The Spechtacle

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Category: Today’s Events (page 1 of 2)

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Air Force jet flies again…

The Enquirer had a story on the Northwest Homecoming Parade today, featuring a photo of the Air Force’s recruiting tool, a self powered one man jet float. That jet brought back some memories.

20 years ago that same jet participated in a parade in Amelia, Ohio. My brother Jim and I were watching from his front yard as the jet slowly idled by, then disaster struck! The jet suddenly swerved to the left, out of control, right into my brothers driveway. We leaped into action. The impulse to just see how the jet was built was enough of a draw to get our attention. The problem was a link on the left wheel that had broken, and after rifling through Jim’s garage we found enough supplies to fix it on the spot. The jet was soon back in action and the parade was a success. We were glad to do our part to keep the Air Force flying.

The Shuttle and the Solar Impulse

Flying machines are radically different from each other depending on the job they have to do. You would think that flying around in air would make them all pretty much the same, more power than weight, aerodynamic and the rest. Today the next to last shuttle flight took off. Talk about power, the 3 main engines provide 1.2 million pounds of thrust and thats not counting the 2 solid rocket boosters which all push the shuttle from 0 to 17,000 mph in around 6 minutes. I don’t know what that is in horsepower but it’s a lot.

Also in aircraft propulsion news, the Solar Impulse made it’s maiden flight and landed in Brussels this week. It’s the first solar powered aircraft and is an ungainly looking thing. But it is thrifty, and uses no fuel. It’s four 10 horsepower electric engines push it along at a blistering 60 mph, a challenge to land at an international airport when the craft goes so slow. You would think high winds could give it fits, also. But it is pretty cool. Not likely to get us to the moon.

I’m torn by which one I’d rather ride in… I think I’ll take 1.2 million pounds of thrust, please.

Passports, Dinosaurs and RFID

The wife wants to go to Canada next year so off we go to get passports. My last trip overseas was on Uncle Sam, so a passport was a new experience for me. It finally arrived in the mail and looks pretty hi-tech, so I delved into it’s properties.

It has a machine readable code on the data page (the one with your picture on it) so scanners can read your information. This has been a feature since 1981, but I had noticed this small block on the front. This block signifies an inclusion of an rfid chip, which has been in passports since 2007, and this includes certain biometric data about me, and even my picture is encoded.

This chip was originally mandated as a way to speed up the immigration process by making scanning easier and faster. The rfid chip is just a more modern machine readable code, but now the digital world makes it easier than ever to steal your identity. Any rfid reader can read that code, and the more power the reader has, the farther away it can read the data. To deter that problem the cover is supposed to have a radio frequency shield to deter unauthorized scanning of your passport. However all this goes away when you open it.

There are projects afoot that will encrypt the data so that only authorized readers can access it, and being paranoid I think this is great, but I suspect this will only lead to escalation by the bad guys. With every digital hole that is plugged they seem to worm their way into another one.

Tyrannosaurus with infection

Tyrannosaurus with infection.. Illustration by Chris Glen

Digital parasites have evolved alongside our technology. Parasitism is a way of life on this planet, and it bothered the dinosaurs as much as us. This may seem that we are locked into an evolutionary arms race now between white hat and black hat hackers, and maybe if one side or the other wins, we may all be the losers. Maybe we need predator hacker scumbags to make us stronger, much like the constant warring between europeans made them (and us) the dominant power on this planet.

For now, I think I’ll wrap my passport in aluminum foil.

Paper is dead

I hate to say it out loud. I love paper. I used to try and make it out of a bunch of old rags, mixed into a paste and pressed out to dry. The sunday morning paper is a comfortable old friend. The stacks of books on the wall don’t want to leave. There are albums crammed full of pictures, snippets from magazines and articles I can’t do without.

I read a lot, but lately it hasn’t been on a paper background. It started with computer screens that got connected to the internet. There isn’t enough wall space here to stack the number of books you can access on the net. But now, with Ipads and whatnot, you can access all that stuff from anywhere, and you don’t have to wait till you can get to the library or the bookstore or wherever. Your kindle can download anything you could possible want to read. And it all packs into some little thing you can put in your pocket. (Well, everything except the Ipad)
Ebook on Ipad
I’m still keeping the sunday morning paper as long as I can, even though it is changing also. The paper is smaller now, and ad content usually covers three quarters of each page. Still, it is paper, and it will be something our great grandchildren will only see in museums.

greg

It’s ghost hunting season…

Ashley and Joey and Caiden moved into an old house last month. Since then they’ve been constantly confronted by a ghost. It makes noises, wakes up their child, opens doors and finally appeared as a disembodied face.

It’s a neat old house, built in the 1830’s in Batavia, Ohio. There has been a zillion generations thru this house, including one very famous tenant, Henry Clark Corbin, once a Major General of the U.S. Army, personal friend of U. S. Grant, and who was also present when President Garfield was shot. Since the ghost had an old fashioned female face, it was immediately thought it was the ghost of his wife, who could have died in this house.

Haunted house

The old house on Market street

The ghost is starting to get on the family’s nerves. Every night Caiden wakes up howling, and when his mother enters the room, he is facing the wall, staring at something. When Ashley goes to do the laundry, the door opens just before she gets there. Once she walked out of one room and ran smack into the apparition, with a face of a woman with her hair up, as was common in days long past. Something needed to be done.

That’s when she found CAPER on the internet. Known as the Cincinnati Area Paranormal Existence Research organization, it is a nonprofit group dedicated to scientific study of paranormal activity, or more clearly, ghost hunting in the Cincinnati area. Their mission seems more geared to living peacefully with ghosts, rather than exorcising them. They have lots of testimonials or their site, seemed to be legitimate, so called them up.
CAPAR's business card

2 women came over, one veteran researcher, and an apprentice who took copious notes. They had some electrical device with them as electrical phenomena and ghosts seem to go hand in hand. They toured the house and found only 2 areas of electrical interest, one area by the fuse box, and one by the front door. The area of high electrical energy by the fuse box was easily explained, however that is where the door to the laundry room is. The veteran said ghosts sometimes use that electrical energy to be able to move things, hence the door opening by itself. Also to test the lock, with the door closed, you can’t push it open. Is it the ghost?

They didn’t think the haunting was bad enough to get serious. They thought just talking to the ghost in a friendly way, and telling them the rules, such as don’t scare the kid, would help so that every one could live in peace with one another. They could escalate the case if necessary, staying the night with a bunch of gear, and even bringing in a psychic if needed, but this activity usually makes hauntings worse, before bringing them to a successful conclusion. So for the time being, peaceful coexistence is the plan.

Recently my sister Peggy spent the night with OOPS, the Ohio Organization of Paranormal Studies, as they staked out Books ‘N’ More looking for ghostly activity. They brought with them lots of current ghost hunting technology, and Peggy got a byline in the Wilmington News Journal documenting the nights activities. The results for the night are to be posted soon on the OOPS website.

greg

Henry V, greatest speech ever, under attack!

October 25th, 1415. The Hundred Years War had been dragging on forever. With the English and French kings both claiming authority over the other, the English King Henry V invades France. He kind of gets himself in a pickle, outnumbered 5 to 1, which leads to the best war speech ever, as remembered by Will Shakespeare.

A small excerpt from Wikipedia’s article of the speech:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

However, in a New York Times article, historians seem to think that Henry wasn’t outnumbered at all, that the battle was an even fight and winning it wasn’t that big a deal. Well I think the speech was a big deal, and being involved in any battle and winning it is a good thing.

The most stirring speech I heard in Vietnam from General Abrams was to get our hair cut…. Just saying…

From the movie, Henry V (Patrick Branagh) in 1989

Then there is Sir Laurence Olivier’s version from 1944 (Made in Ireland with a few G.I.’s for extras)

greg

North Korea menacing Alaska?

Big news story today about Alaskan worries over the North Korean missile threat, The estimated range of the North Korean missile is about 4000 miles, just enough to reach most of Alaska.

The thrust of the article is that Alaska is home to some high profile targets, like the army bases at Fairbanks and Anchorage, and the oil fields at Prudhoe Bay and the oil pipeline terminal at Valdez. To protect these assets, political leaders want more missile interceptor bases and more F-22’s.

It seems to me that North Korea could give a damn about those targets. If anything, it probably would like to land something on Fairbanks or Anchorage just to get the press. But the statement by Rep. Don Young (R) takes the cake. “while 30 F-22’s may be enough to counter the North Korean threat now, it is clear that it won’t be enough in the future.”

Your kidding. What North Korean aircraft could even make it to Alaska? F-22s are no good against their only card, the missile. While they do have an imposing military from a next door neighbors point of view, they are not about to range out of their own back yard. The fact that they have a few missiles that can reach out put them in scud territory. (although with bigger warheads.) It’s not like they can aim them or anything.

And once they fire them off, they’ll have shot their wad. Their only recourse then will be to hide behind their tanks and artillery till someone roots them out. And you’ll only have to root out the top guys. I know regime change is a bad word these days, but can the world afford maniacs in charge of a country in the sacred name of Nationalism? It seems that if you are a bad guy with a taste for the good life, all you have to do is get control of a country, (any country) and it’s hands off from the rest of the world.

Until the upper echelon of North Korea go away, this threat will not go away.

greg

B Day Cake, New Blog and Automatic Weapons

I’ve started a new personal blog to post artwork and random happenings in my life. You can see it here David Hensley’s Weblog

I’d also like to show off my sweet birthday cake (emphasis on birth) that my good friend Lauren from the White Flower Cake Shoppe made. Check it out.

Sweet B day cake

Sweet B day cake

I also recently went on a research field trip for work and got the opportunity to play with and photograph a lot of rare automatic weapons. Here are some pics.

FG42

FG42

STG 44

STG 44

Dual MP40's

Dual MP40's

The new President

We now have a new and untested President. I watch TV pundits talk about the fact that he now has to act, and not just promise answers as he did in his campaign. They are all inferring that he may not realize how difficult it will be to get things done. While I agree he is a new president, this is not to say that he has no idea how to act, or how to form plans, or how to be in command.

I believe the new President has thought much about being president, not just about the campaign for president. Of course, he did put requisite thought into his campaign, and was the perfect general throughout his campaign. He never wavered, never lost confidence, and never quit. He beat the Clintons, a most formidable opponent, partly because they underestimated his ability. He stuck to his plan, and the rest is recent history.

As I said, I think he has thought about the presidency for a very long time. When I was a Lieutenant in the Army, I mostly thought about being a Company Commander, as a Captain. I thought much about command for years prior to the opportunity. Command is the most important event in an Army career. Command is the job which, if done poorly, will end your career. If done well, your career continues until you make Major. Do other jobs to mediocrity, OK. But do them well, and yet flub command, it’s game over. In this, the Army is merciless.

I think we will be pleasantly surprised by the new President. I think we will see stunning action, possibly radical change, and hopefully that will spark recovery. Look at who he is bringing on board to help him govern; arguably, the best and brightest, with established track records. And, I believe science will return to the forefront of consideration and value by our government.

If the new President falters, it won’t be because he failed to think about how he would act in the presidency. I bet it has been in his mind for years upon years.

br

The economy and the invisible barbed wire fence…

When I was a kid, I was lucky to have woods to run in. One day, in a fit of youthful exuberance, I was running down a creekbed at full speed when WHAM! I found myself laying on my back in the creek, dazed, confused and bloody. The day before a neighbor put up a new barbed wire fence around his property, and it ran across this creek directly in my path. Laying there, I still couldn’t see it as I had lost my glasses in the encounter. What happened?

I think the same thing happened to the world’s economy. It was running pell mell straight into an invisible wall and BLAMO! We still don’t know what we hit. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now.

One thing I do know, the barbed wire fence didn’t keep me out of the woods, but I did have to change how I did things.

greg

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