Monday, June 30, 2014

Google Maps

Now that they stopped printing road maps, Google is how I get from here to there if I haven't been there before.  They updated the software recently.  The map page looks different.  They managed to loose the useful "Center Map Here" function, so useful for expanding the map about your destination.  They fixed the "waste a page of paper every time you print a map" bug. 
   Not to trust Google's travel time estimates.  On my recent trip to the Cape, Google estimated 4 hr 37 min.  It really took 6 hours. 
   Be wary of letting Google plot your course.  Now that Google's knowledge of back roads has improved, it will route you over very obscure back roads.  On a previous trip it routed me over a back road which was impassible due to frost heaves and axle smashing potholes.  Fortunately I had enough local knowledge to not let a web site lead me down the garden path, or down Rte 116 to N. Haverill. 
   One final whine.  They ought to print the maps with a white background.  It wastes a lot of expensive color ink to color an A-sized map tan all over. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Driving to Cape Cod

An old and good friend, a fine young man I have known since he was a young boy, got married on the Cape this weekend.  I was invited.  So I gassed up the Mercury, consulted Google maps, and set off for the Cape on Friday.  Weather was fine.  I reached Rte 128 in only two hours.  Then the fun began.  In the past I have driven straight thru downtown Boston on I93 at mid day, no sweat.  Not any more.  Traffic was stall and crawl from Melrose (north shore) until I got to Rte 3 (south shore). 
  For the one hour traffic jam I was treated to flashing electric signs every mile or so.  They flashed "Fire works Illegal. Penalty Fines and Jail".  Looks like the state fire marshals (who hate fireworks) had got the funding for a massive anti fireworks publicity campaign.  It was the first time I'd had a sign threaten me with jail. 
   Traffic loosed up on Rte 3 until the Sagamore bridge of ill fame.  Built in the 1930's, and only four lanes wide, Sagamore has been a fearful road block since I first drove on the Cape in the early 1960's.  Half a century later, it's still bad.  Very bad.  They are repainting it, again, and the arch is all covered up in scaffolding/spray paint containment masking. 
   The wedding was in Truro, far out on the Cape.  Funny, they have signage for Hyannis and Barnstable and Wellfleet and P-town, but nary a sign for Truro.  I guess the Truro town fathers failed to pay off the state highway signs people. 
   The wedding was excellent, out of doors, at a shore place that the bride's family owned.  All the groom's numerous family turned up and lots of reminiscences ensued.  Dancing went on past midnight.  Best party I've been to in years. 
   Trip back was uneventful. Set off at 10:30 I had to fill up the Mercury on the cape ($3.83 a gallon, $58 for the tank). There was only a 15 minute backup to cross the Sagamore bridge (this at 12 on Sunday)  The wipe-out-Rte-128 campaign has been successful.  Coming north on Rte 3, nary a sign to get you onto 128.  Fortunately I know the code numbers, I-95 West = 128, and had no trouble.  
   Stopped in Concord at 3 PM for a Big Mac and fries.  McD's is on a bossiness kick, with new signs on the doors refusing entry to any food except McD's food, and more signs inside warning against loitering, and tables must be vacated within 30 minutes. Gives a real welcoming touch.
   Checked out Gibson's bookstore in Concord.  They just moved into a fancy new building, lots more shelf space, a coffee shop, nice carpets, all the trimmings.  I hope it works out for them.  On a fine Sunday I was able to park on Main St, right at their front door.  I was the only car parked there.  They had a few other customers, but I'm  worried about  sales volume and continued survival.  It's tough being in retail. 
   Made it back at 5.  Stupid Beast was pleased to see me, after a three day absence.  I had left plenty of food out for her which she had hardly touched. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

So who is the real dummy?

The story going round the internet has the inventors of a self driving car doing a demo in DC.  They get Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's sole non-voting Congress person, to take a ride.  She gets in the car. "Ohh, what does this do?" she says.  This is a large red button marked "Emergency Stop".  She pushes it.  Emergency Stop worked, the car didn't move, and in fact they were unable to get it to move again  End of demo.
   Most internet pieces poured scorn on Norton for being so dumb.  Speaking as an engineer, that button is broke.  Emergency Stop in a self driving car is supposed to let the passengers stop the car if they see the auto driver doing something scary.  It isn't supposed to cripple the car for good, leaving it stopped in the middle of the street.  I'd call the designers of the car dumb. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It ain't how many, it's what's in them

The TV newsies have been keeping score.  They show how many executive orders Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Reagan issued.  This is cute, but it doesn't mean much.
Routine executive orders, divvying up the turf between bureaucrats, aren't the same as executive orders  granting immunity to illegal immigrants under the age of 18.  One is a routine ordering of the bureaucracy, the other is implementing the Dream Act after Congress refused to pass it. 
   I have no problem with settling bureaucratic turf battles by executive order.  I do have a problem with over riding Congressional votes by executive order. 

How do you fire an IRS Commissioner?

John Koskinen, appeared at a Congressional investigation.  Well scrubbed, freshly shaved, pink, well fed, well tailored.  He then got into a pissing match with Congressman Paul Ryan, thereby showing a total lack of brains.  Common sense should tell him what to say to an 800 pound gorilla (Ans: SIR).  Koskinen clearly lacks common sense, and probably six of seven other kinds of sense as well.  And this turkey is checking my tax return?   
   We need to get rid of this guy, like right now. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Corey's Gun Shop

Is out of .22 Long Rifle ammunition.  He told me shipments come in now and then and sell out within hours.  He had the larger caliber stuff, but .22 was all gone. 
Wonder how that could be.  Surely Homeland Security doesn't buy .22? 

The Lore of Whiskey

Whiskey in the US is a brown colored hard liquor sold at 80 to 100 proof (40 to 50 percent ethyl alcohol).  It is sold as Scotch, Bourbon, and Canadian.  They differ in flavor, but the difference is an acquired taste, the new whiskey drinker will not be able tell one from the other.  After some experience, and some practice getting the taste buds to recover from the fierce bite of the ethanol, you will find that Scotch has a somewhat sharper flavor, Bourbon is mellower and a little sweeter, and Canadian is somewhere in between Scotch and Bourbon.  All three make an excellent drink.Whiskey has a definite but hard to describe flavor.  It isn't sweet, or sour, or salty, or bitter. 
   Whiskey and soda water over ice (whiskey and soda) makes a very tasty drink and is recommended as a fine way to come to appreciate the flavor of whiskey.  Soda can be Club Soda, or Seltzer, which is carbonated water.  Club Soda has a touch of salt added to it, Seltzer does not.  Either make a good whiskey mixer.  The fizz and the delicate acid flavor of the carbon dioxide dissolved in water  do good things for the whiskey.  Soda bottles, once opened loose most of their fizz in a day and go as flat as tap water in two days.  The ideal way to buy soda is a six pack of 12 ounce bottles.  A 12 ounce can be used up before it goes flat.  Unfortunately six packs are expensive, about $4 a six, which is as expensive as a six pack of beer. Better economy is had in the 28 ounce bottle, which can be had for $.60 a bottle, which is about the same as a single 12 ounce from a $4 six pack.  The house brand soda (Adirondack or Polar) make as good a whiskey and soda as the pricey national brands (Canada Dry or Schweppes).  After all it's the whiskey that contributes the flavor, not the soda. 
   Then many drinkers prefer to mix their whiskey with just plain tap water rather than with soda.  My sainted mother took her Canadian with just a splash of tap water.  She spent quite some time training her sons to mix her whiskey just a right, a single rapid pass under the flowing tap.  This way you get more of the whiskey taste and less fizz. 
   The continuation of this path leads to the whiskey on the rocks, just some cubes in a short glass with a jigger or two or whiskey.  Scotch on the rocks has the name recognition but Bourbon or Canadian on the rocks is a fine warming drink on a cold winter's night. 
   Then the REAL whiskey drinkers take it neat (room temperature, no ice)  The Brits used to  make a big thing out of this, saying that only neat could you distinguish the finer flavors.  The Americans used to say this custom came from the lack of electric refrigeration in Britain. 
   Whiskey sells for anything where between $10 and $40 a bottle (1.75 liter, what was called a half gallon before metrification of liquor bottles)  Low end whiskey is quite drinkable.  Old Crow and Canadian Hunter are two good $12 a bottle brands.  The pricey bottles (Wild Turkey, Jack Daniels, Jameson, Ballentine) make excellent gifts.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Can a secured border keep the kids out?

I have trouble with this.  Imagine the Border Patrol pushing a boat load of kids back out into the Rio Grande. Or marching them/busing them over a bridge back to Mexico. 

Iraq disaster is with us

And discussion about the wisdom of going to Iraq in 2003 is worthless now.  We did go to Iraq.  No one can change that now.  We cannot reverse decisions made in 2003 now in 2014.  That's water over the dam.  Talking about it won't change it.
Responsibility is discussing what we do now that it's hit the fan.  Not carping about the rightness or wrongness of  going there in 2003. 
   I don't see any good options.  The Malaki government isn't much good.  ISIS are terrorists.  The Kurds are the most reasonable party in the theater, but dealing with them will seriously disrupt our relations with Turkey.  We could send Petraious and Crocker back to pull the Anbar Awakening forces back together, but we would have to offer them Malaki's head on a platter to do much good.. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

RAF loses the Battle of Bureaucrats.

The US was going to bring the Brits on board the Rivet Joint signals intelligence business.  Rivet Joint intel has been collected by RC-135 electronic intelligence aircraft.  The Americans donated an RC-135 to the RAF for signals intelligence. These are the trusty old KC-135 Stratotankers which have been flying in USAF service since the Eisenhower administration.  Some of them were converted into  ELINT aircraft in the 1960's by removing the fuel tanks and installing electronics.  They have been flying for 50 years.  You would think that anything with that kind of record would be safe to fly.
  Not for Brit bureaucrats.  They have a six step process for certification, after which they issue a clearance to fly the aircraft.  One step is "Type Certification Basis" (TCB) requiring paperwork going back to the 1950's.  Which was unavailable.  Especially as no one in America every heard of a TCB, let along knows what goes into one.  Second step was to show the RC-135 complied with its TCB. Needless to say, the lack of a TCB stopped that step in its tracks. 
  So, the RC-135 sits on the ramp at Waddington UK for seven months while the bureaucrats shuffle papers. This is an aircraft the Americans have been flying for fifty years.  If it doesn't have the right paperwork it must be a death trap.
   Did I read that our NASA was demanding a mountain of paperwork from SpaceX to "certify" their Falcon booster?
  Anyhow, after a seven month hold, the RAF is finally allowed to fly the aircraft. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Obama to buy two new Air Force One's

Aviation Week says the only time a multi-billion dollar procurement of a new presidential aircraft is possible is the last years of a president's second term. And so, the Air Force is expected to issue a request for proposals this fall.  The proposal is open to all, Europeans included.  But nobody expects the Americans to buy a foreign-built aircraft for such a publicity heavy role, so Boeing will get the job.  Boeing will offer a new model 747-8,  which is somewhat bigger than that of the aircraft in service.  Wingspan will increase from 195 feet to 225 feet, length from 231 feet to 250 feet. 
   Boeing and GE are doing some work on defenses already.  They are looking at mean to suppress the IR signature of the engines in order to confuse heat seeking shoulder launched missiles.  Presumable there will be something like Common Missile Warning system to see the flare of missile engines, warn the crew, trigger the flare dispenser, and perhaps aim an IR laser at the incoming missile to dazzle its seeker head. 
   Price humungous.  They are talking about $1.65 billion in just "research and development".  As part of the R&D program they will buy one aircraft.  The Air Force declined to estimate the cost of all the electronics or to estimate the total program cost to procure the second aircraft, in flying condition.  Guess it would be another couple of billion or so.
  The current Air Force One's have been flying since 1987, which makes them middle aged as aircraft go. They are younger than the B-52's which are still flying combat.  Unlike cars, aircraft never wear out.  As soon as anything shows wear, or fails, it is replaced.  The air crew will refuse to fly an aircraft that isn't in tip top shape.  A couple a hundred DC-3's, built in the 1940's, are hauling passengers to this day.   And there is nothing in an aircraft which cannot be replaced. They replaced all the wings on the C-5s some years ago.
  If it was up to me, I'd just keep flying the current aircraft.   I might be willing to fund some electronic updates, but  other than that, I'd fly 'em another 25 years.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I can believe IT chucked Lois Lerner's harddrive

The part that still needs explaining.  What are the requirements for record retention at IRS?  They ought to have some, in writing.  Lets see them. Do they back up desktops/laptops  over the network?  How often? Where are those backups? What does federal law require for record retention?  Is the IRS written policy in accordance with that law?  What does IRS use for an email server?  Microsoft Exchange?  Why does not the server archive all email? 
   If indeed, the IT people at IRS serviced Lois's computer and found the hard drive gone bad, they would replace it.  The old one would be chucked.  That part I can believe. 
   The part I have a lot of trouble believing is the idea that IRS email isn't routinely archived somewhere, just in case some bureaucrat needs a copy of something to prove a point. 
   I also have trouble believing that six of Lois Learner's partners in crime would all suffer total email loss at the same time. 
   I figure the Administration would rather take the heat from losing/refusing-to-furnish email than the heat they might get from a Lois email implicating the president in the stick-it-to-conservatives scandal.  That fact suggests that Lois had some pretty incriminating emails. 

Drinking Windex

So I'm watching TV.  Commercial comes on.  Cheery background music, elegantly dressed woman, tall martini glass.  Full of something bright blue.  Looked just like Windex which is horrible smelling stuff that you don't ever want to drink.
  Dunno what that commercial was pitching, the lady drinking Windex absorbed my limited attention span. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Does New Hampshire care about an immigration bill?

If you believe Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus,( I do) an immigration bill was what toppled Eric Cantor, number 2 Republican in the US House. 
Question:  Is an immigration bill that important up here?  If so, what should be in it?  Considering that we are far from the Mexican border, in fact about as far away as you can be and still be a US state.  The Quebec border is only a hour's drive from here.  Of course you don't hear all that much about illegal immigrants from Canada.  There must be some, but they sure don't make the TV news. 
 There are several issues that might be addressed in an immigration bill.
1.  Do something about the 10-11 million illegal immigrants already here.  Partly this is a matter of plain humanitarianism.  Right now they are outlaws. subject to jail and deportation if they come to the attention of the authorities.  A simple traffic stop can lead to deportation.  Democrats are in favor, 'cause they think the illegals will all vote democratic if they ever become citizens.  Republicans seem to be OK with this 'cause they think it will  improve their Hispanic community vote.  Business is OK with this 'cause it offers them a lot of workers, willing to work for less. 
2.  Increase the number of H1B visas granted.  H1b visas let engineers, computer programmers, and other skilled technical workers come and work in the US.  Business is strongly in favor.  US born engineers are less than enthusiastic.  In a related vein farmers and growers want a deal to let in more farm workers. 
3. Revise immigration laws to favor the young, the educated, the married with children, people who will contribute to the economy.  Current law favors the aged parents of  younger immigrants. 
4.  Increase security along the Mexican border to prevent more illegals from gaining entry.  The ultimate end of this policy will give us a Berlin wall stretching from San Diego to Brownsville.
5. Something else?

I'd be interested in comments on this one.  What do you think?

Maybe Immigration did beat Eric Cantor

Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus discuss this possibility on Glenn's Web TV show.  Mickey relates that both sides in the campaign concentrated on the immigration issue in the last weeks of the campaign.  I have confidence in both Glenn and Mickey, they might be onto something here.  Mickey said that an immigration bill offering amnesty (although calling it something else) and freer immigration of workers is popular in with Republicans in DC.  They think it would gain them votes in the Hispanic community, and their corporate donors like the idea of more cheap labor.  The idea is unpopular outside of DC where voters see amnestied illegals gaining political power with the vote, holding wages down, and competing for jobs. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Don't rule things out while cutting a deal

With Iraq falling to terrorist, Obama  publicly declares we won't sent troops, and just now declares we won't fly airstrikes.
  Dumb and dumber.  You don't tell the enemy what you will or won't do.  Better to let them worry about what might happen to them. 
   Obama's lefty peacenik base may love this, but it doesn't help to preserve Iraq from Islamic terrorists.

Questions they didn't ask Hillary

Hillary ventured onto Fox News last night, got interviewed by Brett Bahr and Greta van Sustrend (sp?). I watched. The questions not asked:
1.  Why no rescue mission to Benghazi that night?
2.  Why were two US general officers in the theater relieved of command the next day?
3. Who turned down Behghazi's requests for more security before the attack?
4.  What was a big CIA installation doing in that sinkhole?
5.  What was the US ambassador doing there that night?

Hillary is not an inspiring speaker.  She uses the bafflegab technique, utter a lot of big words to say little or nothing.  She was evasive, seldom answering the question, instead launching off into vaguely related side issues of little interest.  Brett and Greta were polite and their questions were fairly easy, even for a democrat.
I'm wondering if Hillary OK'ed all the questions beforehand as a condition of coming on the show.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

20th Anniversery of OJ

Not to my taste.  But the newsies, all of 'em, NPR, Fox, ABC are all running reminiscences of the OJ trial from 20 years ago.  The event must really mean something to newsies, since they cover it so lovingly.  We have terrorists taking over Iraq, the economy sliding down the tubes, Russians taking over Ukraine, terrorist kidnaping schoolgirls, airliners mysteriously disappearing at sea, Republicans massing to take over the Senate, and all the newsies want to cover the OJ trial, again.
Talk about a slow news day. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cookie Pushers begin to flee the Bagdad embassy

Let's hope to doesn't look as bad as the  bugout from Saigon 40 years ago.
I heard our good old State Dept had 5000 cookie pushers stationed in Bagdad.  I wonder what they do, other than draw their pay.

Do you believe this?

Man changes his name to "Human" and runs for the NH house.  Fortunately he is a Democrat.  This same guy went to court to get a vanity plate reading "CopsLie".  Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ya run what ya brung

Old car racing adage.  Sense of which is, once you get the car to the track, it's too late to soup it up.  There comes a time when more tinkering at the last minute either won't do any good, or worse, break something. 
  Iraq is like that.  The enemy is at the gates, to survive, the Iraqi army must fight off the terrorists with what they have, now. There is no time for training, more US equipment, political reforms, anything.  When the enemy is at the gates, the only thing to do is fight, and win.
  All the Sunday pundits were full of ideas for reinforcement, re equipment, training,  air support, you name.  Sorry. It's too late for that.  Iraq will stand or fall on the fight the Iraqi army can put up.
   The only thing we can do, now, that will work, is send a division of US troops.  They might get there in time. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Obama visits an Indian Reservation, skips Williston ND

So Obama fired up Air Force 1 and went junketing.  He stops at some Indian reservation on the North Dakota/South Dakota border, and makes happy talk about improved education and stimulating the sale of Indian handicrafts.  Cool.  Youngest son, who is out there tells me this reservation only has about five maybe ten thousand residents, which ain't much.  Heck, Littleton NH has more voters than that. Hardly worth the jet fuel to fly there.
   Obama should have visited Williston, ND, a very small town, in the center of the oil field.  Williston has grown from nothing to 40,000 people in just the last couple of years.  Unemployment is so low they can't measure it, jobs for everyone, McD's is paying $17 an hour to start, and not finding enough people. 
    It would show our ivory tower pres what real prosperity looks like.   Of course, the Williston people aren't real Obama voters, and might start asking embarrassing questions for which Obama lacks good answers....

Friday, June 13, 2014

Detroit should try these new features

Detroit cars need something to help sales.  They don't do styling anymore, they don't race NASCAR or NHRA.  They paint them all gray or mud color.  So here are my ideas for a better car that would sell better.

1.  A "vent" mode that actually brings in fresh air.  Right now, the duct work for "vent" runs near the hot engine, and so the vent air comes in as hot air.   Tolerable in the winter, but a pain at any other time of year.  To keep the interior cool, short of rolling down a window, I have to run the air conditioner.  Which isn't the end of the world, but air conditioner air always smells damp and musty.  Fresh air smells much better.
2.  A "close all" button for the power windows.  Nice summer day, I roll down all the windows to enjoy the fresh air.  End of the drive, park the car, and I gotta push four "up" buttons to get the car rain tight so I can leave it.  Not only push "up" but hold it down till the glass gets all the way up.  I'd like a single button, that I touch once, and walk away while all the windows roll up, nice and rain tight.  
  I know the safety guys would freak on that one, fearing that some one or some pet would have its head out the window when a kid pushed the close all button and strangled the some one or some pet, but there oughta be a way. 
3.  Car thermometer accuracy.  Especially right around the freezing point.  It's night, we have precip. Big question, is that black slickness on the road ice, or just rainwater?  Makes a difference.  So how good is that thermometer?  Is the sensor placed somewhere out of the wind and road splash?  Away from the heat of the engine?  On my Mercury not so good.  Park the Mercury in the sun and the the thermometer will read 10-20 degrees high until you get the car moving and some air flowing over the sensor. 
4.  A windshield washer that holds a full gallon of washer fluid.  They sell the stuff by the gallon.  It would be so nice to pour in a gallon, and chuck the empty bottle.  Can we do that?  Nooo.  You always have a quarter of a bottle left and you gotta open the trunk and stow it.  PITA.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I don't have a clue

Why Eric Cantor lost his primary.  I don't live in his district, I don't know anyone in his district, I don't get the same TV, newspapers, and blogs as Eric's district does. I'm not on Facebook in his district.  Eric got redistricted this time around.  I have no idea what that meant to his re election. 
   But I see lotsa pundits, with no more information than I have (which is zilch) offering opinion after opinion as to why the upset, and what it means.
   "All politics is local." Tip O'Neill said once (I lived in Tip's district once upon a time).  Could well be that Eric's defeat was caused by strictly local issues.  Or it might not be. 
  I doubt that any of the TV pundits making so free with opinions, actually know anything.  


Got so cold last night, my furnace kicked in.  This in mid June.  It's blowing and raining today.  Blew so hard I had to unhang my new hanging plant lest it blow away.  Global warming indeed. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Diane Rahm (NPR) raises questions

Clearly in response to that terrible accident on the New Jersey Turnpike, where a semi rear ended a van and put Tracy Morgan in the hospital and killed a good friend of his. Diane did a whole hour this morning about safety of the big rigs. 
   In an hour, she never did explain what Federal regulations say about driving hours.  Lotta talk about how the regulations should be changed, no explanation of what they are right now.  The trucker involved in the accident admitted to driving for 24 hours straight, which is very dangerous by any standard.  My personal standard would be never more than 12 hours behind the wheel, and eight hours of sleep before driving again.  Somehow in an hour of talk Diane never did clear up what the Feds require right now, but she was sure the regulations needed to be  tightened up. 
  Funny, except for that NJ Turnpike crash the other day, I always considered the big rig truckers to be safe and professional drivers, far better than the average driver of a passenger car. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bering Land Bridge Unneccesary

The Bering Land Bridge comes up in archeological discussions of how the Indians came to America.  Geological changes are thought to have raised the land of the Bering Straits above sea level allowing the ancestors of the Indians to walk across from Asia.  The main geology evidence in favor is that the modern Bering Straits are fairly shallow.  If there is any other evidence in favor of an ancient land bridge, I never heard it. 
  Actually, a land bridge is not needed for the Indians to cross the Bering Straits.  Modern Alaska Eskimos cross the straits, in skin boats.  Or at least they did up until the late 1940's when the Soviets made life difficult for any American Eskimos found on their side of the straits.  Which generated a strong anti-communist spirit among the Eskimos that persists to this day.
   The Eskimo's used skin boats, umiaks.  While this sounds primitive, the skin was walrus hide, quarter of an inch thick and tough as fiberglass.   They were built up to 30 feet long, and were strong enough to withstand the thrust of a 40 horsepower outboard motor.  Evinrude was popular among the Eskimo, more so than Mercury or Johnson. 
   And, if you have ever traveled in the back country, you know that canoe is the way to go.  Given a water way, two men and a canoe can carry a thousand pounds of cargo, and do it faster than walking pace.  Whereas afoot the same two men can only backpack a hundred pounds of food and gear. The Indian canoe is so good a water craft that it is still in production today.  Granted modern materials give a vaster stronger vessel, but birchbark is strong enough to make a useful canoe.  The crew must take greater care in the rapids, touch a rock and you have a big leak, but it is perfectly do able. 
   So I have no trouble believing the Indians followed the coast line, and paddled across the open strait in good weather.  The only timing issue I see is the state of the Ice Age.  At the height of glaciation,10,000 years ago, North America must have been as bleak as the North Pole.  But when the glaciers melt back,  the grass comes up and game animals appear to eat the grass then enterprising bands of Indians or proto-Indians  could have emigrated to the New World.  Archeological finds in North America are mostly dated after the last Ice Age.  There are a few sites claimed to be earlier, but not many, and the pre glacial sites are "controversial", i.e. the archeologists still argue about the dating. 

If not Hillary. who?

Hillary Clinton looks like a shoo in for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president.  She has name recognition, she doesn't have any competition.
  On the other hand, she has baggage left over from the Clinton Administration.  She didn't do much as Secretary of State, she is deeply involved in the Benghasi scandal, she is getting very old, she doesn't take enough care of her personal appearance, she shows up on TV looking totally disheveled. 
  But if they don't go with Hillary, who is left?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Words of the Weasel Part 38

"Lacks tranparency."
"Lacks clarity."
Nice speak meaning "They are lying."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What's different between the VA and GM?

GM canned 15 people fort the ignition switch scandal.  How many people has the VA canned?

Words of the Weasel, Part 37

"It's under investigation and I have to wait until the investigation is complete before I can comment." 
"It's under litigation, so I cannot say any thing."
"It's in the hands of the prosecutors, so I cannot say anything about it".
"We need to wait for all the facts to come in before reaching a conclusion."

All fair sounding ways of saying "No comment." 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

ISO 9000 and the future of GM

ISO 9000 is an international standard for manufacturing excellence.  It's world wide.  More and more customers are demanding their suppliers be certified as ISO 9000 compliant.  Twice I was involved in pushing the company into compliance with ISO-9000.  Quite a push, each time.  It's gotten so widespread that I saw a lumber mill in far northern Ontario sporting an ISO 9000 banner on it's front lawn.  At this point, if you are a manufacturer, and you want your customers the think you make good stuff, rather than junk, you get yourself ISO 9000 certified.
  So what are we talking about here?  At bottom it's pretty simple.  There is only one way to make the product right.  There are thousands of ways of making it wrong.  Your production line workforce are willing, but they aren't experienced craftsmen or technicians, they don't understand the product very well.  If you carefully explain to each line worker what he must do to make the product right, and give him written instructions, from which he must never deviate, then that line will turn out a consistent, probably a good, product.  The foremen must know all the procedures, and make sure the line workers comply with them.  When so-and-so doesn't show up for work, the foreman has to grab somebody else and get him doing so-and-so's job to keep production running. For this to work right, the written job instructions have to be readily available, and written in plain English, not techno-geek gibberish. 
   One of the important jobs is incoming inspection.  At a minimum the inspector must verify that what was shipped is the same as what was billed for.  No short weight, no wrong part number.  In a lot of cases, the incoming parts are tested to make sure they work, meet spec, will fit.  If incoming accepts something that isn't right, the production line will put that part into the product.  Ignition switches for example. 
  To get certified, the company hires an agency, which sends an inspection team to walk their production line, see that the workers know what they are doing, that written instructions are readily available, and that the workers are following those instructions.  They ask questions, like "What do you do if a part doesn't meet spec?"  The correct answer, the answer that gets the company certified, is "We reject the shipment and send it back." 
  Now let's take a look at GM, old Government Motors.  We have the new GM CEO, a thirty year veteran in the company engineering department.  She says "Just because the part doesn't meet spec doesn't mean it isn't acceptable."  In front of a Congressional committee no less.  This is the CEO saying this.  If the top person doesn't think compliance with written procedures is important, does anyone at GM do things by the book?  What happens on GM production lines with that kind of corporate culture.  Especially on graveyard shift?  As I think about that one, buying a Ford begins to make a lot of sense to me. 
  GM may have canned 15 people over the ignition switch disaster, but does anyone think that is enough to get the word around? 

Newsies versus nouns

And the nouns are losing. 
Was listening to a lengthy piece on NPR the other day.  Only toward the very end of the piece did I figure out the newsie must be talking about Ronald Reagan.  I often miss the first words of a radio/TV piece, 'cause it takes my built in commercial ignoring ear a few seconds to unmute.  The newsie spoke the rest of the entire piece using he, the president, and, then, and similar pronouns and connective words.  The piece would have been better had the newsie started more sentences with the subject's name, in this case  Ronald Reagan. 
   This is not uncommon.  I listen thru a lot of pieces wondering where it happened, when it happened, who did it, why they did it, and what happened.  The classic newman's questions, left totally unanswered. 
What do they teach in "journalism" schools?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Alexander, an Oliver Stone movie

It's been out a while, actually since 2005.  I missed seeing it in the theaters, so when I ran across it on Netflix I clicked on it.  It came in yesterday. 
  It's long.  So long it needs two DVD discs to hold it.  Runs nearly four hours, which is ridiculous for a movie.  It's got Oliver Stone directing it.  Apparently Stone didn't find any undug dirt on a guy who died 2500 years ago.  The movie follows generally accepted history, mostly.  It had a decent budget.  Sets and costumes and thousands of extras.  Palaces in Macedon and Babylon, massive armies.  Mediocre score, it's there, it's music, but it ain't John Williams and nobody is going to buy a CD of it.  Curse of the soundman was laid on this flick too.  Dialog is very hard to hear, the actors mumble, the score is played over the dialog.  Excellent camera work.  Lots of really nice shots, a young Alexander galloping about on Bucephalus, battle scenes that go on forever, interpersonal confrontations that result in a lot of bad words, but no resolution, except occasionally Alexander looses his temper and slays an old friend at the banquet table. The flick would have been better if a lot of the glorious camera work had been cut down, a lot. 
   There are some offputting details.  The helmets everyone wears don't look very Greek to my eye.  Lots of one eyed men, but no black eyepatches, every one eyed man just squints the bad eye shut.  A lot of blood.  Everyone comes out of each battle covered in blood from head to toe.  Never any scenes of washing the blood off after battle.  The Greek soldiers (hoplites) don't form a phalanx, three ranks deep, instead they are formed up in blocks a dozen ranks deep.  That deep, the rear ranks cannot reach the enemy with their spears.  Battle scenes are just a lot of hacking and chopping.  We never see how the hoplites use spears, shields, armor, and discipline to defeat ten times their number of Persians.
   The movie is unsatisfying.  We, the audience, want to see what makes Alexander tick.  Here is a guy, still a house hold name today, cities he personally founded still doing business, conqueror of the entire known world, good looking dude too.  We want to understand why and how he pulled all this stuff off.  Oliver never bothers to tell us. He shows us Alexander's creepy mother (Angelina Jolie) who keeps pet snakes around the house and keeps telling the boy Alexander that he is a god. We see the father beating upon the boy for not being tough enough.  We never learn just how Alexander feels about all this.  A key scene, the death of his father, and a teen aged Alexander managing to snag the crown of Macedon against a bunch of other tough older bastards is done in flashback.  We never do learn just who really offed Philip, was it Alexander, Alexander's mother, or the Persians?  Alexander's later sex life is complex, he marries a cute but fierce Persian princess, Roxane, and he has a boy friend.  When the boyfriend finally dies of a fever, Alexander chews out  Roxanne for it.  The one time Alexander speaks of his ambitions, he talks like he just wants to be a tourist, (tourist with an army, but just a tourist).  He speaks longingly of wanting to see the Pillars of Hercules, the northern forests, Rome, Britain.  This doesn't answer the question of how and why he dragged his entire army into India after the conquest of Persia.  Alexander's blond hair grows longer and longer as the movie goes on, his complexion worsens, and his shaving deteriorates, suggesting that he is loosing his grip,  but somehow he presses on, keeps the troops with him, and makes it back to Babylon, in time to catch a fever and die.
   All and all a colorful swords and sandals epic that doesn't come to grips with the issues we the audience want addressed.


For those who don't remember, it was 70 years ago today.  A crucial battle in WWII.  The Anglo Americans loaded a huge army onto landing craft, motored across the English channel, and seized a defended beachhead and held it against Nazi counter attack.  This victory doubled the Nazi military problem.  It placed the Anglo American army on Germany's west side while the Red army was pounding on the east side. 
  D-Day could have failed.  Had the weather worsened, had the Germans deployed their forces better, had a number of other things gone wrong, the invasion force might have been thrown back into the sea.  Eisenhower was sufficiently worried to pen a press release accepting full responsibility in the event of defeat.  He never released it, but it shows he, the supreme commander with the best grasp of the situation, had his doubts. 
  If D-day had failed, it would have been a year or more before the losses could have been made good and the invasion tried again.  If  the delay had run on past August 1945, we would have nuked Berlin instead of Hiroshima.  Or the Russians would have cracked open the eastern front and invaded Germany pretty much single handed.  By this time in the war, Russian industry was up to speed and turning out weapons as good as the German's and in vastly larger quantities.  The Russians had a much larger and highly dedicated population to furnish soldiers to the front.  Had this happened, the cold war Iron Curtain would have started in Holland, instead of Eastern Germany.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I've been working on the railroad

All the live long day.  Well, not really, at least not in 1:1 scale.   You might have noticed the number of train wrecks involving tank cars of crude oil, resulting in massive fires, death, and property damage.  How come so many?  Well, the crude oil wrecks have been increasing because a lot more crude is going by rail because US and Canadian oil production is ramping up and Obama is sitting on the Keystone XL pipeline.  
  Some accident are just plain gross negligence.  The bad accident in Quebec happened because the single crewman on the train pulled it into a siding and failed to set the hand brakes before going off to a motel to catch some crew rest. It was winter, and nobody ever shuts down a diesel in winter, lest it never start again.  So the train, nobody aboard, engine left running, and no brakes set, rolled slowly off the siding, gathered speed on the downgrade, headed into town, derailed and caught fire.  I forget how many people got killed in that one.  Burned down every building in town that one did.
  But a lot of accidents come from old worn track that derails the passing train.  Down at White River Junction, on a line used by Amtrak's Montrealer, the wooden ties are so rotten I can pick spikes out of the ties with just my fingers.  That bit of track has a slow order (35 mph) on it, but I used to worry as I packed youngest son onto the train for the seven hour crawl down to college in New York City.
  Betcha there is plenty more track like that carrying unit trains of crude oil.  It's only a matter of time before another one derails.
  What to do?  The railroad insurance companies ought to bear down on the railroads with higher premiums on every mile of substandard track.  That might work, if railroad companies actually depend upon insurance for liability protection.  They may not, many railroads are large enough to self insure.  
   In that case we have work for the million lawyers hanging around suing drug companies and chasing ambulances.  They ought to get with it, and organize a suit against the railroad every time a train derails.  For plaintiffs you have the union railroad workers endangered in the accident, the landowners endangered by petroleum fires, the fish and game departments enraged by water pollution.  It shouldn't be hard to arrange for sympathetic press coverage.
   Along these lines, there ought to be nationally recognized written standard for acceptable track.  Something a plaintiff's lawyer can wave in front of a jury, and quote chapter and verse about how the track at the accident site did not meet standard.  We need something with the kind of authority that Underwriter's Labs carries. 
   Next time someone cries for more infrastructure spending, suggest that some accident prone track get relaid.  Best of all, track maintenance is a private sector job.  If the courts make derailments expensive enough, the railroads will get the message and spend the money to replace over age track.  

Dune, Frank Herbert

Probably Frank's best science fiction novel.  Came out in 1965. I can remember buying the hardback on a Friday, and settling down to an all day read that weekend.  Twenty years later Hollywood did a movie version. This was after Star Wars, I figure the Hollywood suits were thinking there was money in science fiction movies back then.   I saw it  when it first came out in 1984.  There was a slow night last week, and for some reason I decided  to replay my Dune DVD.  
   Back in 1984, Dune the movie got a poor-to-mediocre box office response, despite a hoard of loyal fans of the book.  Re watching it in 2014 it was clear why.  The book had an intricate background of ecology, future history, and strange technology which was difficult to grasp as a reader, let alone as a movie viewer, and was essential to understanding what was going on.  Even though the movie makers added a number of scenes and a good deal of voice over commentary to try and clue the audience in, it wasn't enough.  A long dramatic scene where Paul Atreides  agonizes over the water of life and finally drinks it, was sorta meaningless unless you knew that the water of life was a deadly poison that was converted into a recreational drug by pure magic.  If you knew this, then the scene makes sense, Paul is betting his life that he can work the magic to render the water of life harmless before it kills him.  If he succeeds (survives) everyone in the universe will know that he is The Man.  If you don't know all this, all you see is a lot of writhing around on screen.  I think this flick should serve as a warning to movie makers who assume their audience has read the book. 
   I'd forgotten that Captain Picard was in the cast.  Patrick Steward shows up as a senior Atreides retainer, trim uniform, baldie haircut and all.  They had Sting play a bad guy.  Dune the book kicked out a lot of ideas that went into Star Wars.  The white armored Imperial Stormtroopers are inspired by Herbert's Imperial Sardaukar.  The massive creature in the sandpit that nearly eats Harrison Ford is clearly a sandworm from Arrakis.  Tatanooie, Luke's homeworld, is a dried out desert planet like Arrakis with Fremen like desert guerrillas.  
  Anyhow, if you liked the book, this is a worthy movie.  You can recognize lines of dialog as word for word quotes from the book.  Netflix has it. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How to become, or remain, a Superpower.

First off, it helps to be large, have a large and loyal population willing to pay taxes, serve in the armed forces, and work the industries.  To be large requires political skill to avoid separatism, secession, and break up forces.  The United States sorted this out back in the 1860's, and was able to bring the secessionist south back into the Union and keep them there.  The Russians still haven't solved this problem, they had a third of the old Soviet Union bug out in 1989.  They are still trying to drag it back together.  Sorry about that Ukraine.  If you are small, the big boys will shoulder you aside.  Witness Britain, the mistress of the world thru out the nineteenth century, superseded by the Americans in the twentieth century.  Britain, with a population of maybe 40 million on a smallish island was dwarfed by  a continental power with triple their population. 
   Superpowers get to stay that way by becoming desirable places to live or move to (America where the streets are paved with gold).  Superpowers dominate in things like fashion, popular music, film making, world wide broadcast networks, the internet, inventions and technology, space travel, art and architecture. 
   Good money is a powerful force.  The Yankee dollar is accepted everywhere because everyone knows that with dollars you can always buy what you need from the Americans and anyone else for that matter.  We have stuff to sell, good stuff too, and plenty of it.  And we control the dollar, we can print as many as we need.  That's how we financed World War II. 
   To print good money, you need a large and strong economy that can produce all the goods that the money wants to buy.  And keeps the large and loyal population loyal by giving them good jobs.  With a powerful economy, in good running order, the need for standing armed forces is less.  Everyone knows that a big strong economy can create an overwhelming armed force in short order, so it is less necessary to keep a big force under arms in peacetime.  You need enough force to slap down the likes of Saddam Hussein, but we don't need a force big enough to fight WWIII against the Russians, at least not right now. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mental Health

When everyone concerned in a case, parents, spouse, police, know the subject needs serious mental health care, right now, there ought to somewhere to send them. 
  There isn't.  We have cases of subjects spending the weekend handcuffed to a bed in the emergency room.  Until the subject actually does something bad, law enforcement cannot do anything, even in those unfortunate cases where everyone agrees that the subject is going to do something really bad in the immediate future. 
  We ought to have one mental health facility (aka the booby hatch) centrally located (Concord) open 24-7 with a few open beds.  The 24-7 is important, the mentally ill seldom blow their tops during normal business hours. 
   This won't deal with all cases, but doing something about the worst cases has got to be helpful. 


Funny, I don't remember ever hearing about this guy until this weekend.  Mixed emotions.  I am always glad to get an American POW back.  The price (five ugly Talibans turned loose) was high, but the Israeli's (some of the toughest minded people around) have paid even higher prices.  I think they released a hundred prisoners to bring a single Israeli POW home. 
   The ugly questions about how Sgt Bergdahl came to be a POW, some of his statements, some opinions from fellow soldiers, and questions about the legality of the POW trade, are upsetting.  I don't like what I am hearing on the TV, but I don't know what really happened, and I'm not sure the TV newsies get anything right.
  This affair has pretty much pushed the VA hospital scandal off the TV. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Today I hung the wash out on the line

For the first time this year.  Up til now it's been too cold, too rainy, too snowy for the clothesline to do any good.  Lets see, it's the 2nd of June.  So much for global warming. 

Words of the Weasel Part 36

Passed away,  or just passed.  Used in place of die.  A mealy mouthed attempt the make a death sound trivial.  I hope that when I die, my friends and family will not tell people that I "passed".

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I'm younger than the median

At least according to this.   All cable news ratings are sinking, especially in the magic, super groovy 24-54 year old group.  Fox remains solidly ahead of the competition, but it's audience is aging.  O'Reilly's Factor median audience age is 72!.  That's old.  I thought I was getting old, but I ain't even as old as O'Reilly's median audience.  I must have some living yet to do.  
   Cable news would pull a bigger audience if they actually got out and reported some fresh news now and then.  Right now they just chew endlessly over stories that we all heard days ago.  Get's old fast.  And channel up is just one click on the remote. 

McLaughlin is a warmer.

Crusty old John McLaughlin, of  the everybody-shouts-at-each-other Sunday pundit show,  believes in global warming.  He appeared on his show, with a copy of Michael  (Hockey Stick) Mann's new book.  Mann is a high priest of warming.  Michael Mann is the guy who emailed "Hide the decline" to a fellow warmer, which came to light in the Hadley climate research unit document leak of a few year's ago.  Mann has been accused of fudging his data to make or create the hockey stick warming trend that is propelling the administration's war on coal. 
   The modern newsie doesn't report facts, he advocates worthy causes. 

Campbell's Soup

Long time favorite.  Good for cooking with, good for something warm on a cold winter day.  Loosing market share, or at least shelf space in markets up here.  Campbell's is loosing on the low end to house brands and on the high end to groovier competitors.
   And on the taste front, Campbell's puts too much salt in their soups.  They taste too salty.  I'm looking at two cans of vegetable beef.  Campbells, which really tastes too salty, and Healthy Choice which tastes better to me.  Read the labels on the back of the can.  Sodium  (dietician speak for salt) 890 milligrams Campbells, 420 milligrams for Healthy Choice.  And Healthy Choice tastes better.
   I'm thinking an old American brand is hurting.