Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thunderstruck...or is it Thunder-Suck

I saw that the NBA had a game between the Washington Wizards and the Oklahoma City Thunder yesterday. Prior to the game, the two teams had a combined record of 7 wins and 50 losses. Oklahoma City was beaten 104-95 and walked away with a record of 3-28. They suck. The Thunder are really bad. A terrible team. It puts a really big smile on my face.

The truth is, I have no animosity towards the people of Oklahoma. I just detest Clay Bennett for the way in which he moved the Sonics. He had purchased the team in 2006 with vague reassurances that the team could remain in Seattle. It became clear that his intention all along was to move the team out of Seattle when some emails became public in which he was discussing the move with his OKC buddies.

I also blame Starbucks chairman Charles Schultz for selling the team to Bennett and then claiming to have been deceived when it became apparent that the team was going to be moved. The guy heads a multi-zillion dollar a year business, but he wasn't bright enough to see this coming?

The other person that I blame is David Stern, who basically told Seattle, "if you fight this move, you will never have basketball in Seattle."

Some people blame our liberal government in Seattle and Washington State. I don't. The reason I don't is because I am sure that Stern and Bennett were collaborating against Seattle the entire time. Bennett wanted a team in OKC because that is his town. He was willing to lie every step of the way to get what he wanted. Of course, he was selected as 2008 Oklahoman of the Year. David Stern was just greedy to expand the NBA into a new market. Never mind that Seattle had a team for 41 years with pretty good attendance and that excitement was building with the addition of Kevin Durant to the team.

Okay, enough ranting about the move. It is old news that was brought to mind again when I saw the results of the match between the two worst teams in the NBA. Let me say that I am thrilled the OKC Thunder have affirmed their place as the worst team in the NBA. I hope that this team eventually turns into a huge money pit for Clay Bennett.

Oklahoma, I wish I could say that I am sorry that the Thunder are having a terrible season, but I am not. Wasn't it enough that you guys sent us Brian Bosworth? Did you really have to take our NBA team as well? I don't have any real animosity towards you, but please forgive me if I express some glee that your team is an unmitigated disaster this year. I hope you have many more years of the same.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nuts!!!

I read an article yesterday about a 19 year old guy that had been sentenced to four days in jail for simple assault. The assault in question occurred when the guy heard that a fellow high school student suffered from a peanut allergy. He took someones peanut butter sandwich, stuck his fingers in the peanut butter, and then rubbed it on the student with the peanut allergy.

When I was 19 years old, I probably would not have thought that a peanut allergy was particularly serious. On the other hand, I would not have tried to inflict an allergic reaction on somebody. As an older adult, I know that peanut allergies can even be fatal.

I figured that this was probably just a bully and four days in jail would probably teach him a lesson, even if it seemed a little harsh. Perhaps some community service would have been more appropriate.

Then I read this article in the Seattle Times and changed my mind. Here is a quote from the article:
Harmon said she honored the four-day jail sentence recommendation in part because a recent mental health evaluation concluded that Hickson suffers some cognitive deficiencies.
What the heck are "Cognitive Deficiencies"? I think in layman's terms, it would mean "The guy is a Dumb-Ass". Why is being a dumb-ass a defense for criminal activity?

The guy denies he actually committed these actions, in spite of several eyewitness reports to the contrary:
In court Tuesday, Hickson denied touching the boy. But several witnesses told police he did.
Still, these weren't the parts of the article that changed my mind. The part of the article that changed my mind was the part that showed me that he was not only a dumb-ass, but an unrepentant dumb-ass:

"What were you thinking when you did this?" Judge Nancy Harmon asked Hickson before sentencing.

He did not answer, only grinning and shaking his head. Harmon pressed, several times questioning Hickson about his motivation. He did not answer.

What kind of person would grin when being asked by a judge why he committed a crime? What kind of a judge is going to stand for that kind of disrespect in her courtroom? It would appear that the guy is a bully that still thinks what he did was funny. I am a little surprised that the guy didn't get forty days instead of four days.

Then, I read a follow up article in the Seattle Times today. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the part of the story that jumped out at me had been altered:

"What were you thinking when you did this?" Judge Nancy Harmon asked Hickson before sentencing.

He did not answer. Harmon pressed on, several times questioning Hickson about his motivation.

Now there is no mention of the kid grinning about his little prank in front of the judge. I guess the newspaper thought that including something that shows the true character of this bully was unnecessarily inflammatory. I am pretty disappointed in the Seattle Times. Now it seems to portray the guy as a dumb kid that screwed up instead of the bully that won't accept responsibility for his actions and still thinks he is funny.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

White Christmas

I had a great view of a White Christmas when I looked out my window this morning. Having a White Christmas is not unusual here. Before moving to Pullman, I had lived on tropical islands for ten straight years and I never missed the snow. I used to do a very small amount of skiing in the winter, but it never really appealed to me. I always preferred golf and a little bit of scuba diving. Tropical islands are more conducive to golf and scuba diving than the winter wonderland that I live in now.

I have taken my car out for a few short trips. Enough to ensure me that the battery is not dead and that I can get around town without too much difficulty. Some of my neighbors have not moved their cars since the snow started falling a few weeks ago. I don't think they will be moving them anytime soon.



Of course, the snow is pretty to look at. These are a few pictures from the apartment complex that I live in. It is a little more pleasant to look at these trees than it is to contemplate digging your car out of a thick blanket of snow.




If you are living someplace without a White Christmas, your welcome to come visit and take as much snow as you like home with you. I've had plenty. I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Frosty the Fire Hazard

Frosty the Snowman want to burn down your house. Some Frosty the Snowman shaped snow globes sold at Hallmark shops have ignited fires at a couple of different houses. If you leave Frosty in direct sunlight (not a good place for a snowman anyway), he may focus sunlight just like a magnifying glass. They were made in China. Guess you can't trust any toys or knick-knacks from that place. If you have one of these menacing figures in your house, take it back to Hallmark.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Bulletin



Picture from U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Bulletin.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Openly Gay Secretary of the Navy?

According to an article in Stripes, the Obama transition team is considering William White as the next Secretary of the Navy. I am sure that the fact that he is openly gay will be talked about more than his qualifications. He is also receiving some support from retired members of the Joint Chiefs as well as from some members of congress.

"He would be phenomenal," retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001, was quoted as saying.

Retired members of the Joint Chiefs have contacted Obama’s transition team to urge them to pick White, and members of Congress said he would be a good choice, according to the Times.


It sounds like White has done a lot for the troops that were killed or severely injured in combat through his work with the Intrepid Museum Foundation which started the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. One of the points that Obama hammered home again and again during his campaign was the shameful way that injured vets were treated after they suffered injuries while defending our nation. Putting an advocate for injured vets in this position seems like a selection Obama might make.

Many of the picks that Obama has made for high-level government positions have drawn criticism from the extreme right and from the extreme left while receiving some praise from the center. If Obama picked White for this slot, it would place him in the middle between two opposed groups, homophobes and homosexuals. Homophobes will be angry for obvious reasons. I think it would also anger many homosexuals when they discover that the selection of White would not immediately lead to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Since you will never make everyone happy, if you piss off both sides an equal amount, you are probably doing a good job. I think this would be an interesting selection.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Two Down, One To Go

I knocked out two of my final exams for the semester yesterday. It kind of makes for a long day. My first exam was from 8-10 a.m. and my second one was from 7-10 p.m. The evening ones are the worst. Usually I am thinking about going to bed at 10 p.m., not writing differential equations and designing control systems. My brain just seems to slow down when it gets that late in the day.

Luckily, I don't get too stressed out about finals week. My first semester here, I was kind of stressed, a little less the next semester. Now, final exams are more of an inconvenience than anything else.

It is kind of interesting looking at the different study habits that the students employ. We have a few rooms where the Chemical Engineering students tend to congregate. Some of them get together in groups, have pizza, listen to music, and chit-chat. After several hours, they all say they are tired of studying and take off. I guess it is more about the social aspects of studying rather than the actual value of studying.

Others will read the textbook cover to cover and do as many practice problems as possible. They stay up all night to study before exams. Personally, I would rather get in a good solid night of sleeping before an exam.

I like to look at any previous exams that the instructor has made available, review the notes that I have taken in class, look at the homework assignments that we have been given, and then decide what questions are most likely to be on the exam. It lets me target just a few areas. I have done extremely well in predicting the sort of questions that are going to be given on the exams and avoided extremely long hours preparing for exams.

Several students convince themselves that the professor is going to try to trick them. They are almost positive that there will lots of obscure questions on the exams. They end up spending hours and hours studying things that have almost no chance of being on the exam. They neglect to study the material that the professor spent several lecture periods on, because they think they already know all that stuff. It appears they have yet to make the connection between the amount of time a professor spends discussing a topic, and how important the professor thinks it is.

I am much happier just spending a few hours brushing up on what I think will be on the test and getting a good night of sleep. Life is much less stressful that way. I guess it pays to be a little older and wiser than my compatriots.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Let It Snow

I finished up my errands in the nick of time today. We had snow on the ground in November the last two years, and in both cases, it stayed on the ground for several months into the new year. This year, we have had nothing but a little bit of rain.

Today, we are under a winter storm warning. I tried to figure out what time it would start snowing and it appeared that it would not start until close to midnight. The rest of the weekend and well into next week, we are supposed to be going into a deep freeze. The temperatures are supposed to drop from the mid-thirties down into the single digits over the next few days.

It gets kind of tough to drive around here when it starts snowing. Pullman has a population of about 25,000 people. The Pullman campus has about 17,500 students. This results in a disproportionate number of drivers in the 19-24 age range. Like anybody with a whopping 3-8 years of driving experience under their belt, they know how to drive much better (and much more aggressively) than everyone else on the road. They are also talking on their cell phones constantly. Throw in some snow and ice, and the smart move is to stay off the road (and the sidewalks) when it starts snowing around here.

I decided to run out and complete a few errands before I hunkered down for the weekend. I was pretty well stocked up on food in preparation for the first big snowfall of the year, but I wanted to grab a few fresh veggies. I decided I better get my Christmas mailing done as well. I drove by the post office on my way to the store. The parking lot was completely full and the line of people waiting to mail packages was very, very long.

I went to the store, which was also packed. My intentions were to pick up only some fresh vegetables, bagels, and cream cheese. That was all I wanted. Of course, when I walked through the frozen food section on my way to pick up the cream cheese, I saw a sign:

Tombstone Pizza
3 for $10

I told myself I didn't need a pizza, let alone three pizzas, but I guess I am a sucker for sophisticated advertising. Even though I know I could have bought one pizza for $3.34, I walked out with three pizzas. Two of them will probably be sitting in my freezer for several weeks, but I guess I might as well cook one of them up for tonight and to give me something to munch on tomorrow.

When I got out of the store, I discovered that my initial estimate of midnight for the snow to start was off by about 10 hours. The road was already getting a pretty good layer of slush on it from the snow.

Fortunately, by the time I got to the post office, the line had diminished substantially and I was in and out of there in about 10 minutes. I was able to successfully complete all of my errands and get home. Now I should be able to enjoy the snow from the comfort of my living room and not have to worry about driving around town until they start getting the roads cleaned up. Let it snow.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Hate From the Westboro Baptist Church

The controversy over holiday displays at our state capitol is ratcheting up another notch. The Westboro Baptist Church is asking to display a sign. If you do not know what the Westboro Baptist Church is all about, check out their website at www.godhatesfags.com. (That is not a typo or a joke, but their actual website) This is the same hate-filled group that protests outside of military funerals saying that God wants our troops to die because God hates America. In my opinion, these people are the very worst that America has to offer. I detest them. This is what they say now:
"You'd better watch out, get ready to cry, You'd better go hide, I'm telling you why 'cuz Santa Claus will take you to hell. He is your favorite idol, you worship at his feet, but when you stand before your God He won't help you take the heat. So get this fact straight: you're feeling God's hate, Santa's to blame for the economy's fate, Santa Claus will take you to hell."

This group that cloaks themselves in religion disgusts me. I don't really care how you feel about gay marriage or the war in Iraq. This group spews hate. They certainly don't uphold the belief that you should hate the sin and love the sinner. They hate. That is all they do. God cannot possibly condone their behavior. Now they are attacking Santa Claus.

This whole controversy started when an atheist group posted an anti-religion sign at our capitol building. I was a little surprised at how it gained national attention. Obviously it is time to stop allowing any sort of displays at our capitol.

To the atheists that started this: Congratulations on your success. You have ruined the spirit of love and joy that surrounds the holidays.

To the people of Westboro Baptist: You make me sick. You are terrible people, each and every one of you.

To my Governor, Christine Gregoire: Put a stop to this nonsense. Do not allow our state to become a laughingstock because of atheists from Wisconsin and hate-filled simpletons from Kansas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Marine Jet Crashes in San Diego

Update: Link to new post March 3, 2009

An F-18 jet crashed in a San Diego neighborhood a few hours ago. Apparently the pilot ejected before the crash, but it looks like the jet hit a house.


The article says that the neighborhood is densely populated. Take a look at the video. LOTS of houses there. I don't know how bad it was for people on the ground, but it looks like it could have been a lot worse.


Disclaimer: I found the video while I was sitting in the tutoring lab at school. I didn't listen to it because I didn't want to disturb the other people around, so I don't really know anything that they talk about during the video. I just thought that it looked pretty scary.

UPDATE: 12/8/08 6:00 p.m. : Unfortunately, there were three deaths with a fourth person still unaccounted for in one of the houses destroyed by the crash. Two or three homes were destroyed.

I found this L.A. Times article that refers to the aircraft as being crippled. I assume there is probably some sort of standard operating procedure that prohibits flying a damaged aircraft over a heavily populated area, so I guess that whatever happened to it must have happened too late for the pilot to avoid the neighborhood.

From the L.A. Times:
Marine officials told The Times the pilot was part of a training squadron and that he was trying to aim the plane at a deserted canyon to avoid slamming into homes or nearby Interstate 805. He had taken off from the carrier Abraham Lincoln several miles off the coast. His destination was the air station. Marine Col. Chris O'Connor pledged an in-depth investigation and to see "that the neighborhood is cleaned up as quickly as possible."

Jason Widmer, who was working in the neighborhood, talked to the pilot after he ejected and landed.

"He was pretty shook up," Widmer said. "And pretty concerned if he had killed anyone. He had seen his bird go into a house."

This is certainly a tragic situation for all involved. It appears that the pilot was taking action to avoid hurting anyone on the ground, but wasn't able to do it. Very sad.

The Rock

I take the city bus to school every day. I looked into getting a parking pass for the sake of convenience, but the only parking pass that would be worthwhile for me has a long waiting list and an annual fee of nearly $400. They also over-sell these passes, so you are not guaranteed of finding a parking spot. All students at WSU have to pay a mandatory $15 "transit fee" each semester. The transit fee is used to subsidize the city bus system and allows all WSU students to use their student ID as a bus pass. All in all, it is a pretty good deal.

There are pros and cons to riding the bus.

On the plus side, it is cheap. The transit fee is mandatory for all students whether they use the bus or not, so I may as well use it since I have to pay for it anyway. I also don't have to deal with the hassle of finding a parking spot on campus or pay for gas.

On the negative side, the bus schedule can be best described as random. When I used public transportation in places like San Francisco, Honolulu, and Japan, I was able to show up about five or ten minutes before the bus/train arrived and rarely had a long wait. In Pullman, the schedule is "on average, every 12 to 15 minutes." This usually works out okay, but sometimes I have to wait about 30 minutes for a bus. Because of this, I have to factor in a rather large chunk of time to ensure that I make it to class on time. This gets a lot worse when it snows.

Another bad thing is that the bus is crowded. The buses are usually pretty empty at my bus stops, so I usually don't have any difficulty finding a seat. However, when we get to the later stops, we pick up lots more people and the bus gets awfully crowded. The bus drivers are constantly telling people to crowd in tighter and make room for a few more. I think some of the bus drivers suffer from delusions of grandeur and secretly fantasize that they are piloting the last helicopter of the U.S. evacuation during the Fall of Saigon.

In my opinion, the worst part is some of the other people riding the bus. Most people have the sense to practice good hygiene. This doesn't apply to all college students. There are some kids that have not learned that it is a good idea to shower nearly every day. Frequently, these people also have not learned that they should occasionally wash their clothes. They also still have to learn that the use of cologne or perfume, no matter how much you use, doesn't entirely compensate for lack of showers and lack of clean clothing. Others need to learn to blow their nose before they go to school and they need to learn to cough and sneeze into their sleeves instead of on their fellow bus passengers.

I have a two-pronged strategy to combat this problem. First, I glare at everyone that smells like they haven't showered in a week. This dissuades most of them. The other thing that I do is claim two seats that are kind of a tight squeeze for two people. I'm a pretty fat guy (I prefer the term Nutritionally Enhanced) and this limits the number of people that can sit next to me. Eventually, the seat is usually taken by one of several petite Asian girls that attend school. They tend to practice above-average hygiene, so I have no problem with them sitting next to me.

There is a guy that I privately refer to as "The Rock." I do not think of him as "The Rock" in the sense of "He Rocks" nor do I refer to him as "The Rock" because he reminds me of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. I had a class with this guy about a year and a half ago and became convinced that the space between his ears is filled with gravel, or possibly a solid mass of stone. That is why I refer to him as "The Rock."

He has a freakish ability to anticipate my bus schedule. I can leave for school two hours early to finish up some school work, and he will get on the bus a few stops after I get on. I can be running 30 minutes late and he will get on the bus. I can be right on time and he will get on the bus. It's really kind of spooky. I bet he is on the same bus as me at least five times a week. Even worse, he is not deterred by my glares and he will squeeze in next to me because he remembers me from the class that we took together a year and a half ago. He will then rattle on incessantly until we get to our destination, no matter how studiously I look out the window or pretend to talk on my cell phone.

He is a chemistry student. I guess that means he is studying to become a scientist of sorts. He is not very bright and I am surprised that he made it this far. I am sure that it would take you an hour to teach him to boil water or unlock a door. I have compassion for people that cannot grasp concepts or easily learn things. Still, I feel pretty strongly that some people should not be scientists or engineers. The processes of designing and developing procedures for maintaining and operating things like airplanes, nuclear power plants, and bridges are complex. These processes are not well suited to a trial-and-error method. I fear that "The Rock" will be doomed to a life of a chemical technician performing the same analytical procedures over and over again until he retires.

The reason that I bring him up is that he happened to sit next to me on the way to school today. He went on and on about how much trouble he was having in one of his classes. That was my first bus ride of the day. When I came home after my first class, I left school about 30 minutes late and the bus was nearly empty for my second ride of the day. "The Rock" got on at the next stop and ignored about forty empty seats to squeeze in next to me and entertain me with his feelings about the incredible coincidence that we were on the same bus twice in the same day. I have to take a bus back to school in a little while. Based on my earlier experiences today, I estimate that there is about a 90% chance I will be listening to "The Rock" commenting on the odds against us being on the same bus three times in the same day. Sigh. I guess that is how life rolls sometimes. At least he doesn't stink.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Photos of Russian Ship in Panama Canal

I found a few photographs of the Russian navy ship, the Admiral Chabanenko going through the Panama Canal. It was a night-time crossing and I think the pics are pretty nice. The links are below.

Reuters

Times of India Slide Show

Looked pretty cool. I went through The Ditch back in 1989. I thought it was a pretty big deal. We went through with a lot of security. I remember that we had a helicoptor or two with us the whole time and a few Boston Whalers equipped with big guns and filled with some pretty mean looking dudes. I was 20 years old at the time. Seeing all the security was the first time it was driven home for me that we were a serious military target and it was kind of a sobering experience for me.

Of course, I just loved the experience of going through the Panama Canal. It was definitely one of the more memorable days that I spent in the navy. Some pictures from navsource.org below show my first boat, the USS Shark (SSN-591) transiting the canal in '89. I don't know if I appear in any of these pictures, but I remember being on the fairwater planes while going through one of the locks. I really enjoyed being able to go out on the fairwater planes when we were on the surface. If you ask me, the classes of submarines without easy access to the fairwater planes really shortchange their sailors.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Update 11:00 p.m. : Looks like the links to the pics of my old boat may not be working. If you want to look, go to navsource.org and look at pics for the USS Shark (SSN-591). Sorry.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy 75th. Have a Drink.

Today is the 75th anniversary of the end of prohibition. Prohibition officially ended at 5:32 p.m. EST on December 5, 1933, after Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st amendment that officially repeal the 18th amendment. Thanks Utah!!

Utah??? Really? I never would have guessed that.

Happy anniversary everyone. Guess I should have one or two beers after dinner tonight.

Also, if you are like the paranormal stuff, today is also the anniversary of the day that a flight of torpedo-bombers, Flight 19, disappeared while flying through the Bermuda Triangle.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The President (elect) is on the Line...No...Really...Don't Hang Up

This is a funny little story about Republican Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen receiving a phone call from Barack Obama. She figured it was probably a prank caller from a radio station pretending to be Mr. Obama trying to embarrass her and hung up a couple of times before he finally got to speak to her.


This kind of reminded me of a story that I heard when I was younger. My father was acquainted with a man named Ronald Reagan. I don't know if his name was actually spelled the same as the former President's name or not, but it sounded the same.

Doing anything over the phone became very difficult for him. One of the most difficult things for him to do was to place a call for hotel reservations.

Ronald: "I need a room for three nights."
Hotel: "Very well, sir. May I have your name?"
Ronald: "Ronald Reagan."
Hotel: CLICK...dial tone....

He learned that if he wanted to book a room or a flight over the phone, he would have to start off by saying "This isn't a joke, this is my real name, so please don't hang up on me." It wasn't so bad when Reagan was merely an actor, but after being elected President, the whole thing balooned to cause him grief when he needed to call someone.

Must be how Michael Bolton felt in Office Space.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Atheists in Washington Hate Christmas

I hadn't realized how big of an issue this was. Now I see the news has been elevated to a national level. For the Christmas season, a nativity scene along with a holiday tree (or Christmas tree, I am not sure of the proper terminology) is decorating the Washington State Capitol. In 2006, a Menorah was displayed, although there is not one there this year. Now there is also a sign that supports an atheistic point of view. A statement from the Freedom from Religion Foundation is below.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, foundation co-president, said in a prepared statement that the sign is a reminder of the "real reason for the season, the winter solstice."


If celebration of the Winter Solstice was the true reason for the sign, I guess it would read "Happy Winter Solstice!" or something to that effect. It doesn't. In fact, this group went out of their way to offend Christians and anyone else that believes a higher power exists. The sign states:

"Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

What's next? Maybe the atheists can run around Santa Claus in the shopping mall and tell all the kids that Santa isn't real. May as well spoil Christmas for everybody and make a clean sweep of it. What a bunch of unbelievable jerks.

I am going to go off on a tangent here because I found something interesting while I was looking for good info on this topic. This is a link to a posting in NoGodBlog.com that went slightly off track. If you are a submariner, skim through the comments. Some of the comments got way off topic talking about Trident submarines and there is some humorous back-and-forth in there. Now I will get back on my topic. Sorry for the interruption.

Now, I am pretty liberal in my beliefs. However, to my way of thinking, this is an example of a minority group (atheists) out to ruin the enjoyment of the majority of people that enjoy the religious aspect of the holiday season. This is just a group of people that go out of their way to feel offended by others beliefs. I can't believe that any atheist has had their beliefs threatened by Christmas displays. Does an atheist walk by a Christmas Tree and spontaneously become a Christian? Of course not. They just want to piss all over people that are enjoying themselves.

If I were to walk up to somebody that happened to be Jewish, and I wished that person a Merry Christmas, I would expect them to take that in the spirit with which is intended. I doubt that they would be deeply offended by that.

Another article in The Spokesman Review has parts of the Governor's response to complaints.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent and clear that, under the Constitution’s First Amendment, once government admits one religious display or viewpoint onto public property, it may not discriminate against the content of other displays, including the viewpoints of nonbelievers,” the statement said.

Ummm....Doesn't a sign that says "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." discriminate against the viewpoints of believers? How come those of us that believe in Christ can't be protected against this?

A huge telephone campaign has been started to harass Governor Christine Gregoire until she has the sign removed. Bill O'Reilly is leading the charge. It's pretty rare that I find myself agreeing with Bill-O. I guess I would be okay with a "Happy Winter Solstice" sign as long as it didn't attack religion. As it is, the current version of the sign is out of line. To give Bill-O his due, here is his rant against the atheist sign and his call to arms:


A Better Bailout

One of the news stories that came out while I was at my parents house was the new estimated cost of all the US Financial Bailout. It was estimated at 8.317 trillion dollars.


I looked at the U.S. Popclock Projection from the United States Census Bureau and it estimates that there are 305,801,765 people in the United States (as of the time that I am posting this). I would have been a lot happier if our government had decided to send every man, woman, and child in the United States a check for $27,197.36. It might not have solved the economic crisis, but I would be $27,197.36 richer, and frankly, it doesn't look like that money has done much good for our troubled financial system.

Actually, I lied. I would not rather see people receive the money directly. But I sure do wish it would have been spent better. The problem has come about due to sub-prime lending, a crashing housing market, record numbers of home foreclosures, the high gas prices of the last year, etc.. These have led to frozen credit markets. I guess I don't understand all of the reasons for the credit market drying up like it has. I can certainly understand that it has gotten smaller as the banks realized that they had made some bad loans, but there certainly are still some good loans to be made that are simply not being made now because of fear. Throwing this $8.317 trillion at the losers in our free-market system hasn't helped to any discernible level. Good risks are not being taken.

The money from the bailout is only a life line to keep certain companies, primarily financial companies, afloat. These companies make money on commerce and consumption of goods. Unfortunately, commerce and consumption of goods is drying up and I think it is accelerating. I really wish that our government had let these companies take their lumps and spent this money in other ways.

Government statistics put the number of unemployed in the United States at about 10.1 million. If the government had instead promised 10.1 million jobs at $50,000 annual salary for 5 years, the total price tag would have been $2.525 trillion. We could have people at work on improving infrastructure, picking up trash, digging ditches...whatever. I don't know exactly what every one of these 10.1 million people would do, but I bet work could be found that generally benefited the nation.

Now, I know that this sounds a lot like welfare and people would also say that we don't want to increase peoples dependency on the government. These are both valid arguments. I would counter that we have spent triple the amount of money on corporate welfare and have increased the financial system's dependency on government.

The government says that they will get most of this money back. This may be true, but I am fairly certain they won't get it all back.

I think there is more to be gained by putting people to work for 5 years. The government would immediately recoup some of the money in the form of taxes. In addition to this, unemployed people that suddenly became employed would greatly reduce the burden on social services. These formerly unemployed people would also increase the tax base for states, many of which are struggling with reduced tax revenue in the current recession. Furthermore, these workers would not be scared to spend their money. This would cause increased consumer demand and the supply side would respond by expanding. Hopefully, they would need new workers and could begin to hire some of the people that are in the limited-time government jobs and would begin to wean the country off of the temporary employment program. It would serve to prime the pump, so to speak, that is the United States economy.

A rising tide lifts all boats. I don't think that this is the context in which that phrase was meant to be used, but I think it is apt.

I am not saying that this is what should have been done. However, I think it would have done a lot more good for our economy than all these trillions of dollars that have been thrown at the problem.

I know that it is not practical or possible to get to a zero percent unemployment rate. I know, from listening to conservative talk radio, that nearly every unemployed person in the country is really just too lazy to work and that they enjoy collecting huge welfare and unemployment checks and spending my money. Still, I hold out hope that some people that don't work would enjoy having a job.

Word(s) of the Year

I came across an article that tells us that online searches of Merriam-Webster Dictionary have resulted in "Bailout" being selected as the 2008 Word of The Year.


Merriam-Webster has a list of the ten most-searched words from 2008. It is kind of depressing to look at their list. Some of the other words selected are:

Trepidation
Precipice
Misogyny
Turmoil

Lots of these words have some negative connotations. I guess that is something I would have to blame on the generally pessimistic outlook that so many people are getting caught up in now.


Some of the other words, like Maverick and Bipartisan, must have come from the intense interest in the presidential campaign. I wonder what words will make it onto the list next year?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Trip Report: Hanford

I just got back from my field trip a little while ago. Surprisingly, we had all except for one student show up on time to leave and the one that was late was less than 5 minutes late, so we got on the road just about the time that we planned to. The van that I was riding in had some pretty bad climate control. On the side of the van I was on, it was like sitting next to a furnace, but the people sitting on the other side were freezing. Other than that, it wasn't such a bad trip down there.

This was my second trip to the reservation. My first trip happened a few years ago when I was driving through the tri-cities and took a wrong turn. That time, I didn't get any further than the sign that said "Hanford" before I figured it out and turned around.

We actually ended up with three foreign national students on the tour. Apparently, it is not that unusual. One of the guys working there said some of the work had once been contracted out to a British company which later sold out to an American company, but apparently several British workers remained employed there.

The foreign students were separated from the main group for a special security briefing where they had their credentials checked a little more thoroughly than the rest of us. I asked one of the girls that had the special briefing what she thought of it. She said, "By the time they were done, I was scared of myself !!"

Most of the trip was spent discussing our particular projects, but they did take us to look at a few other facilities there. It was a fairly interesting trip. My impression is that you have to do a lot of driving if you work there. Very few of their facilities are even close to other facilities. Of course, I guess that is the sort of things that happen when you build a nuclear facility in the middle of the desert instead of in a big city.

All in all, not a bad day. It was kind of long because of the riding around in the van.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hanford

Figured that I would get in a quick post before I hit the rack. I have to get up early tomorrow to be outside Sloan Hall (where I have most of my classes) at 6:00 a.m. This almost reminds me of meeting outside the NEX mini-mart at oh-dark-thirty in Pearl Harbor to go for a bus ride to the shooting range for weapons qualifications. Instead, I am going on a field trip tomorrow to Hanford. For my senior design project, we are trying to come up with a way to optimize a particular method in the processing of radioactive liquid.

One thing that I thought was kind of odd is that we are not required to be U.S. citizens to go there, or at least to see the nuclear-type of areas. Two of my classmates are foreign nationals. One is Japanese and the other is Mexican. Of course, I am sure that neither one of them has any sinister designs. In fact, one of them is giving me a ride to school tomorrow since we have to leave before the bus starts running in the morning. All in all, I am happy that they get to go with us.

I spent 20 years in the navy working as a nuke. Then I went to college to broaden my horizons. Now in the span of just a few weeks, I got to tour a naval shipyard and tomorrow I get to visit a nuclear reservation. I can feel my horizons broadening as I sit here typing this post.

Well, I guess the navy and/or the nuclear world is my calling. Things could be worse. At least there are some good job prospects out there for me.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Black Friday

I hope that most of you were more fortunate than me when it came to avoiding the Black Friday shopping.

My dad started looking for a new television when they started advertising the analog to digital conversion for all television broadcasts. About the time that he decided that his setup was not going to stop receiving the signal when the switch was made, his television broke. Since then, he decided that he wanted to upgrade to a nice plasma or LCD television.

I came home from a brief outing on Thanksgiving evening to find my mom, dad, and brother sitting around a huge pile of advertising fliers. They had selected a 40" LCD television from Best Buy. I looked at the flier and it promised a minimum of three in stock. Since we didn't want to risk them selling out, we decided to head out early.

My mom dragged me and my brother out of bed at about three and a half hours before the crack of dawn. We got ourselves all hopped up on coffee and hit the road. We got to Best Buy about at about 5:15 a.m., or 15 minutes after the store opened.

There were lots of people and long lines. The television that we wanted was still available, although the people in line right in front of us were there for the exact same television. The people working there had us stand in line in the television section.

Fortunately, the line was not ridiculously long.

Unfortunately, the line failed to move for about 45 minutes. At one of the biggest electronic outlets in the nation, the line couldn't move because their computers were down. Guess they should have called the Geek Squad. Wait a minute. They ARE the Geek Squad!! Whoops.

After a total of about an hour, we worked our way up to the register and made our purchase. Then we went to pick up the television at the loading area. We had a car. The television was being kind of stubborn about fitting into the car. Rather than trying to bend and beat on the $700 television to get it into the car, we opted to call my brothers buddy, Bill, to come and pick up the television for us. Bill has a truck.

My brother is a truck driver, and so is his buddy. Turns out, truck drivers have the same sort of sense of humor as submariners. You know, the one that says it is okay to make other people miserable because it amuses you. Bill and my brother often play pranks on each other.

Anyway, Bill got the phone call at about 6:30 a.m. asking him to come to Best Buy to meet us and drive the television to my parents house. Bill, who was still asleep when the call came in, looked at the clock and decided that my brother must be trying to mess around with him. Who goes shopping for a television at 6:30 in the morning? He told my brother, "I'll be right there!!" and promptly rolled over to go back to sleep.

It took two more phone calls, a reminder that it was Black Friday, and an hour before Bill realized that we were actually stranded outside Best Buy with a 40" television and a brand new television stand. He showed up shortly after that. My brother rode home with Bill while my mom and I, as an afterthought, decided to swing by Target to pick up a surge protector for the television.

WOW!!! That place was packed. The line stretched to the back of the store before bending around a corner and out of sight. The lady at the front of the line told us not to worry, because the line was moving pretty quick. My mom and I left. We ended up picking one up at OfficeMax.

Now OfficeMax is a store that I kind of like, as long as I go in armed with a knowledge of the proper pricing of what I am looking for. It almost made me sad to go in there. They had the whole crew in to help customers, but the customers failed to show up, I guess. There were about a half dozen customers in the store. One of the sales people walked us over to the surge protectors. There was an open register with nobody standing in line. While it is pretty nice to have two customer service people for every customer, it looked pretty empty on the biggest shopping day of the year. Hope that they don't count on Black Friday revenues for most of their business.

We went home after that and spent the remainder of the morning assembling the television stand and setting up the television. It looks great and works great. My parents were very happy, so I guess it was all worthwhile.

Innovations in the American Automobile Industry

I was driving home today and I heard about a brand new idea from Chrysler. They are introducing an add-on product for their vehicles. Well, the article is from June, so it may already be available. It will allow you to create a WiFi network in your vehicle. Using a cell phone connection and the 3G network, it will allow vehicle occupants to access the web while driving down the road. It only costs $499 to have it added on by the dealer and $30 a month to subscribe, in addition to the cell phone charges.

WTF?!?!?!? Cell phones don't cause enough accidents? Even for someone that spends as much time on the internet as I do can do without internet access during my car rides. Presumably, it is for passengers, although I heard someone say that they thought it would be cool to be able to take a look at MapQuest while they are driving. Yikes!!!

Hey, for all of you rocket scientists running Chrysler. If someone needs to access the internet while they are in their vehicle, they probably already got a PC card that lets them access the internet using 3G. These PC cards cost about a tenth of your add-on. Hello?? Are you there?? Stop being morons and stop asking for the American taxpayers to foot the bill while you continue to destroy your company.

While there will always be people out there that spend money on things they don't need, I think the tough economic times are going to take their toll on companies that cater to consumers that spend wastefully.

Hey, Chrysler, maybe if you spent those R&D dollars on giving us a car that gets 10 or 20 more miles to the gallon, you wouldn't need to be begging for money from the public. You are Broken. Fix Yourselves or Go Away!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Day

I am packing up and getting ready for another trip across the mountains to western Washington this morning. I will be spending Thanksgiving at my parents house. I may put up a new post or two while I am there. Unfortunately, my parents house is in the land of dial up internet. I rarely have the patience to get online while I am at their house.

Meanwhile, I hope that everyone has a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving. Eat as much as you want, but dont choke on any turkey bones.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monica Lewinsky Part of Team Obama??

I ran across an article today that says that there is a rumor that Monica Lewinsky is being considered for some sort of a job in the Obama White House.

It appears to be written tongue in cheek, and I am guessing it is a cute joke since this is:

a) an opinion piece,
b) from the Huffington Post, and
c) coinciding with the 10 year anniversary of the Clinton scandal.

Nevertheless, it made me chuckle a few times. The article says that Hillary Clinton would rather not have Lewinsky back in the White House if she is Secretary of State (duh!!!), but the part that really made me laugh was this quote:
"However, Justin Cooper ... said that Mr. Clinton was cautiously supportive of the prospect. "He's always had great admiration for Monica's abilities," Cooper said."
I hope that you enjoy the article. The link is below. I thought it was pretty funny.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Photos of USS Parche Sail

The sail for the USS Parche is the centerpiece of a Navy Museum between the Bremerton ferry terminal and the entrance to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. I know it is not new, but I thought some people might be interested in seeing a few pictures of it. I think they did a pretty nice job with the display. I heard that the real reason for this area is a buffer zone to provide greater protection for the shipyard, but they "beautify" the area to make it a little less obvious that it is there to provide protection from possible terrorist threats. It would be fitting for the Parche to be used in a continuation of national defense. The biggest drawback right now is that I had to run through a mouse maze of construction and temporary fences and dodge a little traffic to get from the ferry terminal to the Parche sail.

Pictures of the sail of the USS Parche, the most decorated ship in the navy.






Boat Ride

Last Tuesday, I left Bremerton on the ferry to Seattle. I was thinking that it would be a nice ride instead of taking a drive through Tacoma. It turned out to be a pretty uneventful, yet relaxing start to my trip back to Pullman.

Barely.

I had a pretty flexible schedule, so I wasn't in a big rush to catch the boat and ended up on the 11:30 sailing. If I had waited for the next sailing, it would have been much more exciting. Someone in Bremerton phoned from a 7-11 that he had overheard two men talking about a bomb that had been planted on the ferry. The ferry returned to Bremerton and the terminal was closed. They had a few Coast Guard boats to provide security, Washington State Patrol with bomb-sniffing dogs, and several news helicopters. I heard on the radio that since the ferry never turned, it pulled up to the pier oriented so that all of the vehicles had to back off the ferry instead of driving forward. I think it would have ended up costing me several hours of travel time had I been on that ferry.


Of course, I would have got some more interesting photos. Here are a few pics from the ride to Seattle. Did you know that the Garmin has the ferry route programmed into it? I didn't. For some reason, I thought that was pretty cool.

Here is a picture of some scenery.



Coming into Seattle.



My Garmin faithfully guiding me to Seattle on the ferry, slightly to right of track.





Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sir! Yes Sir!!!

So, I was sitting in my living room watching Law & Order. The neighbors upstairs, that I am normally pretty tolerant of, were playing their music so loud and yelling and screaming so loud that I was having some difficulty following along with the episode, so I felt inclined to go say "Hi" to them.

I knocked on the door.

The door opened.

A nice young fella opened the door.

In the background were a few more young guys and several scantily clad young ladies.

Me: "Hey buddy. I'm having a little trouble hearing my T.V. Would you mind turning the volume down a notch or two?"

Him: "Yes Sir. Sorry about that Sir!!"

That's a no-shitter.

Sigh...when did I get so old? Am I an asshole???

I Have a Yen For....

I don't normally follow the foreign currency exchange rates, but I did happen to come across the exchange rate for dollars to yen. It is about 95 yen for a dollar.

Seems to me that the exchange rates were always about 110 to 120 yen for a dollar whenever I went to Japan. Now I have some concern for places like The Honch. I have fond memories of karaoke and Filipina bargirls that always told me:
"Wow...you sure do sing good...can I have another drink?"

Those days might be coming to an end.

The exchange rate for Singapore Dollars is 1 U.S. Dollar is 1.52 Sing Dollars...used to be about 1.66.

Thai Baht? 35 for 1 U.S. Dollar.

I have many memories of my Dollars being worth so much more. I have to say that I find the current state of our battered Dollar very sad. Those nights of drunken debauchery may be at an end for our current generation of brave warriors. To all of the new generation, I guess all I can say is:
"I drank all of your beer and fu@#$d all of your girls...have a great liberty port!!"

I always heard that poverty makes for a great liberty port. Will we soon be seeing Chinese and Russian sailors on American shores talking about what a great liberty port the United States is?

What Planet are These Jackasses From??

Three beggars came on private luxury jets to Washington D.C. asking for money. They speak of shared sacrifice, which apparently means "I'LL TAKE YOUR MONEY AND YOU CAN DO THE SACRIFICE PART." They are like thieves.


How can they not get it? You can't rake in millions of dollars in salary and fly around on private jets and then come to beg for taxpayer dollars. It is certainly reminiscent of Leona Helmsley and her famous
"We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."
These guys need to be sent packing. I wish I could say that I am amazed, but I am not at all surprised. They really think they deserve these perks while driving their companies to bankruptcy. They think they are special and that they have incredible talents. Hell, if anybody wants to hire a new CEO, give me a buzz. I promise to drive your company into the ground for a fraction of what these clowns want. I am starting to feel genuine hatred for these CEO's. I know they are well paid, but do they have to rub our noses in how special they think they are?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Posting from Bremerton

All finished out at the shipyard. Guess the interview went pretty well. It was actually more along the lines of them trying to sell the job to us, for the most part. They were, from my experience, pretty honest about the negatives as well as the positives.

I also got to take a tour of one of the old decommissioned aircraft carriers and took a quick walk in a drydock basin to see the underside of a submarine. Walking up those drydock stairs sure was tougher than when I used to be in the navy. Must be all the good food I been eating.

There were a group of about nine people, but only about three were interviewing for the same job that I was. Apparently, they are still kind of hurting for people, although they are getting a lot more interest from people that would have otherwise chosen the private sector. I guess the tanking of the economy is good for the human resources people at the shipyard.

Bremerton has gotten a lot bigger than when I was stationed here. It is inexorably growing toward Silverdale. Still a pretty nice town though. I will be driving back to Pullman tomorrow, and think I will take the ferry to Seattle, just for a change of pace. By the time you throw in the gas I save and the toll for crossing the Tacoma Narrows bridge, I almost break even, so it's almost a free boat ride and an hour of walking around enjoying the scenery instead of driving through the heavy traffic in Tacoma.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Off to Bremerton

I will be leaving for Bremerton shortly. I get to have my second job interview with Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on Monday. They seem to be pretty interested in hiring me. Hopefully, it will go well.

I spent a little time looking into going to work for some of the big oil companies. Most of them try to make you feel like they are God's Gift to chemical engineers and that we should be down on our hands and knees begging to be found worthy enough of being hired. I get the feeling that they consider workers to be disposable assets rather than valued employees. There is an oil refinery here in Washington, but not too many other big oil jobs in the region. Well, I guess I could probably get a job pumping gas, but that is pretty far down on my list of desirable jobs.

There are a few other nuclear industry types that have shown a lot of interest in hiring me as well. Still, the shipyard in Bremerton is at the top of my list as far as desired location goes, so they have the inside track right now.

Some of the guys that graduated last year declined to take a government job, because of the higher pay available in the private sector. Some of them have already been laid off. Private sector does look pretty good, but I would rather have a good job with good job security than a great job with lousy job security. The current economic situation is influencing my feelings towards job-hunting more than I thought it would.

Anyway, I have to shower and pack, and be on my way. Have a great weekend, everybody!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Religious Discrimination in the Military

I guess that I just don't understand some people. I read the bible at home, but I don't particularly care for church services because of the political bent to many church services. I don't really understand the various groups and organizations that intend to suppress all mention of any sort of religion out of all aspects of public life.

One or two years ago, there was a bit of a fuss at SeaTac International Airport. A rabbi, seeing a large Christmas tree at the airport complained. He wasn't complaining about the presence of the tree, rather he thought that a Jewish symbol to celebrate Hanukkah should be displayed along with the tree. This seemed to be a pretty legitimate point of view. The Port of Seattle responded by removing the Christmas tree. The rabbi felt bad about it and said that this was not his intention and that they should put the tree back up. I think the rabbi was being very reasonable in his request, but the hyper-sensitivity to this sort of complaint caused a huge overreaction.

I don't understand how come people feel repressed because a courthouse chooses to display the Ten Commandments or because their child has to utter the word God when they say the pledge of allegiance. I always write these attitudes off to people that go out of their way to be offended by something. For me, if something offends me, I tend to ignore it.

When I was in the navy, I never felt particularly threatened by people that attended services on the boat. When I was stationed on a sub tender, they used to have an evening prayer. Many ceremonies had an invocation prayer. I don't know of anyone that was offended by it. I certainly never felt that there was any sort of overt effort to pressure me into joining in something that I didn't believe in. The tender even had Wiccan services. I thought that the people that participated were a little goofy, but to each his own.

Apparently, not all military members share my point of view and they see a more malevolent side to religion in the military. There is an article in Stripes about a group protesting against the huge amount of religious discrimination in the military. I would guess that if anyone in the military were to be discriminated against on a religious basis, it would be Muslims. I was wrong, though. The biggest targets are atheists, at least according to this group.
"When they say 'there are no atheists in foxholes' it's slanderous," said Wayne Adkins, a former Army first lieutenant who served in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. "To deny their existence is to deny that they serve."
If a person considers the phrase "There are no athiests in a foxhole" offensive, they must be the same sort of people that go out of there way to feel offended. I also think that they are completely missing the point of the phrase. I sure don't think that this phrase was ever intended to deny the existence of athiests.

Anyway, maybe I was just blind for 20 years. Did anyone else feel that they are (or have been) discriminated against for religious reasons while they were in the military?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Circuit City Bankruptcy

UPDATE: 1/16/09 I have written another post about the announcement that Circuit City is closing and including information for people with extended warranties.

I read today that Circuit City is filing for bankruptcy protection. I am not a big fan, nor even small fan of Circuit City. The only good shopping experience I ever had there was when I lived in Aeia, Hawaii. I lived about a five minute walk from the Circuit City near Pearlridge. I was able to order a new computer online and go to pick it up.

When I picked it up, a salesman tried to con me into buying an extended warranty. I told him I was not interested. He told me that I was making a big mistake, blah, blah, blah... I cut him off and asked if the store was selling me a piece of crap that was going to break down, because I wouldn't want to buy it if that was the case. He continued to go on about how I should get an extended warranty. I told him to shut up or I wouldn't buy the computer. He shut up.

I hate these guys trying to sell you these extended warranties. Circuit City has built a business built more on extended warranties than on their sales. I always considered an extended warranty through Circuit City to be a waste of money. Now that everyone is facing tighter times, I bet more people consider it a waste of money. Add that on top of overall sales slowing down, it is no surprise that Circuit City is in trouble.

Something else for a consumer to consider is whether or not Circuit City will even be in business a few months down the road. If they won't be, then a longer warranty is certainly a waste of money.

I really don't like Circuit City, if you haven't noticed by now. The last straw for me was watching management openly screw their workers.
The electronics retailer, facing larger competitors and falling sales, said Wednesday that it would lay off about 3,400 store workers — immediately — and replace them with lower-paid new hires as soon as possible.

The laid-off workers, about 8 percent of the company’s total work force, would get a severance package and a chance to reapply for their former jobs, at lower pay, after a 10-week delay, the company said.

Read the March 2007 story here


Of course, with the plummeting stock prices at the time, I guess that the Company Executives had to screw over thousands of ordinary people so that they could somehow justify huge paychecks for themselves. Like a lot of executives for major companies and corporations, these executives have shown themselves to be Morally Bankrupt. Now, Circuit City, under their leadership, is Financially Bankrupt.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More on Russian Submarine Disaster

There are a few more detail coming out about the Russian submarine disaster from Saturday. Apparently, the submarine is the K-152 Nerpin. An article from The Times of India identifies this as a submarine that was supposed to be leased to India starting next year.
The new Russian Akula-II class attack submarine called ‘K-152 Nerpa', which met with an accident during sea trials in the Sea of Japan off Vladivostok on Saturday, killing at least 20 people and injuring another 21, is apparently the same vessel which was to be transferred to India in July-August 2009, sources said.

The wording used by the Russian Navy spokesman is that it was an "unsanctioned activation" of the fire suppression system. I am guessing there was probably an accidental activation during maintenance. There is a siren that is supposed to go off before the system starts releasing the gas into the "people tank" which may have failed. Presumably, this alarm is triggered as part of the system activation. It is possible that during maintenance, the trigger for the alarm was not in the same loop that resulted in the release of the gas.

I have never studied one of these systems closely. Does anybody know if the gas used in these systems has an additive to give it a distinctive odor, such as the one added to natural gas? It seems like a system designed to rapidly displace oxygen from a large space would have something like this added to provide additional warning.

One other interesting thing that I read in an article. The submarine had 208 people aboard, 81 military and 127 shipyard workers. The breakdown in deaths was 3 sailors and 17 civilians.
Seventeen civilians and three seamen died in the accident and 21 others were hospitalized after being evacuated to shore, Russian navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said. None of the injuries were life-threatening, he added.

I suppose the disproportionate number of civilian deaths is probably due to the level of proficiency of the sailors compared to the civilians. Of course, it is also possible that due to the large number of people on board, a lot of civilians were sleeping in the bow compartment due to the huge overload on the normal berthing spaces.

Submarines always were and still are dangerous places to live. I am sure that there will be some lessons learned out of this to add a few more pages of safety regulations written in the blood of these men.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Russian Submarine Accident

Sounds like a pretty bad accident, with many sailors killed. I just picked this up a few minutes ago. The article says that the sub was on sea trials. The vessel hasn't been identified.

"During sea trials of a nuclear-powered submarine of the Pacific Fleet the firefighting system went off unsanctioned, killing over 20 people, including servicemen and workers," Igor Dygalo said, without giving any details of the circumstances of the accident.


Read the full article here

Here is another article with more information



UPDATE: Another article has been posted that may identify the submarine involved.

The name and type of the submarine was not released.

However, a source in the Amur shipyard's administration named the submarine as the K-152 Nerpa, a nuclear-powered sub of the Project 971 Shchuka-B type, or Akula-class by NATO classification, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

A picture of the K-152 Nerpa


Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Real Reason McCain Lost

The GOP is now left to consider why they have fared so badly in the most recent elections. Some say it is because they moved to far to the center and gotten out of touch with their conservative values. Others (like me) think that they are just out of touch with the American people.

As it turns out, we may both be wrong. It could be that our election was influenced by Peruvian Shamans. I guess that is as good a theory as any.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President Elect Obama

Incredible.

I was expecting this to happen based on the last few weeks of poll results, but I guess it will take a little bit of time for the historical significance of this to sink in. I wish his grandmother had held on for a few more days.

I'm thrilled!!!

Election Night

All finished with everything that I had to do today, so now I get to focus on the election. I am hunkered down in my living room, I got cold beer in the fridge, and a pizza in the oven. Actually, the beer and pizza were for "Heroes" last night on NBC, but unfortunately, a Saturday Night Live special episode preempted my show.

Anyway, the election looks like it is unfolding as the polls over the last week have suggested. I certainly hope that it doesn't come out close. I think after the 2000 and 2004 elections, particularly the 2000 election, we need to have a pretty definitive victory. Florida, I am talking to you.

The election coverage that I have been looking forward will be starting in about 15 minutes on the Comedy Channel: Indecision 2008. I hope that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have some good stuff for us tonight.


Update: 6:53 p.m. pacific time:
Wow!!! Virginia is amazingly close. An 1,100 vote difference with about 2.5 million counted.

No Margarita For You!!!

I was able to get out of the last hour of my laboratory class today because of a small material failure. My group and I decided to make a run across the border to Moscow (that's Moscow, Idaho and not Moscow, Russia) for lunch.

We decided to go to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. Here is an excerpt of my conversation with my waiter:

Me: "I'll have an Asada Burrito and a Margarita, please."
Waiter: "Ummm, you can't have a Margarita."
Me: "Is it too early to serve alcohol?"
Waiter: "No, it's election day."
Me: "What???"
(Note: I knew that it was election day, I just didn't understand how this related to my Margarita)
Waiter: "We can't serve those on election day."
Me: "What are you talking about? Where are we? Mexico?"
Waiter: "Sorry, sir."

The irony was lost on me at the time, asking if we were in Mexico while sitting in a Mexican restaurant. Rather, I remembered my time on various boats. It seems like nearly every time we pulled into San Diego, the COB would tell us that it was election day in Mexico. Don't bother going to Tijuana, because you can't drink there anyway. Either Mexico has a heckuva lot of election days through the year, or this was the COB was engaging in some alcohol-consumption suppression, similar to some of the voter suppression tactics used in some controversial electoral districts.

The bottom line is that I had an Asada Burrito and water for lunch. By the way, the burrito was delicious, even if it wasn't quite up to the standards of the places outside the gates at Point Loma. I was disappointed that I was unable to have a Margarita with it. Apparently, nothing is more dangerous than a voter with a loaded pen. Or is that a loaded voter with a pen???

Imagine my surprise when we were leaving the restaurant. A couple sitting at a table near ours were enjoying beer with their lunch. I stopped and asked them if that was beer, thinking that perhaps they were drinking some non-alcoholic beer or something like that. Turns out they were enjoying actual alcoholic beer with their lunch.

I did a little research on it later and discovered that while it is permissible to serve beer and wine on election day, you are not allowed to serve liquor. I guess the enlightened lawmakers in Idaho think that you can get drunk from liquor, but not from drinking beer and wine.

Actually, the law was passed about 70 years ago. Apparently, some of the polling places were located in bars and places like that. The law was passed to prevent candidates from buying drinks for the voters in order to influence their vote. Of course, this information that I have came from various Internet sources, so its validity is suspect.

Lesson learned: If you want to get liquored up before you vote, you need to do it someplace that isn't Idaho.

An Unexpected Lull

After a flurry of exams and a few presentations over the last week and into yesterday, I took a look at my schedule for this week. To my surprise, I found that I have a relatively light workload for the rest of this week. I am sure that I will thoroughly enjoy this unexpected lull.

On reflection, the stuff that has been piled on me at school isn't really that tough. Apparently, somewhere in the transition from submarine sailor to college student, there has been a perceptible shift in my definition of a hard day. I know that I would have been thrilled to have this small of an amount of work to do before I retired from the navy.

In any case, I haven't been posting very frequently because of my schedule. I intend to rectify this situation today. Unfortunately for the people that pop in to look at my blog, I have decided to take the "high quantity" route rather than than the "high quality" route. Anyway, if you are spending some of your valuable time reading my blog, thanks. Sorry if I wasted your time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Voting Machines

I came across an article on CNN that discusses the glitches that can and have occurred with voting machines in the past and are likely to occur again this election. Some of the problems that I have heard about are:

Paper ballots: Choice is not properly annotated, for example, circling the desired candidates name instead of checking a box.

Optical scanners: The circle on the ballot is not filled out completely or dark enough to register.

Touch screen: Sometimes register the vote for the incorrect candidate, due to voter error or machine calibration. Also susceptible to hacking.

"With early voting under way in 31 states, these problems have already surfaced. In recent weeks, voters in West Virginia, Colorado, Tennessee and Texas have reported that touch-screen machines registered their votes, at least initially, for the wrong candidate or party."

Read the story at CNN by clicking here


Now, I may be guilty of thinking like an engineer, but none of these seem like insurmountable obstacles. So how in the world can our democracy allow an election system that does not absolutely ensure that voters are confident that their vote is not only counted, but counted correctly?

My suggestion would be to design a voting machine that incorporates all of these technologies. Design a voting machine that has one input, a touchscreen, and one output, a printer. There is no need to have any other interfaces or connections to the internet that would allow a possibility of hacking. The voter can input his or her choices using a touch screen, which can tell them immediately which candidate they just selected before moving on to the next choice.

After all of the selections have been made, the machine can then print out a paper ballot similar to those used in optical scanners, with all the selections already filled in. Use of a standard system and printer ensure that all ballots are filled out correctly and that the ballot can be read by an optical scanner. It could even have a positive statement to reassure the voter that the vote was properly cast, for example:


For President of the United States, you have selected:
(insert candidates name).


After the voter has reviewed the printed ballot, they can sign it and put it in a box for later counting with an optical scanner. If, for some reason, the optical scanner can not read a ballot, it can be counted by hand. The positive statement as to which candidate was selected by the voter will ensure that there is no confusion about which candidate was selected if a hand count becomes necessary.

I don't know why we have to tolerate this crazy patchwork quilt that is made up of the various types of machines and methods that create the possibility that votes will not be counted or not correctly counted. Our nation has definitely reached a sufficient level of technology where we can correct these errors.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Can the G.O.P. Survive?

This is a rather long, and probably somewhat rambling and disjointed post, so please bear with me and share your opinions when you are finished.

I am beginning to wonder if the Republican Party will survive this election season. There are reports now of splits on a few issues, such as gay marriage, that are creating a growing rift between McCain and Palin. In addition, Palin feels she is being mishandled by the McCain campaign. Today, she said she definitely wants to remain a figure in national politics.

I would characterize myself as a left-leaning independent. A lot of people would probably say that I am a Democrat. I have voted for Republicans in the past, but some of the reasons that I would have voted for a Republican are just no longer there.

For example, the Republicans have always said that they are a party of fiscal conservatives. I can't see how they can claim that any longer, at least not with a straight face.

They also claim to be more ethical and to place more value on family values than the Democrats. Just look back at the last several years, and you will find that there are a lot of Republican names on the list of unethical or unfaithful congressmen, right alongside the Democrats.

They also try to pass themselves off as the party that takes care of the military, but I don't necessarily agree with that. In fact, the biggest jump in my quality of life in the military came due to changes made by Admiral Boorda during the Clinton administration.

McCain refused to endorse the new G.I. bill that Webb sponsored. He said that he had come up with a superior bill, but his initial reason not to support it was that it was too generous and would induce people to leave the military early. There was no push by the Republicans to improve care for the war veterans until the media started to show the inadequate conditions that prevailed at many of the VA hospitals. Bush last year gave the military a pay raise that was 1/2% lower than the one approved by congress, because that extra 1/2% was unnecessary. The rationale was that it would take money away from other programs that benefited the military. He also supported raising Tricare fees for retirees. Rationale for that was essentially the same, saving Tricare money so that it could be used for other military programs. Kind of a redistribution of the troop's money, in my opinion. Take it out of the pockets of military members, because the government can spend it better. This is decidedly not a conservative view point.

McCain has never really looked all the comfortable to me while he is trying to appeal to the far right members of the Republican party. Palin definitely appeals to this group. There is a far right component in the Republican party that seems to push a lot of people away from that party. I think as long as this group charts the course for the Republican party, they will remain out of power in Washington.

There seems to be a lot of difference in the party based on the region of the country that they are from. Here in Washington state, some of the Republicans are really distancing themselves from the national party. In 15 partisan offices up for grabs, 4 of the Republicans, including our Republican candidate for governor, refused to use the word Republican to describe themselves, opting to state their party preference as G.O.P. on the ballot.

I think there is a real possibility of the Republican party splitting into two parties. President Bush still has about a 25% job approval rating. Palin is extraordinarily popular with the far right wing. On the other hand, I think that politicians like Bush and Palin alienate a lot of moderate Republicans and scare off independent voters as well.

I also think that there are a lot of moderate Democrats that do not fully support their own party, because a lot of senior Democrats are too far left for comfort. Unfortunately, the alternative is to vote for McCain/Palin, and they would rather support their own party.

The only way a third party could ever form is to have viable candidates that are already well established in the political arena. Right now, a vote for anyone other than a Democrat and Republican is considered to be a wasted vote by most voters. Do you think that moderate Republicans might split off from the rest of the Republican party? If they do, do you think that some moderate Democrats would be willing to join them and form a true third party?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Disturbing News Item

I wish I could say that this kind of report surprised me, but I have been expecting that some white supremacist group or individual would eventually get it in their head to take a shot at Barack Obama. Apparently, a couple of nuts decided they were going to make themselves famous by killing 102 people at a predominantly African-American high school, and then go on a killing spree culminating with an assassination attempt on Obama. Luckily, the ATF was on the ball here, and put a stop to it before they went ahead with the attempt.

"Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of ATF's Nashville field office, said the two men planned to shoot 88 black people and decapitate another 14. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.

The men also sought to go on a national killing spree after the Tennessee murders, with Obama as its final target, Cavanaugh told The Associated Press."


Link to the Associated Press Story

I had a discussion with my dad and my uncle several months ago, about whether this sort of thing would happen or not. My dad felt that we were far enough along as a nation that Obama would not be a target because of his race. My uncle and I thought there might be a chance of something like this happening. Of course, we were talking of a more immediate threat, so I don't know if this really fits in with the discussion that we had.

I wonder if this is the first serious threat, or just the first one we have been told about. I guess for now, I will just say Bravo Zulu to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Keep up the good work, boys.