Sunday, December 31, 2017

We oughta do something to help the Iranian protesters

The Iranian mullah government is hostile to us, supports terrorism world wide, and thanks to Obama, will have nuclear weapons shortly.  Anything we can do to make life hard for them we ought to do.  They are having some anto regime demonstrations.  We ought to assist the demonstrators
Favorable publicity on the net, the MSM, radio and TV is good.  We need to make contact with Iranian dissidents inside Iran.  That could be difficult since I don't believe we have diplomatic relations with Iran.  We need to tell CIA to get some agents inside Iran, even without embassy cover and diplomatic immunity. 
   Political dissidents can use money, weapons, internet access, passports and visas, airline tickets, satellite antennas, cell phones, xerox machines, lots of stuff, that we have and aren't all that expensive, compared to say a single new F35. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

How much infrastructure do we need??

New Hampshire has kept it's roads and bridges in pretty good shape over the years.  Much better shape than New York.  Right around my place in Franconia, which is pretty rural, the state has replaced two smallish highway bridges on secondary roads for being really old.  Aside from the stalled widening project on southern I93, the rest of the state is in quite passable shape.  We haven't fallen into the railroad track black hole yet, despite the best efforts of some commuter rail enthusiasts.
  And we have enriched a lot of road contractors over the years.  I have been driving I93 from Boston to NH ski country since the road first got started.  The first asphalt was put down in the 1950's, and they had it finished all the way to Cannon Mt by the late 1960's.  It was built to the Interstate highway standards of the 50's and 60's, four lane divided highway, good for 70-80 mph.  I drove up and down it for skiing for decades. 
   Then sometime in the 90's Interstate standards were tightened up.  More clearance and longer sight distances required.  And so, a lot of contractors got nice jobs blasting back all the rock cuts from the Mass border to Franconia notch, making the cuts wider.  Did not make the road wider, just the rock cuts. And there are a LOT of rock cuts going thru the White Mountains  The same rock cuts I had been driving thru, with no problems, for 30 years, were now wider, and a lot of contractors got richer, but it didn't make I93 any better for drivers.  It did soak up quite a bit of infrastructure money.
   And then the infrastructure spending folks decided that we needed huge electric signs, to show helpful messages like "Drive Safely", and "Snowfall expected, Plan ahead".   Really essential those messages are.  The signs probably cost $100,000 apiece and they put in half a dozen of 'em. 
   And then more infrastructure signage.  We now have big, cute mileposts, every 0.2 miles.  I drove I93 for 40 years without cute mile posts so close together that you can see one from where ever you are.  I figure each sign cost a couple a hundred dollars, installed.  I93 is about 100 miles long, that's 500 mileposts, and $100,000 for the lot.  Really essential infrastructure that was.
   I think we ought to dump federal infrastructure spending, the Highway Trust Fund.  And drop the federal gasoline tax that finances it. Let the states decide what infrastucture is worth paying for, and let them raise the money for it.  They can hike the state gas tax to raise the necessary money.
  Anyhow Trump is talking up an infrastructure spending bill. All the road contractors and the state highway departments love the idea.  Trump is thinking there is a chance that he can get the Democrats to vote for it.  Faint that chance is.  But "bipartisanship" is a many splendored thing. 
   Far as this taxpayer is concerned, we have plenty of infrastructure.  All it needs is routine maintenance, plowing, mowing, culvert cleaning, and the like, and the states can handle that.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

I wonder why they turned back in mid flight?

United Airlines I believe it was.  They got off the ground and four hours into a flight from California to Japan.  Someone discovered that one of the passengers on board, was supposed to be on another flight.  Apparently some screwup at the airport, the guy showed a valid boarding pass at the gate. Only it was a boarding pass for another flight.  So the air crew decided to turn back to California.
   I wonder why.  Doing that created a full plane load of angry passengers, angry because they had been stuck on the airplane for better than eight hours (four hours out, four hours back) and hadn't gotten any closer to their destination.   They could have continued on to Japan and had Japanese air port security deal with the problem after they landed.  They could have duct taped the guy if they had thought he was about to detonate a bomb in his underwear.  What ever they feared he might do, he had four hours in the air back to California to do it.  Pressing on to Japan would have taken about 8 hours, but if you can handle the guy for four hours back to California I don't see why they could not have handled him for eight hours on to Japan.
   So much for passenger relations.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Last Jedi 2017

Went to see it at the Jax Jr in Littleton.  Good crowd, it's been playing at the Jax for a week or more, but there were a lot of people who either had not seen it, or were seeing it a second time.  It was reasonably OK, better that the prequels in the '90's, not really as good as the original three.  I have been seeing Star Wars movies for a long time.  I saw the first one, the night it opened in Boston back in the '70's, so I'm gonna see this one.
   It had a LOT of light sabering, spaceship to spaceship duels, strange CGI creatures, explosions, pretty much constant action.  If the movie had a plot, I never understood it.  Maybe that is how they cover up the plot holes.
  They had Carrie Fisher, who looked older than the hills, and Mark Hamill, who didn't look much younger.  Daisy Ridley was back as Rey.  She did good, she looked slim, and tough.  She had a glare that could stop a clock at fifty meters.  Her costume included clam digger pants that did nothing for her looks.  The fixed that in the last reel.  She didn't get any memorable lines, but she done good.  They had three First Order bad guys, a really evil looking emperor, a nasty general, and Kylo Ren, a Darth Vader wannabee, who has a thing for Rey and kept turning up when Rey wasn't expecting him.  These guys all dressed in black and did a lot of evil.
   The Rebel Alliance has lost a lot of strength in this one.  There was a time when the Alliance could muster a fleet of a hundred or more ships for a mission against the Death Star.  In this flick the Alliance has been reduced to a single star cruiser, completely surrounded by dozens of  First Order star destroyers.  
   Rey has found Luke Skywalker, who is all sorts of old, and snarly too.  At first Luke refuses to help at all.  Then somehow, I never did understand just how, Rey converts him to the Alliance cause.  Luke gives Rey lessons in the Force which make her scary powerful.  In the last reel we see Rey doing stuff even more amazing than the time Yoda hoisted Luke's X-wing fighter out of the swamp purely with the Force.
   They introduced some new stuff, including scenes from a hoity toity Las Vegas type casino.  They had a lot of fun inventing costumes, makeup and hairstyles for the casino patrons.  A much higher class place than that dive on Tatinooe  that won't serve their kind in here.
   The movie had three story lines running side by side,  Rey and Luke Skywalker, Rose (a new character)  and Finn, Leia and Poe Dameron (another new character).  The movie jumped back and forth between the story lines with abandon, which is maybe why I never understood that plot.  They had another one of those camera men who turns the lights out on the set and films in the dark.  PITA.  And it is LONG, better than 2 1/2 hours.
   For dyed in the wool Star Wars fans, like me, it's a must see,  For ordinary people, not so much.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Do we need a US Space Corps?

We have an op-ed in the Wall St Journal pushing for one.  Me, an old USAF veteran, I'd think my old service would be over joyed, highly motivated, and more than capable to take on any space defense or offense programs.  I doubt that we need a another government organization to preform the mission, whatever that mission might turn out to be.
   Right now we have a flock of recon satellites, the GPS nav satellites, weather satellites, and a bunch of comm satellites up there.  If an enemy shot them down we would miss them, a lot.  And shooting down a satellite than travels in a highly predictable orbit, in plain sight of ground radar, is fairly easy,  compared to shooting down an ICBM, which we claim we can do now. 
   Trouble is,  there isn't much a satellite can do to defend itself.  And there isn't much that a "anti-anti-satellite" weapon could do either.  Best I can think of is to use ICBM's to vaporize the launching sites of enemy anti-satellite missiles, which is really really an act of war.  Some kind of hi tech shoot out above the atmosphere might get passed off as a trivial border incident, but nuclear weapons detonating on your soil cannot be. 
    So despite the need for defending our satellite fleet, I don't see what anyone, a hypothetical Space Corps, or the good old USAF can do about it, given today's, or even tomorrow's, technology. 

The US must be doing something right

Chinese "birth tourists" are going to Saipan to give birth on US soil to give their children US citizen ship.  Saipan is popular because we allow visa free entry for Chinese and Russian citizens, since 2009. This can cost a Chinese family as much as $50,000 for hospital and doctors fees, air fare, and bribes. 
   I'm impressed that Chinese families value US citizenship for their children that much.  We must be doing something right here in the USA. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas to all

It's gonna be a white Christmas up here.  We have snow on the ground, just got 8 more inches yesterday, and another 8 inches is forecast for Christmas day.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Bitcoin bubble bursting

According to Business Insider, bitcoin has dropped to $11,000 today, down from $19,000 a few days ago.  This ought to be fun to watch.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Education for STEM subjects

Wall St Journal ran a op-ed about this yesterday.  The authors criticized American schools up one side and down the other.  But, their complaints didn't resonate with me.  The trashed both science and mathematics education for being "fifty years out of date". They trashed computer science for just teaching software and not teaching anything about the electronics that make the CPUs tick.  And they plumped for teaching "discrete mathematics" starting in sixth grade.
   The "fifty year old" slam doesn't mean much to me.  Isaac Newton laid out the foundations of physics 400 years ago.  They taught it to me in high school and I found it very useful through out a long career in electrical engineering.  I know the modern physics, quantum mechanics and Einstein, but most practical problems in the real world can be solved with plain old fashioned Newtonian physics.  Every kid ought to learn them.
    Knowing how computers work inside at the transistor level is useful, especially if you are going to design computers, but software is a large field, employs a lot more people that hardware design, and I know a lot of very decent programmers who have zero knowledge beyond software.
   They also push for teaching "discrete mathematics" ,a new term to me.  Boolean algebra is what we use for digital design, but unless the student knows ordinary algebra, Boolean algebra won't mean much to them.
   My prescription for better education is simple.  Merely require all high school students to take one year of physics, a year of chemistry, and a year of biology.  Even if the student has no desire to take a STEM major in college, they need some basic science to understand our increasingly scientific world.
   Plus, it should be the duty of all teachers to make sure high school freshmen under stand that they have to take the right mathematics in high school if they want to get into STEM majors in college.  All the STEM majors require integral calculus, and many require differential calculus and transform methods.  If the student isn't ready to take integral calculus freshman year in college, he is out.  All the STEM courses have calculus as a prerequisite.  You have to get your calculus in freshman year so you can take the STEM courses sophomore year.  Which means the student needs to have algebra, geometry,and trigonometry  under his/her belt during high school.  The integral calculus course won't mean anything if you don't have the prerequisites. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Yesterday a 79 mph curve, today it's 30 mph

Yesterday the newsies were saying the Amtrak train was going 81 mph into a 79 mph curve.  This morning NHPR is reporting the curve was posted for 30 mph.  Either the curve did a lotta shrinking over night (unlikely) or yesterday's newsies got it wrong.  If the Amtrak train was doing 80 mph thru a 30 mph curve, that pretty much explains how the train came off the track.
   Some questions the newsies are too ignorant to ask.
   The "new" line the train was operating on.  How new?  Most railroad right of ways had track laid on them back in the 1800's.  Was this a brand new right of way, bulldozed out last year? Or was it an old line brought back into service?  How many years ago was the track laid?  What kind of ties were used?  Prestressed concrete ( which lasts forever) or traditional cresoted wood (which rots out over the years)?  Amtrak will run passenger trains over really crummy track.  At White River Junction VT, the wooden ties are so soft and rotten that you can pluck the spikes out with your fingers, but Amtrak runs over it.  What shape was the track in, really?
   If the curve was really a 30 mph curve, how was the train crew supposed to know?  Especially as this was the inaugural (very first) run.  Were there trackside signs like on the highway.  If so were the signs actually in place?  If the crew was supposed to look in their time table, or look at some electronic device in the cab, how were they expected to know when they approached this tricky curve?  It was dark, and this crew had never been over the line before.
   It's been reported  that $181 million was spent bringing this line into service.  For $181 million I would expect them to straighten out sharp and dangerous curves.   Just what was all that money spent on?  Who was the contractor, and what kind of experience did they have in building railroad lines?

Monday, December 18, 2017

$22 million for a UFO study??

The newsies have been talking this one up.  The Air Force had a UFO project going with a $22 million budget.  This ain't news.  The Air Force has had UFO studies going since 1948 (Project Blue Book).  There was the Condon report in the 1970's.  UFO's were first mentioned in the public press in 1947, so a 1948 Project Blue Book is getting right with the times. 
  And, when people see UFO's they tend to telephone someone, and someone is usually the Air Force.  Or other agencies refer callers to the Air Force.  And a lot of people see UFO's.  I saw one myself years and years ago in Franconia Notch NH.  For that matter I was on the flightline in Duluth MI the night we scrambled nuclear armed jet interceptors against a UFO that showed up on SAGE radar.  So there are a lot of reports, and the Air Force, as a good bureaucratic organization, feels a duty to do something with all those reports, if only to file them.  
   So I don't find the latest $22 million UFO study to be unusual.  The Air Force has been doing these studies for better than 65 years.

In the Air Force we always had backup generators

Apparently the civilians at Atlanta airport did not.  When their power went out, they shut down, closed the field for landings and takeoffs.  That's not right.  There could have been an airliner low on fuel needing to land right now, before the tanks went dry.  It could have been after dark with airliners on final approach, following the runway lights, which suddenly go dark
  The Air Force always had engine driven generators on base, enough to run essential stuff, the runway lights, the tower and its radios, the instrument landing system (ILS), the ground controlled approach (GCA) radar, the beacon, the nav aids, TACAN and VOR, and some flight line lighting.  We could fly even with a power outage.
   I think the civilian airports ought to be required to do the same.  Having a huge airport go dark and shut down with out warning is dangerous.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Trump Tax plan hits "the rich"

 All though the top rate ($500,000 and up) drops from 39.6% to 37%, the next rate, 35% used to start at $425,000. Under the Trump tax plan, you hit the 35% bracket at $200,000. In short a whole bunch of reasonable well off taxpayers got boosted up into the 35% bracket, whereas under current law, they paid 32%.   The really rich save 2.6% but the quite well off get hit for 3% more.
   The middle class ($38,701 to $93,701) get a 3% to 4% cut.
This is just looking at rates, I did not figure in the effects of doubling the standard deduction.  

Saturday, December 16, 2017

How to tell an advanced economy when you see one

Simple.  Advanced economies can export automobiles to the United States.  All others have to import cars from the few advanced economies that can make them.  This year only Germany, Japan, and South Korea make the cut.  Over the years the British, the French, and the Italians dropped out of the US car market.  The Chinese are clearly thinking about getting into the US market but they are not here, yet. 
   That's a remarkably small list.  Nice thing is that they are all three solid US allies (now). 
   The British had a nice US export business in sports cars in the '40s and '50s.  Road and Track magazine was started for sports car owners, owning mostly Austin Healey, Jaguar, MG, Morgan, and Triumph sports cars.  The imported sports car business finally began to fade in the '70s partly due to competition from Ford Mustangs, and partly due to the truly awful reputation for flakiness that British quality control (or lack of it) created.  "Lucas, Prince of Darkness" was the slam directed at British electrical systems (all built by Lucas).  The Italians had the same problem, Fiat was said to stand for "Fix it Again Tony".   The French tried to sell the Citroen DS-19, a distinctively styled car, very low, tail lights mounted on the roof, and an enormously complex hydraulic system that was virtually unrepairable.  Later they tried with Peugeot sedans.  I can remember car pooling out to Raytheon with a guy who drove a Peugeot.  In the winter he had to open the hood, remove some strange engine part and bring it inside to keep it warm so the car would start at 5 PM.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Flying a V2 rocket out of wartime Poland

This story comes from Antony Beevor's  "The Second World War".  The Polish resistance found a V2 rocket that had crashed in the Polish marshes.  The resistance got to the V2 before the Germans, took it apart and spirited it away.  The resistance contacted their Allied support in Britain, and a specially modified C47 transport was flown into Poland to fly the V2 rocket back to England for examination by Allied scientists.
   That must have been one awful hairy flight.  From Britain to Poland was just about the limit of a Gooney bird's range, even with extra fuel tanks.  The flight path either had to cross Germany, which was crawling with fighters and antiaircraft guns, or fly around Germany, presumable over the Baltic sea.   Find a landing strip, big enough for a C47, in the dark, with no electronic navigation aids.  Then they had to get the V2 rocket inside the Gooney bird, a tight squeeze.   And they had to find gasoline in Nazi occupied Poland to refuel the Gooney bird for the return trip.  And get off the ground before the Germans arrived to arrest them all.
   All  in all, flying a B17 to Schweinfurt, or a B24 to Ploesti would be less dangerous. 

Chromebooks for children

Article in the Wall St. Journal yesterday.  What sort of computer to get for a 12 year old.  Answer: a Chromebook.  Looks like a laptop, does NOT run Windows, and costs $300-$400. 
  Not cheap.  I bought a brand new HP Pavilion laptop running Windows down at Staples a little while ago for $300. 
   And for a 12 year old?  I can remember doing a lot of stuff when I was 12, all of it a lot cooler than websurfing on a laptop.  Fishing, skiing, bicycling, electric trains, building tree houses, playing guns with the neighborhood kids, toy soldiers, plastic models, wood working in Dad's shop, hiking, shooting bow and arrow... 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cops should be fair minded and open minded.

This FBI guy, Peter Strzok, clearly is not.  And he is a cop.  The text messages between him and his girl friend, lawyer Lisa Page show hatred, minds made up, and a desire to influence elections, and possible thoughts of doing a political assassination, which no cop ought to do.
   How did this turkey get to be a senior FBI guy?  He was senior enough to be in on interviewing Hillary about that email server,  senior enough to be loaned out to the Mueller "investigation".  He's been at the FBI for years.  Surely FBI does yearly performance reports like we do in the armed services?  Over all those years nobody mentioned that Peter Strzok was a deep left screwball?  And they promoted him? 
   And there are enough deep lefties at the Bureau for Peter to hook up with a lawyer who shares his warped views?  God help anyone that lawyer prosecutes. 
   The only difference between the police force of a democracy and a Gestapo is the quality of the agents.  Clearly Peter Strzok, and his girlfriend lawyer are the dregs.  Both of them ought to be fired, ASAP. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Most comments on proposed regulations are fake

Front page of today's Wall St Journal.  For example, a comment to the FCC opposing net neutrality was filed by a woman who died twelve years  ago.  The Journal mailed queries to the authors of a million comments.  7800 queries bounced back due to bad email addresses.  Of the queries that obtained a reply, 72% of the replies denied ever having sent in the comment.  Plus, looking at the comments received, the bulk of them are copies of each other. 
   The conclusion is that most of the comments are generated by 'bots, computer programs that just add false addresses and send the same message over and over again.  To the point that for the agency to read these comments and act upon them is folly.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Roy Moore election is on today.

And the newsies are commenting about it.  But, they aren't saying anything about turnout at the polls.  Is it heavy? or light?  Polls don't close for hours, and they don't do exit polling like they used to so we won't know who won until late this evening or even until Wednesday.

Chain immigration and immigration lotteries?

That's what we are hearing about the Bangladeshi immigrant who tried to bomb the New York subway yesterday.  Both of these concepts are new to me.  I never heard of either of them before yesterday.  Apparently we are issuing green cards just cause someone has a relative already in the US.  And the lottery who knows how that works. 
   Both of these programs are unfair and wrong. 
   Immigration to the US is highly prized all over the world.  Everyone would like to move to the US.  Nobody wants to move to Venezuela, Cuba, or Russia.  We ought to take advantage of this and accept immigrants who will become loyal and valuable citizens.  
   We can only accept so many immigrants per year, lest they swamp the country.  I submit that we can handle immigration equal to say 1% of the present population.  Since US population is about 330 million, that allows 3.3 million immigrants per year.  I'm thinking we have ten times that many applicants.
    So, we set up a point system, each applicant gets so many points for qualities we deem desirable.  Like points for holding a doctorate in the hard sciences, points for speaking, reading, and writing English.  points for being of working age.  Points for assisting the US armed forces. Points for knowing a trade, publishing a book, points for engineering degrees, points for knowing how to program computers, points for being married, points for having children, plus a whole bunch more desirable and useful skills and accomplishments.  Subtract points for a criminal record, or membership in ISIS and the like. Some appointed committee can have a wonderful time setting up the point system.
   Then we assign a score to every applicant, and admit the top scoring 3.3 million applicants.  We tell the rest of them to try again next year. 
   That's fair.  And it will give us a lot of good decent citizens and fewer subway bombers. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

I don't envy Alabama voters

They have a lesser of two evils choice ahead of them.  Vote for Republican Roy Moore, despite believable reports of dating underage or really young teen age girls while in his 30's.  The accusations are 40 years old, but there are a number of them.  Plus Moore has made some very hard right statements on the social wedge issues. 
  Or vote for Democrat Jones, who is pro abortion, and very left, especially for a conservative state like Alabama.  Doing so would  knock the Republican majority in the Senate down to just one, permitting any senator to kill anything just 'cause he feels like it.  It would seriously weaken the Trump administration.  Something that a lot of Alabama voters don't want to do. 
   There has been talk of a a write in campaign for someone I never heard of before.  I doubt that will go anywhere. 
   We will know how it turns out by Wednesday.  The polls are calling it for Moore by a razor thin margin of a couple of percent.  It will be interesting to see if the pollsters got it right this time.  They have blown predictions several times in the recent past, especially the Trump Hillary contest.

Friday, December 8, 2017

It only takes ONE scumbag

To put an organization's reputation into the toilet.  In the case of the FBI,  Comey was that one scumbag.  He tried to influence the 2016 election by first declaring that Clinton's email server scandal was a non issue, and not prosecutable.   Then a few weeks later, when Anthony Weiner's laptop, loaded with Hillary emails, turned up, he reversed himself and declared the Hillary investigation was back on.  After that, everyone knew the FBI was trying to tip the election.  And all the thousands of decent, loyal, hardworking FBI agents get tarred with the same brush.  They are all still good decent agents, but Comey has made us taxpayers suspect them all. 
   For those of you looking for reasons to trash Obama, his appointment of Comey to run the FBI is a big one.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Raytheon and Analog Devices make WSJ 250 best managed companies

Interesting and kind cool.  I worked at Raytheon, Equipment Division in Wayland in the '70s and at Analog Devices in Norwood in the '90s.  Cool to see that places I used to work are considered well managed by the Wall St Journal.  I was a little disappointed that Bernie Gordon's Analogic didn't make the list.  I worked for Bernie for quite a few years, he was a difficult and demanding boss, but he did know what he was doing. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

To Jerusalem

Looks like Trump is going to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  The US Congress voted to do this some years ago.
On the Pro side, the Israelis love the idea. A lot of US citizens are in favor.
On the Con side, all the Arab countries, who have never accepted Israel, are against it.  It will surely make diplomacy with Arab regimes more difficult in the future. 
   We could punt on the idea, yet again.  The Israelis will be disappointed, but they are on our side no matter what.  On the other hand, the Arabs are difficult to deal with no matter what.  Maybe moving the embassy to Jerusalem will send them a message.
   This looks like a judgement call to me.  I don't have any experience in the Middle East, so I will defer my judgement to those who know the area better. 

Gobble-de-gook overload

According to the Wall St Journal writing about the tax bill currently in a House Senate reconciliation hassle, "It appears to prohibit  mortgage-interest deductions for all second homes."
Appears???  This is a law.  Things in law don't "appear".  They are either legal or illegal.  Sounds like the lawyers have laid on the legal gobble-de-gook so thick that nobody can understand it. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Delayed Action for Child something or other.  Bad acronym.  We are talking about people who were brought into America as children, who have grown up in America, and are still illegal immigrants pursued by Mr. Migra. 
   I have a lot of sympathy for these people.  I'm willing to cut them a lot of slack.  Those that have served in the armed forces ought to get citizenship right then and there.  Those who have graduated high school and/or college, are gainfully employed, are paying taxes and are staying out of trouble with the law, we ought to let them stay in the country, and apply for citizenship.  I'm sure plenty of other Americans agree with me. 
   It's a powerful issue.  Congress ought to deal with it by passing a law.  And, that law ought to stand on its own, for an up or down roll call vote so we voters can see where our Congress critters stand on the issue.
  Right now they are talking about hitching a DACA bill onto a "must pass" bill like extending the federal budget.  The idea being, that the must pass bill will drag the less popular DACA bill thru and offer cover to Congress critters who can say "I had to vote to pass the budget lest the government shut down" 

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Euro's are still bailing out the Greeks.

Small piece in the Wall St Journal today.  The Greeks and the Euro's have reached a "preliminary agreement" on the austerity measures the Greeks must adopt in order to qualify for E5 billion handout next month.  The Euro's keep insisting upon reduction of Greek government workers, and pension payments, and better tax collection.  At one time 25% of the population of Greece was drawing pay from the Greek government.  And humongous numbers of people were drawing pensions.  Every time the Greeks make a move, or even a whisper in the papers, about accepting Euro austerity demands, they get riots in the streets. 
   The E5 billion is down from the old days.  In past years the Greek bailouts were much higher, say E50 billion.  The Euros think the money will let the Greeks make the payments due on Euro bonds and loans.  Let's hope that works out.  The Greeks are having trouble making payroll, and so Euro bail out money might be diverted into other things. 
   We think the Euro's are doing the handouts to prevent the Greeks from defaulting on their loans, which would impose serious losses on the Euro banks stupid enough to still be holding any Greek debt.  So the idea is to dole out money to the Greeks to use to pay off their debts.
   Smarter would be to tell the Greeks to suck it up.  No more bailouts.  Go ahead and default.  You won't be able to borrow a plugged nickel anywhere in the world, and you will have to balance your budget.  
   Far as I can see, the bailouts just allow the Greeks to spend other people's money for no good reason.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

How far will we go to stop the NORKs?

From getting nukes that is.  They are really really close to having nuclear tipped missiles that can reach the US.  The last test flight showed enough range, and then some, to hit Washington and Boston.  There are reports that the missile broke up on reentry, but they ought to be able to fix that.  Then they need to build a nuke small enough to fit on the rocket, a nose cone that can withstand reentry, and a reliable fuse.  I don't think any of these will take very long to do.  The NORKs could have it all together within a year.  After that, Katy bar the door.
   The NORKs want missiles to keep us from doing regime change on them, the way we did on Saddam Hussein.  As it is, they have enough conventional artillery within range of Seoul to deter damn near anyone, with nukes in their hands, they figure to deter even us.
   And the NORKs are dead set on getting nukes.  I cannot imagine Rocket Man backing off his nuclear program for anything less than the Chinese cutting off all trade with him.  And the Chinese clearly don't want to do this, they like having the NORKs around as a buffer state, and as a semi tame attack dog to let out to bite the Americans every so often.
   We could slap a good stiff trade killing tariff on Chinese exports to the US.  That would hurt China, and it might get them to cut off the NORKs.  The Chinese would not like it but we could do it.  If we have the stones.  Nobody knows if Trump would do this, and if the country and the Congress would back him up if he tried it.  I have not seen any Gallup polling on this subject.
   Or we could try straight forward military action, air strikes followed with ground forces.  This amounts to starting up the Korean War all over again.  Last time was bad.  This time would probably be just as bad.  And the South Koreans would take a lot of damage and casualties, something they certainly are not happy about.
   Or we could do the paper tiger act, keep on snarling at the NORKs but not actually do anything.  This would probably cause the Japanese, the South Koreans, and maybe even Viet Nam and Taiwan to go for their own nukes.  Which is bad, but at least these countries are all US allies or friends.  It would shake up the Chinese though.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

King Solomon's Mines 1985

Some how I missed this one back in 1985.  It's a fun, lightweight African adventure story featuring Richard Chamberlain as Allan Quatermain, intrepid great white hunter, and Sharon Stone, American beauty searching for a father lost in darkest Africa.  Also has John Rhys-Davies as villainous Turkish war lord.  A lot of scenes put one in mind of/were ripped off from, Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Lots of action, including funny scenes of African cannibals popping the lead characters into a giant cooking pot filled with water and sliced vegetables.  
   The title of the movie comes from an old H. Rider Haggard adventure story, published a hundred years ago.  It was a best seller back then, it's been mentioned repeatedly in other fiction stories, but I have never read the book.  I suspect the movie takes little from the novel other than the title and the names of the characters.  There were older movies of this title, one from 1937 and one from 1950. 
   All in all, an enjoyable flick.  Lightweight but fun. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

New Product Design, Winners and Losers

Maybe a dozen years ago Boeing and Airbus were casting around for an idea for a new aircraft.  Airbus decided to build the largest plane that available engines could hoist off the runway, the A380.  It was a double decker, four engines, seating 500 passengers.  Boeing did some market research and decided that more modest aircraft, seating 250-280 passengers was about right for the market.  After all it takes some doing to round up 500 paying passengers to fill an A380.  The Boeing plane, the 787 has only two engines (engines are the most expensive part of an aircraft), a very high tech "composite" fuselage and lithium ion batteries which gave a lot of grief. 
   As of right now, Boeing has sold several hundred, and has a backlog of close to 1000 787's.  They judged the market right.  The A380 has only one customer, Emirates, who has an order for another 42 A380's.  After which, the production line will shut down.  And as things are, Airbus is loosing money on every one they build.  Emirates (and no one else) is thinking about ordering some more, but they fear that Airbus might stop building A380's at a loss.  So they have not committed to an order. 
   Looks like Boeing's marketeers called it right.  The Airbus marketeers followed the Field of Dreams marketing plan (If we build it they will come).   Airbus has taken a big hit on the A380.  So big that they might not stay in business at all.   

Thursday, November 30, 2017

CongressCritters want a tax hike without voting for it

New twist to the tax bill.  A "snap back" clause that pops taxes back up if the deficit gets too large.  "Too large" is not defined, so it can happen anytime.  The effect is a tax hike but Congresscritters don't have to vote for it.  Constituents don't like tax hikes which accounts for Congresscritters reluctance to stand up and vote for them.  They like this trick better, where they can cancel the tax cuts, pretty much anytime they like, with out voting for it. 
  This should not be allowed.  When Congress raises taxes, each member must take a vote, in public (rollcall) so we taxpayers can know which Congresscritters are taking our hardearned money.
   Speaking of the tax bill, I have been noticing some TV ads denouncing the tax bill because it will raise the deficit.  The ads don't have sponsors, I don't know for sure who is running them, but I suspect Democrats.  Might be RINO's.  I'm thinking we voters ought to ignore political ads that don't declare their sponsors.  The deficit argument is kinda bogus too.  It really means that Congress wants to keep on spending, that shutting down the gravy train is just too painful to think about. 
   The deficit could be reduced by better economic growth, and shutting down worthless programs.  Start with shutting down the federal education department.  Education from preK thru college is funded and controlled by state and local government and parents.  The feds just draw their salaries, they don't actually educate anyone.  Then shut down the federal Housing and Urban Development department.  Let the state and local governments do the work. 
   Those few ideas will do good things for the deficit. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sexual Harassment bags three more newsies today

Wow.  NBC fired Matt Lauer, host of the Today show.  That hit my FM radio this morning at 7 AM.  Then Garrison Keillor, who used to do the Prairie Home Companion on PBS  announced the Minnesota Public Broadcasting had fired him.  David Sweeney, a senior news editor for NPR, was also canned today.
  Three down in just one day.  Does not look like the sexual harassment crusade is letting up at all.
In these three cases, the accusations, and the accusers are still secret.  Could be anything, or anybody.
   Talk about a target rich environment. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lawrence of Arabia uses Facebook in the Sinai desert

After the horrible attack on the Sinai Al Rawda  mosque, Bedouin leaders in the Sinai have issued a call to their people to assist the Egyptian army.  This was posted on Facebook by the Union of Sinai Tribes. 
   Our culture is spreading.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Just how did the US Navy collide with two different merchant freighters??

I have done a bit of yachting in my time, various places, from the Chesapeake Bay up thru Maine.  When at the wheel (or tiller, same-same) you have to stay situationally aware.  You need to keep track of wind direction, state of the tide, buoys, lighthouses, landmarks, other vessels.  You need to know where your vessel is on the chart.  You have to keep an eye on the radar.  You have to stay in the buoyed channels lest you hit a rock or get stuck in a mudbank.  As a 30-40 foot vessel you have to give right of way to the big steamers,  who draw much more water than you do, and don't dare steer outside the buoyed channel.  The big boys find it cheaper to just run down a yacht than pay for the tugboats needed to pull them off a sandbar if they were to leave the channel even for an instant. 
   So just how did those two Navy destroyers manage to collide with freighters?  At what distance did the destroyer's radar pick up the freighter?  Who was officer of the deck?  How much real sea time did he have? When was a plot of the freighter's course and the destroyer's course made, and did it indicate a collision was coming?  At what range did the lookouts see the freighter thru binoculars and report it to the bridge? What did standing orders say about avoiding merchant traffic?  Were the destroyer's navigation lights burning?  Had anyone on the bridge read Admiral Dan Gallery's book where he wrote "Steer well clear of any merchie, lest he decide to liven up your day by ramming you."  When was any change of the destroyer's course ordered? 
   I haven't seen any discussion of the seamanship leading up to collision[s].  Probably the newsies are all landlubbers and  don't know what to ask.  And the Navy is embarrassed to say what went wrong.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Why I do my Christmas Shopping on line

There is more cool stuff on line.  Cooler than anything Walmart carries.  Littleton NH, my local shopping emporium, has been loosing good shopping for years.  It is down to La Houte's Sporting Goods, some second hand and antique shops.  Years ago, I would go Christmas shopping in downtown Boston, Washington street.  There used to three good department stores, Jordan Marsh, Filene's, and Raymond's.  The original Radio Shack, Lafayette Radio, Eric Fuchs Hobby Shop, a flock of good camera stores on Bromley St, book stores, jewelry stores, FAO Schwatz toy store.   The department stores had Christmas decorations, shop windows, Santa Claus, huge operating electric train layouts, and the department stores carried a lot more than just ladies clothing.  Not only was there cool stuff to buy, they put on a show for use shoppers. 
   All that is gone.  About the most exciting store left down town is a CVS pharmacy.  Boring.  So I thumb thru my stack of catalogs, fire up Windows XP, and start placing orders.  Plus the internet stores wrap it and mail it for you. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How can anyone talk politics over Thanksgiving??

What is there to say, other than I Like Trump, or I Hate Trump?  That won't led to much of a discussion.  I am a news junkie, and I just don't have anything worth discussing.  Trump's first year hasn't accomplished much that you can put your finger on, let alone support or condemn.  Stock market is up, GNP growth is up, unemployment is down, wages are up a little bit.  All good things, but they might have happened no matter who won the 2016 election.  I like Trump, but I cannot point to things Trump did that led to those good things happening.  I like to believe that Trump's attitude and activity had something to do with it, but that's just a belief, I cannot back it up with concrete examples. 
  So what political can I say to all the left and hard left family members coming for Thanksgiving?  Particularly now they all have smart phones, and will summon up facts and arguments to support their lefty beliefs at the drop of a hat.  And now that politics is a religion that sees compromise as sin.
  Best to stick to talk about grandchildren, home projects, cars, the model railroad, the great windstorm that put my power out last month, recipes, wildlife (I have bears, wild turkeys, weasels, moose, deer about the place).

Wall St Journal opposes suit over Verizon- Time Warner merger.

Verizon, ($211 billion) wants to take over Time Warner (($79 billion).  The Justice Department is objecting upon anti trust grounds and is threatening (or perhaps actually has) file an anti-trust suit to block it. 
   The Journal, in an OpEd and some coverage in the business section, is saying that the merger in not anti competitive because Verizon and Time Warner are not competitors.  They offer different products and services, and so merging them doesn't reduce competition. 
  Hogwash say I.  They are both in the cable TV and Internet business.  Just cause their services have different names, it's still providing TV and internet. 
   Verizon is too damn big already.  Letting them get even bigger is bad for me.  I'm getting ripped off on TV and internet cable by Time Warner right now.  It got so bad that Time Warner changed its name to "Spectrum" hoping that a lot of Time Warner bad feelings might go away if they changed their name.  When last month's storm took out my electric, telephone, and Time Warner Cable, guess who was the last one to restore service.  You guessed it, Time Warner took two days more than the electric and telephone companies did to restore my service.   Does anyone think that a much  bigger Verizon would be any better?
   We passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act two centuries ago to limit the size and power of big companies. In the past, Sherman Anti Trust was strong enough to break up Rockefeller's Standard Oil.  They tried to break up IBM in the 1960's but wimped out in the end.  The last gasp of anti trust action was the suit against Microsoft over the browser wars.  Anti-Trust wimped out on that one too, which is why we still have Internet Exploder  letting viruses onto our PC's
   And all those "too big to fail banks" that Dodd Frank is so kind too.  If the damn banks are too big to fail, then they are plenty big enough for anti-trust action. And the humongous InBev merger that Justice OK'ed just this year.
   The Justice Dept should be encouraged to do some more anti trust work. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

If you are gonna do crime,you last longer doing it at home

Three dumb ass UCLA basketball player made the news 'cause they were picked up for shop lifting in China.  President Trump claimed some public relations points by talking the Chinese president (Xi?) into letting them off to go home. 
   Advice.  If you are gonna do a crime, do it at home, in a place you grew up, where you speak the language, where you have some connections that might get you off, where you know the hideouts, the fences, the cops, the judges. 
   Doing a crime in a foreign land, like China, where you don't speak the language, where nobody cares if you get put in slam for 20 years, where you don't know where you can hide, where you can fence stolen stuff, is just plain dumb.  You will get caught, and the locals will have no mercy on you.
   UCLA is admitting some real stupid students.  I guess you don't need brains to play basketball for UCLA.

Artichokes, a light meal in one pot

If you haven't tried an artichoke you are missing a taste treat.  They have a light, slightly nutty flavor, they are an honest green vegetable, of which we all need to eat more, and they are fun to eat.  Allow one artichoke for each diner.  They are eaten by pulling off the leaves, dipping the leaf in a little mayonaise, and putting the broad end into the mouth and scraping off the delicious edible part with your teeth.  The bulk of the artichoke leaf is stringy fiber too tough to eat.  You discard it.  BTW, never put artichoke leaves down a disposal, they will clog your drain but good.  After you eat all the leaves, you still have the artichoke heart to eat.  Cut the furry looking growth off the top of the heart, those are baby leaves waiting to grow, and entirely too tough and prickly for humans to eat. 
   Cooking is straightforward, put 'em in a pot, with a couple of inches of water on the bottom and steam them for 40 minutes or so.  Bring the water to a boil on high heat and then cut back to medium, enough heat to keep the water bubbling gently. Cut the prickly top of the artichoke off, leaving a round spot maybe the size of a silver dollar.  Before steaming them, drizzle some olive oil over the leaves and tuck some slivers of garlic inbetween to looser leaves. 
  One artichoke is enough to make a light meal, say lunch.  And they go well with anything to make a bigger meal. 

Will there be anyone left in public life?

After the sexual assault accusations finally run down?   They sank three newsies on Monday.  Who is next?  How many are next? 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Garage Door Opener goes crazy.

Got home last night and found my garage door wide open, wind and rain blowing into the garage.  I know I had hit the button on the door opener remote control to close the door, and actually seen the door start to close, before I had left.  I tried the close button and the door would start to close, get to within a foot of the threshold, and then pop into reverse, drive full open, and flash the garage light furiously.  I tried a couple ot times, no joy.  Since it was dark and raining, I just pulled the emergency release, unhooking the door from the door opener, and closed the door by hand.
  This door opener has a safety circuit, an electric eye that looks from rail to rail, and if the beam is interrupted by say a child, or a car, or a pet, or whatever, it kills the close cycle and opens the door all the way.  Next day, I heaved the door up by hand and felt a light feathery touch from a twig that was stuck to the bottom of the door.  So I took the shop broom and swept off the entire door bottom, and the threshold for good measure.  Bingo, that did it, the door opened and closed perfectly.  Must have been something stuck to the door bottom that stuck out enough to break the electric eye beam and send the door opener into it's emergency panic open response. 
   And a good thing too.  That door opener has been working steadily for ten years now.  I don't know if I could find the instruction sheet, or even the makers name, let alone a spare parts place. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Beat the Press

They spent a whole hour talking about sexual assault, Roy Moore, Al Franken, and why they think President Trump deserves more heat over that tape that was dredged up shortly before the election.  Boring.  Probably they ran the hour long piece because it was cheap and easy to produce.
  The suits who run American media think they are running entertainment.  The stories they select are intended to boost TV ratings or circulation, not to inform the public.  The media workers are mostly Social Justice Warriors who see their duty as getting Democrats elected.  Only Rupert Murdock was savvy enough to realize there is a large audience for news without to heavy layer of socialist propaganda you get on the networks and even PBS.

Thor Ragnarok

It had decent reviews, the proceeding comic book movies with Thor had been amusing, and it's run at the Jax Jr is over today.  So I went to see it last night. OK but not great. 
   Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, and plays him fairly well.  They got Cate Blanchette to play the part of Helle, goddess of death, and general purpose bad guy (bad chick?).  I'm surprised she took the part, 'cause she didn't get much in the way of a speaking role.   No sign of Jane Foster, Thor's earthly girlfriend, played by Natalie Portman, back in the first Thor movie. 
   There isn't much in the way of plot in this movie.  It just drifts from fight to fight.  We have Thor going up against The Incredible Hulk, Thor going up against Helle, assorted armies of guys in armor carrying spears going up against each other, and various minor characters hacking and whacking on each other.  The Thor vs Hulk fight takes place on a distant planet, in a huge arena, packed with screaming fans, presided over by a sadistic, but wimpy looking nameless ruler addressed simply as "The Grand Master".  How the Hulk gets transported from Earth to this mysterious distant planet is not explained.
   Other features unexplained.  Asgard now has a civilian population, under attack by Helle, that Thor manages to save, loading them all onto a giant spacecraft, obtained by mysterious means.  Asgard used to be just the home of the gods, now it has a civilian population in need of evacuation.
   Thor has finally wised up about Loki, and out wits him a couple of times.  Thor used to be a sucker for Loki's treachery, in this flick he keeps one step ahead.  Although there is a lot of swordfighting, Thor and Loki both find automatic firearms convenient for clearing out snake infested areas.  And everybody, even Bruce Banner, can fly the numerous aerospace craft that turn up.
   If you like Marvel's Thor character, go see it.  If you are only lukewarm on comic book movies, you haven't missed anything with this one. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Do I believe in battery 18 wheelers with 500 mile range?

That's what Elon Musk  claims.  He even has a prototype to show.   Of course he didn't demonstrate the range.  Cruising on the interstates at 70 mph such a truck needs 7-8 hours to travel 500 miles.  Which is a good day's run.  I think there are regulations, honored as much in the breach as on the road, limiting driving shifts to 8 hours.  In short that battery, if it lives up to spec,  will keep the truck moving as long as the driver is supposed to be driving it. 
Nor did Elon mention a price.  Last I heard you could get a conventional diesel tractor, new, for maybe $65K.  Can Elon even come close to that?  Who knows?  How long does it take to recharge? 
   On the other hand, heavy trucks have the room for a massive battery pack.  More weight just gives a tractor more pulling power.  And heavy trucks run a lot more miles in a year than private autos, so a small improvement in operating costs will pay off sooner.

Friday, November 17, 2017

I didn't know that Congress had a slush fund to pay off sexual assault victims.

Not sure just where I stand on this issue, but the fact that Congress kept it secret doesn't speak well of it.  Nor does it speak well of Congressmen. 

How did the Russians win WWII?

First it helps to understand the relative sizes and strengths of the great powers in 1941.  Today, we have just two, maybe three superpowers, powers so much bigger and stronger than ordinary powers that nobody dares mess with them.  Back then, there were more great powers (Germany, Russia, Great Britain, France, USA, Japan) and they were closer to each other in strength.  Germany was the strongest and scariest European power, the US lacked the regard that it earned during WWII.  Certainly Hitler didn't think much of America. 
   Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, a bolt out of the blue attack.  Hitler poured in 3-4 million soldiers, 5000 tanks, 10,000 warplanes.  He caught the Russians by surprise, and captured most of western Russia, encircled and destroyed two huge Russian armies, taking 1.2 million prisoners of war.  The Luftwaffe wiped the floor with the Red air force.  That first year the Germans nearly captured Moscow.  Advanced German patrols got as far as the Moscow trolley lines and claimed to have seen the domes of the Kremlin gleaming in the sun.   By the end of the year, the Germans owned the Russian heartland, all Stalin had left were a bunch of remote frontier districts.
   Somehow, I've never read a good description of just how, the Russians hung in there, drafted  another 30 million men into the Red Army, picked up and moved a thousand factories from western Russia to remote Ural Mountain locations, got production of war machines going again from Siberia, and next summer at Stalingrad met the German army head on and beat it in a standup fight. 
   To do this, Stalin's regime had to have political control via the NKVD, and a lot of popular enthusiasm for the Great Patriotic War.  Otherwise, those 30 million draftees might have decided that service in the Red Army was suicide and bolted for the woods.  And just how did the Red Army turn draftees into combat soldiers so quickly?  And trying to get a tank factory which had been dumped by the side of the railroad tracks back into production must taken superhuman effort on the part of the workers.  Suppose the workers had lost heart and just leaned on their shovels? 
   In short, it took a miracle for the Russians to stay in the war, and fight back so effectively, after the tremendous damage the Germans did to them in that first summer. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Who has $1 million in mortgage interest?

TV news is beginning too, at long last, offer some some specifics and comparison between the House and Senate tax reforms.  The Senate will allow deduction of $1 million mortgage interest.  Wow, that' one helova mortgage if the yearly payments run $1 million.  Jeez, I'll bet that would pay the mortgage on the Empire State building.    The House would only allow a half a million.  Either amounts of mortgage interest will pay a mortgage of $20 million or so.  That's one mighty fine house.  I skim the "Mansions" section of the Journal on Fridays.  They show some very fine houses there, but you can get into one of them for maybe $4 million.  Which gives a mortgage payment like $200K.  I'm thinking the only people paying $1 million mortgage interest are professionals in the real estate business, like president Trump used to be.  In short, this is tax loophole for real estate wheeler dealers.  Me, I would kill the mortgage interest deduction completely. 
   I paid mortgage interest on my house for years.  It was like $10K a year.  That was a nice deduction, until I finally paid off the mortgage, and the extra $12K standard deduction proposed in the tax reform will do me more good than a mortgage deduction, now that I don't have a mortgage anymore. 
   Another strange bit of tax reform information.  Somebody, Congressional Budget Office perhaps, claims that killing the "individual mandate" (tax/fine on individuals who don't have health insurance) will SAVE $380 billion over ten years.  How does killing a tax/fine save money??  Taxes raise money, killing them looses money.  Perhaps "they" think huge numbers of people won't buy taxpayer subsidized health insurance without the tax/fine to encourage them, and thus the taxpayers won't have to pay to subsidize them?  And "they" get their numbers from where?  And we believe them.  Right.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword 2017

I love the King Arthur legend.  I've read several books, seen all the movies.  So when this one turned up on Netflix, I went for it. 
  Disappointing is the best I can say for it.  Most of the cast, including Arthur, were unknown to me.  The only two actors I had every heard of, Jude Law and Eric Bana, had mere spear carrier parts.  Other than the sword in the stone, the movie lacks any connection with the well known Arthur legend.  No Launcelot, no Gawaine, no Guinevere, no jousting, no Grail, no Round Table, nothing.  The story picks up with a young (looks to be in his 20's) Arthur pulling the sword out of the stone.  And after that nothing much happens.  Arthur does a lot of bitching, and a good deal of whacking and hacking with the sword (Excalibur).  It's never clear just what the enemy has done to justify killing them, but that doesn't interfere with another mediocre sword fight.  If Arthur has a cause, we never hear of it.  He has no love interest.  He never shows up leading his troops.  The Arthur legend is about a great Christian hero-king saving his people from pagan Saxon invaders.  I expected an Arthur movie to show me some heroism.  I was disappointed. 
   Nobody is ever addressed by name, leaving us confused as to who is who.  There is a cute young chick, who works magic with funny facial expressions, who ought to Morgan Le Fay, but all she is ever called is "The Mage".   There is a Merlin character, played by a black man, but he is never, at least not in my hearing, addressed as Merlin.   And other than showing up, he never does anything interesting.
   Camera work was mediocre.  Too many scenes were poorly lit, and they used the color washout technique entirely too much.  Sound work was only fair, but somewhat better than Game of Thrones.  I could hear and understand most of the lines. 
  According to IMDB they spent $175 million making this thing.  It's been out since May, and it's only earned $40 million. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

We ought to repeal the death tax

The death tax is killing small business.  Gas stations, bodegas, family farms, main street stores, barber shops, restaurants, repair shops, etc, are started by individuals, employ people, and are reasonably profitable.  Eventually the owner dies.  His estate is basically the business, there may be a few thousand dollars in the checking account, but essentially the guy's estate is the business.  And upon the owner's death the government now wants that business to cough up 50% of it's assessed value for estate taxes.  That's a lot of money, which most small businesses simply don't have.  Net result, the small business goes out of business, its workers are laid off, a main street store front gets boarded up and customers have to go elsewhere.  Not good.  We would be better off if the owner could will the going business to his heirs (or anyone for that matter) estate tax free.  This way the business stays in business, the workers stay employed,  the main street storefront stays open for business, and customers keep getting served.   And the going business will pay taxes.  Better to collect a reasonable amount of tax every year, than a whopping big estate tax that drives the small business out of business.  

Friday, November 10, 2017

What about this Roy Moore flap?

Far as I know, it's a one source story from the Washington Post.  The Post claims that Moore molested some teen age girls 35 years ago.  Moore, in case you don't remember, won the Alabama primary for US Senator.  There will be a special election in December to fill the Senate seat left empty when the incumbent accepted Trump's appointment as US attorney general.  He is also the judge who was kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments statue from his courthouse.  That gave him pretty good name recognition down in his district. 
   A number of US senators, including John McCain, have called for Moore to resign (if he wins) and if there is any truth in the WaPo's accusation.  The Constitution allows the Senate (and the House for that matter) to expel a member, and "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections,Returns and Qualifications of its own members,"  (Article I section 5).  That ought to mean that the Senate can declare an election rigged, ballot boxes stuffed, or the electee is a scumbag, and refuse to seat that member.
   Question:  Is the Washington Post telling the truth?  How can a story from 35 years ago be checked?   We used to have a statute of limitations, but the lawyers have pretty much repealed it by now. 

Winter is coming.

I got a half and inch of snow up here in the White Mountains.  Enough to make the ground white.  And it's cold, 20F. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Is it a middle class tax cut? Or a taxcut for "The Rich"???

Who knows?  The Democrats claim it's a tax cut for "The Rich".  Republicans say it's a tax cut for the middle class.  Who to believe?   The bill is still secret, and is probably 1000 pages long and written in deep gobble-de-gook, so even if I found it on the Web, it wouldn't mean anything to me.  I only read English.  I cannot focus on 1000 pages.  The Journal favors the bill, but it prints a chart showing that a few classes of taxpayer will be paying more ten years from now. 
   The Journal says that a lot of its provisions have time limits of less than ten years.  That hurts economic growth.  Lots of projects, even just buying a home, let alone building a new factory, take more than ten years to pay off.  And the payoff always depends upon the tax burden laid on the project.  If we don't know what the tax burden will be ten years out, we are less likely to do the project. 
   Living in NH, which fortunately lacks a state income tax and state sales taxes, I'm all in favor of ending the deduction for state and local taxes.  My mortgage is paid off, so the mortgage interest deduction does me no good.  My children are grown up, married, living in their own homes, so child deductions don't do me any good. 

   The Republicans have to pass something or they get voted out of office next year.  They already failed to repeal Obamacare, failure to pass tax reform will confirm voter belief that the Republicans are a bunch of blow hard RINO's, no different from Democrats.   And they deserve payback at the polls for failing to live up to their promises to reform taxes and repeal Obamacare. 


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Nobody uses hammers anymore

At least not on "This Old House".  I watch an episode of the antenna day before yesterday.  Which was nice, the cable doesn't carry "This Old House".  What caught my eye was nobody was using hammers and nails anymore.  Not even air powered nail guns.  Everything gets fastened with drywall screws, driven in with battery drills.  No pilot hole drilling, just drive right into the wood.   As fast as hammering in a nail, not quite as fast as a nail gun. 

Daylight Savings Time, the biannual hassle

So I have to reset all my clocks today.  Antique Tiffany mantle clock, bedside clock radio,wristwatch, car clock, celery phone, VCR, and two Windows computers.  I have been told you should never push the hands of antique clocks backward, it will confuse the striking mechanism and other badnesses.  So I open the back, stop the pendulum, wait an hour, and then restart the pendulum.  The bedside clock radio has a straight forward "Set Clock" button, no problem.  Celery phone, bless its little silicon heart,  handles the time change automatically, so does Windows.  The car clock is so confusing that I have to dig out the car instruction booklet and re read how to set clock.  The human factors department at Buick was out to lunch when they designed that car clock. 

Hand Tools. Round Handles

There oughta be a law against round handles.  When you set the round handled tool down on your bench, it promply rolls off the bench and bangs on the floor.  Unless your bench is dead level.  Few people level their work benches.  Tool companies out to put hexagonal or square or triangular handles on tools, any shape that won't roll of the bench.

Xacto, the hobby knife company is a prominent offender. 

Over The Air TV

Gotta have something on the TV.  While my TV cable was still broken, I hooked up my roof antenna to the big Sony flatscreen TV. That antenna is pretty beat up, a lot of fingers have broken off over the years.  . They were still broadcasting analog TV when I put that antenna up on the roof, and that was a long time ago.  Beat up as it is, it still gets enough signal to run my FM radio.  And it gets enough signal to provide 17 digital and 2 analog channels for the Sony TV to tune in.  Hurrah.  Both of the analog channels are WMUR, the NH TV station (ABC) which at least has some local news and weather. The digital channels are all high def which gives lovely video, at least if you like watching Thomas the Tank Engine, Sesame St, the View, Jeopardy, and some other  loser programming.  No Fox News, no Sci-Fi channel, no CNN.  Arggh.  I want my cable TV back. 

Celery Phones

  What with my land line broken in two,  I used my celery phone to call the power company.  That didn't work.  I dialed, got thru to the faraway call center, and listened to their auto answer machine.  It got around to saying " Press ONE to report a power outage." Tough luck, my celery phone (Lucky Goldstar 305C) won't do that.  Soon as it connects, the number keypad goes away.  Without that keypad, there is no way to press ONE, or any other number for that matter.  PITA.  I had to drive down to Mac's Market in the ville to call in my power outage.  I even dug up the celery phone instruction booklet off my laptop and read it thru.  When all else fails read the instructions. No luck.  Not a word about dial ONE or dialing an extension, or dialing anything at all after the celery phone places a call. 

Back on Line!! Hurrah!

Back on the air, at last!  Took long enough.  We had a really serious windstorm go thru here Sunday night, October 28.  At 2 AM a crash and a flash woke me up.  Lights were out on the bedside clock radio.  Since it was pitch dark, blowing hard and raining hard, I decided to stay in bed and go back to sleep. Whatever it was could wait for daylight. 
  Well, daylight came, and showed the wind had blown down two power poles, the ones that feed juiice to all of Mittersill.  The pole right behind my house  went over and pulled my service entrance clean off the back of the house, and snapped my telephone line clean in half, and broke my cable TV coax. The wired society had struck out. 
   It took the power company ( used be PSNH, now they call themselves Eversource) until Tuesday (THREE DAYS!!) to get a crew up here with new poles, and cherry pickers to fix the downed poles.  The pole right behind the house had not gone all the way down;  it just pulled sideways and was leaning at about 60 degrees.  They just pulled that one back up straight.  The other pole had snapped clean off  about 5 feet off the ground.  That one got replaced.  They restrung the electric wires and bingo everybody else's lights came back on.  Not me, I hadn't gotten my service entrance repaired yet.  Power company won't do that, I have to.
  Next day, Wednesday, I got Jim Price, very nice, very competent, licensed electrician from the next town over (Bethlehem) out to repair my service entrance.  He got that done just before dark, and then by the grace of God, the Eversource people came out Thursday morning and hooked me back up the the grid.  Hallelujah, lights came on, furnace started up, fridge started cooling, hot water heater started heating. 
   And, wonder of wonders, the phone company came by later on Friday and spliced my telephone wire.
   Last player, the cable company, Time Warner, who is changing their name to Spectrum, didn't get here until just now.   They ran new coax to the house and spliced it into the main cable on the troublesome pole, and wonderbar, TV and Internet came back. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

General Electric wants out of the locomotive business

Wow.  The diesel locomotive business really got started right after WWII.  All the railroads wanted to replace their steam engines.  This was a huge piece of business.  Between 1945 and 1957 every steam engine in the land was scrapped and replaced with brand new diesels.  The Electro motive division of General Motors got the bulk of this work.  Old line steam engine makers Baldwin and Alco offered  product, and Fairbanks Morse and GE offered product but EMD got all the business.  90% or better of all railroad locomotives were EMD built by 1960.  All the competitors dropped out except GE, who still offered fairly decent product, but wasn't selling much against EMD. 
   Somehow, in the 1980's GE pulled ahead of entrenched EMD and today is the best seller, with EMD just clinging to life.  GE did some $4.7 billion worth of diesel locomotive business last year.  A handsome chunk of change, even compared to GE's other businesses (jet engines, heavy electrical equipment) which brought in close to $100 billion. 
   For some reason the new guy at GE, the one who sold off the GE corporate jet fleet,  wants to get rid of the locomotive business.  No reason given.   That's some 10000 employees.  The Wall St Journal had a picture of the locomotive production line,  giant room,  half a dozen big locomotives under construction. 
   Some business writer ought to do a book on how GE managed to take to diesel market away from EMD back in the 1980's.  There ought to be some good stuff in there.  Was it GE's AC powered locomotives that had greater tractive effort (pulled harder) and cost more?   Was it sloppiness over at EMD?  something else? 
  I wonder why GE now wants out of the locomotive business.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Tempest in Teapot

"Don't Trust the Chinese to make Microchips for the Military"  Headline to a Wall St Journal op-ed yesterday.  The writer, Dan Nidest, clearly lacks experience in the design of military electronics.  Whereas it used to be my day job. 
   US procurement regulations require that all the semiconductors in a military gadget be "Mil-Spec" semiconductors.  Which cost ten times as much as commercial devices, and are of marginal quality.  The Mil Spec thing got started back in vacuum tube days.  The military knew that tubes with extra thick filaments would last longer than standard commercial tubes.  And they bought such tubes, for a premium price.  Trouble is, there is no way to inspect the insides of a glass vacuum tube without ruining it.  And so unscrupulous vendors put mil spec markings on ordinary commercial tubes and sold them to the military.  And so, the military demanded that mil spec tubes only be manufactured on special production lines, under inspection by government agents. 
   This quaint custom carried over to semiconductors when they came into service in the 1960's. 
   So, false alarm.  All semiconducters used in military electronics are made in the US of A.  Not to worry.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dawn over Marblehead (Wall St) Finally.

Price of Puerto Rican bonds is finally dropping into the toilet.   About time.  Early in 2015 a Puerto Rican bond was selling on the street for 95 cents on the dollar.   This price drifted down gradually thru out 2015, 2016, and most of 2017.  It had reached 65 cents on the dollar by this summer.  Only this fall did the price dive down to 30 cents on the dollar. 
   In actual fact, Puerto Rico doesn't have the money to pay off a nickel of the $93 billion that Wall St bankers were stupid enough to loan them over the years.  It's been obvious for twenty years that Puerto Rico didn't have, and could not get, the money to pay off any of its loans.  And yet,  those clever Wall St banks kept loaning Puerto Rico more money.  And trading Puerto Rican securities and bonds back and forth among themselves as if these securities were actually worth something.   They aren't.
   The amazing thing.  The Wall St bankers only figured things out in the last few weeks.  You gotta wonder where these people went to school. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

OK, so Corker and Flake are bailing out

Two US republican senators announce they will not run for re election in 2018.  They are no friends of Donald Trump, but up until now have been more loyal and useful Republicans than John McCain, Susan Collins, or Rand Paul.   
   They both come from reasonably Republican districts, which may elect Republican replacements.  On the other hand, incumbents usually have better odds of winning the election than  challengers.
   Granted, Trump and his friends will have a more tractable Congress if Corker and Flake are replaced by Republicans.  If they are replaced by democrats, life will be harder for the administration.   The Republican control of the Senate rests on a mere two seats. 
  Note to Steve Bannion.  You would do the party more good by attacking democrats, rather than Republicans. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Opioid Crisis Some more bad stuff

Article in a local paper said that opioid prescriptions were down, from about 90% of patients in 2014 to maybe 70% in 2016.   The article didn't bother to explain the percent numbers (typical of newsies who are totally innumerate).  I'm guessing that it is the number of opioid prescriptions written over the total number of patients.  Any one please feel free to correct me on this. 
   If this is progress we are doomed. 
   I take my self to the doctor today.  I used to bring all three children to the doctor along with my wife.  For 50 years, 200-300 doctor appointments at least.  Never did I or any of my family receive a prescription for opioids.    That's an opioid prescription rate of 0 for me and my family. 
   To hear that an opioid prescription rate of 70% is an improvement is ridiculous. 
   I can believe that there are some people with real pain problems for whom opioids are indicated.  I cannot believe that 70%  of people have real pain problems. 
   I am aware that most of the overdose deaths are caused by heroin and fentanyl , both of which are illegal.  I'd like to know how many of these overdose cases got started with prescription opioids.  I have never seen any numbers on this.  But if 70% of patients are started on opioids,  you gotta believe that a lot of 'em move over to cheaper (but more dangerous) street drugs.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Whither the EU?

Just as it looked like the EU was coming together, the Brits pull out.  Britain is the number 2 EU country, just behind Germany and ahead of France in terms of GNP, population, diplomatic effectiveness, American connections, lotta things.  To have your Number 2 member pull out has gotta be disheartening for the advocates of European unity. 
   And we may have further breakups in the works.  Catalonia, an important Spanish province, has voted in a referendum to succeed from Spain.  There has been some pushback by the government of Spain, and some stories about how turnout for the referendum was very light, say 20%.  If that's true, it says that only the hard core Catalans came out to vote.  And, if the Catalans succeed, the Basque region will be right behind.  And the Scots and the Welsh are making noises about pulling out of the United Kingdom (Britain).  That's four small provinces making succession noises.  Although I don't remember hearing anyone from these proto-mini-nations talk about joining the EU, it's a good bet that some, maybe all of 'em will apply for EU membership after they make their succession good. 
   The EU got started right after WWII.  The European survivors of that disaster wanted to prevent WWIII by welding Europe together into a single country.  The Americans were all in favor for that reason and to present a united front against Russian Communism.  It started small with a trade deal called the European Coal and Steel Community.  I don't remember, perhaps never knew, just what kind of a deal this was, but it worked.  Sometime in the 1960's the Common Market was declared.  Initially the Common Market had a mere six members, and Britain was not one of them.  In fact the Brits put together a trade block of their own, which lasted for some years.  Eventually the Brits, and their trade block joined the EU.  Then the Soviets collapsed and all the Warsaw pact satellites rushed to sign up with the EU as a defense against Soviet revanchism.  Then the big step, the Europeans launched a successful European currency, the Euro and that worked. 
   But, the EU never was able to pull together like the American United States did.  The EU members never surrendered control of their armed forces, or their diplomatic corps to the central EU government.  The American founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution talk about base principles ( all men are created equal) and distribution of political power (executive, legislative, judicial).  The EU founding treaties are silent on most of the issues Americans find fundamental, and have a lot of happy talk about all the bennies EU citizens are entitled to, free healthcare, universal education, and the like, but don't divvy up the political power the way the Americans did.  The American states yielded up serious and important powers (rights to have their own armed forces, right to operate their own foreign policy, and a lot of other heavy duty stuff to the new federal government.  The European states didn't yield up an ounce of their sovereignty to Brussels.
   Where to next?  Will the rest of the EU hang together?  Or will more members follow the British lead and bail out?  Will the US offer Britain membership in NAFTA?  What about other EU refugee countries?  Stay tuned for future developments. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Driving down to a Boston Train Show

It was a lovely day, dry, warm, sunny.  Leaves are a bit past peak in Franconia Notch, but are at peak down south.  I93 was in good shape except the widening project south of Manchester hasn't gotten anywhere since I was thru there last.  More NH infrastructure money spent with out improving the road at all. 
   The North Shore Model Railroad Club of Wakefield MA, of which I used to be a member until I retired to NH, put on the show.  They had the swap meet at the Wakefield Americal Hall, across the street from the club layout.  The vendors had a lot of rolling stock and some structures, no tools or parts.  A fair number of steam engines that could serve as project locomotives, except I have two such project locomotive in my shop awaiting work.  The crowd was mostly older guys, a few very small children who were entranced, no kids old enough to be into electric trains on their own.  The hobby is not recruiting new hobbyists to replace the older guys who are dying off.  The North Shore club had three member who I had known die just this fall. 
  The club layout is down stairs from Brother's restaurant on Main St.  The layout is 90 feet long.  The newest and last section toward the back is largely done.  Benchwork is in, track is laid, trains run.  Scenery is coming along nicely.  The old core of the club was still there, still guiding the work.  This layout was large enough to make a cover story of Model Railroader back in 1985, and it's bigger now. 
   Anyhow a nice day.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Something must be happening that isn't Donald Trump

All the TV newsies talk about these days is Donald Trump.  Nothing else is covered.  Not even the stock market.  Surely there is something significant happening somewhere in the world that isn't about Donald Trump.  But we will never know.  Unless we do some web surfing. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Oh Say Can You See

Small patriotic ritual, performed before sporting events.  Americans are expected to stand and place their hand over their heart as the national anthem is played.  It's a symbol of respect for the flag, and the Republic for which it stands, to borrow a line from the pledge of allegiance.  And it's a sign of unity.  Anyone who fails to participate is saying they don't like the flag, they don't like the country, and they don't like other other Americans. 
   No beef with anyone or anything justifies failing to stand for the national anthem.   I don't like it, and a whole big bunch of my fellow Americans don't like it.  It may be legal. but we don't have to like it.  And we don't accept any excuses for failing to stand.  

The Microsoft Computer scammer calls again

This guy pretends to be from Microsoft, and wants to fix your computer.  The first time he called (maybe a year ago) I played along until he tried to get me to upload a piece of malware onto Trusty Desktop.  I used some salty service language on him and hung up.  Since then he has called back about once a month, giving me another opportunity to insult him. 
   Anyhow, if you get a call from someone who says he is from Microsoft, he is trying to plant a virus on your computer.  The real Microsoft never calls anyone. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Print is up, E-books are down

According to the Wall St Journal, sales of printed books are up 5% this year whereas sales of e-books are down 17%.  The Journal gave no reasons.  Wow! 
   The electronic wave of the future stopped cold by Gutenberg's printing press from the 1400's.  
    I'm in favor, I like reading a printed book better than I like fussing with a laptop to read an e-book.  I only mess with e-books to read old favorites no longer in print.  Old Edgar Rice Burroughs, old E.E. Smith,  old Andre Norton for example.  The laptop is bulky but it has a decent screen, the special e-book readers are micro screen devices which don't excite me much.   Even the idea of having the Library of Congress packed into a hand held device doesn't really excite me.  Apparently the market agrees. 


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Leaf Season in Franconia Notch

Does Weinstein affair account for poor Hollywood movies?

No doubt about it, Hollywood is making fewer movies, many of them are comic book movies, and box office has been terrible this season.  And then we have Harvey Weinstein, allegedly a top man in Hollywood.  Maybe he doesn't pay enough attention to making decent movies, and wastes too much time harassing and raping actresses?  If Harvey is typical of Hollywood management, no wonder the movies are lacking. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cost Sharing Payments

President Trump has raised yet another firestorm from the Democrats.  He has decided to stop "Cost Sharing Payments" to the health insurance industry.  This is in accordance with a federal court decision calling the payments illegal, because Congress never appropriated the money for them.  Plus the concept of my tax money going to private insurance companies boggles my mind.
    Democrats claim these payoffs are necessary to keep Obamacare insurance premiums from going even higher than they have.  To which one might ask why they haven't appropriated the money.  And why the money should go to insurance companies, rather than to patients. 
   The Democratic whining over "Cost Sharing Payments" has drowned out Trump's other Obamacare reform, announced the day before, allowing sale of economical insurance policies, instead of the "covers everything under the sun" Obamacare policies.  The medical industry loves the Obamacare policies, they pay for everything, whether it does any good or not.  Patients don't complain about cost, 'cause it's all paid for.  Used to be you could buy "covers everything" policies for $12000 a year.  They cover routine physicals, the wife and kiddies, prescription drugs, out patient treatments, chiropracty , drug rehab, maternity, mental health, and all the cat scans, ultrasounds and MRI's the patient can stand.  This was the usually deal for employer provided health care. 
   But, they was another option, one that paid for the big stuff that nobody has the money for, and let the patient cover the little stuff out of pocket.  This coverage could be had (before Obamacare outlawed it) for $3000.  If you were in reasonably good health (most of us are) you could save $9000 a year by going with "big stuff only" or "hospitalization only" policies.  The $9000 difference was more than enough for yearly physicals, out patient treatments, pills and plasters, just about anything.  I used to go this way until Obamacare outlawed such policies, and I became eligible for Medicare.   My doctor never approved, he wanted me to get an MRI, I asked what it would cost, he didn't know, it took months to finally get someone to quote me a price ($ Many Thou)  at which point to matter was quietly dropped. 
   Trump is going to allow writing policies that only cover what the patient wants to pay for, rather than cover everything under the sun policies, which are outrageously expensive.   Good deal.