Thursday, September 29, 2016

Military Budget, Military Procurement

We are beginning to hear calls for more spending one the military.  The "sequester" ,a deal Congress set by law a couple of years ago, put a solid lid on military spending, and that lid is beginning to hurt.  There are calls to scrap the "sequester" and give the armed forces a lot more taxpayer money.
   Much of the military budget goes into "procurement" the purchase of food, uniforms, fuel, ammunition, spare parts, and new aircraft and armored fighting vehicles.  Procurment is run by thousands of rear echelon m__therf___kers (REMF for short) at the Pentagon, and the big depots.  They have created whole book selves of "procurement regulations"  which must be consulted and argued over before even a roll of toilet paper can be purchased.  Procurement regulations support and defend a number of scams against the taxpayer.
   For instance, the JEDEC semiconductor scam.  JEDEC semiconductors must be made on special production lines dedicated only to JEDEC work.  To make JEDEC semiconductors on the regular commerical production lines is forbidden.  Since the volume of JEDEC sales is low, the JEDEC lines only get fired up once a year or so, and are shut down as soon as the current order is filled.  Whereas the commercial lines run 24/7.  The people running the commercial lines get plenty of experience, and minor tuning of the process (time in this oven or that oven, concentration of dopant gases, cooling time, lotta stuff) makes the difference between a superior device (higher gain, lower noise, better voltage tolerance, buncha stuff) and junk.  In real life the JEDEC semiconductors, which cost ten times what good commercial devices cost, are inferior in every measurable respect, and a lot of 'em come in dead on arrival. 
   The taxpayers would be well served by scrapping the whole JEDEC scam and building everything with good commercial devices from American silicon foundries. 
   Then there is the urge to gold plate everything.  Can't just buy decent stuff off the shelf, everything has to be built special for the military.  The KC-46 tanker should have taken a commercial airliner, pulled out the seats, and installed fuel tanks.  Instead, the Air Force insisted that Boeing redo all the wiring on the airplane "to meet USAF specs",  Boeing talked the Air Force into replacing the entire cockpit with the fancier all digital and touch screen cockpit from the 787.  At government expense.  Add in a rediculous amount of test flying, and the program is late and way over budget.
   And everything takes too long.  Every year a project is in the R and D mode, it sucks up money.  In WWII we could design a new aircraft and get it into production inside of a year.  The current F-35 has been aborning, and sucking up money for twenty years and it still isn't combat ready. 
    Bottom line.  We need to straighten out procurement more than we need to pour mor money into it. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Colleges made the WSJ top 500

The Wall St Journal ran a section about colleges worth going to.  They had a list of the top 500 colleges in the country.  I was pleased to find that my two colleges were on it.  Along with the colleges my children attended, my nieces and nephews attended, and even the colleges my brothers and cousins attended.  Makes you feel good.  It's Lake Woebegone where every college is above average.  Rah for me. 

What loopholes did Trump use?

Hillary claimed that The Donald managed to pay zip for taxes a few years ago.  The Donald did not deny it, in fact he said "That's being smart".   Which it is.  As CEO of his company, it is Donald's duty to maximize returns to his stakeholders, not Uncle Sam. 
   The real question is, what gaping loopholes did a billionaire use to skate on paying taxes?  Certainly any moderator with an IQ above room temperature ought to ask that question next time.  Another good question, what reforms to the tax law will you make to prevent billionaires from skating on taxes?
    Although Hillary promised a tax hike, and The Donald promised a tax cut, both of them could have been more forthcoming about what they want to do.  Is Trump talking about just the corporate tax, or personal income tax as well?
   Hillary's promise of tax hikes indicate her overall cluelessness.  The economy is still in the hole dug back in 08.  GNP growth is a measly 1.7%.  Hiking taxes, taking money away from those who earn it, and giving it to bureaucrats, pushes the economy further underwater. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Things said and not said last night.

Hillary got going big on solar panels last night.  She claimed that solar panels were going to pull the country out of Great Depression 2.0 
   She is too stupid to understand that solar panels are a total waste of money.  They don't give juice after the sun goes down.  I need my juice to stay on all night.  Without juice my furnace won't run, and my pipes freeze in the winter.  Electric stove doesn't work, electric hot water goes away.   I can fake it for lights with kerosene lamps, but I gotta have the furnace in the winter.  Winter lasts a long time up here.  Without electricity the house becomes uninhabitable. 
   Which means no matter how many solar panels we put in, the good old electric company, PSNH or Eversource, has to build real power plants, enough of them to carry the entire load.  The bulk of my outrageous electric bill goes to pay the mortgages on the various power plants that keep my juice on all night.  And no amount of solar panels saves me a nickel on plant construction.  And, some of it goes to pay money to solar panel buyers, "net metering" they call it.  The cost of fuel, coal, natural gas, uranium is small compared to the cost of building the plant in the first place.  The solar panel juice supplied during the day just costs me money, it doesn't furnish dependable overnight electricity.
   Any how, a President Hillary who believes that solar panels are a worthwhile expense, is too ignorant of the real world to lead the country out of Great Depression 2.0.
   Both Hillary and The Donald came out in favor of more cyber security.  Neither of them mentioned the root of all cyber hacking, namely Windows.  Windows is as full of holes as Swiss cheese.  Middle school kids can hack Windows. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

So I survived the first presidential debate.

Nobody made a fatal gaffe.  Both of them did OK.  Hillary stood up straight, didn't cough, didn't suffer a medical emergency.  The Donald did OK, stayed on point, didn't get sidetracked, or start insulting other people.  Hillary told five or six real whoppers, and Trump let her get away with them.  The post debate spinners are hard at it as I write this.  Both of them used a lot of that vague feelgood meaningless language so popular with politicians. 
   I'll score this one as a draw. 

Flying on a wing and a tube

Going back nearly to the beginning of flight, airplanes have been a tubular fuselage help up by a center mounted wing.  Empennage at the tail kept the aircraft flying straight, the way the feathers on an arrow do.  After airliners were pressurized, the fuselage became truly round, to withstand the pressure.  And the long tubular fuselage offers a window at every seat.  The window view is cherished by passengers and the overall lightness in the cabin helps reassure claustrophobic passengers. 
   Aerodynamics whines that the big fuselage contributes no lift, just drag.  The ideal design would be a flying wing, like the B2 Spirit bomber, where all the metal of the airframe contributes lift.  And every few months Aviation Week will run a classy looking future airliner picture, either a pure flying wing, or a "blended wing body" a flying wing with a swelling in the middle to form the passenger compartment. 
    What they don't talk about is windows.  The passenger compartment has to be a tube shape to hold the pressure.  If you just pressurized the whole flying wing, or the blended wing body, it would go "pop".  In fact we had that happen on a long obsolete Air Force transport, the C-133.  So the zippy future airliners don't get windows, or window seats, because windows in the pressurized passenger compartment would just look out into the insides of the wing, full of girders and fuel tanks and wire bundles and "stuff".  No daylight, no view of the ground,  no relief for claustrophobes. 
   And, IMHO, that is why zippy flying wing airliners will remain on the pages of Aviation Week rather than on the flight line.  I don't think airlines will buy them. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Mt. Washington, at 6288 feet, is the highest mountain in the East.  Way back in 1869 an enterpreneur raised the money to run a steam railroad all the way to the summit.  A fairly impressive feat of engineering, especially for 1869.  It's still running today.  The grades are so steep that they ran a rack up between the rails, and the locomotives have a big cogwheel that mates with the rack and pushes the train up the hill. Which is why we call it The Cog today. 
   Up until 2000, the old time fleet of tiny steam engines did the work.  Then they started building smallish diesel locomotives to do most of the work.  They still run steam on the first train of the day, but every thing else is pulled by the 21st century putt-putts.  So we (me and youngest son) got up at 0'dark thirty this morning to catch the steam run.
  It's cool.  The cars are pure wood, in nice condition.  Takes an hour to climb to the summit.  Speed is walking pace.  Weather was good, sun, and some clouds scudding over the summit.  It was summer weather in the parking lot, but there was frost at the summit.  Great views would open up as a cloud blew by, and fade into whiteness as the next cloud blew in.
   A fun trip.  A bit pricey ($69 a ticket) but worth it, just once.   

Friday, September 23, 2016

Win 10 Megapatch

Windows Update got to work on Win update 1607 this morning.  It took 6 hours to download the patch. That's as long as it took to download all of Win 10 a few months ago.  This patch must amount to changing all the code in Win 10.  After the download it spend another couple hours "installing" itself.  Massive.  Hope it works. 

Flushing Greece down the drain.

Way back when, Greece was a bumbling, but no more so than many places, small country.  It had allowed far too many people to hold government jobs, it promised fat pensions to all sorts of people, and it allowed massive tax evasion. 
  Each year the government found it was paying out far more than it was taking in with taxes.  And back in those carefree days before the Euro,  Greece made payroll by simply printing Drachmas as needed.  This caused the Drachma to sink on the foreign exchanges, but no body really cared much.
   Then Brussels invented the Euro.  International currency, run by the Germans, and solid as the US dollar.  Lots of prestige for countries allowed onto the Euro.  And, the Greeks wanted to go on the Euro for the coolness and the prestige of it.  They begged and pleaded and cooked their books to look more solvent than they really were.  And the Europeans let the Greeks into the  Euro, mostly 'cause they all felt sorry for the struggling Greeks and didn't want to slam the Euro door on them.  
   Well, now when the payments exceeded tax revenues, Greece could no longer print the necessary money.  Now they had to borrow the shortfall from banks.  And Europe was full of sucker banks, who would loan money to Greece, thinking that a Euro country was good for it, and even if they weren't, the IMF or the ECB, or someone would guarantee the loans.  Whereas any one of any sense would see that the Greeks were never gonna make enough money to pay the loans off.  Sucker banks have no sense. 
  Sure enough, a few years go by, and Greece cannot make payments on the loans.  And for no good reason the IMF bailed them out in 2010, and again in 2015.  Each bailout came with firm instructions to cut expenses  ("austerity").  Each time the Greeks failed to cut much.  And now the Greeks are broke, business is terrible, unemployment is way up, things are bad, and the Greeks are blaming it all on the lenders. 
   What should have happened, back in 2010, instead of a bailout, the Europeans should have just let Greece sink.  That would have caused Greece to default on her loans.  And after a default, even sucker banks are not going to make new loans.  The money would have gone away, and the Greek government would have had to lay off a lot of government workers, and start collecting its taxes.  And the Europeans would have saved them selves a lot of grief and ill will, not to say a lot of money. 

Words of the Weasel Part 45

Weasels say "faith based organizations"  just to avoid saying the word "church" 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Twitter bans Glenn Instapundit Reynolds

Wow.  Glenn, a law professor at University of Tennessee, and publisher of the popular blog Instapundit, had his Twitter account closed.  Reynolds is a helova nice guy, knows a lot of things, and writes interesting stuff that gets widely read.  His politics are middle of the road to conservative, but perfectly rational and well supported. 
   For Twitter to ban such a man speaks VERY poorly for Twitter.

The Donald's robo callers are working hard

They been calling me once, sometimes twice, a day for weeks now.  At least it shows the Donald cares about the upcountry.   Me, I 'm going to vote for Trump, so calling me doesn't help him much, but it doesn't hurt either.   I wonder what the robocaller costs compared to the TV advertising that Trump isn't doing much of.  Least ways I haven't seen much Trumpery on my TV. 
   These come on my land line.  Wonder how it works on the cell phone only millenials.  Like none of my three children have a land line.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Federal deficit. The undertable tax

The federal deficit is easy to understand.  The feds have a lot of expenses, paying the bureaucrats, paying the troops, paying social security, paying medicare, paying for the armed forces, and on and on.  Last year outgo was like $15 trillion.  Income from taxes was a lot less.  Say $12 trillion.  To keep the checks from bouncing, Uncle Sam borrowed $3 trillion.   
   Actually, Uncle doesn't borrow the money, he prints it.  Works like this.  Uncle sells US Treasury bonds (soundest investment on the planet).  Bond buyers give Uncle money in exchange for bonds.  Thing is, T-bills are near as good as money.  Granted bonds aren't accepted down at Walmart, but, the bondholder can turn bonds into cash with a simple phone call to his broker.  There is a market, open every business day, and a sell (or buy) goes thru within hours.  So, a man with a big wad of T-bills in his safe deposit box feels as wealthy as a man with the same amount of cash.  My college economics course called bonds "near money".  And printing near money is really the same thing as printing cash (real money). 
   So,  what's wrong with printing money?  As more and more money is printed, the value of the money goes down.  US money today is only worth 10% of what it was worth when I was a kid.  Gasoline used to be 28 cents a gallon.  It's nearly ten times that today.  Comic books used to be 10 cents.  Last time I bought a child a comic book it set me back $4.  Ice cream cones used to be 5 cents.  More like $2.50 this summer. 
   What this means, is anything saved over my life time is only worth a tenth of what it ought to be. 
 That's the undertable tax.  It nails us all. 
    And neither The Donald nor Hillary are talking about cutting the deficit.  Hillary is talking about increasing it a lot.  Vote for Trump.  Don't get fleeced. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Detroit should be selling cars, not computers

Wall St Journal had a long article on the miraculous electronical features coming in new cars.  New cars might allow you to lock or unlock them with your phone.  Or schedule outrageously expensive service visits to your dealer, wave-your-hands controls to replace touch screens, rear view TV, and automatic remote controlled valet parking controlled by your phone, automatic driver wake up systems, and over-the-air software patches. 
   I don't want my new car to have any of this stuff.  If the car will unlock for my cell phone, it will unlock for car thief cell phones.  I never take my car to the dealer for service, the cost is outrageous.  I want real physical controls, that I can feel in the dark, not touchy feely screens or wave your hand in the air and something happens controls.   Rear view mirrors work all the time, TV camera's fail, especially after a fender bender.  I wouldn't dare allow a microprocessor to park my car, one screwup and I have a repair bill and a lawsuit. 
   Electronics, be they  car borne, pocketable, smart phone, Ipad, smartwatch, or plain old laptop, are only useful after a lot of loading of contact info, phone books, music,  email, programs, photographs, software, and whatever.  Once I have spent the time to load all this stuff into the electronic gizmo, I want to take it with me, into the client's office, into my office, into my home, to the beach, anywhere.  And electronic gizmos go obsolete faster than cars do.  Might want to get the latest gizmo without buying an entire new car.  And,  I'm not going to spend the time to load up a built-into-the-car system that I cannot take with me.
   The carmakers ought to come up with an industry wide electronic interface that would give a third party (Apple say) electronic gizmo access to the car speakers, antennas, and DC power.  And a stowage spot, a shelf under the dash, or a slot in the front seat console, or maybe a holder on the ceiling, up front, over the rear view mirror. 
   Last time I was on the road with youngest son and his Ipad,  interface with the car speakers was flaky.  All we had was a RF modulator that put the Ipad audio into the FM band, where the car FM radio picked it up and played it.  Had to keep fiddling with the RF modulator as we drove.  Ipad volume control was opaque, and song selection was worse. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Push Polls are running for Maggie

I've gotten two telephone push polls pushing Maggie Hassen this weekend.  Both poller's command of English was so poor that I had great difficulty understanding them.  Lots of luck Maggie.  If this is the best you can do, Kelly will beat you like a drum.

Will the Hillary-Donald presidential debate be worth watching???

I mean they both have said a lotta mean things about each other, what's left to say?  Can either of them present a substantive idea that makes any real sense, as opposed to promising pie in the sky?  Will the moderator try to help Hillary and bash Trump?   Watching presidential debates is like watching a bull fight.  You watch on the off chance to see a matador get gored.  Not that you wish the competitors any harm, but if blood flows you don't want to miss it. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

John Kasich supports TPP

Kasich did an op ed in the Wall St Journal yesterday.  He came out four square in support of TPP, saying that it would increase exports, create jobs, and reduce consumer prices.  All good stuff.  That's stuff I would like to believe. 
   Trouble is, Kasich said nothing about that TPP is.  Does it reduce other country tariffs against US exports?  How much? When?  What else does it regulate? 
   I am OK with a TPP that brings other country tariffs down to US levels.  US tariffs (except for sugar) are really really low.  That's why you see so many Japanese and South Korean cars on the road, and why pretty much everything on sale at Walmart is made in China.  Fair trade means other countries lower their tariff barriers to match ours. 
   And I am OK with a TPP that tries to lower "non tariff barriers",  hard to meet safety regulations , pollution limits,  and the like.
   I am not OK with lowering US tariffs any further.  I am not OK with using TPP to impose international minimum wages,  worker safety, and worker benefit laws.  Or to impose controls on money exchange rates.
Or other things that have nothing to do with tariffs.
   So far Obama has kept the contents of TPP secret.  It could have anything in it.  I am not in favor of ratifying a secret treaty that might well hurt us. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Brits approve Hinkley Point nuclear plant

Back in July the new British government of Theresa May ordered a "review" of the project.  Back then, the "review" was seen as an indefinite delay.  Well, will wonders never cease?  Today the Wall St Journal announces that the Brits have given the project a go ahead.  The work will be done by Electricite de France, with financing by China General Nuclear Power Corp.
   The Brits have imposed some restrictions on the builders selling out their shares in the plant without Her Majesty's government approval.
   The announced price of $23.8 billion is way high.  You can put up a 1 Gigawatt nuclear plant for $4 to $5 billion in this country.  

Air Force bites off more than it can chew.

Or fund.  The big three money suckers.  The F35 fighter.  Cost is outta sight.  The software isn't finished.  The gun doesn't fire, the engines cannot take more than 5.6 G.  The KC-46 tanker project.   The Air Force managed to gold plate a simple "put tanks inside a well proven airliner" project into an ongoing boondoggle that is running late and over budget.  The new B-21 strategic bomber, this is going to be a somewhat smaller, and hopefully cheaper, version of the B2 bomber.  It's just getting started, but the project did make it thru a bid challenge by the loser[s]  (Boeing and Lockheed).  Aviation Week did not offer much in the way of cost estimates on the big three.  I'd guess $1 trillion over the next 10 years. 

And, after the top three projects, we have a four projects  in to the Request for Proposal, going out for bids, study project phase.  We have a new jet trainer to replace the capable but ageing T-38 Talon. A new ICBM to replace the Minuteman III.  The Long Range Standoff Missile to arm the new B21, and re arm the B-52, B1, B2 fleet.  A new helicopter for VIP transport. 

And even further out, an A10 replacement.  Which is hard to think about.  The existing A-10 is good at what it does.  It's a ground attack fighter that can fly low enough and slow enough for the pilot to see and hit his ground target.  Once the airplane can do that, it isn't fast enough to dogfight with mach 2 jet fighters.  The answer to this short coming is to provide fighter cover for the A-10s as needed.  Bombers have needed fighter escort ever since WWII.  

   The Air Force isn't going to be able to round up the funding to do all of this stuff at once. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Trump proposes 6 week paid family leave for new mothers.

 Not a bad idea.  Birth of a child is the most important event in a person's life.  New born infants require pretty much full time care.  Mothers, and fathers, feel an enormous compulsion to gave that care.  Any responsible employer ought to be willing to cough up six weeks wages to ease the stress on their valuable employees.   
   There were some other ideas from Trump, mostly making child care costs deductable.  You could do that, but simpler, just as effective, and requiring less paper work is to raise the exemption taxpayers already get for each dependent.   

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Vetting or "extreme vetting" of refugees

"Vetting"  nice bureaucrat word, not defined in dictionaries.  The word appears in my Webster's but the definition concerns veterinary care for animals.  We think the bureaucrats mean checking a refugee's background with his home country authorities.  You ask questions like "is this person really a citizen of your country?" and "can we see his police records?" and "Was he gainfully employed before he left your country for America?" and "Did he have a driver's license?" and "What are the names of his wife and children?" and "How far did he go in schooling?"
   For real countries, for example England or Japan,  this works.  There are authorities over there, we know who they are, they have access to written records and they want to cooperate with the United States because of the 800 pound gorilla effect.  (What do you say to an 800 pound gorilla?  Ans: Sir!)  We can believe what the authorities of real countries tell us. 
   This doesn't work for Syria and similar places.  In Syria the authorities are either the Bashar Assad regime or the various rebel groups.  Depends on where you telephone.  We cannot believe anything that either group will tell us.  The records may well have been bombed or shelled or burned.
   So no matter what anyone says, admitting a refugee from places like Syria is a risk, they might be enemy agents looking to do us harm.  We cannot get trustworthy information from their home authorities, mostly because there aren't any left.  The best we can do is interview them, using sympathetic interviewers who speak their mother tongue, and know the area from which the refugee claims he is coming from.  I'd say a good interviewer could catch many, but not all, enemy agents pretending to be refugees.  
    The refugees have suffered terribly, you don't flee your homeland unless things get really bad.  I feel sorry for them and want to help them out.  Letting them into the United States is a great big help out.  And, we need young working age immigrants to keep our population growing.  
   And, I don't worry about enemy agents infiltrating as refugees.  Was I ISIS or the like, and I wanted to get an agent into the US,  I'd come up with papers and plane fare to Canada.  Then he could walk across the border just about anywhere.  More dependable than being a refugee who might or might not get admitted.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Shannara Chronicles

This swords and sorcery fantasy TV show hit the airwaves (cable waves?) back last fall.  I caught a couple of episodes off the cable over the winter before they killed the show.  It made it onto Netflix recently and so I signed up for the total season (just 3 DVD's) to see what it looked like. 
   The name of the show comes from the Terry Brooks fantasy novels, the plot borrows heavily from Tolkien.  The unnamed world is threatened by an invasion of demons, ugly bad guys who look like Tolkien's orcs, but have magic powers too.  .  It stars three characters, Handsome Boyish Hero, Good Chick, and Bad Chick.  Good chick, is an Elvin (NOT Tolkien's spelling of the word) princess. who volunteers/is selected for a mission to save the world.  She starts off carrying a silver flower blossom (puts me in mind of the Ring of Power), with handsome boyish hero and Bad Chick for travel companions.   Destination of her mission is never made clear to me. Bad chick is daughter of a human bandit chieftain and starts out doing banditry.  As time goes on, she falls in love with handsome boyish hero, which does her good, and she stops doing bad, and starts doing good.  What makes the show hard to follow, is that Good Chick and Bad Chick look so much alike it's hard to keep them straight.  They are both brunettes, they wear their hair the same way, they both have very fair completions, they both have superb figures, they dress the same, they both do martial arts with the best of them, and they both are soon in love with Handsome Boyish Hero.  Somehow, after quite a few episodes,  they become friends with each other, rather than fighting it out for the attention of Handsome Boyish Hero.  The only things distinguishing one from the other is that Good Chick is taller than Bad Chick, but Bad Chick is cuter. 
   Anyhow, it was good enough for me to watch all three discs and stay awake til the end of each episode.  If you like fantasy this one is fairly OK. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Summer home shop project

As always, you need more storage space in a shop.  So last month's project was a combined wall shelving and plane till project.  I5t's made from ordinary lumberyard white pine.  The finish is one coat of Minwax "puritan pine" to give it the light tan color, the natural pine is bright white which seems a little much for a shop.  Plus one coat of poly urethane varnish over the Minwax.  Hanging it on the wall was tricky.  This bit of wall has NO studs in it.  I know, I put the wall board up myself some years ago.  So it is now bolted and lag screwed to the joists.  I started out with three lag screws going straight up, but the last one broke off deep in the hole, so two lag screws will have to do.  Part of the project was to have a place to put my handplanes where they would be handy, and where they could show themselves off.  The shelves are still fairly empty but I don't expect that to last long.  The dadoes in the side are to accept a pair of chisel holders, which I haven't made yet. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Price Inversions

Seen at my local grocery market, hot dogs $6 a pound,  Chicken $1.29 a pound.  Looks like good old beans and franks ain't cheap anymore. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Norks finally get the bomb

Took 'em five test shots before it worked right.  The first four Nork tests had yields in the one kiloton area.  That's a fizzle in most people's books.  Where as the United States was able to produce TWO functional nuclear weapons in 1945 with only one test shot.   The Little Boy gun type uranium bomb was so well understood that it was sent into action without a test, and  produced a 20 kiloton yield that devastated Hiroshima.   Fat Man, the far more tricky implosion type plutonium bomb, was tested once in Nevada before being dropped on Nagasaki.  In action, it worked properly, with a 20 kiloton yield, and vaporized Nagasaki.
   Getting a fission bomb to explode is tricky.  You have to assemble a critical mass of fissionables, either by gun style assembly or implosion, and hold it together long enough (nanoseconds) for the neutrons to fission the fissionables.  If the energy released in the first few nanoseconds blows the bomb to bits,  you don't get a 20 kiloton yield, you get a fizzle.
    We let the Norks run off five nuclear tests, and finally they got it together, achieved city smashing yield, and we did nothing to stop them.  

Bring back paper ballots

They cannot be hacked by the Russians.  And they can be recounted should there be some irregularities, or challenges.  And they don't suffer from hanging chads.  We could do it.  There is plenty of time to print ballots for the entire country before the election.  Up here there is never a lack of public spirited citizens to count ballots on election night. 
   And the various ways of cheating on paper ballots have been around for centuries and are well known.  Precautions against ballot box stuffing and other chicanery can be taken. 
   Them voting machines, which are small computers run by software, and we all know how trustworthy software is, can be hacked to change the election result, and there is no way to tell.  No paper record, and nobody can decipher the software, so you can't prove a thing.   All it takes is one party fanatic with access to the machines, and he can do anything, and leave no traces.  And if the election committee is stupid enough to connect their election machines to the public internet, all bets are off. Anything can happen. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Epipens are only $20 in Europe

And we could have them over here for that price if we passed a federal law allowing duty free import of medicines from any reasonable first world country.  Like Canada, the EU, Japan, a few other places.  First world countries all have regulations on the sale of medicine.  If they rule a medicine OK for sale to their citizens then it's OK for Americans too.  FDA doesn't get to block imports.  If it's legal in the country of origin, the law shall make it legal here. 
   The reason Epipens are selling for $600 here is that FDA shut down all the competitors.  Nothing fancy in Epipen, its just adrenalin in an easy to use hypodermic needle.  No patents, no nothing, but FDA kindly drove all the competitors off the market.  Nice work for Mylan.    

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Battles that Changed History

An oldie but a goodie.  First published in 1956 when I was in middle school.  I  saw it in a Harvard Square bookstore, and thought it was so cool.  I begged and pleaded with the parents and somehow I received a copy for birthday  and read it cover to cover.  Pratt starts off with Alexander the Great,  moves up thru Pyrrus of  Epirus (from whom we get Pyrric victory), the siege of Vienna, the revolt of the Netherlands, and ending with the carrier battles of Midway.  Although it concentrates on the military history of Western Civilization, the book is a good introduction to Western European history. 
   The writer, Fletcher Pratt is a helova good writer.  He made his living dong decent science fiction, good stuff that sold, and he knows the periods of which he writes well, gives all sorts of interesting details.  Pratt is a good fun read, and in this book the reader gets at  good abet sketchy  history of the Western world  going back 2500 years.  If you have a middle school child or grandchild, this book would be a class A gift. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What small children ought to know

And it's your responsibility to tell 'em about it.

1.  Beware of going into the street.  The cars will run right over you.  Stay on the sidewalk.  If a toy or a ball rolls into the street, don't go after it.  Find a grownup to retrieve it.

2.  Beware of going out on the ice.  If the ice breaks, you are dumped into freezing water over your head.  Your chances of pulling yourself out are poor, especially after the water soaks into your winter coat and snowpants making them very heavy.  My mother required us kids to wack a hole in the ice with a pickax to see if it was four inches thick.  Any less than four inches and we couldn't go skating on it. 

3.  Stay away from the stove.  I still remember my mother touching a paper towel to a dark electric stove burner and watching it burst into flame.    

4.  Beware of electric sockets, light sockets and lamp cords.  If  the insulation is old or bad, they can kill.

5.  Beware of power mowers.  They can fling rocks and stuff with the speed and force of bullets. Stay away.

6.  Beware of wild animals and strange dogs.  Don't try to pet them, they may take it the wrong way, and bite you. 

7.  Beware of cars with engines running.  They may be parked at curbside, standing in driveways, or parking lots.  If the engine is running (smoke from tailpipe, and/or lights on) the car is getting ready to move.  Stay well clear, since you are short and the driver may not be able to see you. 

8.  Dress for winter when going out in winter.  Coat, boots, mittens and hat.  Maybe snow pants too.  Even if going by car.   One dark Friday night the car engine lost power going up Franconia Notch with all three kids in the back seat.  We might have had to walk out, four miles or more.  Fortunately I was able to fix the problem by flashlight and we drove on.  But we also had the needed winter gear to walk it should it have been necessary.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Sunday afternoon on NBC TV is all about blacks and Hispanics

And, of course, how neither blacks nor Hispanics will vote for The Donald.  Groovy, NBC getting in some licks for Hillary. 
   But, not a word about a much larger and much more important voter block, women.  Hispanics are like 10% of the electorate, blacks are like 15%.  Women are 50%, which is a whole lot more.  Anyhow in a long period of talk, not a word about women, lots of words about blacks and Hispanics.  I wonder why?  Can it be that the newsies, or women, or both, find the traditional women's issue, abortion and birth control, to be repellent this year?  And they don't know of any other issues?  Or perhaps good old lefty NBC thinks it's better for Hillary to divvy up the voters into small special interest groups rather than one very big group? 
   It was the women's vote that sank Romney four years ago.  Women favored Obama over Romney by 10%.  That's Obama's winning margin right there.  And I never did hear any discussion of why women liked Obama better than Romney.  Was it because Obama is good looking, slender, and sexy?  Whereas Romney just looks like a happily married husband?  Could it be women liked Obamacare?  Or Obamanomics even though both policies threw a lotta people out of work?   Was it being Mormon?  Something else?  None of the pollsters did any polling on this, or at least they never published.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

World War II, nearly everybody lost

Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France were invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940.  Yugoslavia and Greece got the same a year or two later.  Poland, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania were invaded and occupied by the Soviets.  Germany and Italy  were heavily bombed and then invaded and occupied by the Anglo Americans.  A few countries managed to stay neutral, but darn few. 
   We, America, won without taking too much damage.  The British won but suffered a lot more.  The Russians won at a terrible cost. 
   So on balance we have three winners, and a whole lotta losers.  Right after the war, 1946, the survivors (losers all), determined never to do a World War again, set out to build a United States of Europe to prevent another catastrophe. It started small, just six members.  It went thru a bunch of name changes, but it kept growing, and now everyone is in it, except the Russians.  They set up a Common Market, the Euro, and a government of sorts in Brussels.  Up until this summer it looked like a winner, despite some boondoggles like Greece. 
   This summer the Brits pulled out.  That's a setback for the United Europe idea.  Britain is the second biggest economy in the EU, right after Germany, they are very good diplomats, and they have the enormously strong American connection, far stronger than anyone else in the world.  Britain will be missed. 
   It will take some years for Brexit to sort out.  If no other country follows the Brits, then it's a minor setback.  If some minor players bail out that's a bad thing.  If a biggie, France say, bails out, that's a very bad thing.  
   Time will tell.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Lotta work needed on F35

The F35 is a flying computer.  Software does everything.  And the software is far from ready.  Plus some other problems.  The Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation set forth the "challenges"  (bureaucrat speak for bugs or problems) still to be overcome.  
   First off is the 25mm Gatling cannon won't fire. This used to be a pure software problem and cannon firing software was promised sometime in the future.  Which is a minor scandal.  A gun ought to fire every time the trigger is pulled.  All the software can do is correct the aim, but pilots can get plenty of hits without fancy software driven lead computing gunsights.  But somehow they decided to route the trigger signal thru the computers rather then straight to the gun.  Good design that.  Now they discover that a little door that opens when the gun fires creates enough drag to throw the aim off.  On the old F105, which I worked on for a year in combat, the muzzle of the 20mm Vulcan cannon stuck right out in the airstream, fired every time the trigger was pressed, and no silly little doors to get in the way.  KISS (keep it simple stupid).
   Second the project is running into difficulties getting the system to fire the AIM9L Sidewinder air to air missile and drop the laser guided Small Diameter Bomb.  Sidewinder, an infrared heat seeker,  has been around since the 1950's, and is still very effective, and cheap.  SDB is newer, but it's been around for a while, it's a 250 pound smart bomb that you can put in a guy's bedroom window without leveling the entire apartment building.  Neither require much electronic assistance by the launching aircraft.  Did the F35 people bother to read the Technical Orders on either weapon? 
   Then there is the computer crash problem.  In July the system crashed hard (blue screen of death hard) every five hours on average.  With the last software update, that was improved to 9 hours between crashes.  My Windows XP system does better than that.  Here we are at Top Gun, closing on the enemy, when the system crashes. Instead of pulling some G's and nailing the enemy, we are pushing reset buttons trying to bring the computer back up. 
   And lastly the $400,000 a copy night vision helmet still doesn't work. 
   There is a bunch of other gripes about non essential systems, sensor fusion, date link, and some other stuff that doesn't belong on a fighter plane. 
   The test and evaluation people don't think the F35 program office has the funds to fix all this stuff. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Real Jobs

I was listening to NPR on the way home yesterday.  They were doing a nice long piece on a dozen Maryland high school students who graduated high school back in 2012, and have mostly graduated college and found jobs.  There was a teacher, an HR worker, an actor, couple of grad students, and I forget the rest. 
   None of them had taken a real job in industry, you know where they produce wealth.  I'm glad to know that beaten up as the American economy is, it is still productive enough to carry all those fresh young faces doing nothing very important. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Immigration (to the US)

We need it.  To maintain the population, each woman in the US needs to bear 2.1 children during her lifetime.  We aren't making that right now, it's like 1.9 or 2.0.  And it would not be that high without immigrant women who bear more children than the native born do. 
   We need immigrants who are loyal to the United States.  Not loyal to ISIS or Islam, of communism, or the old country, but loyal to the United States.  Other the years we have done well in this respect,  I have a number of immigrant friends who are intensely loyal to this country. 
   After loyalty, we need people who will become gainfully employed, stay out of trouble with the law, raise decent children, pay taxes, and contribute to the community.  People like this strengthen the country, make the economy grow, and are good to have around. 
   We have 11 million immigrants in the country who haven't done the right paperwork to be here.  Far as I am concerned,  if they have been doing the right thing, (employed, clean criminal record, married, children) I say let em stay.  Deporting them all would be brutal, and the TV coverage would look like the SS shipping Jews to Auschwitz.  Let's not do that.  
   And, if we are gonna let them stay in the country, we need to grant them citizenship.  All men are created equal is the core principle of the United States.  That means everyone gets to vote.  It's a violation of our principles to have two classes of people, real citizens and green carders. 
   I know, it lets the people who are here already get to the head of the line.  Too bad.  They showed courage in coming here, and have demonstrated that they are good citizens, why not let them go ahead?  Plus the "line" is pretty much closed, it can take 20 years wait for a green card. 
   The newsies are having a lot of fun zapping the Donald on immigration issues.  But immigration isn't all that important to the voters this year, not compared to the economy, jobs, Islamic terrorism and even Zika.  The newsies like the issue cause it is simple enough for even their limited understanding, unlike say  the economy which is complicated.