About Me

My photo
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.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Death of Arthur C. Clarke

I grew up on a literary diet of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein. My John D. MacDonald phase (which I am now living out!) didn't come until later.

Arthur C. Clarke passed away at the age of 90.

This and a lot more from the Website "And Still I Persist" See this link.. for a great essay.

"We grew up wanting to live in their future, wanting to bring that future to pass, to be the technological heroes that they wrote about. So we went into science and engineering, or into related fields. Grab any scientist or engineer over the age of 40 and ask her or him about favorite childhood authors — and you’re likely to hear one or all of the Big Three named. Ask her or him why s/he became a scientist/engineer — and, again, you’re likely to hear the Big Three named."

Thanks to these men for their gift of inspiration!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Black Woman for President!

I would .. immediately and without hesitation.. vote for this black woman to be President of the United States. And, I think she should bring her Beretta to the Oval Office. Let's just say that I'd rather have Ms. Okoreeh-Baah as President than any of the present candidates. (.. oooo.. probably not old enough yet.. She was probably age 21-22 in 2000.. ummm.. damn, she won't even be 35 in 2012.... damn.. ) Does the age limitation apply to write-in candidates?


Also, read this story and see if you aren't ... proud... amazed... dumbfounded... oh, and she won the Silver Star

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Supremes Hear DC Gun Law

This week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the District of Columbia's ban on almost all firearms. The best analysis of the arguments I've read is presented by the Heritage Foundation AT THIS LINK. If you are really lazy and don't want to read all of it, then read just pages 4 forward. You will be smarter and more able to defend your position if you read this! It is very well done.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Great A10 Van

Some day, the line Air Force will succeed in retiring the A-10. The Warthog is one hell of an airplane. Ask an infantry officer which he would rather have over his head, a single A-10 or a flight of four F-16s.

This movie is just for fun..

this one is great. I want to fly one!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Flight Simulator in Google Earth

The folks at Google Earth are not asleep. They have added a free flight simulator program to the latest free download version of Google Earth. You have to be clicked on the main map (not in the default destination entry box) and hit Ctrl-Alt-A. You can use a keyboard or a joystick and you can choose from an F-16 or a Cirrus SR-22.

I found it very very sensitive to the keyboard controls. The ailerons were almost impossibly quick and the elevator wasn't much better. Even the trim is too quick on my machine. (Of course, I thought the trim was too fast on my real-life Zodiac too!) Haven't tried it with a joystick.

The neat thing is that you are flying with Google Earth quality graphics from a limited number of airports. The other neat thing is that it's free!

It's fun for a little while... until you crash too often. I have to look for a sensitivity control.

Friday, March 7, 2008

MORE PROOF that Murtha is Evil

I don't care if you believe in a supreme being or not, but you must believe that there is evil. And, one embodiment of evil in our time is "Congressman" John Murtha. Why? Read it HERE.

Pacific Clipper Circles the World

I've written before about Pan-Am Clipper that was trapped in Australia at the beginning of WWII and flew "around the backside" of the world... across the Indian Ocean to Africa and on across the Atlantic... without charts, Nav Aids, or other guidance, to return to New York. It's agreat story of aviation. Steel Jaw Scribe has re-printed the story by John A. Marshall with great illustrations. It is a wonderful piece of history. Read it HERE

Good Videocam Audio.. PLEASE!

I started out writing the phrase "All I want..." Well, I backspaced over it because I know it's not ALL I want. So, let's start over.

WHAT I want is decent camcorder audio. I have an $800 (full retail) Sony Camcorder, but when I'm shooting on the dock or on the flightline, the built in microphone sucks wind (literally!). Silly me, now I see that I should have paid $900 (full retail) to get a Sony with an Active Hot Shoe or $1100 retail to get one with a mike jack.

I had all of the power of the Internet at my fingertips, but I still screwed up a hi-tech purchase. (Yeah, like it never happened to you!) They told me that the HC32 I bought a few years ago has "audio-in" and it does, but that's only if I'm using the camera on its fixed stand to record a full audio/video stream from some fixed source through something called Sony iWire. Not really my idea of an "mike in" jack.

So, now I'm back to the search for an affordable camcorder with mike audio in. I posted the question on LinkedIn and got a nice response suggesting a new Sony camcorder with a hot shoe and the Sony ECM-HW1 Bluetooth mike.

This rig has a bluetooth receiver that screws onto the hot shoe and a microphone / transmitter combo that you are supposed to wear in a strep (like an iPOD) on your arm. I went to the Sony store and looked at it. The microphone is omnidirectional and the whole thing doesn't scream Dependable High Quality to my RF-oriented brain. It's not the close talking I need for flightline or on the water.

So, then I found a Sony VMC-K100 Hot Shoes (sic) Microphone Adapter. Hey! Just what the doctor ordered. I'd still have to get a new hot shoe Videocam, but I could spend $250 less than one with a pin jack and just slap on this adapter with its mike jack and plug in my own wired mike!

Way cool, right? Well, no. You had to read along a little further to see

Important Notice!
This item has been discontinued and is no longer available. Please call for more information.

Now I know why THIS GUY did a great DIY mod on a Sony "boom microphone" that is worthy of the old Popular Electronics articles. He tore its guts out, backward engineered the interface, and put in a pin jack. My hero.

The bottom line is that we are captive inside the decision-loop running between the design-sales-marketing departments at Sony, Canon, etc. "Oh, you want high quality AUDIO, eh? Then, be prepared to pay!"

A mike-in jack in a low to mid range camcorder is "all" I want. Don't need no HD. Don't need no 1080i. Sigh!

I have convinced myself that it is best to give up on the Hot Shoe stuff and just plunk down $800 online for the Sony HC9.

That's the LEAST expensive Handycam with an audio jack. It's more bells, whistles, and capabilities than I need, but maybe I'll grow into it. Yes, I know that the new Canon FS11 is a fine camera available for $599 and that it has a mike input jack. But, I can get a Sony HC9 for $800 online and get the damn jack I want. Of course, the guys in the Sony store say they expect a "replacement" for the HC9 "before the end of March"... but that's the same marketing department that brought me the jack-less thing I'm using now!

Let's see, if I can just cut back on driving 10 miles a month, I'll "save" enough in gas to pay for it in no time! Here I am, just doing my part for consumer spending.-- FJD

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Energy Management: Really! HOW TO FLY

Bob Hoover was a lot more than an airshow pilot. He REALLY knows how to fly. Compared to this guy, I am a woosy with a 2x4 stuck up my butt. IF you are a pilot, you need to see this. There is a lifetime of education in flying here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

NOW! I Know What I Did in 1969.. and WHY!

I was a promotable Captain (meaning a First Lt. on the promotion list) working at the SAGE 28th Air Defense Division in Great Falls, Montana in 1969. In October, we were called in for a high level alert. This wasn't unusual. We had practice alerts practically every month.

During these alerts we'd scramble in and run a practice war with the SAGE computers in simulation mode for a few hours. Then, we'd go home, get some sleep, and resume a normal schedule.

But, during this alert we were ordered to put the radar sites on the highest sensitivity and pattern of frequency diversity and to load the interceptors with "war shots"... real missiles.

It was my understanding that some interceptors were loaded with missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

And, then we sat. Cocked and loaded with no place to go. The TV news didn't show any international problems. But, this was much different from what we did on regular alerts. After about 18 hours, we were allowed to send a small percentage of the "Combat Crew" home for six hours with an immediate recall.

Things REALLY got interesting when the Canadians on our crews "stood down" from the high level of alert. We had about 20% of our crew as NORAD Canadians. They went on a regular work schedule while the rest of us continued with Port and Starboard manning.

I remember that the F-106s, sitting on the ramps all loaded and fueled, were going off ready status like crazy. These things are meant to FLY, not sit fat and bloated. They leaked and creaked. The effort to maintain security around "cocked and loaded" birds was immense in terms of manpower. As I remember, one Fighter Squadron squadron commander got into his 106 and flew supersonic to Malmstrom to find out "what the hell is going on."

After a little more than 3 days, we stood down the force and went back to regular peacetime status. Once, I heard a rumor that a Soviet submarine had been "surfaced" in San Francisco Bay and that's why we were on alert. That was never confirmed.

Well, FINALLY, in WIRED Magazine, I got the story.

According to WIRED's Jeremi Suri,

"Codenamed Giant Lance, Nixon's plan was the culmination of a strategy of premeditated madness he had developed with national security adviser Henry Kissinger. The details of this episode remained secret for 35 years and have never been fully told. Now, thanks to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, it's clear that Giant Lance was the leading example of what historians came to call the "madman theory": Nixon's notion that faked, finger-on-the-button rage could bring the Soviets to heel.
Nixon and Kissinger put the plan in motion on October 10, sending the US military's Strategic Air Command an urgent order to prepare for a possible confrontation: They wanted the most powerful thermonuclear weapons in the US arsenal readied for immediate use against the Soviet Union. The mission was so secretive that even senior military officers following the orders — including the SAC commander himself — were not informed of its true purpose."

That was it. Now, 40 years later I know. We had F-106s locked and loaded with defensive nuclear missiles.... and sitting on the ramp leaking... while the B-52s were doing orbits near Russian airspace.

And... you THINK our system of checks and balances could prevent this kind of thing.

A very interesting read! -- FJD

Build Your Own Jet? Fly Your Own Jet for less than a 172?

There is a great article over at Air and Space Magazine about a designer who has a jet that is efficient and economical at 15,000 feet and can be purchased for $150,000. MUCH less than a new 172. See THIS

"Conventional wisdom holds that jet engines burn too much fuel at low altitudes to be suitable for light aircraft. Jets, it’s said, are efficient only above 30,000 feet or so, where light airplanes fear to tread. “That’s bullshit,” says Merrill flatly. Sure, every jet flying today gulps prodigious amounts of fuel when going low and slow. But that’s because they were all designed to run high and fast. The secret, Merrill says, is to simply optimize the configuration of an engine’s turbines, compressors, and fan for, say, 250 mph at 15,000 feet instead of 500 mph at 40,000 feet. “It’s not rocket science,” he says. “My engine technology and materials are basically 1960s. The breakthrough is conceptual.”

Worth Reading! Now, if they would just make it as a kit!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Civics Test REQUIRED to Vote!

IN MY WORLD... you would be required to get a passing grade on this test before you could vote in a national election. I'll tell you that I missed 9.. mostly on economics. I passed, but should have done better. (Well, there is one question where I don't agree with the "correct" answer.)

You can compare your score against national samples. This is very well done. Worth doing!
See the Intercollegiate Studies Institute at THIS LINK Take the test. Compare your score. Wonder... "What are our kids learning!?"

Note PARTICULARLY that: "Colleges that rank high in the U.S. News and World Report 2006 ranking were ranked low in the ISI ranking of learning in these key fields. Specifically, a 1 percent increase in civic learning as measured in our survey corresponded to a decrease of 25 positions in the U.S. News ranking.

There is no relationship between the cost of attending a college and students' acquired understanding of America's history and key institutions. Students at relatively inexpensive colleges often learn more, on average, than their counterparts at expensive colleges.

At many colleges, including Brown, Georgetown, and Yale, seniors know less than freshmen about America's history, government, foreign affairs, and economy. We characterize this phenomenon as "negative learning." A majority of the 16 schools where senior scores were actually lower than freshman scores are considered to be among the most prestigious colleges in the United States.

But wait... our Presidents are all coming from Harvard and Yale! ... duh...
-- FJD

What is Google Investing in?

It is interesting to note that Google is investing tens of millions of dollars in alternative energy projects ... like THIS ONE. It would be fascinating to follow what Google is doing. I'll investigate.

Toward that end, Google aims to produce one gigawatt of power from renewable energy at prices below the rates of electricity generated at coal-burning plants. One gigawatt power would be enough to supply the needs of a city the size of San Francisco.

Page predicted the goal could be reached in a matter of "years, not decades.''

I think that Freedom from foreign oil would be utopia. --FJD

Kurzweil Loves Solar Power: Very Upbeat

Many Internet Techie types respect Ray Kurzweil. He is a futurist and successful inventor. I knew him for his text-to-speech work. His Wikipedia info is HERE.

On a recent panel he said, "We also see an exponential progression in the use of solar energy," he said. "It is doubling now every two years. Doubling every two years means multiplying by 1,000 in 20 years. At that rate we'll meet 100 percent of our energy needs in 20 years."

Read all of it HERE

John Murtha is Really an Evil Guy

I really really don't like the policies and practices of John Murtha. He is evidence again (as if we needed any more) that evil, exhibited as greed, falshood, and sloth, exists on the Earth. I can only suppose that the same unpolished greed gets him re-elected. What a shame.

Czech President on Glenn Beck

The President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus, was on the Glenn Beck TV show on Monday night. Klaus believes that the "Man Made Global Warming" kooks could lead to a kind of world government. Based on his experience under Soviet communism, he is dead against it. He is a very smart man and a pleasure to listen to. He was recently re-elected and will serve a second term. AND, he will be on the show again on Wednesday night. Well worth watching.. on the "Headline News Network".. a part of most basic cable packages.

Weather Channel Founder Blasts Global Warming

"Coleman also told the audience his strategy for exposing what he called “the fraud of global warming.” He advocated suing those who sell carbon credits, which would force global warming alarmists to give a more honest account of the policies they propose... " See it all with a video HERE

Monday, March 3, 2008


The 3AM Phone call in pictures!

YOU MUST go to IMAO. Hit this link


Oil 50 Miles from the Keys

The Times of London, in its online edition has a fascinating story about oil in the waters between The Florida Keys and Cuba. Gee, you just don't see this stuff in US papers, do you? To its slight credit, the Miami Herald did link to the Times article as locally relevant.

In part, the Times of London says, "The US Geological Survey estimates that offshore Cuba contains between 4.6billion and nine billion barrels of oil and a trillion cuft of natural gas, but it is not only Cold War politics that bars American groups from investing in Cuban oil. Bizarrely, most of America's continental shelf, other than the western Gulf of Mexico, is barred to oil exploration. Florida fights vigorously to ensure that big oil is kept out of its waters, fearing the impact on the environment and its valuable coastal real estate." Read it all HERE

As my 3 year old grandson says.... Stupid, Stupid, Stupid. So, VENEZUELA, Brazil, China, and other countries will be drilling right off our shore, but we can not!? The wacko environmentalists have done their damdest again. That's just stupid.

USMC Diesel Motorcycle

Speaking of foreign-made procurements (the USAF Tanker below).. the USMC has selected a diesel powered Kawasaki for recon and messenger duty. It runs on JP8... or whatever. Here is the image from the Strategy Page Website. It is so cool. Note the Green Rims.

Here is the article... I imagine there is NO shortage of volunteers for this duty!
Tip of the Hat to the Strategy Page

The Air Force Tanker Decision

Words of warning from D.C.: Expect "firestorm of criticism" That's a headline from The Seattle Times. The link takes you to the expected story of OUTRAGE from Boeing's bought-and-paid for on the Hill.

I've seen other headlines touting that the "FRENCH" won the contract.


This was probably the most closely monitored and audited acquisition in modern times. The damn 767 that Boeing promoted is too small and the airframe is too old. In 20 years the USAF would have been paying Boeing a huge stipend to keep the production line open to supply parts. And, if it can't carry the load it just can't carry the load. There is no good "fix".

Boeing thought they could play the "Buy American" card and be in with a sure thing. That's after several of their corporate officers went to jail for bribery over the "leasing" scheme they tried to foist on the USAF.

During the inevitable hearing in Congress, the gentleman from Alabama should ask, "Why didn't you bid an aircraft based on the Boeing 777?" That's the end of the discussion. If Boeing had been serious, they would have bid a 777. Then, they would have been competitive.

One of my friends cracked wise to me that the USAF will have to teach maintenance people French to understand the documentation. Hell, they do depot level maintenance for A-320s AND have a large A-320 simulator facility for pilots in Miami. Nobody there has spoken French (or English) for quite a while.

The OUTRAGE should be directed at Boeing's management. They screwed up by trying to bribe their way into the business and they screwed up by bidding a shrinky dinky airplane. And no, they don't need a "bailout" from Federal taxes. Let the workers migrate from Boeing in Washington State to Airbus in Alabama. It's a much nicer climate anyway!

USAF Flying Hours

An interesting story from the STRATEGY PAGE on USAF flying hours and combat flying hours is HERE

"March 3, 2008: The U.S. Air Force has only one active duty pilot with a thousand combat flying hours, in an F-16. The pilot in question, Lt. Col. Andy Uribe, flew 272 combat missions, over a 19 year career, to accomplish that. Uribe is unusual in that he managed to spend 15 of those years on flying status. He recently flew his 3,000th hour, overall, in an F-16. Typically, air force and navy combat pilots spend about 200 hours in the air each year, but that nearly doubles if they are sent to a combat zone. Andy Uribe has spent a lot of time in combat zones"

It's a short and interesting story. Go to the link to read it..