Tuesday, June 30, 2015

F35 production trundles forward

Aviation Week reports that Lockheed claims it will get the price of F35s down to a mere $80 million apiece, by 2019.  They didn't say what the cost is today.  Lockheed thinks this is a good price.  "The $80 million price point will ensure we have a fifth generation aircraft for about the same  or even less than any fourth generation capability in the world," said Lorraine Martin, F35 General Manager.  "fourth generation capability" means F15 Eagle, A/F18 Super Hornet, or Saab Gripen. 
   Most of the cost improvement will come from getting better at making it.  The first F35 off the production line in 2011 took 152,000 manhours to put together.   Today that is down to 50,000 manhours.  Lockheed expects to get it down to 35,000 manhours by 2020. 
   They have been doing cost reductions, mostly in manufacturing techniques.  They changed the way they cooled the drills machining one part,  and went to die casting the rudder spar, as opposed to machining it out of a solid chunk of metal.
   They are starting production for overseas customers, Norway, Japan, and Israel.  Delivery to be much later this year and next year. 
   Pratt & Whitney announced they have a fix for the engine flexing problem.  They didn't say what it was.  This problem turned up last year, when the F35 pulls a lot of G, the engine flexes under the G load allowing the compressor blades to rub on the engine casing with disastrous results.  It caused an engine fire that heavily damaged one F35. 
   No word on the software upgrades.  Far as I know they are still waiting on the software upgrade that will allow the gun to fire.  Without it, the gun is merely ballast, it won't shoot.  Since the F35's internal missile bays only hold two air-to-air missiles, it would be nice to have the gun working for use after the missiles are gone. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is making Greeky noises about not being able to pay off a massive debt.  I think $72 billion was mentioned.  They ought to just default, stiff all their creditors, like Detroit did.  Those gullible creditors deserve to loose the money because lending to places like Puerto Rico, or Greece is just plain stupid.  Let's burn 'em good, maybe they will wise up.
   The purpose of the whole financial system is to raise money for economic development, factories, oil wells, power plants, railroads, startups, launching FedEx, stuff that will make enough money to pay off the loan.  Lending to governments of any sort is not economic development.  It's just a scam that allows governments to avoid tax hikes which their citizens hate.  It's not going to make money to pay off the loan.  I have no sympathy for those "investors".  Actually they aren't investors, they are gamblers.  Watching gamblers get burned doesn't bother me a bit. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beware of Greeks bearing Debts

The current EU-Greece deal expires on the 30th of June, this coming Tuesday.  The EU wants reforms in Greece leading to a balanced budget.  Which means laying off thousands of Greek government employees (apparently 25% of Greece draws government paychecks), cutting pensions to the more thousands of retired Greek government employees, and hiking taxes.  The Greeks call this "austerity" and the current Greek government was elected  on a "stop austerity" program.  After refusing the last EU offer on Friday, the Greek government is calling a referendum back in Greece about accepting the EU terms.  In short, the Greeks want to keep on spending more money than they take in and have the EU keep on giving them money to spend. 
   We don't know what is going to happen.  The Greeks have two more business days to cave in to the EU.  They might do it.  The EU may fear the turbulence that "Grexit" will cause and keep on subsidizing Greece to avoid trouble.  Or both sides may dig in their heels and the EU cuts off Greek subsidies. 
  In that case, things get really tough in Greece.  It will cause a bank run strong enough to break every Greek bank.  Right now the EU is loaning/giving Greek banks enough Euros to pay withdrawals and keep them afloat.  That may stop anytime now.  When it does, the Greek banks will have to close their doors, they don't have any Euros for depositors to withdraw.  Which means Greeks will loose whatever money they have on deposit.  The bank run is already started and the Greeks are talking about closing all their banks on Monday.
Greece will have to balance the budget, 'cause they cannot borrow money from normal financial sources.  Surely every banker and investor in the world knows how deep underwater Greece is.  In the real world there is zero chance that the Greeks can pay off their current loans, let alone any new loans.  They just don't have the money. 
Then the Greeks will have to do something to meet payroll.  Their choices are to just stop paying all or some of the people on the payroll, or to give them IOU's (aka Drachma) instead of Euros.  The IOUs aren't going to be worth nearly as much as Euros.  So everyone on the payroll takes a haircut, probably a 75% haircut. 
   Question 1:  Do the Greek voters know what they are headed for?
   Question 2:  What will happen to the rest of the Eurozone?  The Europeans (like the Economist)  foresee total disaster.  The Americans aren't paying much attention. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Can Education pull young men up from the Ghetto?

I have certainly heard and read plenty about the sad state of US public schools, particularly in poorer areas. I have not personally experienced it, my suburban public school, back a long time ago, was good, and I came out of it ready for a Quaker prep school.  But  where there is smoke there is fire, and by all accounts there are too many miserable public schools. 
   Be that as it may, typical hiring managers are concerned with more than the job applicant's ability to spell and do arithmetic.  They have other concerns such as:  Is this kid a druggie?  Will he do drugs on company property?  Or worse, sell drugs to my other employees?  Is this kid honest?  When something goes wrong will he tell the truth or will he lie to me?  Will he steal?  Is he trustworthy enough to put on a cash register?  Does he have an attitude that will cause trouble with my foremen or the other men on the floor?  Will his dress scare off my customers?  Does he want that job bad enough to work hard for it? 
   Dunno if US schools, even with the best of  intentions, can prepare their students for the real working world.  Seems like you need parents, community, family and friends to impart these basic qualities. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Linux Rising

For the last week this blog has enjoyed more hits from Linux systems  (57%) than Windows systems (21%).  And vastly more hits from the Chrome browser than second place Firefox, and third place Internet Exploder.

Limitations on Free Speech, Funerals

I heard that Charleston and some other South Carolina town were passing municipal ordinances forbidding demonstrations at the up coming funerals for the victims at the AME church last week.  Excellent idea.  In civilized countries families can bury their dead in peace.  Anyone at a funeral is a mourner and should conduct themselves accordingly.  Otherwise they should not be there. 
   The Supremes don't seem to understand this.  Some four years ago they held that the "Westboro Baptist Church" must be allowed to demonstrate at the funeral of a marine killed in Afghanistan, calling the demonstration free speech.  There are some limits on free speech, and funerals are special sad occasions that should be free of disorderly ranting. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Supremes vote for Obamacare

The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold Obamacare, not as written, but as interpreted by the Obama adminstration, i.e. it stays in place, as it has been, probably forever.
  In one way, it's letting the work of Congress stand.  If Congress could muster the votes, it could fix Obamacare in any one of a bunch of ways.  Today's Supreme Court decision says that Congress must do the heavy lifting, the Court isn't gonna get into it for them.  Congress is deadlocked on the issue, neither side has the votes to do what it wants to do. 
   We are probably doomed to live with Obama care for ever.  Enough people get benefits from it, and it is so ideologically appealing to lefties, that I cannot visualize a future Congress changing it, much, if at all.  Obamacare is a heavy drag on the economy.  It makes employers reluctant to hire, because the health care costs are so steep.  It is a cost enhancer, and one big reason that we are still stuck in Great Depression 2.0.  We may remain stuck there forever.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Very Good Announcement Speech, Bobby Jindal

Just finished listening to Bobby Jindal on Fox News.  They carried his entire speech, live.  Jindal is pretty good, at least as good as The Donald, the the business of a good old fashioned stem winding speech.  He may be Indian American, but he gave a good old effective American political speech.  He is a real governor, who did a lot of good work in a state that needed it after  Hurricane Katrina.  I wish him well.  He could make a decent US president, better than the one we have. 

Could the Germans have won?

We now think of allied victory in WWII, which set the pattern for the rest of the 20th century, as inevitable.  America, Britain, and Soviet Russia had a vastly greater population, vastly great industrial capacity,  and all the natural resources needed to fight a war.  But,  you need to look at the world as it was in 1940, Hitler's high tide.  His armies had crushed Poland and then France, occupied Denmark, Holland, Norway, Belgium and Luxemburg, and driven the British into the sea at Dunkirk.  Hitler owned most of Western Europe.  Britain alone stood in opposition. 
   Starting from this high point, what could the Germans have done to win the war, and dominate the world, probably until today?  To be real about, or even semi real, we have to have Hitler running Germany.  Without Hitler, we would not have had WWII.  In 1940 everyone in Europe remembered the horror that was WWI, only twenty years in the past.  Nobody, except a madman, which Hitler was, could think that any diplomatic gain, territorial expansion, anything at all, was worth doing WWI over again.  If Hitler is removed from the scene, say by assassination in the 1930's, the world would have been spared WWII.  Under any other leader, the Germans would have thrown their weight around, and obtained concessions, but they would have not sent their army into Poland in 1939. 
    First of all, Hitler could have gone for the bomb.  It was Otto Hahn, a German physicist working in Germany, who discovered nuclear fission in 1938.  If the industrial resources the Germans poured into the fairly useless V2 rocket program been applied to creating nuclear weapons, Germany might well have been able to nuke London or Moscow by 1944. 
    Second, Hitler could have polished off the British in 1940.  This would have destroyed one of the three great allied powers.  It would have allowed Hitler to throw more force against the Russians in 1941 without the British sniping at him from the West.  It would have deprived the allies of the airbase from which the RAF and USAAF  bombed Germany flat by 1945.  It would have captured the launch pad for Operation Overlord, which sealed the fate of Germany.  Overlord's vast armada of shipping was largely short range shallow draft landing craft, seaworthy enough to cross the Channel in good weather, but incapable of crossing the Atlantic.
   The British Army had abandoned all their tanks, artillery, motor vehicles and heavy equipment at Dunkirk.  Only a few troops still had their rifles when evacuated to England.  Had the Germans put three or four divisions ashore in England that summer, the place would have been theirs.  The trick was to get those divisions across the channel in the face of the Royal Navy.   Barges and landing craft full of troops are dead meat when the British steam up along side with a battleship.   The German counter to the Royal Navy was the Luftwaffe.   Air attack with bombs and torpedoes will sink anything that floats.  The Luftwaffe needed to achieve air superiority, namely beat down the RAF to the point where the slow and vulnerable Stuka's could operate over the channel without being bounced by RAF Spitfires.  The Luftwaffe nearly achieved air superiority during the 1940 air battles, doing it the hard way,  flying into British airspace and dog fighting with RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes.  If they had concentrated upon knocking out the coastal radar stations, the sector stations, the air fields, and the aircraft factories they might have done it.  All the British accounts of the Battle of Britain stress how close the Germans came to winning it. 
   Thirdly, Hitler could have given Rommel and the Afrika Korps more support.  Rommel only had a couple of German divisions, going up against the British with eight to twelve divisions.  A couple more divisions for Rommel taken from the 140 sent into Russia would have made all the difference in the middle east but wouldn't have made much difference on the eastern front. If the paratroops sent to take Crete had been used to take Malta instead, Rommel's supply lines across the Mediterranean would have been secure.  Had Rommel taken Egypt, the Suez Canal, and the Iraq oilfields it would have solved Hitler's fuel problems, and dealt a crushing blow to the British. 
   Fourth, Hitler could have refrained from declaring war on the United States after Pearl Harbor.  He had made no binding treaties with the Japanese, he didn't owe them anything.  As it was, he made Roosevelt's job in pursuing a "Germany First" strategy far easier.  And he drove the last nails into the American isolationist's coffin.  Without Hitler's gratuitous declaration of war, the isolationists might have kept America out of the European war for months and months.  For Hitler, locked in a death struggle with the British and the Soviets at the time, a delay of months in American belligerency is not to be sneezed at. 
   There are others, but the first four above are enough for this post.  And a world where the Third Reich won would have been very bad indeed. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Marketing 102.

Manufacturer's with sense label their product with their name, "Made in USA", and the model number.  This way the product itself serves as company advertising for the life of the product.  Just came away from an estate auction, loads of cool stuff, very little of it marked with the maker's name. 
   And, don't change the model number until you redesign the product in a serious way.  Model numbers like 747 and XP and GTO have staying power.  Your model number might grow in name recognition if you didn't change it every season like Sears Roebuck used to do. 
   When doing TV ads, understand that we all have color TV now.  Don't do your ads in black and white just cause someone at the ad agency thinks black and white looks cool.  Color makes your product look better and more desirable than black and white.  And you don't have to pay extra to do a TV ad in color, unlike in the old days when a color newspaper ad cost extra.
   Your ad will be more effective if  the product name is shown on screen and spoken by the announcer.  Do this at the beginning of the ad.  A huge number of loser ads fail to make it clear what they are peddling.  You cannot tell if the ad is selling cars, or pretty girls, or Caribbean vacations or open road, or  what.
   The most important specification of anything is the price.  Don't skip showing the price in ads.  Some marketeers say that customers will be scared off when they see how much it will cost them.  If this is the case, you need to do some cost reduction and get the price down to make the product look like a bargain.  When an ad omits the price, I always figure the product will be too expensive for me, and I  lose interest. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Is my laptop listening to me?

Have I been bugged by my laptop?  Who knows.  Yesterday the Chrome Browser by Google was accused of flipping on the internal mike and sending all the audio to Google.  I don't use Chrome, but if Chrome can do it others will do it too.  I dug into the wordy but vague instructions for my HP Pavilion no-model-number laptop.  You can go to Control Panel, find an applet "Sound" and disable the internal microphone.  At least in software.  Who knows what Windows bug will allow hostile code to turn the mike on again?  The internal mike is hidden under a groovy looking perforated panel above the keyboard.  I don't quite fear audio snoopers enough to take the laptop apart and risk breaking something.  I did bother to put a piece of tape over the internal camera lens. 

The Second World War by Antony Beevor

It's comprehensive,  It's long (863 pages). It's up-to-date (2012).  It covers all the lesser known second world war actions such as Kolkin Gol, where the Soviets whipped the Japanese,  the Ichigo offensive in China, and the Hurtgen forest operations.  The author is a Brit, but he joins in with numerous others in trashing Montgomery.  He covers the really grisly parts of the war, the  Holocaust, treatment of prisoners, in horrible detail.  He doesn't believe in strategic bombing. 
   His writing style is pedestrian, "They did this, then they did that, then something else happened, ...".  Little to no background information, little discussion of why things happened, no explanation of might-have-beens.  Little to no discussion of why the winners won and the losers lost.  Little discussion of the political angles of the war and the peace, such as could the Soviet takeover of eastern and central Europe been avoided? 
   I have read better World War II histories, starting with Winston Churchill's war memoirs (6 volumes), John Keegan's Second World War, Rick Atkinsen's  Liberation Trilogy, Samuel Elliot Morrison's Two Ocean War, Harold Spector's Eagle against the Sun, William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and many others

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Nutcase control

The horrible killing in Charleston SC has brought the gun controllers out in force.   This is misguided, and distasteful.  The gun isn't the problem, the crazy man pulling the trigger is the problem.  I say anyone who kills nine people, worshiping,  inside a church, is crazy.  That's just not human behavior. It may not meet the lawyer's definition of insane, but what do lawyers know, really?
   What should have happened, sometime in the past.  Someone, family, friends, teachers, should have noticed that this young man Dylan Roof was doing and saying strange things.  Some competent psychiatrists should have examined Roof, decided that he was a dangerous nut case, and popped him into a mental hospital.  We used to do things like that, but 1960's activists managed to close mental hospitals all across the country and make it practically impossible to involuntarily commit anyone, no matter how crazy they might be. 
   In our free society,we are reluctant to grant anyone, even proper courts of law, that kind of power over citizens.  The soviets showed us how political opponents could be taken out of action by committing them to mental institutions against their will. 
   I don't believe we can ever have an airtight system but we can do better than we do.  At a minimum we ought to have some empty beds in mental hospitals for those clear cut cases, where everyone, authorities, family, friends, agree that so-and-so is crazy, there is somewhere to put them.  Up here there are no empty beds and the patient winds up handcuffed to a bed in a hospital emergency room, often for several days. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

"World's greatest Deliberative Body" needs an overhaul

That's what the US Senate likes to call itself.  But it indulges in procedures that allow members to conceal their votes from their constituents.  It plays the "let's vote on whether to have a vote" game which is a way to kill a bill without actually being seen to vote against it.  It  gives the leadership a private veto of bills it doesn't like.  When the leadership doesn't want a bill to pass, it just refuses to bring the bill to the floor.  It allows individual members a blackball on appointments.  If a member doesn't like a candidate for a judgeship or other federal office, he can file a "hold", a secret note saying don't bring this guy up for a vote.   "Holds" are secret, nobody outside the Senate knows they exist, or who filed them. 
   The Senate ought to give up this "vote to have a vote" malarkey.  All bills should come to the floor, for one vote, pass or fail, each session.   In New Hampshire, with a 400 + person legislature, every member's bills are always brought up for a vote.  No reason the 100 person US Senate cannot do as well. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Making haste slowly, and cost enhancement

After two previous snafu's, Boeing got the Air Force contract for the KC-46 tanker.  That only took 7 or 8 years of well paid lawyer work to sort out.  The original idea was to buy the well proven Boeing 767 airliner, take out the seats and fill the cabin with tanks.  Somewhere along the line, the gold plate boys slipped in a few cost enhancements.  They called for the aircraft wiring to be redesigned to USAF specs.  Never mind that the commercial 767 has been flying safely for 25 years using Boeing designed wiring.  Never mind that Boeing knows more about how to wire an aircraft than everyone in the Air Force all put together.  And to add insult to injury, someone dropped the ball, and the first few aircraft off the line lacked the USAF spec wiring.  Boeing last year took a $425 million pre tax charge for this.  Cost enhancement at work, again. 
   And then someone slipped in a requirement for extensive flight testing.  They are talking about making 65 test flights a month, which is a helova lotta flying.  I doubt they will make that schedule.  Never mind that this is a well proven commercial airliner with an excellent safety record going back 25 years, we are gonna flight test it like it is a brand new clean sheet design that have never flown before.  Cost enhancement at work, again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Infantry tactics, close vs open order

Close order tactics go back to the Greek phalanx.  You form your men into a line, shoulder to shoulder, have them march in step to keep the line straight, and have at it.  At Marathon a much smaller force of Athenian heavy infantry defeated utterly a far larger Persian army.  Close order tactics were the only tactics known from that day down to modern times.  The replacement of spears an pikes by muskets didn't change tactics much.  You still formed your men into line, in the open, and had at it.  The colorful uniforms and tall hats of the period were designed to make your formed line of troops look bigger, taller, and more dangerous to the enemy.   Close order tactics persisted down to World War I.  Officers liked them because it kept the men together, in sight, and within earshot of shouted commands.  At the battle of the Somme in 1915, the British infantry "went over the top" in line and marched thru no mans land toward the German trenches.  The Germans machine gunned the assaulting British with gusto. 
   Open order tactics go back to the battle of Kings Mountain in the American Revolution.  A superior force of loyalist militia, commanded by the famous Major Patrick Ferguson was wiped out in South Carolina by a patriot militia composed of Scots Irish back woodsmen.  Major Ferguson positioned his men on high ground, in line, ready for an infantry attack which never came.  The patriot backwoods men moved up under cover, in small groups and when close enough, fired into the massed loyalists.  The loyalists replied with volleys of musketry and sometimes massed bayonet charges.  Some two thirds of the loyalists were shot down against patriot casualties of  only a few dozens.  At the end, Major Ferguson attempted to break out of the encirclement on horseback.  The patriots fired a volley and blew the major out of his saddle.  Later they counted seven bullet wounds in Ferguson's body. 
   Open order tactics didn't catch on in a big way until the very end of World War I.  Dubbed "Ludendorf's infiltration tactics" they contributed to the success of the last German drive on the Western Front in 1918.  Open order was adopted generally after that.  In modern form, a dozen men, a squad, with a light machine gun, led by an NCO, is the lowest level of organization.  On attack, the squad moves up until resistance is encountered.  At which point, the machine gun is emplaced in a likely location, and under cover of its fire, the riflemen move up until they reach another likely location for the machine gun.  The riflemen then give covering fire while the machine gun is moved up closer to the enemy.  This process is repeated until the objective is taken. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Best announcement speech yet

Donald Trump.  Announced that he is really running.  Spoke for an hour, live on Fox News.  Talks good.  Speaks using facts, numbers, concrete examples.  Makes campaign promises.  Specific ones, ones that we can understand.  Published his net worth, on TV, he says he is worth $8 billion and some change.  Compared to Trump, everyone else is speaking in bafflegab, vague sound goods that really don't mean anything.  Listening to The Donald, you know exactly what he means to do.  And it all sounds realistic, like he could make it happen. 
   Lets see how far good speeches can take him.  I mean Obama got to be president mostly cause he gave an inspiring speech at the 2004 Democratic convention.  Why cannot Trump go as far, especially as he is a much better speaker than Obama?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Coffee Making

Good coffee is enjoyable to drink black.  Poor coffee needs cream and sugar to kill the bad taste.  One secret to good coffee is a scrupulously clean coffee maker.  An oily residue settles out of brewed coffee and then turns rancid, giving a nasty flavor to the next pot of coffee until it gets washed away in hot soapy water.  Some coffee makers, percolators especially, have interior nooks and crannies that are impossible to clean, short of wrecking the thing.  Whereas the French press is the most easily cleaned coffee maker out there.  The old all glass vacuum Silex was OK providing you had a long thin brush to clean the inside of the suction tube to the upper bowl.   The all glass Chemex with the paper filters is OK.  I don't trust the plastic Mr. Coffee machines, I think the plastic takes up the rancid taste of coffee oils.  For myself I have been using a small two cup French press I got from LaHoutes camping supply store. 
    I get excellent results buying plain ground canned coffee.  The $3 a can Shurfine Columbian makes as good a cup of coffee as the $10 a can Dunkin Donuts and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.  I keep the coffee can in the refrigerator to reduce evaporation of the coffee essences.   
   My rural water supply system has gone ape on chlorine lately, the tap water can smell like a swimming pool.  I  let my coffee water stand in a pitcher on the kitchen table overnight.  Improves everything. 
   I put two rounded tablespoons of coffee and a shake of the salt cellar into the French press. The salt smooths out the flavor and takes the edge off the bitterness.   Fill it up with boiling water and let it brew four minutes. 
   Good coffee, drinkable black.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Windows 8 does its own thing, Touchpad

In order to make a laptop usable, you need to disable the touchpad while typing.  Your typing hands hover over the touchpad, and the damn pad sees light finger brushes as solid mouse clicks. Each time that happens, bad things happen to your text, random cursor moves, weird escape sequences inserted in your text, or whole pages of text just gone.   I use a plain jane USB mouse,  the kind with real mechanical buttons that click when pressed.  So I have no need of the touch pad, in fact it messes up my typing. 
    So, off to Windows 8 configuration land.  Stroke your finger from the right hand screen edge toward screen center, and a mystery menu pops up.  Click on "Settings" (bottom gear wheel icon).  Click on "Control Panel".  Sort thru the hundred or so icons in ControlPanel and click on "Mouse".  Inside the "Mouse" program, click on "Touchpad" tab.  Check "Disable internal pointing device when USB mouse is present".  
   Make a record of how you did this.  Windows 8 will occasionally clear the checkmark and your typing goes to pieces again.  When that happens, repeat the whole procedure, and the problem will go away again, at least until Windows 8 decides to liven up your life.
   It ought to be a felony to release software this flaky, but heh, if you are Micro$oft, anything goes.

American Cops need flack jackets

Baltimore, Ferguson, New York City, all have demonstrated deep seated hatred for the police among the population.  And taking pot shots at the Dallas cops last week is hardly an advertisement for good police community relations.  And yet, we need the police to protect us from the small number of ruthless criminals among us.  Here is my list of things the cops ought to be doing to set things right.
1.  Hire locally.  Cops on a municipal force ought to be long time residents of the city.  Long time means they attended elementary school and high school in the town.  This gets you cops with some local roots, some local connections, who can reach out to old childhood friends in the community for tips and intelligence.
2.  Get out of the squad car, and talk to people.  Find out what's going down, who is who.  Assign the same cops to the same neighborhoods day after day, to give 'em a chance to get to know people.  Cases are solved by tips, and you need connections to get tips. 
3.  Police uniforms should be blue, not black.  Only bad guys wear black. 
4.  Stop harassing innocent citizens and enforcing petty laws.  Texas cops just busted a pair of seven year old girls for running a lemonade stand.  Eric Garner died in New York when arrested for selling single cigarettes.  Stop grabbing kids off the street just cause their parents let them out of doors for a few minutes.  Legislatures and municipal governments ought repeal  petty laws. 
5.   Organize and support youth activities,  little league, youth soccer, scouting, after school activities, what ever.  In addition to keeping kids busy after school, and hence out of trouble, it gives an opportunity to build relationships with kids.  Kids grow up and turn into adult members of the community remarkably quickly. 
6.  Talk before you shoot.  Call for backup.  Remember the citizens hate it when one of their own is shot down by a cop.  American cops kill more citizens than the cops anywhere else in the world.
7.  Legalize pot.  Nearly everyone smokes it now, it is not a violent crime, and busting people for smoking or possession of reasonable amounts is counter productive.  It produces a life long bad attitude, makes the victim practically unemployable for the rest of his life, and fills expensive jail cells with non dangerous people.  Legislatures take note.
8.  Stop doing no-knock raids.  Doing one can be a death sentence for someone.  If the suspect has a gun, not unlikely, they will always open fire when they hear their door busting down.  The cops will always shoot back.  Mostly the suspect gets killed, occasionally the suspect can take a cop or two with him.  But starting a gunfight in a citizen's home at zero dark thirty is not constitutional law enforcement. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

EPA gets airborne

The EPA just claimed jurisdiction over the world's airlines.  They are gonna publish regulations on aircraft emissions.  Not that this will reduce emissions, it will just serve as a tax on air travel. 
   The best engineers in the world have been working flat out for 100 years to make aircraft more efficient.  They have had some success, new airliners with the latest engines are a tad more fuel efficient than ones built 10 years ago.  Boeing and Airbus salesmen claim as much as 20%, most people will allow them 5%.  That's enough for the airlines to order new planes and mothball what they are flying now.  Boeing has a backlog of 900 orders for its latest 787 model.  And nearly as many for its re engined 737 MAX.  Airbus is doing likewise.  In short, the most fuel efficient possible airliners are in full production and going into service as fast as they roll off the production line. 
   With jet fuel at $2.50 a gallon the airlines have all the incentive necessary to conserve fuel as much as possible.  The air frame builders have every incentive to improve fuel burn, namely,  planes that burn less fuel have better range and can haul bigger loads. 
   In a nutshell, market forces have made air travel as fuel efficient as possible.  EPA regulation won't improve anything, it will serve in place of a tax.  In the depths of Great Depression 2.0, we don't need more taxes. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

So what happened in Congress today?

The real issue is passage of the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement, an agreement with 12 Asian Pacific countries, but NOT China.  Exact contents of this deal are secret, but presumably there will be tariff reduction on all sides.  I've heard there might be a lot of other stuff too, like immigration policy, standards for inspection of this that and the other (food, drugs, who knows what), gun control, and anything else that strikes Obama's fancy. 
   However the "world's greatest deliberative body" cannot just do an up or down vote on the trade deal.  First they have to vote to have an up or down vote, "fast track authority" it's called.  Without "fast track" the bill is doomed, every one hoss congress critter will amend it, and the other 12 participants won't accept US amendments.  Usually the Congress votes to extend "fast track authority" to the President as a matter of course.  Except Obama has ruffled so many feathers on capitol hill that they won't vote him hardly anything anymore. 
   Then, today a new boondoggle surfaced, "Trade Adjustment Agreement" (TAA) or some such.  This is a presidential slush fund to "compensate" (pay off) US workers who loose their jobs because of foreign competition, which a tariff cut will strengthen. 
   They had a vote today, but it is unclear what passed and what did not.  I think the TAA was voted down and "fast track" was voted in, but the TV newsies haven't been very clear about what really happened.  Bret Baier was on Fox calling it a big defeat for Obama.  The president's mouthpiece was saying everything is hunky dory.  On this one I think I believe Bret Baier over the mouthpiece. 
Would be nice to get a straight story out of the newsies. 

Cooking for one, Corn on the Cob

Good easy way to cook corn on the cob.  Buy your corn in the husk.  Soak corn in water for 10-15 minutes, long enough to get the husk good and moist.  Then pop the corn in the oven or on the grill for 35-45 minutes.  The kernels steam in the husk and come out exceptionally sweet. With butter and salt  it's delicious.
   This works for a single ear, or a dozen ears. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Electronic Health Records hacked

This morning's NPR had a story concerning analysis of thousands of electronic health records to come to a conclusion that some widely used drug wasn't good for patients.  Can't remember what the drug's name was, nor how serious the problem was.
  The disturbing part about this, is giving outside snoopers access to my medical records.  My medical records are supposed to be private.  Medical records often contain derogatory information, like mental health problems, AIDS, chronic illnesses that make a person unemployable.  To have "researchers" going thru personal health records is bad.  To be fair, the NPR piece claimed that names had be redacted.  Yeah, Right. 
   Obamacare demands the all doctor's put all patient's medical records into computers (electronic health records) where they can be hacked and snooped. 

Let's fix ISIS for good

The Obama administration admitted that they are sending another 450 US troops to Iraq, to do some training.   They were going to set up a new training base near Ramadi.  
   If we wanted, they could recruit and train a good Sunni Iraqi army, under US control in a couple of months.  Just offer enlistment, with steady pay in US dollars, decent US rations, and a good uniform, possibly even a flak jacket.  Give 'em a couple of months of basic training, have the Americans run the promotion boards to fill out the squad and platoon NCO positions with good men, and I think we could have a 10,000 man army in Iraq that would fight, and we could keep 'em fighting against ISIS rather than joining political coups in Baghdad. 
   We did something like this in Laos, 50 years ago, and it worked. 
    Of course Obama would never approve. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

John W. Campbell, Creator of modern science fiction

John Campbell started as a science fiction writer himself in the 1930's.  I've read some of his stuff, not bad, but except for "Who Goes There", not truly memorable stuff.  He took the position of editor at Astounding Science Fiction magazine sometime before WWII.  He quickly moved Astounding up from just another pulp fiction rag to the leading science fiction magazine.  He asked his writers for good stories, with plot, with decent characters, and a thought provoking idea.  And the writers delivered.  Campbell found new writers and encouraged them to write for Astounding.  Isaac Asimov, Robert A Heinlein, H. Beam Piper, Hal Clement, James H. Schmitz, Poul Andersen and many others were discovered and brought into science fiction writing by Campbell.  On the way, Campbell had plenty of time to explain his ideas  about the proper science fiction story.  Pretty much everyone came around to Campbell's way of thinking, and science fiction is better for it. 
   Campbell stayed on at Astounding into the 1970's.  He managed to change the name of the magazine to the more respectable sounding Analog Science Fiction.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Save Money, disband the TSA

The TSA hassling and groping of passengers does nothing for air line security, it just drives away paying passengers.  Doesn't matter if the would be hijackers get weapons on board, the passengers will not allow them to take over the aircraft.  Flight 93 proved that.   Since that dreadful day there have been a number of incidents where unruly passengers were subdued, in one case by use of a fire axe, in flight by ordinary passengers.  Passengers know that should hijackers take over the aircraft, they will die in the resulting crash, which is plenty of motivation to heroic action.  In actual fact we would be safer in the air  if all the passengers carried concealed handguns. 
   Recent press stories of the total failure of TSA gropers to find 95% of concealed weapons carried onto aircraft by inspectors, failure to detect 73 airport workers who obtained airport jobs and security badges despite being on the terrorist watch list, and plundering passenger's luggage,  show that we would be better off if we disbanded the TSA completely. It would save money, and put a lot of democratic voters out of a job.  Those are good things.
   Save money, increase security, make air travel less distasteful, disband the TSA. What's not to like?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Not all books are created equal

The Abby Greenleaf library in Franconia holds a used book sale over the 4th of July.  And my bookshelves are filled to overflowing.  So, I filled an empty liquor carton with some books I figured I will never want to read again and took 'em down to the book sale. 
   Well it seems that all books are not created equal.  The librarian had a written list of book they won't accept for the book sale. The black list includes:
Books in poor condition
Computer manuals
Harlequin type romance novels
large collections of religeous or spiritual books
Reader's Digest condensed books
Textbooks and reference books
Travel books older than 5 years.

Well, I mostly agree with this black list.  This is stuff that nobody will ever buy, leaving the librarians with the chore of hauling them down to the dump (excuse me transfer station).  Although the romance novels ought to sell to girls of the right age, not that I would ever read such.  Well, maybe librarians are down on romance novels on general principles. 

It pays to be first.

American railroads ran on steam locomotives thruout World War II.  Immediately after the war they began to convert to diesel locomotives.  By 1957, a mere 12 years, diesel conversion was mostly done.  Only the diehard Norfolk and Western was still running steam.  We are talking about replacing every locomotive in service in a mere 12 years.  That is one heck of a lot of locomotives.
   And, one company, the Electro Motive Division of General Motors gained the bulk of this business.  Other locomotive builders, Baldwin, ALCO, Fairbanks Morse, Ingersoll Rand, and General Electric  were driven from the market.  EMD sold 9 out of 10 locomotives in the early post war years.
   What gave EMD the edge?  Back before the war, EMD had been working hard to grow self propelled passenger rail cars into real road freight locomotives.  In 1939, on the eve of war, EMD put the 1300 horsepower FT freighter on the market.  There had been a few switch locomotives, of 600 horsepower or such, and low speed trucks built, but the FT was the first unit with enough power to move a big train at road speed.  Not only that, but the 1300 horsepower units could be coupled together, to form four unit lashups with 5200 horsepower.  That was enough to move anything, over any kind of mountain.  EMD managed to build and sell a few dozen units before WWII.
   When America joined WWII, the government set up the War Production Board to mobilize American industry for the existential struggle.  The new high tech diesel engines were needed for submarines, to power air and army bases, and dozens of other crucial tasks.  War Production told the railroads they would have to make do with the traditional steam locomotives, there was a war on, the the diesels were needed to fight it.  The only diesel railroad locomotives running were the few dozen that EMD had put on the rails.  They ran thruout the war, and those teething troubles that new machines are subject to were discovered and fixed before the war ended.
   So, when the post war locomotive boom began, EMD was the only company with a tested, debugged, and reliable design.  The also rans had to debug their new products, at the customers expense.  The customers noticed, and flocked to the reliable EMD product.  Which gave EMD the entire North American locomotive market for decades. 
It pays to be first.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Voter ID

The dems have been bad mouthing it.  Could it be that they fear it would weed out illegal democratic voters?  Actually where I am, it doesn't matter much.  I know the poll workers, and they know me. It is small town America up here.  But, having the ability to ask for a photo ID from people they don't recognize, does tighten things up.  And everybody has a driver's license in America.  And they all have photo's on them now.  I don't believe all the sob talk about what a terrible burden it is to obtain a photo ID, every one has a driver's license.  Otherwise how do they get to work?
  Actually, if we want to tighten things up, we need to get rid of  "same day registration".   Serious voters can jolly well get down to town hall before the election and register.  If they cannot be bothered, then they are not serious voters.  Who wants to allow clowns to vote?  And to register in New Hampshire, you better show a New Hampshire driver's license.  Out of state license means you ain't a New Hampshire resident, and therefore you ain't eligible to vote in New Hampshire.  Same goes for out of state plates on your car.
   Registered voters names appear on the printed voter list used by the poll workers to check off voters as they vote and prevent double voting.  If the name ain't on the voter list, you don't get a ballot, no matter how much photo ID you have. 
   I'm not sure how absentee ballots are checked, but at a minimum the absentee voter's name MUST appear on a registered voters list. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hacking US computers.

The TV newsies have been making a big deal of the big hack of  the federal Office of Personnel Management, where the personnel records, security clearances, performance reports, salaries, contact information, social security numbers, everything, of 4 million civil service workers were stolen. 
   Wanna bet the records were stolen off Windows systems?  Thank you Bill Gates for your continuing contributions to American security. 

Adjusting data to fit the narrative.

NOAA and NASA have been doing this for years.  They have "adjusted" the data to eliminate the last 19 year plateau in measured global temperature.  The Daily Caller and Anthony Watt of the Watts up With That website describe this year's attempt to create global warming where there has been none. 
  NASA has been at this for a long long time.  They have a data base of every temperature measurement made, going back to the invention of the thermometer.  I downloaded the data a few years ago and plotted it.  The number of reporting stations from beginning of the records in the early 1700's starts out small, only dozen of stations reporting.  The number of reporting stations swells over the years, reaching a peak of better than 100,000 stations by the early 1980s.  Then in a great purge, the number of reporting stations was trimmed back from 100,000 to 30,000 in 1983 and 1984.  I wonder which stations got purged?  The ones reporting colder than average temperature, or the ones reporting warmer than average temperatures?  Who knows?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

More Followon in Aviation Week

My Aviation Week came in today.  It has a full page article on the A400M crash in Spain.  Aviation Week is supporting it's earlier story, the computer engine control system screwed up, and shut down three or perhaps all four engines during or shortly after takeoff.  That will do it every time.  You need engine power on takeoff, you are close to the ground, and any loss of altitude means a crash.  Once you get up to cruising altitude, tens of thousands of feet, you have minutes before the plane hits the ground, minutes in which to get the engines back on line. 
  Airbus is really worried.  If the software problem is bad enough, the fix might require re-certification of the software, a lengthy (months long) process that would cost like crazy.  Airbus wanted to build, deliver, and get paid for, 23 new aircraft this year.  At say $100 million each, that's some real money for Airbus.  If they are all tied up re-certifying the engine control software, they won't get paid. 

Shepherd Smith was trashing XP yesterday

Fox News commentator Shepherd Smith said that use of the old Windows XP operating system by the IRS led to the recent break in and identity theft on millions of taxpayers.
   I don't agree.  Windows XP is test tested, and Microsoft has been patching it for some12-15 years.  That's enough patches to plug many holes.  The newer Windows are fatter, slower, and flakier than well proven XP. 
   The real problem at IRS is the use of Windows in any form.  Windows is like Swiss cheese, full of holes that let hostiles in, and it's so big that no one understands it.  The IRS ought to be running some form of Unix  (Linux is a good one) which is infinitely more secure than any flavor of Windows. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Followon: Airbus A400M crash blamed on engine control software

According to Ars Technica, an airbus executive said that the engine control software was "misconfigured" during engine installation at the factory, and was responsible for the crash.  We think this means that some program changes that were supposed to be made at installation (for instance "remember this engine serial number" or "set engine hours to zero")  were not made, or were not made properly.  The executive claimed that this was not a bug in the code.
   Oh really.  Code that crashes an airplane ain't right.  Good code will keep the plane flying even if it is "misconfigured".  Aviation Week's report of a couple of weeks ago suggested that the engine control software shut off fuel to all four engines.  That should never happen, no matter what. 
   I wonder if the Ariane 5 software hackers were allowed to work on the A400M.  The Ariane 5 crash, some years ago, destroying the rocket and its expensive satellite payload happened when the engine control software suffered an arithmetic overflow and the program simply halted.  In the after crash investigation, it was revealed that the software spec required the program to halt after overflow.  The excuse was made at the time that this helped troubleshooting.  The programmers in the Ariane case did what they were told to do, with disastrous results. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Diehards, aka "the base"

There are three kinds of voters in the US.  Diehard democrats, Diehard Republicans, and independents.  The diehards, often referred to as "the base", will vote for their party no matter what.  No amount of campaigning, TV advertising, door-to-door campaigning, parades, rallies, whatever, is gonna change their minds or their votes.  Only the independents can be wooed by a good candidate, or repelled by a bad one. 
  So, candidates that want to get elected, appeal to the independents.  The base will vote for them no matter what they do. 
   Occasionally I hear TV newsies explain a candidates actions as intended to "secure the base".  This is malarkey, the base is secure, it's the independents that a candidate needs to secure. 
   Right now, about 40% of the voters are diehard democrats, and 35% are diehard Republicans.  The other  25% are the independents, who control the election utterly. 
   I have never seen a breakdown of the independents, by age, sex, education level, employment, marital status, or those other things that categorize voters.  So it's hard for me to figure out just what any of the herd of Republican hopefuls can do to attract independent votes.  If you don't know what your target looks like, it's hard to find it. 
   There is general agreement on some things.  Everyone wants a stronger, growing economy, with more jobs and better wages.  Nobody likes ISIS. Everyone is in favor of a college education. 
   There is no agreement on other things.  What to do about immigration and illegal immigrants.  How much economic activity can we allow the greenies to stifle with regulations?  Are we willing to commit American troops to straighten out the middle east?  How tough can we get with the Russians over Ukraine?  Can we rationalize the US tax system?  Citizens should not have to hire H&R Block to file their federal income tax.  Can we straighten out the patent and copyright law which suppresses innovation and enriches patent trolls?
  Where do independents stand on any of these issues?  Does anyone have a clue?

Monday, June 1, 2015

NSA snooping, shall it go on?

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause supported by Oath or affirmation , and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
1. Papers and effects in the modern age includes phone calls.
2. Oath or affirmation language supported the Quakers who refused to take oaths.
3. Particularly describing, means no blanket warrants for vast groups of people.

Right now NSA is recording every cell phone call made in the US, and over a good deal of the world.  They are recording the billing information ("metadata"), number called, date, and call duration.  At least that's the NSA's story.  Nobody has accused them of  recording the contents of phone calls, yet.  NSA does this routinely without a warrant.
   I think we ought to go back to the old system, where the government must obtain a warrant from a real court in order to tap a phone, demand billing records from the phone company or credit card companies.   The "FISA" court is not a real court, they approve every application made to them and they don't do real legal work.  They are a rubber stamp.  The government should get a warrant from a regular federal court, not the "FISA" rubber stamp. 
   As of this minute, this might happen.  The original Patriot Act  passed right after 9/11 expires today.  The Senate failed to pass an extension yesterday.  It may well come to pass, the the Patriot Act will just quietly expire.  So far no one has claimed that NSA phone snoopers have actually captured any terrorists.