These musings—blog entries—are for the year 2017. Other years can be accessed from the blog's home page, use the link in the upper right.
1-4-2018 After studying photos for evidence that supports Mr. Mount's claims — and failing — I disbelieve his theory. Instead, I think the results of the derailment — the final position of the cars — is a function of simple mechanical physics: momentum, friction, centrifugal force, gravity. I have worked out how this happened in a way that supports the final position of the cars. So I am left with excessive speed as the causal agent of the derailment. (1-4-2018)
The train was the Northern Pacific Railroad, chartered in 1864 by President Lincoln to connect the mid-west, Washington, and Oregon by rail — what became the Northern Pacific Transcontinental Railroad. That rail road was completed in December 1873 when the Prairie Line met the saltwater of Tacoma's harbor on Commencement Bay, making Tacoma the terminus of the NPTR. The timing of this achievement secured the NPRy's charter, which was due to expire at the end of 1873 should the railroad fail to connect to a salt water terminal by then.
The NP's Prairie Line was originally a mainline extending from Tenino to Tacoma. In Tacoma, it cut across that city's south downtown hillside, thus traversing the steep drop at an angle that was sustainable by a large, heavy locomotive. The line started northeasterly from Tenino, went through Yelm and Roy, crossed the location of today's I-5 by the McChord Air Force Base, and eventually ended at the water in Tacoma.
In 1873 Tacoma was a rugged little town, not much more than a sawmill, a few cabins, and a businessman hopeful that a train connection would fuel a development boom. A developer named the town Tacoma City based on the Indian name of nearby Mt. Rainer. The city was incorporated in 1875. Tacoma is today the second-largest city in the Puget Sound area and the third largest in the state.
Railroad mergers did not spare the NP. In 1970 the NP merged with three other railroads to form the Burlington Northern Railroad (BN). In 1996 the BN became the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF).
Growth of the city of Tacoma and environs is monitored by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). The Amtrak Cascades passenger train service is jointly owned by the state transportation departments in Washington (WSDOT) and Oregon (ODOT), with Amtrak running the service as a contractor and maintaining responsibility for day-to-day operations; the Cascades brand began in 1994 while passenger rail service in that corridor had been run by three railroads since before the 1970s. Population growth has been creeping up on highway capacity to the extent that the WSDOT has long planned rail solutions that would permit more round trips to Portland and more on-time service.
Since 1995 WSDOT planned for a new inland train route to enable faster Amtrak speeds. They called that route the Point Defiance Bypass Route. In 2006 they issued a Long Range Plan, in 2008 they issued a Mid Range Plan. In 2009 they obtained $800M in federal stimulus funds from grants administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under the terms of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Point Defiance is a projection of land into Puget Sound at the far west of the city of Tacoma. Point Defiance Park began as a military reservation in the 1840s. In 1888 it was authorized for use as a public park. In 1914 BN built a mainline from south of Nisqually north to Tacoma that traversed the coast between the two areas and a tunnel under Point Defiance. That mainline went into service in 1943; it connects Tacoma and Olympia with both freight and passenger service. (In 1943 Tacoma's shipyards experienced a rush of shipbuilding, mostly in response fo WW II.) This line is primarily a freight line, it has a mix of single and double track, some tight corners, and the tunnel. These "features" have resulted in slow and delayed passenger rail service over the route.
WSDOT's Point Defiance Bypass Route was planned to run directly between Tacoma (in Pierce County) and Nisqually (on the border with Thurston County) through Lakewood. It used existing rail lines from two separate rail projects. The line between Tacoma and Lakewood was originally part of the NP Prairie Line. The line between Lakewood and Nisqually was originally the NP American Lake Line; it was built in 1893 as part of the Grays Harbor Line project (Grays Harbor is on the Pacific coast of the Olympic Peninsula, due west of Olympia). Nisqually, for purposes of this discussion, is an informal name for the location of the intersection of the mainline with the American Lake Line near the Nisqually River and the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge; it was never a station.
WSDOT set about acquiring right-of-way on its Point Defiance Bypass Route, building a new station in Tacoma, arranging for track and signals to be replaced or upgraded, and training train crew. Amtrak ordered new equipment: new locomotives and new passenger cars. December 18, 2017 was set as the first service day of the new route.
And then disaster struck. The first Amtrak train to follow the Bypass Route derailed just past the small town of DuPont and less than one mile before the track intersected with the BNSF mainline at Nisqually. Three passengers died. Everybody on the train was hospitalized. The Bypass service ended in pain, horror, and conjecture.
The determination of the cause(s) of the derailment belongs to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), they expect their research to last 1–2 years. At first glance, it seems obvious that the train was traveling too fast for the conditions. This suggests that both the crew and the WSDOT were negligent. The train crew may have been negligent for driving too fast. The WSDOT may have been negligent for leaving a 30-mph curve on a line selected and improved for 79-mph trains — in complete violation of the justification for the project.
It is deeply unfortunate that some "news" stories focus on the notion that excessive speed could have been curbed by technology, in particular by Positive Train Control (PTC) which was not active on either the track or the train at the time. PTC is at best a concept, it has never been successfully put in service. To claim that it could have prevented the derailment is crass and lazy.
Details The Point Defiance Bypass Route follows the original NP Prairie Line south from Tacoma to Lakewood as double track, one for Amtrak, the other for Sounder (the commuter light rail). The Sounder line stops at the Lakewood station while the Amtrak line continues south, parallel to and a little to the west of Pacific Highway SW. When that highway ends, the Amtrak line continues adjacent to I-5. In DuPont, just south of the Mounts Road/Nisqually Road SW overcross, the tracks turn southerly and cross I-5 (still a divided highway) on two bridges. That puts the tracks on the south side of I-5, where they continue on to merge at-grade with the BNSF mainline less than a mile away near the Nisqually River.
The Bypass route through the DuPont area follows the roads. The original road was the Military Road, built in the 1860s between Fort Vancouver, WA and Seattle. As that road was paved in 1916, it became the Pacific Highway; in 1926, it became US Highway 99, although with a slightly different alignment. The first railroad bridge was built in 1937 over US 99, it was replaced in 1967 when US 99 was upgraded to Interstate 5 (which involved a slightly different alignment, separating the directional lanes, and adding a second bridge). The bridge was built in lieu of at-grade crossings because the vehicular traffic was too heavy to avoid accidents.
The curve that precedes the southbound I-5 rail bridge at DuPont was not upgraded with the recent modifications on the American Lake Line for high-speed (79 MPH) passenger train travel. It remained a 30-mph curve. Furthermore, that curve is on a slope: six tenths of a mile before the derailment location, a continuous 1.6% descent begins at an elevation of 250 feet; the intersection at Nisqually is at an elevation of 100 feet.
There has been a crossing in the same location since 1893 (when the American Lake Line crossed the Military Road).
Freight was the principal cargo on the American Lake Line. In 1917, Tacoma donated 70,000 acres of land to the federal government for use as a permanent military installation that became Fort Lewis. In 1927 Tacoma established an air field just north of Fort Lewis, in 1938 that air field was transferred to the federal government and named McChord Field; in 1947 it became McChord Air Force Base. The fort and the air field have needed equipment and supplies which are and will continue to be delivered via rail. The weight of some cargo, like an M1 Abrams tank, affects the design of the rail-highway interchange, to the extent that efforts to enable high-speed passenger trains could require re-routing I-5. This re-engineering was clearly beyond the original ARRA funding. (12-31-2017)
The last section of the Northern Pacific Transcontinental Railroad was laid in 1873 by the Northern Pacific as its Prairie Line. Its terminus was Tacoma, Washington. Nearly 100 years after the NP had been chartered by President Abraham Lincoln, it merged with three other railroads in 1970 to become the Burlington Northern Railroad. In 1996 the BN became the BNSF.
It is a shame that the carelessness of Washington state officials has besmirched the name of the historic Prairie Line in such a horrific manner as the derailment.
The Bypass route is the latest incarnation of the westernmost section of the Northern Pacific Transcontinental Railroad and has been in 144 years of rail service. As the NP's Prairie Line, it provided transcontinental service to Tacoma until 1943 when the BNSF adopted the Point Defiance route built in 1914. It has continued as a route for the few trains that service businesses in South Tacoma and Lakewood, and for the military at Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base. (12-26-2017)
At 7:34am (after the train left Tacoma 32 minutes late) the train conductor phoned BNSF dispatch and informed them the train had derailed as it traveled the bridge crossing over southbound highway I-5 during the morning commute; this was at the eastern boundary of the the city of DuPont, near the Nisqually area. Of the 14 cars — 12 passenger cars and two locomotives — all but one car was derailed (the rear locomotive remained on the track). One car dramatically hung down from the bridge over the highway itself, giving news reporters an eye-catching lead.
Amtrak and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are charged with identifying the causes of the derailment. Early speculation has focused on the speed of the train. Claims are the train was traveling at 80 mph, which was fine for the track north of the bridge, but the curve to cross the highway was rated for 30 mph. This as-yet-to-be-confirmed fact is interesting for two reasons: (1) WSDOT explicitly stated the goal for the Point Defiance Bypass was to eliminate slow curves and (2) Amtrak crews were said to have been operating this segment for at least two weeks prior to the accident with nonrevenue trains. [Surely they would have noted speed limit issues?] (12-20-2017)
That is a powerful story. And very poignant today, as it illustrates the courage, conviction, political perspicacity, and leadership of President Lincoln. What a contrast with the current president.
I keep thinking that we Americans have lost understanding of leadership, political cooperation, and democracy. Yes, we dislike the status quo, which rarely improves our lot, but voting for someone solely on the basis of their claims to change the status quo — without any track record of leadership et al — is unlikely to end well. (12-12-2017)
I realize that this story, especially the title, threatens our binary understanding of sex. It is true that the hospital where a baby is born has to declare the sex of the baby for its official state birth certificate. The difficulty here is that not all babies are born with obvious male or obvious female genitals. Some babies are born with some of each, some with none at all. Historically babies have been subject to surgery to force the issue. This is rough on the medical staff and, ultimately, the child.
However what the State of Washington is considering is allowing individuals to petition the state to change their existing gender identification from M or F to X. The article did not mention if there was a minimum age requirement for the petition. The change has nothing to do with a baby's birth.
Interestingly, a different news article told a different story. It stated that parents would be allowed to choose the X gender identification on the original birth certificate.
A third news article had a third story: Transgender individuals could petition the state to change the sex on their birth certificate to represent their gender identity. "It would also allow those who don't identify as either strictly male or female to choose a third option, X." This article also stated that Washington already has a process allowing an adult to change the sex listed on their Washington birth certificate, but that the request has to be approved officially by a doctor or court order.
Frankly, I am getting tired of people being so publically vocal on their gender identity. It does not qualify as suitable for public exposure. Sure, tell your family, friends, and co-workers. But leave the rest of us out of it. (12-7-2017)
The Antarctic is a continent, that encompasses the South Pole, surrounded by ocean. Sea ice surrounds the continent, it is measured in surface size (aka extent) and depth (thickness). The continent itself is mostly covered with snow, ice, and glaciers (except for the summits and dry valleys of the mountains), and has rivers, lakes, and mountains with the highest point just short of 15,000 feet. Two active volcanoes are known!
The Antarctic sea ice grows in some areas and shrinks in others — the entire ice ring does not expand and shrink uniformly.
In 2014 NASA reported the extent of sea ice surrounding Antarctica reached a record high, the highest since measurement began in the 1970s. NASA said they are not surprised, that in a time of worldwide warming, not every location will have a downward trend in ice extent.
In Fall 2017 it was reported that ice shelf thinning has accelerated in recent decades. Scientists are developing theories, but have no firm explanations.
Icebergs can split from the ice shelf. This happened most recently in July 2017 to the Larsen C ice shelf. The size of the iceberg has been compared to the state of Delaware. The calving had begun in 2006.
In conclusion, scientists are observing and proposing and evaluating theories about the sea ice, but have no firm determination that the overall sea ice is changing substantially in size or depth. Claims that Antarctic ice is shrinking because of "global warming" are hoaxes and should not be believed. (12-7-2017)
Oh, but news stories casually change the story. They start by criticizing the President's response to requests to do something about the so-called opioid crisis. They then talk about the great number of people dying . . . of what? This is not described specifically. And then the news story changes by referring to "drug overdose deaths", which of course includes but is not limited to opioid drugs. What this appears to be is another open-ended jobs program in search of funds. Now they want to fight drugs and help addicts, opioids are merely the excuse. The Washington Post is particularly egregious. But The Guardian also distorts the facts, presumably to sound important. (10-28-2017)
Certain ideas have had no consensus for a long time, in particular abortion on demand as a woman's right.
But others, like worker protections and environmental protections, that we have long enjoyed and which benefitted us individually and as a group, and which I thought were not controversial, are being abandoned by the federal government at the whim of the President. He promised to do this during his campaign.
Of all the lies told to the public during Trump's campaign, the most despicable was the promise of jobs to unemployed, and unemployable, voters when the lack of jobs was a direct result of previous government actions, actions this President is clearly unwilling to reverse.
So, Trump is stringing his voters along, misleading them into thinking that his actions will eventually provide them with jobs. Yes, that is politically clever of him, but essentially immoral to the country. Do we really want an immoral President? Not me. (10-21-2017)
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word: to make more violent, bitter, or severe.
The new law only exacerbates the problem.
The first article was on the site of NBC News:
But the consensus in the scientific community is that the conditions that cleared a path for the tsunami of flame were made by humans. Decades of aggressive firefighting left too much fuel on the ground. And more than a century of carbon emissions exacerbated the state's drought and the record high temperatures that baked brush and timber to an explosive dryness.
What irritates me the most is the use of the word to highlight causation. There are two causes of these fires: the initial spark and the winds that drove the flames. The word exacerbate is not applied to these two phenomena. Instead, it is applied to aggravating circumstances.
Now, aggravation may be the better word than exacerbation. Aggravation is defined as an act or circumstance that intensifies something or makes something worse.
The day brought no aggravation of the situation.
Conditions that enabled the fire include lots of fuel and lack of fire-proofness in building design and construction. NBC erred by ascribing the plentitude of fuel to the result of human actions. To attempt to connect firefighting techniques of previous years with the amount of fuel for the current fire in one sentence is simply too ambitious and resulted in idiocy. Similarly to attempt to connect scientific consensus with a condemnation of firefighting techniques is beyond absurd, it is insulting. The firefighting experts will be studying these fires for a long time in order to find lessons they can apply to their methods of fighting similar fires in the future.
My point: It is too soon to pontificate on cause, especially when it is the responsibility of Cal Fire to determine cause. It is immoral to connect "climate change" with these fires, in any capacity, but especially as cause. A meaningful exposition on firefighting methods will not be amiss, nor one on how building codes are applied, nor one on how there is no civic policy against fuel close to buildings, or civic policy to facilitate emergency evacuation in rural areas, or how local fire departments are maintained. Any and all of these topics warrant professional analysis and public discussion, and are as such well within the scope of news reporting.
I find myself wishing for a more nuanced approach to "news." (10-20-2017)
Throughout this experience I was impressed, and comforted, by the professionalism of the Sonoma County Sheriff, Rob Giordano. The county is lucky to have him.
His office is publishing some amazing videos, aerial imagery (photos) of properties within some burn areas. These images were captured by authorized drones which received an emergency Certificate of Authorization (CoA) from the Federal Aviation Administration to be allowed to fly under a temporary flight restriction (TFR). The Sheriff's Office is currently combining overlapping photos to generate 2D and 3D data "products."
The county agencies were able to visualize maps for use by other agencies and for residents of neighborhoods. The team created maps of the Coffey Park neighborhood and Journey's End Mobilehome Park with street and address overlays for easier home location.
A full description of what was accomplished and how is at Sonoma County Sheriff's Office notification (10-19-2017)
I am beginning to imagine a drone control that firefighters and sheriffs can use to disable the drone, and remove it from the air space. What appears to be a toy for some actually endangers authorized airplanes.
The FAA has the authority to apply temporary flight restrictions to an area, and to fine a drone pilot who recklessly interferes with firefighting or other emergency response operations up to $20,000 per violation.
Please drone responsibly. (10-16-2017)
The San Francisco news has photos of a city draped in white smoke. People are cautioned about breathing the smoky air.
The wine country will likely be in shock for a long time. Luckily (?) most grapes had been picked, crushed, and settled in wooden barrels. But vineyards, wineries, and wine inventories were destroyed. Winemakers worry about newly barreled wine absorbing smoke odors. Prognosticators are speculating about inadequate grape and wine inventories for the next few years. No one is talking about the future jobs for replanting vineyards and rebuilding wineries.
And then there are the many families who lost their homes, cars, heirlooms, and other possessions. Not to overlook the ten people known to have died. More than 103,000 customers are without electric power due to to the fire. Hospitals and care "homes" were evacuated. My "neighborhood" is in a state of turmoil.
The governor declared a State of Emergency for three counties: Napa, Sonoma, and Yuba. Fire also burned in five other counties: Mendocino, Lake, Nevada, Calaveras, and Butte. The size of the fires is estimated at 73,000 acres.
I hope and pray that the president will spare us his goodwill visit where we will be treated to his self-congratulations. The airport is still closed. (10-9-2017)
A 8-16-2017 press release by the US Fish and Wildlife discussed recent sightings of California condors in their historical territory in the western Sierras. Fish and Wildlife were thrilled.
The condors have been on the verge of extinction for a long time, their population recovered somewhat only after all 27 remaining wild birds were taken into custody for protection in 1987. One "home" of the condors had been the mountains near Newhall Ranch (Los Padres National Forest); birds were released there after their population grew sufficiently. The Sespe Condor Sanctuary is 16 miles from Newhall Ranch.
Preserving the condors as a species and growing their population has not been inexpensive. The California condor conservation project may be one of the most expensive species conservation projects in United States history, costing over $35 million. Allowing development projects to endanger the condor population seems misguided, even cents-less.
In 2011 the US Fish and Wildlife allowed the owners of the Newhall Ranch to capture and relocate one condor in the next 25 years — in lieu of allowing the developer to kill the birds (which had previously been considered).
I am left in little doubt that the Newhall Ranch development will have a detrimental effect on the condors. But maybe that's just me being cynical. (9-30-2017)
A nationalized system is characterized by the reliance on public and/or private medical offices with patient bills paid for by federal funds. The choice of doctor is up to the patient. The choice of medical treatment is up to the doctor(s). The federal funds are provided by federal taxes.
This makes sense from an economic perspective. The current, private insurance-based system costs families more than a nationalized system will. Administrative costs will drop. The costs of applying for private insurance will disappear. The part of the current insurer income that is diverted to corporate profit will disappear. The need for public subsidies will disappear.
This makes sense from a national health perspective. Families will receive the medical care they need when they need it. Our general level of health will improve as will our economic productivity.
It should be no surprise that the insurance industry opposes this idea. Their business model will collapse overnight. Some of the medical industry (doctors and hospitals) can also be expected to oppose this idea — they have long been influenced by the insurance industry to adopt certain practices and reject others, and may not be initially willing to reconsider.
The outstanding problem is the word "nationalized." We have been told for so long that "socialized medicine" is wrong, but this is an artifact of the Cold War during which we were encouraged to hate the Communists and Socialists in order to better support Americans. That was then, and is still, a false dichotomy. Furthermore, a nationalized system is quite different from a "socialized" system.
The fight for privatized medicine based on subsidized private insurance, which describes our current system, is well established. It was certainly in effect when Truman was President. Be cautious about the use of labels to influence you. American politics is full of labels carefully crafted to influence voter behavior. Don't be fooled again. (9-28-2017)
Do young women still get heart flutters when their young man kneels in front of them while asking for their hand in marriage? Men who are knighted by their sovereign always kneel. From early times bending one knee to the ground, called genuflection, was a gesture of deep respect for a superior. It is still common in some Christian religious practices.
Why have we let a crazed politician make us forget this? (9-25-2017)
Schools MAY be able to fix big social problems, but only if they teach a well-rounded curriculum that includes classical history and the humanities. Job-specific training is completely different. What a joke to persuade public school districts to pick up the tab on job training. The existing social problems were not caused by a lack of programmers, and cannot be solved by Big Tech.
I agree with the author that computer programming skills are not that limited in availability. Big Tech solved the problem of the well-paid professional some years ago by letting them go, these were mostly workers in their 50s, and replacing them with H1-B visa-holders from India—who work for a fraction of their experienced American counterparts.
It is all about profits. Big Tech is no different than any other "industry."
There are good reasons to teach coding. Too many of today's computer users are amazingly unaware of the technology that allows them to send and receive emails, use their smart phones, and use websites. Few understand the basic issues involved in computer security, especially as it relates to their personal privacy. Hopefully some introductory computer classes could begin to remedy this, and the younger the students the better.
Security issues persist in tech. Clearly that is not a function of the size of the workforce. I propose that it is a function of poor management and design skills. These are not taught in any programming class I ever took. I learned these on the job and in an MBA program, and because I was determined.
Don't confuse basic workforce training with an effective application of tech to authentic needs.
How can the "disruption" so prized in today's Big Tech do anything but aggravate our social problems? Tech's disruption begins with a blatant ignorance of and disregard for causes, and believes to its bones that a high tech app will truly solve a problem it cannot even describe.
Kool Aid anyone? (9-21-2017)
The destructive impact of these hurricanes continues to illustrate how poorly prepared we are for hurricanes. The federal government knows what to do, but has steadfastly avoided doing it. Ditto the individual states. This pattern of willful ignorance predates the current belief that our changing climate has man-made causes.
People living in the path of hurricanes are at risk regardless if Trump continues to deny climate change. Claiming otherwise, as The Guardian recently did, is absurd. That's akin to blaming Trump for the existence of hurricanes. (9-10-2017)
We’ve looked at the state of Texas and seen a commitment to business people and an abandonment of a population,
and were horrified.
Californians, familiar with land use zoning ordinances, building and fire codes, workplace health and safety regulations, and significant business taxes look at Texas in amazement because Texas has none of these.
And yet, California’s economy is the sixth largest in the world. (9-3-2017)
Interestingly, America's recent most expensive disasters were water-based and property loss was mostly from flooding: Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.
NFIP is in the position of encouraging or discouraging development in flood-prone areas. Do they increase or decrease the areas for which they will issue flood insurance and undertake liability? Under what circumstances will they authorize rebuilding? The continued financial viability of NFIP, dependent as it is on federal funding, is up to Congress which is thus essentially tasked with deciding who gets to live on the country's most vulnerable coastlines.
The Intercept has an informative article by Kate Aronoff on the the issues of flood insurance, both federal and commercial. (9-1-2017)
Be thankful there is a national system of weather monitoring, and, in particular, hurricane monitoring. This system allowed us to know Harvey was coming, its size, and how much water it was capable of releasing. Residents of Texas' Gulf coast had warning. What they didn't have is a state government ready and willing to help them in advance by establishing storm mitigation projects. Really, who could be surprised by flooding in Houston given that it is barely above sea level, sits on a flood plain, and has no way for the water to drain? (9-1-2017)
Luck ran out August 19, 2017. Atlantic salmon raised in a farm off Washington state were accidentally released from their damaged net pen. Cooke Aquaculture, the fish farm owner, claimed the net had suffered a "structural failure" which may have been caused by the effects of the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 (blame the moon!) on the ocean.
Cooke Aquaculture was established in 1985 in New Brunswick, Canada. They subsequently acquired many seafood firms, including aquaculture firms (fish farms). They have fish farms in several locations in Puget Sound, Washington. Their website on August 24, 2017 claims that their Washington farmed salmon are not genetically modified.
The Guardian notes "Despite being listed in Washington State as an invasive species capable of preying on native populations of fish and spreading disease, Atlantic salmon are a major aquaculture species in Washington state as well as in British Columbia."
The impacts of such a release on wild salmon are unknown.
On November 19, 2015 the FDA announced they had determined that the AquAdvantage Salmon is as safe to eat as non-GE salmon. This is the first genetically modified/engineered fish to be so-approved, but many more are in the pipeline. In early August 2017 AquaBounty Technologies (of Maynard, Massachusetts), producer of AquAdvantage Salmon, claimed they had sold 4.5 tons of their salmon to Canadian customers; those salmon were raised in tanks in Panama. The company plans to expand production with facilities on Prince Edward Island and Albany, Indiana. The AquAdvantage Salmon sold in Canada was likely not labeled as GMO, and there was no public announcement of plans to sell it. AquaBounty Technologies is, as of 2012, a majority owned subsidiary of Intrexon Corporation, founded in 1998 and headquartered in Germantown, Maryland. Intrexon's business is "synthetic biology." (8-24-2017)
I cannot see that the First Amendment had/has anything to do with the violence. I write this because some of the perpetrators used the First Amendment as justification. Let me say that the way these guys justified their behavior was revolting, the antithesis of civilization. Their universe is peopled with threats, and by God, they are going to kill them all. They must be inhaling a lot of poison, might this be from the so-called alt-right websites? Once they drink the Kool-Aid, can it be reversed? Certainly not when the President encourages it. (8-16-2017)
The flaw exists on chips used by some smart phones. It allows "an attacker to write programs directly on to the chip, seizing control of it." Whether this is an unintentional "flaw" or an intentional "bug" remains to be seen. I am giving it the benefit of the doubt. The flaw is particularly special, interesting and powerful. The victim "doesn’t have to do anything to be infected, the attacker doesn’t need to know anything about the device they’re targeting, and the system being targeted can be taken over without crashing." In other words, you get no advance notice. (7-27-2017)
Excuse me, but the Pacific coast of North America has been in real and constant danger since 2011 when Japan's nuclear power plant at Fukushima had an accident that spewed, and continues to spew, radioactive material into the ocean. What to do? Well, apparently nothing. The military cannot see a way to benefit and the government has no commitment to the actual American people.
How do you like your toast? (7-4-2017)
Why do we fall for these scams? Perhaps it is too easy to accept the claims that experts have supported the scheme. Perhaps we think racketeering only happens in organized crime. Perhaps we think that our government is free of organized crime. Perhaps we are weary of the continual promotion of these claims. Perhaps it is just too demanding to consider at all.
But guess what. Just because when you stand on a train track looking west does not mean a train will not approach you from the east, and run over you. Closing your eyes does not prevent others from seeing you. It just makes it easy for others to victimize you. (5-19-2017)
I hope some are reconsidering the notion that computer security can be adequately implemented on each computer's OS with perhaps the addition of one or move malware protection programs. This aproach just is not working. It's not enough for users to apply OS security patches as soon as they are available, the reliance on the OS is not enough — there is always another security risk (aka vulnerability) that can be exploited by crooks.
I think we need to reconsider the architecture of individual computers and networks. At this moment all networked computers are at risk. Plan B is to limit network connections, to isolate important business databases and personal software, to maintain a history of local network messages so they can be monitored, analyzed, and protections put in service. Yes, some computer processes will take longer while safe connections can be made, but that may be a fair tradeoff.
Protecting a population from contagious disease involves quarantine. Perhaps this should also be a feature of a new model of networking and security. (5-17-2017)
Oh yeah, another blame the victim.
And the other sad aspect to this is the age of the people making these declarations. They are older than 55. There is no way a government employee who has to do a lot of traveling and keep irregular hours is going to be completely healthy at age 55. Hence we have hypocrisy in living color. Clearly these speakers have no intention of being held personally to such a policy. They cling determinedly to their own health insurance package.
We can widen our analysis here. Politicans, especially Republicans, have nothing in common with their constituents. Which is fine by them. (5-4-2017)
Americans withdrew from the Korean War in 1953 (they ran for their lives), after which an armistice between the two Koreas was ratified. No peace treaty was ever signed. But North Korea claimed, in 2013, that they had invalidated that armistice and had entered a state of war with South Korea. They also pursued a nuclear weapons program.
It was through the UN that America entered the fray between the two Koreas. Actually, that Korea had been subdivided into north and south in 1948 was a result of the cold war we had with the USSR.
America must bear some of the blame for the current state of Korea. We allowed our horror of communism to force our intervention into what was primarily a private squabble. Millions of Koreans died in that squabble and our intervention. How can we say that their deaths were warranted? That Korea benefitted?
The man who would be president bragged about his negotiation skills. Where are they now? We need cool heads with sound negotiating skills to calm the waters. We DO NOT NEED braggadocio and threats.
Please stop the madness. (4-18-2017)
Such a violation of international law gives Syria the right to react in self-defense or a legal justification for the use of force. It also gives any other UN Member State the right to act in collective self-defense and to support Syrian action against the US.
And yet the American Congress has not risen up and condemned the strike. All too many seem to have approved of it, if only privately. What were Trump's advisors thinking? Do they know nothing of international law? Or were they just going along? If the answer to either of these questions is "yes," then these people lack critical qualifications for their jobs. Ditto for Congress.
This illegal act has endangered the people of the US.
"America First" is a shifty slogan, but must never be interpreted as denying allegiance to international law.
So, just for you, I wrote an article about what computer privacy and security are and how to protect yourself. It is written for the home computer user and, in particular, for the non-technical user Computer Privacy and Security.
A video was taken of the passenger being dragged, screaming, from the plane; it went "viral" and UAL has received much public condemnation. The CEO offered a weak apology.
Why did this happen?
About 30 years ago the notion that an effective manager could manage any group in any business emerged, probably from business schools and consultants. Over the years many managers have felt this applied to them. I have personally worked for too many such "managers" and found they made a lot of mistakes because they did not understand the unique requirements of their business; and what annoyed me the most is that they leaned on their staff to save their butts, and then never issued a thank you.
Today senior and executive managers, whose previous employers enjoyed big success, think they can manage anything. And boards of directors hire them, regardless of their knowledge of the particular business.
It is my theory that the UAL's CEO is one such man. He was seen as successful in prior positions, was hired at UAL with no airline experience, and then proceeded to hire more managers like him, and now no senior UAL manager knows anything about the airline business.
The CEO of UAL is Oscar Munoz. He has been the CEO and President since September 2015, when the previous CEO quit, effectively immediately. His alma maters are University of Southern California (B.S., 1982) and Pepperdine University (M.B.A., 1986). [I earned a MBA from Pepperdine University in 1979.] From 2010 to 2015 he had been a member of the Board of Directors of parent company United Continental Holdings; that parent company was founded in 2010 in the United-Continental merger. From 2004, Munoz had been a member of the Continental Board of Directors. Munoz previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer of CSX Corporation, a company he joined in 2003 and left for UAL; CSX is an international and intermodal transportation company. From 2001 to 2003, Munoz served as the Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Consumer Services at AT&T. Munoz had also worked for Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc.
So, was Munoz qualified to run UAL? His only airline experience was as a board member. I doubt that gave him a sufficient operational understanding of airlines. Let's say his understanding of the public perception of air travel is insufficient. As is his direction of the operational staff to handle passenger conflicts.
Ironically, Munoz claimed in a September 2015 interview that he planned to focus on innovation, earnings growth, and most important an improved customer experience; he cited his consumer-based background as helpful for those changes.
At 3pm on April 10th, Munoz issued a much better apology.
And then a second occurrence of abuse to a paying passenger, on April 11 in Kauai. In that case, a paying passenger seated in first class was
told to leave the plane because the seat was needed for someone else with more importance. He was threatened with handcuffs if he refused.
Again, UAL refused to apologize or refund the price of the ticket.
These men have likely reached the pinnacle of their younger self's dreams, and find themselves in need of a new dream. But, instead of turning to a completely different practice, they seek to continue as they have. They see no value in the possibilities and gifts of middle age and older, to explore different dimensions and develop different skills. Instead, they are afraid. And cling to what they know.
In their devotion to electronics, they have failed to develop substantial appreciation for completely different, non-technological, ideas. At the least, they could enroll in a liberal arts program focused on the Great Books at St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or a program studying esoteric subjects. (4-10-2017)
Oh, the real explanation is the shift in consumer habits. There is some discussion in The Guardian article about how Brantano fits, or tried to fit, into "shopping habits." The Guardian goes on to say:
"All retailers are under pressure from rising costs because of increases in business rates, the introduction of a minimum wage for over-25s and the fall in the value of the pound against the dollar, the currency in which many products are bought on the wholesale market. Hinton said it was harder for footwear specialists to cut employee costs because floor staff were required to fetch stock and explain shoe sizes to customers."
BS. That is blaming everyone except the executives who are supposed to be steering the ship.
The reality is that their business model and the quality of their product failed, and the willingness of consumers to buy it — changed.
And so we see the power of consumer actions: quit buying a brand of shoe, and down they go. (3-22-2017)
She loved to travel. She told me about trips to Egypt and India, where she returned several times. She studied spirituality. She helped the needy; I'm reminded of a crippled man (whom I never met) who lived in Mill Valley, she used to bring him groceries, prepare meals for him, and massage him with essential oils. She liked to dance, and took dance lessons with much younger people who were amazed at her energy and determination.
I last saw Lynda on Friday, November 4th of last year. She visited me, we went out to dinner, and had a nice catch-up chat. She was ill then.
According to her obituary, she died in Idaho on February 9, just a few days ago. She had been ill. I am sad to lose her. (2-16-2017)