Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Secession petitioners please don't let the door hit you.

Since the reelection of Barack Obama, news accounts ( have been popping up that some of our nation's conservative citizens cannot bring themselves to accept the will of their countrymen. Instead of working within the framework of our democracy and accepting that their views are in the minority, these people have signed petitions stating that they would rather tear assunder the domestic unity of this nation and have their states broken off from the United States.

I won't bother with facetiously pretending I think this is a good or serious idea, much as it would please me to imagine the American political conversation without all of the jihadi evangelist, and self-satisfied tea bagger idiocy. Still, it is a very serious step to make such a request, and it requires a response.

So, I say to the signatories of these petitions, you really should grow up and try to deal with your countrymen in a more adult manner. Barring that, I think you should consider emigrating to a country with values more in accordance with yours - unpleasant to imagine as such a country might be. This step would be a far less disruptive way of expressing your petulance.

Still, if you can't bear moving, and if the majority of the citizens of your state share your feelings, well then I believe our nation will be better without you. The minority of sane and civil citizens of your state should be extended limited immigration rights to the U.S., but for any fools whose names can be found on any of these petitions of secession, instant, permanent and irrevocable expulsion from these United States should accompany the act of secession.

I would say I wish you well in your future independence, but really I only wish to never hear or speak of you again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Time Clueless on Tankers

Boeing or Bust: Europeans Cry Foul Over a Defense Contract

In the Time article linked above, yet again the national media comes up looking clueless in its coverage of the endless tanker contract spat. This article, by Bruce Crumley is all about the faux fury of French officials over the supposed unfairness of the bidding process leading up to the recent grandstanding exit of the Northrup Grumman/EADS team from the competition. Crumley takes at face value the French assertions that the EADS team was wronged. Cruley's sole bow to objectivity on this issue is to quote a French defense company executive acknowledging that virtually no country in the world plays big defense contracts straight when the contest involves viable domestic competitors.

That's almost certainly true, but with that as the only nod to balance on this issue it leaves the distinct impression that there are no valid arguments for why the Boeing tanker made the most sense. The fact is that the 767 tanker is a much better fit size-wise as a replacement for the 707-based tankers that the planes bought in this contract are to replace. That means the Boeing tanker can take over for the tankers being retired with much less operational disruption or secondary expenses than the larger A330-based KC45. That in and of itself does not guarantee that the Boeing tanker makes the most sense. It does mean that the predictable cry of foul from the French needs to be put in context.

An important part of that context is that, EADS and it's Airbus subsidiary, which are the real losers behind the thin Northrop veil of domesticity around the KC45 team, really are long-standing (and very successful) industrial policy projects of the major European governments, most notably including France. Neither EADS nor Airbus is a true private enterprise in its history or in its market participation. Of course the European governments that write the checks for EADS are disappointed that they will not be getting to shift some of their subsidy obligations to U.S. tax payer. That fact is no indication in itself of any merit to their complaints, and Crumley's story becomes silly in presenting the frothy performance as though it is meaningful by itself.

Far less defensible from an objectivity standpoint, is Crumley's credulous scribe work for the endlessly embarrassing Alabama Senator, Richard Shelbey. Shelbey and Alabama would have been major beneficiaries of an EADS win, since the KC45 finishing facility was to be built in Mobile. Shelbey and Alabama would be huge winners in an award of the tanker contract to the French company, even if the Air Force, the U.S. aerospace industry, and the American tax payer would not, and he has never been shy about working for that outcome. He has been distinguished by his relentlessness in slandering northern U.S. workers and companies, in the service of his prospective European partners. Any review of Shelbey's past statements on this subject would have disqualified him from being cited as a disinterested American commentator, but Crumley slavishly cites Shelbey as just that.

"Even some American observers groused that the EADS offer was clearly superior to Boeing's revised bids. U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, said "the Air Force had a chance to deliver the most capable tanker possible to our war fighters and blew it" by meddling with the process "to produce the best outcome [for Boeing]."
Read more:,8599,1971382,00.html#ixzz0i0pNje9J

An astute ten-year old could recognize Shelbey's puffed up sanctimony about "war fighters" as the labored spinning of a salesman, but Crumley doesn't have a clue.

Maybe Time should hire some astute ten year olds to help them extract, for their readers, a nuanced and accurate understanding of the complex public policy issues of the day. Journalism like Crumley's here, succeeds only at presenting a meaningless sample scooped out of the mountain of spin that every citizen is inundated with on a daily basis.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Comcast Web Outage in PA

I've been without access to most of the web via my Comcast broadband service for about 5 hours now. This is an extra pain this weekend, because I need to log in to my work VPN to do some system maintenance, and I can't get there from here.

My wife, who never likes being without the web, called in to Comcast, and after an excruciating 40 minutes listening to the 20-second hold music loop, got a tech rep who said that the AT&T backbone is down for all of Pennsylvania. It does seem like a backbone problem, since I am able to get out to a few sites including Blogger, but even my Comcast mail host is inaccessible.

There is a two day old story link on Google News about upgrades being made by AT&T and Comcast -- apparently in preparation for Comcast's new super premium 50 Mbps service --causing outages, but I can't actually retrieve the article. All in all, I'm not thrilled if such a long outage has been caused in order to make way for a service that certainly won't be available in my area - even if I was willing and able to foot the $150 per month tab. It is especially annoying since a weekend morning may be a good time to interrupt business service, but it is prime time for residential service, and an outage this long and far reaching, without any news, has at least a strong odor of a planned interruption.

One thing's for sure, the role of connectivity in my life has changed enough in recent years, that I no longer find it acceptible to be knocked off the grid for hours at a time. I'm sure that Comcast will get things put back together eventually. I wonder, when they do, if they'll find that many of their plain old 8Mbps service customers have also decided to light out for a more stable provider. If such outages become too regular of an occurrence, I should think they will.

Edited 8:16 AM April 6, 2008 for typos.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Netflix Instant View Overloaded?

Has Netflix gotten ahead of it's system capacity in a push to increase usage of it's year old instant viewing feature? Since the instant feature came online last year, my pc has always qualified for the highest Video Quality through the service, that is until this weekend. Friday night, I went to finish watching a film I began watching last weekend ("The Sand Pebbles" which I would recommend based on the first 40 minutes), and was surprised to find that my connection was rated for only Basic quality video. I wasn't too concerned with the demotion, until I saw the remarkable loss of viewability in the Basic quality service. Scenes which had appearecd sharp in full screen mode at High quality, now appeared blurry in the initial small screen mode.

At first, I assumed that the issue was on my end. I contacted my ISP to find out if my throughput was being channeled down on their end. After testing my service using their equipment, the phone technician at my ISP said everything looked good with my service, and pointed me to an independent speed rating site, to test my speeds for myself. At Speedtest, which is also recommended as a test site by Netflix, I was able to confirm that my connection was consistently able to support over 6 Mbps download speeds.

According to Netflix, the relationship between download rate and instant viewing quality should breakdown as follows: 1.6 - 2.2 or greater Mbps --> High, 1.0 - 1.5 Mbps --> Good, under 1.0 --> Basic. At these rates, my service should allow me to continue to, as I had for the past year, view Netflix movies instantly with the highest picture quality, which I had fealt was quite good, instead of the Basic level which I have found to be unwatchable.

The Netflix help page suggests that, if connection quality problems do not originate with your ISP, they may originate from your wireless network. My older wireless-B network consistently showed an excellent connection, which should allow for 11 Mbps throughput, but to be safe I went to again via my wireless connection. (MyISP had insisted that they would only work with speed issues for PCs on wired connections.) I was surprised to see that my speedtest result for wireless -- despite the excellent connection rating showing on my PC -- was actually about half as fast as my wired connection, but at 3.34 Mbps my download speed still appears to qualify me for the High quality service with room to spare.

Based on these investigations, I'm inclined to conclude that the problem is in fact on Netflix's end. It would not be terribly surprising if they are experiencing problems handling the growing demands on their capacity driven by recent publicity about their new policy of allowing unlimited instant viewing for all but their lowest subscription level users. I'm interested to see if others have experienced the same drop off in connection quality rating that I have in the past few days, and what, if any, techniques others have found to overcome the seemingly deceptive poor ratings.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Berks County Recycling Center

I couldn't find information about the Western Berks Community Landfill Recycling Center on the web, so I'll post the info from their flyer here for anyone else who might be looking for it. This information, was accurate as of December 31, 2007:

Recycling Drop-Off Center In Berks County
Accepts the following materials:
  • batteries (car lead/acid, alkaline, rechargeable)
  • aluminum & tin cans
  • plastics #1 & #2
  • glass bottles and jars
  • cardboard
  • paper (all types)
  • newspaper/magazine
  • scrap metal
  • tires*
  • electronics*
  • appliances*
  • cell phones
  • waste vegetable oil
  • printer/toner cartridges
  • eye glasses
  • good condition clothing/shoes
  • fluorescent tube lights

Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 am to 3:45 pm

Location: 455 Poplar Neck Road, Birdsboro, PA 19508 (Near the intersection of Rt. 724 & 176, across form Animal Rescue League).

For further information: 610-375-2772,

Ocho Cinco Makes a Stinko

Well, Bengals fans had to see this coming. Chad Johnson went on 'Mike and Mike' Friday, and complained that he has been made a scapegoat by the Bengals for their poor showing this season, and he made his preference clear for taking his "distractions" to another NFL city for next season and beyond. In fairness to Chad, it has seemed to me that he has taken more than his share of the heat for the team's troubles. Without having insight into the inner goings on in the Bengals locker room, it would be hard to make a case that Chad Johnson's play falls too far on the probem side of the performance ledger for the perennially underachieving Bengals. That said, his play has been spottier than his record yardage numbers suggest, and he has seemed to be invisible in too many clutch situations.

As far as the showmanship issue goes, I genuinely enjoy Chad's nutty, but good-natured persona. His heart-on-his-sleeve exhuberance is a welcome contrast to the bristling stoicism that too often appears to be the preferred ethos of the football world. And, I like having a big time player drawing the attention of the sporting world to the orange and black week-in and week-out. But the showy celebrations are not the behavior that draws the worst fire to Chad. The twin fuels for the anti-Johnson crowd's (such as it is) fire, have been the mental lapses like stepping out of bounds untouched short of the marker on a fourth down play while trailing at the end of the Steelers game, and the emotional flare ups like the blow up at the end of the first half in the Patriots game.

So, the 'Chad is a distraction' voices have had plenty to talk about this season, and it is hard to conclude that they are entirely wrong. Chad's current trade-seeking campaign can only serve to cement that view. First of all, having seen the way both the Bengals' ownership and fans mostly rallied around Johnson when the trade rumors first surfaced earlier this season, it is hard to entirely accept his sense of injury. Instead, it seems to me that Johnson's pro-trade sentiment arises more from self interest, than righteous indignation. Johnson's TV ubiquity over the past half decade has simultaneously elevated and dwarfed the media profile of the decidedly podunk Bengals, and it is tempting to believe that his real motivation, now, is that he covets an opportunity to run his one man show from the larger stage of a major media market. It's hard to blame him for that desire, but after repeated re-negotiations of his contract over the years, the whole mixed bag that Johnson presents doesn't seem to constitute the kind of performance that the team can afford to reward either with another contract do over, or even lavish ego stroking.

The problem, then, for the Bengals is that it seems difficult for them to do the things that Johnson would need to have done to appease is injured sense of pride, but they also can ill afford to let him go. He may let them down, but he draws constant double coverage, which opens up opprotunities both for tandem mate (and Johnson pal) T. J. Houshmanzadeh, and for the running game -- which in a sign of where the worst problems really were for the Bengals this season, still managed to average under 4 yards per carry even with mismatches Johnson creates. Worse, still, apparently under the confusing terms of the NFL salary cap, the Bengals would apparently take a major cap hit along with the hit to their offense if they were forced to move Johnson.

Lastly, many Bengals observers have suggested that Houshmanzadeh's emergence as a Pro Bowl receiver -- he led the league in receptions this year -- means that the Bengals don't need to put up with Johnson's distractions any more. There are two big problems with this analysis, though. First, as already mentioned, Housh benefits mightily from opposing defenses' preoccupation with stopping Johnson. Second, having been together since their time at Oregon State, Johnson and Houshmanzadeh are so close as teammates, that I would not be at all surprised if, if the Bengals let Chad get away this year, the team that lands Chad ends up also luring T. J. away from the Bengals within a season or two.

Hopefully, Chad is bluffing, and will come back into the fold when he realizes that a trade is not in the cards for this season, which I think has to be the ultimate outcome, but I'm not betting on an easy off season for the cats this year. That can't be a good thing looking forward to a year where the Bengals really need to get their act together if they hope to return to playoff contention, after two years of slumping performance.