THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 235 December 8 - 15, 2002
Highlights this week:
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December 9, 2002
Lunch date with my wife. Cleaning up after the column.
|This week:||Tuesday, December
About to take a walk. When I get back I'll clean this place up. The original puppy picture page was moved and I may not have fixed all the links. Here is where it is now.
Back in a couple of hours, and I will make another picture page, also with some other stuff.
It's busy here...
Now I have to pack up my Table PC so that Microsoft can groom its feathers and feed it a revised operating system and ROMS and such like. I'll miss it even for a little while. And there are about forty other things to do, mostly minor errands.
This is belated, and overdue:
Subject: Joe Foss -- MOH winner --USMC -- PILOT
FOSS, JOSEPH JACOB Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Marine Fighting Squadron 121, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Place and date: Over Guadalcanal, 9 October to 19 November 1942, 15 and 23 January 1943.
Entered service at: South Dakota. Born: 17 April 1915, Sioux Falls, S. Dak.
Citation: For outstanding heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty as executive officer of Marine Fighting Squadron 121, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, at Guadalcanal. Engaging in almost daily combat with the enemy from 9 October to 19 November 1942, Capt. Foss personally shot down 23 Japanese planes and damaged others so severely that their destruction was extremely probable. In addition, during this period, he successfully led a large number of escort missions, skillfully covering reconnaissance, bombing, and photographic planes as well as surface craft. On 15 January 1943, he added 3 more enemy planes to his already brilliant successes for a record of aerial combat achievement unsurpassed in this war. Boldly searching out an approaching enemy force on 25 January, Capt. Foss led his 8 F-4F Marine planes and 4 Army P-38's into action and, undaunted by tremendously superior numbers, intercepted and struck with such force that 4 Japanese fighters were shot down and the bombers were turned back without releasing a single bomb. His remarkable flying skill, inspiring leadership, and indomitable fighting spirit were distinctive factors in the defense of strategic American positions on Guadalcanal.
From Coni Foss
****************************** This is the 47th day that Papa has been in coma. He is now in a skilled nursing facility in Scottsdale and receiving very good care. However, he has developed a little pneumonia and is no longer breathing on his own. We have decided that it is now time to tell him that it is ok to go home to Jesus. Mom will be talking to him this morning. We are certain that he hears us at least most of the time.
I'll be spending the afternoon with him telling him that we will see him in Heaven and to keep a spot warm for us. I know the angels are hovering around him just waiting for him to say good-by. They will safely take him to his real home. God tells us, and it is true, that we will give us no more than we can bear. I'm learning that God's idea of how much I can bear is not the same as mine. I am not strong. Please pray for all of us.
This magic energy device was announced last week in my city's local paper. I read the announcement and was perplexed. The process sounds like cold fusion, or something equally unlikely. Perhaps you or some of your readers have information and comments?
This has got to be too good to be true....
And in fact it is, alas, either too good to be true, or most everything we know about the Second Law of Thermodynamics is nonsense.
According to the press release, an affordable unit about the size of an air conditioner will supply 100KW of electricity and hydrogen for cooking, all from the "molecular structure" of water. Bring in water, run the device, and out comes electricity and hydrogen, abundant clean energy for the world.
Well, if it works, it's wonderful; but I fear it is about as likely that the Angel Raphael will appear and show us how to create abundant energy. The web site says, modestly:
"Scientific Breakthrough Liberates Energy Users from Fossil
"This scientific breakthrough provides a limitless, low cost and
environmentally clean source of energy that can be implemented with
minimal cost and effort"
There is considerably more in that vein. I would be the first to leap for joy if this proved to be anything real, but I would not invest very much money in the company on the strength of its claims. To the best we know, the only way you can break down water is to tear apart a very stable molecule. That takes energy, and running the water over a catalyst isn't likely to do it. There would have to be an energy source. As Mr. Neumayer observes, that would probably have to be some form of cold fusion; and given the description of the system given at the web site, that isn't happening since there doesn't seem to be any concern about stray neutrons.
Now as to why anyone would make such an announcement, I fear I have no clue. Note that they say the units will sell for about $3000, and :
Q: Must homes and
businesses be retrofitted to use the Edison Device?
Which means that not only will this small box produce hydrogen and oxygen from water, but will then recombine them to produce electricity. Not just any electricity. Since most appliances run on 110 Volt 60 cycle AC, and there's no warning that some appliances won't work properly, we have to assume that the 3 wires will produce 110 phase to ground and 220 phase to phase, just as your electricity company will: and all this without any mechanical moving parts! Which is pretty good, given that most fuel cells generate direct current.
A miraculous system indeed. And to think it comes from Boise, Idaho. The true salvation of the world: A $3000 one-time investment and we can all stop paying utility bills! I'll buy one, just as soon as I see a demonstration unit working in Studio City! By then, of course, it will be too late to invest in the company, which is apparently a closely held partnership (and I haven't seen anything about investing, understand; this is just speculation on my part). But if we wait until it's demonstrated to work beyond doubt, everyone will want to invest in it. Oh. Well. For me it will be enough if I can buy one or two of those $3000 units, connect up my garden hose, and never pay a gas or electricity bill again! Wonderful. Just show me the demonstration unit working properly, and I'll write the check...
And I have:
Tiomoid M. of Angle JD MBA Polymath and Curmudgeon
"Civil society depends on people behaving themselves, not being who they really are." -- William Sjostrom
The reference is to an essay in Slate by Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens is always worth reading and this one is very good indeed.
Whenever I find I have views that Slate approves of I get pensive; and of course Hitchens and I approach all this from different views. We may be allies but we are not precisely on the same team. But I do wonder if we know what we are doing this time. Interestingly, my Intellectual Capital pieces (see above) show I haven't changed my views a lot since the days when the Clintonistas were bombing for peace.
Jim Warren says:
From a friend -- worth visiting ('specially for anti-Microshaft zealots :-).
Warning: scatological language. Warning: hilarious obscenities. Warning: do not be drinking coffee when you visit this web site.
Tracy Walters sent a very large 911 Memorial photo-story. It's very large and thus on its own page.
What happens to them? Where are they? Have any ever been re-used? Is it worth the effort to recover them? If anyone knows, please tell me: I have have been unable to find this information.
I know the claim is often made that they CAN be used again; my question is, has any one of those segments ever been used again; if so, on which flights?
This continues in mail. In fact there's a lot over there. And so far I do not have any definitive statement from anyone that any segment of the SRB has ever been reused. Possibly some wiring: but it sure would have been cheaper to make new wiring cables than to send a fleet to recover fallen SRB's, or so I would think.
Later: once again, tons of PR material on how they can be reused, and nothing about how many have been reused, or what it costs to refurbish one as opposed to building a new one. I'm sure all those data exist. Why can't anyone find them? Aren't they proud of all the money saved by reusing the SRB?
Mystery Solved, I guess. See below.
13 December, 2002
Friday the Thirteenth
falls on a Friday this month...
I now have enough data to say regarding the SRB: they do reuse them, and apparently did reuse on on Challenger -- totally contrary to my recollections, and I was aware of this stuff then because I discussed it with Dick Feynman and NASA officials -- but they probably shouldn't be reusing them. The cost of recovery plus the cost of refurbishing is close to or greater than the cost of reuse, and operations to allow recovery actually have a negative impact on the mission and mission safety as well as adding to complexity of mission planning. For political reasons we continue to send the fleet out and recover the falling SRB's, but it is only because Shuttle is supposed to be "reusable." See mail.
Regarding Shuttle: the story of the Russian Buran, which was a Shuttle look-alike, is now coming out: they built it because our Shuttle was such a silly design that they were certain it had to have some military implications and abilities, and thus they had to have one also, trusting in the GRU to find out, eventually, what good it would be. So they built one and flew it, unmanned, once. A fascinating bit of that story is that when our intelligence people saw the USSR was building a shuttle look-alike, we knew it was such a silly design that we were certain the Buran had a military mission we didn't understand.
In fact, of course, Shuttle was designed to be a full employment system for everyone hired during the Apollo surge, and to be a high tech employment subsidy system; the USSR didn't realize this (not having as many high tech drones to support) so they thought the thing must have a military mission. But our own military and intelligence technical people knew that Shuttle was a silly design, and that the USSR didn't have the problem of employment stability among a lot of people hired for Apollo, so we were convinced that Buran had military missions, and a fair amount of resources were expended in trying to figure out what Buran's military mission was...
The Great Game, Cold War High Tech division...
See mail for other stuff.
Dragon Naturally Speaking was the best speech recognition software ever done. They also had a small hand held recorder that did a good job of recording dictated messages which could then be fed, through an odd cable that looked like a USB cable on one end and a normal DB9 serial cable on the other, into a PC, where they could be played, or fed into the Dragon program for transcription.
It worked pretty well, too. Now I have two of the hand held recorder devices, and I have decided I'd like to start carrying one to record random thoughts. If all I want is to carry it and play back I have no problems, but I find that I have lost -- possibly in the Death Valley Crash -- the cable that connected the Hand Held Thingy to the computer. I also seem to have lost -- again it was on the machine that died in Death Valley and was never reinstalled on anything else, or I suspect so -- the software that sucked the files off the Naturally Mobile recorder and into the PC.
Looking quickly on line I find that there are third party outfits that want to sell me the whole package for several hundred dollars. I am not sure it's worth that just to get a cable. If anyone knows how I can get one of those cables, or even knows the pin connections between the USB connector and the DB9, I'd appreciate it.
Or, does anyone know another system that works for taking random dictated notes and turning them into Word documents?
Well, North Korea is running a reactor that can produce weapons grade plutonium, Iran seems to have uranium refining plants in operation, we're sending more and more of the fleet to Iraq, and everyone's talking about Trent Lott and how he said something nice to an old man on his birthday.
What no one is doing is thinking about what the county might have been like if Strom Thurmond had won more of the Southern vote for his States Rights Democrat slate. Since that slate couldn't have won in the North, the chance that Thurmond would become President was nil. Truman might have been kept out of the White House. As it was, Truman beat Dewey (a liberal Republican) and won a term in his own right. The Democrats had been the party of segregation and Jim Crow and separate but equal, and the GOP was the party that freed the slaves. Black votes did not automatically go to Democrats in the North (and almost as automatically did go to Republicans in the South when there were Black votes cast at all).
On another level, most countries managed to end slavery without a civil war; it seems reasonable to assume that it would have been better if we'd managed it as well. The War Between The States, or The Civil War, cast a long shadow over American politics and over race relations. It still does.
Similarly, had legal segregation been ended without the federalization of so very many other matters, might the nation not be better off even if it had taken a few years longer? I doubt that Trent Lott thought that far when he made his careless remarks about about how better off we'd be if Strom Thurmond had won in 1948. After all, Lott and everyone else in the room knew that Thurmond never had a real chance of winning the presidency, and he was just saying something he thought might please an old man born in a different era. And of course it's absolutely political idiocy to wonder if the country would be better if we'd moved just a bit slower in desegregation, and done it with more local elections and local democracy.
But I do wonder. Yes, it would have taken federal intervention to force the Deep South into letting their black citizens vote -- but that would have been completely Constitutional. Congress has the undoubted right to enforce a voting rights act. It also had the right and power to demand "equal protection of the laws," which I would have thought meant that the law ought to be color blind.
And had the South desegregated through the usual political process in which politicians built coalitions of voters and worked through legislative means, would we now be in our present situation where the law is still not color blind? I don't know. But I don't think it's beyond the pale of civilization to think about it.
When I was a young man in high school I didn't really think much about segregation. Most southerners of my social class tended to paternalism in race relations, and would have voted to end legal segregation while arguing for rights of association in private clubs and such. As I got into my senior year in high school I became convinced that the law ought to be color blind. That made me a hopeless radical, and probably a Communist, among most of my friends.
I still think the law ought to be color blind, but now apparently that makes me a hopeless right wing extremist. So it goes.
I do think this country has more important matters to concern itself with. Trent Lott was seven years old when Strom Thurmond tried his Dixiecrat rebellion within the Democratic Party. Strom Thurmond is retiring, having seen the world he lived in for a hundred years change beyond his recognition.
And I still think the law ought to be color blind, and governments derive their just powers by consent of the governed, and the best way to achieve that is to have lots of jurisdictions with different laws and customs. Ah well.
You will love the view of the Universe! See mail.
December 14, 2002
I still need help regarding Dragon Naturally Mobile. See above. Cancel this request....
NOTICE: A reader says he is sending a cable. Thanks to all.
December 15, 2002
Rose Sunday. Working on Burning Tower.
If you haven't renewed your subscription here in 2002, this would be a great time to do it. My thanks to all who have renewed.
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