Monday, January 22, 2018

Not the First Time--an Exception

Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money links to a piece of his on the development of nuclear missile subs, triggered by problems India is having. 
"In retrospect, the George Washington class SSBNs were a fabulous engineering success, entering service quickly, with few problems, and packing a huge punch. All of the NATO boats were relatively quiet and could threaten the USSR from long-range. On the other hand, it took the USSR nearly a decade to produce a meaningful deterrent boat. It has taken China nearly three decades, despite extensive experience in both countries in submarine construction and operation."
He omits the credit due one of the greatest bureaucrats we have ever produced: Admiral Hyman Rickover.   So an exception to my "Harshaw rule" (you never do things right the first time): "unless you're Hyman Rickover"

Sunday, January 21, 2018

It Was a Different Century: 1998

"” It took three weeks of lobbying the top editors of the Washington Post to get me access to the internet."

Susan Glasser recalling the time when the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal became public, as part of an interesting dialog with Isikoff, Baker, and Harris (if you don't recognize the reporters you weren't around in 1998.)

Saturday, January 20, 2018

France and EU Farm Subsidies

It seems French farmers may be losing out according to this Politico piece,  The dynamics of the French farm programs are similar to the U.S:
With defense, security, migration and digital technology emerging as clear strategic priorities for Brussels, it is becoming increasingly difficult to defend the sacrosanct status afforded to farmers, particularly the bigger landowners. Under the current budget, a massive €58 billion a year, or some 40 percent of the EU budget, goes to CAP payments, but 80 percent of that money heads to only 20 percent of farms.

Friday, January 19, 2018

I Was Wrong About Trump's Wall

I would have sworn he promised to build a wall along the entire border, but from this NYTimes summary he's been pretty consistent in specifying 1,000 miles.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

See "The Post"

Just saw The Post.  Having lived through  the time, living in downtown DC and as a regular reader of both the Washington Post and the NYTimes, the atmosphere was familiar.  The movie's well-written and well-acted, possibly set for Oscar nominations.

A point and a nit:  Kay Graham tells McNamara that her son, and all "their sons" (by which she means the sons of the people at her parties) went to Vietnam while he was lying about the policy.  I'd be curious about the percentage of military age sons of members of Congress served in Vietnam.  I'd also like to see a comparison with the same populations in this century.  I'd bet both percentages are less than in 1942-45.

The nit:  I swear I saw a sign "Fort Andrews" in the background of an early scene, a sign which should have been "Andrews AFB" (now "Joint Base Andrews").

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Testing Trump--Modest Proposal

In his physical yesterday, President Trump took the Montreal Cognitive Assessment and passed with 30 out of 30.  Can't access the database so I can't see how I'd do on it.  I have enrolled in the brain health registry, which is researching the subject.  Took all the tests over a few days, and did a little better than I expected (mom had Alzheimers, although developing in her 80's, and dad seemed slower before his fatal strokes at 73 so I'm hyperconscious of anything which might indicate I'm following the same path).  One thing they do not do is give feedback, so I don't know whether I'm below average, above average, or average for men of my age and background.  

But President Trump might take a half-hour a day in the morning to, instead of watching Fox and Friends, participate in the registry.  Be good for him, as lacking as he is in self-confidence.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Is Innovation Outstripping Our Imaginations?

Kottke reproduces a list of desired innovations written by Robert Boyle in the 17th century (Boyle was a central figure in the development of British science and the Royal Society).  Turns out we've done many of what he wanted (i.e., flying and plastics).  I wonder, and doubt, whether any one person today could come up with a similar list of innovations which will be implemented in the next 300 years.

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Virtuous Circle?

Some interesting reports: teenage sex is down, employers are looking to ex-convicts to fill job vacancies, the gap between black and white unemployment rates is the narrowest it's been since the figures were available, crime is down so that black urban dwellings now have the same vulnerability to crime as white suburbanites did in 1990.

I've long believed in the vicious cycle of poverty/racism/social ills.  Bad things feed on each other.  But maybe I need to admit the possibility of virtuous cycles?

Why Is a Human in the Loop?

I'm referring to the false nuclear missile warning in Hawaii.  Apparently someone had a choice of two buttons on a screen to click on, one "test", one "real", and chose the wrong one.  I can sympathize--I fairly often click on something which I realize a minute later is the wrong choice.

But as a bureaucrat, I see no reason for a human to have that choice.  Presumably what is supposed to happen is that the military determines a missile strike is imminent and puts out messages to the appropriate people.  So the person in Hawaii gets the military's notification and says what?  She has no way of testing the military's conclusion, all she can do is click on the real button.  So, if the human is just relaying the message, the system should be designed to automatically trigger the alert system.

The software she was looking at should show a status screen, which would show any incoming message and the fact it's been relayed on, and allow for initiating a test alert.

Friday, January 12, 2018


As of this writing, the Kindle Store lists 5,902,458 different titles. 

If Amazon wanted to, it could with a single act bring a new form of book into being. That's because Amazon has more or less vertically integrated the entire book industry within its walls, building a complete reading universe of its own making. Lots of authors now write books especially for Amazon, which readers find on Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading, read on their phone and tablet, listen to through Audible or your Echo, and then talk about on Goodreads. Amazon has tools that help you write your book, format the manuscript, design the cover, file the right metadata, publish to the right places, and get paid the right amount. Want to make a comic book, a kids' book, or a textbook instead? Amazon can help there too.

Everyman his own historian.  (by Carl Becker)