Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Competition or FCC to "regulate" online search?

The FCC, founded in the 1930's to assign frequencies to radio broadcasters and do price fixing for the telephone company, wants to expand. They want to regulate Google and make it "fairer". They are supported by loads of webbies who feel their websites arn't getting good positioning on Google.
Google has competitors. If Google's service and site rankings don't please the web surfing public, they can and will go elsewhere. That's all the regulation needed. I see no reason to give FCC bureaucrats a say-so in how a search engine ranks websites. In fact, that could get scary, the current FCC would tell Google to rank Democratic sites above Republican sites.
Article here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's the crotch bomber.

ABC has a picture of the infamous bomb. It was 80 grams of PETN fixed in the bomber's jockey shorts, right between his legs. If it had detonated, the bomber would be unable to enjoy the 72 virgins promised to jehadi warriors in paradise.
Pat down searches for this kinda bomb will be embarrassing for all concerned.

The ABC story claimed that 80 grams (about 1/6 pound) could "blow a hole" in an airliner. Fortunately, well built jetliners can continue flying with a hole blown in them. 80 grams isn't much. Air to air missiles carry much bigger warheads (5 pounds) and do not always bring down their target.
I remember an F105 jet fighter that took a missile hit in the tail. Heat seeking North VietNamese missile flew right up the tail pipe and exploded. Blew the crap out of the tail section, but the aircraft returned safely to base. The engine kept running, and the rudder and elevons kept working.
I don't believe a crotch bomb has enough power to crash a Boeing jetliner.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What's the difference between a database and the circular file?

What's-his-face Obama's press secretary was on this morning explaining about how they let the leg bomber on the plane. The government has a 500,000 name data base containing derogatory information. The leg bomber's father called the US embassy to warn us about his son's radicalization. The embassy entered the leg bomber's name into the 500,000 name data base. This ain't much different from putting the name into the circular file.

Words of the Weasel Part XIII

Mitigation. When something goes wrong we don't fix the problem, we mitigate it. We create a "mitigation plan" . Which looks real good in the cover-your-ass file after the disaster. The Sunday pundits were grilling Janet Nepoliotano about the leg bomber this morning. She explained the government had a mitigation plan and exercised it. Which is easier to say than to explain how that turkey got on the plane with a bomb strapped to his leg.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Leg Bomber

The Christmas day story of a Nigerian attempting to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight with a bomb strapped to his leg is going around. Question. Would the leg bomb have enough power to destroy a Boeing airliner?
By the way, I hope the burns the leg bomber received hurt a lot.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Congressmen used to vote their district

Used to be, Congressmen always voted their district. Any issue which the voters in the district cared about, the Congressman would vote the way his voters wanted him to.
Somehow that is gone this year. The districts are against Obamacare by better than 50% (depends whose poll you read, but they all show the voters don't like Obamacare). Yet we have the Senate voting Obamacare in by 60%, a supermajority.
What are those Senators thinking? Can they believe their district doesn't care? Or that the district won't remember which way they voted come next November? Or that currying favor with the Democratic Congressional leadership is more important than what the district thinks?
It's a puzzler. Congress didn't used to work this way. I think the voters will remember in November this time. Too bad they won't be able to repeal Obamacare then. Firstly you can't take goodies away from people. Second, Obama would veto a repeal bill. So we are stuck with it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why ObamaCare is a disaster.

The Senate voted for cloture on the ObamaCare bill in the wee hours of the morning. That required 60 votes. Actual passage of the bill only requires 51, so passage looks highly likely. (Would you believe a done deal?)
Right now the United States spends twice as much on health care as any other country in the world. US public health is not the best in the world, a number of other countries have greater life expectancy and lower infant mortality than we do. In short we are wasting vast sums of money on health care.
Obamacare will make tens of millions more eligible for medical benefits. This will pour another god awful amount of money into health care.
America cannot afford today's health care costs. 18% of GNP gets poured down the health care rathole. Obamacare will jack that up a lot.
Obamacare does nothing for the malpractice scams that enrich lawyers, does nothing to allow interstate sale of health insurance. and does nothing to permit importation of cheaper prescription drugs.
Obamacare is going to pay for itself by taxing healthcare. This ain't gonna work.
In short, the costs of Obamacare are great enough to drag the United States into a permanent recession. Kind of like the lost decade in Japan.
Start tightening your belts folks, life is gonna get a lot worse.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dark Matter "discovered"? part II

Ars Technica has a much better write up of the dark matter experiment than the New York Times.

SAAB to die

GM will shut down SAAB. A pity, the cars were cool. They had some buyers for the company. You would think GM would do better by giving SAAB away, selling it for $1. Turn SAAB over to anyone. If it flies wonderful. If it goes bankrupt at least it isn't GM's fault. Just shutting SAAB down makes it all GM's fault, and is just as expensive as giving it away.
On the other hand, GM senior management has been brain dead for decades. Looks like the new guy (good old whats-his-face) is no smarter than dearly departed Waggoner or Henderson.

Words of the Weasel Part XII

"Progressive". It's what liberals want to call themselves now that "liberal" has become pejorative.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dark Matter "discovered"?

Dark matter is an idea going back decades. Some astronomer noticed that galaxies rotated faster than expected. Each star in a galaxy orbits the central mass of the galaxy. Newton published the formula for the orbital speed of a satellite, the more massive the primary, the faster the satellite revolves.
When the faster galactic rotation was discovered, it was obvious that the galaxies were more massive than previously believed. It had been assumed that the mass of galaxies was made up of stars, bright objects that can be see in telescopes. Initially the nature of the extra dark matter was thought by some to be weakly interactive massive particles (WIMPS) and by others to be massive compact halo objects (MACHOS). Wimps were unknown sub atomic particles, MACHOs were chunks of rock floating in interstellar space where the sun doesn't shine. No sunlight, no see um.
When first announced, I always thought the MACHO idea was an fine explanation. Somehow over the years the WIMP concept has dominated, MACHO's are obsolete, and physicists are out looking for WIMPS.
According to the NY Times (reliable source that) the physicists are claiming to have detected a couple of WIMPS. The experiment has been running at the bottom of an old mine (to screen out cosmic rays) for years. Over all than time two, just two, events occured that signified the passage of WIMPS.
The experimenters did admit that the two events could have been caused by radioactivity in the rocks making up the mine, so they were only making a tentative claim of seeing WIMPS.
If I had been nursing an array of sensitive cyrogenic detectors in the bottom of a mine for years and years, I'd expect a few glitches from time to time. Hell, I get more glitches than that in my Compaq desktop.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hacking Predator

Even the Wall St Journal's reporters can fall for technical baffle gab. The enemy has been receiving video from our Predator drones for nearly a year. This is kinda serious, it essentially puts US drone reconnaissance at the disposal of the enemy. Damn near as good as having your own fleet of drones. The drone electronics broadcast their video in clear, not encrypted.
The obvious fix is to encrypt the video in the drone. Encryption at video rates (18 megabits/sec) could be done on a printed circuit board maybe 5 by 7 inches. There is room inside the drones for such a card. So why hasn't that been done?
"The difficulty, officials said, is that adding encryption to a network that is more than a decade old involves more than placing a new piece of equipment on individual drones. Instead many components of the network linking the drones to their operators in the US, Afghanistan or Pakistan have to be upgraded to handle the changes."
Journal reporters Siobhan Gorman, Yoichi J. Dreazen and August Cole printed this bit of malarkey in a front page WSJ story Thursday. They should have known better.
Networks move bits from place to place. They don't care what the bits are, what they say, whether they are encrypted or not. All the network does is move the bits from one place to another. Nothing in the network need be changed to move encrypted video. The unnamed officials are offering excuses and bad excuses at that.
And three clueless journalism school graduates fell for it. Even the best newspapers go brain dead occasionally.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

NH Hampshire does its bit for the housing market

According to NPR, NH building code will require sprinklers in all residential construction, starting next year. Just the thing to spark the sale of new houses, shiny chrome sprinkler heads sticking out of the living room ceiling. To say nothing of the extra few thousand dollars added to the price of the house.
This bit of user friendliness is brought to you by the fire departments of America who lobby for anything fire suppressive. The firemen are the largest group on the building code committees and they pushed this one.
The insurance companies did a good imitation of a hole in the ground on this issue. They figure it's a wash. Fewer fire claims but a whole bunch more water damage claims when the sprinklers sprinkle down the house when they shouldn't.
We are probably stuck with it although the NH legislature could overturn if they cared. If we can do some good work next November, maybe this irritant could be rolled back.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pratt & Whitney goes to Russia

The Russian Irkut company selected Pratt & Whitney engines for their new MS-21 medium sized airliner. Pratt will supply the ultra modern geared turbofan PW1000G engine.
Hmm. The Russians are going to stay in the airliner business. Right now Aeroflot advertises that ALL their international flights use Boeing aircraft. The old Russian built Tupolevs are uncomfortable for passengers, hard to maintain, and scary to ride in. And plenty of them are still in service on Russian domestic flights. Looks like the Russians want to fly in made in Russia airliners even if the engines come from America.
That's the way to bring unemployment down, make world class products and export them. The Russians came to Pratt & Whitney because their engines are the best, not because they love Americans.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How many CAT scans are being billed?

Listening to NPR this morning. Someone was ranting about CAT scans, excessive Xray exposure from. The ranter did not, as is typical of ranters, have any numbers on the amount of radition (number of REMs) in a scan. Journalism school graduates are innumerate. This one slipped up and let out that 72 million CAT scans were billed last year.
Wow. The population of the US is only 300 million, that means nearly a quarter of the population was CAT scanned last year. That's a hell of a lot of CAT scans. If each scan cost $1000, that's $7.2 billion worth of scans.
Are all these scans necessary? I doubt it. Would they have occurred if the patient had to pay for them? I doubt it.
Note: I used to design CAT scanners many years ago.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (movie)

Well, the movie made it to DVD the other day. My little low speed video store had a whole wall of copies ready to rent. Didn't seem like all that many had been rented. So I rented one, mostly 'cause they didn't have anything better.
Half Blood Prince is the weakest of the Harry Potter movies. It suffers from the curse of the sound man, you can't understand the dialogue. Poor mike placement, score overpowers the dialogue, and the actors mumble. The plot is difficult to follow, even for someone who has read the book. The scene jumps from here to there and back again in a pseudo random manner. For instance in a dramatic scene Voldemort's followers attack Harry. They throw a ring of fire around the house and Harry goes tearing off thru a head high field of some-thing-or-other, wand out, in hot pursuit. Lots of zap flash bang, but at the end of the scene you can't tell what happened. Did Harry get Bellatrix? Did someone scare her off? Did Bellatrix kill someone? The scene fades out leaving me wondering what happened and what was the point. The final quest with Dumbledore for the Horcrux is unclear. How did Dumbledore know to search this wave swept rock? Why does Dumbledore incapcitate himself drinking from the font? How does Harry fight off the cave monsters and drag Dumbledore back to Hogwarts? And why does Dumbledore send Harry away and let the bad guys kill him? In short, the movie ends on an unsatisfactory note, Dumbledore dead for no good reason, the Horcruxes still at large, and Harry vowing to leave Hogwarts and pursue his anti-Voldemort quest.
Finally, the camera work is poor. Dark unlit scenes, low contrast, and you can't figure out where you are. A lot of "fade out the color to black and white" effects which are irritating to this viewer who thinks his color TV is dying when the color goes away. Shots of the Hogwart's Express steaming across an open midwest prairie, rather than English countryside. How did the train get onto the prairie from lush green England?
Too bad. And no wonder it doesn't seem to be renting all that well.

Dr. Christina Romer on Meet the Press

She is a middle aged woman, blond, bright red suit, no jewelry and little makeup. She is on, or head of, the presidents council of economic advisors. This is the first time I even heard her name. Host David Gregory pressed her to explain how Obama could do yet more economic stimulus without going deeper into debt. In the course of this discussion she said "The administration has down everything possible in the health care bill to reduce the cost of health care". Gregory let her get away with this spin/lie/whopper/untruth/what-do-you-call-it. In actual fact, health care cost reduction means malpractice reform, selling insurance across state lines, and allowing the import of drugs from all first world countries.
None of which is in the healthcare bill. She knows it and so does Gregory.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Getting charts out of Excel

Like many, I use Excel for charting nearly any kind of data. And, if I need the chart in any other MS Office application (Word, PowerPoint etc) I just cut and paste. What about moving an Excel chart to a non MS application or the web?
It can be done but the how-to is non-obvious. You have to do "Save as WebPage" from the file menu. This produces TWO files on your disk. The first file has the extension .HTML which is a wrapper of HTML code, and a second .gif file which is the actual graphic file of your chart. The .gif can be uploaded, merged or even edited with a graphics edit program.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Excel plots of world temperature.

On top is the Excel plot of the raw temperature data from NOAA file v2.mean. Notice, no hockey stick. It's just a wiggly line rising from say 9 degrees in the 1700's to 14 and a skosh in 2009.

The lower plot is adjusted mean temperatures from NOAA file v2.mean_adj. The NOAA readme file says that v2.mean_adj was computed by adjusting the data from v2.mean for various things. They didn't say what those things might be. Notice the adjustments trashed all the data from 1701 to 1838. After 1838 the adjustments flatten the temperature curve, and the last ten years show a small decline, supporting those who say world temperature has declined since 1998. The downward glitch in 2006 might be explained by a drastic reduction in the number of temperature readings that occured in 2006.
I lack faith in NOAA's adjustment process. I have not yet found an explanation of what the adjustments might be. Trashing the record from 1701 to 1838 is not a confidence builder. The 2006 glitch has got to be an error. I remember 2006 and it wasn't that cold.

Color me confused. The raw mean temperature says the world have been warming since 1701. The adjusted mean temperature says the world has been about the same since 1838. Who you gonna believe? I don't believe the science is settled.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thermometers thru the ages

After Climate gate broke, I got interested in seeing what a real plot of historical temperatures might look like. I found the NOAA data files at ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ghcn/v2/. Net rumor from the various global warming sites says the NOAA records are the primary sources, the temperature records at other institutions, like the recently hacked Hadley CRU, are said to be derived from the NOAA files.
This is an FTP site, Firefox will take you there but it can only download files one at a time. Filezilla, a free ftp program, can be told to download them all in one fell swoop.
NOAA stores the files zipped, and after FTPing them onto my computer and unzipping, I found the main file, v2.mean, is 44 megabytes of "mean" temperature records. The file is oldfashioned, showing its IBM punch card ancestry. It's what you get for reading boxes and boxes of punch cards onto a 9 track magnetic tape, and later posting the tape on the web. It's in ASCII, and each record is exactly 76 characters long, a 12 character station number, four character year, and 12 five character fields for each month's mean temperature. No spaces, comma's or separators between the fields, which is old fashioned punch card style.
I wrote a short program in C to sort the temperature readings out by year and compute the average temperature for each year. I compute the plain average (the one we learned in grade school) of all temperatures for each year. The earliest year is 1701, the last 2009. In the early years there are only 30 or 40 separate readings, by 1989 the number of readings swells to 100,000 per year, and then declines to about 14,000 in 2009. Either the NOAA funding for data entry ran short, or someone stopped recording (or removed) temperatures from stations he deemed unimportant or inaccurate. Some net commentators have claimed that stations in cold locations and higher altitudes were deliberately removed to make the warming trend more obvious.
I plotted the results in Excel, and sure enough, the rather fuzzy plot shows world average temperature at 9 or 10 degrees Centigrade in 1701, rising to maybe 14 degrees Centigrade in 2009. 1701 is deep in the little ice age. Plus, in the early years, the 30 to 40 reading come from temperate-to-chilly locations like Britain, Germany, France and the American colonies. By the peak in 1980 there are a lot or readings from steamy hot places like the Sahara desert and the Amazon basin.
We see maybe 4 to 5 degrees warming over 308 years, call it 1.5 degrees Centigrade per century.
There is a lot more to do. There is a max temp and a min temp file to be plotted, and then there are files of "adjusted" data. It will be interesting to see what they look like. I ought to convert the temperatures to Fahrenheit which has more juice for Americans. I ought to compute the standard deviation of the temperature readings, and add some error checking code to spot way out of whack ridiculous temperatures.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow is over?

Hard to tell how much we got. TV is saying 6-8 inches but you couldn't prove it by me. Had a vicious wind thru Franconia Notch all day, which blows the snow off my snowgage/porch railing. Also blows it off the ski trails. Snow stopped a couple of hours ago, the sun came out. It's warmed up above freezing now. If we get more precip, it will be rain (boo).

The walls come tumbling down. Jericho on the Potomac

The marble walls are falling off the East Building in Washington DC. The ultra modern windowless building, constructed in 1971, houses paintings of the National Gallery of Art. The marble slabs are 2 * 5 feet and weight 438 pounds. Enough to really smart should one fall on some unlucky person. The Gallery is planning to spend $85 million to redo all the marble in 2013. Until then they plan to use hedges, rope barriers and the like to keep people away from the walls.
I.M. Pei was the architect. Pei is a man who has trouble keeping the walls on his buildings. His masterpiece, the John Hancock skyscraper in Boston, suffered from falling windows. The Hancock was completely covered in plate glass, 5 * 11 foot panes weighting 500 pounds. As soon as the building was closed in, a pane fell into the street. A few days later another pane fell. Falling glass continued, they had to close the street on windy days. Eventually after a vast exercise in finger pointing, all the glass was replaced with thicker glass. While the new glass was on back order, the old glass was removed and replaced with plywood, yielding the world's tallest plywood skyscraper.
I checked Pei's Wikipedia page just to see if he was still alive. He is, although at age 92 he is retired.
Anyhow, looks like I.M. "Windy" Pei never did learn how to keep the walls on his buildings.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Where have all the jobs gone? Part II

Yesterday the EPA claimed the right to regulate CO2 emissions. The Supremes backed them up on this. So, we now face regulations on damn near everything in the country, cars, trains, planes, chain saws, outboard motors, building codes, power generation, barbecue grills, power mowers, lighting, oil refining, farming, logging, home construction, all manufacturing. And more. Nearly every human activity uses energy and hence become subject to regulation.
Wanna bet EPA regulation raises costs?
Wanna bet business reacts by moving even more business off shore? Make the US sufficiently unattractive, and business, investment, and money will flee.

And if it doesn't use energy it's probably health care. Between the two, Obama is bidding for total control of all aspects of life in the US.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bode Miller flies again

Watching the FIS ski race in Colorado. Bode Miller, local Franconia boy, is in first by 0.39 sec after a wild run. He fell/nearly fell on a tough turn, but somehow he recovered and finished. The stop action shows Bode falling with both skis off the snow, but somehow he righted himself and pressed on.
There are a lot of racers yet to run, so Bode's time may not hold up, but moving into first is good sign.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Maybe Bin Ladin is dead?

Defense Secretary Gates says there has been no good intelligence on Bin Ladin in years. Either his security is air tight, or he is dead.

Snow has started

Doesn't amount to much, just started a couple of minutes ago. But maybe, hope, we get enough to open Cannon next weekend.

Air Pressure 14.7 lb/sqft

Suck It in.


You will enjoy this video.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Where have all the jobs gone?

Would you believe to overseas producers? Take a walk thru Walmart. Nearly all the product on the shelves, the clothing, the shoes, the plumbing parts, the house wares, the consumer electronics, the hand and power tools, the auto parts, is made in China. When I was in high school, the product on the shelves in Sears (Walmart hadn't been invented then) was all made in USA.
Why is everything made in China? We all know, it's cheaper. Chinese workers get paid little to nothing, they don't unionize, and there is plenty more of them wanting to take a job.
We need to do something to reduce the cost of manufacturing stuff here in America. Start with the cost of labor. For every dollar paid to the worker, another dollar is paid for "overhead". The overhead doubles the cost of labor and the extra money doesn't go to the workers. It goes for health care and retirement and workman's comp and the union, and a lot of other places. We need to reduce that overhead. Maybe not to zero, but surely we can do better than the 100% markup we suffer from now.
Then we have regulations and taxes and unions and tax collection duties and Sarbanes Oxley and licensing and featherbedding and city inspectors and mafia protection shakedowns and high interest rates and scarce bank loans and pollution regulations, all of which make it harder to start a business or to survive in business.
We need to remember that business men create jobs. The government ought to be making things easier for business men if it wants to create more jobs.
Democrats are all in favor of employment, it's employers that they can't stand.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Congress is working on a journalist shield law

Used to be, when a court wanted someone's testimony in a trial, that someone received a sub poena and that was that. There were some exceptions, clergy were not required to testify to things learned in the confessional, doctors were not required to testify against patients, lawyers were not required to testify against clients, and wives were not required to testify against husbands. Other than that, judges held persons refusing to testify in comtempt, and jailed them.
Used to be, newpaper reporters were required to testify just like real people. The reporters cried and wailed about protection of "sources" and in some states managed to get "shield laws" passed to releave them of their duty to testify in court. The reporters claimed that no one would talk to them if the reporter might be forced to repeat what they said in court. Actually, sources speak to reporters to get their story into the papers, and long as sources have stories they want printed, they will talk to reporters.
Up til now, federal courts stood for no nonsense from reporters, testify or go to jail. Nor long ago, a lady New York Times reporter spend months in jail for refusing to testify in the Valerie Plame affair.
The reporter's union just got a federal shield law into the hopper in Congress.
InstaPundit observed that a couple of lawmakers want to amend the shield law to leave out bloggers and protect only the MSM reporters.
Me, I feel both reporters and bloggers have a civic duty to testify in court.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

$4 Billion in Porkulus money goes to smart electric grid

According to this, $3.4 billion was awarded in October and a follow on $0.6 billion today.
So what is "smart grid". Good question. Sounds like a deal where "smart" appliances (water heater, TV, air conditioner) can communicate with the electric company, reporting power usage, perhaps even which channel the TV is tuned to, ambient temperature, and accepting commands from the electric company such as "shut down to conserve power, right now".
The power industry loves it. They like the funding and they love the load leveling capability. System load a little too heavy this morning? Order all the hot water heaters in the city to turn off. Customers will hardly notice that it takes an extra hour for the water to get hot after all the morning showers. Or, order all the air conditioner thermostats up to 80 degrees. It will be hours before the customer notices the house is kinda warm, and he will probably blame it on the air conditioner anyhow.
The gadget makers love it. Sell a new smart electric meter to every building in the US? There's real volume. Sell a smart box into every water heater, TV and air conditioner? More volume.
We are going to have to pay for it. Figure an extra fifty bucks per appliance to make it smart. Figure a couple of hundred for a new smart electric meter. Figure more money for the transmission equipment to tie all this together.

There is another way to do this. Skip all the communication stuff. Make the smart meters charge less for off peak electric use. Once I know that juice is cheap at night I might buy a smart water heater that gets the water good and hot on cheap overnight electricity and waits til after the morning peak before reheating. I might have my electric car hold off recharging until juice is cheap. I might even run the dryer just before going to bed.
If I could trim fifteen bucks off my ninety dollar electric bill, I might do quite a bit to use cheap overnight electricity and conserve juice during the peaks.
I'm suspicious of a smart grid that tells the power company when I watch TV, what channel I watch, where I set my thermostat, when I go to bed, when I get up, and probably some other stuff that is none of their business.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Party Crashers

The news is loaded with stories about the White House party crashers. I'm listening to Glenn Beck pontificate that White House security is so tight that no one could just crash the party, it must have been an inside job.
Sorry Glenn, no security is that tight. Show up at the right time, dressed right, looking like you belong, have some paperwork, doesn't have to be the right paperwork, anything will do. You will probably get in.
Back during the Cold War we used to keep nuclear armed aircraft on alert. We took this seriously, and had pretty decent security on the flight line. Everyone had badges, we had a fence, armed guards on the gate, the whole nine yards. But, every time we had a security inspection some thing would get written up.
There was this colonel on the inspection team who had a trick security badge. It looked OK except instead of his picture on the badge, there was a picture of his dog. That bastard always managed to fake out some gullible security guard with the fake badge. The colonel looked like a colonel, was dressed right, and his paperwork was almost in order. That was enough to get him thru the gate and get us a writeup for a security violation.
I think you crash a White House party the same way. You look right, you dress right, and your paperwork is almost in order.

Climategate head will "stand aside" pending a review

Doctor Philip Jones, head of the hacked into East Anglia University Climate Research Unit announced he will "stand aside" while the hack is investigated. His is the first head to roll. Temperature data and computer programs released by the hacker[s], or inside whistleblower, show deliberate faking of the published historical temperature graphs. Official press release is here.

Bacon is good, but this goes a little too far.

This is as good as those legendary effective herbal remedies.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Easy come, Easy go.

Saturday we got ten inches of snow, just what we needed to get Cannon to open. Prior to Saturday's snow, Cannon was completely green, it has been too warm to make snow. The ten inches of natural snow covered all the trails and put the mountain into fine shape to open on the traditional opening day, this coming weekend.
Too bad. Today the temp is up over 40F and it's raining. It hasn't rained it all out yet, but a helova lot of that wonderful snow is gonzo. Less it cools down and snows again, Cannon probably won't open this weekend for lack of snow.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tree rings warm the world

The global warmists look in many places to find the temperatures in times gone by. The thermometer wasn't invented until 1654, and the Farenheit temperature scale wasn't defined until 1724. In consequence we only have thermometer data going back a few hundred years. For temperatures before the thermometer it is necessary to look at other indications, types of pollen in sediments, various kinds of isotope analysis, date of grape harvest, accounts of the freezing of lakes and rivers, accounts of the extent of alpine glaciers.
To my surprise, the global warmists now look at tree rings as an indication of temperature. Trees lay down thicker layers of new wood in good years and thinner layers in bad years. The patterns of thick and thin rings are distinctive and have been used for dating for more than 50 years. It's possible to match up the ring patterns of living trees with the patterns in trees long dead and in this fashion extend the tree ring dating back many thousands of years. Timber from ancient Indian pueblos was dated in the 1930's. Timbers from a sunken Viking vessel were both dated and located by tree rings. The ring patterns indicated the vessel was built of Irish oak.
The global warmists looked at tree ring data (there is quite a bit of it) and decided that ring width was controlled by the temperature, wide rings in warm years, thin rings in cold years.
There is a problem with this approach. Moisture, rain fall, is much more important to trees than temperature. Nice moist years, even cool moist years, are good years from a tree's point of view. In short, the width of tree rings has little or nothing to due with the temperature and everything to do with the amount of rainfall.
The global warmists noticed that their tree ring data didn't show a warming trend in modern times. So, they merely dropped the tree ring data for the last 50 years from their graphs.
The hacked Climate Research Unit files show us the use of questionable tree ring data, and even more reprehensible, the editing of the already questionable tree ring data to make the hockey stick graphs look more alarming.
In short, don't use tree ring data to indicate ancient temperature, 'cause the width of tree rings doesn't vary with temperature.

Running barefoot, no antivirus

I finally decided to pitch the anti virus program. I have used a bunch of them over the years, Norton, Mccaffee, Eztrust, Fprot and AVG. I have scanned the disk for years without finding a virus. The scans take hours, the downloading of fresh virus definitions slows the internet. The newer antiviruses (antivirii?) have moved beyond scanning the harddrive and now stay active all the time, soaking up CPU time, diskspace and RAM, inspecting web links, slowing the computer, and never catching anything. So I'm now running barefoot, no anti virus installed.
You have to be a little bit careful. I run a router on my cable modem. The router has a pretty solid firewall to keep the internet from infecting the computer thru the various holes in Windows XP security. I never click on email attachments. I don't file share. I don't use thumb drives. I have auto-run turned off. I don't use Internet Exploder. I'm a home user, I don't plug into a company network. I run Windows Update and install the patches regularly.
We will see how long this lasts.

Another Thanksgiving successfully executed.

My sister in law did the honors. We had myself, two children, one son-in-law, my mother, a three week old granddaughter, and a second cousin. The menu was the traditional, it always tastes good. Weather was decent. Today's weather is not so decent (rain with snow promised) and dark.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What makes a Republican?

After the NY 23rd disaster, where the RNC backed candidate withdrew and then supposed the democrat, I suppose we need to make it a little clearer who is a Republican and who is not. The RNC has offered this: My comments are in italics.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee identifies ten (10) key public policy positions for the 2010 election cycle, which the Republican National Committee expects its public officials and candidates to support:

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama's "stimulus" bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
Awkward wording, but OK

(4) We support workers' right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
I am uncomfortable with this one. Immigrants become intensely loyal citizens. I’m for cutting them as much slack as possible. Current US immigration law is a tangled mess and decent hardworking people who apply for admission wind up waiting for decades. We are a country of 300 million, we ought to be able to assimilate a million immigrants as year.

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
Good, but it could be shorter and sweeter, just a plain “We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan. Period.

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;
Weak. Are we willing to use force to deny either country nuclear weapons? If not, then giving them a diplomatic cold shoulder after they test their first nuke seems irrelevant.
And speaking for myself, the use of force seems awfully drastic.

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;
I’m against this one. It’s a divisive issue that offends as many voters as it gains. If two guys or two girls what to shack up and call it marriage, I don’t approve, but I don’t need to make it illegal.

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing, denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and....
Seems redundant. We are against Obamacare, and if we can defeat Obamacare then this becomes irrelevant.

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms.

RESOLVED, that a candidate who disagrees with three or more of the above stated public policy positions of the Republican National Committee, as identified by the voting record, public statements and/or signed questionnaire of the candidate, shall not be eligible for financial support and endorsement by the Republican National Committee.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cannon to construct a new chairlift next year.

Cannon Mountain is on a roll. This year they renovated the Peabody Slopes base lodge, added a Cannonball Pub, a Peabody family room, more ski shop space and a bigger deck. Now they announce plans to put in a new chairlift, running up the old Baron's Run chair track. This will give chair lift access to the Mittersill slopes. Right now you have to climb the Saddle to ski Mittersill.
Cannon gained owner ship of the Mittersill slopes early this year in a land swap. The State of NH gave the US Forest Service a bit of state land containing part of the Appalachian Trail, in return NH gained rights to ski on Mittersill trails which were cut thru Forest Service land. Cannon mowed the trails and cut the brush back this summer. This winter will be skiing for souls hardy enough to climb the Saddle. No grooming or snow making this season. Next year the new chairlift will be operating and presumably some grooming will be done.
Bicknell's Thrush is still hard at work slowing things down. There was an assessment of the impact of skiing on the Thrush's habitat. "There is so much habitat it's hard to disturb it." said John Devivo, the Cannon Mt manager.

Roger Aldrich receives WWII medals from Jean Shaheen

Front page news in the Littleton Courier. Who is Roger Aldrich you ask? He is a helova nice guy, I know him, he is a friend of my mother, he is a pillar of the local community, he and his family operate Polly's Pancake House up in Sugar Hill.
US Senator Jean Shaheen got some nice local news coverage for clearing up 60 year old Army paperwork, and getting Roger's WWII medals awarded to him, some 60 years later.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Global Warming Data hacked

Some 61 megabytes of data, computer programs and emails was extracted from Britain's Hadley climate research unit and posted on the internet a couple of days ago. The Hadley troops have admitted to the data loss. This blog posts a very damning email admitting to data fudging to avoid showing a temperature decrease. The blog goes on to explain how the data was being "smoothed" to make it "look better".
Smoothing data by computer used to be my day job, so I know a little about it. The discussion in the blog makes no sense at all to me. "Smoothing" can be abused to create "trends" where no real trend is present. I think this true of the Hadley data.
The amount of global warming detected by the warming true believers is only a fraction of a degree. The raw data jumps around more than that. In short, the global warming is not really visible in the raw data, only after the data is "smoothed" heavily does a tiny trend emerge.
It's always best to look at the raw data, on a graph. The human eye is superb at detecting tiny trends. If you cannot see trend by eye looking at the raw data, the trend probably doesn't exist.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Innumeracy and Mammograms

Quite a bit of heat, but little light, has come from the government's recent declaration that yearly mammograms are no longer necessary for women under fifty. Neither side has shown any numbers defending or attacking the proposition. How about some graphs showing deaths from breast cancer over the years, number of breast removals, number of less drastic treatments, survival rates after treatment, number of mammograms administered, number of false positives for mammograms, false positives from breast self examination, number of breast cancers detected by mammograms, number detected by other means.
The proposition that yearly mammograms after age 40 saves lives, and/or reduces breast removals, is a numerical proposition, and the advocates on either side could strengthen their arguments with some numbers. If the numbers cannot be found, perhaps a study could be funded.
So far the public debate has been number free.
Probably because reporters are innumerate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In Fed We Trust by David Wessel

Good read. Blow by blow account of the Fed and the Treasury reacting too, and dealing with, the onset of Great Depression II last year. Describes how Bear Stearns, Lehman, Merrill Lynch, and AIG failed, and the decisions to bail them out (all except Lehman that is). The story is told largely from the Fed's point of view. Essentially the senior government money men, Hank Paulson at Treasury and Ben Bernanke at the Fed feared total system collapse and decided to pour in taxpayer money to keep the system afloat. Much as they would have enjoyed watching the stupids go broke, they didn't dare, for fear the country would be thrown into a bottomless economic disaster. At first Paulson and Bernanke used Fed money. By fall things were so bad that they went to Congress for the $750 billion TARP appropriation. As Wessel tells it, things were so bad that fall that Congress passed the TARP within days. The money guys walked into the room and said Great Depression II would start next week without TARP, and Congress believed them.
The writer is a Wall St Journal reporter, so he knows some of the stuff. The weakness of the book is the failure to describe why these enormous financial companies failed. What killed them? For instance Lehman folded up after rumors of insolvency ran around Wall St and nobody would loan them any more money. He doesn't tell us how the rumor got out, how it spread. What mistakes did Lehman make that turned them into a pariah? Was it mortgage backed securities? Credit default swaps? some big loan going sour? Bad karma? Wessel is silent in this most interesting aspect of the disaster.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

GM lost $5000 per Saab sold for the last 8 years.

From The Truth About Cars. GM senior management had brains made of solid concrete. Buying into SAAB was a dumb idea in the first place, and running it at a loss for 8 years is even dumber. SAAB made an interesting niche car that had a loyal fan base. But you can't make money on niche cars. They don't have the sale volume to afford the mass production tooling needed to get the cost down to compete with real volume makers like Toyota. If they reduce costs by replacing expensive handmade European engines (and other items) with nice cheap dependable Detroit production line V-8's the loyal fan base stops buying, insulted by the presence of mass produced Detroit iron in their beloved European hot rods. It's a no win situation for a US company buying a European luxury maker. If US management had been real car people they would have understood this and saved their money. But at GM senior management is all bean counters and MBA's.
Ford made the same mistake getting mixed up with Jaguar. But Ford brought in a savvy CEO (Mullaly from Boeing). He figured out that Jaguar and Volvo were losers and was able to sell them back before Great Depression II made raising money for takeovers impossible.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It ain't political correctness, it's ultimate job security

So why wasn't something done about Major Hasan before he ran amok at Fort Hood. How about excessive job security that makes it impossible to fire anyone short of a felony conviction? Back when I was in USAF we had GS civil servant types who did nothing but cash their paychecks, substandard enlisted men who were just a burden on the unit, and marginal officers who just slowed things down.
No way could we get rid of any of these jokers. Unless you got 'em a felony conviction, you were stuck with them, forever.
Even if FBI and NSA had shared Major Hasan's emails to Yemen with his Army superior, the only thing that superior could do is write Major Hasan a bad Officer Effectiveness Report (OER) that might deny him a future promotion.
Since Hasan seems to have made major recently, looks like not even that slap on the wrist was administered.
In fact, we ought to be demanding publication of Major Hasan's OER's. Let's see what his superiors thought of him over his service career.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Economical Health Insurance insurance taxed

The most economical health insurance comes from your employer. It's good stuff, pays for everything for you and your family, and only costs a few bucks in co pays. Unbeatable.
However if you are self employed, un employed, or work for a small place that doesn't do health care, things get expensive fast. The insurance companies want about $12,000 a year for that kind of coverage. That's new car money, every year.
A better deal is "major medical" or "hospitalization" insurance. It doesn't pay for everything, just the break the bank stuff. You pay for everything else, office visits, prescription drugs, CAT scans, out of pocket. It's a good deal. The insurance only costs $3000 a year, leaving you with $9000 savings to cover the out of pocket stuff. Unless your health is really really bad, you won't spend $9000 a year.
Obamacare outlaws "major medical" insurance. Under Obamacare all insurance policies must be the $12,000 cover everything kind. If you don't buy it, Obamacare will sock you with a $2500 a year fine. In short, the Volkswagen health plans get taxed right along with the Cadillac health plans.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So what is wrong with a few show trials?

The Obama administration's decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammad and four henchmen in federal court in NYC has provoked a lot of criticism/comment. The idea is derided as a "show trial".
Got news for you newies. The purpose of a public trial is to show that the bastard is guilty so people feel right about hanging him. This goes way back, thousands of years. If you don't bother to show the bastard is guilty, the bastard's friends and relatives will start up a blood feud.
So let's have a show trial. Should have done it years ago. Let's hope the US judiciary understands their duty and makes a decent job of it. Lots of testimony from grieving loved ones. Ugly pictures of smashed bodies and people jumping to avoid the flames. Introduce every sort of derogatory evidence. Allow recorded testimony. Don't rule out incriminating evidence just because the accused was made a little uncomfortable in the course of gathering said evidence. Deny defense requests for classified information. Trial conducted in English, with on-line translation into Arabic, by our translators, not Al Jazeera's translators. Don't allow the accused to make speeches, limit him to answering questions put to him by counsel.
Get it moving, and don't waste time. This kind of show is good for a week or two on TV. Don't drag it out like the OJ trial.
Keep in mind that the purpose of this trial is to convince the entire world that the bastard is really really guilty.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Snow Blitz rides again

Years ago cores from New England pond bottoms suggested that the last ice age came on fast, with in a year or two. If I remember aright this was based on analysis of pollen grains in the pond bottom cores. This was called "snowblitz" at the time. People pointed out that snow is positive feedback. The white snowcover reflects mucho solar heat back into space, so that once the northern hemisphere bcomes snowcovered, it won't melt out. This was a topic of discussion back in the '60s or '70s when people worried about the ice ages coming back.
Right here is another pond bottom mud core study, this time in Ireland, where the investigators show another rapid onset of an ice age.
The global warming people have backed off a little since the world started cooling down ten years ago. This report suggests that it could get a lot colder, real fast.

Hacking thru the radar Part II

"In the famous "Suter" series of electronic attach experiments as Nellis AFB Nev. a data stream was fired into an integrated air defense network's antenna's by an EC-130 Compass Call electronic attack aircraft. " So saith Aviation Week.
Cool. Couple of years ago Aviation Week reported that the Israeli's used this technique in the air strike on the Syrian nuclear reactor.
Couple of things to wonder at. How do radio frequency data streams get inside the "integrated air defense network"? The network antennas are radar antennas which are mostly analog, mixed with Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system. Transmitting analog signals can confuse the radar, but the process is called jamming and has been around since WWII. Sending phony IFF digital signals is called spoofing, and has been around just about as long. Neither process would be called "firing a data stream" by any one in USAF.
"Firing a data stream into network antenna's" implies the airborne attackers are getting into the digital data links between the radar sites and the fighter/missile direction centers and inserting false targets, or erasing real targets, or doing other kinds of mischief. It's a neat trick, but the counter measure is simple, use land lines or optical fiber for the data links. Don't use radio data links. No way can radio frequency energy emitted by aircraft get into plain old telephone wires or optical fibers.
I dare say some air defense systems use radio data links 'cause you just have to aim the antennas and switch on the power and your data is linking, out for maybe 50 miles. Might take a week to string wire or fiber that far. But was I in charge, I'd order the boys out to string the wire or fiber the day I arrived in theater, and after a week, I would have secure data links. And I would no longer be transmitting "here I am, come bomb me" over the air. For a radar site the extra emissions probably don't matter, but a fighter/missile direction center, fighter base or missile site could maintain radio silence and become harder to find.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Windows worm grounds French Air Force

According to Aviation Week the "conficker" worm got into French air force mission planning software. Rafaele fighters were grounded because they were unable to download flight plans from infected databases. Once on the loose, the "conficker" worm got into French Navy networks, the Villacoublay air base, and 8th Transmissions Regiment. French investigators think someone plugged an infected thumb drive into a machine on the network.
Additional grief happened in Britain where a virus infected Royal Navy and Royal Air Force computer networks, including aircraft carrier Ark Royal, and was emailing god know what intelligence to a Russian internet server.
The Americans got theirs last year about this time, when a cyberworm got into Pentagon computers. The US thinks they were infected from a thumb drive, since they banned use of all such devices shortly afterwards.
Wow. James Bond would be proud. So would Kevin Mitnick.
Lesson to be learned. Any Windows computer on the Internet is totally vulnerable to hackers. They can take over the machine, run their own programs, and cover their tracks so well that no one will really notice. Even if you keep the Windows computers off the internet, the thumb drives can still infect them.
Bottom line, never use Windows computers for anything important. Linux is life.
And, never computerize anything that you don't need to computerize.
For instance, that French mission planning system isn't really necessary. In USAF we wrote out flight plans with pencil and paper and filed them over the telephone. Worked just fine. If the fancy software goes west, the French should have been able to go back to the good old manual way of doing things.
The thumb drive problem is harder. The things are so convenient, so small and easily concealed (about the size of a 50 cent piece) that just putting out an order not to use them ain't going to cut it. Just plugging an infected thumb drive into a Windows machine will infect it because of a Windows "feature". It's a feature not a bug. And you can believe as much of that as you like.
Back when CD-Rom drives were new, Microsoft arranged for CD-ROMs bearing software to "auto-run". Just inserting the CD in the drive was enough to start the install program on the CD running. Or a music CD playing. Cool. Trouble starts when the CD contains a virus instead of new software. Microsoft is so in love with this "feature" that they added it to the USB ports, and now thumb drives with viruses will infect whole networks.
I'm glad I'm not a security guy trying to keep my computers un infected today. You gotta figure that sooner or later someone will stick an infected thumb drive into one of your computers. That infects the first computer. The infection then spreads itself over the network connection or thru any other thumb drive ever inserted in the infected machine. If the infected machine is networked, it will infect all the other machines on the network within a short time.
You really cannot remove the USB ports that thumb drives plug into because the computers need those ports for mice, keyboards, printers, cameras, et cetera, et cetera. You can disable the "autorun" feature in software, but it has a tendency to come back to life spontaneously. You'd have to inspect every computer every day to make sure it was still disabled. That could be automated I suppose, but it would be a major PITA.