Thursday, October 31, 2013

How deep does the sequester cut?

Pretty deep. At least according to Aviation Week.

                                                   US Military Power
                             1988                    Today                  After Sequester 2021

Army Divisions       20                        10                       6
Air Force Fighters  2788                     1493                  1157
Navy Ships             588                       275                    228

In 1988 we had 20 Army divisions.  Today we have 10. After a bit more sequestering we will be down to 6.  That's not enough to do Iraq again.  A division is 15,000 men.  Six divisions is 90,000 men.  We put 130,000 men into Iraq, without pulling our 50,000 troops out of Korea or Germany.  With only 6 divisions, we could no longer deal with regional threats like Iran.
    I feel less worried about the Air Force.  A thousand fighters is a lot, especially now that they all carry smart bombs.  One sortie with smart bombs, that hit the target, is worth hundreds of sorties with iron bombs that mostly miss. 
    Dunno what to say about the Navy.  Now that the Soviets are gone, we don't have any enemies with fleets.  But the Chinese are clearly interested in building up a real navy. 

Red Sox Win the World Series!

Hurrah.  Everyone in Boston, and in the Boston States (most of New England) is overflowing with joy.  A fine time was had by all.
  It's impressive that we can derive so much fun and joy from such a simple low tech event.  The game hasn't changed in any important way since the Civil War.  Especially as most kids are brought up playing soccer instead of Little League baseball. 
   Go Sox

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Grilling Sibelius

Congressional hearing with Secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sibelius as witness.  Big house committee with lots of members, each one waiting for his moment of fame on TV.  Sibelius was evasive, and ducked and weaved.  She was clearly attempting to reveal as little as possible.  Democratic reps spend the morning thinking up softball questions to give her a break.  Republicans were unable to stay on topic long enough to really nail her down on anything.  The Democrats are totally into Obamacare and are defending it to the death.  A lot of Republicans opened their remarks by reading letters of insurance cancellation from their constituents.  There is a lot of that going around, Humana cancelled my Medicare Advantage last week. Sibelius did admit that a full up system security test had never been run.  That's scary.  Figure everything you put into is available to every hacker, including your social security number, your address, home phone, and medical history.   They got under Sibelius' skin when they asked why she, the head of Obamacare, was NOT on Obamacare herself.  Good question.  Apparently we did manage to force the Congress onto Obamacare, but the executive has skated, and stayed with their cushy gov'mint health insurance. 
   Anyhow everyone had a good time yelling at each other.  Little real information came out of it.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why the Obamacare Website is flaky

Because Sibelius's HHS bureaucrats decided that they could play system integrator.  System integration is a VERY difficult task, its taking pieces of code from different programmers and getting them to play nicely with each other, and testing the entire system to make sure it  works, doesn't crash, and gives the right answers.  I have done this in my past life.  It's the trickiest part of getting a software product running. 
  Commercial practice is to have the system engineer of the prime contractor to do this.  Until the system passes system acceptance test, the prime contractor doesn't get paid.
   HHS decided to play the prime contractor role themselves.  A job which they are totally unfitted for.  You need programming experience and leadership experience on at least a couple of big software jobs to gain the necessary experience to integrate even a kid's game program, let alone something as as big and tricky as Obamacare. 
   They should have selected a competent contractor (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, someone with a national rep) to serve as prime.  Selection should have been by sealed bid.  Lowest bidder gets the job.  With the government retaining the right to disqualify bidders who clearly don't have the right stuff.  The winning prime contractor gets to select what ever subcontractors he likes.  The prime doesn't get paid until the system passes system acceptance test, so he will be careful to select sub contractors who know what they are doing. 
   HHS bureaucrats probably selected subcontractors from a list of Obama supporters. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Problem with NSA

It's not that they tapped Angela Merkel's phone, it's that they couldn't keep it secret.  America has long profited from  snooping.  H.O. Yardley's black chamber decrypted everyone' diplomatic cables from the Washington Naval Conference in the 1920's.  The American delegates, armed with Yardley's decrypts, were able to make the conference come out favorable to US and British interests, not so favorable to the Japanese.  Breaking the Japanese "purple" cypher in WWII led to decisive victory at Midway, and the killing of Japanese admiral Yamamoto. 
  But we were able to keep these deals secret.
  Today, NSA issues clearances to flakes like Snowden, and when they flake out and spill all, it hurts.  It's not all about technology.  People count too.
   It's also about need-to-know.  Snowden was given access to a whole bunch of stuff that he had no business seeing.  So was Bradley Manning. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Coming from behind

Someone in Missouri is doing a web poll on the most famous Missourian.  This morning, some MD who invented "osteopathy" was on top.  This afternoon Robert A. Heinlein has pulled ahead, partly from a mention on Instapundit.   Anyhow, now is the time for all you Heinlein fans to go to the Missouri website and vote for the Grand Master. 

Hacking your electric company

National Geographic will air a TV docudrama where in enemy hackers cause electric power failures nationwide.  With the juice out, water systems stop delivering water, cell phones stop celling, gasoline pumps won't pump, freezers thaw out, the Internet goes off the air, along with TV and radio.  Wired phones may last longer, but don't count on it.  In short, Western Civilization crumbles.
   One simple rule would prevent this.  No control signals of any kind may be transmitted over the public internet or the plain old telephone system (POTS).  Companies must be required to string private wires, preferably optical fibers for all remote control and monitoring. 
    Reason.  Connect anything to the public internet, and every hacker on the planet has access to it.  All the hacker needs is to learn the control codes and he can order the remote controled machinery to do anything he likes, go off line, shut down, blow up, you name it.  Whereas  with a private line, the hacker has to get a ladder and climb a pole to tap into it.  Fiber optic is even better, you cannot tap fiber optics, you would have to cut the fiber, insert a splitter, and then rejoin the cut fiber.  Few hackers will climb a pole, let alone splice optical fiber.  And you have to be there, you cannot climb an American pole from your basement in Lower Slobbovia. 
    Companies won't like this, it's expensive.  Using the public internet or POTS is free, where as a private line costs you, for installation and maintenance.  The power companies won't  comply unless the public utility commissions demand it. 
   If they don't,  better check out your backup generator. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Regulation of Diet Supplements

Must be a slow news Saturday.  Fox News ran a long piece on this.  Not a product that I ever buy. But the Fox news chick felt they were terribly important.  She dumped out two shopping bags of empty bottles, making a pile two feet high, and then said this was her monthly usage, and she paid $1400 a month for it.  Wow.  I don't spend that much on groceries. Must be powerful stuff.
   Anyhow the FDA wants to regulate them like prescription drugs, require doctor's prescriptions and all that.  The diet supplement people said regulation would skyrocket the cost and kill the industry.
   Since they have been selling this stuff for a long time, and it doesn't seem to hurt anyone, I don't see a need to give the FDA another field to grow fat bureaucrats in. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

So what's so wrong with the Gerrymander?

We hear pundits of both the left and the right claiming that Washington's dysfunction is all because of gerrymandered election districts.  They wax eloquent about the evils of districts controled by the other side.  Districts controlled by their side are clean and virtuous, districts controlled by the other side are dark and evil.
   The gerrymander was invented by Elbridge Gerry, a governor of Massachusetts back in the Federal period.  Gerry was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a signer of the Articles of Confederation, and was present at the constitutional convention in Philadelphia.  He refused to sign the original Constitution because it lacked the Bill of Rights.  This resume makes Gerry as American as apple pie.  Maybe not quite in George Washington's class, but plenty respectable enough.
   While Gerry was governor of Massachuetts after the Revolution, the commonwealth redistricted.  (Massachusetts is not a state, it's a commonwealth, ask any native) One of the new districts came out looking like a salamander, kinda long and thin, and curvy.  Gerry's political opponents called it a gerrymander and the name has stuck to this day.
   When redistricting, which happens every ten years, sometime after the federal census,  the party in power gets to draw the new district lines.  Principles are simple.  For "my" districts, include only enough of "my" voters to win the district.  For "their" districts, pack in as many of "their" voters as possible.  There is only one seat to be won in each district .  A district of 90% "their" voters only wins one seat.  The same district redrawn to move a lot of "their" voters into "my" districts might win lots more seats.  Anyhow, an experienced politician can come up with new district lines that give his party an edge.  The edge is probably in the order of 10%, which is enough to win a lotta elections. 
   The real objection to gerrymandered districts is loss of control of elected representatives.  A compact district, where the voters know each other from face-to-face contact, can rally behind some issue and tell their rep which way to vote.  If the district is all stretched out and fifty miles long, it's harder for the voters to get together on issues.  I mean, how many people do you know who live fifty miles away, as opposed to next door neighbors.  The rep from a real gerrymander district has a much freer hand than the rep from a compact district.
   If we the voters, really wanted to end gerrymanders, we could with one simple law.  Require a 2:1 aspect ratio, or less for all districts.  By this we mean the longest distance across the district shall not exceed twice the shortest distance across the district.  Of course, the politicians don't want this, and we the voters don't really care that much, so it hasn't happened yet.
   My own district in the back woods, used to be just two neighboring towns.  Then my good friend Paul Mirsky, in charge of the 2011 redistrictings, gerrymandered it.  My district now is five towns, running from here to the Vermont border, some 30 miles away.  Paul thought that the new district would return a Republican rep.  Did not happen, we are currently represented by Rebecca Brown, a Democrat.  Door to door campaigning is easier to do on your home turf than in a rural town 30 miles away. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Questions they ought to ask, but didn't

  Washington is grilling the Obamacare software contractors today.  Medium rare at least.  Someone should have asked about the specifications for the job. 
When was the final signed off specification released to the programmers?  Was the website user load specified?  Who signed off for the government?  How many change orders were issued AFTER the specification was released to the programmers?  Who signed off on the change orders?  How long was the specification?  Fifty pages is about right.  By the time you get to a hundred pages nobody understands it.  Who wrote the spec, government or the contractors?  What kind of contract was it, firm fixed fee, cost plus incentive fee, or plain old cost plus?  How many programmers did your company have on the job?  When did they start?  How much has your company been paid?  What milestones were set for payment?  What testing was required? Did the program pass those tests before Oct 1? How many lines of code were delivered?  Does the program run on Windows? 

Red Dawn Remake

The original Red Dawn, starring Patrick Swayze, came out in 1984.  Ill omened year that.  It was gripping, and carried a strong message of patriotism and American exceptionalism.  In fact so strong that my lefty Protestant minister preached a sermon against the movie one Sunday in 1984.  I'm assuming everybody saw it back in the '80s, or later on TV.  The actors, unknowns except for Patrick Swaze, did good, camera work and sound was good. 
  So, 20 years later, Hollywood does a remake.  Remakes are easy.  It's easy to get funding, and easy to do the screenplay and do the plot.  And so, just to check up on 'em, I netflixed it last night. 
   Big mistake.  It was a terrible remake.  Camerawork sucked.  Interior shots were so dark you couldn't recognize the characters.  Few of the grand panorama shots of western mountain scenery.  John Ford made his rep with movies set in super scenic Monument Valley.  None of that kind of camerawork in remade Red Dawn.
  Actors mumbled their lines.  At least the sound man didn't let the score override the dialog. The dialog omitted character names, every one wore pretty much the same costumes (urban grunge mixed with combat fatigues)  making it hard to tell one character from the other.  The relationship between brothers Jed and Matt was confused.  In the original, Jed and Matt were quite close, in the last scene we see Jed carrying a wounded Matt in his arms off an urban battlefield, thru a heavy snowstorm, back into the hills.  In the remake, Matt is not much of a team player and Jed does a lot of snarling at Matt about it. In the original the characters make it clear that this guerrilla warfare thing is scary, as well as cold, lonely and hungry.  Very little of that in the remake. 
   Props were disappointing.  The enemy shows up driving Humvees, whereas we expect the enemy to drive enemy manufactured vehicles.  No horses, everyone gets round in cars and pickup trucks.  No sign of the big ivory handled six gun that Jed used to shoot down the nasty enemy colonel in the original.  The Wolverines fight with popgun assault rifles, no 12 gauge pump shotguns, no Model 70 scoped rifles, just full automatic popguns.  No scary enemy helicopters either.    
   Era is sort of blurry.  We see Obama and Hillary Clinton on TV in some of the opening atmospheric shots, that makes it after 2008.  Then we see the Wolverines escaping an enemy ambush in a Detroit station wagon.  I haven't seen a station wagon on the road for 15-20 years.  Every drives SUV's now. 
   The cast all seemed too old to be in high school.  In the original, everyone looked like real high schoolers, in the remake. everyone looked old enough to have graduated college.   
  Anyhow, Hollywood has lost it's touch.  They can't even do a decent remake. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Would you buy a used jet fighter from this nation?

The Israelis are offering used, but refurbished, Kfir  fighters.  $20 million apiece.  Mach 2+,  Datalink compatible with NATO standards.  Phased array radar, missiles.  Guaranteed for 8000 more flying hours. Air to air refueling.   " The Kfir was designed to be a tough fighter jet. well-built and 'young in spirit'.  The Kfirs we are selecting for refurbishment logged only a few hundred flight hours , their structure is intact, without cracks or fatigue," says Yosef Melamed, general manager of Israeli Aircraft Industry's Lahav division. The aircraft were retired by the Israeli Air Force in the late 90's and stored in the Negev Desert, where it's dry and doesn't rain often.  The Israelis claim the refurbished Kfirs are as good as any other 4th generation fighter. 
   Compared to used F16's at $51 million, or used Tornados for even more, the price is right. 
   Owned by a little old lady and driven only on Sundays.
   Such a deal.


USB to solve the energy crisis

Or so thinks The Economist.  I don't think so myself.  Universal Serial Bus was added to computers  not so long ago, claiming to replace the multitude of special connectors (keyboard, mouse, printer port, RS232 serial port, mike and speaker plug) with one size to fit all USB connector.  It's done fairly well on the computer front, all computers have some now.   As a side effect, USB will furnish very modest amounts of low voltage DC power so the low draw things like mice can omit the customary "wall wart" power supply.
   Cell phone makers have started offering USB cables to allow recharging of cell phones off computers.  Which makes a certain amount of sense, computers are everywhere, and with USB you can recharge on the road and only have to carry a cord, rather than a heavy little wall wart. 
   Groovy and all.  The Economist hails this development as a major break thru in energy conservation, claiming that the hi tech power supply of the PC saves juice compared to the "always on" wall wart left plugged in all day.  
  Not really.  At least not in the real world.  We are talking about nit noy amounts of power here.  USB only supplies 10 watts.  Compared to the current draw of air conditioners, stoves, water heaters, clothes driers, oil burners, and TV sets, 10 watts is nothing.  Ten watts left on for an entire month is only 7 kilowatts hours.  My clothes drier uses  that much juice to dry just ONE load of wash.
   Methinks The Economist needs to consult a real electrician.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Five million lines of code

Fox News just reported that the Obamacare website contains five million lines of code.  Wow.  Old rule of thumb, a programmer can produce 10 lines of code a day.  So, five million lines of code, is 500,000 mandays, or 2000 man years.  ie, one man for 2000 years, 2000 men for one year, or any combination in between.  Wow.  We know they only spent a year or so on the job.  Which means a 1000 man project at least, which is a night mare.  To get any good out of 1000 programmers, you have to divvy up the job into 1000 pieces, and give each man one piece to code.  In order for the 1000 pieces to work together, you have to write a spec for the inputs and outputs of each piece.  That's a 1000 specs.  And then someone (a small army actually) has to make sure that the output specs all match the input specs and vice versa.
  Let's see, a manyear costs at least $100,000 for experienced programmers, so 2000 manyears is only $200 million.  The TV news says Obama spent $632 million on the job.  I wonder where the other $400 and some million went. 
   Incidentally, five million lines of code sounds awfully high.  Like maybe made up by newsies.  Just as an off-the-wall guesstimate, ( my day job used to be estimating this kinda thing ) I would think 100,000 lines of code would be plenty to do health insurance signup.

Europeans can over regulate with the best of 'em

According to The Economist, the EU has regulations limiting/forbidding subsidies to airports from local/national governments.  You have to wonder why.  If  cities/provinces/countries want to spend taxpayer money on airports, why not?  What business is this of the EU? 
   The urge to get an airport is understandable.  No business is going to locate in a place without air service.  You need air service to get your salesman out to customers, your customers in to your plant, your servicemen out to customer sites, and overnight air parcel delivery for crucial spare parts.  Manchester Regional Airport NH is a good example, a vast network of businesses in New Hampshire depend upon flying out of Manchester.  In fact the place had the chutzpah to re name itself Manchester-Boston Regional a little while ago.  I don't know just how much taxpayer money went into that airport, but that new exit for the airport we put on I93 last year wasn't cheap. 
   Anyhow, the urge to get airports is understandable.  And I don't see any reason to regulate it.
   But, read on.  The subsidized airports have lower landing fees, which attracts low cost carriers like RyanAir.  The European legacy carriers mostly fly the big airports, and they see the low cost carriers eating into their business, "stealing passengers" from them. 
   So, the EU regulations are really crony capitalism, the big boys attempting to squash the upstart newcomers. 
   I'm sure the Obama administration is watching this one. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

The History Channel and the Crystal Skull

I saw the movie, actually Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.  Fun flick with some good scenes, like Harrison Ford and Shia LeBeouf riding a Harley thru the Yale library reading room.  Later they discover an alien crystal skull which becomes a clue that leads them to lost cities and so on.  Great movie prop.  I had never heard of crystal skulls before and I assumed it was a product of  Spielburg's fertile imagination.
   So the other night I am channel surfing and on The History Channel I find a "serious" documentary on crystal skulls.  Ten of them are known, the show had some pictures, and claimed that one had been scientifically analysed.  Groovy.
   Of course the show didn't say whether these skulls had been discovered before or after the Spielburg movie.  Nor did it say what the "scientific analysis" had discovered.  For openers, what was it made of?  Quartz? Glass? Calcite?  Rock salt?  Lucite?  The History Channel was less convincing than the Spielburg movie.

Airbus wins Japan Airlines Order

Japan Airlines just signed a deal to buy 31 A350 airliners from Airbus.  At $200 million each, this is $12 billon in sales, quite a chunk of change.  The A350 is so new it just made it's first test flight this summer and has a year or two of testing and certification before it can be delivered.  It's carbon fiber (fiberglass) construction, intended to compete with Boeing's 787.   Boeing could have had this sale, if their 787 had not been so late, and if it hadn't had those battery fires.   Up until now, Japanese airlines were all Boeing fleets, Boeing and the Japanese industry had numerous joint ventures and cross sales arrangements.  Now that JAL has bought Airbus, the other Japanese carriers are expected to follow suit.
   Aviation Week credits the Airbus sale to effective work by top Airbus executives, Leahy (no first name given) Head of Sales, and Fabrice Bregier, CEO.  They also mention JAL's new chairman, Kazuo Inamori saying that an airline as big as JAL ought to have more than one supplier.  Which is true.
  Also interesting is the backlog of Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 orders.  Although Boeing has 979 orders for 787's, Airbus is running hard with 725 orders for the A350.  Each backlog represents about $2 trillion dollars worth of business.  Staggering.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Obamacare computer crashes

Putting up a website that can handle the load of  every family in the country is difficult.  The way to make it happen is let the contract to a company that has done such a website before.  Anyone, except perhaps community organizers should know this. 
  Apparently Obama didn't know this, and gave the contract to some crony that has no industry rep.  And, surprise, surprise, it doesn't work.  That's the thing about contracting.  You never know if the contractor is competent.  But competent or incompetent, the contractor will spend all the money. 
   They should have given the job to someone like Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook.  But they didn't.

Main Stream Media, do we care?

Everyone agrees,. the mainstream media is in the tank for Obama and the Democrats.  But really?  Sure, the NY Times , the WashPost, the traditional TV networks, the AP, and a lot of others are Democratic house organs. But, Fox News, the Wall St Journal, talk radio, and the blogosphere are Obama hostile.  Fox News owns the airwaves (cable waves now-a-days),  The Journal is distributed coast to coast and outsells the NY Times by 4:1.   Rush Limbaugh still has a huge listener base.  The blogosphere is rising in influence and importance.  Obama was railing against "lobbyists and bloggers" just the other day.  As a blogger I'm flattered to get a mention, and scared that Obama may sick the IRS (or worse) on me.
   The Democrats  have mass, but the Republicans  hold the quality edge. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Congressional rules

We can all agree that Congress isn't getting anywhere these days.  They cannot even vote appropriations to run the government. 
  Each House conducts business under an ancient, complicated, and little understood set of rules.  In the house it is so bad that before each bill is voted on, they hold a separate vote on the rules to be used this time.  That is rediculous, the rules ought to be the same everytime.  The Senate conducts votes to decide whether a super majority is needed this time.  Most of the votes taken are "procedural" votes, not votes on business.  For every real vote cast to pass or reject a bill, they do dozens of "procedural" votes (nothing votes).
   All this rules and procedure business serves to disguise what's really happening from the citizens.  A day of  motions and procedural votes and the real voter has no idea whether his rep is doing good or doing evil, or doing anything.  It's gotten so bad my TV cable provider doesn't bother to carry C-span anymore.  And nobody misses it. 
   At this rate, the Congress critters have escaped from voter control.  They can do all sorts of things that the voters disapprove of (like shutdown) and the voter cannot figure out where his rep stood on any issue.  Come election time,  there is no voting record for the citizen to consult to decide if congressman So-and-So ought to be re elected. 
  So, let's clear the smoke and mirrors away.  Here are my rules.

1.  No procedural votes.  Each bill gets one up or down vote.  That's it.
2.  No riders.  A rider is a low speed bill that gets attached to a high speed bill.  Pass the high speed bill and the rider passes.  It's like hitching a ride on a freight train.  No more.  Your low speed bill needs to get votes on it own merits, no drafting.
3. Every bill treats ONE thing, that thing being in the title of the bill. No kitchen sink bills.

4. Every bill much be printed (ink on paper) and distributed to the press, the public and the Congress one week before a vote may be taken.  No amendments, no extra pork rations, no nothing between printing and voting.  
5.  Every member gets to speak, once, on every bill.  House members get five minutes plus what ever extra time the Speaker will grant them.  Senators get one hour, no more.
6.  Every member is entitled to file as many bills as he likes, and they all must come to the floor for a vote.

Internet Problems? Selective outage?

Cannot contact some favorite websites, Instapundit and Photobucket for two.  Other sites are up and running.  Is this a selective internet outage?  NSA shutting down some enemies?  Sites down for weekend maintenance? 

Friday, October 18, 2013

A lawyer to run Homeland Security

Obama has nominated Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security.  Johnson has served as the Pentagon's top lawyer.  AN official said that during his tenure at the Defense Department, Johnson exhibited "sound judgment" and provided "prior legal review and approval of every military operation approved by the president and secretary of Defense."
  A Combat lawyer.  Just what we need.
  Sorry, but I want a soldier or a cop to run Homeland Security.  Someone who thinks about security rather than thinking about ways to get guilty defendants off.  

Shutdown Scorecard. Who won?

Hard to tell.  I haven't seen any real post shutdown polls yet.  Democrats say the Republicans lost, Republicans say the Democrats lost.  Objectively they kicked the can down the road two or three months.  Right now, the Republicans re opened the government with a two month time limit and boosted the debt ceiling enough to get thru Christmas.  The budget was referred to a committee, standard Washington ploy to sweep something under the rug.   The Republicans didn't get any relief on Obamacare.  So for this round, the Republicans didn't get anything and the Democrats didn't give up anything.
   Will the fight continue after  Christmas?  Who knows.  The Republicans certainly are not satisfied with the status quo.  The Democrats like things just the way they are.  The real issue is next year's election.  This whole shutdown/debt ceiling brouhaha was run off in order to influence the voters for next year.  And Obama wanted it just as much as the Republicans.  If either side thinks renewing the fight will do 'em good in the election, they will. If both sides  figure the public is sick of the squabbling, they won't. 
   Obama certainly looked ineffective.  Congress did all the headline grabbing.  By crying "Default" Obama spooked the international currency markets and weakened T-bills.  He did this because without a debt ceiling hike, he would have to chop $1 trillion a year out of federal spending.  A lot of people are feeding off the federal gravy train, and shutting off the flow of gravy would cause a lot of angry takers, who would mostly blame Obama. 
   The shutdown didn't have much effect outside the Beltway.  Up here we hardly noticed.  Son reports North Dakota did just fine.  Thoughtful taxpayers ought to be wondering if we could solve the spending problem by just closing stuff down.  Thoughtful civil servants ought to be scared. The monument closings were an attempt to make the shutdown more painful, so people would care more about re opening government.  It sparked outrage and civil disobedience, but not much political support.
   I'm beginning to think the only group hurt by the shutdown were the civil servants who missed paychecks.  And they are all democrats anyhow.  And they will get back pay for 16 days off.  The government contractors will probably play catchup as they accomplish the work that didn't get done for 16 days. 
   The other thing, we managed to convince the Europeans and the rest of the world that the United States is coming unglued.  That is a bad thing. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Advanced countries, jet airliner production.

Jet airliners,  70 seats and up.  Anything less is a puddlejumper.  Listing of production forecasts from Aviation Week.

Country                  Company                           Total                      Aircraft models

United States           Boeing                              7395 total airliners.  737, 787, 777,747 767

France/Germany     Airbus                                6949 total airliners   A319.320,321,330-,340,350 380

Brazil                     Embraer                              973 total airliners    170 175 190 195

Russia                    Antonov, Ilyushin, Sukhoi    438 total airliners    100, IL-96 MS21

Canada                  Bombardier                         376 total airliners     CRJ

China                     Comac Xian                        297 total airliners    MA60, ARJ21, C919

Japan                     Mitsubishi                            285 total airliners    MRJ

Boeing is ahead of Airbus by a nose, and not much more.  Both Boeing and Airbus are miles ahead of everyone else.  Brazil plans to build twice as many airliners as Russia.  Canada plans to out produce China. The lower end producers are building smaller (100 seat) planes, where as the two leaders make a broad selection with top end aircraft seating 400 and up.   

  Viewed as an index of industrial and technological advancement, Brazil and Canada are higher up the food chain than one would expect.  Britain sold out it's stake in Airbus and so doesn't appear at all, although Rolls Royce remains an important maker of jet engines. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Grafton County Republican fund raiser/get-together

We had the annual party dinner last night.  I must still be fairly active, at this point I know nearly everyone who shows up at these things.  We had candidates, looking to recruit supporters, and all the Grafton County regulars, the people who do the emails, do the sphagetti dinners,  watch the polls, politick from door to door, in short the party workers. 
  We now have two candidates for Jean Shaheen's US Senate seat, Karen Testermann and Jim Rubins. We have a candidate for Anne Kuster's US house seat,  Gary Lambert.  We gave each candidate a mere TWO minutes of floor time to make a pitch.  These guys (and gal) are all old New Hampshire state government pols.  If elected, I'm sure they could all do a fine job in DC.  I'm not so sure that they have the name recognition, the charisma, the telegenic good looks, and the luck, to carry the election.  Fortunately, the Democratic incumbents are pretty unexciting.
    Senator Kelly Ayotte sent regrets, she is in DC, wrangling over the debt ceiling.  State chairman Jenifer Horn sent regrets.  AND,  Ray Burton, the north country legend was not there.  I hope he is OK, he underwent chemo for prostate cancer this year, and it took some starch out of him. 
    Consensus of  opinion.  Obama might indeed be stupid enough to default if he doesn't get his debt ceiling hike.  That's depressing.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sports are ruining our Schools

This was on the cover of the Atlantic magazine.  I saw it yesterday on the magazine rack at Mac's Market.  It caught my eye, but not enough to make me buy the Atlantic.  Instead it made me wonder about the mental balance of the Atlantic's editors. 
    Sports are good.  They get a lot of kids, the average kids with couch potato genes, off the couch and out of doors getting some exercise.  Partly 'cause it's an opportunity to hang out with friends, partly 'cause there is still some social status to be had, and partly to get out of the house, a lot of kids will go out for sports, if there are any sports to go out for. 
  Dunno what the Atlantic has agin 'em, as I said I didn't bother to buy the mag and read it.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Has the "Shutdown" hurt you, or anyone you know?

Things like laid off, or still working but not getting paid.  Or some essential paperwork not getting done.  Passports, drilling permits, visas, etc.  Or something  is closed that you need, or just want to get into. Some service no longer available that you need?
  I figure the shutdown will continue until the level of pain gets high enough to force a settlement.  How much pain are we feeling? really?  Could the "shutdown" go on for ever?  Comments are open.
   If I hear nothing, I'll figure the level of pain is low. 

Obamacare strikes home

Humana  says they will cancel my Medicare Advantage health insurance policy, effective in December.  Wonderful.

How the Republicans lost in 2012

There are a lot of reasons, but number one reason is women voted for Obama 55% to 45%.  That's a ten percent edge, a land slide.  And women are one half the electorate.   Let's not get sidetracked onto Hispanics or blacks or gays.  None of those groups, worthy as they may be, are 50 % of the votes.  Let's concentrate on the main issue.
   I have not seen any polling since the election that tells why women voted so heavily Obama and Democrat.  If the Republicans hope to go anywhere, they have to find out why, especially after suffering thru Great Depression 2.0 for all of Obama's first term, women voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2012.

   Is it just Obama, a slender sexy guy who dresses well, has good name recognition, and has a good speaking voice? 
   Is it the desire for free contraceptives and federally funded abortion?
   Is it a desire for more food stamps, more health care, more daycare, more welfare, more free stuff?
   Is it (was it) Romney?  Was Romney too much a married family man, to obviously religious, and ineffectual on the campaign trail?
   Is it a feeling that Democrats are better equal opportunity employers than Republicans?
   Is it a distaste for Republican defense spending?
   Do women care that men have been losing their jobs ever since Obama took office?
   Does the Republican stance on abortion drive women away?
   Are women actually in favor of legalizing pot?  And repelled by Republican support for the war on drugs?
   Are there other issues important to women?

Unless the Republicans get back in the good graces of women, they face a grim future.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

EOF (end of fall) (Time to put the Weber away)

Gotta do it , lessen I want to leave the poor thing out in the snow on the deck all winter.   Some how I have TWO grills for it and both of them thick with grease/soot/crud.  Thankfully I live alone, so I can use the big kitchen sink to clean 'em.  No woman would allow that.  So, between the grill scraper thingie and a lot of brillo, they are now sorta clean.  Clean as I am gonna get 'em.  Pulled the Weber out into the driveway, dumped the unburned charcoal and ash into the woods, and hosed it down.  I'll let it dry, give it a shot of WD-40 to discourage the rust, and stash it in the garage.
   Then I will have an end of fall drink.  EOF?  That actually is a C programming name that means End of File.  I haven't done anything in C for some years, so now it is End of Fall  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Such a deal

The few people who have gotten thru to the Obamacare websites are reporting policies costing several hundred dollars a month, with deductibles of $4000 and up.   Such a deal.  If you are in good health, which most of us are, you won't rack up $4000 in doctor's bills inside a year.  So what are you buying insurance against?  You still have to pay out of pocket for everything under $4000. 
   Support you get unlucky and actually need an operation?  Those go for $20,000.  So you pay $4000 and the insurance pays off the rest.  Big deal.  How many of us have $4000 just lying around?  Damn few. 
   Most young single guys won't fall for deal like that. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

NHPR covers the "app" industry in NH

"App" as in "applicaton".  We used to call 'em programs,  now they are "apps".  NHPR did a 3 or four part series on the app business.  A fair number of small companies that write apps have sprung up in New Hampshire.  They are apparently doing well.  As an old software guy, I listened to the whole thing, just to see what going down.  NHPR  skipped over the business model, like who buys apps (as opposed to downloading free ones), owner ship of the completed app, startup money.  Also no talk about software development tools, compilers, loaders, libraries, like can you just buy them, or do you have to sign non disclosure agreements to keep every thing in the smart phone secret from hackers?
  Last installment talked about education, a computer science degree from UNH is pretty much mandatory to get into the app writing business.  Then NHPR revealed the great challenge to the educators, namely getting more girls to major in computer science.  It's just terrible, the computer science major is only 10% female.  Must be someone's fault.  NHPR put more passion into the gender equality bit than anything else in the series.
   Couldn't have anything to do with the fact that boys are deeper in love with computer games than girls.  A major leading to a career in computer games is just naturally going to be more attractive to boys than to girls.   

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Is Obama dumb enough to default?

First let's define terms.  Default means failure to pay interest upon the national debt.  Which is treasury bills. T-bills for short.  Default does not mean failure to pay social security, pay the bureaucrats, pay the troops, make home loans, open the national parks, pay medicare, or do all the other things the Federal government does.  It just means failure to pay off the T-bills, or pay interest on the T-bills. 
   Right now American T-bills are the safest investment on the planet.  America has always paid off on bonds, and this goes way back, like back to the Revolution.  T-bills are issued by the strongest government on the planet, backed by the strongest economy on the planet, protected by the strongest armed forces on the planet.  As a result, we can raise money anytime we please by printing up some more T-bills and selling them.  People give us real cash money and we give them paper T-bills.  And we don't even promise them very much interest.  This is VERY useful to us.  It's a national credit rating of 1000, the best you can get. 
   Default, will screw this up for ever.  Default means we stop paying interest on T-bills and refuse to redeem them for cash when they mature.  Do this just once, and  the trust is broken.  We will have to pay much higher interest rates to borrow, and we face the prospect of not being able to sell T-bills when we need to. 
   Any man of even marginal intelligence would know that we ought to pay off on the national debt BEFORE we pay anything else. 
   Is Obama a man of even marginal intelligence?  To hear him talk, no.  He has been threatening default for weeks.  What if he carries thru on his threats? 
   Judging by the way he has made the "shutdown" as painful as possible, he is a man who enjoys inflicting pain on his citizenry.   Is he dumb enough to default just to inflict more pain on his citizens? 


Warthog Fan Club

The Warthog, more formally the A10, is a close support aircraft.  It isn't a supersonic fighter, it's a jet version of the Stuka.  Which is why ground troops love it and the Air Force wants to retire it.  With a 30 millimeter (inch and a quarter) Gatling gun it is tank buster supreme.  What the rotary cannon cannot deal with, bombs and rockets slung under the wings can.  But, with a top speed of less than 500 mph, it's dead meat against enemy fighters.  The Air Force, run by fighter pilots,  wants to fly air to air against enemy fighters.  You don't make ace no matter how many tanks you bust.
   Any how, there is now a Save-the-A10 Facebook page with 2722 likes, and any number of after dinner speakers supporting the old Warthog. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Redskins, Washington type

I'd be more excited about this issue, if I thought the team name offended real American Indians.  I know it offends paleface liberals,  but hey, what's new?  Paleface liberals are so easily offended.


That line of windstorms that showed up on TV got to NH yesterday. It blew really hard up here, trees were whipping around, leaves were flying thru the air. At 6 PM a tree somewhere let go of the ground, fell, and took out the power line. I broke out the propane camping lantern and settled down for some reading. I found out what propane lanterns do as the propane runs out.  They just get dimmer and dimmer.  So I turned it off, let it cool (they get HOT) and put on the backup propane can.  She lit right up. 
 Electric lights came back at 9 PM.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bookstores. Need to stock the FIRST of a series

More and more light fiction comes in series.  Once an author gets something published, it's easy to publish sequels, unending sequels, leading to a whole series of books.  Cool and all that, plus doing a sequel is easier on the writer, and the publisher is more likely to make an advance on a known property than take a flier on something new.  So far, so good.
   But, when I am book shopping, the stores don't stock all the books in the series, and even worse, don't stock  the first book of the series. 
  This is a serious turnoff for this reader.  Even if the series has an attractive title, and an intriguing cover illustration and a good blurb, I probably won't buy it if the cover says "Book N is the exciting Yada Yada series". 
  Why?  Simple, authors writing sequels assume the read has read the previous book [s], and save time and work by skipping  (or failing to repeat) essential development material.  In the sequels characters appear, do something, and move on, with never a word about who they are, what side they are on, who they are involved with. 
  Anyhow, you book store operators, you could boost sales by making an effort to keep the first book of the series in stock. 

Peak is passing

Windstorm last night.  A lotta leaves on the ground that were on trees Saturday.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Economist loves traffic circles

For some reason the Economist loves traffic circles ( aka rotaries or roundabouts) ) enough to run TWO articles reminiscing fondly about them in the same issue.  The Economist thinks the British invented them and seems proud of the fact.  You gotta wonder why.
  Actually, a traffic circle is what you build when you cannot afford a proper clover leaf intersection.  Some people think a traffic circle is better than a plain grade crossing of two roads.  Other people think they are death traps. 
   The Economist has some strange numbers in their articles.  They claim that traffic circles were introduced into the United States by Nevada in 1990.  That ain't right.  Memorial Drive in Cambridge MA has a pair of vicious traffic circles on Mem Drive that have been bending fenders since the 1950's to my certain knowledge. In fact their have probably been there since the 1930's, but that's before my time.  And there was another lethal traffic circle on US route 1 in Saugus, now happily gone, that bent it's share of fenders in the 50's and 60's. 
   Must be a slow news week at the Economist.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

She wants to be a mainstream novelist

I wonder why.  After writing the immortal Harry Potter books, why would anyone want to write mainstream novels?  We can understand that perhaps she has written all that needs to be written about Harry, and she wants to try something new, but why mainstream novels?  They have been boring and unreadable ever since Hemingway died.  The modern writers who made a real mark are fantasy writers, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Philip Pullman, Rick Riordan, Brian Jacques, or science fiction writers like Robert A. Heinlein or Tom Clancy.  Come to think of it, J.K. Rowling made her name as a fantasy writer, as good as any. 
  Anyhow, she has a mainstream novel out, it's in the Village Bookstore now, but I didn't buy it. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

How long can "shutdown" stay shut?

Just asking.  So far, I haven't heard of anything very horrible happening.  Either we ain't very shut down, (lots of guys still coming to work) or the ones not coming to work aren't being missed.  In which case, some obvious cost savings spring to mind.....

Leaves are peaking up nicely

This is peak leaf weekend for Franconia Notch.  They are bright, and mostly still on the trees.  Won't be long now and they will be on the ground, needing raking up.  If you want to go leaf peeking, this is the weekend.  Even with a bit of cloudiness, the view out my windows is all bright yellow and orange.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

So how hard does sequester hit DoD?

Hard enough to make the generals flinch, and flinch a lot.  According the Aviation Week, the Pentagon figures Congressional deadlock will persist up to and maybe thru the 2016 election.  They are preparing for current and even lower funding until 2016 and beyond.  So
  The Air Force is talking about retiring 552 older aircraft, about 10% of the fleet.  On the chopping block, A10 close air support tank buster , KC10 tanker  and MC12-W (the Beechcraft King Air fitted out for reconnaissance). 
  The Army will loose 18% of its soldiers. 
  The Marine Corps will loose 7% of its soldiers
  The Navy drops from 295 ships to 255-260 ships.

Reducing the size of the Army and Marines means that in event of war, they have to work harder.  For Iraq and Afghanistan we were able to send the troops on one year combat tours and then rotate them back stateside.  If we run out of troops, then the combat tours get longer, they get extended, and the rotation home goes away.  It's tough on the troops, and tough on their families, but we have done it in the past.  In WWII troops enlisted for the duration, and nobody got rotated home after a one year combat tour.  (except the Air Force got rotated home after 50 missions, if they lived that long)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Goldie Oldie takes a hit from rank newbie

Last month, it looked like South Korea was going to buy 60 F15's.  Now we are not so sure.  The Koreans have announced they have re opened the competition, with the F35 and the European Typhoon back in the running.  The Korean Defense Minister said, "There is a consensus that South Korea needs the 5th generation fighter jet to deter the growing threat posed by North Korean".  Aviation Week says this means the F35 will win.
   This is a tremendous disappointment for Boeing, they were hoping for a big order to keep the F15 production line running.  But it's understandable, the F15 is old, and the South Korean Air Force really wanted to be flying something up to date.  Fifteen former Korean air force chiefs wrote an open letter to the Korean president  supporting  the F35.  On the other hand, it's a great boost for Lockheed Martin, who needs the sales.
  F35 isn't getting any cheaper.  Last month Aviation Week quoted the cost as $97 million.  This week they report that negotiations the Low Rate Inital Production batch 7 will be $96.8 million, LESS engines.  That's a biggy, engines are usually 25% of the cost of an aircraft, so with engines, the F35 is hiked up to $125 million. Each. Ouch.
   Plus, F35 is a totally software product.  The software to launch missiles, aim guns, jam enemy radar and drop bombs is still under development.  Only the basic "aviate and navigate" software is actually running in the aircraft.   Until that software is finished, the F35 is not a warplane, it's just an expensive trainer.  

Tom Clancy died today

Just heard the news.  He was only 66, which isn't very old.  I read and enjoyed all his books.  Clancy was really a science fiction writer, only his stories were set only a few years into the future.  His characters were decent, level headed, and competent, who overcame their challenges  with courage and persistence.  Clancy's book were always a good read.   He will be missed.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Retro Tech, Clothes lines

Despite having a perfectly good electric drier atop my washing machine, I have gone back to  hanging the wash on the line, in the sun.  'Cause it feels so crisp and smells so nice when I bring it in.  Much nicer than the drier does.   And it's green green green...   Saves 5 kilowatt hours of electricity, each load of wash.  If I was as hard core as my mother, I could dry the wash on the line all winter, she did.  But I probably will load up the drier over the winter. 

Pass appropriation bills, avoid shutdowns

This much bally hooed government shutdown happens because Congress stopped appropriating funds by law.  Used to be, Congress would pass separate appropriation bills, one for defense, one for Agriculture, one for State, one for each cabinet department plus one for each extra cabinet operation like NASA and FAA.   Used to be hard to get the votes to pass these, and they came thru late, and got later as time went on. But at least each bill could be debated on somewhat limited terms, i.e. the domain of ONE department.
Political impasses on a single bill just effected a single department.
    Over the years Congressmen grew stupider and more narrow minded and lost the ability to come to agreement on appropriation bills.  So one year when NO appropriation bills had passed, they invented the Continuing Resolution.  This handy invention says "All you government operations can keep spending this year, like you spent last year".   After a Congressional session of budget wrangling the Congress critters were exhausted, and would vote for anything just to get it over with. 
   The downside, as we are seeing today, is any attempt to exert the power of the purse requires shutting everything down, rather than just a single department.  The continuing resolution is the ultimate "must pass" bill, so any riders you can tack onto it, get passed.  Except for now and then. 
   First interesting question:  How long can the country go with the government shutdown?  Could keeping the government shut down save enough money that we don't need to raise the debt ceiling?  Mail is getting delivered, social security checks are going out. 
    Second interesting question:  Who wins and who loses?  If anyone.  We will know after the election next year.