Friday, October 31, 2014

Flying Car

They are really gonna build one.  The Terrafugia Transition, a two seat light plane with folding wings that can be driven on the highway.  The company is in Woburn Massachusetts, just down the road from me. Mostly carbon fiber,  410 mile range with 30 minutes reserve fuel, 100 mph cruise speed.  Price is $279,000.  Which is a lot, you used to be able to buy a used two place Piper or Cessna for $10,0000.  They have 100 firm orders.  Tooling is going to cost $20-30 million, of which half has already been raised. 
   Regulations seem to be as big a hassle to this product than any real technical issues.  Only an easier route to FAA certification open to low power two place sports aircraft made the product possible.  Conventional FAA certification is so expensive, and would add so much heavy "safety" equipment as to kill the design.  After tangling with FAA regulations, they had to deal with highway regulations, which hassled them over the windshield among other things.  Bureaucrats wanted to make the windshield from safety glass rather than polycarbonate plastic. 
   I wish them luck. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Walt Havenstein vs Maggie Hassan

They were on TV last night "debating".  Both of 'em looked good, sounded good and talked past each other.  Neither of them made a newsworthy gaffe.  Half the reason for watching candidate debates is to enjoy the blood spilled on stage when one of 'em says the wrong thing.
  Walt missed an important point on right to work.  We need right to work to get investment, factories, assembly plants, in short jobs.  Fact of life.  Corporations won't invest in a state that is not right to work.  They do invest in right to work states.  Which is why Sturm Ruger is expanding in North Carolina, and Boeing is now building 787s in the same state.  If NH were to vote in right to work, we would be the ONLY right to work state in the whole northeast.  That would draw investment dollars from the moon.
   I know that right to work is tough on unions.  It's much harder to collect dues when you have to ask each man to write you a check.  It's easy street when the employer deducts dues from the paychecks and passes the money on to you.  But only 7 percent of NH workers are unionized, we ought to be able to vote in right to work in the legislature.  And, unlike last time, when democratic governor Lynch vetoed right to work, Walt would sign it.
   The other big miss.  Both candidates admitted that NH is suffering a loss of young people.  Maggie said this was due to a lack of educational opportunities and segued into more money for UNH.  Walt didn't contradict her.  Neither came out and said that young people leave NH 'cause there are no jobs for them here.  My own son had to travel to North Dakota to find work.   Right to work would bring us some jobs. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Yearly Rotation of the phone books

Fairpoint Communications delivered my new phone book today.  So, the new book goes on shelf by the office phone.  Last year's phone book in the office goes to the kitchen phone.  Year before last phone book in the kitchen goes to the workshop in the basement.  Old work shop phone book goes to the trash.
   Why, with just me living in a small house , I have three wired phones is a good question.  But I do.

Japan Woodworker

A catalog, delivered in the mail, in time for Christmas.  Full of tools.  I like tools, most guys do.  But the prices in this catalog are completely outta sight, even viewed as fancy Christmas gifts.  $200 for a straight razor, set of wood chisels for $1600, those clever Japanese pull saws for $300. 
   Nice stuff, much of it in the black iron, hand forged by blacksmiths look, which isn't as pretty as the stuff from Lee Valley which is all machined, polished, chromed, and generally sharp looking.  And not quite as expensive.  


That's what they are doing on TV this election.  Countless smear ads, accusing candidates of doing unlikely things, voting for awful things, voting against good things.  Mostly Democratic, although not all. 
   Strangely enough, the smears are kinda wishy washy.  Never a specific, never a real name or date, not even a bill number that one could look up.  I can see how they might speak to true believers, but anyone of ordinary sense will be suspicious of such vague and outrageous accusations. 
   Not sure if I understand the strategy behind such ads.  It is a truism that 40% of the voters are yellow dog Democrats, and 40% are rock ribbed Republicans.  These voters will vote their party, no matter what.  The 20% independents control the election and they are the voters your advertising needs to reach.   These smear ads may delight the yellow dog Democrats, but I don't think they will speak to independents. 
   And, there is a heluva lot of money flowing into this here mid term election.  Yesterday the mail brought me 5 by 7 four color postcard for Rebecca Brown (Democrat running for NH state rep from my district).  That kind of mailing is pricey, few rep candidates have the money.  She didn't have that kinda money two years ago.  Wonder where the cash came from. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lying to the Prosecutors

A Massachusetts court just convicted a buddy of the Boston Bomber of "lying to prosecutors".  Pretty wimpy.  This buddy was accused of cleaning up evidence left in Tsarnov's dorm room, including a computer.  Since Tsarnov himself ought to be standing trial for first degree murder, the buddy ought to be charged with accessory to murder, or conspiracy to commit murder. 
  Far as I am concerned, lying to prosecutors should not be a crime.  Prosecutors ought to prosecute on evidence, and testimony, not confessions squeezed out of defendants upon threat of long prison terms. A perp has a right to try and get off by telling the prosecutor/cops  anything he can think of.  If the perp is guilty, the prosecution needs to present real evidence to that effect. 
  Plus, "lying to prosecutors" is something that you can pin on anyone.  Just grill 'em long and hard enough.  Sooner or later the suspect will contradict himself.  Nobody can keep their story straight for ever.  As soon as the suspect makes a slip, charge him with lying.  That's real judicial fairness that is.  Just like they have in Russia.
  And, it's been a long time since we bagged Tsarnov.  When do we bring him to court?  Why are we frying the little fish instead of the big one?   Especially as the little fish were just trying to cover for a buddy.  Which ain't right, but it is understandable. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014


That's what the TV newsies are talking about.  They are saying those three school girls who ran away from home to join ISIS, and were arrested in Germany, had been watching ISIS video's on the 'net and thought the ISIS fighters were way cool, and would marry them.  And those two Canadian shooters were "self radicalized" by watching ISIS recruitment videos on the 'net.  And the ax murderer who whacked a pair of NY cops got that way by too much websurfing. 
   Is this really true?  What I see of ISIS is a bunch of repulsive terrorists.  The TV newsies are telling us that ISIS is as cool as Rudolf Valentino in Son of the Sheik.  Used to be that America defined what was cool for the entire world.  Blue jeans, hot rods, rock 'n roll, Elvis, Humphrey Bogart, CB radio, Jimmy Dean, Hollywood westerns, Marilyn Monroe, America defined cool. 
   Let's make that work for us again.  Some Hollywood output showing America as hard working, virtuous, and successful and Islamic terrorists as dirtbags would help.  Some good pop music, even country and western, about young lovers, separated by deployment to Iraq.  Some consistency from the political leadership, even just calling terrorism terrorism, rather than workplace violence.  America is the land of Madison Avenue, lets put some flacks to work. 

Gridlock. Is the top problem facing voters??

That's what the TV newsies are saying this morning.  And it happens not to be the case.  When I hear a pol or a newsie moaning about gridlock, I hear a guy who doesn't have the votes to pass his pet project.  He lacks the votes 'cause he didn't campaign hard enough, or there are a lot of voters who dislike his pet policy, or it's a bad policy to start with.  That's what democracy is all about.  Laws passed by a razor thin majority are undoubtedly bad laws.  A good law will attract a solid majority. 
   And, we have a lot of gimmicks built into our system designed to prevent "the tyranny of the majority".  For serious issues, like amending the Constitution, we require a supermajority, just to make sure that the minority can stop things it dislikes.  It is not right to allow a 51% of the voters to pass a law that 49% see as anathema.  The Senate rules allow the minority to demand a supermajority to pass anything. Harry Reid managed to trim that back a little bit and there was a nation wide outcry.
   Remember that politicians always vote their district.  If the voters back in the district have an issue they care about, the politician has to vote that way, otherwise he won't be their pol for long.  A number of Democrats who voted for Obamacare found that out last election.  "We will remember in November."
   So, when you hear a pol whining about gridlock, remember that you can reduce gridlock by voting for his opponent.   

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Put 'em on paid leave, 'cause you can't fire 'em.

Fox has been running pieces about the 57,000  Federal civil servants who are drawing pay but not coming into work.  That's a lot.  People like Lois Lerner, who ought to have been fired and prosecuted two years ago is still on the payroll, but she doesn't come into work. 
   The root cause of this problem is a civil service HR system that makes it impossible to fire a civil servant, no matter what.  We caught a couple of 'em stealing parts out of the base warehouse.  We prosecuted, obtained a conviction, but we couldn't fire 'em.  That was forty years ago. 
    The country would be better served if upon genuine cause, and concurrence of a reasonable number of supervisors, a civil servant could be fired. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Words of the Weasel Part 40

"What did he know and when did he know it."  Classic newsies' slam going back to Watergate in the '70s.  Too bad it is a meaningless question.   Knowing stuff ain't a crime.  Unless we are willing to allow prosecution for thought crime, which I am not.  Doing stuff, now that can be illegal, big time. 
Real men ask, "What did he do, and can you prove it?"  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

NH Candidates NRA ratings

My election issue of American Rifleman came in today.  As usual, for the issue before the election, the NRA lists every candidate for every office and rates them on their support of the right to bear arms.  Since the election is close at hand, I thought I might share the NRA's thoughts with you. 

  (R) Scott Brown          ?   (Scott did not reply to NRA questionaire)
  (D) Jean Shaheen       F
US House District 1
  (R) Frank Guinta         A
  (D) Carol SheaPorter  F
US House District 2
  (R) Marilinda Garcia   A
  (D) Ann Kuster            F
  (R) Walt Havernstein  A
  (D) Maggie Hassan    D
Executive Council District 1
  (R) Joe Kenney          A-
  (D) Mike Cryans         ?   (Mike did not reply to NRA questionaire)
State Senate District 1
  (R) Mark Evans          A
  (D) Jeff Woodburn     ?    (Jeff did not reply to NRA questionaire)
State Rep  District 2
  (R) Peter Nightingale  B
  (D) Rebecca Brown    C
State Rep District 14
  (R) Brad Bailey           B
  (D) Douglas Grant      ?   (Doug did not reply to NRA questionaire)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mr Fusion under development at the Skunk Works

Well, it's bigger than the little white appliance on Doc Brown's De Lorean, but it's tiny compared to the ITER machine.  The photo in Aviation Week shows a barrel shaped device, maybe 4 feet in diameter and 10 feet long.  A cut away drawing shows superconducting magnetic coils wrapped around the device to contain the plasma.  The project is being done by Lockheed Martin, presumably on company money.  The project leader, Thomas McGuire, holder of a doctorate from MIT,  acknowledged a debt for some ideas from the Polywell project. 
Lockheed Martin has been in business for 80 years and is a pretty canny company.  They did the Lightning fighter of WWII, the Constellation airliner, the F104 (Chuck Yeager's favorite jet fighter) the cold war U2, the L1011 airliner, the SR71 Blackbird, the F22,  and recently they beat out Boeing for the F-35 project.  They know what they are doing.  They clearly think they can make Mr. Fusion (compact fusion reactor, CFR for short) work.  They are talking prototype in 2019 and production in 2024.
   The CFR project is just getting going.  They don't have any results, no evidence of neutron production, time or temperature achieved.   My electromagnetic field theory is no longer strong enough to even estimate whether their device can achieve fusion, so I am going by Lockheed's reputation.  If they think they can do it, they probably can. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ford comes thru

The TV news is reporting a massive recall (4.7 million cars) of nearly every make of car on the US markets.  Except Ford.  The problem is a defective airbag part that can explode and throw shrapnel thru the driver and passenger instead of inflating the airbag. The part is purchased from a parts house named Takata.
   I wonder how this happened?  Was Ford's quality control so effective that they refused to buy the Takata parts?  Were Ford buyers able to obtain a better price from some other supplier?  Was Ford just lucky? 
   Anyhow, as a Ford owner, and long time fan, I am OK with this. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Winter is coming

Mt Lafayette. "Possible snow in higher elevations". 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Driving down to Beantown

Eldest son was in Boston on business, so I drove down to see him yesterday.  The good news, it only takes two and a half hours driving from Franconia to Logan.  Used to take three and a half a few years back.  Trusty Mercury does 80 mph, no sweat.  Car would be happy going even faster, but Driver worries about sneaky NH state troopers hiding in the center strip bushes.  So I keep it below 80. 
   Coming down from the north, the old Sumner Tunnel route off the Big Dig tunnel is shorter than the new tunnel from the Mass Pike.  Logan parking is ridiculous, $19 for two hours.  I parked on the roof of Terminal B, which is all covered with fancy solar cells.  I wonder how much they cost and what the payback time is.  Betcha the airport is using the $19 parking fees to pay off the solar cells. 
   So for old times sake we spent the day in Harvard Sq.  The Head of the Charles Regatta was on and the crowd was huge.  Much bigger than a few years ago.  So big we couldn't even get into Charlie's Kitchen.  The Sq hasn't changed much since last time I was there, all the nice places are still there, no new places groovy enough to catch my eye. 
   So I dropped eldest son off at a hotel on Atlantic Ave.  Drove right down Mass Ave, thru Central Sq, out Main St and crossed the Charles on the Longfellow Bridge (better known as the Make Way for Ducklings bridge).  Infrastructure fans will be glad to hear that Longfellow bridge is getting rebuilt.  The two inbound lanes are all tore up and closed, inbound traffic is rerouted on the outbound lanes and outbound traffic has to find another bridge.
   On the way home I checked out the NH Liquor Store on I93.  They been rebuilding it; it isn't all finished yet; but it is open to cars (only).  Truckers suck hind teat.  They now sell gas, big self service Irving station which was only $3.16 a gallon.  Cannon contributed one of the old Tramway cars which is mounted on display at the convenience store.  I looked at it, and I do think it's real, rather than a mockup.
   Stupid Beast was pleased to see me when I got home. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Do we have anyone on active duty?

Anymore?   Obama wants to deploy 3000, maybe 4000, troops to West Africa to fight Ebola.  This morning NPR announced that Obama was mobilizing the reserves to raise enough troops for West Africa. 
   We don't have 3000 active duty troops fit to deploy overseas?  We have to call up reserves?  3000 troops ain't much.  What would happen if we got into a war with even a pip squeak country like Syria?  Do we have any active duty Army left? 

Antivirus on Win 8.1

Flatbeast, my new Win 8.1 laptop came with McAfee antivirus installed.  It was a freebie trial installation with a drop dead date.  Either pay up or it drops dead.  Although McAfee is good name in antivirus, that goes way back, back even before Windows, it's expensive, and slow and I have been having good results with Avast which is free. 
   So, when McAffee  dropped dead today, I uninstalled it.  What used to be "Add and Remove Programs" has been renamed to "Programs and Features" but the Microsofties didn't move it, it's still on the control panel where it ought to be.  Removal was a major effort, taking minutes and a reboot.  Uninstalling was like pulling dandelions, they will come up, but they don't want to. 
   So I downloaded the free AVAST, no sweat.
   So I checked on my RAM usage.  With McAfee installed, I had 1846 MB of RAM used.  After uninstalling McAfee RAM usage dropped to 1289 MB.  That's 557 MB worth of antivirus code that used to be hogging RAM.  That's a lot of code.  Flatbeast feels a bit more lively after removing all that baggage. 
   Installing AVAST pumped RAM usage back up to 1570 MB, which is still 270 MB better than McAfee.

Camera bearing laptop?

New laptop has one.  It's buried in the bezel, it only can see out when the lid is raised.  All it can see is my smiling face when I am using the machine.  There is an app to take a selfie for use as account photo.  I have much better selfies I took with a real camera on a tripod.  If there is an app to do video conferencing with it I haven't found it.  I cannot image using it to take pictures the way you do with an Ipad or a real camera. 
   I suppose it's there 'cause it's so cheap as makes no matter.  A couple of bucks for a chip, the lens is molded into the bezel so that's basically free. 
   There is a LED that comes on when the selfie app is running the camera.  I wonder if the LED is hardwired or software controlled.  Could an embarrassment app take a pix of me in my underwear and keep it secret by not turning on the LED?  Not that I work my computer in my underwear very often; it's too cold around here for that.
   Anyhow, to satisfy my paranoia, I placed a bit of masking tape over the lens.   Just in case NSA or KGB wants pix of my kitchen table. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dow is down 84 points, just this morning.

It's close to breaking thru the 16000 level, which takes the Dow back better than a  year.  The TV newsies haven't picked up on this yet, but Win 8.1 stock market app has.  The TV newsies are chatting up Ebola, although there is little that hasn't been said, repeatedly, to report. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Isolation, Texas Health Presbyterian style.

With a second nurse contracting Ebola at the Texas hospital, it has been announced that 70 odd hospital workers are still under observation due to contact with the index patient.  For a guy who was "in isolation" that's a lot of contact.  I'd think you could give first rate care, 24/7 with no more than 4 or 5 people coming in contact with the patient.  Seventy odd sounds like every curious person in the hospital visited the index patient, just to see how he was doing.
   As to how the poor nurses got infected, could be a lotta things.  Some fault in the protective gear, a bad or missing zipper, a loose elastic, a rip, a tear.  Getting out of the gear is tricky.  There are live infectious Ebola virii on the outside of the garment.  You gotta get out of it, without ever touching the outsides of the gear.  Easier said than done. Or Ebola may be much more infectious than is believed.  
   Either way, they both have my best wishes and full sympathy.

NYT reports Iraqi Chemical Weapons coverup.

It's history by now, but the Times reports that US troops occupying Iraq discovered sizable quantities of artillery shells filled with poison gas.  The troops claim they were told to hush the matter up.  This just came on the TV news this morning.
    Somehow this just doesn't sound right.  Much of the justification for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein came from the belief that Saddam was building nukes.  Colin Powell went before the UN and laid his reputation on the line accusing Saddam of having or building weapons of mass destruction.  After the occupation of Iraq we launched a serious search for the weapons which continued for a year.  When it failed to find much, if anything, of nuclear weapons it was a serious embarrassment to the Bush administration.  It is to Bush's credit that he refused to allow the manufacture of evidence  of nuclear weapons.  A few small caches of rockets with chemical warheads were discovered and made the news.  Small means they would have fit in back of a single pickup truck.
  There was a strong desire to find evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam's Iraq, and I cannot believe that a sizable cache, like the NYT is talking about, was not publicized at the time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Indian Summer

Enjoy it while it lasts.  Sun is out, leaves are bright, it's good and warm (72), warm enough to bask on the deck.  Winter is coming.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Telephone Scam

The phone rang today.  The accented voice on the line claimed my computer was sucking in bad stuff off the net, and he worked for Microsoft, and wanted to help me.  I was suspicious but decided to play along and see what his scam was.  About the time he got me to download from, I told him I would call him back.
   A quick Google for PNF scam turned up a dozen accounts of this scam.  So, I never did find out just what the scam was,  but, I can repeat to all of you, that unsolicited phone calls from companies are scams.  This call was trying to get me to download some dreadful virus.
  If you don't already know, beware of phone scammers.

Alamo In the Ardennes. John C. McManus

A reasonable WWII history book about the bitter fighting of the Bulge.  The Germans secretly built up a vastly superior force, three full fledged armies, and hurled it against the Ardennes sector which was held by a single American division.  The outnumbered Americans put up a stubborn resistance which slowed the enemy down until Patton's Third Army could come into action.  It's a good story, although the author's prose gets sort of pedestrian. 
    The cover illustration is striking.  A photo from the national archives shows three US soldiers walking thru a snow covered forest.  The weather is miserable and the expressions on the soldier's faces do not show happiness.  And yet, they are well equipped.  All three of them have good warm parkas and good boots with puttees to keep the snow out of boot tops.  They are heavily armed, each carries a personal weapon, they have two bazookas and are lugging 250 round steel boxes of machine gun ammunition.  Grenades dangle from their web gear. 
   It's a long way from the industrial heartland of America to the Ardennes, but we managed to get these soldiers and a generous supply of weapons and gear, into action, at the right place and the right time.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Susan Rice rides again.

I never expected to see Susan Rice on the Sunday talk shows again.  Not after her Benghazi lying tour a couple of years ago.  But there she was, on Meet the Press this morning,  looking and sounding like an administration pundit.  She went on and on about how ground troops were not necessary against ISIS.  For some reason that I don't understand, she, and the rest of the administration still calls the enemy ISIL rather than the ISIS used by all the media.
   I wonder how many people out there believe anything she says?  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

So how bad is this Ebola stuff anyway?

Hard to tell.  It's not my field, all I know is what I see on the TV news or read in Tom Clancy's 1996 thriller "Executive Action".   The TV newsies are all motivated to make it as bad as possible in order to sell advertising (if it bleeds it leads).  The TV guys are all poorly educated, with no real world experience in anything, so their judgement is suspect.  So far the only really hard facts we have are 4000 Ebola deaths in West Africa and only one in the US so far.  That's pretty good isolation in my view. 
   There is a lot of talk by TV newsies about shutting down air travel to West Africa.  Dunno if that will do much, if any, good.  There ain't much traffic with West Africa in the first place, the Dallas Ebola case had to go to Belgium in order to get a flight to the US.  We have a lot of our citizens in West Africa, missionaries, medical workers, soldiers, and some of them will come down with Ebola.  They are Americans, and we must bring them home and cure them.   We don't abandon Americans to die in African jungles.
   We have to do something about Africa.  The deaths are doubling every few weeks.  First it was a thousand, then two thousand, now it's four thousand.  That's exponential growth and a little more of it will kill everybody in Africa.  And infect the rest of the world.  Trouble is, there ain't that much anyone can do.  Other than isolating the victims so they don't infect more people, you just keep 'em fed and watered ("hydrated") and watch 'em die.  Ebola's kill rate is 60% or worse. 
   Technological advances may save the day.  They have a vaccine undergoing trials right now.  There is talk of drugs.  If anything pans out, it will be a game changer.  Given a vaccine that works, we could vaccinate all of Africa in a year.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Great Costume Drama, Prisoner of Zenda

It's an oldie, released in 1952.  But it's pretty good.  Stewart Granger has the lead role, James Mason is the dastardly Count Rupert of Hentzau.  Debra Kerr is the Princess Flavia. The costumes are wonderful, both for the men and the women.  Granger and Kerr look fabulous entering the royal ballroom.  It's in Technicolor.  The dialogue is witty and good.  There is plenty of daring do, including a sword fight in a castle, a cavalry charge, a gun fight in a deserted urban summerhouse.
   Netflix has it, but it's a long wait.  I have it on a VHS tape I got from Amazon a long time ago. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Making Win 8.1 less hostile

Go to Control Panel, Select Personalization.  I prefer a solid color background.  The icons show up better and the eye is less distracted with solid as opposed to a wall paper (some photo on your disc, blown up to fill the entire screen.  There are two basic schemes, dark background with white text (aka white on black)(, or light background with dark text (black on white).  Win 8.1 allows you to choose the color of the window frame but every thing else (text, selected menu item, etc) is automatically set by Windows.  For amusement you can watch Windows switch from white to black text and back again as you alter the background color.  And the Microsofties like soft pastel colors with little contrast.  Win XP gave much greater control to us users.

Once you have the background and frame colors to your liking, click on "Display".  Take the top item, "Change Size of all Items".   I made it 125% (the only choice besides 100%).  This yields a text size close to my old manual typewriter.  The 100% setting makes all the text  really small, I can still read it, but the 125% setting is easier to read.  I sacrifice some screen space but for me it's a good tradeoff.  I'm on a 14 inch laptop, bigger displays might work better at 100%.  There are a couple of other settings in "Display" that I haven't tried yet, but going with  a solid dark blue background, light blue windowframes and 125% gives a screen that I like.

Count your lucky stars

The Dallas Texas ebola case died this morning.  That's too bad, a tragedy to his family and friends, and  I offer my full sympathy.
So far, nobody else had been infected.  That is a blessing and we should be thankful.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Robots and employment, NHPR this morning

A long talk on the radio this morning with science fiction overtones.  Kinda future oriented, clearly all the talking heads were thinking about Robbie-the-Robot walking talking robots competing for jobs on production lines. 
   None of them seemed to understand that the situation is with us now.  Back when I started in engineering, companies all had drafting rooms, with dozens of draftsmen cranking out drawings.  They all had bevies of secretaries who typed stuff up. 
   As an engineer, I would do pencil sketches on squared paper, and when the design was reasonably firm, I would go down to drafting, negotiate with the drafting supervisor, and a draftsman would be assigned to me.  The schematic for a two layer 3 inch by 7 inch electronic board filled a D size drawing and took a week to do.  The printed circuit artwork for the same board took a couple of weeks. 
   Stuff I had to write, proposals, specs, test procedures, user manuals, application notes, assembly and tuneup procedures I would write out long hand on yellow pads.  Then the a secretary would type up a rough draft, I would correct the rough draft, she would type the final draft.  This took days. 
   When I retired from engineering both the drafting department and the secretarial pool were gone.  The engineers all had CAD programs running on their desktops from which beautiful machine lettered drawings, artwork, and parts lists would flow out the plotter.  We all had Word-for-Windows running on our desktops and in one pass, decent documentation flowed off the laser printer.  No need for typists. 
   Dunno what all the draftsmen and all the typists did when the desktops took over.  For that matter travel agents are pretty much gone, every body makes their reservations on Orbitz or Travelocity.  Most companies now have  automatic answering machines picking up the phone.  Sometimes the automatic is good enough to connect you to sales, and sometimes it isn't.  Robocallers pitch political candidates. Websites have replaced salesmen. 
   Don't worry about the future, worry about the present.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Scum Fighting on the kitchen floor.

Today was clear and sunny, good day for drying. So, haul the kitchen table and chairs and stuff out on the deck.   Wash the dishes to empty the sink.  Fill sink with Pinesol & hot water.  Do floor with sponge mop.  Notice that a scrummy film stays on the floor.  Pinesol doesn't seem to have the sack to cut thru it.  End up on hands and knees with 409 and a Scotchbrite.  That cuts the scum but it's a lot of work.  Wet mop after scrubbing and the rinse water comes out pitch black, so at least the dirt is coming up.  Four changes of rinse water and it's still coming out black.  But the floor is cleaner, and a shot of mop & glow and it's not too bad.  Dunno if it measures up to my Mother's standards, but it's good enough for me. 
   The world needs a better scum fighter.  Something that will cut the scum with just a sponge mop. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Troop ships?

Meet the Press ran a video clip of Rand Paul worrying about Ebola contagion among our troops while they are packed onto troop ships.  Paul cited the cases of some cruise liners stricken with wierd virii that turned all the passenger's tummies.  As well as laying out a lot of the crew.
  The White House guy on camera, a white guy, didn't get his name, said "Oh we will screen them and everything will be OK."
   The White House guy should have said, and didn't,  "The US hasn't transported troops by ship since WWII."  Which is true.  They flew me out to Viet Nam in 1967, and they flew me back in 1968. 
    Anyhow, put one "idiot" chit against Rand Paul and a second one against the White House guy, who ever he was.  And by extemsion, one against who ever hired the White House guy.
   BTW.  Meet the Press and its competitors would make life easier for us poor viewers by placing name plaques on the table in front of all the players.  Even a news junkie like myself doesn't know everyone by sight.  Betcha plenty of viewers don't recognize anyone at all. 
   Then the discussion rambled on about Ebola, and the need to run in circles, scream and shout.  I give Gwen Ifil and David Axelrod one attaboy for not joining in the war dance, and saying we have just one case, where as West  Africa has more than a thousand deaths, and we can keep it that way. 
   There was a little talk about shutting down air travel out of Africa but it didn't really go anywhere.  There are few direct flights to that part of the world.  In fact the case in Texas had to fly to Brussels in Belgium to get a flight to the US.  Plus,  we have a lot of US citizens over there, and infected or not, they are Americans and America does not let its citizens die from a loathsome disease in African jungles.  We bring them home, we treat them, and so far we have had really good luck in curing them. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Jeh Johnson, HHS secretary on Fox News

Bret  Baier had him on the 6PM news show last night.  Put a good long 20 minute interview on the air.  Asked Johnson about Ebola, and the Secret Service.  Johnson did not do well.  He came across as evasive and a man with something to hide.  Several somethings in fact.  I thought Baier did a nice fair interview, but Johnson kept evading the questions or changing the subject, or replying with meaningless platitudes. 

Easier to see scrollbars in Firefox

Some how in making the jump from XP to 8.1 Firefox messed up his scrollbars.  They went light grey, almost invisible, and the slider, or thumb, was just a shade or two darker than the scrollbar and damn hard to see.  PITA.
  There is a fix for Firefox.  Down load an add-in called NewScrollbars, or sometimes NOIAScrollbars 1.21.  Google will find it for you.  Good fix, you can set any color you like and the slider is a nice high contrast easy to see.  Significant improvement. 
Too bad I haven't found something like this for Windows 8.1 itself.  The M$ people were into very soft pastels this time which are hard to see.  User friendly those Microsofties. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital

The one that failed to diagnose Ebola and sent the infectious patient home with some antibiotics.  I wonder if they are on the narrow Obamacare network?   According to the TV news, a nurse actually asked the patient about travel, and the patient said he was from Liberia.  The nurse didn't tell the doctors, she just typed it into the electronic medical records system.  The doctors didn't read the electronic system.  The hospital is blaming the computer system.  I'm thinking that nurse should have known that Liberia was Ebola country and she should have brought it to everyone's attention.  As it is, the electronic medical records system recorded it for later embarrassment of the hospital.  Obamacare has been demanding everyone go over to insecure electronic systems, claiming they improve care.  Right.  In actual fact, they make everyone's medical records available to anyone who cares to snoop, such as potential employers. 
   Any how, I would avoid Texas Health Presbyterian.  The goofed, big time, allowing an infected Ebola patient to wander around infecting people.

Australia's over-the-horizon radar.

Standard radar is strictly line of sight.  It's like using a searchlight.  The radar transmitter illuminates the target and some of the energy is reflected off the target back to the receiver where it is "seen".  Should the target be over the horizon it is just out of view.
   Down under, the Jindalee system uses extremely low frequencies, at least low for a radar.  The Aviation Week article didn't mention the frequencies used, but its got to be  10 meters or longer.  CB band and below.  At low frequency the ionosphere acts as a mirror and reflects the transmitted pulse back down to the ground far beyond the horizon.  The Australians have constructed three low frequency over-the-horizon (o-t-h)  radars spread across their sub continent, looking northward, covering the sea between Australia and Indonesia. 
  O-t-h radar, since it reflects off the unstable and fluxuating ionospheric mirror, suffers from image distortions, blind spots, and difficulties computing range.  You might say the picture is blurry.  But usable.  And operating three radar stations has got to be cheaper than flying reconnaisance, or launching recon satellites. 
   I notice that the o-t-h radar covers the sea areas in which they are still looking for that lost Malaysian airliner, the one that dropped off radar and was never heard from again.  Could the searches be guided by Jindalee o-t-h radar tracks? 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Leaves are beginning too fall

Leaves will be quite good this weekend.  By next weekend they will be mostly on the ground.  Or brown.

Airborne tower of Babel

Long article in Aviation Week deploring the lack of a common data link standard between USAF combat aircraft.  Apparently older aircraft like AWACs and F16's were equipped with a datalink system known as Link16.  The newer F22 has a different system called IFDL and the even newer F35 has a system called MADL.  As you might imagine, the various systems cannot talk to each other.  There is a project, hoping for funding, to build a "translator" box that can talk to all three systems and translate between them. 
   Of course, old fogies like myself wonder just why such a datalink is needed.  Is it to allow aircrews to websurf on their way to target? 
   Way back in the day, the F106 fighter had a data link to the SAGE centers.  When it worked, it allowed the ground based SAGE computers to drive the horizontal situation display in the fighter, and set a steering needle to point to point right at the target.  When it was feeling especially clever it could put a bright circle on the fighter's radarscope highlighting the area in which the target was expected to appear. 
   Headquarters ADC loved datalink (dollie they called it) and insisted upon its use on every practice intercept.  When dollie broke, and the aircrew used trusty voice radio to get vector and altitude to target from the ground  controller, HQ would go ballistic and chew out the controller, the aircrew, and avionics maintenance (me) over the "broken dollie sortie". 
   In actual fact, voice radio worked just fine, everyone knew the procedures, and it doesn't take long to say "Vector 034, Angels 18" over the air.
   But HQ ADC was on a dollie kick and we all did a lot of running around  to make them happy.  Only the then new F106 had dollie.  The older F102, F101, and F89 interceptors lacked it, and my controller friends always said the oldest (F89) was the most likely to score a kill.  Dollie didn't make the F106 more effective. 

Can he fire anyone?

OK, Obama dumped the head of secret service and appointed a new old guy.  Name escapes me, despite a lotta TV coverage I haven't cuaght his name yet.  Not a good sign.
  Clearly Secret Service has some problems, fence jumpers making to the East Room, agents on trips getting drunk and laid, ex-con with a gun riding the elevator with the president. 
   I'd guess these problems come from ineffective supervisors, officers we called 'em in the military, dunno what the secret service calls 'em.  To fix things, you gotta fire the ineffective supervisors and replace them with good people.  Will the new guy (who is retired secret service and ought to know the people) be able to fire the inefficient?  On his own say-so?  Fairly quickly, like within a few weeks rather than after years of hearings and appeals?  Does secret service have a union to protect the guilty?  Are they under civil service, which basically forbids firing even for very strong cause?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

F22 Raptor finally goes to war

They sent a couple of F22's into Syria the other night to bomb some big building in the boonies of Syria.  Aviation Week has before and after reconnaissance photos.  Shows a multi story flat roof building, surrounded by a paved parking lot and outside the parking lot, a really stout fence.  No cars in the parking lot, not even painted lines.  The after photo shows a whacking big hole in the roof and piles of debris all over the parking lot.  Hole in one.  You can see where ISIS has shoveled paths thru the debris to get vehicles in and out. 
   Of course you gotta wonder why Aviation Week gives such nice coverage to a fairly plain vanilla ground attack mission.  An old F-4 Phantom could have done this one.  F22 is the super expensive, super secret air-to-air fighter that got so expensive that defense secretary Gates canceled production after getting billed for only 187 aircraft.  Final price was $130 million per airplane, which is a helova lotta money for a single seat fighter. 
  F22 is stealthy, hard to see on radar.  To get stealthy, all ordinance and fuel is carried internally so it won't give a radar return.  F22 had cute little missile bays, just big enough to take a Slammer air-to-air missile.  To do the Syrian building, the F22's used 1000 pound, JDAM smart bombs.  Those certainly won't fit in a missile bay barely large enough for a 4 inch diameter missile.  1000 pounders are better than a foot in diameter.  Aviation Week didn't say how they hung the 1000 pounders on the aircraft, presumable on non stealthy under wing rails. 

Win 8.1 does network nicely

It's not much of a network, just my router, Trusty Desktop (XP) and Flatbeast (skinny new laptop Win8.1).  For just powering it up, Flatbeast found the wireless router, and got logged in.  I actually had to go down to the router and push a magic router button that told it "new authorized member on wireless, let him in."   Windows 8.1 supports a brand new networking concept call a HomeGroup, but XP does not.  Win 8.1 also supports the older networking concept of Work Groups.  By concept, we mean a protocol for saying hello, asking if anyone is home, and sharing files and printers.  Workgroups have names, and all computers with the same work group name are allowed to play.  Windows (all flavors) ships with it's Workgroup named WORKGROUP.  Once connected, the files on the distant computer show up in "Network"  looking just like files on the local drive.  You can open them, move them around, and delete them.   Win 8.1 is better at doing Workgroup than XP was.  XP was picky about linking up, and often failed to find computers on the local area network.  8.1 is better. 
  On XP "share" meant mark a file or folder as visible over the network.  Explorer allowed you to share files on a one by one, or a folder by folder basis.  If you never shared any files the distant computer would not see any files.
  On 8.1 the verb share means something else.  When M$ invents something new they ought to give it a new name, just to avoid confusion.  PITA.  On 8.1 you don't get to share file by file, you can turn on sharing for the whole machine or nothing.  Click on Control Panel.  Click on Network and Sharing Center.  Click on Advanced Sharing Options.  Turn on the obvious things like Network Discovery and file and printer sharing.  Click on save changes, and all your files become visible to distant computers. 
   The only people with access to my home  network are family and friends and I don't have any files I need to conceal from anyone, so  exposing every file on my harddrive to the local area network doesn't bother me.  Your Mileage My Vary.