Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Volkswagen, Who Dunit?

I wonder just who at VW was in on the emissions cheating software.  It could have be just a single programmer.  Despite code reviews,  only the programmer, usually a single individual, really knows what his code does.  I can visualize a clever programmer thinking up this scheme, and being so pleased with his cleverness that he slips it into production code, without anyone's knowledge.
   I can also see someone in middle management thinking up the scheme, and taking it to his boss for OK.  And I can see that boss going to his boss, right up the organization until the CEO's office is reached.  I can also visualize senior management, a bunch of bean counters, not really understanding what they were being asked to approve. 
   I can also visualize someone in engineering thinking up schedules of fuel injector settings vs engine RPM, in fact maybe three such schedules, full throttle acceleration, economical cruise, and "idle"  Idle being defined any time the car isn't moving.  And passing these schedules over to the programming staff, who codes them up without really understanding what's going on. 
   Or, someone in marketing, scheming to get into the US market with diesel cars, talks to some old buddy over in engineering or the software group about how to get the diesels to pass the much stiffer US emissions tests. 
   I wonder what really did happen.  And will we ever learn?

New TV Season

Last night was ABC.  I watched the Muppets at 8 PM.  Not great.  They were more entertaining on Sesame St, or in th various Muppet Movies.  In a half hour show, nothing much happened.  Miss Piggy took up with a live actor (forget his name) but she never really told off Kermit. Too bad, while raising three children I got to see a LOT of Sesame St, and the Muppets were a big part of it. 
  So, at 9PM I watched a Marvel Comic book show, Agents of Shield.  Meh.  Again nothing much happened.  So fair martial arts moves, one confused male rescue, but no resolution of his problems. 
   So back to Netflix for me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Trump's Tax Plan

Not too bad, not too good.  I like the idea of just a few tax brackets, and lower rates all around. Scrubbing the "Alternate Minimum Tax" is an excellent idea.  Recalculating my taxes for "AMT" takes as much time as figuring them straight up on the first pass.  Scrubbing the death tax is a good idea.  Most small American businesses, gas stations, motels, barber shops, restaurants, stores, landscaping companies and the like, are owned by the individual who created them.  When this guy dies,  they levy estate tax on the entire business, often as bad as 20%.  Most of these small businesses don't have that sort of money, and if they do, they cannot afford giving Uncle 20% of the business in cash.  If the owner could pass the business down to an heir, tax free, it might stay in business and keep employing people.  As it is, death of the owner is death of the small business. 
I clicked out to the Trump website to read the whole thing.  There ain't much more to it than what The Donald gave out on TV yesterday.  It's short and vague.  Doesn't list the "loopholes" he plans to close.
   I don't like the notion of the bottom tax bracket being zero.  I think everyone should pay something, if only a few percent, to let them feel the pain of taxes.  Especially as the bottom half of the income groups is the one that sucks up more government bennies that the others.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Just how expensive are Emergency Room visits ?

Was reading a piece in the Journal about emergency room vists, and how expensive they are, and it's really too bad that so many people go to the ER when they feel ill.  It went on to say that as long as the emergency room is the only 24/7 medical facility, they are gonna get a lot of business.
  Been thinking about that.  Just how expensive is an emergency room visit, really?  Wanna bet the hospital takes the total cost of running an emergency room divided by the number of patients served?  Which is a cute statistic but it doesn't mean anything.  Like if zero patients came in the cost per visit is infinite?  If a zillion people came in the cost goes to zilch? 
   In actual fact, it costs money to run an emergency room whether anyone uses it or not.  The true cost when someone comes in, waits two hours, and leaves with a prescription for Amoxicillin, is pretty close to zilch.  particularly when the ER people spend most of their time doing paperwork about the visit rather than diagnosing and treating the patient.
   Accounting is important in any real business.  Accurate accounting tells management where the money is going to and coming from,  which management needs to know if it is going to work on reducing out go and increasing income.   Ideally the doctors and nurses would  fill out time cards, charging their time to each patient served.  Today they could use an app on their smart phones, just swipe the patient's wrist band against the phone and punch "start".  Punch "done" as they leave the patient's bedside. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

More thoughts on John Boehner

I'm listening to some pundit saying that Boehner didn't fight hard enough for something or other.  He was too ready to compromise.
   There speaks a pundit with his head wedged.
   Speaker of the House has just his own single vote.  To get anything passed, he needs to get 51% of reps to vote for it.  Which means that 51% has to like the speaker, trust the speaker, and go along with the speaker even when their constituents may not agree.  The speaker cannot go about offending people by constantly fighting over issues, he has to be seen as fair, unbiased, and trustworthy.  If he throws his weight around, he pisses people off, and then he won't have the votes next time he needs them. 
   Given the deep differences inside the Republican party, and the differences with the Democrats, I think Boehner has done the best that can be done.  There is only so much that oil poured on troubled waters can do.  I'm sorry to see him go.
   I wish his successor, whom ever that may be, the best possible luck.  He is gonna need it.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What John Boehner's replacement ought to do

Once elected that is. 
No more "continuing resolutions" no more "omnibus spending bills, no more"one-big-fund-everything" bills.  From here on in, we will pass single bills, one to fund each Federal government activity.  A defense bill, a highway bill, Justice department bill, a FAA bill, a HHS bill, a Homeland Security bill, and so on.
  This is the way it was done from George Washington's time down to very recently.  Recently something fell thru the cracks and the necessary appropriation bills were not passed.  When the end of the fiscal year came up, Congress would pass a stop gap to keep the government running. One huge stop gap.  And they are still doing it. 
   Trouble with the one-big-funds-everything bill is it gives every special interest group enormous leverage to get their pet gravy train funded.  Fund us or we vote against the bill and the entire government takes a hit.  Today it's the Planned Parenthood special interests.  Tomorrow it will be some one else.  I forget who was threatening government shutdown last time.  When everything depends upon a single bill passing, it isn't too hard to threaten to stop it. 
   If we went back to doing it the right way, the special interest groups would have less leverage.  Assuming Planned Parenthood funding comes out of HHS, all the special interests could do is threaten passage of the HHS funding.  Which doesn't have nearly the punch of threatening a government shut down. 
  You would think you could find enough Congress Critters to do this.  Weakening the special interests would pass control back to elected Congressmen.  Right now,  the Congressmen have to vote the one-big-spending-bill thru. They don't get a chance to amend things, or bargain, all they can do is vote for it.  Plus, the entire federal budget is so vast, and so complicated that no one understands it.  Whereas a Congressman has a chance to learn a smaller piece of it, defense say, fairly well.  Knowing where the bodies are buried, a Congressman can insist on changes in the bill before the vote.  With a one-big-funding-bill nobody knows it well enough to make any changes.  So all the agencies will get what they got last year, plus an inflation booster, and things go on, Federal spending rises, and unnecessary activities get funded, just 'cause they got funded last year. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Should be inflicted upon telemarketers and political callers who ring my phone but don't answer when I pick up.  Tar and feathers.  Boiling in oil.  Stuff like that. 

Pope Francis does good

The Pope has been getting all day coverage on cable TV.  I seen him at the White House, saying Mass, at Congress, at the UN.  Everywhere the TV shows massive crowds, come from far away, just to see the Pope in person, live and not on TV.  The Pope's saturation TV coverage has complete eclipsed the visit of China's president.  China is an important country and its president visiting the US ought to be newsworthy, but the Pope has "sucked all the oxygen out of the room", to borrow an overworked cliche from the TV newsies. The Pope is getting better TV coverage than the Donald.
   What to make of this?  Well, the vast crowds of believers indicate that God is alive and well in the United States.  Even among Protestants, the Pope commands enormous respect.  The sight of huge crowds, attending services in massive churches, sited on prime city real estate, shows there is loads of support among the citizens for both Catholicism and the Protestant churches.  Many Protestant churches have veered off into either extreme liberalism or intense fundamentalism, adopting stances beloved of their pastors but awfully way out for many members.  At this time, the Catholic Church  teachings are a moderate mainstream view point broadly acceptable to many Americans, which gives the Pope even more importance than he ordinarily would have. 
   I heard Obama say something like "This church contributes to the strength of America."  Which is very true, although I expect churchmen shuddered at hearing this.  Good churchmen  think in terms of strengthening their church and bringing their parishioners into a better relationship with God, rather than contributing to the strength and power of a secular nation-state.   Certainly the Christian teaching that all men are brothers does a lot for good for civil order, loyalty to country, and reduces enmity in the society.  This are all good things.   

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Volkswagen, microprocessor scams, and NOx

The great Volkswagen emissions scam is breaking big.  They canned the CEO of Volkswagen yesterday over the matter.  Apparently, the microprocessor in the diesel VW's was able to sense when the car was undergoing an EPA emissions test and adjust something to make the engine run cleaner.  Sensing when the car is being tested isn't all that hard, if the engine is revving up above idle but the car isn't moving, it's on a test stand getting tested.  The anti skid sensors on each wheel will let the microprocessor know if the wheel is turning.  Unless all four wheels are turning, the car isn't moving and it doesn't take great programming skill to make a few adjustments to engine operation. 
   Just what the microprocessor can do on a diesel is less clear to me.  Diesels don't have ignition systems (spark plugs) so there is no ignition timing to fiddle with.  There is the fuel air mixture, I suppose setting the mixture extra lean will spoil the combustion, lower combustion temperatures, which reduces the "NOx" emissions.  It also ruins fuel economy and power output.  In engines, running hotter give you more power and better fuel mileage. 
  It could be the problem is the US standards for nitrogen oxide ("NOx") emissions.  The air is 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen.  Heat air up enough and the nitrogen and oxygen go together in various combinations, NO2, N2O4, etc.  The temperature inside the cylinders of an engine as hot enough to form "NOx".  The is the basis of the famous Haber process for making "fixed nitrogen" for fertilizer and explosives.  Plants need fixed nitrogen, ("NOx") and cannot make it them selves.  Another fact from freshman chemistry, All nitrates are soluble.  Which means all the "NOx" in the air will come down in the rain and fertilize the fields.
   So why is "NOx" called a pollutant?  Partly because the EPA likes to call as much stuff pollutants as it can because it gives them more areas to throw their weight around.  In the case of "NOx" the source of LA smog was found to be a combination of "NOx" and oily hydrocarbon vapors, unburned gasoline.  Under the impulse of sunlight the two chemicals will combine and make smog.  The correct solution would have been to clamp down on unburned hydrocarbons, all sources of which represent poor engine performance or leaks and spills.  Without any unburned hydrocarbons, you can have all the NOx in the air you want and not get smog.  
   Well, the EPA didn't do that, they are off on a "NOx" kick, have been for 40 years.  And it hurts.  Diesel is more efficent that spark ignition engines.  In Europe half the automobile fleet is diesel. In the US nobody drives a diesel.  Reason?  US "NOx" standards are much tighter than they are in Europe.  Apparently the only way to get a diesel car to pass US emissions tests was to cheat, which is apparently Volkswagen's solution to the problem.
   It's time to have a public debate on "NOx" standards.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hillary comes out against Keystone XL

She offered no reasons for her newish stand.  She called the project a "distraction".  Which means nothing.  Since she offers no reasons for her new public stand, I gotta think it's politics.  She is appealing to the party's greenies, at the expense of the unions. Unions like Keystone XL 'cause it will employ a million of their members, which is important to unions.  Obviously she thinks there are more greenie votes out there than there are union votes. 
   I wonder who does Hillary's polling and did they get this right?   Somehow I think there are more union people (union members and their families) out there than card carrying Sierra Club greenies.  I might be wrong, but so might Hillary. 
   Maybe some union people will see the light and vote Republican. 

Redcoats take the White House

Putting on the dog for Pope Francis at the White House.  The marching unit, the only marching unit, was Redcoat, fifes, drums, tri cornered hats and all. 
God Save the Queen.
Long Live the Anglosphere.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Joint, the new magic word

At least in the armed services.  We have a Joint Strike Fighter, a joint combat pistol, joint this, joint that, all in the name of interservice cooperation.
   Now the TV is calling the traditional and long standing Andrews Air Force Base by the new name of Joint Base Andrews.  That's a new one on me.  Wonder when that started.  And who started it.
   Anyhow they put on a pretty good show for the Pope's arrival.  Obama and family and Biden were on the ramp to greet the pope.  There are few visitors so important that the president goes out to the airfield to greet them.  Anyhow, the Pope should have gotten the impression that the Americans are glad to see him. 

Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) Again

Aviation Week had another piece on this aircraft, so the topic is still alive.  Didn't say anything about the aircraft, or the mission, just some talk about where it is in the procurement process.  Interesting if you are a company guy thinking of bidding on part of it, but not much for us plane watchers.

Poor Ben Carson

The newsies have been talking up Ben's comment on Muslims.  Carson was asked if he would support  a Muslim for US president.  Carson said "no" which I agree with.  He went on to say that Islam  places the Koran, the Hadiths, and Sharia law above just about anything, especially above secular things like the US Constitution.  Which is quite true.  Personally I would not vote for a Muslim candidate, and I fully agree with Carson's position.  American presidents support and defend the Constitution, Federal statues and the Common Law, and place this duty far above any Islamic obligations. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Downsizing, from boats to Buicks

I finally traded my trusty 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis, the last of the traditional Detroit boats, six passenger four door V8 sedan.  The body rot had broken thru the fenders, my friendly local mechanic told me he might not be able to give it an inspection sticker next year due to serious rust underneath, and it had 110K miles. 
   I found a low mileage 2003 Buick Le Sabre.  It's not too bad.  It's smaller than the boats, it's just a four passenger car with the old Chevy V6 for power.  It's the top of the line as far as bling and interior trim goes.  The engine isn't anything like as strong as the 4.6 liter V8 in the Merc, even pulling a smaller lighter car.  It has a tachometer, I really need that for those fast power shifts drag racing off the stop lights.  Right.  It has an amazingly tall front axle gear, the engine is only doing 1000 RPM at 50 miles an hour.  At least the transmission lets the engine wind up to the red line if you put your foot into it.  Passing power is OK, but nothing like the Merc. 
  Fuel economy is decent, I got 30 mpg on a trip down to Lebanon and back.  That's better, the Merc only did 22 mpg.  
   The dashboard is confusing.  I had to dig into the owner's manual to figure out how to turn the headlights off, and work the radio.  The damn manual is 300 pages long, the index sucks, and it's missing things like factory recommended tire pressure.  It's full of platitudes about seat belt usage and DUI.  Most of the buttons on the dash have two or three difference meanings, tap once ,double tap, press and hold and they all do different things.  You wouldn't believe what you have to do just to set bass and treble on the radio.  There is a single little hard to read digital display that can show oil pressure, battery voltage, fuel economy, tire pressure, coolant temperature, and the phase of the moon, after you press all the right buttons.  For all this digital fanciness, it lacks an outside temp thermometer, a winter driving necessity. 
   Styling is undistinguished, standard industry all rounded over look. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Can "The Cloud" keep anything secret?

I'm not fully up to speed on how "The Cloud" works internally, but wanna bet it can be hacked?  And since it's on line 24/7, the hackers can keep hitting it until they get in.  Whereas I can unplug my computer from the internet, and nobody can get at it short of breaking and entering.  If I was really serious, I'd burn the stuff to DVD and hide the DVD's in the house.  And disable Windows auto run so a single thumb drive insertion doesn't put a root kit on my system.

Anti Virus Programs, major time suckers

Used to be anti virus just scanned the hard drive looking for virii files living there on and zapping them.  Now they have real time scanners, permanantly resident, running, and soaking up CPU time to the point that Trusty Desktop gets annoyingly sluggish.  I got into the control panels of MalwareBytes and tried to turn off the real time scanner.  Nothing much happened.  So I used Windows Task Manager to kill the "mbam.exe" process and the machine got more lively.  I ought to uninstall the damn thing and be done with it but maybe, next time I power up the mbam.exe time sucker won't be active.  If it is, bye-bye malwarebytes. 
  Did the same thing with Spybot Search and Destroy.  The real time scanner did shut down and seems to stay down. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Republican debate on CNN

Well, it wasn't as good as the Fox debate last month.  The Donald survived the evening without taking a serious hit, despite the fact that everyone on stage was gunning for him and the "moderators" were egging them on with "Trump said this about you, what do you think" questions.   Carly came on strong, very convincing, eloquent, substantive.  Marco Rubio looked and sounded good.  JEB Bush showed more spunk than I've seen from him in the past.
   For us voters, we should be looking for a good winning candidate, who could govern effectively.  There is Trump.  I got big reservations about him.  I fear his blunt, rude manner would anger everyone in the country, and overseas.  It's hard to get anything done if everyone is trying to get even with you.  I also wonder about Trump's motives, what does he really want to do?  I'm thinking about  the incumbent who campaigned as a liberal democrat, but once elected he revealed his Communist agenda.  What is Trump's agenda, really?
  If we are not going Trump, then who is our best bet?  Carly looks good to me.  She has experience, she speaks plainly and well, she could get it done.  Marco Rubio looks and sounds good.  Ben Carson is polite and soft spoken, so soft spoken I wonder about his resolve in the clutch. 
   I don't like Rand Paul, he is an isolationist.  He wants to pull back to North America and let the rest of the world burn down. 
   Chris Christy came on strong and feisty, and he was the strongest defender of / warrior for  the drug war, which doesn't excite me.   Far as I am concerned, pot should be a states issue, decided by votes in the state legislature, not by judicial dictators.  It is no business of the Feds.
   The questions mostly sucked.  Way to go CNN.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

US Healthcare is too damn expensive

The US puts 19% of GNP into health care.  That's incredible.  Nearly one dollar in five is spent on health care.  US made products are 19% more expensive than they ought to be, just to pay the worker's healthcare.  No other country in the world spends (wastes?) this much money on healthcare.  Other first world industrial countries pay one half what we do, and their health is every bit as good, in some cases a little better than in the US.  And their products bear only an 8 % healthcare markup compared the 19% in the US.  No wonder manufacturing is moving over seas.  Relocate and cut your healthcare costs in half.  Such a deal.  Who can resist?
   The media offers no information about where the lavish US health spending goes.  They don't know, and don't have a clue.
   I can tell one story, the rise of the fetal heartrate monitor.  I designed one of these goodies back when I worked at Analogic.   At this time, every single delivery room in the US is equipped with one of these $10,000 dollar devices.  Analogic made quite a bit of money selling them.  Today, to lack a fetal heart rate monitor is to invite a malpractice law suit.  Any hospital would far rather buy some $10K gizmos than face a million dollar lawsuit.
   Unfortunately, all this high price high tech did absolutely nothing to reduce infant mortality.  Several studies published in the medical journals showed that infant mortality rates did not change at all after the introduction of  fetal heart rate monitors.  The only effect of the new tech was a solid increase in the rate of C-sections.  Everytime the monitor trace looked a little funny some one would cry "Fetal Distress" and zap, off to the operating room.
   In short, a good deal of money was spent but results did not improve.  I wonder how many other expensive things get charged to the health insurance that look nice but don't actually do anything.
   The rest of the world  enjoys good health care while spending half as much.  Why cannot we learn how to do it too?
  Some one ought to ask the two doctors in the race what they think and what might be done.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

And after three antivirus passes, they are still out there

Just for grins, I used Explorer to search my hard drive for the oddly named program (80454612.exe) I saw running in task manager yesterday.  Surprise, surprise, it was still hiding out on my hard drive, two copies in two obscure locations.  This after running three different anti virus programs.  Naturally I deleted both copies on general principles.
   Take away, if you have the name of a piece of malware, Explorer can find it and zap it.
Being on a roll, I then ran regedit and searched for the same name in the registry.  And, sure enough, on the "Run" key were three program names, one of them odd name.  The other two programs I recognized as my wireless card driver and my calendar program.  So I zapped the odd name just to make sure it was dead.
Take away, if you want to make sure something is gone, search the registry for it and delete any keys containing the name.
  Be careful with regedit.  It will do anything you tell it to.  Some of the stuff in the registry is essential to Windows and if you damage it, Windows will fail to boot up next time.
   There is a place in the registry called "MUIcache" which often contains the names of programs run in the past.  The purpose of MUIcache is not documented by Micro$oft.  Net rumor has it that MUIcache records stuff from the file header of every program ever run.  On my machine, MUIcache had the odd program name that I had been zapping.  I left the MUIcache registry  leaf alone on the majority of advice from the net.  I'm told that popular disk cleaner CCleaner zaps MUIcache, and there was a lively discussion as to whether this was a good idea or not.  I decided not to mess. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Trashing Trump ain't gonna work

Trump is out there, trashing everyone in sight.  The Republican competition is beginning to trash back.  About time actually.  But I don't think it will work.  Trump appeals to the voters as a man who will go to Washington, take names, kick ass, and clean house.  To these voters, trashtalk is action, they like it, they want more of it.  And,  hearing other's trashing The Donald, just makes them get up and cheer The Donald on.  Counterproductive that is.
  What to do?  I suggest the competition take some stands on issues.  I haven't heard any of them saying much of substance.  They are all foursquare for motherhood and apple pie, but that ain't enough.  They have to take a stand on immigration, Obamacare, taxes, and other stuff.  Bush did have an Op Ed piece on tax reforms he wants in last Saturday's Wall St Journal, but that is about it.  And Bush's op ed was pretty tame stuff,  Did not list the loopholes he would close, did not call for everyone to pay income tax. 
  Whereas Trump was out denouncing high CEO pay the next day.  That's a real issue that people relate to.  Much more interesting than a tepid tax reform. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

They are still out there, computer virii that is.

Trusty Desktop started getting slow and then flaky.  After something killed off Firefox in the midst of making a post, I decided to get on it. I did the three finger salute and up came Task Manager.  The Applications Window only showed Task Manager running, but the Process Window showed something called 80454612.exe was active.  Never heard of that fellow before, and he is probably malware.  That and I had three instances of regsrv32.exe running.  Regsrv32 is a real Micro$oft program but I never saw him running before, and having three copies of him running is a bad sign.

 So, I run the Micro$oft Malicious Software Removal tool, a full scan.  Took 2 1/2 hours but it reported 11 hits.  All connected with something called win32/miuref.f.  So I told the tool to zap them all.  Then thinking that Micro$oft doesn't know as much as they think they know, I downloaded a fresh copy of the freeware Malwarebytes.  The freeware is still available, although they try real hard to sell you a payware version and it takes some snooping around to find the freeware.  Malwarebytes  found 33 hits.  A lot of 'em connected with something called Trojan.Miuref.THD, which sounds like the same thing the Malicious Software Removal Tool found, and apparently failed to clean up all the way.
  Guess I ought to try a couple of more anti virus programs, what one misses another may find.  But two runs getting hits is enough for today.  Trusty Desktop feels more lively. 

Whining vs Substance.

Bernie Sanders was on Meet the Press this morning.  He came out strongly against "income inequality".  Sounds good Bernie, but whatcha gonna DO about it?   Far as I can see, Bernie is just whining about a problem, he does even bother to quantifiy it, like just how bad is it right now?  Unless you can put numbers on the problem, you don't know squat about it.
   And, whatcha gonna DO about it?  Hike my taxes?  Increase federal regulation?  Howza about cutting the cost of US health care?  We are putting 19% of GNP into health care.  Our international competitors, places like Germany and Japan, and Britain, first world industrial countries,  only put 8% of GNP into health care.  For spending (wasting) twice as much money on health care, the US health is no better, in fact slightly worse than many first world countries.
   Howsabout killing the war on coal?   Howzabout  doing oil exploration leases off shore and on federal land?  Howsabout doing Keystone XL?
   Bernie,  until you say what you want to do about "income inequality" you ain't speaking to me. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Lore of the Battery

Car battery that is.  It's a fairly dependable gizmo, except in winter when your car fails to crank.  They last four winters on average.  A battery works like a bank account, you put juice in, and later you can take juice out.  If you fail to put enough juice back in after a hard winter start, the battery may not be there next time.  In winter you need to run the car engine for as much as a half hour after a cold weather start.
 Batteries are temperature dependent, they work much better when at room temperature than they do at - 40 F.   A cold winter morning might have the entire car chilled down to -40 F.  Wait until early afternoon and things might have warmed up to a mere 0 F.  This might not help if you gotta get to work at 8 AM, but if you just need to go the store, wait til things get warmer.  Brush the snow off the car and it will soak up sunshine and get surprisingly warm.  Keeping the car in even an unheated garage will keep it 20-30F warmer than parking it outdoors.  Starting is a lot easier at 0 F than at -40 F.  And after getting her started, be sure to run her long enough to charge the battery up.
   Lotta new cars now come with a battery voltage gauge or indicator.  A new fully charged battery might show 13.2 volts.  This "sulfation charge" will go away, dropping the battery voltage down to say 12.5 volts after just a whisper of discharge, say running the head lamps for 10 minutes.  Call 12.5 volts normal full charge.  As the battery discharges, the voltage drops.  By 11 volts, you have trouble, your car may not start next time.  At 10 volts it surely won't start.  
   When the engine is running, the alternator will maintain 14-15 volts on the electrical system, it has too, the battery won't accept charge unless the alternator voltage is a volt or two greater than battery voltage.  If  you don't have 14-15 volts with the engine running, you have alternator trouble, and shortly you will have a discharged (flat) battery and the car won't start.  If the alternator has been doing it's job, and the car won't crank, you have battery trouble.  They only last four winters, and maybe yours is just shot and needs replacement.  Last new battery I bought set me back $50. 
   Naturally, you need the engine off, to see the battery voltage.  With the engine running, you are seeing alternator voltage. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Boeing going with flapping wings

Well, not quite.  The redesign on the 777 (big, twin aisle, twin engine) goes with a longer wingspan.  Presumable they wanted some more lift, to lower the landing speed.  If the wing is larger, it will generate enough lift to keep the plane in the air as it slows down to land.   A lower landing speed is safer, these are awfully big and heavy vehicles to go careening onto the runway at 150 mph. 
   Trouble is, air port taxiways, laid out years ago, are only so wide.  And so, Boeing is planning on folding the wingtips to ease the 777X into its gate..  Like WWII carrier airplanes.  Only the outer 11 feet of the wing is planned to fold, complete with hinges, actuators, and locking pins.  This opens variety of comedy moves, should the aircrew forget to fold the wingtips before taxing in and hit all sorts of things. 
  Wow.  talk about mechanical complexity.  Let's hope it works.  It probably will.  It's not more complicated than those wonderful Boeing flaps, which come out, and out, and full flaps actually converts the aircraft into a biplane. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

JEB offers his tax plan

One of the first, maybe the first, to come out with a concrete proposal.  He posted it on the Op Ed page of Wednesday's Wall St Journal.  The "MSM"  (NYT and WaPo) probably won't carry it, but the Journal has four times the circulation of the NYT, and even a bigger lead over WaPo. 
   JEB proposes three personal income tax rates, 10%, 25%, and 28%, 20% on corporate profits, and 100% write off of capital improvements.  All decent ideas.  He proposed closing loopholes although he failed to get  specific and name loopholes.  He is happy to have 15 million people owe no federal income tax.  He will scrap the "alternate minimum tax".  He will increase the standard deduction, expand "earned income tax credit" and retains the charitable contributions deduction.
   Let's give JEB  credit for addressing a real issue, and proposing real reforms.
   However I would do it a little bit differently.  I believe that every one, no matter  how poor, ought to pay some tax, just to let them feel the pain.  It need not be much, 5% would do fine.  But everyone ought to pay something.  The "earned income tax credit" serves to zero out low income people's taxes, so long as they have some children.  The formula and rules for earned income tax credit are so complicated that nobody really understands what's going down.  Was it me, I'd scrap the entire thing, just to simply the tax code.  Set the bottom rate at 5%, and be done with it.
   While we are at it, outlaw all those "worksheets" the IRS puts in the 1040 instructions.  If they cannot state a tax rule in a single sentence of plain English, the rule is too complicated and we should scrap it outright.  Those little worksheets walk the taxpayer thru an indescribably complex rule.  We don't need indescribably complex rules. 
   Close loopholes.  Just about everything on Schedule A is a loophole.  Drop them all, medical, mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and the rest.  Set the middle tax bracket at 17%.  After deductions and hassling and rassling and loosing an entire weekend to doing my taxes, I always wound up paying 17% after all the mickey mouse. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B)

This is a proposed US Air Force project. estimated at $80 billion, that Aviation Week thinks is close to contract award to either Boeing-Lockheed-Martin, or Northrup Grumman.  A think tank organized conference talked a lot about it.  One thing they didn't talk about was the mission such an aircraft might perform.  Is it supposed to penetrate Soviet or Chinese air defenses and nuke Moscow or Peiping?  Is it supposed to do maritime patrol in the Atlantic?  Is it supposed to carpet bomb ISIS held places in the Mid East?   Is it supposed to operate against defended airspace? 
   Since Viet Nam, USAF bombing missions have been flown by fighters, with bombs hung under their wings.  It seems to work, and it's not clear to me what the Long Range Strike Bomber could do to justify its $80 billion project cost. 
   The proposed aircraft does not seem all that formidable.  We are talking subsonic, 12,000-20000 pound bomb load and a range of only 2500 miles.  Where as the ancient B52 (still flying) could hoist 70000 pounds of bombs and could range out 4400 miles.  The WWII propeller driven single engine Douglas Skyraider could manage a 20,000 pound bomb load.   So we are talking  about a smallish aircraft with not much range.  Think about tanking in the way in, tanking again on the way out, and if you miss your tanker rendezvous you run out of gas.  That's the way we got the short legged F105 Thunderchiefs (Thuds)  to Hanoi and back. 
   The last successful bomber program USAF managed was the B52 program back 60 years ago.  Since then they did the supersonic B58 Hustler, which although fast, didn't carry enough bomb load to do anything worthwhile unless the bombs were nukes.  And we don't use nukes any more.  There was the B70 Valkyrie, big, supersonic, but never got into production.  Then the B1 Lancer project, supersonic, cool, but very expensive and lacking in range and payload.  And finally the B2 project, successful, good range and payload, really stealthy, but at $1 billion a copy, just too expensive.  They shut down production after building only 25 of them. 
   Given that sorry record, I think it behooves Congress and the MSM to raise some questions about the need for the LRS-B project.
    Consider taking a commercial jumbo airliner, taking out the seats, hanging missiles under the wings.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It ain't the Hispanic vote that Republicans need

Not like they need the woman's vote. 
Romney lost the woman's vote by 10%.  Women are 50% of the voters.  He lost the Hispanic vote by a bigger percentage, but there are a lot fewer Hispanics than there are woman.  Yet the newsies are forever yakking about the importance of the Hispanic vote, they never talk about the woman's vote, or woman's issues.  In Romney's case, if he had cut Obama's margin among women down to 5%  from 10% he'd be president right now. 
    Aside from coverage of Democrats decrying a "war on women"   I don't hear much about woman's issues.  There was that "Julia" ad explaining how much free stuff the Obama administration is giving away.  That got roundly mocked in the blogosphere.  There was the female George Mason student (name escapes me now) that cried out for free contraceptives.  And now we have the push to defund Planned Parenthood over the fetal organ selling scandal. 
   How do women feel about all this?  I haven't seen any polling.  I'm a guy, and I'm old enough and wise enough to understand the women don't see things the way men do.  And that unless I ask the women, I don't know nothing.  Was I running for president I would do what ever it takes to get the women to vote for me.  It's just I don't really know what that might be.  We have done a lot of evening out in the labor market, in college, and employment and promotion.  I don't see that there is much more that can be done in those areas.
  How do women feel about abortion? Are they for it, agin it, or split 50-50?  Used to be they were split.  Is this still true?  Defunding Planned Parenthood is an anti abortion move.  Will it gain women's votes?  Or loose them?
   Where do Republicans stand on paid maternity leave?  Some companies have it, dunno how many.  Is this an election winning issue?  Obamacare promises to pay for contraceptives, should we support this as we talk about scrapping Obamacare?
    What other issues matter to women?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Looking for a platform? Try Patent Reform

My advice to all those running against Trump.  Offer some ideas, like what you would do if elected.  Trump does this, and it's one of the things that keeps him up in the polls.  Most pols these days go out of their way to avoid speaking out on issues, 'cause once you take a side on an issue, all the voters on the other side of that issue, will never forget or forgive.  The voters on your side, forget and do you no good.
   So, how about an issue that everyone is in favor of?  Sure winner, you get some free media, and you don't make enemies.  What issue might that be?
   Howsabout patent reform.  The current US patent system discourages innovation.  As soon as you bring a new product to market, you get a patent troll suing you for infringing some obscure patent that he, the troll, just happens to hold.  Who can not be in favor of fixing this?  Except for the patent trolls that is.  But there just ain't enough patent trolls in the world to matter. 
  What to do?  First clean up the patent application business.  Right now,  you can get a patent on anything, written as vaguely and as broadly as to be a barn door.  Anything will go thru it.  We ought to not allow any patents on software, nor any patents on "business methods", nor patents on arbitrary arrangements of things, like the QWERTY keyboard or the Morse code.   We should demand a working model of the patented idea.  If you cannot make a working model that works, you don't have a patentable idea.   We should demand that the idea be really new, not "obvious to anyone skilled in the art".   Which means the patent examiner needs to actually contact some of those skilled in the art and see what they think about the pending patent. Especially we should not grant a new patent on a minor change.  I hear big pharma has been granted new patents on existing drugs after they merely changed the size of the pill.
   Then we need to keep the trolls out.  To have the standing to sue for patent infringement, you need to be making and selling product yourself that uses the claimed patent.  You cannot just be a law office with a bunch of vague patents and some mouthy lawyers.  Unless you are actually making something useful, you don't get to sue.
   Any, make patents non transferable.  The patent rights are granted to the inventor, or the inventor's company.  The patent owner can collect royalties on his patent but he may not sell the patent to the trolls. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Whirlwind, The American Revolution by John Ferling

It's just out this year.  It's a good read, Ferling writes well, and he does the footnote thing religiously so it's serious history.  It's got maps which make the story a bunch more understandable.  It tells the standard story of the revolution, no Marxist class warfare riffs, no brand new interpretations of events.  It's the right story, well told.  Ferling picks things up in 1763, right after the French and Indian War.  He goes thru the political buildup for independence.  He shows how it took 12 years to sell the colonists on the idea of kicking out  King George, bidding the British Empire farewell, and giving up their English citizenship.  The breach was egged on by Parliament, which spent those 12 years throwing their weight around and trying to show the Americans who was boss. 
    The British Army was more professional than the Americans, the British could do the Column Left, Halt, Right Face, maneuver to shake a marching column out into a fighting line, and their officers could read the terrain and find unprotected flanks the the green Americans didn't even know existed.
  But when the Americans could pick their spot, get set up, and had a good plan, they fought like tigers and inflicted dreadful casualties on the British.  Bunker Hill. Trenton, Kings Mountain, and Cowpens. all showed how to blow a lot of Redcoats away in very short order.   

Saturday, September 5, 2015

EU Refugee Crisis

Refugees from various Mid East and North African disaster areas (Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya ) are pouring into the EU.  No EU country wants to accept any of them.  Nobody in the EU has the stones to deport them back to where they came from.  We are seeing horrendous pictures of dead and dying refugees, little kids dead on beaches, refugees clinging to train track, refridgerator trucks abandoned with the back of the truck full of dead refugees.
  It's a EU problem but we in the US caused the messes in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.  And we shirked our responsibility in the case of Syria. 
   None of the Arab Gulf states (Saudi, Qatar, Emirates) wants anything to do with this Muslim, Arabic speaking crowd of refugees. 
   What the EU ought to do, is  take these people in, find them jobs, find them housing, and settle them down.  But the EU cannot find jobs for their existing citizens.  They are running 10% unemployment overall, with pest holes like Greece and Spain running better than 20%.   Any refugees let into an EU country just go on the welfare rolls, which are so big as to crush the EU economy.
   If we could clean up the source countries (Syria Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya) most of the refugees would happily go home.  We had a chance to do just that, not very long ago, but we pulled out and let those countries sink. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

More Fantasy Naval Warfare, Armor

The first serious improvement over wooden sailing warships, was the addition of steam engines and iron armor.  In fact, the vessels were called ironclads.  The first combat test, Hampton Roads in the US Civil War, had ironclad Merrimac engage and sink two traditional broadside wooden Federal warships.  Merrimac's armor made her impervious to Union guns, the cannon balls just bounced off her.  Yankee sailors on the two doomed wooden vessels stood to their guns and kept firing broadsides at Merrimac until their ships sank beneath their feet. 
   Following this success, all future warships carried as much armor as they could float.  As a rule of thumb, it takes as much armor thickness as the gun has bore to keep the shot out.  For instance a 4 inch gun can pierce 4 inches of armor.  US Civil War monitors carried 15 inch guns, which made everyone try for 15 inch armor, right up thru WWII.  Although both guns and armor improved a lot since the 1860's the ratio of armor thickness to gun bore stayed about the same.   Unfortunately, it was impossible to put 15 inches of armor all over a ship, the weight was just too great, the ship could not float that much armor.  So the armor was concentrated over the vitals, engines, guns, and ,magazines, and the rest of the ship was left to absorb hits as best it could.  Aircraft made the problem worse, against ships guns, all you needed was an armor belt along the sides, the decks remained un armored.  To provide deck armor thick enough to keep out aircraft bombs was just never doable.  Which is why battleships were mostly retired after WWII, they were just too vulnerable to bombing. 
   The one exception to the armored ship was the brainchild of Admiral Jackie Fisher, RN.  Fisher wanted a scout vessel, fast enough to locate the German battle line and strong enough to survive the contact.  His solution was a big ship (big ships are faster than small ships) with a battleship class battery of guns, but no armor to save weight and keep the speed up.  They called them battlecruisers.  Trouble is, the captains of battlecruisers had a vessel that looked like a battleship, was as big as a battleship, and the skippers got battleship ideas.  When the four British battlecruisers found the German High Seas fleet, instead of turning around and running, and radioing the enemy position back to Grand Fleet, they formed a battle line and opened fire.  The Germans fired back and sank three out of four battlecruisers in just a few minutes of action.
That diminished interest the the battlecruiser permanently.  The last battlecruiser, HMS Hood, launched after Jutland, lasted until she engaged Bismarck in WWII. A single hit from Bismarck and Hood blew up.   

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The making of a Super Power

What makes a country a superpower?  A large population is right up there in importance.  A country of 100 million can overwhelm a country of 1 million in any field of endeavor, athletics, warfare, innovation, popular culture, manufacturing, you name it.  We have enjoyed superpower status since the beginning of the 20th century. 
  Part of  obtaining and holding onto a large population is political skill, skill to prevent the large country from breaking down into smaller parts.  Like what happened to the USSR in 1989, Czechoslovakia, what almost happened to the US in 1860.  And what is simmering under the surface in Canada and Britain and other places. 
  For the large population to be an element of strength, it has to be loyal, willing to make serious sacrifice to their country. Unhappy Muslim "youths" from the banlieus around Paris, rioting in the streets and setting fire to 1000 cars in one night, are not loyal, in fact they are traitors to France.  Japanese Americans enlisting during WWII and creating a heroic combat record, despite their families treatment in American concentration camps, are loyal. 
   Traditionally, native born and raised citizens are loyal.  Loyalties of immigrants are not so certain.  Here the US is fortunate,  immigrants come to the US because they like our liberties, our economic opportunities, our civil order,  and the vast amount of good America has done around the world for all of our history.  Immigrants to the US become astoundingly loyal to America, and pass this down to their children.  And immigration has grown our population from great power size to super power size.  Without the great 19th century immigration the US would be more like Canada, a worthy country, but hardly a super power. 
    The other method of keeping up the population is is natural increase.  In principal if each woman bore two children in her lifetime, she would have replaced herself and her husband and kept the population steady.  In practice, to make allowances for early death from disease, accident, crime, and warfare, the number is 2.1 children.  If  each woman were to bear three children, then the population grows rapidly, like 150% in a generation.   Right now,  US women are bearing just exactly 2.1 children, just enough to keep the population steady.  Places like the EU, Russia, and Japan are much worse, rates as low as 1.1 children have been reported from Russia. 
    So, we need immigrants to grow our population, especially with international competitors like China and India out there.  We especially need young, married immigrants, who will take jobs and grow the economy. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

St Paul's prep school rape case

The St Paul's prep school rape case has gotten a lot of coverage, partly 'cause the school is very tony, partly 'cause the defendant is a good looking teenager of good family, partly 'cause the media is on a school rape kick. 
   The facts of the case seem to be, the defendant (Owen Labrie) is accused of raping the un named accuser.  There are no other witnesses or evidence, so it gets down to a he-said she-said case.  In real life, the charge ought be simply rape.
   In lawyer life, they rummaged thru all the lawbooks and found a barrel of things to charge in addition to rape.  They  managed to charge the defendant with felony sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, and "using a computer to seduce a minor".  The jury waffled and acquitted some charges and convicted on others. 
   Fair and honest would have been a single charge of rape, and let the jury decide who to believe, he or she. Either acquit or convict.  As it is, they get away with a waffle. 
   In fact, I think courts would be fairer if the prosecution was allowed only one charge.  Arrest a perp for doing something.  Figure out which law he/she broke and prosecute on that one.  If the criminal action could be a violation of more than one law fine, pick one, just one, and go with it.  Slapping half a dozen charges on the perp for one criminal action is welfare for lawyers and unfair to the defendant.   For instance, arrest a guy for sticking up a liquor store.  They can charge him with armed robbery, but they cannot also charge him with unlawful possession of a firearm.  One charge is enough. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Talky-talk college courses

"Women in Popular Culture", "Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies", "Introduction to Multicultural Literature" a bunch of worthwhile? useful? college courses.  They sure aren't STEM courses, and they aren't Liberal Arts courses, and I wouldn't even call them social science courses.  They surely won't help a graduate find a job. 
   But according to Instapundit, the professors teaching these courses have truly amazing policies regarding student language.  Prof  Selenas Lester Brekiss has banned the use of the words "male" and "female".  Professor Rebacca Fowler bans the phrase "illegal alien".  Professor John Streamas called a student "White shitbag" 
   Intelligent students should avoid these kinds of talky-talk courses, they have nothing to teach, they merely provide a platform for the professor to rant from.   They may be fun to attend to participate in class discussions, but you can have as much fun participating in dorm bull sessions.  You only get to take 32 courses in a four year two semester college.  Students are graduating owning $30,000, or about $1000 a course.  Don't blow $1000 on a talky-talk course.