing the coach and the players, and listening to endless video tapes of practices, I  would not venture an opinion in this case.  
   Nor can I offer any rule of thumb to sort things out.  All I can say is coaches that I have played for or known, Tom Ludwig, Fred Swan, Col. Raiford,  John Roberts, were tough, but they were gentlemen.  I never remember them using bad language or  belittling players or impugning a player's sexual orientation. 
   The Fox Five would have done more good if they had attempted to spell out the difference between tough and pushy and being an asshole. 

Bicknell's Thrush goes to court

A Vermont green group is going to sue the US Forest Service on behalf of Bicknell's Thrush.  They claim the Forest Service isn't doing enough to protect this endangered species. 
   Bicknell's Thrush didn't even exist before 1995.  Up until 1995 thrushes were thrushes, just an ordinary songbird.  Somehow in 1995, thrush lovers managed to get Bicknell's Thrush declared a separate species, different in some way from just plain thrushes.  The differences are minute, a bird watcher's website warns that Bicknell's Thrush is difficult to distinguish in the field.   Anyhow the thrush lovers managed to get Bicknell's Thrush declared an endangered species shortly after getting it declared a species. 
   Bicknell's Thrush was immediately put to work slowing down skiing at Mittersill.  The Forest Service managed to postpone the re opening of the old Mittersill ski trails for many years because green groups claimed that skiing would disturb critical thrush habitat.  Finally after much paperwork, it was decided that Bicknell's Thrush didn't nest during ski season and the trails could be skied without endangering the thrush.
   The green groups next employed Bicknell's Thrush to slow down the scenic ridgeline wind farms that are disfiguring the NH landscape and raising NH electric bills.  According to the Littleton Courier, they are giving the thrush some backup by hiring lawyers and going to court.
   If we worked at it, we might be able to convince the Forest Service that the Northern Pass project is bad for our favorite thrush. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

No Nukes is Good Nukes?

Fox TV was having a discussion of US nuclear weapons policy yesterday.  They had a guy saying that the US ought to get out of the nuke business, reduce our arsenal to zero, make the country nuke free.  This was a sacred mission for this guy.
   I don't agree.  US nuclear superiority kept the cold war cold for fifty years.  That's a pretty good track record.  Let's not mess it up.  The world is OK with the Americans having most of the nukes.  They figure we will do the right thing by them. 
   The anti nuke guy passed out a whopper and no one called him on it.  He claimed that the number of nuclear states is smaller today than it was in the past.  Not true.  The number of nuclear states has been rising slowly since 1945.  No nuclear state has ever given up nukes 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Too many software guys with nothing to do

Facebook clearly has too much spare time.  Just to keep busy, they rearranged my "timeline"  Now the text is on the left and the photos on the right.  Used to be the other way round. 
  This is a constructive use of software development resources?

Florida girls are pretty tough

This was on TV.  Florida, nice sunny day, an elementary school building.  Nice and neat and well kept. Lawn is mowed, sidewalks are weed free.  All is in order except, for a seven foot alligator strolling along the sidewalk.  Gator is in an ugly mood, snaps at the camera, snaps at everything.
   The school resource officer, a strapping young blonde woman walks up to the gator and drops a rope around its neck.  This sets the gator off, lot of writhing and snapping and bad temper.  Blonde is not fazed, she gets the gator turned upside down and duct tapes its jaws shut.  Then she calls animal rescue to haul it away.  All in a day's work.  She didn't even get her uniform mussed up.
  Pretty tough young lady.