Monday, April 20, 2015

Internet Crapped out today

Both computers, Blackbox and Flatbeast complained that they could to connect to the internet this morning. I decided to wait a while and see if the Internet would come back of it's own accord.  No such luck.  So some hours later I called Time Warner Cable's help number.  They were actually very helpful and with a bit of troubleshooting we decided that the router had croaked.  So, off to Staples to buy another $50 wifi router.  The dead Belkin router was only three years old, but I guess they don't make 'em like they used to.  So all I have to show for the old dead Belkin is a 12 volt wallwart that I can use on the HO train layout.  All I had to do was introduce the computers t o the new Netgear router with a new WEP password.  I even got my LG cell phone to recognize the new Netgear router. Now all I have to do is get a test photo off the LG cell phone and onto a computer. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pioneer Science Fiction Authors

Jules Verne is probably the first author of what we would consider science fiction.  He wrote in the late 19th century, sometime after the US civil war.  His best was "20,000 leagues Under the Sea".  Verne wrote in French, and I still remember the kinda shabby English translation I took to summer camp one year.  Verne's prose was probably only mediocre in French, and was down right miserable in English translation.  But the story was gripping enough to overcome weaknesses in the writing.  Disney made a good live action movie in the 50's, with James Mason as Captain Nemo and Kirk Douglas as Ned Land.  Technicolor, with a fine Nautilus and great underwater shots.  Not for nothing did the US Navy name their first nuclear sub Nautilus.
   Next in line was Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan.  ERB's first published story was "A Princess of Mars" back in 1912.  John Carter's derring do, deadly sword play and beautiful Martian princess set the style for space opera that lasted up thru Star Wars.  Princess Leia inherited a lot from Dejah Thoris.  The sand people riding their Bantha's look pretty much like Green Martians riding their Thoats.  Burroughs followed up with about ten more Martian stories over the next 30 years.  The first three are the best, the later ones are pot boilers.  
   Edward Elmer Smith (EE Doc Smith) first story "Skylark of Space" was published in the 1920's.  It was "super science".  Lots of high tech (for the 1920's) stuff, powerful space ships, resourceful scientist/engineer heroes, pretty girls, evil drug runner bad guys.  EE Smith kept publishing right up to his death in 1965.  I'd rate his stuff good for kids but a little corny for today's grownups.  I encountered Doc Smith as a kid and still like him. 
   There were plenty of other science fiction writers back in the day, but these three are my favorites from the era before John W. Campbell.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bills vs Begs

The mail man (oops she is letter carrier) brings a lot of both.  I throw them in a pile on my desk and once a month a I sit down and pay the bills, and send a check to the beggars if I feel like it.  This month the pile was of scary height, so I sorted out the bills from the begs and paid the bills.  The beg pile was taller than the bill pile.  And it isn't even an election year.  Lord preserve us next year. 

Thunder Storm went right over the house

Must mean spring.  We don't get thunder and lightening with snow storms.  Maybe spring is not a myth.

Friday, April 17, 2015

How deep can the penetrator bombs go?

Can they go deep enough to take out Iran's nuclear facilities?  Ordinary iron bombs in reasonable sizes (750 to 1000 pounds) punch down 30-35 feet in plain dirt.  Out of a six bomb rack load, we would put a long delay time fuse on just one bomb.  The other five would get instantaneous fuses.  Those bombs would blow up the target.  The long delay fuze would get the repair crews the next day.  After a while the comrades wised up and would wait 24 hours after the raid before starting work to fix the damage.
  Back in WWII, Barnes Wallis in England devised the first deep penetrator bomb.  He called it Tallboy, it weighed 12000 pounds, had a tough steel case with a pointy nose, and it would go down 80 or 90 feet and then explode.    It took out a number of German targets, and was used to sink the Tirpitz in Alta Fiord.  Even Tallboy couldn't deal with all targets.  The British built a bigger penetrator for the harder targets that they called Grand Slam.  Grand Slam was 20000 pounds, which was so heavy that the wings of the Lancaster bomber carrying it could be seen to bow upwards under the load.  Grand Slam seems to be the limit for WWII aircraft to hoist off the ground.
   Twenty first century aircraft can hoist a good deal more than their WWII ancestors.  Little has been published, but Aviation Week once described new penetrator bomb casings  made out of old 16 inch cannon barrels.  Those ought to go down quite a ways. 
  But, little has been published on how deep the Iranians have dug in.  And what they have bug into, plain dirt? sedimentary rock? granite?  NORAD HQ in Colorado was dug under a solid granite mountain and was considered proof against nukes. 
   So, mission planners either IAF or USAF, the question is, will your penetrator bombs penetrate deep enough?  Will even a nuclear penetrator bomb go that deep? 
   One clue, the Israelis have not already bombed out the Iranians.  If they thought it would work, they probably would have done it by now. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

If the radar cannot see you, the fighters cannot find you.

Looks like our air defenses are about as good, or as bad, as the Soviets used to have.  Back some years ago a German teenager flew a Cessna all the way into Russia and landed it in Red Square, right in front of the Kremlin.  The Russians freaked, this was back in the cold war, and they figured if a German kid could make it thru,  SAC could as well.  Some Russian heads were rolled over the affair.
   Yesterday we had a guy land a Gyrocopter (very small one man autogyro) right on the Capitol lawn.  He flew it down from Gettysburg PA.  He probably never exceeded a couple of hundred feet altitude, and the radar cross section of a little, largely wood, autogyro is SMALL.  The radar never saw him, and even  if it had, he would have looked like any other light plane.  The restricted airspace around DC ain't that big, and it was probably only minutes from the time he crossed into the DC no-fly zone and he landed at the Capitol. 
   So, if it can happen to the old Soviet Union, it can happen to us.  The Gyrocopter is too small to carry much in the way of munitions.   You could do more damage ramming an SUV thru the Capitol gates.  It's given us a lot of amusing TV news.  I hope the guy that did it gets off with a scolding.

Defending Middle Earth Patrick Currey

I am a long term Tolkien fan.   My parents gave me the first volume of Lord of the Rings for Christmas back when I was in grade school.  I  read and reread the entire trilogy several times.  I read it aloud to my children years later.  I saw all the Peter Jackson movies. 
   So when I saw this title down at the Littleton Village Bookstore I bought it.  I read it.  Somehow, Currey manages to let the words roll out but never gets around to saying anything that I didn't know before I read it.  "Shoveling" is what my high school English teachers called this style. 
   English teachers, and literary critics have never liked Tolkien, despite or perhaps because of, its enormous popularity.  Tolkien has little "hidden meaning" of the sort that literary types enjoy searching out.  Tolkien doesn't hide any meanings.  He lets his love of trees, the countryside, Anglo Saxon myth and legend  , courage, Elvish languages, and endurance stand right out in plain English.  There isn't all that much that needs teaching in Tolkien.  This might account for the disdain for Tolkien shown by teachers and critics.
   Tolkien creates a wealth of truly wonderful characters.  Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Gandalf, Theoden, Faramir, Barliman Butterbur, Treebeard, Galadriel, Merry, Eowyn, and Pippin.  Tolkien's bad guys are really bad, the baddest ever.  Sauron is more evil, more dangerous than any other villain in literature.  Saruman and Denethor are not far behind in the practice of villainy.  This is in contrast to modern literary style of a single character coping with his psychological hangups.  Sauron doesn't have psychological hangups.  He knows exactly what he wants and he moves directly toward getting it and crushing his enemies.
   Lord of the Rings follows the classic formula for story telling.  The protagonist (a unisex word for hero) is faced with a challenge.  He rises to his challenge, and makes a first attempt to deal with it, and it doesn't work.  At the climax of the story he makes a final do or die attempt to surmount the challenge and either wins or looses.  All the rest of the story is anti-climax.  In chapter 2, The Shadow of The Past, Gandalf explains to Frodo about the ring and shows him what he must do.  From there on thruout the rest of the book, we readers are perfectly clear about the Quest's objective, although we have no idea how Frodo is going to cope with it. At the climax, Frodo fails, he takes the ring for himself, and is saved by Gollum of all people.
   One reason for Tolkien's popularity is the Middle Earth setting.   It's beautiful, it's comfortable, it has dangers lurking in the darker spots that heroes can overcome with courage and cold steel.  It's the sort of place many of us would like to retire to, or perhaps move to tomorrow.  It is solid in our imaginations, so solid that Peter Jackson's movie sets looked just right, first time I saw the movie.  Tolkien's prose is so vivid that Jackson, Jackson's set builders, and I, an old reader, had the very same image of what the Shire and Bag End should look like.
    Since Tolkien, numerous authors have attempted to write fantasy.  I've read some of it and it's not Tolkien, in fact most of it is dreadful.  Somehow Tolkien did it, and nobody else has been able to.  I'm nor sure why, but that's the way it is.