Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Message: We Care

Confession time, the Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) has often utilized audio clips that play at an insufficient volume in the posted broadcast.   They sound fine to me when I cut them.  Then something happens in the transfer and rebroadcast. Our Ricochet producer commonly advises me to pump up the volume or rip them through some sound enhancing web app first, but I have not.  I figured it was more of his overprotective mothering (I also regularly ignore his nagging to eat more vegetables and to call him more often) and it couldn’t have been THAT bad.

Fuller confession time, I don’t typically listen to the podcast after it’s posted. I was there, I lived it, and, no matter what levels of new excellence in punditry, interviews, or TWIGs and Loons I felt we achieved, I did not see the value of a replay.  More to the point, I have not yet reconciled with the reality that, while my voice in real life sounds to me like a combination of Morgan Freeman and David McCullough, on tape it’s an uncanny combination of Carol Channing and Tom Waits with a head cold.

A comment from Al Sparks in the Ricochet thread to this week’s podcast string shook me from my egocentric complacency:

I usually enjoy the Hinderwalker Ward Experience and that includes this week's.  But their production values could use some working on.  I don't care about the occasional discussions with their producer that were meant to be offline, but when they're playing the occasional recording of a person they want to comment on, it's at a very low volume.  To listen to that recording you have to turn the podcast volume up.  But then the recording is over, and they're back to talking, my ears are getting blasted before I manage to turn it down.  It's even worse when they do voice overs on a recording.
It's been roughly 9 months since I mentioned the production values problem, to James Lileks (during an NR Cruise) and he did say it was a concern at Ricochet.
I do think the problem has been addressed at the other podcasts, but the problem has stubbornly remained with HWX.  It's been around for at least a year.  Doesn't anyone at Ricochet headquarters listen to their output and self-critique?
For that matter do John Hinderwalker and Brian Ward care?

I think I can speak for Hinderwalker as well when I say our answer is absolutely, positively, yeah, I guess, whatever.

No, our answer is Yes. Yes. We. Care. Everything we do on the podcast, we do it for the listeners, and now that’s its been hammered home with guilt inducing ferocity, the low volume on our clips shall not be ignored.   We’ve heard you and soon the world will hear the roar of our audio clips!

Seriously, thanks to Al, this will be done.  Al’s heartfelt comments also compelled me to listen to our last episode with Victor Davis Hanson, and besides the low volume on clips, and the Channing/Waits duet, I heard something … else.   Something best described by Ross Perot in 1992 as:

I don’t know when or how this annoying unconscious vocal tic entered my speech pattern, but it’s on this podcast, early and often.  The Giant Sucking Sound, just dropped in at the beginning of a sentence, sounding like a rich combination of air and fluid.   The horror.

I don’t know necessarily how to stop an unconscious vocal tic, I swear it will be done.  This will not stand!  Unrelated, I also pledge to purge my other bad habit of enjoying a heaping plate of linguini and clam sauce during the show and snacking while Hinderwalker is talking.  Probably doesn’t effect the audio quality of the show, but you never know.

For next week’s HWX, tentatively scheduled for Monday evening, you can look forward to hearing the clips and not hearing the slurps.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Comic Book Guys

Interesting post on why comic books can be a good way to get some kids to read:

Because of this focus, it’s common and normal for the creative child to come to reading between the ages of 8 and 10 years old, when their brains naturally shift from primarily three-dimensional thinking to be able to take in two-dimensional and symbolic processing, which is what reading entails. Therefore, not only is the time frame of learning to read different from society’s viewpoint, the process to acquire reading differs as well because they prefer a picture-based method such as a sight-word, context-driven resource. And, finally, once the initial reading skill is acquired, the creative learner is drawn to reading materials and resources that are less valued in our society, thus, bringing us back to comic books and other “twaddle.”

Right-brained, creative learners turn every symbol (words, numerals) into pictures. (This is why it is easier for the creative child to learn the word “encyclopedia” than the word “the.” It’s a more visual word.) When they read, they often skim across the top of words in order to “catch the visual” that is important to their comprehension and enjoyment of the reading process. (This is why it’s easier for the creative person to read silently.) Therefore, the right-brained, creative learner is drawn to resources that assist and support them in their particular learning process.

Comic books serve several purposes for children with this learning style. The first is that the resource already supplies the pictures for this learner’s need to “catch the visual.” The reason this is important during their pre-fluency stage of reading is the need to understand what they are reading (in order to enjoy the process by comprehending what they are reading). When they’re not required to create the pictures themselves they can concentrate on interpreting the actual symbols involved in reading.

The second purpose a comic book resource provides is context in figuring out new words. This learning style prefers a “whole-to-part” method to learning (sight words) versus “part-to-whole” (phonics). A creative child will often use the existing pictures to guess or predict the words that will be used in the dialogue. We are conditioned to view this as “cheating” or “less than,” but in actuality, our right-brained children are using their best assets: learning by association and/or context.

We’ve definitely observed this pattern with our eldest son. He has struggled (and still does) with chapter books, but he eats up graphic novels. And lest you harbor under the illusion that comics are nothing more than pulp trash, here are a few of the comic books that he has enjoyed:

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The first two are stories of historical fiction (with a lot of fact mixed in) from the Revolutionary and Civil wars while the last is the classic Sherlock Holmes adventure. None would qualify as trash not worth reading. And then he also reads this:

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Have you ever read “Moby Dick”? Despite its literary renown and all the cultural references that spring from it, I admit that I have not nor do I have any plans to. Unless that is, I happen to pick up my son’s edition. Maybe.

When I was a kid I too read comics. And yes, some probably were nothing more than worthless mind-numbing entertainment. But I also read comics in the Classics Illustrated series such as “The Three Musketeers,” “Two Years Before the Mast,” “The Time Machine,” “Lord Jim,” “Frankenstein,” “The Invisible Man,” and other timeless tales. They certainly didn’t deter and no doubt likely enhanced my love of reading that continues to this day.

Playing In Their End

A new Jeff Johnson for Governor video with a hockey theme? Yeah, I might just have to post that baby:

No, sadly enough that is not me in the blue jersey (get it?) schooling that poor red goalie, although from his positioning between the pipes it looks like it would be rather easy to light the lamp on him.

This video is a not-so-subtle jab at former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who liked to portray himself as a goalie blocking DFL efforts to impose their version of a "better Minnesota." I imagine that the message of going on offense will prove popular with local conservatives looking for more from a governor than just protecting the pipes.

Note to members of the Johnson campaign team: I want me one of them Johnson for Governor pucks.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Trapped Under Ice

A story in last Friday’s WSJ detailed the realities of increasing energy usage for the foreseeable future:

The world will use far more of every type of energy in coming decades, the U.S. Energy Department said Thursday in a report that predicts China and India will drive growing consumption.

The department's statistical arm, the Energy Information Administration, estimated world-wide use of energy—mostly for transportation and electricity—will surge 56% by 2040 compared with 2010 levels.

Half of that growth would come from China and India, the report says, outlining a scenario where global economic growth will lift demand for renewable energy like electricity from solar power, but also one where fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas remain the world's go-to energy sources.

While the mix of those go-to fossil fuels may change, they will still account for the vast majority of the world’s energy use:

Based on current government policies and a model that assumed continued growth in the world-wide economy, the report found that fueling that prosperity will take mostly traditional fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas. Those fuels will account for 80% of world energy use through 2040, the report projects.

Consumption of natural gas is expected to grow faster than that of oil or coal, with the industrial and electric power sectors leading a shift toward burning more gas, which is being unlocked across the globe thanks to new extraction technologies.

The report does say that alternative energy sources will supply a larger share than ever before, but that 80% figure for fossil fuels is striking. No matter how much people may want to wish them away, the reality is that we will continue to rely on fossil fuels for future growth and prosperity much in the same way we have relayed on them to fuel the previous hundred years of advancement in standards of living and quality of life.

The good news is the we keep finding new places for the fuels that keep our civilization going. Scientists Envision Fracking in Arctic and on Ocean Floor:

Scientists in Japan and the U.S. say they are moving closer to tapping a new source of energy: methane hydrate, a crystalline form of natural gas found in Arctic permafrost and at the bottom of oceans.

At room temperature the crystal gives off intense heat, earning it the nickname of "fire in ice," and making the estimated 700,000 trillion cubic feet of the substance scattered around the world a potentially major fuel source, containing more energy than all previously discovered oil and gas combined, according to researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey.

Commercial production of methane hydrate is expected to take at least a decade—if it comes at all. Different technologies to harvest the gas are being tested, but so far no single approach has been perfected, and it remains prohibitively expensive. But booming energy demand in Asia, which is spurring gigantic projects to liquefy natural gas in Australia, Canada and Africa, is also giving momentum to efforts to mine the frozen clumps of methane hydrate mixed deep in seafloor sediment.

There are environmental concerns (of course) with harvesting these immense new sources of energy. But do you believe for an instance that our unquenchable need for energy won’t drive development of technologies and safety standards that will be able to address them? We’re going to need a lot of fossil fuels to satisfy our future energy needs. The sooner we start figuring out how to best make use of any and all sources we can, the better.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

HWX, with Victor Davis Hanson

The Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) returns with a special Saturday edition.  It’s John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas bringing you all the important news and analysis of the week. 
The episode is brought to you by the fine folks at Tonx Coffee.  For a FREE sample of this dynamite new coffee go to and sign up for a delivery.
Topics of the show include:
*  The bankruptcy of Detroit, who’s to blame and why so many seem unable to connect the dots on causation.
*  The continuing reaction to the George Zimmerman trial, with John’s fascinating analysis of typical jury behavior, during and after the deliberations.
*  The return of Anthony Weiner and the future of Internet crotch shots as a political communication tool
Were also joined by the great Victor Davis Hanson, talking about his new book  The Savior Generals: How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars That Were Lost - From Ancient Greece to Iraq.
From Themistocles to Belisarius to William Tecumseh Sherman to Matthew Ridgway to David Petraeus, Victor discusses the characteristics that unite these men as the tragic heroes of their times.  He also touches on what happens when a Savior General doesn’t emerge in time (Vietnam War) and the questionable ability of our modern culture to produce a Savior General in the traditional model.
We wrap up with the Loon of the Week (MSNBC hosts on the REAL reason behind Detroit’s bankruptcy) and This Week in Gate Keeping (if you can’t trust the New Republic and Stanford Law School for information, who can you trust?).

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes or Feedburner.  Or just use the player embedded below.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Laugh A Little

Nate e-mails on an effort to make flying the skies a little more friendly and funny:

I flew Delta to Atlanta a week ago, 757 wide-body, had a recorded safety announcement.

It’s hilarious! Outstanding. I actually wished I could watch it again. There are a couple of versions on YouTube, this is not the exact one that I saw on the plane, but close.

Somebody at Delta is thinking like you guys do, at least about the safety announcement. That’s a great start.

The video is fantastic. Injecting humor into something-even something as serious as a safety announcement-is a good hook to get people to pay attention. I imagine that after repeated viewings it would lose its luster, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the standard approach to play it straight. Plus it features cameo appearances by the red-headed flight attendant from previous Delta safety announcement videos and Abraham Lincoln. A true tour de force.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nothing Sacred About That Cow

Tobin from Illinois e-mails on the new Coors:

I'm glad to see I'm not alone in my opinion of New Glarus Brewing's Spotted Cow. Ever since a Madison-dwelling relative of mine introduced me to it a few years ago, I wondered what the hype was all about. It's certainly not a bad beer, but not my favorite by a long shot either.

Whenever I'm in Wisconsin I do make sure to grab some of their Moon Man brew, but it's more to keep some variety in my stash, not because it's necessarily better than anything I can get locally.

I was just in the land of cheese last week and while I had plenty of opportunities to partake of Spotted Cow, I drank nary a drop. I did have the Moon Man Pale Ale that Tobin mentioned as well as a Blacktop IPA, both offerings from New Glarus that are superior to Spotted Cow.

I did enjoy a number of local brews not readily available here while in Wisconsin and brought a fair number home as well. These included, but were not limited to:

- Wild Ride IPA, Woody’s Wheat, and One Planet Ale from Sand Creek Brewing Co. in Black River Falls.

- DTB Brown Ale and El Hefe Hefeweizen from Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse.

- Apricot Naughty Wheat from Kinky Kabin Brewing in Bangor (Bangor? I don’t even know her!).

The last beer was discovered at the TeePee Supper Club in Tomah and was a delicious find. When it comes to an easy drinking yet tasty summer beer, it kicks nine kinds of crap out of Spotted Cow. The apricot flavor is readily apparent yet not overdone and it brought to mind #9 from Magic Hat Brewing in Vermont.

In addition to the praise, I also have to add one pan. Mosquito Coast from Lake Louie Brewing in Arena was a big disappointment. It’s billed as a “deep gold ‘California Common’” that’s “Hoppy, refreshing and perfect for summer,” but the bottle I had did not fit that profile. The nose was pungent and there was astringency to the flavor that caused it to be almost undrinkable (almost). Lest you not solely trust my opinion on this, JB Doubtless also sampled said beer and was of the same view of its less than pleasing impact on the palate.

UPDATE: Somehow I neglected to mention two other quality Wisconsin brews that I came across last week.

- Bedlam IPA from the Ale Asylum in Madison is a big Belgian IPA with crazy flavor.

- Ride Again Pale Ale from Lucette Brewing Company in Menomonie is a solid American Pale Ale that comes in six-packs of 16oz cans. I'm a convert to craft beer in cans and six-packs of pints is a great way to package it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

HWX, with Jeff Johnson

A week late with this promo post, but this episode is aging like fine wine.  Except maybe all that speculation about how the George Zimmerman case will resolve and the expected aftermath.  Feel free to ignore that.  Otherwise, hope you enjoy!
The Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) returns for a special Saturday edition with your genial hosts John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas.   
The trial of George Zimmerman leads the news this week and leads this episode of the podcast, as always you'll want to catch John Hinderaker's insightful analysis of of the latest developments.  
Next, the boys are joined by the electric Jeff Johnson, GOP candidate for Governor in Minnesota.   Jeff talks about being quintessentially Minnesotan, speculates on how the Democrats might try to demonize him in the upcoming campaign, and how the issues might play out for the 2014 election.   To support Jeff, check out his website and follow him on Twitter (@Jeff4Gov) and Facebook
Later, it's Loon of the Week (a poem speculating on what might happen if a certain organ was a firearm) and This Week in Gatekeeping (on the need to REALLY fact checking foreign sounding names).
Also, a special interview with HWX Listener/Ricochet Member of the Week Patrick Gibbs.

Many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes or Feedburner.  Or just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this web site.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Place Between

When news broke last month linking a ninety-four-year-old northeast Minneapolis man with a Nazi SS unit that committed atrocities in World War II, the local reaction was one of shock.

When it turned out that this man was the father of a colleague, it was even more shocking.

Now that the shock has worn off, it’s time to take a good hard look at the evidence presented in the original AP story and try as best possible to determine what it really proves.

This past Sunday, Andrij Karkoc (you say Andrij I say Andriy) took to the pages of the Star Tribune to offer a rebuttal to the claims made in the story. My father, Michael Karkoc, is not a war criminal:

The only “evidence” AP uncovered about my father’s wartime activities comes from his own memoirs. In them he describes service in the German army, and talks about why and how he deserted. He describes his motivation and role in defending his native Ukraine by joining the Legion of Self-Defense. He describes his participation in negotiations to “collaborate” with the Germans while holding a live grenade in his coat pocket. He describes his travel to Warsaw and the armistice negotiated between the Legion and the Polish underground. He describes his journey at the end of the war, and the surrender by the 1st Division of the Ukrainian National Army to the U.S. military.

Most importantly, his memoir is dedicated to the memory of family, friends and fellow countrymen whose hopes for freedom and independence were destroyed, and who died during the horrors of war, from fratricide, or as sacrifices to the terror of Nazi and Communist occupation. It describes an incredible story of survival, death, life, luck, his faith in God, his devotion to family and his undying love for Ukraine.

My father is not a criminal, and never was. He is a hero, who by the grace of God managed to survive the unimaginable.

So far, the only thing Associated Press has “proved” is that everything Michael Karkoc wrote in his memoir is true. My father did nothing wrong. He never lied. And he’s not afraid of the truth.

As Andrij notes in his piece, the Ukraine was in the “Bloodlands” during the Thirties and Forties. Like peoples in Poland, Belorussia, and the Baltic states, Ukrainians were caught between and fought over by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and suffered grievously as a result. Details on events during that time are not always clear and were (and are) often colored by perceptions. After the war ended, the Soviet Union and communist Poland would do anything they could to discredit Ukrainian nationalists so sifting through the layers of history to determine the truth is not an easy task.

This doesn’t mean that we should excuse war crimes committed during those terrible years. It does mean that before we accuse some of involvement in such crimes we should have evidence that is both substantial and well substantiated. In this case, that burden of proof doesn’t appear to have been yet met.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXXXI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the heavenly folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to reach the skies.

Before we get to our featured beer this week, allow me the opportunity for a brief, mild-mannered rant. It concerns the appeal that certain beers have outside of their distribution areas. It’s a takeoff on the old adage about absence making the heart grow founder. In this case, it’s more like not being able to get a particular beer makes peoples’ appreciation of and desire for said brew become wildly distorted.

Probably the most well know example of this is Coors. Believe or not, there actually was a time when Coors was not available throughout the United States and people clamored for it. Yes, they really did clamor for Coors and went to extreme lengths to try to get their hands on it. In fact, as Brian “Saint Paul” Ward recently reminded me, the plot of the original Smokey and the Bandit movie involved trying to get a truckload of Coors from Texas to Mississippi. Yes, the premise for a major motion picture revolved around breaking the law to drink Coors. Tell me again that the Seventies were not the nadir of America culture.

Another example of this wanting the beer that we can’t get also involved a Colorado brewery. Although it is widely distributed now, there was a time when New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale was not available in many parts of the country. Before I ever drained a single Fat Tire, I heard stories about this “awesome” beer from Colorado that people would make road trips specifically to procure. They would return with trunk loads of Fat Tire which they would then hoard like liquid gold. When I eventually did get a chance to drink Fat Tire on a trip to Colorado, I was not impressed. Really? This is the beer that you drove to Colorado for?

The latest example of this is much closer to home. New Glarus Brewing is a well-known Wisconsin craft brewer whose product is only available with the confines of the Dairy State. Now, I have nothing against New Glarus and in fact I have rather enjoyed some of their beers like Moon Man, Cracked Wheat, and a Imperial Weizen. Recently, I tried their Black Top Black IPA and found it quite good.

However, the one New Glarus beer that you hear the most about and the one that is the most pined for by those outside Wisconsin is a decent offering at best. Yes, I’m saying it: Spotted Cow is a vastly overrated beer. Sure the label is cute, but the beer ain’t all that. There are plenty of better farmhouse ales that are readily available on local shelves and I can’t understand why anyone would covet Spotted Cow. The only rational explanation is its exclusivity. So the in-state only approach that New Glarus has taken appears to be a wise strategy.

Okay, enough on that. Let’s get to this week’s beer. It’s Galactica IPA from Massachusetts’ Clown Shoes Beer.

Four-pack of 12oz bottles sells for $9.99. Label has green background with Loki-like clown shoe clad female figure in an interstellar setting. According to the label “Galactica, a hop staff wielding heroine patrols, in karate kick mode, throughout the heavens.” Appeals to beer and comic book geeks alike.



COLOR (0-2): Copper brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Grapefruit and malty sweetness. 2

HEAD (0-2): White color, moderate volume, good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): While not as pronounced as some double IPAs, Galactica has a nice citrusy hop bite with a solid caramel malt backbone. Overall, the flavors are well balanced. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy and it has a medium body. You can feel some heat-not as much as you would expect given the ABV-, but the finish is smooth. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Rich and lasting. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Galactica is a not your typical imperial IPA. While there are a healthy dose of flavors powered by the Galaxy hops it’s balanced and nuanced with more of a malt presence that you would expect. This isn’t a hop bomb, but it’s a taste explosion none the less and quite delicious. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Leeches Upon Leeches

In a sharp review of Mark Leibovich's “This Town” in today’s WSJ, Andrew Ferguson paints a picture of the realities of how Washington, D.C. works that few inside the Beltway would readily admit:

No, Washington is unique because its human pageant is played out entirely on someone else's dime. Mr. Leibovich isn't the first professional observer to notice that Washington's economy is from top to bottom parasitic, but he is one of the first not to be especially bothered by it. The money that Suck-Up City sucks up is wealth created by the productive labor of faraway citizens who send it to the capital under penalty of law, according to whatever pretenses the political class can get away with, and that is then passed around as transaction fees. Moneymaking Washington-style is a many-layered version of the ditch digger who shovels across your front yard and then demands you pay him to fill up the hole. Though always a derivative enterprise, journalism might be expected to stand as at least a partial check on the unappetizing spectacle. Instead, in Washington, journalism is the most dubious trade of all—leeches fastened upon leeches.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Speak Loudly & Carry Nothing

Walter Russell Mead on Our Rhetorical President's Unserious Speeches:

Second-rate orators use flowery language to disguise the conventionality or insincerity of their sentiments, to disguise their true motives, or—and this was the biggest problem for the White House on Syria—to substitute rhetoric for action. President Obama's best speeches, like his Nobel Prize address, are strong because they express his true purpose. As he spoke of the tragic necessity of war, he was planning a surge in Afghanistan and unleashing a drone campaign. The speech was a serious reflection on important actions.

You cannot be a great speaker unless you are a great doer. If Martin Luther King Jr. had not led the civil-rights movement to success and ultimately laid down his life for it, his speeches would be little studied. If Churchill had surrendered to Hitler, nobody would care about his defiant addresses.

At worst, as in Mr. Obama's Cairo speech, the contrast between exalted rhetoric and mingy deeds undermines both speech and speechmaker. But even at their best, the president's speeches often demonstrate an intellectual mastery of the subject but lack a true aim. To change that, he would do well to quit thinking of speechmaking as an act in itself and begin to think of it as the verbal expression of an action already under way. Otherwise, Mr. Obama's speeches will continue to resemble the fireworks that lit up America's skies last week: briefly dazzling the crowds, then fading quickly as the dark returns.

Words alone not supported by actions are in the end meaningless. The only surprise is that it's taken people so long to realize how hollow and empty President Obama's rhetoric truly is.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Safe Travels

A couple of responses to my post on the FAA plans to loosen rules on using electronic devices during flight called Common Sense Takes Off.

First up was Kevin from Oregon:

I spent 30 years doing electromagnetic interference work in the auto industry and in the semiconductor industry. My first few years in the field were spent with a small EMC testing company. One of the areas we studied was interference in aircraft. In the 80s there were numerous reports of aircraft electronics acting in unexplained manners, from panel flashing, to lost comm functions.We experimented with injecting high frequency signals into aircraft fuselage. An aircraft compartment is a resonant cavity and as such does not need extremely large signals to induce upset in the distributed cables throughout the skin and floor of the plane. We also conducted experiments on military heads-up displays. There was a time when I could have sat off an aircraft carrier and guided any number of planes into the water.

Automobiles are similarly susceptible, given that there are a hundred processors and controllers in any given car, and they are located on boards designed to be the cheapest possible. Does that sound comfy cozy to you? For myself, I'm on takeoff or landing in a plane, I can live without the electronics for the excruciating amount of time of 10 minutes.

A friend of mine, Dan Hoolihan is in Minnesota and he's one of the world's experts in EMC. You can ask him what he thinks. Maybe design parameters have changed since I worked on aircraft or auto electronics. I have numerous IEEE publications on these subjects, if you're interested.

While I’m definitely interested in the subject, I’m not that interested. Seriously though, I think Kevin has some valid concerns. Which is why the rules were enacted in the first place. However, based on what I’ve read, I’m also quite sure that before the FAA got to the point where they are now considering relaxing the rules they have studied the matter thoroughly. Again, from what I’ve read, the extent of the danger poised to flight instruments and controls by electronic devices isn’t completely clear. Some tests indicate that there could potentially be problems, others don’t. And no one is sure how much the potential danger would or could increase based on the amount of devices in use. Which is why it sounds like the FAA is going move slowly on this and implement changes over time starting on a trial basis.

The biggest argument for relaxing the restrictions is the fact that electronic devices are being used on flights every day with no apparent impact. A startling high number of regular fliers admitted to not following the rules and powering off their devices during takeoff and landing as instructed. And pilots and other flight crew members are increasingly using tablets and other devices in the cockpit and throughout the plane.

In the interest of aviation safety, it’s important that passengers follow the rules. If passengers don’t believe the rationale for the rules on electronic devices and blatantly disregard them, there is a risk that they will take a similar attitude toward other rules. If there truly is a safety risk in me having my Kindle on during takeoff and landing, I have no problem shutting it down (although it can be a lot longer than ten minutes from push back, taxi, takeoff, and reaching ten-thousand feet at times). But if there isn’t really a risk and we’re just following the rules because that’s how we did it thirty years ago, I believe passengers are justified in questioning their efficacy.

Next up is Nate with a more cynical take on the matter:

If electronic devices interfered with aviation equipment, we’d have had downed aircraft by now. Instead, we have flight crews using them on the flight deck with full approval, and not just regional carriers but KLM and British Airways. Homebuilt aircraft have used them for years without incident. The EAA has on-line videos showing you how.

I suspect the real reason you can’t use electronic devices near the ground is the FAA wants passengers to pay attention to the cabin crew’s directions in case of emergency, not sitting there distracted by Subway Surfer.

An interesting possibility. However, I’m not sure if shutting down our electronic devices is enough incentive to get us to pay attention to the cabin crew’s rote safety routine. My experience has been that the best way to achieve the proper attention is showing a video with the safety instructions being presented by an attractive attendant. Men have an instinctual pull to look at electronic screens and pretty women and the combination of the two is difficult to resist. Most women meanwhile are practical enough to pay attention to the safety instructions without additional inducement.

SISYPHUS ADDS: There really is no question that electronic devices can interfere with airplane electronics. Now, that doesn’t mean that one cell phone call will bring a plane down. A handful of people using devices would be unlikely to cause a catastrophic failure – but 200 people might be a different story. Airlines can’t very well announce: “Okay, all but ten of you shut off your electronic devices.” 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

The Holiday in Tweets

Over at Ricochet, I gave my pre-holiday thoughts on celebrities Tweeting their wishes for my safety over the holiday weekend. In short, I was against it.

Now that July 4 is behind us, and I’ve escaped any karmic consequences of laughing at safety, I’m ready to take off my helmet, unspool from my bubble wrap cocoon, and emerge from my basement crawlspace to engage with society again.  And that means going back to the well and analyzing the tweets of the politically powerful.  

I don’t believe most politicians do their own Tweeting.  They’re either too busy or elderly to understand how to plug in their computer machines. So this analysis is more of a judgment on their paid staff and/or volunteer bootlicks.  But since our politicians outsource most of what we elect them to do (reading legislation, writing legislation, understanding current law, etc.) the focus is entirely appropriate. Now onto the judgments. 

First of our Congressional delegation, starting in CD 2 with Rep. John Kline:

Well played, focusing on the universal virtue of freedom and giving a shout out to the military, with a touch of PC sensitivity in name checking both genders.  His neglect of the GLBT community, not to mention the burgeoning QQUCITS2SAPHO voting blocs, shouldn’t necessarily hurt him in the greater Faribault metropolitan area.

Next, in CD6, Michele Bachmann:

Another well-done, constituent-friendly Tweet, with subtle allusions to religion and American exceptionalism.  As a bonus, it resulted in triggering scores of Democrat  fundraising autobots in sending thousands of automated spam emails asking for donations to finally defeat her in 2014.

From CD3, Erik Paulsen:

A classic, predictable, safe, painfully boring beginning for a July 4th Tweet, (Happy 4th of July indeed!), with an abrupt turn to naked self-promotion. A demand really, READ my stuff!  Compelling evidence that there’s some frustrated blogger pulling the strings on this one. 

Now onto the Democrats.  First CD4 fixture Betty McCollum, proving that it is possible to create a more boring Tweet than Erik Paulsen:

And with that we also get the first wish for our collective safety.  Scratch that off your list of potential attack ads for 2014 CD5 Republicans, she did NOT come out officially for mass casualties and suffering. 

Next, the newbie from CD1 Rick Nolan.  Do we hear a second for safety?  We do!

Almost an exact copy of the John Kline tweet, except for the safety part.  In fact, I suspect this is a product of the Democrat template for How to Speak to Your Conservative Constituency Without Frightening Them.

Speaking of which, from CD1 Tim Walz, his Independence Day tweet: 

What seems to be an odd, unorthodox Tweet for the occasion is revealed to be pure genius when you realize that “tax subsidies for luxury yachts” is a verbatim quote from the Declaration of Independence about the injuries and usurpations visited upon us by George III!

Actually it’s not.  And it sounds more like a direct quote from Theories of Surplus Value by Karl Marx.  But fear not, sunshine patriots. That actually is not the Tweet from Tim Walz on July 4.  It’s the Tweet from Tim Walz on June 27.   Which is the last time he bothered to Tweet anything.  July 4, the most sacred date on our national civic calendar,  passes and Tim Waltz has better things to do? I guess that’s his choice and the type of freedom of association that our founding fathers fought for.  Now excuse me while I research my theory that Tim Walz was spending his holiday on a luxury boat on a lake somewhere in southeastern Minnesota.

Speaking of Democrats in conservative districts and remaining silent on July 4, we have Collin Peterson.  Not only did he avoid Tweeting on this most patriotic of days, he’s never Tweeted in his life, for he has no known Twitter account.  A hack political pundit could say that not only does he hate America, he hates technology and science and modernity itself!  Luckily, no one like that writes for this web site. 

Finally, Keith Ellison of CD5:

Nothing remarkable there.  I guess if you’re looking for remarkable commentary you need to keep reading Keith Ellison’s Twitter feed where he followed one tweet on US Independence day with four objecting to Mohamed Morsi being overthrown in Egypt.
Next to the US Senate and our junior member, the distinguished Al Franken:

That’s all right I guess, but I expect more from a professional comedian.  Then again, this Tweet did draw as many laughs as Stuart Saves His Family. 

Finally, from Minnesota’s senior Senator and landslide winner in 2012, Amy Klobuchar:

And that my friends is how you win by 35 percentage points in Minnesota.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Fear Pressure

In his Mind and Matters column in today's WSJ, Matt Ridley reminds us that that science is about evidence not consensus:

And that is where the problem lies with climate change. A decade ago, I was persuaded by two pieces of data to drop my skepticism and accept that dangerous climate change was likely. The first, based on the Vostok ice core, was a graph showing carbon dioxide and temperature varying in lock step over the last half million years. The second, the famous "hockey stick" graph, showed recent temperatures shooting up faster and higher than at any time in the past millennium.

Within a few years, however, I discovered that the first of these graphs told the opposite story from what I had inferred. In the ice cores, it is now clear that temperature drives changes in the level of carbon dioxide, not vice versa.

As for the "hockey stick" graph, it was effectively critiqued by Steven McIntyre, a Canadian businessman with a mathematical interest in climatology. He showed that the graph depended heavily on unreliable data, especially samples of tree rings from bristlecone pine trees, the growth patterns of which were often not responding to temperature at all. It also depended on a type of statistical filter that overweighted any samples showing sharp rises in the 20th century.

I followed the story after that and was not persuaded by those defending the various hockey-stick graphs. They brought in a lake-sediment sample from Finland, which had to be turned upside down to show a temperature spike in the 20th century; they added a sample of larch trees from Siberia that turned out to be affected by one tree that had grown faster in recent decades, perhaps because its neighbor had died. Just last week, the Siberian larch data were finally corrected by the University of East Anglia to remove all signs of hockey-stick upticks, quietly conceding that Mr. McIntyre was right about that, too.

So, yes, it is the evidence that persuades me whether a theory is right or wrong, and no, I could not care less what the "consensus" says.

Mr. Ridley has also announced that this is his last Mind and Matters column which is a shame. His perspective and willingness to approach topics with an open mind will definitely be missed.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXXX)

Another holiday themed edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the patriotic folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to bring cheer to celebrate Independence Day with a bang.

And what better way to celebrate Independence Day-or more accurately Independence Week-than a local beer brewed right here in the good ol’ US of A? Our featured beer is the first that we’ve reviewed from Indeed Brewing Company, which started up in Minneapolis in 2011.

Why “Indeed?” We just can’t believe we’re the only ones tired of the whiny, doom-and-gloom sentiment around us. We want to tout the positive side of things, and embrace mindfulness and adventure—a feeling we’ve found plenty of here in Minnesota. Even Indeed’s logo has a hint of a smile—a sense of happiness and fun that illustrates precisely what we want to share with our customers. It’s that subtle smile we feel Minnesotans enjoy sharing with one another, especially deep in winter. We’re a hearty breed, we Nordics, and it’s nice to have something to smile about together.

But even if you aren’t prone to shoveling knee-deep snow each winter, then gracefully wiping away a bead of sweat come July’s sweltering temps, we want you to taste our beer and realize what we’ve already come to know: Whether standing, sitting, floating or flying, having a tasty, high-quality craft beer in hand means not only that your taste buds are happy, but that you’re on your way to having a fun and meaningful discussion with other—sometimes about the beer, but more often about everything else in life. The people of Indeed love fun. Come on, let’s have fun together.

You may recall that the piece of parchment which launched our whole movement for independence included something “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” So Indeed seems like a most appropriate beer choice to celebrate Independence Day. A beer like their Day Tripper Pale Ale.

Six-pack of 12oz cans goes for $8.99. Design has a wacky fin de si├Ęcle England look to it with a couple of off kilter characters navigating a fabulous flying machine.

STYLE: Pale Ale


COLOR (0-2): Golden brown and mostly clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Crisp citrusy hops. 2

HEAD (0-2): White color, moderate volume, decent lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Much like the smell with hops providing grapefruit and bitter flavors and a lighter sweet malt presence. Clean and crisp finish. Oily mouthfeel and medium body. Pretty drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Pleasing bitterness sticks around. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Day Tripper Pale Ale is a very solid beer. It checks all the boxes for a pale ale. I could see being a good flagship beer to lead the Indeed fleet. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15