Category Archives: tech

Say “Thank you, Mr. Reagan.”

Oh no, this is not about any of the current healthcare debates of tax cut proposals. I have a feeling that most of you reading this own a smart phone and that you can take advantage of that device’s GPS for turn-by-turn navigation. This is a feature that has not only enabled a great deal of modern commerce but has saved lives. For this you say ‘Thank you, Mr. Reagan.’

The Global Positioning System, GPS, was developed for the U.S. Military to allow the United States to have pinpoint accuracy on all it’s assets around the world. It is what is referred to in mil-speak as a ‘force multiplier.’ A factor that allows a force to fight as though their number were actually larger than are present. Opening that up to everyone’s use is a major policy and that policy change was ordered by President Reagan after a tragedy.

September 1 1983 KAL flight 007 wandered off course and into the airspace claimed by the USSR. Mistaking the passenger jet for a spy plane the Soviets shot it down killing all 269 aboard. I order to avoid such tragedies in the future the Reagan administration opened the GPS up to world-wide civilian use.

Say ‘Thank you, Mr. Clinton.’

The system opened to civilian use by Reagan was slightly altered to degrade performance. Non-military users could not locate their position with an accuracy greater than a few hundred meters. This prevented navigation errors such as with KAL 005 but preserved a significant degree of superiority for the U.S. Military. In 1996 the Clinton administration, recognizing the huge private sector potential, removed the additional signal that degraded the service for civilians. Now everyone with a GPS receiver could pinpoint there location to within a new meters. You know, that thing your phone does all the time.

What’s the point of all this?

Conservatives and Liberal can both have terrific ideas, either can advance the common good and either can see beyond petty self-interests. Only a partisan fool blithely disregards something solely because it came from across the aisle. Every idea, suggestion, and should be judges on its own merits.


About That Bomb


It’s interesting watching my social media feed explode over an big explosion. I imagine if there had been the some social media during the Clinton administration I would have watched a similar explosion from the other side of the spectrum when he sent cruise missiles into the same region of the world in a failed attempt to kill Osama Bin Laden I do remember conservative friends announcing with absolute certainty that the attacks had been nothing but ‘wag the dog’ distractions from his scandals just as some liberals friends are equally certain that the MOAB was used to distract from which ever Trump scandal holds their attention. (He has so many that it’s really a buffet of concerns.)

However it also not only possible but likely that the use of this particular weapons system has nothing to do with the current president and everything with conditions on the ground and the judgment of local commanders.

First Off, the phrase ‘largest non-nuclear’ is a pretty much useless comparing things of vastly different scales. An atomic bomb like the ones used to end WWII has a yield of about 12-15 kilotons. That is the explosion is equal to 12 to 15 THOUSAND tons of TNT, the MOAB is purely conventional. It has 22,000 lbs of explosives or 11 tons, so while it may be the largest non-nuclear bomb in our inventory it is still less that one thousandth the yield. It’s kind of like comparing a penny to a ten dollar bill. That sensational headline got your attention but it did not inform you.

Second: The president does not need congress’ approval to dispatch military force. He orders the military congress declares war, but there’s this nasty confusing grey area where the military gets used but no war has been declared. After Vietnam there was the War Powers act but it has never been fully vetted by the Supreme Court.

Three: Even if the President needed to have congressional approval you do know he was granted that in 2001 don’t you? That Authorization of Military Force that Bush got after 9/11, it’s still in effect. I hate the very concept of a Trump Presidency but he’s got the authority, though it should have never been given to him, to do exactly this.

Four: This bomb has a very limited utility. It is far too large to be dropped from any bomber. To get the monster to the target they military has to use a cargo plane, and that means you can’t use it in a place where the enemy has the capacity to shoot down your bombers. It doesn’t have great penetration so it’s best used against soft targets, it has a very large area of effect and so you can’t use it where the target are mingled with non-targets.

Now, all that said we should wait for verified reports about the why of the attack. Good judgment follows from facts not fancy.


Another Benefit from the Internet Age

Clearly there are nearly countless benefits from the internet and the vast and myriad  ways we have to spread information these days, but there is one in particular I want to look at briefly in this post.

I have been a cord cutter (someone without cable television service) for several years. All of my video entertainment arrives on disc or by way of a streaming service. For the last couple of weeks I have been watching various film noirs on the HULU plus service. Some were good, some were not, but the general mood and atmosphere I am marinating in will be helpful in crafting my SF/Noir novel.

I think all of the films I have been watching on HULU are ones that fell into the public domain when the original rights holders opted to not extend their copyrights. Just a few years ago that would have cast these unprofitable properties into the trash bin of entertainment history, subject only to the occasional late night broadcast as part of a station’s ‘Movie ’til Dawn.’ (And not even that as the infomercial killed that.)

Now, thanks to streaming and the status of public domain, these films are available to new audiences. (I particularly liked The Red House. Both a noir and a snap shot of rural living in the mid 40s.)

Many more public domain movies are available on Youtube and sites such as Public Domain True more than 9/10s of these are truly terribly movies, but one usually pans through a lot of mud to find a single nugget.


Quick Impression Apple TV

I have been a fan of streaming over traditional cable for sometime. (The last time I had cable TV was 2012 for a few weeks.) I prefer the control streaming and discs give me over what and when I watch. This week because my sweetie-wife and I didn’t want to delay in out Game of Thrones fix I picked up an Apple TV and subscribe to HBO Now.

The Verdict?

I heartily approve of the Apple TV. The onyl thing that would improve it would be the addition of Amazon Prime streaming, otherwise I have found no flaws and had no complaints.

It’s easy to set up. Easy to use, and I have a ton of options. This is working out so much better than my previous streaming device – an Xbox 360. Integrating with iMac and other Apple devices is just a bonus, but it’s really nice being able to stream my iTunes content to my living. Watching Doctor Who has just gotten loads easier.



Warning Educational Materials ahead

So Sunday I was tooling youtube and other video hosting sights, looking for interesting films and such to watch. (No, not porn. Get your mind out of the gutter.) I ended up searching for a World War II training film I had caught part of during a TCM Memorial Day Marathon. (I did find it, it’s called Resisting Enemy Interrogation. It’s got a cool story as German Interrogators try by hook and by crook get information from 5 down airmen.)

However, while looking for that video I found several others that were very interesting. One on flak (anti-aircraft fire) how it works and how to evade it, and a Sad Sack cartoon on the importance of maintaining you weapon properly. The most informative video I found though was one on the basics of small arms and how they work. I have friends who collect guns, and I remember shooting rifles as a boy with my father, however nothing has every made the mechanics of modern firearms as easy to understand as this WWII training film. I present it here for your education or enjoyment. (It is about 40 minutes long.)



Thoughts on Gun Control

The horrid events a few weeks ago in Aurora Co have revived discussions on gun control, both nationally and among family and friends. Since I have never been shy about sharing my opinions I see no reason to be a wall flower on this subject.
There are numerous and serious problems in trying to solve this problem by some implementation of gun control. First off the focus is all wrong way around, looking at the tool and not the user. In an unproduced screenplay I authored quite a few years ago I had a line that I think is applicable.
“You mortals always fear the wrong things. You fear the bomb but not the soul that would use it.” Continue reading Thoughts on Gun Control


Another General Posting

The frequent eye strain headaches have made the desire to sit and compose blog posts rather rare of late. After spending 8 hours at the computer for my day job I am disinclined to spend much more at home. Even bumping up the font only helps so much. However on Wednesday I had my annual eye exam, discovered that the axis of my astigmatism had shifted quite a bit. So while my visual acuity is about the same, I still require new lens. They have been ordered, 7-10 days which is like something from the last century, and when I get them I should be back to my old happy self.

Having just finished the Book of Job, I’m about halfway through my reading of the Old Testament. God has finished making he transition to a spirit above and encompassing the world, quite a change from the wrestling guy in Genesis or the dude who appeared, wrapped in smoke and flame like a Balrog, above magic boxes. I’m not sure if I will finish this read, it has been sucking up a lot of my time and I really shouldn’t waste too much.

Today, 5/25/12, the Dragon spacecraft docked with the International Space station, opening a new era for spaceflight. Space X is going where only governments have gone before, and while I cheer this achievement should we consider where other corporations might go if given the chance? Is this is herald of a bright off-world future or the sign that the cyberpunks might have been right?

Paging Dr. McCoy, your hypo is ready.  Speaking as someone who despises the needle, I can’t even watch one on the movie screen, I truly cheer this invention.

The three day weekend is nearly upon us. I have plans, but hardly anything extravagant. Sadly I will not be going to BayCon this year. It was a choice between BayCon and WorldCon and in that contest WorldCon always wins. So tonight will be D&D, where I am a player. We’re in the middle of a fight, outnumber and fighting under hampered conditions. So far the gamemaster has been holding back, but we’ll see if this is the last game for my Arabic Paladin, Alladin. Tomorrow and Sunday will be board and card gaming with friends and my sweetie-wife, must resist buying the Game of Thrones board game, and on Monday I will be going toDisneyland. Sadly by myself, my dear friend who was going to go is under the weather health wise and that has caused quite a bit of financial stress. I already had paid for my ticket, so alone I go. I shall have fun in his honor.


Thoughts on owing a NOOK

It’s been a couple of weeks since I purchased a NOOK, in part with early birthday funds from my sweetie-wife, and here are my early thoughts.

I bought a NOOK tablet because I wanted an e-reader with a wider range of capability than what I was getting from my ezreader pro, but I felt I didn’t need to the full functionality of the more expensive iPad, and I think I made the right call.

I downloaded a few public domain texts, transferred ebooks from my Adobe ereader software, moved a few personal files, and subscribed the SF magazines ANALOG and ASIMOV’s as tests for the tablet. I can happily report that in all these tests the NOOK performed quite well and the reading experience was easy and comfortable. The most vexing issues dealt with personal files and learning how to transfer them so they were accessible, once that was achieve they worked fine.

I had missed having subscription to SF magazine, but I detest the way the physical magazine piled up and I was generally loath to throw them out. Having an e-subscription is the perfect solution for me and it was quite pleasurable to be reading new SF authors and shorts. (Though I admit reading some of those stories makes me wonder what’s going on in short story writing these days. I mean, shouldn’t a story be about something?)

The battery life seems quite serviceable, and while the net surfing on it is less that optimal, I did not buy it as a net device, thought it will serve in a pinch.


Over all this has been a pretty good purchase and a nice birthday gift.