Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It gets weirder

This WSJ article references that the guy was seen a lot with his dog, but in Islam dogs are not allowed to kept as pets, only as guard and hunting animals. An angel reportedly refused to visit Mohamed once because there was a dog in his house, and the hadith has lots of admonitions against them. Something is not making sense...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Things I Didn't Know Were Illegal

In an otherwise straightforward story about US born jihadis, the AP has this tidbit:
Several of the defendants, including Boyd, were also charged with practicing military tactics on a private property in Caswell County in June and July of this year.
I wonder what the definition of "military tactics" is? And why would it be illegal on private property? If I drill, march, or practice convoy ops, that might be weird but should not be illegal. If I want to practice shooting, play airsoft or paintball (as I have done many times) is it breaking the law because the tactics might be military?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Logic Problems

The President claims that Gitmo "created more terrorists than it contained" and wants to remedy that situation by moving the detainees to US domestic prisons. Congress is outraged because they are worried about the dangers of these hard-core jihadists running lose in the streets. Both sides are missing the greater danger, however. Our prisons are a breeding ground for a uniquely American version of radical Islam, as the arrests this week in New York demonstrated. We cannot prevent gang leaders from ordering hits and controlling gangs from prison, and we cannot prevent mafia leaders from organizing and directing from prison. What makes us think we can keep these hard-core, Afghanistan trained jihadists from organizing terrorist attacks, much less spreading their ideas and ideology, from prison? The danger isn't that terrorists will get out of prison; the danger is that their followers will.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Alabama

SAASS is keeping me pretty busy. They weren't kidding about it being a 'book-a-night' school. My daily average reading load is probably about 250 pages. But I have had some time to work with the chainsaw and 4-wheeler, clearing the underbrush around the house, and discovering all sorts of interesting critters. Naturally, Tamsey has documented life much better than I could. But I have posted some pictures to my photo blog. Lots of material around here...just not much time.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Playing Catch-up

Ok, so it has been months since I have done much with this blog. But today was worth writing about.

First, the last couple of months have been hectic. I have been working long hours and lots of weekends to get the Wing ready for the NORI, I have traveled with HHq to SAV other units, and I have traveled with the IG inspecting other units.

Oh, and then there was the White House Fellows thing. In late December the AF decided I could compete for a slot, and in March I found I had made regional finals. The interview in San Francisco was a lot of fun and a little scary, but I failed to advance. The people they picked from there were really good, however, so I feel no animosity. I was just outclassed. Still, that took a lot of my time preparing.

We have orders to Alabama for SAASS, our house is sold (we have a GREAT realtor), and we are renting a quaint retreat-like house in Prattville for the next year. The move date is in early June, right after the inspection, and I am going to try to take some leave and go to Colorado to visit the shed I helped build last month.

Whew. Caught up. To today, anyway.

Like most Sundays of late, I had to go in to work after church, but this day was a little different.

I got to meet my boss, the President of the United States.

It was really cool. Up close, he looks much more personable than on TV, and a good bit older. I hear that being President does that to you. It was actually kind of embarrassing. I always thought I could handle myself well in these situations, but when he came up to the line where I was standing and put out his hand to shake mine, I had a notepad in my hand and handed it to him. It would have been OK if he had seen it, but as it was, he was looking me in the eye, not looking at my hand. As he reached my hand, he glanced at my name tag (I was in flight suit), and said, "Max, how is it going tod..." and then stopped. I'm not sure if it was because he saw my last name, or the realization that it was not a hand he was grasping. For whatever reason, I managed to blurt out "Sir, it is a real honor to..." before he looked at my notebook and smiled. He pulled out a pen, signed it for me, handed it back and again offered me his hand. This time I managed to take it. "Max, what do you fly?" He asked. I was again caught off guard. There were plenty of other people there waiting to shake his hand, but he had stopped and was actually asking the idiot who breached protocol and couldn't seem to complete a sentence a question. I answered somewhat coherently, and he thanked me for my service.

I also got to shake Sens. Roberts' and Brownback's hands. It was a pretty cool day. Oh, and I'll post the pictures when I get the chance.

Shocking discovery about guns!

A Brit living in America has opened his eyes on the anniversary of Virginia Tech:
Despite the fact there are more than 200 million guns in circulation, there is a certain tranquility and civility about American life.

...

Why is it then that so many Americans - and foreigners who come here - feel that the place is so, well, safe?

I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place

A British man I met in Colorado recently told me he used to live in Kent but he moved to the American state of New Jersey and will not go home because it is, as he put it, "a gentler environment for bringing the kids up."

This is New Jersey. Home of the Sopranos.

Brits arriving in New York, hoping to avoid being slaughtered on day one of their shopping mission to Manhattan are, by day two, beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. By day three they have had had the scales lifted from their eyes.

I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place, the lack of the violent undercurrent so ubiquitous in British cities, even British market towns.

"It seems so nice here," they quaver.

Well, it is!

Kudos to Justin Webb for his shocking honesty.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Oh oh!

I have been hearing tremors of this for a while through HSLDA, but this quote near the end of an article in the SF Chronicle caught my eye:

Heimov [executive director of the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles] said her organization's chief concern was not the quality of the children's education, but their "being in a place daily where they would be observed by people who had a duty to ensure their ongoing safety."

Ummm...is she saying that parents do not have a duty to ensure the ongoing safety of their own children? Scary!

In other news, it is in SF that I shall interview for the White House Fellows program. I bet this will come up!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More wind energy in the news

Sometimes I read McNews (USA Today), especially when it is free at the hotel front desk and the WSJ, NYT, FT and WP are not available.

On a side note, I have spent a lot of time in hotels lately, and learned that you cannot judge a hotel by the name, the fancy woodwork in the lobby, or the price. Instead, hotels get stars in my book by having fluffy (not cardboard-like towels), blackout curtains in the room, free breakfast beginning at a reasonably early hour, a decent selection of newspapers available at the front desk for no charge and free wired and wireless internet in the rooms.

Recently I have learned the value of all these, and the costs of their absence. The most recent hotel I stayed in had great towels, and three per room. That was a good thing since I had to use one to seal the 2 inch gap under the door (yes, I could fit my hand under it). I had to use another to seal the window (dipped in water and frozen in the gap between the window and the sill, the towel stopped the wind from whistling through). The bed was really nice, but the walls were paper-thin so you could hear a normal volume conversation in the next room over. They had wireless internet, which is nice for some things, but there are times I'd rather have a wired connection for security reasons.

At another hotel recently (well, billeting at Keesler AFB), I had another window that would not seal, and every time it rained, the floor got soaked. There were large black blotches of mold on the walls and a huge hole in the ceiling. Interestingly, I had to pay 2 bucks a day for internet, and the room cost me more than a Hotel 6 room would have off base. Oh, and I had to share a bathroom, the emergency lights in the hall were broken, and someone had carved an expletive into the door. I have some pictures to post later. Sort of funny...

Where was I going with all this? Oh yes, energy.

So the USA today had this article about the need for transmission lines brining power from wind areas to areas that need energy. This brings up another major problem with wind energy: production and use are usually geographically separated. The second order cost of this is additional transmission lines. These lines use resources and are an eyesore, they cost a lot to put in, and the costs are not borne by those who benefit. Additionally, they introduce an additional vulnerability to the grid. Saith the USA Today:

Until now, wind developers have piggybacked on existing wires, says analyst Stow Walker of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. But after wind energy soared 45% last year, spare transmission capacity is depleted. Wind power generates more than 1% of U.S. electricity.

Stringing new wires is easier said than done. Wind developers won't go ahead with projects until transmission lines are in place, and utilities are loath to build the lines until they're sure the developers won't back out. Also, the first wind developer in an area is often asked to shoulder much of the $1.5 million-per-mile cost of a high-voltage line.

In Texas, which has about 25% of U.S. wind power, more eye-popping growth in 2008 is expected to push generation past transmission capacity by 65% by year's end, says Bill Bojorquez, vice president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, a power-grid manager.

Wind farms will have to compete to be among the lowest bidders to get on the grid, leaving others off. "Clearly we don't want to build wind farms and have them not run," says Horizon Wind Energy executive Denise Hill.

In southwest Minnesota, dozens of wind projects have been proposed to serve the Twin Cities. Even if just 30% of them, with 7,500 megawatts of capacity, are developed, that would far outpace the 2,000 megawatts of transmission capacity planned.

So, diversity is good, but it is important to keep in mind the 2nd and 3rd order effects. There are significant costs to increase the transmission infrastructure capacity, an infrastructure that is already vulnerable to natural disaster and sabotage. Economic incentives are currently focused on generation, not transmission or distribution. In the future we may find this to be a costly oversight.

More energy issues

OK, since I am back on the theme of electric power reliability, here is an interesting tidbit showing why production diversity is good:

ERCOT [Electric Reliability Council of Texas] said the grid's frequency dropped suddenly when wind production fell from more than 1,700 megawatts, before the event, to 300 MW when the emergency was declared.

But they had a plan, and immediately cut 1100MW to interruptible customers, thus saving the grid from going down. Soon they were able to fire up other production facilities and have everyone back on line.

The biggest drawback to wind power (there are a few) is that the wind is notoriously unpredictable. However, as long as there is a backup plan, wind power can be a good additional source.