Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Not so fast, cowboy

September 17, 2019

So, it turns out I dodged another one. The guy who replaced me at my job who tried it out and decided to go on to another job isn’t going to that other job, just yet, and so I don’t have to do my old job again and by the time he leaves for that other job they’ll have had time to do a proper job search and hired a real replacement, rather than just a gap-filler.

I was prepared to take one for the Gipper, but it’s probably better this way. It was fun, thinking about striding back into the classroom like Moses parting the bullrushes, but the world has moved on and there’s no need for us old folks to hang around. I’m not sure I can spell MIS any more.

Besides, Fall is shaping up to be a good season for anime.

Back in the saddle again

September 9, 2019

There’s a Hollywood trope about the old gunslinger who tries to retire but circumstances force them back into the business. A good example is Shane, a 1953 movie that couldn’t be made today, first because sensibilities have changed, and second, because that part of the Jackson Hole landscape has been covered by the McMansions of the 1%.

I retired last January, after almost 20 years of teaching. At the time, I was fighting cancer and not sure what my future abilities would be. Also, I was only a year short of 75, which was my original retirement target. So I retired, took a couple of cruises, worked on my garden, turned 75, and managed to suppress, for now, the cancer.

I got a phone call. The guy that replaced me got a better job at a university in Texas, and would I come back and teach my Systems Analysis class one more time, in the Fall. Oh, and maybe the Systems Project class in the Winter.

I really don’t want to do this. I’m enjoying retirement, my cabbages are doing well, and I hate the idea of writing and correcting tests. But the University has fallen on hard times (thank you GOP), and my department can’t find anyone qualified in the two weeks available.

So here I am, strapping on my guns again and riding forth against the forces of ignorance and poor systems design. I am not happy, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

Steve! Come back, Steve!*

*The house has been upgraded since then.

How the Internet killed cars, and everything else

August 31, 2019

I’m sure others have written on this, and better, but I’ma gonna throw out some ideas for you, well, me, to think about later.

Technology changes society. Not just jobs going away, like buggy-whip manufacturing, but the way society thinks about stuff. Back in the day, one of the early German auto manufacturers estimated that demand for cars would peak in the low 10-thousands, because there were only so many people available to be trained as chauffeurs. Of course what happened was, cars became so cheap that everyone, even those too poor to hire a chauffeur, could afford one. Before that, women’s magazines had advice on the role of the housewife as a manager of the household, including how to deal with servants. Along came appliances and away went servants, and the perceived role of women in the household changed.

After the war (WWII, the big one), discretionary leisure time expanded. Television helped fill it, but after you watched Dave Garroway, and Rawhide, there was still a lot of time to fill. Enter the autocar.

I know, let’s drive downtown and go window shopping on Main Street.

It’s Friday night, let’s go cruise the drag.

Let’s go see the USA in our Henry J.

America became a car culture because there wasn’t anything better to do at home. Well, there was sex, but the development of modern medicine meant that all the side effects stayed around as additional costs, and so that fell out of favor once alternatives were available.  One effect of the car culture was the growth of destinations — everything from drive-in movies to drive-in churches, and the peak of the drive-in or drive-to destination experience was the mega mall.

Stretching the concept of metaphor a little, think of the car as a browser, the destinations as websites, and the road network as the Internet — call it the autonet. People want to get out of their homes, to link up, to experience things that aren’t just another day at the office. The autonet let them do this. Just as today, people in the 50’s and 60’s argued about which browser was better, complained about slow connections, and spent a lot of time online. The 1950’s version of surfing the web was the Sunday drive, a more or less aimless wandering along the autonet. The modern shopping mall is like a web portal, or concentrator site — you drive to the home page, park, and follow the links to the affiliate pages.

As with the dinosaurs, all these destinations became gigantic, right before conditions changed they went extinct.

In this case, it was the Internet that changed the conditions. Shopping? Use Amazon. Hang out with your friends? Use MySpace/Facebook/Instagram/Skype/Line (depending on which year and country we’re talking about). See the USA? I can do a virtual drive down the Kufurstendam in Berlin with Google Earth, and soon there will be real surround-sight VR flight to the space station, for those who can afford the headset. Nobody needs cars any more. The oldsters are still stuck in their Oldsmobiles, but the Millennials, and Gen-X and the upcoming post-alphabet generation have no loyalty to the car. They’d rather take public transport, where they can enjoy the latest free-to-play. This is why Uber and Lyft are so popular. Or they’d rather stay home and enjoy a virtual shopping experience.

People talk about America’s love affair with the automobile. What it really was was a love affair with the autonet.The automobile was really just a device for transporting us somewhere else. Once a shoebox-sized device could do the same thing using the Internet, it spelled the end of the car, the autonet, and everything that depended on it. What we are learning now, is just how much stuff that is — freeways, malls, big box stores, libraries, factories, you name it. If it has a parking lot associated with it, you can assume its days are numbered.

Alaska trip

August 20, 2019

If the blog has been a little quiet, it’s because we’ve been off on a Holland America cruise to Alaska. The full story of our Second Trip to Alaska is over on the right-hand margin.

Yes, we are rural

August 18, 2019

Middle of the residential area of Cheney

A quiet Sunday evening

Fire Season 2019

July 19, 2019

We’re seeing an interesting pattern develop in wildfires in Washington State.

The first biggish fire of the season was the 243 Command Fire (who names these things, anyway?) in Grant County, just east of Beverly, on the north slope of the Saddle Mountains.

243 Command Fire

Six weeks later and five miles to the south, we had the Powerline Fire, just over the Saddle Mountains, and northeast of Mattawa.

Powerline fire

Now, we have the Cold Creek fire, fifteen miles south of Powerline, and over the border into Benton County. Burning along historic Rattlesnake Mountain, towards my in-laws old home in  Richland.

Beverly, Mattawa, and Cold Creek

If I lived in Prosser, I might be a little worried.

It’s heading south!

UPDATE: Guess what?

MH370 Final Report, and this time I mean it.

June 17, 2019

Atlantic magazine has a wrap-up article on the Malaysian Airways jet that disappeared over the Indian Ocean five years ago. It comes to the same conclusion that I did, but does it with more evidentiary support. My conclusion was that it had to have been one of the flight crew. William Langewiesche presents convincing evidence that it was the Captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

The article states that Zaharie wasn’t the stable professional that we were given to believe. He was a lonely man who was separated from his wife, who spent his time wandering through an empty house, waiting for the next flight. That information was never released by the Malaysian government because it might reflect badly on a corrupt administration. This is all laid out in Section 6 of the article, after a long discussion of various recoveries of the aircraft debris.

I’ve been following the MH370 story since the beginning, summarizing the evidence and evaluating the various theories.  My original conclusion was somewhat Sherlockian — once you have removed the impossible, what remains, however implausible, is the cause. The Atlantic article puts an evidentiary cap on it, and is likely the last original essay we’ll see on the topic until someone invents a nuclear powered deep ocean search drone.

If you want to read all my articles on the topic, click the MH370 tag, below.


Fire Season 2019

June 4, 2019

Washington state’s first biggish fire of the season is in progress on the north slope of the Saddle Mountains, near Beverly. Five thousand acres so far.

MODIS fire hotspots

It’s about a hundred miles from there to Spokane

First and only fire so far

The smoke trail is visible on satellite.

An otherwise clear view

The skies are already hazy, the AQI is up to 100, and the smell of smoke makes it uncomfortable to sit out on the back deck.

Fires to the West

Last year it was British Columbia. This year it is all home grown, and it will only get worse as summer progresses.

UPDATE 19/06/05/17:20: 19,000 acres, 25% contained.

The Long Then

May 4, 2019

Over on Edge is an interview with Alexander Rose (the Executive Director of the Long Now organization) on how to create an institution that lasts 10,000 years. Actually, it’s a bit of a cheat. The discussion makes up only about 25% of the article, and much of that is repeats of the idea that most of today’s 500-1000 year old organizations are hotels or breweries or are large scale organizations, like universities or The Church. Then he wanders off into an interesting, but off point, discussion of the Long Now organization and the Big Clock they are building.

So let’s take our own look at what might be required of a long-lasting organization. Here are some on my thoughts:

First, it has to fill a continuing need. Think of it in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy. At large scale, governments, universities, and the church provide elements such as safety. Some modern governments have lasted for hundreds of years (Iceland being the best example), but most succumb to invasion or revolution. The country might remain, but the way the inhabitants organize themselves has changed. The oldest universities are going on for 1000 years old, while the Catholic Church is almost 2000. In Asia, religions such as Buddhism are older than Christianity, but they are religions, not religious governing organizations. Having said that, individual monasteries are organizations that have the potential to last for thousands of years.

At smaller scales, the oldest survivors are fulfilling a local need, close to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy — Hotels provide shelter and sleep, restaurants provide food and water. As an aside, the key here seems to be the continuing existence of family ownership, which then makes the business possible. Theoretically, a corporation is immortal, but recent experience shows that a corporation is at risk of being bought up by some other entity.

Second, the organization should be involved in an activity that is minimally impacted by technological change, and in the case of technology, whatever it uses has to be cheap to implement. The church, for example, hasn’t needed any technology more complex than jumbotrons (yes, telephones, yes, PCs, but those are part of the general advance of civilization; no-one would put jumbotrons in that list). On the other hand, automobile and aircraft manufacturers have had to go through multiple generations of new technology, and that new technology (catalytic converters, electric cars) has been expensive to implement.

At the lower level, hotels today are not that much different from hotels of the past — a place to sleep out of the rain. Two hundred years ago you might be in one bed with three strangers, but the concept is the same and the basic technology hasn’t changed. Restaurants provide food prepared on the premises. The preparation method has changed over time — wood fired brick ovens to coal fired stoves to gas stoves to wood fired brick ovens — but the amount of new, expensive technology used is minimal.  Similarly, sake brewers pride themselves on using the same equipment and techniques that were used by their founders.

By the way, what was the world’s oldest business was a 1400 year old construction firm, Kongo Gumi. It specialized in Buddhist temple construction and repair, using traditional materials and techniques. What took it down was a combination of declining Buddhist membership in a country that is losing population, accompanied by an attempt to move into other construction fields right before an economic turndown. It was acquired in 2006.

Having said all that, I’m not sure I can imagine anything that could last 10,000 years. 10,000 years ago we had just barely started the domestication of plants and food animals. Agriculture started about 11,000 years ago, with animal husbandry coming a thousand years later. Other than those two general concepts, there is nothing cultural that remains. There is no organization, no nation, no civilization that we can point to and say that we have an unbroken (or even fragmented) line of succession from then to the present day.

Now, try to imagine the world of 12,000AD. Even if the Singularity never happens and we remain stuck at our present rate of change of knowledge — doubling every two years — the world of 12K will be unrecognizable.

The optimistic view is that by 12,000AD, science will have answered all of the big questions of today’s science, and scientists working at old, prestigious universities will have come up with new questions to answer. Meanwhile, engineering will have turned the answers to the original questions into new products. We’re talking terraforming Mars, mining the Oort, interstellar travel (possibly at FTL-equivalent speeds), effective immortality, wireless earphones that actually produce high fidelity music.

The pessimistic view is that, between asteroid strikes, runaway global warming, and the release of synthetic plagues, there won’t be anyone left to operate an organization.

So there you are. If you want your legacy to last 10,000 years join a monastery, or build a hotel or restaurant next to one. Or get tenure.


How long has this been going on?

April 1, 2019

All professors complain about students slacking off in class. Most students don’t. Many do. There’s even a electrophoretic distribution across the seating chart. The Hermione Grangers all sit up front. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, they pay attention, take notes and ask good questions. Back in the back are those don’t care, don’t want to be there, and aren’t real sure why their parents are making them go. They all have their laptops open (I’m following your lecture slides, prof, and I need to sit back here because that’s where the power plugs are.) Those are the ones who look at their screens and laugh when I haven’t made a joke. In the middle are the ones who are texting on their phones. I know who they are because they are staring at their crotches and smiling.

There’s a body of opinion that we are seeing the results of the electrification of our lives. Everybody lives for their instagram, pinterest, and facebook fix. It’s a 21st Century phenomenon. Maybe not.

Here’s a 14th Century drawing of an academic lecture. Note the distribution of attention: eager students in front, disinterested students in back. Student at the end of the second row consulting their Kindle.

Picture taken from a tweet posted by Stuart Wrigley 

Retirement at 90, Part 1

March 29, 2019

No, not waiting until 90 to retire, waiting for 90 days to blog about what retirement is like. Does that title count as clickbait?

This is not an early retirement as some folks would have it. I’ve been eligible for Social Security for years. But it is earlier than I planned*.

And it’s not at all what my previous lifestyle transitions were like. When I left the military, I already had a job lined up in industry. When I left industry, I was already enrolled in a PhD program. Before I finished my dissertation, I had been hired at EWU. This is the first time I have left one career field without having a firm idea of what I’ll be doing next. Fortunately, throughout my many careers I’ve been selfish and lazy enough that transitioning to a life of selfish laziness should not be a problem.

Herewith, a breakout of what it felt like each month after retirement

The first month feels like any other vacation. Final wrapup of duties. Maybe a vacation trip — in this case, a ten day cruise. My weight goes up because, hey, a cruise. So far, it’s just another Christmas Break.

The second month is when the cognitive dissonance sets in. I have this feeling that I have to be doing something — prepping lectures, rewriting syllabi, correcting homework, something — but of course I don’t have anything like that. It’s not a case of feeling useless, as many retirees reportedly do, it’s a case of not yet having figured out how to restructure my time.**

Unstructured time

Now and again I get an email from a student — We miss you! The other profs are mean to us! I refrain from getting involved. I’m going to stop by the office at some point, but I’ll hold off for a while. Student sobbing should trail off as the current generation graduates and the new ones never heard of me. Kindof like sticking one’s hand in a bucket of water.

I spend way more time on the computer than I ever did when I was teaching MIS, hitting reload on my 200 345 RSS feeds, reading lots of things I would never have wasted my time on earlier (Air Canada pilot orders 23 pizzas to Halifax-bound plane stranded on tarmac). The tendinitis in my mouse hand is back, so to get away from the computer I start binge-watching One Piece and Sailor Moon on Crunchyroll, and re-reading classic novels like That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime. My weight goes up because I’m not spending two hours a day walking back and forth in front of a class, waving my arms, and because, hey, all that food is just sitting there in the fridge. I can’t go jogging (OK, walking) because Spokane is still shivering from a six-week-long cold snap where the windchills are in the minuses and everything that isn’t buried in snow is covered with ice.

What I really want to do is get back to my research (and learning Python, and learning Japanese), but to do that I have to be able to get to my desk and my desk is piled high with books and papers. I’d put them away but to do that I’d have to be able to get to the various bookcases, which are blocked by stacks of coats and backpacks that I need to find space for in the closets, boxes of books from my office and old computer gear that I need to find space for … somewhere else … and papers that I need to put on my desk so I can organize them.

Meanwhile, various tasks cut into my time: patching the hole in the bathroom ceiling where the leak came through last summer, doing my taxes (This year I’m going to be early, dammnit!), upgrading my wife’s computer from Ubuntu 14 to 18, and all the rest of the twenty years’ worth of deferred housework. Since I’m not really a household chores sort of guy it takes an effort, and a strong will, to motivate myself to do these things and hey, they just released the latest episode of The Magnificent KOTOBUKI.

Actually, I’m not getting a lot of that stuff done, either. Mostly, I seem to be frittering away my time. By the time I’m done with surfing, reading, napping, kitchen, and anime, the day is over, and where did it go? I seem to be caught in a basin of attraction, one that’s not really sustainable.

By the end of the third month, things have begun to settle down. I no longer feel I have to spend an hour on the computer the very first thing, so that I get the latest MIS news for my students (I don’t have any students, remember?). So I can make breakfast, and do my various neck and back exercises (see ailments) before I stroll into my office. I’ve got a timer on the computer that tells me to stop and stretch every 20 minutes, and to go take an exercise break every hour. It turns out that I have a couple of neck exercises that take three minutes to run through — just the right length of time to steep a cup of tea.

Outside, the days are noticeably longer (but not yet long) and the weather is definitely warmer (but not yet warm). This gives me a chance to start walking again.

Inside, I’ve set up a table in the Sun Room for seedlings, preparing them for hardening-off in the cabinet-sized greenhouse on the deck. I’m also attacking the various household chores during those 20 minute breaks. It’s a slow job, but things are getting done.***

I still haven’t made any progress on my research and learning.

Since I do have all this time, and since MJ is still busy six days a week with dog training and dog judging and music directing, I get to do most of the cooking. So my weight is going up. Since retirement it’s been going up by about a pound a week.

Next time, we’ll look at the future, and the past.

*I retired because of my health. Not that I’m unhealthy on a day to day basis, but because I can’t be sure what it will be like, day to day. Quite apart from the whole multiple myeloma thing, I find that entropy is beginning to become a factor: high blood pressure, bad back, bad neck, bad hips (bursitis), bad knees; various eye issues (including early indicators of age-related macular degeneration, so I’ve got something to look forward to); gout. Gout? I don’t own a big enough home to have gout.

Of course, the big problem isn’t the ailments, it’s how to pay for them. Retirement has shuffled my health insurance and reduced my options. Plus, the new MyChart system at the local hospital doesn’t seem to be able to bill the insurers properly, and they don’t seem to have figured out what my new status is.  I am paying more now, and getting more things rejected. Part of my now-copious spare time looks like it will be spent fighting MyChart and Medicare and Tricare. So far, every visit has required that I work my way down the chain, again.

Looks like one of the constraints on my overseas trips and dakimakura purchases will be how much of my discretionary income gets siphoned off to pay bonuses to the stockholders of Celgene.

**I sent this comic to a recently retired friend, ex-Army, hard charger type. He said he showed it to his wife, and he thought he’d have to call 911, she was laughing so hard.

*** If a man says he’s gonna do something, he’s gonna do it, and it don’t do no good you go reminding him of it every six months.

Wildlife in Cheney

March 11, 2019

You know the weather’s been inclement when the deer come into town to forage. Right at sundown yesterday we had eight does and one buck eating the grass under the trees at the end of our block.

As long as one walked quietly and didn’t pay attention to them, they didn’t spook. Finally, a dog started barking, and they strolled off down the street.

Of course, some people take this as a bad omen.

MH370 Timeline

March 9, 2019

On the 5th anniversary of the loss of MH370 over the Indian Ocean, Aviation Week has released a slideshow-style summary timeline.

We have good IFF and radar tracking of the initial stages of the flight

And we have limited, but telling, automated communications data of the rest of it.

What we don’t have is a good idea of exactly where the aircraft went down, but debris drift simulations agree with the general area shown by the communications analysis.

One thing we do have is enough debris pieces with serial numbers to rebut any claims that MH370 went down anywhere else (e.g. Cambodia).

Given the remoteness of the location and the difficulty of searching the depths of a rugged seafloor, it’s likely that we won’t have any further developments, and MH370 will go down as another one of aviation’s mysteries.

10th Anniversary of the Blog

March 5, 2019

The Found on Web blog is ten years old today. In that time I’ve published almost 1,300 articles (just over 10 per month), which pulled in just over 67,000 views (about 50 views per article). They generated over 87,000 comments, of which 500 were real, and the rest were spam.

The most views were on August 10th, 2015, at 106, mostly from people reading my various Girls und Panzer essays. As for individual essays, High School of the Dead (1865) maintained its position atop the leaderboard, followed closely by Garden Gantt (1855) and Anime Worth Watching for Winter, 2015 (1492). Two others topped 1,000 views: Nisemonogatari (1107) and Picture Stories From Earth: Seawater Farms (1104).

HSOTD was described as a fan service train wreck, but I liked it. I suspect most people didn’t come for the well-handled storyline. Garden Gantt is a garden scheduling spreadsheet. Anime Worth Watching includes the ever popular Shirobako, and Nisemonogatari has the infamous little-sister-and-toothbrush scene. I suspect that Seawater Farms is a popular student paper topic.

As for the future, I hope to be writing more, and better. We’ll see.



Trip to Panama

January 18, 2019

Just posted a page (see right hand column) on our recent trip to Panama.

Death and improvements

January 2, 2019

538 has an article up on death rates in America. The accompanying chart shows the strong link between location and death. Sixteen of the top twenty counties are in the coal country of Kentucky and West Virginia, or the native American reservations of the Dakotas, and this has pretty much held true for almost thirty years.

But what I find interesting, and encouraging, is the overall improvement in American health. Except, of course, for those same high death rate counties.

If you trace the interactive map back to the beginning, in 1988, the overall US death rate was 1,113 per 100k. Thirty years later, it was 786. Unfortunately, progress is scattered (the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed). Oglala-Lakota county, in ND, had a death rate of 2,000 per 100k in 1988, and 1,600 in 2014. The equivalent numbers for Logan county WV, were 1,321   and 1,286. So both of these counties in 2014 are worse than the overall US was in 1988.

Still, an overall drop of 30% in 30 years is a Good Thing. What’s even better is that we’ve demonstrated that it can be done. All we have to do now is do it all over.

And so, she’s gone

December 17, 2018

Not a good Christmas week. Song didn’t make it.

She was OK through Saturday, bright, cheerful, wanting to stand, wagging her tail. On Sunday, she was depressed and lethargic, and bad enough we took her to the emergency vet.

On Monday, she died on the operating table. Essentially, the seal on her intestine failed. So did her pancreas. And her spleen.

She was only nine, and was a bright, energetic golden retriever. She loved to train, whatever the weather.

Indoors, she liked nothing more than to lie around with the other dogs.

Good night, Song.

 We will miss you.

Not with a bang

December 15, 2018

So ends my last academic week as a professor. I thought it would be a bittersweet going-around to offices, final correcting of finals, final assignment of grades, and so forth, before finally riding off into the sunset. Not so fast, Chips.

On my last day of finals I got hit with some sort of viral infection. Bad enough for me to see the doctor. As usual with these things, she gave me a bunch of symptom-suppressors and told me to go home to bed.

But those finals!

So, I’d correct for a couple of hours, then sleep for a couple of hours, and so-on. Finished late on Sunday, instead of mid-day on Thursday, as is my wont. Got the grades in on Monday. Cancelled my dental and eye appointments, and went back to bed.

Meanwhile Song, our senior golden retriever, ate a washcloth, as goldens are wont to do. It disappeared, didn’t show up on X-rays, festered, impacted, other horrible stuff, and sent her to the hospital. They found it, inside two feet of rotting bowel. She came home on an IV, which we had to watch constantly for 24hrs lest she pull it out.

She’s survived the initial crisis and no longer needs a constant hand on her head. Next issue is, was the operation successful? Can she take fluids without vomiting (yes, so far, 4 tablespoons at a time). Solid food comes soon.

Meanwhile, it’s MJ’s busiest time of the year, with the Christmas Cantata tomorrow. When she hasn’t been worrying about me, or keeping a hand on Song, she’s been working program notes an rehearsing the choir. She is somewhat stressed, but hides it well.

It’s not just politics that will make us happy that 2018 has ended.

What reading does for you

December 7, 2018

Not everything is about Pearl Harbor. On this day eighty years ago, as it turns out, excessive reading was found to be an acceptable cause for divorce.

The end of the world

November 21, 2018

This essay treads a fine line between death and disaster. Five years ago, I talked about what happens if technology goes away. This Thanksgiving I’d like to talk about how that might happen. The fine line we are treading is that between something that will kill off everything (say, a true dinosaur-killer impact), and something that will kill off only a lot of things (say, a much lesser rock that hits in the Atlantic and creates a mega-tsunami from Maine to Florida). In one case we are talking about re-setting evolution and recolonization of the Earth by tardigrades, while in the other we are waiting for the re-colonization of Virginia by Californians. In this essay, I’m assuming something in between.

1. The people die, but the technology remains in place.
Prime example: worldwide plague.
Secondary example: nearby supernova.
Illustrative movie: The World the Flesh and the Devil (1959). The blurb claims a nuclear holocaust, but NYC is still standing.

A nearby supernova bathing the planet in lethal levels of radiation could kill off most of the life on the planet either directly, with gamma rays, or indirectly, by destroying the ozone layer. Fortunately, the probability of such an event is vanishingly low. Survivors might be those in protected environments, such as concrete buildings or below ground facilities. Protection from gamma radiation might only be necessary for hours, while destruction of the ozone layer might take months or years to recover.

A global pandemic, on the other hand, is all too possible. It might be caused by natural mutations in existing diseases, escaped organisms from a national lab, or a terrorist or home hobbyist group.

2. The people are still there, but the technology is gone.
Prime example: Extreme solar EMP event.
Secondary example: Worldwide nuclear EMP conflict
Illustrative movie: Maybe the Mad Max series, since some pockets of tech might remain, for a while.

This is, to my thinking, an unlikely event, for three reasons. First, it requires a solar EMP superevent, one that’s likely to hit maybe once every few hundred years. Second, it requires that the event go on long enough to pound the entire planet. With the duration of events we’ve seen, the North American grid might be destroyed, but the European and Asian grids could survive. Or any one of those, or any two out of three.

Third, the primary threat is due to geomagnetically induced ground currents. However, conductivities within the geological base rock can vary by 5 orders of magnitude. Power systems in areas of igneous rock are most vulnerable. This means that even within a national or continental grid, there are lots of places that will be minimally affected, unless the superevent is really super. So, New York, on glacial granite, is toast. Northern Virginia, on what my brother calls “300 feet of sedimentary crap”, might well survive.

A nuclear EMP war is even more unlikely, because it is, by definition, a nuclear war, and we immediately jump to Scenario 3.  Regional EMP conflicts are possible, but the outside world would still exist, and help would come. Eventually.

3. Everybody and everything dies (more or less).
Prime example: not-quite-dinosaur-killer asteroid
Secondary example: nuclear winter
Illustrative movie: Not On The Beach. Maybe The Road (2009), or Brin’s The Postman (1997), only worse.

Highly unlikely. The next asteroid impact might be a thousand years from now (or maybe next Tuesday). Nuclear winter requires full engagement of major nuclear powers. A regional Indo/Pakistan war won’t do it. A NK attack on Guam, or Adak, or the Farallons won’t do it, particularly since our response may well be non-nuclear, to keep Japan and Russia out of the plume.


The first thing to realize in any of these scenarios is, if you are in a city, you are screwed. And if you are in a town, you are screwed. Urban areas only have 3-5 days worth of food for the population, so no matter how civilized and cooperative we are, at the end of the first week, there’s nothing left. Let’s go further. Suppose we institute extreme rationing, and totally cut off those who can’t contribute to the restoration of society — installing Death Panels that will keep doctors but kill the sick. And the old. How long then? A month?

Are you a prepper? Good luck with that. Most of you will die in gunfights with other preppers, out to take your stuff. Some of you, the most paranoid, will survive six months or a year on hand-ground corn and vitamin tablets. Not long enough to grow a new crop, and anyway, how are you going to defend your fields?

Are you a prepper who prepared their own mountain redoubt “at least two tanks of gas from the nearest city”? Then you end up with a spinal condition from permanently hunkering down in your bunker, or you spend your life scampering into the hills at every possible threat, or you find yourself stranded in your own neighborhood with a government that won’t let you move (Scenario 1), a car that doesn’t work (Scenario 2), or a fine rain of engine-killing, people-killing dust (Scenario 3).

How far can you drive, starting during rush hour?
Dark is one hour, light is five hours.
(BTW, the shaded areas are where most everybody dies by the end of Week 2)

If you live within one tank of gas, or four day’s walk, of a major city or town, expect to be overrun with starving refugees. If it’s Scenario 1, many will be sick, and so will you be, soon. If you’re a hard core prepper, do you have enough ammo to kill off, say 10% of a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area when they come down your road?

This means that all of coastal America is gone. All of Europe. All of coastal Asia and  the urbanized bits of Africa and South America.

So who has a chance of survival? Mostly, it’s the currently impoverished regions with a remaining tradition of subsistence farming. Let’s see:

1. Rural America. Mostly no. Even the light areas on that graphic will have problems. Our farms and ranches are too industrialized. A Montana rancher might survive that first year, while stocks of feed are drawn down, but the second year and thereafter could depend on following Neolithic rules of animal husbandry, and killing off most of the stock in the Fall. A Nebraska farmer might survive a year, unless he’s tied to pumping out the Ogalalla Aquifer. Then he’ll find that his seeds are proprietary, and won’t breed true. The key will lie in recognizing the fact that there is a disaster, and knowing what kind of disaster it is. Maybe the rural South will do better, because of the tradition of local gardens. But we’re talking about producing enough food for your family for a year. And anyway, as the graphic shows, it might not be rural enough.

And even if you are rural, you won’t be able to depend on traditional hunting and fishing, because several million other people will have the same idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if deer all large mammals (deer, buffalo, cattle, horses ) went extinct in the eastern over most of the US, and if the waterways were all fished (or dynamited) empty.

2. Rural Europe. Western Europe, mostly no. For one thing, there isn’t much of it. Any place where you can see the glow of two major metropolises on your night skyline really isn’t rural. In Eastern Europe and the western part of the former Soviet Union, maybe. Fewer big cities, farther apart, with a poorer road net. More of a gardening tradition. Downside: getting through that first winter.

3. MENASWA. Middle East/North Africa/SouthWest Asia, extending from Morocco to Pakistan, and north into Central Asia. The problem here is that rural means desolate. There’s not a lot of land that is both rural and arable. There’s lots of people with weapons, call them semi-preppers. Survival is still possible in isolated pockets, call them refugia (after the semi-warm places where early humans sat out the ice ages).

4. AFSSA. Africa South of the Sahara. One of the better possibilities. Even though the region has made significant strides technologically, much of the population is still organized around subsistence farming. On the other hand, there’s a lot of population. And a lot of armed groups. Many people will survive the first couple of years, but many many more will not.

5. Coastal Asia. Too many people, even in the countryside. They will have the same problem that the coastal US has. Maybe some parts will do well — Hokkaido, southern Philippines, parts of Indonesia, SouthEast Asia.

6.Continental Asia. Interior China and most of India. Probably too many people, despite the local agricultural traditions. Probably still too close to the cities. As with AFSSA, there will be survivors, but not many.

7. Latin America. Like AFSSA, lots of rural, with pockets that still have an ongoing tradition of subsistence farming. Not that many really big cities. Not that good of a transportation network, needed to transport all those city mouths to the country.

8. The Far North. Alaska, Canada, and Siberia. Maybe. The trouble is, the thinly-scattered population of independent types is still dependent on an industrial base. Native Americans may live closer to nature than those of us with European ancestors, but they still go hunting caribou on snowmobiles, using rifles with factory-made bullets (or factory-made gunpowder).

And that’s pretty much it. The world will be repopulated by Brazilians, Congolese, and the inhabitants of scattered refugia like New Guinea, Nepal, Laos, Armenia, and Cuba. How much technology will be left for them to inherit, and will they be able to do anything with it? Read the prior article, then go enjoy your Thanksgiving Dinner.

My silly dog

September 14, 2018
We took one of the dogs, Music, in to be spayed the other day. She came home that night with a lovely Elizabethan collar to keep her from licking the incision. Now, most dogs are a little petrified when they first get the collar, and they have trouble realizing they can walk, and even lie down. After an hour or so they figure things out. Not Music.
She was convinced she couldn’t do anything in the collar, and just stood there. After a while we showed her she could walk, and she managed a few steps, when suitably encouraged. But she had trouble with this whole ‘lie down in a collar’ thing. So she stood. And she stood. We showed her how to lie down, but she didn’t believe us, so she got back up and stood some more. MJ, who is fighting a cold and needed to sit up anyway, sat in the family room with her all night, watching the Hurricane Channel. As far as we can tell, Music stood for fifteen hours, before fatigue set in and she finally laid down, and slept all morning. Today she is happy and active and trotting around and jumping into chairs with her new fashion accessory on and don’t you other dogs wish you had something like this? Silly dog.

Our Old Trees

August 24, 2018

Our house was built in the 1960’s, and presumably that’s when our trees were put in. So they are on the order of half a century old. In addition, I have been somewhat neglectful of them, the tree in the back, in particular. In these hot, drought months we haven’t been watering the lawn, which means we haven’t been watering the trees. To make matters worse, when our groundskeepers (OK, lawn guys) trimmed the trees last Fall, they cut the weeping cherry out front way back. Which, I find, is not something you are supposed to do with old old trees.

As a result, the tree out back has lots of dead wood, and the tree out front is just dying.

So, earlier this week we had a man in to pull out the old weeping cherry out front, and trim the big whateveritis in the back.

Before, Front

After, Front

Before, Back

After, Back

That should do it.

Now, we need to decide what to replace the front tree with. The house faces West, and gets direct afternoon sun, so we want something for shade. Right now I’m torn between Metasequoia glyptostroboides, and Phyllostachys aureosulcata. We are going to run down to our local tree nursery and see what they have.

MH370 Final Report

August 4, 2018

So the Malaysian government have issued their final report on the loss of MH370. At 495 pages, plus appendices, it’s quite a bit longer than their original effort. Unfortunately, as anyone could have predicted, it doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know, and it finds it impossible to come to a conclusion as to the reason for the loss.

What we do know, is that shortly after contacting Ho Chi Min ACC, the various communications systems were shut down, and the Kuala Lumpur – Beijing flight made a roughly 120° left turn to the SW, flew back across Malaysia, turned NW, flew past the north end of the island of Sumatra, turned S towards the Southern Ocean, and flew until it ran out of fuel.

Some of the report deals with procedural errors by the various air traffic control authorities, but none of those would have altered the outcome.

There were a couple of points made that it’s useful to report, because they deal with events that are the basis for various theories about what happened.

1.The changes in aircraft heading required human input. This means that someone was alive and in the cockpit from 1720UTC to 1822UTC. This leaves out the various decompression/oxygen malfunction scenarios.

2. The altitude track, based on radar skin tracking, not transponder data, is admitted to be wrong. At one point, the track shows the aircraft climbing from 36,700ft to 58,200ft in six minutes. That’s a 3,500fpm climb to 15,000ft higher than the service ceiling. It then is shown descending to 4,800ft (53,000ft drop) in about a minute. Simulations have shown that such actions are beyond the capability of the aircraft. This lets out the theories that the pilot manipulated the altitude to suffocate the passengers.

UPDATE: A more recent article in The Atlantic says that “circumstances suggest” the aircraft depressurized and climbed to near 40,000ft, close to the rated ceiling. This just requires that the radar track be slightly wrong, rather than totally wrong. My report on the article is here.

3. Damage to the right outboard flap and flaperon indicate the flap was retracted and the flaperon was in neutral — an in-flight configuration — at the time of the crash. This contradicts earlier reports that the flaps had been extended, which would require aircrew intervention.

So, we are left where we were a year or so ago. Someone, crew or intruder, diverted the flight across Malaysia, around Sumatra, and into the Southern Ocean. My guess is that it was one of the pilots. The aircraft maneuvers required a trained pilot. There was no indication of any intrusion into the cockpit, despite current tools that allow the crew to indicate that kind of an emergency to ATC. Besides, a cockpit intrusion implies terrorists, and terrorists want publicity. Nobody has claimed responsibility. That leaves the aircrew. There’s no hard data to support this, but we are in a Sherlockian situation where all the other possibilities have been exhausted.

WordPress Math

July 19, 2018

A quick check on my stats, early this morning, shows:

That is, two views by one visitor. Both the views were of my home page, and the visitor came from … the US and the UK?  Is this a case of dual citizenship?

Happy Tanabata

July 7, 2018

Clear here tonight, so the lovers can meet.


from 2017

Stonekettle on Nazis

June 29, 2018

Here’s my second-ever un-commented link to someone else’s work.

Stonekettle’s tweet stream on how the Nazis come to power.

The last beginning

June 16, 2018

Commencement: The first existence of anything; act or fact of commencing
Synonyms: rise, origin, beginning, start, dawn

Today was Commencement at EWU. The graduating class was so big that they all couldn’t fit into the Spokane Arena at the same time, so we had to do it in shifts.

Since I am retiring at the end of the Fall Quarter of 2018 (exactly six months from now), this marks the last Commencement I will be attending as EWU faculty, and the last time I get to wear my official PhD robes.

Only the coolest people get the coolest hats.

They are coming for your drones

May 6, 2018

Last week at an industry conference, the FBI spun a fairy tale, one that was reported uncritically by the press, about criminal use of drones. Go read it (and note that two of the first three comments called shenanigans, so it’s not just me). Here’s my breakdown.

It seems this “criminal gang” got itself involved in a hostage situation, as criminal gangs are wont to do. Now, this is the first time I’ve heard of such a thing. Usually, it’s some lone idiot whose plans have gone horribly wrong.

The FBI was called in, and set up an “elevated OP” to monitor the situation. This OP evidently was not hidden well enough that the bad guys weren’t aware of it. Maybe it was the FBI flag that gave it away.

The bad guys then launched a swarm of drones, from an unspecified location, to fly around the observers’ heads, kindof like nesting starlings, distracting them and making them lose “situational awareness”.  The drones, by the way, had been “backpacked” in, in anticipation of the FBI arrival.

Finally, the drone video was uploaded to YouTube, so that all members of the gang could see what a distracted FBI agent looked like.

No further details are available, because the incident remains “law enforcement-sensitive”. Of course, the criminal gang knows when and where it happened, and it has YouTube videos of FBI agents swatting at drones, but the FBI can’t tell us citizens any more (like, just for e.g., why the FBI didn’t use its own drones).

One has to wonder what the true FBI motive is behind this story. My guess is that they want more control over civilian drones, and this fake news is just the start of a flood of reports about drones harassing law enforcement, disrupting cattle drives, and carrying off small children.



The archaeology of the Trump dynasty

April 1, 2018

“Discovered in 2084 beneath the ruins of the American Democracy, the “Altar of Trumpism” seen here. was considered the jewel of the Trump Building Program. Originally designed as the spot at which Republicans would sacrifice true conservatism, adherence to the law, and personal decency in exchange for short-term political gain, it came to be used for the ritual slaughter of legislators….”

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Sorry, Barnes & Noble, you’re too hard to deal with

February 3, 2018

In order to keep up a certain amount of competition with Amazon, I’m willing to put up with a certain amount of inconvenience from places like B&N. A certain amount.

I had this vague notion that I could use B&N for downloadable e-books, and Amazon Prime for movement of molecules. That worked OK for a while, and then it all went pear-shaped.

If I am looking at an e-book and click on the picture, it sends me to a page that will order the paperback, meanwhile claiming that I’m reviewing the e-book. I have to click on the book title to get to the version I want.

Then, their site navigation doesn’t seem to pass information from one part to another. When I click on that book to order it, it sends me to a popup that wants me to establish an account. Meanwhile, it has my name in the header bar.

Meanwhile, my credit card expired. So I went to Manage Accounts to update the date. That worked OK, except the popup can’t tell the difference between N and North on my address (it’s worked fine for the last year, B&N, did you get a new DB admin?). Am I done? No. It needs a phone number. It pre-filled in everything else, but it doesn’t have my phone? Yeah, yeah, here it is. Click OK, and get a note that I’ve already updated my address.

Security email saying my account has changed. Glad you noticed.

Ready to order. Order. Popup. Something along the lines of, “We can’t fill your order because we don’t have an account for you, and your address isn’t in our DB, and your credit card is out of date…”

Is it any wonder that Amazon is eating their lunch?



Nuking Hawaii

January 13, 2018

I guess since everyone is weighing in on the Hawaii fiasco, I guess I should also, since I was peripherally involved with that sort of thing.

Civilian attack warning started out as CONELRAD (those funny triangles on your old radio dial). That was replaced by EBS, which was replaced by EAS, the Emergency Alert System. Under this, the states get messages from the federal government (FEMA), which gets the original message from the military, and take whatever action they deem necessary. Unlike CONELRAD, EAS is designed for multiple threats, including natural disasters, like tornadoes and wildfires, and so gets inputs from NWS and other federal agencies. For a nuclear attack, there’s often a canned message. If there’s a canned message, there’s always the chance it will get released in error.

In the case of the Hawaii alert, the system was apparently being tested during a shift change, and the wrong selection was made off a menu. Then it was confirmed. Easily done. Could happen to anybody. In fact, it should have been expected, since the system was just reactivated following a post-Cold War stint in mothballs.

This is not the only time such errors have been made. On at least one occasion, many years ago, a CONELRAD test sent out a message that caused a number of US radio stations to shift to the emergency frequency. More often, errors at the state level have caused local disruptions. The US military has people trained and dedicated to this sort of thing 24/7. The states have, essentially, whoever is on duty in their public safety center, watching for wildfires and riots.

And therein lies the problem. As with the See Something, Say Something approach to countering terrorist activity, if you depend on amateurs for warning, you get amateur warning. If it had been a real missile attack, how many of those people we saw running around would have been saved by the warning? Would being over there, instead of over here have protected them?

Aren’t you glad we had a warning?


December 15, 2017

365 days from now. Second time.
22 years military.
19 years academic.

What? He’s still around?

How to find my blog

October 9, 2017

Evidently, the query pholich sex video amrican works pretty well. Since I don’t do sex videos, it must be the pholich, or maybe the amrican. I’ll have to include more of those.

WordPress Issues

September 18, 2017

So, WP has decided to do something to my formatting. I think it may have something to do with them sticking two ads in at the end of my last Japan post. Now, the top half of the previous gardening post is double-columned with the Japan post, and the bottom half is below the ads. And everything below that has lost formatting, but only on the first page. Not sure what’s going on here. I managed to fix things by combining my last two garden reports and deleting Day 05 and the last garden report, then reloading Day 05. No idea what caused it. As NSA says “Regret Inconvenience”

MH370 and trash in the ocean 2

August 16, 2017

The search that just won’t die. Just over three years ago I talked about using satellite imagery to search for debris from the MH-370 crash site. Now, a reanalysis of all imagery available has shown more debris, including some items big enough to be from the aircraft.

Four spots, north of the search area, and well north of the previous debris field

The imagery was obtained two weeks after the crash, and so had been moving at the whim of the wind and the currents. Detailed drift analysis gives some idea of where the debris could have ended up.

Consistent with a crash in the center of the white line, at 35.6°S, 92.8°E

The map doesn’t show tracks, it shows calculated possible final locations, with error bars, from a starting point on the white line, just outside the search area. You will note a dense cluster of them in the vicinity of PH-04, the upper right square. The problem is, of course, that the imagery isn’t good enough to tell what the floating objects are.

Pleiades Area 4. Mostly clouds and shadows

Even with Principal Component Analysis image enhancement.

Pleiades Area 4 Item 3. Red box in center is the original image. Left is true color blowup. Right is false color enhancement

The imagery analysis report can be found here (pdf), and the full file of ATSB reports here.

This new evidence might not be enough to re-start an already expensive search, but it will certainly prompt an intense scrutiny of the sonar recordings from that edge of the search box.

Smoke gets in your eyes

August 4, 2017

I am always amazed at how far smoke can travel. Lots of fires up in British Columbia, lots of BC smoke in the Spokane area. Right now our AQI is 193. In Beijing, it’s 45.










Judging from the map, it will only get worse here. Out on our back deck, it takes the form of a light haze. You can smell the smoke, and your eyes water. I guess we keep the house closed up tonight.

UPDATE: Was still too smoky to open up, even at 11PM. 3/4 moon was a nice bright orange. I’d write a haiku, but I can’t think of a rhyme.

Cultural Appropriation

June 29, 2017

Lauren Orsini, the always-interesting Otaku Journalist, recently raised the issue of cultural appropriation, and pointed to an article by Jarune Uwujaren at Everyday Feminist. I’ve read both articles multiple times, and still have trouble wrapping my head around some applications of the definition, and not just because I’m a fat old Euro male. I think they are overlooking a fundamental difference between what goes on inside a country, and what goes on outside of it.

Uwujaren makes a strong case for cultural appropriation as part of an ongoing power imbalance within a country/society, specifically, the US. The dominant white culture (mine), demands conformance to its ideas of dress and behavior, on pain of not being thought serious, or worthy, of dealing with. This, by the way is true within the culture, as well as without. Bill Gates famously went out and bought a business suit so he could convince IBM he was a serious businessman when he met to sell them DOS. It rejects the elements of the other cultures (African-American, Native American, Hispanic, etc) as having no place in a white-dominated world.

Cultural Appropriation, as I understand their discussion, is when that dominant culture then turns around and adopts elements of the rejected subcultures in ways that are not respectful of their origins. The frat-boy type wearing the Native American head-dress in the Uwujaren article. Portrayals of traditional Hispanic dress (sombreros, decorated jackets) in commercials. The majority culture appropriates elements of a subculture for humor or commercial gain. This is all understandable when you are talking about the actions of the majority culture inside a country. It is a blatant flaunting of the unequal power relationship.

Between countries is a totally different thing.

My position is that there can be no Uwujaren-style appropriation between countries because there is no cultural coercion. The dominant culture in a country is dominant, and it doesn’t care what you think. If you go into a bank in the US wearing Arab robes, you will be stared at, if not strip searched. That goes double for an airport. If, on the other hand, you are in Riyadh, then everyone of importance wears robes, and you are the semi-despised foreigner, sweating in your business suit. Your cultural dominance in the US doesn’t matter. If you then change to robes, you are seen as a still-despised foreigner, aping your betters.

As a way of thinking about this, let’s turn our concerns about cultural appropriation 180 degrees, and look at other countries’ appropriation of American culture.

Consider Japan, which worries Orsini so. If you live in Japan, and have Japanese friends, and own a dark suit, then you might be called upon to officiate at a faux-Christian wedding ceremony in a building like the one below.

Not really a church

That’s not a church. It’s a commercial establishment that is rented out for couples who want to be “married” in a “church”. Is that cultural appropriation, or simple adoption? In America, there are several dominant religions that would be insulted. In Japan, with a Christian population of less than 3%, it’s looked on as kindof trendy.

Then there’s anime, the wellspring of all things otaku. Neon Genesis Evangelion is considered a seminal anime from twenty years ago, which totally rewrote the rules on how one portrays giant robots and parenting. The title can be translated from the Classical Greek as Gospel of a New Century.  In it, the robots battle Angels, using weapons like the Spear of Longinus (now suffering from additional exploitation), to prevent the destruction of New Tokyo, as foretold in the Prophecies of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is far more than appropriation — it borders on looting and pillaging.  Actually, it’s director Anno grabbing whatever sounded good to him and sticking it in.

Or consider the Spring 2017 anime season just ending. There’s an anime titled The Seven Mortal Sins, that trivializes Christian and Jewish concepts of sin by re-casting them in the bodies of buxom babes. Exploitation? Certainly. Cultural appropriation in the Uwujaren definition? I’m not so sure.

Yet another example is Christmas, that most sacred of Western holy days (even though the commercial aspects sometimes overshadow the sacred). The Japanese have appropriated it and turned it into a totally commercial holiday. Unlike New Year’s, probably Japan’s most culturally significant holiday, Christmas in Japan is more like Valentine’s day in the US. Decorations may go up early, but they come down the day after.

So, I think what’s going on here is the application of one phrase to describe two different things: cultural appropriation inside a country as opposed to appropriation across country borders. Part of this may be the confusion of the word exchange as a business deal, as opposed to exchange as an intellectual process. The labelling of a cultural exchange as a material transaction. A cultural exchange is an exchange of ideas, not of material things. “This is how we fry flour and eggs and cabbage, and we call it Okonomiyaki“.  Which might or might not be followed by “Oh, that’s interesting. This is how we fry flour and eggs, but no cabbage, and we call it “Hot cakes“. It’s an exchange of ideas, not a material transaction. As Thomas Jefferson said, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” There’s really no way to pay another culture for the use of their ideas, even if we didn’t explain to them about hot cakes. All we can do is expose them to our way of doing things, and let them pick and choose and adapt as they see fit. And if the way they see fit to adopt and adapt something of ours is totally outside of our vision, well, that’s not something we can control. That’s not something we can do anything about.

In fact, that’s not something that’s any of our business.

And since the reverse is true, you can go on practicing yoga, or eating Salisbury Steak on Baps with Red Sauce without feeling guilty.


The Battle of Midway, 75 years ago

June 4, 2017

The Battle of Midway, 75 years ago today, marked the end of a remarkable six-month string of victories by the Japanese fast carrier fleet (Japanese name Kido Butai) across one third of the circumference of the globe, from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to Colombo, Ceylon.

After striking at Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, the carrier force returned to Japan, before deploying to Truk and then to Palau, in support of the invasion of the northern Solomons. In February, they sortied for a raid on Darwin, Australia — the largest attack ever carried out against that country. Much of March was spent operating out of Staring Bay, Celebes, covering the Japanese Army operations across the Java Sea.

Early April, 1942, saw the fast carrier force in the Indian Ocean, where they conducted strikes on Colombo and Trincomalee, Ceylon, sinking the British carrier Hermes. By midmonth they were back in the South China Sea, bound for a replenishment stop in Taiwan.

The carriers redeployed to Truk in early May, to support the invasion of Port Moresby, New Guinea. On 7-8 May they participated in the Battle of the Coral Sea, suffering their first carrier loss (CL Shoho). It was a tactical victory but strategic defeat, because the Japanese had to call off the invasion.

Finally, in early June, the carriers assembled north of Midway Island, seeking to draw out US forces to protect the island. Unfortunately for them, the US had broken their codes and knew exactly what their plans were and where the carriers were located. This was not as easy as it sounds, by the way. For example, the carriers were operating under radio silence, but their support ships, including destroyers known to be used as their escorts, were not. We had to infer the location of the carriers.

The results of the battle are well known — four Kido Butai carriers sunk, with the loss of not just their decks, but their experienced crews and planes and pilots. Up until Midway, the average IJN pilot had about 700 flying hours under his belt. Midway started a decline to 70 flying hours by war’s end.



May 8, 2017

Tsuki no hanami — moon flower viewing

Moon not quite full

Sakura past their peak

Overwhelming city lights

My bed calls


Beyond the Mountains of Madness

April 1, 2017

Probing into one of the most inaccessible parts of Antarctica, in an un-named part of the continent described only as being “beyond the Mountains of Madness”, a privately-funded expedition from Miskatonic University has discovered what the explorers describe as the remnants of an early civilization, one that appears to be related to ancient Egypt. The region is shrouded in perpetual cloud and fog, and most of the complex is encased in thousands of feet of snow and ice, but one structure, a pyramid ten times larger than the Great Pyramid of Kufu, was accessible through a great stone passage near the top.

Did ancient Egyptians reach Antarctica? Or was Egypt colonised from there?

The pyramids of Antarctica

There has long been a controversy over whether the civilization of ancient Egypt was able to colonise locations as far away as Mexico and Ceylon, or if civilization was imposed on Egypt and elsewhere by a more advanced race, originating in an unknown location. This new find may cast light on that controversy.

Passions have run high on the topic, and there have already been attempts to undermine the Miskatonic work by labelling the pictures a hoax, not taken in Antarctica.

Before contact with the expedition was lost, the leader said they had opened the passage, and inside found “wonderful things”.

For a good time

March 31, 2017

There's still time to rent a van today

There’s still time to rent a van for tonight


The long slow blog

March 5, 2017

Eight years of blogging at FoundOnWeb now, and I’m still going … something descriptive. Since WordPress doesn’t give me the tools I need to be more detailed (at least, not without putting in more work that I feel like doing), and since the blog started two months into the year, I’m just giving Totals From Day One.

In those eight years I’ve published just under three thousand posts (2920), which amounts to one post roughly every three days (2.8). Not much of a change since my last look, at the six year mark.

Total views in excess of fifty thousand (50557), or about 17 per day. Half of those were in the last two years, so I must be doing something right.

The two most popular posts in the last two years are my Garden Gantt spreadsheet, and Anime Worth Watching, Winter 2015, which featured KanColle and twerking torpedos. At last, something unseated Highschool Of the Dead, the anime and the DVD.


Happy Chinese New Year

January 28, 2017

We celebrated last night

We celebrated last night

Happy New Year

December 31, 2016

The sun has just set, here in the NENW, and it’s been 2017 somewhere on Earth for the last ten hours, so, I’m going to declare 2016 over and done with, and while it wasn’t as bad as it seemed, it was bad enough. To get the new year started off right, can you find the 4th dog in this picture?

Hint: Not a Golden Retriever

Hint: Not a Golden Retriever

For those who can’t find her (spoiler): (more…)

Memories of My Youth: Thanksgivings Past

November 24, 2016

President Bush (on right) with Thanksgiving turkey

President Bush (on right) with turkey

Our Trip to Alaska

August 19, 2016

MJ is a handbell ringer and handbell choir director. Every couple of years a Portland group called Bells of the Cascades sponsors a cruise — to Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean — wherein a hundred or so ringers get together, practice during the ocean parts, and put on a concert at the end. Most of the cruises are to warmer climes, during January, and I can’t go along because of school. When it’s an Alaska destination, they go in August, and I can tag along.

Where we went

Where we went

This trip our onshore activity was a little constrained. MJ had just had her shoulder replaced a month before and was still in a sling, with orders to avoid all stress on that arm. But a little thing like having zero use of her left (dominant) arm wasn’t going to keep her from making the trip, and ringing.

Day 1: Departure

We’d sent the dogs to summer camp for the week and packed the night before, so we were able to get on the road by 7AM. It’s roughly two hours to the Columbia, two hours to Seattle, and two hours to the border, plus another hour inside Canada, because the cruise left from Vancouver. Traffic around Seattle was surprisingly heavy.

Downtown Vancouver from the cruise ship dock

Downtown Vancouver from the cruise ship dock

We rolled in to Vancouver about 3PM. The travel agent had booked us at a 4-star hotel (about a star and a half more than we needed) that had the advantage of being on the most direct route from Canada 99N to the cruise ship dock. I really like Vancouver. Of the three great cities of the NW (Portland, Seattle, Vancouver), it’s probably the most cosmopolitan. We walked around a bit, had dinner at a Red Robin (watched a crow learning to lift an onion ring from an abandoned ring-stacker) and went to bed early.

Day 2: Another Departure

Next day we were up early, dodged the crowds and barriers for the Vancouver Gay Pride parade, and zipped down to the cruise ship dock. Parking was inside the cruise ship center, so we offloaded our bags, zipped through customs and security, and were on board by 10AM, thence to hang around the bar until they let us in to our cabins about 1.

Corner suite, right above that orange storage container

Corner suite, right above that orange storage container

The first thing us old folks noticed was the prevalence of kids on the trip, and groups talking off their balconies. It felt a little like an old New York tenement. All it lacked was some laundry hung outside.

Oh, right.

Oh, right.

Another thing we noticed, after several days, was the number of ethnic Chinese on the trip. At one point, in the buffet, of the ten occupied tables, four were seating Chinese speakers. I don’t know if this is a flood of the new middle class from the mainland, or if it was just representative of Vancouver’s large Chinese population (most of whom had arrived just prior to the return of Hong Kong to the PRC). In any event, I was struck by the numbers, and thought of similar sights mentioned in some SF novel of old (Brin? Niven? Stephenson?).

Day 3: At Sea

We started with a 48 hour run up through British Columbia’s Inland Passage and Hecate Strait to a fishing village west of Juneau. Not much to do except sit on the veranda and sip fine wines. Of course, an outside air temperature of 55F and a ship’s speed of 17kts combined to give a wind chill in the upper 30’s, so that option was out. MJ practised with the handbell group,

One person per note

One person per note

and I made an attempt to get some programming done.

Taking time out to look cool

Taking time out to look cool

Day 4: Icy Strait Point

There’s not a lot of places to stop in southern Alaska. There’s Juneau, and maybe four small fishing ports like Ketchikan, plus a couple of glacier-ridden fjords. So, as I understand it, the cruise lines pooled their lunch money and put in a multi-million dollar dock at a small former fishing port, Icy Strait Point. How small is it? One of the highlights on the tour map was a 20-grave cemetery. They also built a fishing museum and a “zipline”. I use the scare quotes because you don’t really hang on the way you do on a real zipline. Instead, they have a seat that looks like some of the safer playground swings. The most photogenic objects are the local cat

The municipal cat. In chair, at left.

The municipal cat. In chair, at left.

the ship

Our floating hotel

Our floating hotel
(click to embiggen)

And here’s a shot of the ship with MJ in the foreground, for scale. The sling is designed to keep her shoulder from levering itself out of the socket.

The sling is designed to keep her shoulder from levering itself out of the socket

She doesn’t normally wear her hair ahoge style.

And finally the museum, which includes a working model of a Radio Shack.

This museum has everything

This museum has everything

Day 5: Hubbard Glacier

Overnight to the Hubbard Glacier. Very impressive

The approach

The approach

and the warm days meant it was calving almost continuously

If you look close, a chunk of ice just fell off in the center

If you look close, a chunk of ice just fell off in the center

That night was the Bells of the Cascades concert

Concert for the passengers

Concert for the passengers

Day 6: Juneau

Running overnight and most of the next day down from Hubbard, we got in to Juneau in the early afternoon. I wandered around a little bit, but the interesting bits of town were too far away from the ship, so I stayed aboard and watched the float planes landing.

As we were docking, one of these landed between the boat and the dock

As we were docking, one of these landed between the boat and the dock

Here’s another view of the ship. Our stateroom is right above the caribou flag.

A cruise-crowded port

A cruise-crowded port

Day 7: Ketchikan

Our last port of call was Ketchikan. During the run down from Juneau, the handbell group gave a free concert. Unfortunately, the room they gave them was so small only a few passengers could get in.

Only one working hand? That's OK. I'll play both bells with it.

Only one working hand?

Caption goes here

That’s OK. I’ll play both bells with it.

We were moored behind Holland-America’s Noordam, one of three other cruise ships at dock. Seeing small fishing towns suddenly inundated with 10,000 or 12,000 tourists gives you a bit of a feeling what it must have been like during the gold rush days.

Four cruise ships, at 3,000 passengers each...

Four cruise ships, at 3,000 passengers each…

BTW, this was Celebrity Infinity docking at Ketchikan back in June. Our arrival was much smoother.


Day 8: At Sea

Another day and a night at sea. We chased the Noordam through the Inland Passage.

No passing zone

No passing zone

That night the Strait of Georgia, and it was amazingly warm. It turns out there was a reason for that.


Day 9: Arrivals

Arrived in port at Vancouver about 6AM. Nice trip under the bridge.

Home from the sea

Home from the sea

Spent most of the morning having a leisurely breakfast. Our chalk was due off the ship at 8:30, and by 9:00 we had picked up our bags and cleared customs and were on our way home.

Arrived home late Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that the whole family was back together again.

Final Thoughts

This cruise wasn’t as much fun as the others, due to MJ’s shoulder, and there were a lot of minor irritations. The ship is, I think, a little small (90,000t, 2500 pax) and a little old (2001, second oldest in their fleet). It was tarted up a few years ago, with a new carpet and paint job, but if you looked at the edges of the steel plates you could see they were delaminating and rusty. The passageways seemed narrower than on other cruise ships, but that might have been because they were always cluttered with cleaning gear and laundry bags. The pre-departure abandon ship drill was a joke. Our muster station was in the main ballroom, from thence someone would take us to our lifeboat…it says here. Other cruise lines hold their drills right next to the assigned lifeboats.

On our cruise, the whole handbell group had asked to be seated together — same dining room, same time — but the Celebrity people didn’t pass that on to the ship, and their on-board software evidently couldn’t solve such a large linear-programming model, so we were scattered hither and yon. At least our table was quite close to the table where MJ’s sister and her family were seated.

It's good to be close to family

It’s good to be close to family

In another, albeit minor, example of software shortfalls, they had one channel of the ships internal TV system devoted to showing a moving map, with our location. However, the system didn’t seem to be hooked into the actual ship systems, because it couldn’t show true wind speed and direction (0/N), and it kept losing (briefly) the GPS location. When that would happen, the map would keep moving underneath this modal window, so I guess it’s waiting for someone to click <OK>.

I'll just wait for someone to notice me

I’ll just wait for someone to notice me

The cabin crew and wait staff, on the other hand, were superb. Well trained, attentive, engaging. Our sommelier was somewhat overworked (I think they were short-handed), and spent most of the evenings running back and forth with armloads of bottles.

If we had been on our onlies, I think it would have rated as a great cruise. As it was, we’re a little disappointed.

Meanwhile, with everyone back home, the puppy is learning how to fit in.

Next time, I just inch a little to the left

Next time, I just inch a little to the left

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 3

August 17, 2016

Almost done.

Turns out, the file transfer process was the easiest part. Copied the contents of my home directory to the NAS, thence to the new SSD. Dug down into the .mozilla and .thunderbird directories and copied the .default folders to the NAS. Then copied the .default contents to the .default folders on the new SSD.

That’s it. All my in-the-cloud stuff now available. gMail and Amazon know who I am. Some housekeeping left. Mostly setting up the speed dial on Firefox. Some new installs, like DropBox.

Later today I’ll swap the SSD’s.

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 2

August 16, 2016

Nothing is ever easy.

So, right after finishing the first article in this unintentionally long-running saga, I dashed into the sun room, where MJ keeps her plants and I keep my other spare computer stuff, grabbed up the box with the 256GB SSD in it, and …. say, that feels a little light. Oh, empty. I wonder where the drive is?

It’s not like the old days, where you could spot a 256MB hard drive sticking up out of a stack of old boots. These new guys are small enough to slide into your shirt pocket and still leave room for a smartphone, key-holder, and sunglasses (as long as they’re not Oakley Gaskans). It could be anywhere.

[some hours later] Oh, right, it’s in my other spare computer. I remember now, I put Mint 16 on it last spring, as a test. My main spare computer has two HDDs in it, so I unplug one and plug in the 256. Have to be careful, ’cause it’s just hanging from the cords, and has a tendency to rattle against the fans.

Let’s try something new. Download Mint 18. Install (Linux installs are so easy, just make sure to tell it to install on the 256SSD and not the 750HDD). Umm can’t install bootloader. Check online. Others have had this problem. Download Boot Repair. Runs fine, dumps a lot of error messages, throws up in it’s mouth, gives me a link to an error log, says to be sure to install the bootloader by hand on sda 750GB. [I’m compressing about six hours of reinstalls here, including a switch to Ubuntu].

750GB? A quick trip inside the PC and I return with a handful of cables rip’d untimely from that mother’s slots. Now the only drive is the SSD.

Power cycle. Re-install. Linux installs are so easy. Fifteen minutes and we’re up and running.

Next step, the dreaded file transfer process.

Shouldering On

July 27, 2016

MJ had her initial post-op doctor’s visit last Tuesday. She came home two Fridays ago, two days later than she should have. For the first four days at home she was in pretty bad shape — thin voiced, lethargic, zero stamina, slept a lot. Just what you’d expect if (as my brother put it) she’d had somebody cut off the end of her arm-bone and pound a foot long steel rod into the marrow. The next week was one of recovery rather than one of, well, recovery. She was brighter, moved about more, and started doing things with the dogs, like feeding them and putting them out.

That's gonna leave a mark

That’s gonna leave a mark

The Tuesday visit marked another transition, to, let’s say, healing. The nurse took out all the staples they were using to hold the wound together, replacing them with short strips of medicinal scotch tape. The scar was impressive (for some reason she wouldn’t let me post a picture), but not so bad that one couldn’t imagine it fading away. Her range of motion is still limited, but even there one can see the possibilities. The pain is, manageable, given enough drugs.

Everything seemed to be on track and on schedule, and the doctor seemed relatively happy. Next visit in a month. After that, rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, back home,

It takes a while to learn the rules

It takes a while to learn how to fit in
(Click to embiggen)



July 17, 2016

First time ever. I guess writing about sports draws the clicks!