Sunday, May 31, 2015

Picking College Courses

Well, first you want to steer clear of courses in underwater basket weaving and the like, courses that don't teach anything useful or even interesting.  Figure each semester course soaks up $1250 of your college tuition.  You want to spend that kind of money on stuff you can use or stuff of general utility.  You can learn a lot about the course by checking the course textbook.  College bookstores have all the textbooks for all the courses in stock.  You can flip thru them and get a fair idea of what the course is about.
   No textbook?  That's a down check on that course.  A number of know it all professors don't assign a text book, they expect students to sort of inhale the course contents out of the air.  Which is hard.  In two college educations, I never learned to take useful notes.  With a textbook to study, and review before the test, I did all right.  Without a textbook, forget it, instant flunk out. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Active Duty.

The Army is denying burial at Arlington to a soldier killed in a helicopter crash.  Army claims the soldier "was not on active duty"  at the time.  Which is shameful.  A man dies in an Army aircraft crash, that's active duty as far as I am concerned.
  We ought to find the Army bureaucrat who issued this disgusting ruling, and get him fired (if snivel service) or dishonorably discharged, if military. 

Navigable Waters of the United States

The original Clean Water Act gave jurisdiction to the EPA over all the navigable waters. This was intended to limit EPA enforcement to sizable bodies of water, not every puddle in the land.  Water is very common, and you can find small amounts of water, puddles and such pretty much everywhere.  If we allow the EPA jurisdiction over every puddle in the US, we have given them control of most of the land across the country.  Maybe Death Valley is dry enough to avoid EPA control, but few other places are.
  The EPA just issued 100 or more pages of new regulation which claims jurisdiction over pretty much everywhere.
  Congress ought stop this land grab.  A simple law, which declares that EPA jurisdiction is limited to waters deep enough to float a boat, all year round.  Such a law could be written on one side of an ordinary 8.5 * 10 inch sheet of typing paper. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

So what did Hastart do? Really?

The public accusations are of withdrawing his money from his bank account in cash.  And lying to the FBI.  That's pretty thin stuff.  Sounds like the prosecution is out to get him.  Like any person with two brain cells firing, he made his withdrawals for less than $10,000 to avoid getting hassled for money laundering.  They claim this is illegal.  Yeah, right.
   And "lying to the FBI" means the FBI disagrees with something he said, and so they call him a liar, and some freedom loving Congresscritters way back when managed to slip thru a statute making that a felony.  Land of the free this is.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

We Republicans have an embarrasment of riches.

We have presidential candidates that will not quit.  Just finished listening to George Pataki, former New York governor announce he is running on Fox News.  Live no less. 
Question:  Of the dozen of more Republicans out there, which one can win the general election?  Polls still show Hillary is strong, stronger than any Republican, although only by a few points.  With the exception of the isolationist Rand Paul, and Pennsylvania oddball Rick Santorum, I could vote for any of the others.  This morning's TV poll has five of 'em polling 10%, and the rest of them trailing off from there. 
   I think the winner might be the one who sets out a platform with some substance in it.  So far all I see is smiling faces saying "elect me".   The "Contract with America" worked for Newt Gingrich 20 years ago, it's a good schtick, someone ought to try it again. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Morphine from Sugar?

The Economist reports that a University of California team has come up with a yeast that can do just that.  No more importing of exotic flowers from the other side of the world.  Now you can brew up morphine, and other opiates in your basement, just like brewing beer.  Like making meth.  Could make heroin much cheaper and more plentiful, just what we need. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer is here, at last

It's warm enough for gin and tonic.  Tall glass, fill with ice, good slug of gin, fill glass with tonic water. Slice a lime, squeeze one slice into the glass.  My father once told me he planned to come down with malaria, because quinine, the key ingredient in tonic, was a specific against malaria.  He figured to recover quietly drinking gin and tonic to keep the malaria at bay.  Now that it is up into the 80's round here, I can relate.
   Anyhow gin and tonic makes a fine warm weather drink, at least as good as my favorite whiskey and soda.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Invaders by Pat Shipman

New, interesting book on paleo anthropology.  Addresses the Neanderthal man problem.  Neanderthal man lived in Europe from who knows how far back up until 40,000 to 25,000 years ago.  Then modern man, Homo Sapiens, appeared in Europe and Neanderthal man disappeared, sometime between 40,000 and 25,000 years ago, depending upon whose radiocarbon dates you accept.  So what happened to Neanderthal  man?  Did our ancestors kill off the Neanderthals?  Did they interbreed with them and absorb them, the way Americans interbred with the Indians?  Did a disease wipe them out?  Or climate change? or what?
   Pat Shipman starts out by going thru the radio carbon dating problem.  Cosmic radiation and solar radiation convert a small fraction of the carbon in the world into the radio active isotope carbon 14.  Living organisms  take in carbon from the environment while they live, and cease to do so when they die.  The carbon 14 decays over time and a measurement of the lingering radioactivity gives a measure of age.  Works back to about 40,000 years ago, at which point the radioactivity gets too weak to detect at all.   Due to one thing or another,  modern radiocarbon dating gives a great deal more age to ancient samples than radio carbon dating did even 10 years ago.  A number of Neanderthal sites were redated recently, and pushed back from 25,000 years to 40,000 years ago.  People used to think that Neanderthals and modern man co-existed in Europe from maybe 40,000 years ago until 25,000 years ago.  If you buy the re done radio carbon dates it now looks like Neanderthals disappeared just a few hundred years after modern man appeared on the European scene.  Which leads to the thought that modern man was responsible for the end of the Neanderthals. 
   The fossil record does not show direct conflict, say Neanderthal bones with butchering marks in modern man sites.  Things like a Neanderthal hunting party getting wiped out in a conflict over an big  kill out in the field probably would not show in the fossil record. 
   Shipman says that modern man had projectile weapons (bows and arrows) and Neanderthals did not.  To an old technological determinist like me, that could be decisive.  With a bow, the hunter only has to get within 50 yards of a deer to beg it.  Without, he has to close in hand to hand and rassle it down.  Deer are alert and wary and getting that close without spooking them takes a level of woodcraft that I don't have.  Clearly a bow hunter will have far greater success than a hunter with just a flint knife.   Shipman's argument would be stronger if he presented real evidence for the absence of Neanderthal bows.  A count and comparison of flint arrow head finds from Neanderthal sites versus modern man sites would greatly strengthen Shipman's argument.
   Likewise, Shipman asserts that modern man had bone needles, with eyes, and Neanderthal did not.  Again, a sewn fur outfit will keep the hunter warmer than just a fur thrown over the shoulders.  Again, Shipman's argument would be stronger with some counts of needle finds in Neanderthal sites versus modern man sites. 
   All in all, interesting and thought provoking read. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cooking for one, Grilled Salmon

The secret of cooking for one is to find recipes that make up small and don't leave you with two weeks worth of leftover.  Salmon, or any other kind of fish, EXCEPT frozen or previously frozen, is very tasty and all the diet guru's approve.  Nobody calls it junk food.  Fish comes in small packages, down to half a pound.  It's pricey, but good.  Fresh is best, plan to cook it the day you buy it. 
   Since Ice Age 2.0 is still in effect around here and the temperature on my deck was 45F, I cooked this one in the oven.  Marinade it in lemon juice, fresh lemon is best but the plastic ones are OK.  Then rub it down with a bit of olive oil.  Preheat the oven to 350F and lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the oven's grille to ease cleanup.  Cook time depends upon the thickness, but is never very long.  Last night was a cross cut salmon steak 1 and 1/2 inch thick and I gave it 9-10 minutes a side.  Thinner fillets cook faster.  I turned on the broiler toward the end of each side's cook time to give it a bit of brown for appearance sake.  The broiler is too hot to leave on for the full cook time.  Plan on turning it just once, as cooking softens fish and it is likely to break up into pieces if handled too much. 
  If summer ever comes,  charcoal grilling on the deck is recommended.  Weber rules. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Computer Science major

Computer Science as a major has good employment odds.  Plenty of entry level jobs are open to grads with no experience, but hold a computer science degree.  There is plenty of room for career growth.  You can work for big companies or little startups.  There can be travel involved, there are always customers having trouble with the product, and someone has to go out to the customer's site and get things working. With some experience you can set up as a consultant and make a good deal of money.  Consultants have to buy their own health insurance, but the rates they command make that easy. 
   To be employable, you need to learn to program in the C language, and it's follow on, C++.  You also need Java, and Python.  Check the college course catalog and make sure they offer all four languages.  If they don't, think about another college.  Plan to take two semesters of each programming language.
   Back in the day, Computer Science used to offer courses in compiler design.  Don't bother, all the compilers ever needed have been coded by now.  Assembler language is also obsolete, the current compilers create code nearly as fast as the tightest assembler code, and  the compiler language is faster to write, easier to debug, and easier to maintain.  But, assembler is fun, I  did a lot of projects in assembler over the years and enjoyed them.  But I would not allow a project to use assembler today, I'd insist that it be done in C.
   You don't need all that much math to program.  Beyond algebra, a course in statistics is useful, integral calculus is useful, a lotta computer programs just do numerical integration.  But you don't have to be a math wizz to be successful in programming. 
   Courses in the "domain" are good.  Computer science treats the computer and the languages, it doesn't do much about the problems that computers are used to solve (the domain).  I'd get in a course in economics, and a course in physics.
  Computer Science will offer courses in software project management, but one is probably enough.  They have been pontificating about project management for 50 years, and we still have projects come in late, over budget and inoperative.  Look at the Obamacare exchanges.   

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Smokescreen? Release Bin Laden documents after Ramadi?

TV newsies are buzzing about the release of about 100 documents off the laptops seized when we got Bin Laden years ago. 
Is Obama doing this to distract public opinion from the loss of Ramadi to ISIS last weekend?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Britain Begins by Barry Cunliffe.

I picked this up in DC last week at "Politics and Prose", a nice independent bookstore out on Connecticut Avenue.  Picks up the story in the ice ages and carries it up to the Norman Conquest.  Does all the archeology and all the historical sources starting with Pytheas "On the Ocean", going on thru Julius Caesar, Tacitus, Gildas and Bede.   Lots of good color illustrations of archeological finds, hand axes, gold hoards, weapons, torcs.  Good maps.  It is heavy on archeology, light on political history.  It's up to date, the last book I read on this era was Alcock's "Arthur's Britain" published in the 1970's.  It does not change Alcock's story much.  Apparently the archeology is settled, with little new finds after 1970. 
  Naturally, we readers want to hear about Stonehenge, and King Arthur.  Stonehenge is dated, described and illustrated but little more is said.  The elaborate astronomical speculation in "Stonehenge Decoded" is not mentioned.  King Arthur is mentioned, and dated but little more is said.  The problem with King Arthur is a nearly totally lack of contemporary written sources.  Most of the Arthur legend that we know and love was created 600 years after Arthur's lifetime by Geoffrey of Monmouth.  Many of the better Arthurian tales are romantic stories written by late medieval authors whose names and dates we know, for example  Christian de Troyes.   The only near contemporary writer is Gildas, who simply never mentions the name of Arthur.  Bede, writing a couple of hundred years later never mentions Arthur.  All we have for contemporary writing is a couple of lines from an Easter table from Gwynedd.  What we have is a medieval copy of the original.  Arguments against the authenticity of this document are easy to make.  Too bad, I love the Arthurian tales as much as anyone, and it is a little disappointing to find so little historical evidence for Arthur's very existence.
  I enjoyed "Britain Begins",  but I would have enjoyed it a bit more if it had covered the political side of the story more. 

$150 million for pure papework?

According to Aviation Week, NASA is considering paying $150 million to "man rate" an interim upper stage on the "Senate Launch System" heavy lift booster.  "Man Rating" is a pure paperwork exercise, checking and recording where every bit, piece, nut, and bolt came from, and what testing it passed.  Paperwork costs a lot, weighs a lot, and does not contribute to the mission. 
  But NASA is in love with it. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Words of the Weasel Part 40

Heard on a TV pill commercial.  "Issues with intimacy".  Ordinary folk say "Can't get it up."


Pre gun powder artillery used by the Greeks and the Romans.  Looked like a giant crossbow mounted on a stand.  Could throw bolts or softball sized rocks.  Only, it differed from the crossbow in that it didn't use a self bow (single stiff piece of wood or metal bent to shoot an arrow).  The classical ballista had a skein of stretchy cord or fiber or human hair, into which a wooden arm was pressed.  Pulling back the arm wound up the skein and when let go, the arm was snapped forcefully back into position, launching the projectile.  Ballista had a pair of skeins and a pair of arms.
   The secret of making those skeins, getting the windings stretchy enough, was lost in classical times.  Later medievals used the trebuchet, a weight powered stone thrower, since no one could make a ballista any more.  Modern attempts to recreate the classical ballista have never been able to make skeins stretchy enough. 
  Well, on TV, the History channel, they had a working ballista the other day.  Looked pretty good, shot pretty well.  They used an old cow skull as a target and had no trouble hitting it dead center with a bolt nearly as big as a modern javelin.  Slick.  They used a cop's speed radar gun to clock the projectile at 70 mph.
  The History channel didn't say anything about the skeins they used.  Did they rediscover the ancient secret to making them?  Or did they cheat and use modern rubber bungee cord, something unobtainable in classic times? 
   Any how it made some fun TV.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hypothetical Questions

The TV newsies are having great fun asking Republicans "Knowing what we know now, would you have attacked Iraq?".  The newsies love this one.  No matter which way the candidate answers this one, it makes him look bad.  We haven't had as good a question since "have you stopped beating your wife" made the rounds.
  No Republican wants to say Bush was wrong going into Iraq. Everyone knows it was the threat of an Iraqi nuclear program that convinced Bush and the Congress to declare war on Iraq.  Back in the day, our noble intelligence services produced evidence of a Saddam Hussein  bomb program strong enough to convince even Colin Powell, an experienced and respected man who most of us trusted.  After the invasion, no evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program was discovered, and to the credit of the Bush administration, no attempt to fabricate evidence was attempted.  Today, knowing that Saddam didn't have nukes, and wasn't anywhere close to having nukes, nobody would have invaded Iraq.  Everyone knows that, and there is little to be gained in asking the question, other than embarrassing Republicans, something which the average TV newsie loves to do. 
   Better questions to ask all candidates.
1.  What will you do about ISIS?
2.  What will you do to prevent Iran from getting nukes?
3.  What will you do to get  US economic growth back up to 3%?
4.  What job killing regulations will you repeal?

Fox News is being kind to the Pentagon

A crash in Hawaii of a V22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was described as a helicopter crash.  It killed one marine, and injured about 20 more.  The  Osprey program, while producing a revolutionary aircraft, has had a good share of crashes, and the Pentagon must be more than happy to  call this latest one a helicopter crash.  And, to soften things a bit more, the incident was described as a "hard landing", even as the video showed a column of black smoke, laced with flames, reaching into the sky.  Right, a very hard landing. 
  The tilt-rotor Osprey combines the vertical takeoff and landing of a helicopter with the forward speed of a turboprop transport like a C-130.  It's been in development for 20 years or more, and now in service. It costs a bundle.  An argument could be made (has been made) that ordinary helicopters like the Jolly Green  are cheaper, more dependable,  their range could be extended by the use of air-to-air refueling, to give the same airlift for less money.  The Marines like the Osprey and backed it all the way thru the various hurdles set up by the Pentagon to kill the program.  Without the steadfast support of the Marine Corps, Osprey would never have made it to production. 
   I'm sure the Marine Corps is giving thanks to Fox New's support today. 

Rumble in Waco Texas

Sounds like the boys really went to town, 9 dead, coupla hundred arrests.  NHPR this morning had some reporter speculating about a "motive".  Right.  You don't need a motive for a gang rumble.
  You get a bunch of gang members together, be they motorcycle gangs or just plain gangs, and some gang member will take offense at something, and pretty quick the fight is on.  No motive involved, just a bunch of touchy gang members bumping into each other.   Sounds like that NHPR reporter went to a nice tame suburban school and never had to lay low in the lunch room when the gang kids turned up. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Airbus A400M crashes in Spain

A production Airbus A400M turboprop military transport crashed during flight testing in Spain.  This is gonna hurt Airbus, the A400M project is late, over budget, and customers have threatened to bail out of the program and buy C-130's from the US. 
  What's more embarrasing, preliminary inspection shows that the computer engine control system screwed up and shut off fuel to the engines for no good reason. 
  Aviation Week has a write up here.

Amtrak Crash.

It's been on the news ever since it happened Wednesday night.  My deepest sympathies for the dead and injured. 
  Looks like the engineer is the cause of the crash.  He departs DC on time, and 11 minutes after pulling out of the station, the train is up to 106 mph going into a 50 mph curve.  He applied the brakes just as the train entered the curve and left the track.  Either the engineer fell asleep (in 11 minutes?), or suffered some kind of seizure, but after opening the throttle to get the train moving, he never backed it off to a cruise position. 
   News have never mentioned the size of the train crew.  Looks like it was just one man in the locomotive. Airliners always have two qualified pilots in the cockpit.  Railroads had a two man crew for a long time.
   Lot of talk about a magic automatic braking system that would have prevented the crash.  I'd never heard of that one before, and I am a train fan, read the magazines, build model trains.  I'm thinking a two man engine crew would have prevented the crash as well.

Coming Home

So, after visiting daughter and son-in-law in DC for a couple a days, it came time to drive home to NH.  I took the standard route, right up I95, over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, up the Jersey Turnpike, over the Geo Washington bridge, CrossBronx expressway, I91 from New Haven CT to Wells River VT.  650 miles, 10 hours.  I didn't stop much.  Had a nice view of the new Freedom Tower on the way into New York.  That looked good.  Eastbound on the GW Bridge was moving right along, much better than some past years.  West bound was a mess, solid trailer trucks, bumper to bumper, not moving much, all the way back to the Whitestone bridge.  It was noon, I would have expected east and west traffic to be about the same.
   I toyed with the idea of breaking the trip, taking a motel and doing some sightseeing.  But as I got closer to home, pressing on, and getting home seemed more attractive. 
   I'm about to make a resolution to not answer the cell phone in flight.  Three times some robo caller hit me.  I cannot read the dinky little display in sunlight and with my driving glasses.  I ain't gonna switch to my reading glasses at 75 mph.  Clever human factors design located the on-off button right in the way, it's hard to fish the phone out of my shirt pocket without hitting  on-off, which confuses the easily confused phone software. 
   And the virus/flu/common cold is still alive and well.  I picked up a case somehow.  Resolution #2, don't leave the ceiling fan running when going to sleep.  A shot of Nyquil and nasal spray fixed things up well enough get  to sleep. 
  So that is May's adventure in traveling.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Food Desert

DC could be one.  I set out on an errand this morning, some 9 miles thru DC traffic.  Did not see a single supermarket.  Plenty of CVS's, gas stations, and the like.  but no food stores.  When I get back I had to two miles down H st before I found a Giant built into the bottom of an apartment building.  At leastt they had parking. 

Monday, May 11, 2015


Did you know that there is NO gasoline on US 1 southbound from US 202 to the Maryland border.  Well there was one new station, tucked neatly behind a screen of trees, I didn't see it until I whipped past their driveway at 65 mph.   Got stuck behind a truck painting a new white line on the 2 lane section of US 202.  No way to pass.  Spent half an hour at walking pace.   Then there were four clowns in Norristown holding up traffic waving those "Stop" and "Slow" signs even though the road was perfectly passable both ways. 
   And, Baltimore has matched New York City in the  worst highway signage department.  Coming down I95, it says "95 Express  Easypass. No access to 695"  Not a word about Baltimore Harbor Tunnel,  the Baltimore Washington parkway, or any other destination someone might want to get to.  And driving alone and reading a road map doesn't work.  And there is nowhere to pull over. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015


So, my 55TH High School reunion is this weekend down in West Chester PA just outside of Philadelphia.  So I am driving down, mostly to avoid taking my shoes off for TSA perverts.  It's about 11 hours from Franconia.  So I stopped in Danbury Connecticut to visit the Danbury railroad Museum.  I found the place, despite Google Maps street names not matching Danbury street signs.  They have a Boston and Maine steamer, a mogul, B&M Class B15, very famous in B&M circles.  I have two models of said locomotive.  I took a lot of photos.  They have a "lightening stripe" E-8 diesel, a PRR mail car, a NH Buddliner, a fantastic double header NYC wreaker, some cabeese, lotta cool stuff for rail fans like me.
  I found a low end motel in Danbury to spend the night.  America's Best Value Inn, right off exit 5 on I84.  It is unpretentious, the air conditioner works, the ice is cold and clean,the wifi works.  $85 a night.
  Tomorrow I press on to West Chester.  Ought to arrive mid afternoon.   

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Don't help ISIS propaganda

ISIS  just claimed responsibility Garland Texas  terror strike.  If believed, ISIS will gain stature among it's friends and fellow travelers.  That sort of people will be impressed that ISIS was able to strike the Great Satan on its own soil, even if a Texas cop snuffed both attackers with only a handgun. 
   We should not offer an opinion as to the truth or falsity of the ISIS claim.  Let ISIS persuade the world wide audience that it really happened that way.  Give ISIS the burden of convincing skeptics that they are telling the truth.  DO NOT issue a US government stamp of approval to ISIS propaganda.  We should just keep it zipped.  And the TV newsies would do their country a favor if they would just stop talking about the ISIS claim of responsibility. 
  I would rather learn the name of that Texas cop, and what he used for a handgun.  Did he pack a big .45 Colt sixshooter?  Or merely a skinny little 9mm Glock? 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Trac fone photography

The camera in the phone works OK, the trick is getting the photo off the phone and onto your computer.  It can be done.  The USB cable begins to work AFTER you go thru some totally weird finger fiddling on the phone.  Then the computer will recognize the phone on the USB and display it like it was a flashdrive.    Then go back to the phone, do some more finger fiddling, and your pictures will appear on the simulated flash drive.  This comes off an Amazon website/help site that popped up in Google. The LG 305C manual says absolutely nothing about any of this.  Clearly the Trac phone software people were retarded, none of this finger fiddling puts any new information into the phone, it's just a magic finger dance that you have to learn and memorize.  If the software geeks had done their job right, just plugging USB into the phone would be all you need to do.  Both my still camera's manage to work that way.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Oh you can see the body rot a coming thru the fenders

Yesterday got warm enough to wash the car.  It hit 70, first time the year.  Poor car has gone all winter without a wash.  Not that it matters much, it's painted a mud dirt color (not my choice) and looks about the same clean or dirty. 
  And, as I sponged the winter filth off it, I find a smallish rust patch has eaten thru the left front fender, and more is coming up on the right.  It's 12 years old, with over 100K on the clock, and it looks like it might rust out before anything serious goes wrong.  We will see.  Previous set of wheels ran to 140K before the rust made the rear axle fall off. 
   And, when she finally goes, looks like I'm reduced to some dinky little econobox.  Present set of wheels is a full sized Mercury Grand Marquis, they don't make those anymore.  Or anything like it. All they make today are econoboxes, minivans and SUVs. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tesla Battery Powered home. Payback time.

Tesla has announced a big battery, big enough to run your house overnight, for $3000.  Right now, my electric bill is $100 a month, so it would take 30 months, call it three years, to pay off the battery.  And that's just the battery.  To live off-grid, I need solar panels or a windmill to charge the battery, and some fairly heavy duty electronics to regulate the charging and convert DC into AC.   Let's guess another $3000 before I am off grid all the way and have reduced my electric bill to zero.  It will take 60 months, five years, before I recover my costs, and then I am ahead $100 a month.  I could invest $6000 in the stock market, and with 6% per year, that oughta be worth $8029 after five years.
   You know, that battery is almost making economic sense. 
   I could cut my electricity use a lot by putting in a propane or natural gas tank, and buying new gas appliances, stove, water heater, refrigerator.  Maybe $2000 for all that.  Plus who knows how much for propane.  Wouldn't help my electric bill much since half the bill is a fixed connection charge, but it might reduce the size and hence the cost of the battery I need to get thru a winter night.  The battery HAS to keep the oil burner running so my pipes (and I) don't freeze before dawn.  Dark lasts 14-15 hours in winter around here.  The oil burner uses maybe 5 kilowatt hours over the night.  The battery is advertised to be good for 7 kilowatt hours.  That leaves 2 kilowatt hours for lights, TV, web surfing, and the like. 

The Sunday Pundits go to Baltimore

I watch 'em all, Beat the Press, Face the Nation, the McLaughlin shouting hour, and Josh McElween on WMUR.  They all did a lot of talking about Baltimore.  They interviewed politicians.  The democratic ones called for an urban agenda, more money, reform of the police,  improved schools.  All in vague terms, no specifics.  None of them talked about getting corporate investment into the cities to provide jobs.  The one Republican, John Boehner, merely said that Baltimore has been run by democrats for the last 50 years, which makes it a democratic problem.  Beat the Press dredged up 50 year old video of Pat Monahan predicting awful things to come. 
   I gotta admit that I don't know Baltimore well, so I'm pontificating from a distance.  But I still think that reasonable jobs in real industry, would solve a lot of Baltimore's problems.  If they really cared down there, they would pass a right to work law.  Corporations won't invest in states that lack a right to work law.  If Maryland became right to work, it would be the ONLY right to work state for a couple of hundred miles in every direction.  Surely some company needing a strategically located facility would brave the crime problem and buy up some cheap empty lots in Baltimore and build something. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Supremes

The word "marriage" does not appear anywhere in the US Constitution.  But the Supremes are thinking about changing US marriage law to include same sex marriage.  The Constitution doesn't give the Supremes the right to mess with marriage.  They are going to do it just because they can. 
   Groovy.  Real Democracy that.  Allow nine out of touch lawyers to make new law for the entire country.  Judges love it.  Gay marriage advocates love it,  easier than doing the political campaigning to get the issue thru the legislature.
   New law in a democracy ought to come from the elected legislature, not the courts.  Last time the Supremes made law on a social issue, was Roe vs Wade nearly 40 years ago.  The voters are still sore about that one.  Had abortion law been properly passed by the legislature[s],  there would be a lot less resistance, a lot less hostility, and a lot less name calling, and far greater social cohesion. 
   I am making an argument about process, not substance.  Process is important for the social and political cohesion of the country.  If a thing is done fair and square, in accordance with the rules, people tend to go along with it.  If a thing is done in a sneaky and underhanded fashion, people fight it.  Look at Obamacare..  And, there is no need for the Supremes to dictate new law in this case.  A fair number of states have already passed gay marriage laws, and the polls show enough votes out there to pass it nearly everywhere. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

House of Cards Season 1

I just got to this via a Netflix disc.  I don't have HBO, or whatever pay-per-view channel first offered this.  It's a modern Washington melodrama.  Every one is well dressed, well coiffed, well educated, well heeled, and treacherous.  It opens with the new administration stiffing senior congress man Frank What's-his-last-name.  Frank goes on to stick it to the administration with a damaging leak to the Washington Post, oops Herald.  Most everyone comes across as nasty.  Frank, the view point character, seems to be OK but you can see a broad streak of meanness just waiting to jump out and zap someone. 
  What's worse, we see stuff on TV news every night, just as raw.