Friday, August 6, 2010

Words of the Weasel Part 14

"Certification" as in "One of the failures is the lack of a certified technology that can be used to perform intricate inspections of palletized freight and cargo in unit loading devices used by the widebody aircraft that do most of the international flying."
This from an Aviation Week editorial in the August 2 edition.
I'm not sure what universe the editorial writers are living in. To obtain a cargo inspection system, you write a specification and then go out for bids to build them. Then you test the first article delivered to make sure it works in accordance with specifications. As long as you have money to pay the contractor, you have working equipment. If you don't have the money, you don't get the equipment, working or non working.
The specification might be a little difficult to write. You want to detect the smallest bomb buried deep in the densest and most opaque cargo imaginable. You probably have to call for construction of a test cargo pallet with simulated test bomb and require the machine to detect the test bomb some percentage of the time (90%, 99%, 99.9% and so on). Once the delivered machine meets spec, the contractor gets paid.
I don't know what the "certification of technology" phase means. Presumably the certification would read "Cargo inspection machines using Xray/Ultrasound/Microwave/YourFavoriteScienceFictionTechnology meet TSA requirements." Or words to that effect.
Except I don't believe in certifications. The only thing I believe is actual test results on real hardware. Which means you have to build the real hardware before you can test it. Which takes money.
What is really going on? Dunno, but it might be that nobody wants to pay real money to buy cargo inspection machines and fingers are being pointed to divert attention from the lack of money. Perhaps the Obama Porkulus bill could pay for them?

Day of Battle, by Rick Atkinson

Just finished this mammoth book on the WWII Italian campaign by the author of "An Army at Dawn". It's a good read, covering the ins and outs of a costly campaign of 65 years ago. It's not as much fun as his first book because it describes a very costly operation that took many lives for questionable gain. We never tied down as many German soldiers in Italy as we employed our own troops in fighting them. We did knock Italy out of the war, but that isn't saying much, the Italians never contributed all that much to the Axis war effort. Churchill's "soft underbelly" was mountainous, cut be deep and fast flowing rivers and the sort of country where a few riflemen could stand off an entire army.
According to Atkinson, the real reason we fought in Italy is it was the only place we could fight the Germans until we built up the strength for Overlord. When WWII is raging, you have to keep fighting the enemy, and Italy was the only place we could do so.
Atkinson covers all the fighting, the wheeling and dealing, the personalities of the generals, the scandals and the rest of it. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nanny State Alive and well in Oregon

A seven year old was busted for running a lemonade stand. State health inspectors felt the lemonade stand was a serious risk to public health. Let's hope New Hampshire never sinks this low.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Electric Smart Grid is hackable

Simmering along under the radar is the "Smart Grid" plan. At bottom "Smart Grid" would let the power company turn off your water heater and air conditioner when they are running out of electricity. The electric companies have to build enough power plants to meet peak load (warm summer afternoon or cold winter evening) but these expensive plants sit idle, earning no revenue, during most of the day. If PSNH could switch of customers air conditioners on hot summer afternoons they would not have to build so many power plants. They save money, we customers can no longer count on electric appliances working when we need them.
To add smart to the grid, electric meters and major appliances are connected to the internet to accept orders from PSNH. Major weakness, Internet hackers can fake out anything connected to the internet, with the result that your appliances can be switched off anytime someone else wants to. Not good.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good article on US Pakistani relations

I saw this on Instapundit. I've traveled in Pakistan and this article sounds about right to me. One thing the author omits. The Pakistanis I met and talked with were VERY interested in obtaining American support for /alliance with Pakistan against India, China, Al Quada and the various other bogymen out there. They all had problems with various aspects of US policy, but they all saw the US as powerful, reasonably benevolent, essential, and a great place to live.
There are a few things to remember about Pakistan. It's big, 160 million people. About 20 million live in and around Karachi, do manufacturing and trading, have radio and TV and read newspapers. The rest of them, 140 million, are tenant farmers, scratching out a crop with hand tools. No radio, TV, newspapers, many are illiterate. But they are not stupid. When their landlord runs for public office, they know to vote for him lest something bad happen to them. So the majority of Pakistan's elected parliment is landlords, with little sense of responsibility to the general welfare of Pakistan. Every 15 years or so the corruption of the parliament gets so bad that the Pakistani Army steps in to clean things up. After some time goes by, the army will relinquish control to the elected civilian leadership. Pakistan is in that phase right now. They have gone thru this cycle two or three times in the 60 years since Pakistan became Pakistan. They will probable keep on doing it. The Pakistani Army is highly respected and enjoys as much or more confidence among the population as any Pakistani politician.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Spruce up your blog

>Spruce Up Your Blog
>Choose from thousands of Widgetbox widgets to add to your blog. Slideshows, Twitter, >Polls, Countdowns and more.
>Try it now

So it says on my blogger dashboard. Question. Does anyone know just what these spruce ups do, other than clutter up the page? How many of them slow down access to your blog?

Why is the US economy still on the rocks?

70% of the US economy was consumer spending. Cars and groceries and clothes and appliances, restaurant meals, amusement park tickets, home renovations, boats and RV's, sporting goods. Trouble is, buying this stuff can be postponed. You can always squeeze another year out of the old car, wear old clothes a little longer, do without a new flatscreen as long as the old CRT still works.
Today, any consumer with two brain cells firing has to be worried about losing his/her job. With that hanging over them, the rational reaction is save money and don't buy everything except groceries. So consumer spending is down, a lot. And will stay down until the consumers feel a little safer in their jobs. With 70% of the economy on vacation, demand is down, and manufacturers are not hiring. Which makes people fear for their jobs all the more. It's a vicious circle. The last time this happened, it took World War II to snap us out of it. Nobody wants to do World War III just to restore full employment in the US.
Just watched Meet the Press, with Allan Greenspan, Mayor Bloomberg, Ed Rendel, and some others. No one mentioned this, not even Greenspan who used to be a pretty sharp Fed chairman.
We are in trouble until our leadership figures out what makes the US economy tick.