The Spechtacle

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Category: You’re Nuts (page 1 of 2)

Skipping our meds, are we?

Studies of stupidity

So I don’t usually rant, but today I’ll make an exception.

Many many studies are showing that texting, talking, fiddling with a device, drinking, eating, exercising and on and on can be dangerous while driving. Thank you in flight rocket scientists of the world.

I’ll go way way out on a limb and predict that texting, exercising, drinking, smoking, playing the pan flute while diffusing an atom bomb may also be dangerous.

Listening to creed blaring loudly while castrating a lion may also be dangerous.

Accidentally waking a sleeping Kodiak Bear in a small dark cave while wearing a protective suit of honey and meat as a result of texting on a noisy smartphone keyboard may also be dangerous.

Punching an Orca Killer Whale in the eye accidentally with your blackberry while texting under water and then snapping a photo of the inside of his stomach may also be dangerous.

Cutting limbs off a tree with a chainsaw in one hand while texting your wife with a smartphone, accidentally snapping a photo of your moments before severed leg may be dangerous. You could fall on your own leg, driving it right through your chest.

Aren’t these things self evident? Let’s focus, people.


Osprey shortcomings?

A few weeks ago, in one of my rants, I mentioned the fact that I thought the Osprey was a craft conceived by a crazy person. This article is about a patent for a new tilt wing to replace Osprey type aircraft. It is presented as a better idea, in light of the fact that the Osprey has no backup if one engine is fails (or more accurately, if it loses a rotor).

Osprey replacement article

These ideas make my head hurt.

You build airframes based on requirements (one would hope). But which requirement is a priority? How about survivability?

So you put many motors around a circular frame, like a bicycle wheel. You sling the payload underneath. Motors can pivot independently outwards slightly for forward thrust. Their rpm can be regulated. If you lose one or two. the remaining adjust their position on the wheel, to redistribute the load equally. This cannot be any more complicated than a tilt rotor, right?

I’m just saying…

Time to think

Recently, I joined the ranks of the unemployed. I still own a small company, but my day job has finally ended. it is kind of a bummer and kind of a relief. When you work states away from your boss, you don’t get a farewell lunch or plaque. You get a mailing address for returning all your stuff.

I do have more time to think now. Lots of time to ponder my situation, the past, the future, and everything in between.

I hear many people give their opinion of the Wall Street protests. “They want a handout” is a common phrase. If student loans are too high, it doesn’t matter. The students are the ones who accepted them. They have a choice. I hear this over and over. But it skips over the real issues of tuition costs skyrocketing, back breaking loans, and the real possibility of no job at graduation. There are so many issues like this wrapped up in the protests: Tax system unfair – lobbyists have all the power – congress is ineffectual – education costs are out of control – wall street killed our economy, but it did not kill wall street. I could go on and on.

Man, many Americans are just not sympathetic. And if they get their news from FOX, they leave their brain at the door. I just don’t think it is as simple as that.

People in these protests are mad, because they have seen too much in terms of not being fair and a lack of transparency. They have seen their vote amount to nothing. The rich wall street elite have more of a vote. The situation is not fair, and this gets to the hart of the matter. If you can afford a lobbyist, you can buy votes. It’s just that simple. If you are rich, you are insulated, perhaps. But you should at least pay a share of the taxes. A fair share. Of course, we idolize those who beat the system. Well, we did…

If Saddam would have had effective lobbyists, we would be up to our ears in cheap oil. Same with Gadaffi. We’d be swimming in it. Global warming be be damned. But no, we had to go to war. Let’s get physical.

We certainly did not need to invade Iraq. If you still cling to this idea, get help. We had two no fly zones over Iraq, so dangerous we engaged and destroyed our own helicopters on several occasions as a result of mistaken identity. We had every clandestine agency of world wide capability in there looking everywhere. Yet Saddam was creating a delivery vehicle that would hit Europe? Really? So what. Ever hear of the Tokyo fire raids in WWII? The Dresden fire raids? We now have weapons that make these bonfires look like Boy Scouts learning to make fire. We could have gone down this road instead of an invasion.

We did not need to invade Afghanistan either. Make a statement there? Yes, definitely. Something insanely ugly. But we certainly did not need to stay. Now, as soon as we leave, Afghanistan will fold like a house of cards. You heard it here first.

Anyone anywhere who understands our political system, our love of money, our self absorbed character, and our self imposed image of grandeur understands the leverage and power of effective lobbyists.

Unfortunately, you and I cannot afford lobbyists. It is beyond interplanetary for us. And we are invisible to them.

“But who will do all the research and brief our representatives?”. Gosh, maybe they could do that themselves with a staff?

Our political friends in Congress get a pretty good pension for not too much time served. Also, a majority are millionaires. If you are not a millionaire when you enter the Congress, you are almost assured you will be by the time you leave. Inside deals, with information we are not privy to, are made by our representatives daily. Ouch. How about a crumb for the little people?

Or maybe just some intelligent legislation?

Memorial Day in the present

Here we are at another Memorial Day. Pretty much everywhere you will see celebrations of gratitude. Churches will ask veterans to stand for a moment during the service. Parades will be packed with vehicles and veterans of previous conflicts.

I always think of the people who never made it home. Some of them were volunteers. Many were draftees fulfilling their obligation. A few were running from trouble. What they all had in common is that they all thought they would return home. These were young men and women who for the most part imagined their deployment would be a brief interlude in what would surely be a long life. Some believed in the cause of the time, while others just believed in service to the nation, or to go along with their friends and get their obligation over safely. We can all identify with them in some respect. They are all gone. They will not return home alive. Some will not return home at all.

Then I think of current events. I think of all the people deployed to our two fronts. I think about it too long, and I get irritated.

Our nation is good at many things. One of those things is apathy. It is an apathy about the services and their hardships. People are even tired of hearing about the hardships. After all, we are talking about volunteers. “We didn’t make them join the service.” That is true. But we elect our government, and that government influences what happens to our military. And frankly, those we elect don’t get it most of the time. They never served or deployed.

Life in the service is a voluntary life of sacrifice. Even in the best non-conflict circumstances, it can be a difficult life for the service member and the family. You experience dangerous training deployments, high stress situations, and personal strife from long deployments. I know everyone experiences stress in their lives. I am just saying the average service member’s fun meter is usually pegged a little bit more than a civilian.

When you send a person into a shooting war, and they spend some time there, they change. Most of the time, they change a great deal. Don’t take my word for it, do some research. I was never in a shooting war, but I have been around more than a few folks who have. Men and women. They change.

Our manpower numbers are so thin that we are putting our military through an out of control machine of deployments. The same people deploy over and over. You go for months deployed, then a year or so home, then back, then home, and on and on. Change upon change upon change. Over time we have accrued all these professional warriors who like being deployed more than being home. But then we sweep them out like so much dust and dirt. They get therapy in bucket loads, but they are out. Their identity is gone. Sorry, we need the money.

We reduce costs by reducing manpower. It is the quickest way a corporation can raise cash in house. Our Military is no different. “The missions have changed” or “our strategic threats have changed” etc. Sure they have. But while we reduce manpower, we continue to buy unnecessary vehicles, systems, doctrine, and support. I will cite the V-22 Osprey as one example. What madman dreamed that aircraft up? “We need speed, more lift, etc, due to our threats”. Is it cheaper than two helicopters? One Osprey’s fly away cost is 67 million dollars today. The workhorse in Afghanistan is still the Chinook. Fly away cost 37 Million. The Chinook seats more troops, can lift 50,000 lbs which is only 10K less than the Osprey, and is definitely slower. As for the speed issue, the latest Sikorsky experimental helicopter is in the 400 mph range, comparable to the Osprey. My point in droning about all this is we are paying twice as much for more complexity, an unproven over time design, and less troop capacity. Ouch.

Which leads me to the point of all this. Our military is stretched too thin. In 2009, the Army had 548,000 active duty. With a mission to bring in over 80,000 new soldiers per year, the force is 1/7 untrained and unprepared to fight. Since a percentage is always leaving, meaning they don’t fight all the way up until the day they muster out, there is another hefty number not able to fight. Ouch. And since not everyone in the Army is a shooter, but may be a supporter at home in an office, this cuts the availability of a fighting force even more.

Is the answer more brigades? This is the structure the Army is adopting, the modular brigade concept. Brigades cost big money by any estimate. The GAO estimates 3 to 4 brigades and 3 headquarters of approximately 20,000 soldiers (brigades and headquarters combined) would cost about 2 billion annually. There is no free lunch, unfortunately. The Osprey’s cost is at 27 BILLION as of 2008. Think about that. That’s more than a few brigades.

A soldier can be trained to do many many things. They are cheaper, more flexible, and the rate of return is greater for your money. The more you have, the easier it is to do things. A soldier can run, climb, swim, think, and sacrifice. It’s all about boots, especially in today’s up close and personal combat situations. That is the one lesson we haven’t learned from previous conflicts.

So when you see all the nice and impressive vehicles and aircraft at the parade, look close. You will see a soldier somewhere. He or she will look tired, and bored. They have changed permanently, and they are waiting to go back. Because they know it’s coming, and there’s no one else to go.

Internet Detective.. on the trail of Black Oak Arkansas

Back in the 70’s I went to a concert in Rockingham, North Carolina at an old stock car track and saw, among others, Black Oak Arkansas. My army buddies and I took a liking to the sound and bought a few of their albums and grooved on them for awhile. (Those were the days.) But I new relatively little about them then, and now, years later, I know more about them than I really need to. This is all due to the invention of our age, the internet.
I can consume facts about things I’m interested in and there seems no end in sight. I now know that the date of that concert was August 18th, 1972, which is also the weekend I got nailed by the army for not coming back home on time. 2 weeks extra duty and 2 weeks forfeiture of pay. But it was worth it. Scored huge gobs of mescaline and saw noteworthy acts like the James Gang, and others like 3 Dog Night and Fleetwood Mac, but I don’t remember them. But I do remember Jim Dandy’s voice. Sounded like a frog on steroids and he was on fire.

Black Oak Arkansas also has a MySpace page. You can listen to some of their music there and find out info on their new upcoming album. (Yes, old rock and rollers don’t go away) Look for it soon, titled “Memphis mean tymes”. And the internet is helping the band in huge ways, keeping them in touch with their fans and even using the fans to complete their discography. It seems they didn’t remember what they did in the 70’s. Go figure.

From Wikipedia you find out they stole a PA system from a local high school when they formed their band and got 26 years in the pen in absentia (later dropped). Jim “Dandy” Mangrum fronted the band then and now. He was reportedly the inspiration for David Lee Roth’s act. You can even see his picture from high school on this site. The picture is from the 1964 Buffalo Trail, Monette High School’s yearbook, which is 5 miles north of Black Oak, Arkansas.. From PopCultureSignatures, you can get the 1st BOA album signed by Jim Dandy and several other band members for $369.

And if you still want to see them, they’ll be headlining the Real Ozfest IV at Circleville Auditorium in Circleville Kansas on September 6th, 2009. Although they may have lost their youth, they are still rockin!


Switched to LINUX

About two years ago, I switched to UBUNTU LINUX on my work machine at home. I also loaded the server version onto a couple boxes in the basement. I switched because I wanted to try something new, and I saw the programmers that I worked with use LINUX for everything. I was also paying about $400 bucks a year for a Microsoft Action Pack subscription to get copies of the latest and greatest software, that I used less and less.

So how has it been? Fairly smooth, with some caveats. One less than smooth spot early on, was the Nvidia driver chase every time the kernel and headers were updated. Usually I had to go through a short but irritating reinstall of the correct driver, to get my high resolution back. Lately this problem has disappeared. Now, I am running two monitors off the same card, using twinview, and it rocks.

I have a couple programs that I haven’t swapped for LINUX equivalents. For that, I have a dual boot option in GRUB, the boot loader, so I can also boot into a WINDOWS XP system if needed. This was another rough spot. Searching discussion forums to find the correct combination of parameters to boot the windows drive was lengthy. The windows drive was IDE, and the LINUX drive was SATA, which was also tricky initially. I also found my motherboard wouldn’t support SATA and IDE together, even though the documentation said it would. I had to install an additional SATA controller card to fix this.

The latest rough spot was when they last pushed out a kernel and header update. My machine failed to find the boot drive. Once again, after searching discussion forums, I found the correct delay parameter to put into GRUB. Now it boots reliably.

I seem now to have experienced all the big problems with a LINUX UBUNTU system. Bear in mind, I have relatively old hardware, such as the Athlon XP 3200 processor. Installs on newer hardware have all gone perfect, and so have all the updates. I have even installed Simply Mepis and Damn Small Linux on systems, and they are working flawlessly. I can place DreamLinux on a thumb drive, and take it with me anywhere.

I use OpenOffice applications for general business, and it integrates well with MS Office. For the one windows program I haven’t migrated to this point, I use VMWARE to load a copy of windows XP, and run the program in there, rather than booting to the old Windows Drive.

Now I just have to put up with my coworkers telling me ‘I told you so”. I’ll pay that price.


The newest discovery

Prior to this latest discovery, we have been enthralled with the notion that there is matter we cannot yet see. Dark matter. Most of the universe (that we know of) is comprised of dark matter. Vast unimaginable cosmic distances of nothingness, colossal voids, or rather, dark matter…

Just as I am getting my astrophysical metaphysical brain around this wholly unimaginable concept of dark matter, a new stunning discovery makes its debut in all the cutting edge star magazines, and I develop a headache.

There is apparently a newer type of recently discovered matter in the universe, that seems to dwarf the vast nothingness of dark matter. I am of course, talking about: “Doesn’t Matter”.

We would die one thousand times before we reached the nearest habitable planet. And surrounding us all on our improbable journey would be “Doesn’t Matter”.

Doesn’t Matter is visible – in the county vehicle registration office. It’s all over in there, trust me. And, it is pouring out of the local Sheriff’s cruiser, when your are explaining your accident. On debate night for the presidential candidates, the building is literally constructed out of “Doesn’t Matter”

Parents are literally covered in it, when they are adjudicating a fight between brother and sister. Doesn’t Matter is spraying all over the place.

So, look around. Take a good look. You may get a glimpse of “Doesn’t Matter”.

Alternative Energy

With all the talk about the oil crisis, I am always on the lookout for alternatives to use in the country. We drive an explorer that runs on biofuel but it takes 2x as much so it isn’t really saving us any money and it upsets me that my drive to walmart is causing a Somalian to starve. So after much research – I thought a car running on methane from pig shit was the perfect solution but I really couldn’t stand the smell and I don’t do animals so it would never make it through the week . Since we live in the middle of the mennonites – I have discovered the perfect vehicle –
Pedal John pedal!

TV show ideas

Lately, I have been thinking of a way to generate a winfall of cash. if RonCo can do it with the Popiel “Pocket Fisherman”, so can I.

After a few bourbons, this is my idea: Celebrity Ass Whoopin’. An audience text messages their selection from a list of newsmakers during week one.

Then they select a WWF wrestler, same sex, to do the whoopin’. Then you send the Whooper out with a film crew to catch the celebrity when they least expect it. Get it all on film. Week two, you show the film, and pick next weeks whoopee. If you do multiple whoops in the same week, you could have a runoff vote. And, if the celebrity continues to make the news, they are eligible for another round.

I figure, we will never run out of contestants, and the audience will become hooked.

Barbaric you say? I say “let the coffers be opened: let them fill with gold…”


Things I’ve learned.

tim_robinson.jpgI am not the brightest candle in the church. Still, I have learned some things, and I’ll pass them on to the community in the hope that someone will be saved from commiting the same error.

From my life as a contractor:
If a client says “all we really want is…” you can be sure that what they want will test the limits of science and knowledge.
If a client says “I’ll know it when I see it” you can bet they will never see it, and you will toil forever.

From my life as a dog owner:
Whatever you are told to use to discourage your dog’s particular behavior, your dog will be the one in a million that will love it.
If the dog is as big as you are, that’s just no good.
Before I owned a dog, if I saw one in the road, I’d swerve to miss it. Now, I’ll probably just close my eyes and hit the gas. I’ll do it for the owner.

From my time in the Army:
When they tell you how much ammo you’ll need, just go ahead and triple it.
When you hear how much chow you will get, imagine about half, and be happy.

From being a parent:
Kids’ brains don’t work like yours, and neither do their bank accounts. They are both usually empty.
When they get real quiet, something of yours is missing, or broken.

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