About Me

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I live in the Florida Keys. I've been in the military and worked inside the Beltway. I've had 22 technical books and two novels published. I fly, boat, dive, shoot, and swim pretty damn well.

Friday, February 29, 2008

US Military History Expressed in Food

Some people are so darn clever! This fantastic video describes the modern history of US Warfare in the food of the countries in conflict. It is insightful and devilishly clever. Listen carefully because creating the sound track was probably nearly as much work as creating the visuals.

How good is your knowledge of history? Did you get them all right? Need help? Okay, there is a cheat sheet HERE Okay, one hint. The Russian pile is beef stroganoff. But, see how well you do first! Clever stuff!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

We Have Met the Enemy and They Are....

This piece from YouTube shows some of the differences in how a non-technological society handles its problems... And, we want to SAVE these people from themselves?

Boeing has a contract with Homeland Security to install an integrated system of sensors on the border called SBInet. Oh my.
According to this article (surprise!), it doesn't seem to be doing too well. (I AM shocked!) More Here and Here
Of course, the first thing anyone with any background thinks of is the "McNamara Line" and "Igloo White".

Someone who is a Glenn Beck "Insider" (I am not) needs to send this to Beck. He had Michael Chertoff on his TV show the other day talking about this sensor fence and Chertoff seemed proud of it.
I looked at a couple pictures of the sensor towers and the first thought I had was "Kludge". The whole thing doesn't "look" right. If it doesn't "look" right, it often doesn't "work" right. I've purchased towers, sensors, and antenna systems like this in the past. I'd have cancelled the whole damn project just because it looks like a cluster of parts stuck up there on the top of the tower with no system integration.

New Air Force Ad Campaign

I fly an Air Force flag from the pole out on the dock. I stopped at MacDill's BX the other day to get a new one and all they had was a white thing with that new "bent" set of wings on it. I think it's a sad day in hell when the Air Force flag is white!

Fortunately, my friend Lee found me two blue ones, so I'm in business for a while.

It looks like the Air Force is getting into business too. The Air Force is rolling out a big ad campaign. The theme seems to be "Hey We're Important Too" ..

Here are two examples from YouTube


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h1ozsCPjok I recognize some of the footage from an excellent 48 minute DVD sponsored by Being called "Fighter Pilot Operation Red Flag"

Montana Speaks up on Gun Law Review

I had an earlier posting on the upcoming review of a District of Columbia gun law by the Supreme Court. The State of Montana has a unique position on the review. It seems that the entry of Montana into the United States was pre-conditioned on the right of individuals to bear arms. That right is guaranteed in clear language by the state constitution.

See THIS ARTICLE for more.

(As an aside.. Once we lived on a golf course in an uppity community called Sandestin in the Florida Panhandle. We had a big lot and golfers always lost balls in the rough. .. sometimes they lost them DEEP in the lot.

On a whim, years before, I had bought a 6 foot tall bear carved out of redwood. So, I made a sign and hung it around his neck. It said, "Support the Right to Arm Bears". Yup, the Resort Association sent me a letter asking me to refrain from making "political statements". They didn't get the joke.)

The Sad Story of USCG Procurements..

The highly recommended WIRED Magazine DANGER ROOM has an interesting story concerning the newest class of US Coast Guard Cutters, the DD-250 Bertholf, and their problems with TEMPEST. (Emissions from on-board electronics).

Here are my comments:

COTS meets TEMPEST. The services are mandated to use Commercial Off-The-Shelf stuff as much as possible. Okay, no sense paying to re-invent the wheel.
But, COTS don't know TEMPEST. COTS barely knows FCC Part 15! My laptop tears up my AM radio and my cellphone gets into everything electronic when it turns on or rings. COTS is noisy, RF wise.

The big question will be, "What is the threat?" TEMPEST is all about evaluating the threat of interception of compromising emissions.
Does a Cutter sitting tied to the dock in Key West face a TEMPEST interception threat? From whom and at what level of sophistication? How close do the bad guys have to be? If, because of physical precautions, the intercept antenna can't get closer than 100 yards is that a threat?
There are a whole lot of estimations, guesses, and trade-offs. It will be about balancing those by-guess and by-gosh things with the benefits of COTS. The bottom line will probably be a bewildering set of operating procedures that says something like "you can't fire up the targeting nework, even for simulation, if you don't have a sterile area 100 yards around the ship.", etc. A real pain in the COTS.

Thinking that anyone, any person or organization, doesn't have the ability intercept emissions or communications and to make use of them is dangerous.
Sometimes, it's just a signature, not a decode. Even Vietnam War era gunships could detect and get a bearing on a single spark plug firing a generator under a triple canopy of jungle from miles away. Do you want drug running boats to see that a DD-250 is lurking on the horizon from the unique electronic squeaking of the Cisco routers in its network? All I need is the signature, I don't even need to decode it. Elemenary TEMPEST interception is something that any two guys with EE degrees from Mogadishu U could do easily. Give me a 36 inch log periodic antenna disguised as a golf club bag plus a broadband receiver with hard disk storage disguised as a beer cooler and I'm in. Decoding what I pickup could take months or years, but I'd get better with practice. It's a capabiity that any drug cartel of any size could buy. So, there are TEMPEST interception threats from many sources. It isn't THAT hi-tech.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Good Reading on the "Nanny State"

This link takes you to a short essay and then many interesting and informed comments. It's an interesting and somewhat intellectual read...that doesn't take long. Here are some take-outs:

"Ted and I spent much of this last weekend discussing various things that are wrong, and how to fix them, and it really comes down to the fact that everything leading to the rise of the nanny-state cannot be fixed. There are too many corrupt bastards too happily taking advantage of too many acquiescent sheep. The number of sheep isn't going to decrease, therefore there will always be corrupt bastards. And until we can start lining them up against the wall wholesale, nothing about that dynamic is ever going to change." -- From the essay

"One of my favorite aphorisms is that people are liberals until their self-interest is invoked. We were rather liberal-er in our leanings before we actually had something to lose, ie. our children. " -- From a comment

"Historically, the answer has always been to pack up the top X% and ship off to the new frontier, leaving the mediocre and downright awful behind to wallow in their decay. Unable to fix the system, the ultimate solution is to start over somewhere else. It's a sociological filtration process.Unfortunately, there's no place on Earth left to go that is out of reach of the people that need to be gotten away from." --From a comment

"...the trick is either keeping the sheepdogs from turning into wolves, or turning the wolves into sheepdogs. Which makes it a matter of accountability. People wouldn't be assholes nearly as often if someone was likely to catch them at it and do something about it. At which point you're in a who watches the watchmen situation." --From a comment

Worth reading the whole thing.. -- FJD

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lessons for (Fighter) Pilots

A great story and analysis over at Eject Eject Eject, written by Bill Whittle) of the lessons taught to pilots, fighter pilots, tank drivers, and all smart folks in tough positions by Colonel John Boyd (his Wikipedia bio is HERE)

It is great reading and not that as I post this there are only 696 comments. I can only say, "I wish I'd written this analysis." Well done Bill Whittle.

Here is an excerpt : "In the mid to late fifties, a fighter pilot could earn himself a quick forty bucks and perhaps a nice steak dinner in Vegas – not to mention everlasting renown, which is to fighter pilots what oxygen is to us lesser beings – by meeting over the Green Spot at thirty thousand feet and taking position just 500 feet behind an arrogant and unpleasant man with precisely zero air-to-air victories to his credit. From that perfect kill position, you would yell “Fight’s on!” and if that sitting duck in front of you was not on your tail with you in his gunsight in forty seconds flat then you would win the money, the dinner and best of all, the fame. "

Read it all here

"In From the Cold" -- Highly Recommended!

I've been reading a Blog titled "In From the Cold" and highly recommend it. They recently covered the overflight activities of Russian TU-95s, something I commented on earlier.

They had good insight into using the Navy's SM-3 to accellerate the decline of the spy satellite in orbit. One piece that I really enjoyed concerned a Lt. Gen. who finally made ace by getting credit for a Mig shot down during the Korean War.

The story goes on to talk about how getting five kills isn't even likely anymore. This quote just makes me shake my head: An F-16 pilot, Captain Robert Wright matched Rodriguez’s total in a single day (28 February 1994), shooting down three Serb attack jets as they bombed a Muslim facility in Bosnia. There’s some belief that Wright might have downed all six aircraft in the Serb flight, had AWACS been quicker in authorizing him to fire, and if the F-16 pilot had not been required to read a warning to the enemy pilots before launching his missiles.

Read them their Miranda rights before going FOX One? That's how Bill Clinton went to war. Oh my. Soon after the upcoming election, SEALS and Delta Force will be limited to "non-lethal" weapons. --FJD

Friday, February 15, 2008

To my Liberal Friends:

Now that it appears that we will have a President (I hope it's Obama... I could NOT listen to Hillary give a speech) from the Democratic Party, I am happy.

Oh, I'm a conservative both fiscally and socially, but I've been disappointed by the Republican politicians for the last 7 years. Now, I'll let you liberals be disappointed by the Democrats.

The bottom line, of course, is that politicians are venial, deceptive, and amoral. (This is nothing new, Thomas Jefferson was a nasty guy in many ways... just ask Abigail and John Adams about the "Back wounding calumny" in the election of 1800!)

Now, my liberal friends, it's your turn to live that truth! Lotsa luck.

I'll go out on a limb and predict a big recession in Obama's 3rd year. His charisma will be worn out and the inside-the-beltway power system... the Government Service bureaucrats, lobbyists, and Legislative-branch staffers ,will eat his administration alive. With relish.

Similarly, every dictator and smarmy potentate that he wants to make friends with will have squeezed him and his liberal Sec State (Hillary for Sec State??) dry after 3 years and will push back. He'll face a hellish 3rd year. -- FJD

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Offshore Radio Threat

Recently, the news here has been full of stories about "Pirate Broadcasters" in Miami who setup radio stations (usually in the FM band) and broadcast whatever turns them on.
The story at the link below not only shows that there is nothing new under the sun, it also has some great illustrations (spot the grand piano?) and the ads are fun too.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

SAGE, Air Defense, and Interconnected Computer Systems

As a 23 year old 2nd Lieutenant in 1967, I was introduced to the SAGE Computer System. It was probably the second or third luckiest day in my life (and I have been very very lucky!)

SAGE, the Semi Automatic Ground Environment was a series of tube-based computers spaced across the northern US. Dozens of radar sites across the US and Canada sent DIGITIZED images to a SAGE Direction Center using two phone lines from each site with modems operating at the blazing speed of 1200 bits per second.

I learned a lot. I taught a lot. I enjoyed, I CONSUMED, every minute of it. I learned programming, communications, networking architectures, displays, power supplies, and many other technologies. Goodness it was wonderful.

This movie, from IBM, shows some concepts of SAGE. It's kind of fun. This site, from MITRE, is very dry, but factual. This is a great site maintained by SAGE veterans. It has a superb first hand history.

The interesting news is this site that shows how pieces of the SAGE computer, particularly the Long Range Input modules, appeared in many TV shows and movies.

If you want to know everything about air defense, here is a scholarly, but readable and illustrated paper. Finally, a great Website for anyone ever involved in Air Defense is at this link.

A "Quiet" Helicopter?

A Quiet Helicopter is a real conflict in terms. Stuff whirling, vibrating, and roaring. But, apparently, with some DARPA money and prodding from law enforcement, Hughes did create a quiet OH-6A Loach. They also learned that if you increased the number of blades in the tail rotor you could slow down its speed and the concommitant noise. Brilliant, eh? (Well no, not exactly.) None of the things they did, including lead patches to dampen vibration (done all the time on general aviation airplanes), is new, but they sold the program to some bureaucrat who didn't know and got Federal money for it.

This all is news to me, but it's an excellent story in AIR&SPACE Magazine. See it here.

Solid Brass Balls in Iraq

Michael Yon has an amazing new story to tell. The Task Force 2-7 Infantry is part of the 7th Infantry Regiment of the US Army. They are blessed with a Lieutenant Colonel named Doug Crissman who has balls of brass. He has done more for diplomacy than all of those sniveling State Department ("Oh, please don't send us to Iraq. It's too dangerous.") wussies combined.

Bureaucracies have a tendency to grind down the outstanding performers. But, the cream of the crop can survive in the military bureaucracy and rise to the top. Good luck and best wishes to this great warrior. Read the story here.

A Good Look at Steam Cars

There is a Website named "Interesting Thing of the Day". The folks who maintain it do a lot of work and sometimes the items they post truly are interesting. I liked this story about steam cars.

Dr. Jerry Everard, a really smart guy, reports "...steam cars are non-polluting because the combustion is complete - even a 1906 Stanley steamer produces so little pollution that it exceeds California's strict emission rules for cars. The only environmental downside is that they typically burn kerosene or petrol (gasoline) which is non-renewable. But steamers can also run on bio-diesel or waste cooking oil - the burners run at high enough temperatures to consume the hydrocarbons almost completely."

Here is an interesting story about the very nicely performing Doble Steam Car.

Bill Lear stands near the top of the fantastic personalities in aviation history. This article gives you a thumbnail biography. Bill did a great deal with steam power. After he sold LearJet Industries he bought the old Stead Air Force Base in Nevada as a testground for steam powered vehicles. The Lear Vapordyne engine used fluorocarbons in place of water because they are easier to condense back into liquid.

Much of the discussion on the Internet claims that Lear caused the failure of his own design by demanding engine start up times that drove the boiler to failure. He felt, rightly or wrongly, that people wouldn't wait more than a minute for their power plant to get up to temperature.

Using his typical approach to publicity, Lear created a race car design and aimed to win the 1970 Indianopolis 500. There are two photos of two cars here. At this link you'll find a wonderful press release from 1973 describing the Lear Steam Bus. There are more links on the Lear Archives Website, but many appear to be broken.

With the price of crude oil today, steam makes a lot of sense.

What Happened to the Nukes at Minot?

A spent a couple of years in the Air Force carrying "The Key" for two-man nuclear control codes. Along with other paraphenalia and procedures, "The Key" allowed two people to authorize the launch of weapons with nuclear warheads.

I know how paranoid and nit-picking by-the-book the whole nuclear weapons control program is run in the Air Force. So, when I heard that a brace of warheads had been flown from Minot to Barkesdale without authorization, I shook my head in disbelief.

It is worth emphasizing that the warheads were never out of Air Force control and really that they were not even out of control of the small group of people authorized for control of such weapons. They remained within the church and within the priesthood, so to speak. But losing track of them for even a microsecond is unbelievable.

Since the Air Force is NOT made up of members of Congress (that is, immune for their sins) heads have rolled. Interestingly, the story is told on a nifty Website titles "In From the Cold" that I think you'll enjoy. There are three parts, but the third is just s re-hash. See PART 1 and PART 2. Very interesting stuff.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Japan Putting Solar Arrays into Space

An interesting story here about plans by the Japanese to put solar arrays into space and beam the power back to Earth. They are using 2.4GHz. Since that is the resonant frequency of the water molecule, it seems to my simple mind that they would get a lot of attentuation from clouds.

Now, if you were planning a death ray, that would be a great frequency to use! --FJD

Thursday, February 7, 2008

WHY we need energy independence

Every time I read an article like this one (this one specifically describes Russia's Putin as using energy as a weapon) I understand again why we need good alternatives to petrochemicals for energy.