Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Is it murder, terrorism, or "workplace violence" ?

This has come up in the Oklahoma beheading case.  The TV newsies  argue back and forth between "terrorism" and "workplace violence". 
Me, I'd rather call it murder in the first degree.  Murder is a well established crime, it's been a crime since Moses brought down the Ten Commandments, and that was a long time ago.  The newer trendier crimes are vague, not well established, and subject to endless bickering by lawyers.  Worse, they are thought crimes, depending upon the state of mind of the perp.  I don't like thought crimes, men ought to be free to think anything they like, just so long as they keep their thoughts to them selves.  Plus, proving thoughts in court is touchy, the perp merely denies thinking wrong thoughts. 
  Plus, terrorism is a political thought crime.  One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.  Convict the perp of terrorism and bunches of unpleasant people will say that his cause was righteous, and he is a martyr to the cause.  Convict the perp of first degree murder and it is harder to generate sympathy  for him.  And the penalties for murder are still quite drastic.  Judge Neopolitano was on Fox a few minutes ago saying that under Oklahoma law, a conviction for murder is straight forward and quite possible, conviction for either "workplace violence" or "terrorism" is problematical .  So let's go for murder. 
   The "workplace violence" just seems pretty wishy washy for cutting off a worker's head.  Let's go with murder.

RD180 Rocket Engines

RD180 is the engine that powers the United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas V heavy lift booster rocket.  One little problem has emerged lately, the RD180 is made in Russia.  Just how a Russian built engine became the main engine of an American booster is a little hard to tell, now.  Tracks are being covered even as I write this.  At a guess, the Russians were low bidders, and someone decided that they were a reliable supplier. 
  Anyhow, after the late unpleasantness in Ukraine,  the Americans started huffing and puffing about "sanctions" and the Russians retaliated by threatening to cut off the supply of RD180 engines.  Which would put the Atlas V and ULA out of business.
   So, ULA is talking about having Blue Origin, a secretive Seattle based rocket company, started by Jeff Bezos the Amazon.com zillionaire, design and build an RD180 replacement engine right in Seattle.  Dubbed BE-4, the engine would burn compressed natural gas and LOX and produce  550,000 pounds of thrust.  Blue Origin has been doing some design work on BE-4 using in house (Jeff Bezos) funding.  ULA has signed a deal to provide more funding.  Target date for first flight is 2018, four years from now. 
   We have a stockpile of Russian built RD180 engines good for two years.  I guess they are hoping that the Russians will sell us another couple of years worth of engines.  Or, that with a LOT of more money the BE-4 could be rushed into production.
  Or, we could drop ULA and Atlas V and use the Space-X Falcon 9 booster rocket which has roughly the same performance as Atlas V.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Navigating Windows 8.1

Two ways to make the Desktop easier to navigate.
First put up some Really Useful Icons.  Namely Control Panel, Your files, Network, and My Computer (well M$ now calls it This PC) .  Once up you can tweak, look at your files, look at system files, and look on the LAN with  just one mouse click on the Desktop.   

 Next clear off the Desktop clutter.  New computers come with all sorts of "helpful" applications cluttering your desktop.  You have never heard of most of 'em, but you hate put them in the recycle bin 'cause you never know when you might want them.  Create a new folder to hold them.  I named the new folder "Craplets" and put it on the desk top.  One day, when I have the time, I will research the craplets and decide if I want to run them or uninstall them (zap them).  But in the mean time they are off my desktop. 

How to?  
1. Right Click on a blank portion of your Desktop  (Shades of M$-DOS, typing magic words to the prompt).  The Personalization Screen appears.
2. On the Personalization Screen left side, Click on Change Desktop Icons.  The Desktop Icon Settings window appears.
3.  Check all five boxes, Computer,User's Files, Network,, Recycle Bin, and Control Panel. Then click "Apply". 
4. To make the icons stay put, uncheck "Allow Themes to Change Desktop Icons.

Once done, you find most of the useful functions of the late, lamented "Start Button" are now available on your Desktop.  I found Win 8.1 less user hostile after doing this. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Congressional authorization to whack ISIS

Does Obama need it?  Or does the 10 year old Authorization for the Used of Military Force (AUMF) that George Bush obtained to overthrow Saddam Hussein  cover zapping ISIS in 2014.  Who knows?  Call in the lawyers and let them quibble. 
  Let's get real about the issue here.   Obama is commander in chief, the armed forces will do what he orders them to.  So Obama can order up air strikes, or anything else, and it will happen. 
   On the other hand,  any president with two brain cells firing, wants to go to war, or something less than war, with Congressional, political and media support.  Obama has already gotten funding for the anti ISIS effort into the "continuing resolution" a stop gap bill to fund the entire US government at least thru the new year.  That's not too shabby for Obama.  That will keep the bombs falling for a while. 
   If Obama isn't very serious about ISIS, and will settle for a few fireworks shows, no ground troops, that's probably all he needs.   If he actually wants to zap ISIS into the next dimension, he probably wants to have a brand new  AUMF that specifically names ISIS as the enemy. 
   To my way of thinking, there are only two reasons for NOT going to Congress for a new AUMF.  One, Obama fears that Congress would vote it down, making him look weaker than he already looks.  Two, Obama isn't really serious about ISIS, and doesn't actually plan on serious operations to wipe them out.  Take your pick.

Gold Plating hikes costs on KC-46

The KC-46 program is supposed to produce new jet tankers to replace the Eisenhower era KC-135 tankers that are still in service with the Air Force.  It's a reasonable program to have, tankers get a LOT of use, and everything has a service life.  The KC-135's have been flying, hard, for 60 years, and there comes a time when a new aircraft is indicated. 
   The idea was to buy Boeing 767 airliners, remove the seats, and install fuel tanks and a refueling boom.  Take advantage of the well proven, reliable Boeing design, hundreds of which are still flying passengers today. 
   The Air Force couldn't resist the urge to gold plate.  USAF has been into gold plating since I was in the service and that was a long time ago.  USAF insisted on rewiring the entire plane.  The new wiring scheme called for double and triple redundancy on a lot of circuits, and shielding and separation to prevent electrical crosstalk in the wire bundles.  Boeing has built 6 aircraft and now, finally, the Air Force inspectors noticed that some of  the new wiring wasn't up to spec.  The commercial 767 had about 70 MILES of wire in it.  The Air Force added another 50 MILES of wire. 
  The commercial 767 flies just fine, has been flying just fine for 20 years with the standard wiring system.  There was no need to change anything.  The Air Force insisted upon messing up a good thing, and it has bought them a 3 month program slippage.  Good work USAF.  My tax money at work.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Leaves are close to peak north of the Notch

Tomorrow will be a fine day for leaf peeping.  Peak color doesn't last long. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Economic Growth in Northern NH

Maggie Hassan, incumbent Democratic governor, seeking re election, came to Littleton the other day.  She got decent coverage in the freebie local paper, The Littleton Record.  They quoted Maggie waxing rhapsodic about Littleton's economic improvements.  She cited a multimillion dollar expansion at the hospital, and a second, smaller but still multimillion replacement of a public school building, and the famous Littleton main street rebuilding (they tore up all the paving on main street, rerouted a lot of sewer and water pipe, and then paved it over)  
  All this is cool, and needed to be done, but Maggie doesn't seem to understand that all this money spent is money spent on maintenance and services.  Where is the money spent on new manufacturing plant, new mines, new farms, new electric generation, new ski areas,  investment that makes stuff we can sell to pay the bills, to pay for new hospital expansion, and nice new school buildings?  You have to make stuff to sell before you can afford health care and education and well paved streets. 
   Manufacturing and farming and mining and recreation create wealth.  Hospitals schools and roads consume wealth.  If you don't have the wealth, you cannot afford the goodies. And that is why our children, after graduating high school, leave the area to find jobs.
   Maggie, like the average Democrat, doesn't understand the difference between weath creation and wealth consumption. 
   Vote for Walt Havenstein.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Economist ignores Scotland secession vote.

The Economist, London based,  naturally has taken the Scotland secession vote of last week much more seriously than the American media.  They had been running articles on it nearly weekly, editorializing that secession would be bad for everyone.  Scotland's economy would be weakened, and British morale would be torpedoed.  In the last weeks before the vote, when the polls started to show secession could win, they did a lot of hand wringing. 
   After the vote, where secession was voted down by 10%, a solid win, the Economist had nothing to say.  No "Thank God they came to their senses" editorials, no letters to the editor, no post election vote counts, zip zippo zilch.  Not  a word.  I expected at least a sign of relief.  Maybe the whole topic was so distasteful to the Economist that they were glad to drop it?  The Brits have not been happy about their loss of empire, prestige, and world leadership over the past 60 years.  To have Scotland, pull out of the United Kingdom after 300 years would have been totally demoralizing to the Brits.
   One thought I saw some where.  The real driver behind the secession voters was the takers against the makers.  The secessionists promised far more socialism than the UK parliament would ever do.  Parliament has been on an "austerity" kick trying to bring the UK budget deficit down.  Perhaps the Scottish makers realized that secession would make them poorer to do more handouts to the takers. 

Leaves are turning up here.

Color will be fair to good this weekend.  Next week end ought to be very good.  Two weekends from now may be past peak.  If you want to see the leaves in fall, now is the time.  It doesn't last long.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mini Coalition

Obama managed to get Saudi and the other little Gulf states, to fly some missions into Syria.  That's a good move, probably the best he has make.  But it would be more effective with some video of aircraft with Saudi and Kuwaiti, Qatari markings bombing up, taking off, flying formation with USAF aircraft, landing.  And maybe some interviews with some dashing Arabic looking fighter pilots, wearing flight suits, talking about how they put the bombs in a pickle barrel, and perhaps a few words on the rightness of the cause. 

What do the Greenies have against cell phones?

For last weekend's greenie rally to support climate change, they filmed at least two greenies being challenged to give up their cell phones to save the planet. 
Cell phones?  The chargers pull a measly 10 watts and the battery charges up in an hour.   I buy electricity for 25 cents a kilowatt hour.  That's enough for 100 cell phone charges, about a year's worth.  This is wrecking the planet?  You gotta be kidding me. 
   Let's talk real energy use.  Like my oil burner.  Each fill of the oil tank is 200 gallons, at $4 a gallon, $800 a tankful.  I need five fillups, to make it thru the winter. I keep the heat down to 60, I wear a sweater in the house, I have good tight Andersen windows, and decent insulation.  That's $4000 a year for oil.  Who cares about a cell phone?  That's greenies for you.
  Other amusing item.  All the demonstrators interviewed on TV looked old, like they had been doing peace marches in the 1960's.   Could it be that they just like going to demonstrations?  Doesn't really matter what the demo is about, they just enjoy getting out and putting on a show for the TV newsies.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

All plastic lawn mower

Here we have Husqvarna all plastic lawn mower after three summers of grass cutting.  I bought  it new  from Lowes back in 2012.  Note the handle is crooked.  That's cause this plastic piece broke while pushing the mower across the lawn.  The bright metal patch is my attempt to glue it back together with epoxy.  Didn't work.  The epoxy failed at first push.

 I was able to find the  users manual and the sales slip. Kudos to my home filing system.  Even found  the illustrated parts breakdown showing the broken piece and giving a part number.  Manual gave a customer service number.  Reached a robo answer machine which asked me to leave my number, they would call back.  Haven't heard from them.  Tried the web.  The Husqvarna website doesn't sell parts and didn't even show my model number.  The dealer finder on the site didn't find any dealers, anywhere at all.  A disti website offered parts, but never heard of my model number or part number.
   Moral of the story, Stick with steel for lawn mowers.  There is no future in plastics. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Swiss Army knife has a 3 inch blade

The TV newsies now describe the White House fence jumper as being armed with a knife with a 3 inch blade.  That has become a "deadly weapon".  So what was the jumper carrying? Really?  Just a pocket knife?  a switchblade?  A lock blade knife?   I keep a short lock blade knife in my desk drawer to open the mail. 
   Was this jumper really carrying a real weapon?  Or are the TV newsies making a big deal out of a pocket knife like most Americans carry all the time?

Is the media after NFL & Roger Goodell ?

Goodell and the NFL have certainly been chewing up air time.  Could this be to distract the voters from serious problems, like no jobs, ISIS, outrageous energy prices, Lois Lerner and the IRS, and the likely GOP landslide in November?  
   Football is a rough game, played by rough men.  Up til that video tape of Mr. Rice cold cocking his fiance in an elevator, everybody pretty much ignored players behavior off the field.  Most NFL players are decent men, but the few bad apples (there are ALWAYS a few bad apples) can spoil the whole barrel.  The media, all lefty greenie types who think football is too violent and too red-neck, have decided to cover the warts of the NFL in detail, and over and over again.  So the owners have decided that bad player behavior on or off the field, is bad for business, and bad for team revenues.  So the owners, thru Goodell, have put the word out that bad behavior, he listed a dozen sorts, gets you kicked off the team and out of the league.  This will be effective, the players are players 'cause they love the game, and getting blacklisted will really hurt them. 
   Maybe the media will gt tired of Goodell and the NFLs troubles and get back to something important.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Words of a Weasel Part 35

Heard on Meet the Press this morning, a pundit said "The voters want representatives that will compromise and support bi partisan solutions and get something done in Washington."  I wonder what universe she comes from.  The voters I know want representatives who will vote for the right  way and vote against  the wrong way.  And not allow themselves to be bought off by the other side.
   And a lotta things don't compromise well.  Either we build the Keystone XL pipeline or we don't.  Either we go to war against ISIS or we don't.  Either we grant amnesty to illegal aliens or we don't.  Either abortions are illegal or they aren't.  Either we hike taxes or we don't.  Either we legalize marijuana or we don't. 

98.6 Not too hot, Not too cool

Normal body temperature for people.  Back in the day doctors and mothers paid a lot more attention to temperature than they do now.  As a kid I had to run 100 degrees before Mom would feel I was too sick to go to school. That didn't happen often.
  I notice that a fair number of mammals run the same body temp.  Stroke a cat, it feels warm, just about the right amount of warm.  If the cat 's body temperature was much removed from 98.6 it would feel either cold and clammy, or hot and feverish.  Same goes for dogs.  And horses.  I am guessing that 98.6 is pretty much normal body temperature for all mammals. 
   I suppose there is a scientific bio chemical reason  for this magic temperature, but I don't know what it might be.  I don't remember reading anything about it, and I do a fair amount of reading.
High school chemistry taught me that the speed of chemical reactions depends upon temperature.  Mammals run on bio chemical reactions, and to stay active when it's cold, they generate heat and keep their bodies warm.  An evolutionary trick that reptiles never learned. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Shopping for boots

Boots to put on the ground that is.  Other than Americans, we have the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and some shadowy Syrian rebels.   Our Prez doesn't want to use Americans for political reasons.  The Iraqis haven't fought well since Saddam Hussein's early days.  They put up a good fight during the Iran-Iraq war on the 1980's.  That war lasted 8 or 10 years.  The Iranians had a larger population, a lot of good US equipment left over from the Shah's regime, and a scary level of fanaticism on all levels, from Ayatollah Khomeini right down to the teen age Iranian soldiers who conducted human wave attacks on Iraqi positions.  But when faced with the Americans in 1990 and 2003 they crumped.   Iraqi units didn't fight much, or very hard, and a lot of 'em just deserted under fire.   After a good ten years of rebuilding under American guidance, they aren't even as good they were in 1990.  ISIS was able to brush them aside with ease. 
   The Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have a decent rep.  They fight hard and they don't run.  Trouble is, there aren't all that many of them, and they lack heavy weapons, mortars, artillery, tanks, armored personnel carriers, even trucks and jeeps.  We could help out there, but the  Baghdad government thinks that Kurdistan is still a province of a greater Iraq, and refuses to give  the Kurds any weapons, lest they use them to declare independence from Baghdad.  And Baghdad gets huffy with us when we suggest shipping arms direct into Kurdistan. 
   Then we have the Syrian rebels.  They have little to no rep.  They have been fighting for years to drive out Assad with little success.  They have been able to stay alive, and prevent Assad from offing them all, but that ain't much. 
   And then there are the Iranians.  Lots of 'em, close by, and they have a pretty good rep.  Trouble is, they are bad guys, trying to go nuclear and nobody wants that.  Iran is Shia, and Iraq is split Sunni Shia.  All the Sunni Iraqis would rather die than allow Shia Iranian soldiers into Iraq.
  Bottom line.  There ain't no good boots to put on the ground in Iraq.  (except ours of course).

Friday, September 19, 2014

Keyboard Flakie Wakies. Windows and HP Bios

This is a software problem.  Touch typing  causes odd effects like cursor jumping back at random, weird programs starting up, and other badnesses.  Impossible for typing.  There are two bugs causing this behavior that are correctable.  First bug is that the touch pad is active, so that stray finger touches turn into mouse clicks, which make a lot of bad things happen.   
   Touch pad fix.  Do the Touchie-Swipie thing on the right hand screen edge and touch the gearwheel charm for "Settings"   Touch or click on "Personalizations".  Click on "Ease of Access" (text string  in lower left hand corner.  Click on "Make the Mouse Easier to use."  Click on  Mouse Settings (text string toward the bottom.  When the Mouse Properties box opens,  select the "Touchpad" tab.   Uncheck all the boxes.  Then check "Disable internal pointing device when external mouse is present".   Write all this down somewhere, you will probably need to repeat this because Windows sometimes messes this setting up.  This one fix will cut down, but not eliminate the flakie-wakies.
   Sticky Key turn off.   I think this is an HP Bios bug.  HP makes some keys "sticky".  Not sure what sticky is supposed to do, but it is bad for typing.  Press the left hand shift key FIVE times.  This will bring up a little window that allows you to turn off sticky keys.
  Once BOTH patches were applied the keyboard works well enough for touch typing.
  Wasn't that easy?  

Something nice in 8.1

On the touchie-feelie-swipie page they have a "news" program.  Plain maroon square with "news" in the center.  Opens up and it has the sort of stuff you find in USA Today.  Longish (by web standards) articles, nice color photos.  Not bad.  Fairly light weight, but no perceptible political bias.  
  And they have improved the boot time.  8.1 only takes 15 seconds to boot up to the wanna-a-password screen, which is a good deal quicker than XP. 

What does Scotland have in common with Quebec?

They both wised up and voted not to secede.  In case you missed it, French Quebec had been agitating to secede from largely British Canada since Rene Leveque and Parti Quebecois came to power in Quebec in the 1960s.  By the 90's they worked up to a province wide referendum on secession.  It lost, by a very narrow margin.  And, surprise, surprise, they never tried it again.  At the time I expected the French to gather their strength and try it again in a year.  Didn't happen.  Far as I can tell from south of the border, the French decided that the pain in secession outweighed the emotional benefits.  They had done some lobbying on Wall St to see if an independent Quebec could borrow money from American banks.  Apparently the Americans poured cold water on the idea and let the  Quebeckers know that there would be no bank loans, no investment, and no favors done to their new currency.  I think some of this sank in, and a lot of Quebeckers who had liked the idea of secession decided that the economic pain out weighed the fun of being independent.    
   Despite last minute polls showing Scottish secession running neck and neck, secession got voted down in Scotland last night by a 10% margin.  That's a solid win.  And I wonder why the polls got it wrong. 
   An independent Scotland would be fun, but terribly small, only 5 million people, little industry, short cold growing season, harsh winters, and few natural resources.  They would have some North Sea oil but those fields have been exploited for 40 years and the wells don't flow like they used to.   I don't think you can keep a country solvent merely on export of Scotch whiskey.   Tasty as it may be.  And, a country of only 5 million people would be a doormat to the rest of the world, like Luxembourg or Grand Fenwick.  Whereas the United Kingdom has been an international heavy weight since Queen Elizabeth the First.  You are better off as a section of an international heavyweight than you are as an independent sub sized doormat.   

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Windows 8.1.double.bleh

Windows screen had been looking shabby,  menu items would turn invisible under the cursor, title bars were pure black, with no title.  I had to Google to find the the color controls.  A swipe, a click and I was informed the screen was in high contrast mode and nothing could be changed. 
   Back to Google.  I found an obscure workaround, I tried it, and it worked.  Dunno how the screen got into High Contrast mode, and M$'s failure to provide an button to turn it off is inexcusable.  Anyhow the appearance shaped up a lot, and I was able to select the classic windows color scheme.  The 8.1 color settings are feeble compared to XP's.  XP let you set the color, text color, font, font size of every object on the screen, background, title bar, border, buttons, ordinary text, emphasis color (pushed button color), selected object color.  For instance you could make the selected menu bar item turn bright red.  8.1 is not as good, you only get to change background and title bar, nothing else.  So I have blue background and light blue title bar and border.  I'm stuck with brown close buttons on a light blue title bar.  Tasteful that is. 

Shipping out to Ebola country

The TV news says we are sending 3000 troops to West Africa to help in the Ebola epidemic.  I wonder how the troops feel about that.  Me, I'd rather go to Iraq and bag me some ISIS.  That Ebola stuff is very dangerous, with a mortality rate worse than 60%.   You have a better chance of surviving a rifle bullet than that.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Congressman Sensenbrenner calls to abolish BATFE

Article here.  A fine idea.  BATFE are the people that brought us Ruby Ridge and Fast and Furious.  They haven't done anything useful since Elliot Ness retired in the 1940's.  They were originally set up as Federal agents to collect the federal whiskey tax (the revenooers).  A tax that has caused friction since George Washington's time.   Later when cigarette taxes were invented, that job was handed to the revenooers.  And even later when they started passing gun control laws in the 1930's  the revenooers got the job of enforcing that too. 
   For one reason or another, BATFE is heavy handed, corrupt, and expensive.  Far as I am concerned, the laws on whiskey tax, tobacco tax, and gun control are just laws, and can be enforced the way all the other laws are enforced.  Police, courts, marshals, and FBI are plenty adequate.  Shutting down BATFE would eliminate a lot of corruption and wrong doing and save money to boot. 

Windows 8.1.bleh

They crippled up Explorer in 8.1.  The extremely convenient two pane display from XP ain't there anymore.  That one had folders in the left hand pane and contents of the selected folder in the right hand pane.   Made it real easy to drag and drop files from one folder to another.  That's gone.  You gotta open a second Explorer window and set it to the destination folder, set the first Explorer window to the source folder and then you can drag and drop from window to window.  PITA. 
  8.1 will run old XP programs.  My old AZZ cardfile program in which I keep addresses,phone numbers, and passwords did come up and run.  That's a goodness.
  They also hid a lot of stuff.  XP Explorer called a file a file, and showed every file on disk.   8.1 calls some folders strange and special, like My_Pictures, and doesn't show them in Explorer unless you find a strangely hidden menu bar item, and click down  one level on it.  I found it by accident and I'm not sure I could find it again.  It's much more straight forward to just show all files and folders in Explorer.  One big place where everything lives, is simple to use, and simple to code.   Clearly the M$ software weenies have had too much time on their hands. 
   And, the start menu is gone.  That was useful.  You could group shortcuts to related programs, like anti spyware, or graphics editors, or media players, on folders on the start menu.  Made it easy to find stuff, easier than fishing around in Program_Files. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Windows 8,1

I had to do it.  Antique Laptop died for good.  Screen went dark and stayed dark.  So, Ho, a new  laptop.  HP Pavilion cursed with Windows 8.1   Due to a 2 Ghz Intel Mode whatever CPU 64 bit, it is nearly as fast as XP.  Not quite, but nearly.  Managed to get onto the wireless router and download Firefox.  Upon which I am posting this. 
   Step 2 was to establish an account for me.  The XP "Settings" and "Account Manager" was hidden, along with the "run" block on the start menu,  for that matter, they hid the start menu  Now you just type "user"  on the black screen.  Shades of DOS.  And now the cheese gets binding.  8.1 wants an email address to use as your account name.  I don't want to do that.  I do my email from Trusty Desktop, and I don't want tricky laptop downloading my email and loosing it.  So, it appears to run somehow without an account. 
   It also has a keyboard hiccup.  Every so often it stops typing and flips up the time and date.  Or jumps the cursor at random.   PITA.  There is probably something to fix that in software, but I don't have clue.   Might be the touch pad is active, and I don't know how to shut it off. 
   Anyhow, a giant leap backward for computerkind. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why do adults read Young Adult (YA) novels?

Slate has a long essay deploring the practice.  The New York Times declares the end of adulthood in America.  Oohh.  that sounds really bad.  Even I surely remember riding the MBTA home from work with every one in the car reading the latest Harry Potter.
  Why do adults read YA novels?  Simple, the last decent main stream writer was Ernest Hemingway, and he died 50 years ago.  The main stream writers of today are so boring hardly anyone can stand to read them.  Main stream novels don't have heroes, they have wimpy anti heroes with neuroses, the other characters are unpleasant, nasty, and ineffectual.  They are set in unpleasant locations and the characters do little other than feel bad about things or make others feel bad.  Who wants to read that?
  The YA books, Harry Potter, Tolkien, the Rick Riordan Olympian stores, the Hunger Games books and others have heroes that overcome difficulties and save the world.  At least Harry Potter defeats Voldemort, Frodo Baggins destroys the Ring and the Dark Lord along with it, Percy Jackson destroys Kronos, and Kartniss Everdeen saves her village, if not quite the whole world yet.  The characters are likeable, the kind of people you would like to have a friends.  The settings are glamorous,  the scenery is dramatic.  They are fun to read, and come to a satisfactory conclusion. 

Assault rifle or deer rifle?

Here in the US the anti gun folks have been beating the drums to outlaw "assault rifles".  The phrase "assault rifle" sounds so terrible that they have had some luck in getting laws passed against them.  In actual fact, assault rifles, like are issued to soldiers, have been illegal in the US since the 1930's.  Back in the heyday of Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, and all the rest of the infamous American gangsters, who got Hollywood movies made of their exploits, and made the FBI famous,  Congress passed a law that made machine guns illegal.  The 1930 law required registration and payment of a $200 tax (humungous in 1930) for each machine gun owned.  A later law tightened that up more and now machine guns are just plain illegal to own.  By machine gun, we mean any weapon that keeps firing, round after round, as long as the trigger is depressed. 
   In the years after WWII armies issued their soldiers machine guns,  reasonably light (7-9 pound) shoulder weapons with detachable magazines holding 20-30 rounds, chambered for low power cartridges to keep the recoil down in full automatic fire.  The Russian AK-47 and the US M16 (AR-15 when sold to civilians) are typical examples.  The troops loved them, thinking that spraying bullets like a garden hose would make up for poor marksmanship.  The Army leadership worried about ammunition supply.  One good long pull on a trigger and brap,. 20 rounds expended.  If the troops set off with 200 rounds, which is a lot, and they get heavy fast,  then do brap ten times and you are out of ammunition.  Every Army officer from corporal on up worries about this problem.  In fact, the US Army modified their M16 rifle so it only does three rounds in "automatic".  Each pull of the trigger gives a mere three round burst, rather than a magazine emptying brap.  Conserved ammunition.
    Anyhow, veterans who carried assault rifles in the service, and liked them, will buy legal versions of the Army rifle for deer hunting after discharge from the service.  Legal means no automatic fire.  Pull the trigger and fire a single shot.  You gotta pull the trigger once for each shot.  Semi automatic is the buzz word, another is self loader.
   And, the legal weapon is no different from any other deer rifle.  The objective things, caliber, power of cartridge, range, accuracy, weight, barrel length, are all the same as a deer rifle.  In fact the "assault weapon" rounds are less powerful than the old 30-30 round for my 1950 Marlin lever action rifle.
   Which left the anti assault weapons lawmakers with a problem.  How to describe an assault rifle?  In California the law listed illegal assault rifles by model number.  The industry assigned new model numbers, and presto, chango, their product became legal again.  Other states  listed cosmetic features such as bayonet lugs, flash hiders, and bipods as making a gun into an illegal "assault rifle". The industry quickly removed those cosmetic features. 
   After all this sound and fury, one needs to remember that crimes are mostly done with handguns, not shoulder weapons.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Negative Political Ads are here

Now that the primary is over, and the opponents know who they have to slam, let the slamming begin.  Sunday morning WMUR (good old channel 9, the voice of NH) was just wall to wall with very aggressive and very negative ads, mostly by Democrats slamming Republicans.  It was solid. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rush hour in Martian Orbit

We have two Mars orbiters arriving at Mars later this month (21 and 23 September) .  NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (Maven for short) and India's Mangalaan Orbital Mission (MOM for short.  NASA spent $671 million on Maven.  India's MOM is famous in technical circles for getting to Mars for about one tenth that.  Both orbiters still have one heavy duty maneuver before they can be considered to have "arrived"  That is the Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI)  a 34 minute burn of the rocket engines to slow the orbiter to Mars orbit velocity.  That's a long burn, especially for an engine that has been floating in vacuum, unused, for nearly a year.   To make the MOI dicier, the maneuver must be executed by the onboard microprocessor, since radio signals from Earth take 20 minutes to reach Mars.  15 years ago a gross software fault caused a Mars Orbiter to crash on Mars from a failure of the MOI maneuver. 
   Maven carries instruments to verify a Mars creation theory.  Now that we have good evidence of free surface water in the distant Martian past, the theory suggests that the water vapor escaped into interplanetary space due to Mar's weak gravity.  Maven's instruments will measure the flow of gases and ions in the upper Martian atmosphere, hoping to show that water is still escaping and measure the rate, as a way of figuring how long surface water lasted on Mars, before it escaped into space.
  To add to the fun, Siding Spring, a comet, will swing by Mars on 19 October.  It is believed that Siding Spring is a new comet, on it's first trip into the inner solar system.   It is thought that new comets are chunks of ice and gravel that have been floating in interstellar space ("the Ort Cloud") since the beginning of the solar system, and Siding Spring represents matter from the dawn of time, or at least the birth of the solar system which is a long time ago.  Scientists are eager for any information the Mars orbiters can gather from Siding Spring. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Anti Terrorist Operations

John Kerry spent some TV airtime explaining that what we are doing in Iraq and Syria are "anti-terrorist operations" NOT a war on ISIS.   Sounds like Kerry just wants to do some fireworks displays and go home.  "Operations" are something you can just declare to be over.  If he were to call it a war, then the country would expect victory, which he has no desire to produce. 

Lone Ranger

Another Netflix.  Didn't bother to see it in the theaters.  Good thing too.  It was terrible.  Nobody did anything heroic or romantic or even very interesting.  Nobody was very funny.  Johnny Depp, who can be very funny, didn't get any decent lines.  Armie Hammer, who played the Lone Ranger, did such a super nerd act that it was painful to watch rather than funny.  It went on and on, for ever.  Nobody ever said "Hiyo Silver", no William Tell overture.  I'm not a real Lone Ranger fan, but I do remember the comic books, the TV show, and the black & white movies.  This flick didn't touch any of those bases for nostalgia or for laughs. 
   I didn't bother to watch it to the end, I switched it off and watched Obama's great Tuesday night speech.  Not sure if that was such a great idea.  IMDB estimates Disney spent $215 million to make this disaster and it only grossed $89 million.  I thought Disney was smarter than this.  They must have got the John Carter crew to do 'em another turkey.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What Obama did say last night

Not much.  He spoke for only 15 minutes, which is not much.  He came on TV right at 9 PM as promised.  Thinking this ought to be an important speech I took written notes.  He did give a partial goal, to "degrade and destroy" ISIS, which is something of a question beggar.  If you destroy them you don't have to degrade them.  He did not say what we want to do with the land that ISIS has conquered already.  He mentioned the US pullout of 140K troops from Iraq as if that was a good thing.  "The US is safer, BUT we still face a threat."  That's luke warm, on one hand things are safer, on the other hand the barbarians are at the gates.  What's a citizen to think about that?  Do we kick back and relax or do we go out and buy firearms?
   "ISIL is not Islamic and not a state".  That's a stretch.  They worship Allah and they control more territory than the Bahgdad government or the Assad regime in Syria.  He did call them terrorists, which is new for Obama. 
   Obama worried about ISIS fighters with US or European passports, who could fly into New York without visas.  Doesn't worry me much, I'm sure pass ports can be bought somewhere if they need them.  Plus with 3000 miles of seacoast and 5000 miles of land border, you don't need paperwork to get into the US.  You just walk in, or come by boat.  Little kids from Honduras can do it, so can anyone else. 
   Obama said we had flown 150 airstrikes against ISIS so far.  Actually that's not too shabby, considering we have been at it for 30 days or less.  That's about four airstrikes a day.  Back in the Viet Nam war, my wing only managed two strikes a day, flying off a nice big air base with 10,000 foot runways, road and rail supply from Bangkok, daily Log Air flights and 90 fighter-bombers.  It's harder when flying off an aircraft carrier. 
  Of course you want to do some checking.  If, Obama said "air strike" when he actually meant "sortie" then we got trouble.  150 sorties isn't much.  We used to fly 70 sorties a day out of Korat, going up to bomb "Route Pack 6" (Hanoi). 
  I did hear Obama say we would fly air strikes into Syria.  I also heard him say another 475 troops were going to Iraq.  That brings the troop total up to 1500 US troops in country.  I also heard him say "no boots on the ground"  which makes ISIS feel nice and secure. 
  Obama asked for Congressional support, type and kind unspecified.  He did not ask for a declaration of war (we don't do those any more) or an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or even a supplemental defense appropriation bill.  If he doesn't ask for something, he won't get it. 
  Then Obama gave a lengthy riff about American exceptionalism, the first I've ever heard him do.  He spoke of some great things from American history, and called them good. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

We survived the New Hampshire primary

I went to the polls early yesterday.  Voting had started off heavy for an off year primary.  All the action was on the Republican side, the Democrats were all running unopposed, or at least with no serious opposition.  When the polls closed we have Walt Havenstein handily beating Andrew Hemmingway for the governor's nomination.  Walt is in his 50s, former CEO of BAE, a big Nashua aerospace contractor (started out as Saunder Associates in the 1960's, I worked there once).  Andrew is a nice very young guy, really too young to be an effective governor, he simply hasn't been around long enough to develop the connections a governor has to have to be effective. Walt now has to beat the incumbent democrat, Maggie Hassan. 
   Scott Brown took the Senate nomination, with something like 50%, far ahead of Jim Rubin and Bob Smith.  Polls predicted Scott's win.  He looks to be the strongest guy going up against incumbent Jeanne Shaheen.  I think Scott can take Jeanne, giving us a second Republican senator. 
  And, surprise, Marilinda Garcia swept the House nomination in my house district.  She got 50%, with Gary Lambert trailing at 20 something %.  This was unexpected.  Marilinda has campaigned hard, and has enjoyed some heavy duty out of state support, TV ad buys.  Certainly the strength of her primary victory makes her the strongest candidate we can put up against Anne Kuster, the democratic incumbent, who is looking kinda old and frumpy and dowdy.  Marilinda is young, slim (very slim) and good looking. 
   In the other congressional district, Frank Guinta won the primary.  Frank has some name recognition in the district.  He has been mayor of Manchester (biggest city in the state). He has been US rep from that district, until Carol Shea Porter beat him two years ago.  So it's a rematch, and who knows how it will come out.
   The Democratic incumbents,  Kuster, Shea-Porter, and Shaheen have been seriously critised in the press for NOT holding town meetings, get togethers with voters, with un rehearsed questions from the floor.  Whereas the three Republicans have been out pressing the flesh with voters for months up here, they have been able to handle questions and just about all the voters have had an opportunity to meet them in person. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What Obama ought to say tomorrow night

He ought to set forth our objectives, our goals, in the Middle East.  What America wants of achieve.  You gotta sort out your goals before getting into methods (bombing, blockade, ground invasion, etc.  Included as a goal, is who gets control of the ISIS controlled Iraq and Syria.  Without goals, it's hard to enlist allies in a crusade.  Might as well use the good old word that we all understand and the Arabs all hate. 
Possible goals, listed from soft to hard.
1.  Stay out of it.  Let ISIS grab as much territory as it likes.  Obama personally likes this one, but fears the voters will turn on him and the Democrats if he voices it.
2.  Contain ISIS.  Prevent them from grabbing more territory but let them live and keep what they have.  Lotta people like this, it seems cheap and easy.  It leaves a deadly enemy in control of a lotta oil, lotta land, lotta people.  They could well bide their time, build up their strength and try something like 9-11 in a couple of years.
3.  Destroy ISIS.  Kill their leadership, drive their supporters into the desert, lay waste to their croplands, bomb their industry, "dehouse" their workers.  Seize their oil fields, refineries and pipelines.  Decide what to do with ISIS controlled territory.  Give it to the Shia Baghdad government? set up a new Sunni government?  give a goodly slice to the Kurds?  Since ISIS controls a swath of Syria as well as most of Sunni Iraq,  we will have to do something about Assad after we blow ISIS away and seize the ISIS lands in Syria. 

Obama may not want to express a goal.  Partly 'cause he fears he will be unable to get agreement on a goal that he likes, and partly 'cause he will get blamed if he fails to achieve a goal once he announces it. 

My bet.  Obama will not talk about goals,  and at best he will discuss/advocate for, some air strikes, big enough to look good on TV, but not enough to really hurt ISIS.  That will quiet down the domestic hawks.  Then he will call for allies, European and Arab to step up to the plate and commit troops, aircraft, money and jet fuel.   Which they will fail to do, 'cause they have no idea what the Americans are gonna do, and don't want to risk war unless they understand what's in it for them. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Getting tough in the Model Railroad business

Model railroading as a hobby get started in the Great Depression, mostly 'cause the technology to make the little trains run only became practical by then.  Two magazines, Rail Model Craftsman and Model Railroader got started way back then and until last month, both were still in business.  Business was good enough to get both of them onto the magazine rack at Walmart, which is about as widespread a distribution as anyone can hope for.  Both of them had plenty of advertising, in fact with the demise of local hobby shops, about the only way for small manufactures of specialty stuff to reach customer was thru ads in one or both magazines.
   Well, something is changing.  Rail Model Craftsman suddenly announced it was out of business. Boom.  No warming, no mailing to subscribers, just an announcement on their website.  Dunno what happened,  Bad management?  Insufficient ad revenue?  Rising expenses?  I don't know, and the few insiders who do know aren't talking. 
   Anyhow, a big upheaval in a small world.  Does it mean that the hobby is shrinking?  The crowds at train shows are mostly older geezers, a few grand children, not many middle aged guys. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Braveheart redux

Polls are showing the Scottish Nationalists may win the referendum and Scotland will secede from the United Kingdom.  Save your Dixie cups, the South will rise again.  Far as I know, the arguments for Scottish independence are all emotional and sentimental, reviving medieval heroes like William Wallace and peotry by Robert Burns.  The arguments against are cold economic ones involving exports to the EU, converting to the Euro.  Scotland is the thinly populated, poorer part of England, and  cutting themselves off from exports to and subsidies from England is gonna hurt. 
  It will also hurt British pride, and reduce British influence somewhat, but probably not too much to withstand. 
  Wonder how it will work out?  Up North of here, the Quebecois figured out that secession from Canada wasn't worth the pain.  Took 'em 20 years to figure it out, but they did. 
   Film at eleven. 

Beat the Press

They  opened with an Obama speech (boring) and moved on to celebrate some US cities that they thought were doing well on their own, with out assistance (money) from Washington.  They selected Oklahoma City, Tacoma, and Pittsburg.  They had the mayors on, and a lot of happy talk ensued. 
   No numbers were ever mentioned.  Like population, then and now, metropolitan domestic product, employment or unemployment, number of welfare recipients, municipal tax revenue, number of businesses,  number of students per classroom, nothing of substance, nothing to show me that these carefully selected towns were doing any better than any other American city. 
   No discussion of business activity, manufacturing, what industries were important, what industries had moved into town.  what new startups  were in town, new industrial parks started, nothing about the town's business at all.  Which is odd, it's business that makes a city tick.  Business employs the citizens, pays the taxes, builds the buildings, and ultimately pays for everything in town. 
   Anyhow it was a nice puff piece for three favored mayors, but it wasn't real news. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Motherless bear cub picked up in Littleton

It's tough being an urban (or even suburban) bear.  An irate homeowner connected his dumpster to 120 VAC after repeated bear chow downs in said dumpster.  A lactating bear was electrocuted.  This took place somewhere on Church St, back in June.  Last Monday Fish and Game finally managed to round up the orphan cub for relocation
   Let us hope that homeowner doesn't have any children or pets. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

So use a real camera already

The leak of Jennifer Lawrence and other Hollywood celebrities embarrassing photos on the the internet apparently comes from their use of smart phones to take the photos.  The smart phones, unlike real camera's, immediately upload every picture they take to the cloud.  And once anything is "in the cloud",or on the internet, hackers, NSA, Google, the Russians, the Chinese, and who knows who else can see it.  There is no privacy in cyber space.
   I haven't seen the pirated photos, but those who have tell me they are unflattering selfies rather than flattering glamor shots by real photographers.  
  Moral of the story.  Use a real camera, not a slippery too-smart-for-your-own-good phone. 


It got bad reviews so I didn't bother to see it in the theaters.  I netflixed it last night.  It's an Marvel X-man  flick but thinned down to just Hugh Jackman.  Charles Xavier, Magneto, Storm, Cyclops,  and all the rest don't appear. The movie takes Wolverine to Japan, with a pair of pretty Japanese girls, one of which he manages to sleep with.  Jackman is still ripped, and his shirt comes off frequently.  A lot of Kung Foo and martial arts and derring do.  The plot was incomprehensible to me.  New bad guys keep popping up and Wolverine would slash them into hamburger.  Old good guys would turn into bad guys.  Dream sequences.  Wolverine would go to bed with one of the Japanese chicks and the chick would morph into a round-eye chick who might have been Jean Gray from the first X-men flick but might not have been.  Then she would morph back to being Marico, wealthy Japanese heiress pursued by Yakuza gangsters. 
   No connection with any Marvel comic book that I know of.  Just the Wolverine character.  
   OK, but nowhere near as good as the first couple of X-men flicks. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Civil Disobedience ? What no strikes and picket lines?

Someone, probably the union SEIU, is organizing demonstrations outside fast food restaurants, and managing to get some of the demonstrators arrested.  Used to be, when labor wanted something they called a strike to shut down the business, and threw up a picket line to discourage customers, scabs, delivery men, just about anyone, from entering the premises.  It was effective, management would capitulate quickly.  I wonder why SEIU isn't doing that to McDonalds?
   Could it be that McDonalds workers don't want to go on strike?  or walk a picket line?  I wonder how many of the demonstrators are real McDonald's employees?  Or are they all  SEIU goons? 

Let them eat plastic

Gopher tortoises that is.  These are foot long, nine pound grass eating turtles.  They love the long grass adjacent to the runways at Orlando FL airport.   They also love to dig burrows, long and deep ones. Although they cannot dig under the runways, they can burrow into the unpaved shoulders and overrun areas.  FAA fears that a plane skidding off the runway onto the shoulder might catch its landing gear in a turtle burrow and flip over.  Seems kinda obscure to me, but FAA has been on the airport's case to "mitigate" the turtle problem.  Making it harder, the turtles are an endangered species so the obvious measures, like picking them up and trucking them elsewhere, are illegal. 
  The airport's latest scheme.  Replace the grass along the runways with Astroturf.  $14 million worth of Astroturf. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Obama doesn't want to whack ISIS

To whack ISIS essentially means sending the armed forces back to Iraq.  Obama was so proud of pulling them out of Iraq back in 2011, that sending them back in 2014  looks like an admission of defeat.  Obama would rather be defeated than admit defeat. 
   Obama sees America as an international bad guy.  He is all the time "restraining" the country from intervening anywhere because he sees American intervention as bad.  Whacking ISIS he sees as unjustified hostility to a native political organization of national liberation. 
   Right now, Obama fears the voters will reject him if he expresses these sentiments.  So he does a little fireworks display now and then, just enough to make it look like we are really doing something, but so far it's just little fireworks displays. 
  Obama has a strategy, namely stay out of it, hope that ISIS will go away or die down or something.  He just doesn't dare tell the voters that is his strategy. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Are minimum wage laws ethical?

Minimum wage hikes always result in layoffs.  A lot of low end, part time, seasonal jobs, life guarding, lawn mowing, fast food, ski patrolling, waiting tables,  will just go away if the minimum wage goes up.  In short, while a minimum wage helps the better paid workers, it results in layouts and job loss to at least as many.  There is only so much money to go around, minimum wage forces more money to go to fewer workers and layoffs to the others.  The NH ski areas, a low margin business if there ever was one, fear that Obama will force them to pay the seasonal workers $10.10 an hour.  Excuse?  A lot of ski trails run thru Forest Service land, and Obama thinks that gives him the right to dictate wages. 
   With unemployment what it is, the country needs more jobs, even entry level jobs.  Kids coming out of high school need that first job.  It gives them experience, and even more important, it gives them references, essential to landing that next job.
   Unions love minimum wage laws.  It drives the high schoolers and the part timers out of the labor market and allows them to win higher wage hikes at bargaining time. 
   Bureaucrats love minimum wage laws.  It allows them to interfere in yet another part of American life.
   I think wages ought to be a matter between employee and employer.  If the wage is too low, the employee can always quit and draw welfare.  Or  organize a union and go on strike.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Desert Victory

Old old WWII newsreel expanded out to feature length.  From Netflix of course.  All about the battle of El Alamein.  The British were so pleased to finally beat the Germans in a stand up fight that they did this one up brown.  El Alamein was the first real British victory, and after that, the British kept on winning.  The British sent an advance copy of the flick to the Roosevelt White House. 
   Looking at the film you see a lot of scenes of British infantry, bayonets fixed, khaki shorts, and British style helmets advancing on foot across the open desert   Not a scrap of cover or concealment.  Easy targets.  I kept wondering, "Why don't the tanks go first?"  as I watched those scenes. Lots of vintage tanks, aircraft and vehicles.  Many shots of the artillery delivering fire.  Shots of Churchill addressing the troops.  Montgomery shows up too. Good maps. 
   WWII buffs, and serious history students really want to see this film to make El Alamein real, not just words on paper.  It's a primary source, the newsreel footage was taken at the time and on the scene.