Without Blogger I know I never would have started this site. Still, it is time to move up and out. The good folks at Blogmosis have built us a pretty new site with Moveable Type and we are ready to go!

Weekend Pundit can now be found at http://weekendpundit.blogmosis.com. Adjust your links and bookmarks accordingly (all 13 of you:)).

And, irony of ironies, I couldn't post the farewell message because the template server is hosed! It's almost too funny!

Churchill's Wisdom

I am unashamed to say I took this almost verbatim from Mike over at Cold Fury.


How often to do we forget that great men have faced great evils in the past, and that these great men have passed on to us their wisdom in the hope that we won't have to make the hard decisions they did. Perhaps if some of those so stridently anti-war took the time to read the words of Winston Churchill, they would come to understand that we all stand at a crossroads, one that will decide for us whether we will survive as a great nation or as a toothless tiger.

They should pay heed.


Some of the Great man's quotes in today's context:

On Mr Bush and his logic: If you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

On the Franco-German leadership: Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened.

On things not changing: I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

A fact: Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.

On Mr Schroeder: No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism.

On Mr Powell: True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous and conflicting information.

On Mr Rumsfeld: Danger - if you meet it promptly and without flinching - you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!

A fact: The Americans will always do the right thing... after they've exhausted all the alternatives.

On US Policy: You ask, what is our policy? I will say; It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer with one word: Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.


The Burden Of Proof

Michele at A Small Victory has the right of it when it comes to Iraq, the UN weapons inspectors, the numerous UNSC resolutions, and the US:

When it comes to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the burden of proof is on Iraq, not the UN or the US. It isn't a question of were there ever any chemical or biological weapons. We know there were. UNSCOM counted them. They existed. But today they are nowhere to be found. If Iraq destroyed them then it's up to them to prove it, not UNMOVIC. It's not up to the inspectors to participate in a scavenger hunt, but rather for Iraq to provide the documentation of their destruction or the weapons themselves. All one needs to do is to read UNSCR 687 and 1441 to see that. The requirement isn't hidden or couched in diplo-speak.

Resolution 687 was a cease-fire agreement. As long as Iraq met its obligations as defined in 687 and as agreed to by Iraq, the US and the Coalition forces would cease hostilities. Except for some initial shows of cooperation, Iraq has violated almost every provision of Resolution 687 in regards to its arsenal and every resolution relating to Iraq, up to and including Resolution 1441.

It appears that some of the members of the UN Security Council, particularly France and Germany, have forgotten that. Or if they haven't and are purposely choosing to ignore the numerous breaches by Iraq, then all they are proving is that the UN has become obsolete because they don't abide by or believe in their own resolutions. The resolutions aren't worth the paper they're printed on, much like the agreement between Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain prior to World War II.

Still, many in the Security Council and their governments keep pressing for more time for the inspectors to do their job. I'm sorry, but more time won't help the inspectors because there is very little for them to inspect except empty buildings and bunkers. The very materials they're looking for have been hidden away in places the inspectors will never know to look. Iraq had almost four years to move and conceal their known chemical and biological weapons. Iraq has had more than enough opportunities to come clean but have delayed the process with false shows of cooperation. It's all very much an Iraqi version of a Potemkin Village- it shows nothing in an effort to hide what's really there. The problem is they've done their job too well.

There's no longer physical evidence that the weapons ever existed even though it has been established from earlier inspections that they do. What's happened to them? If they were destroyed, where are the records of their destruction?

It's all a shell game and the US and its allies are getting tired of the orchestrated dog-and-pony show. If Iraq can't produce the weapons or the records showing the disposition of them, then they must be sought out by force as decreed in various resolutions passed by the Security Council.

Go Read This

I know, I KNOW!. Telling people to go read Lileks today is a redundant and absolutely silly thing to do. Having acknowledged that fact, well, go read Lileks today. Excerpts:

Then Donald returns - he’s wearing a fat suit and carrying a violin case. He sheds the suit, opens the case, pulls out a machine gun and fires off a hundred rounds at the audience.

Disney, old school.


Worst comes to worst, he can stuff wet towels against the window. Turns out that training as a dorm-room reefer fiend had some practical application after all.

And he was just getting warmed up. Go see.


It's Fargin' War!

Maybe I'm jumping the gun here, but I am convinced that operations against Iraq will commence very soon despite a lawsuit filed to prevent President Bush from launching a war against Iraq without Congressional approval.

The suit was filed by six members of the U.S House of Representatives, some members of the armed forces, and families of servicemen and women. The Congressional resolution passed in October of last year states: "This joint resolution may be cited as the `Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq'." Do we need a formal declaration of war to proceed against Iraq in light of this? A federal judge said “No” back in 1990 when a similar lawsuit was filed against President George H.W. Bush by 54 members of Congress before the Persian Gulf War. A formal declaration of war hasn't been passed in Congress since 1941.

Though the suit will be heard by a U.S. District judge on February 20th, I doubt that it will succeed.

This will open the way for operations to begin with no further hindrance.

I'll admit that my thoughts and feelings about the impending war have changed now and then as I've read and listened to and talked with many people on the subject. There have been times when I thought war with Iraq would be a bad idea. There have also been times when I've wondered why the hell we weren't already digging Saddam Hussein out of his bunker. I've felt anxious about the response from Al Qaida once hostilities begin, but put them aside because there were bigger issues to deal with. How could we let them dissuade us from removing an evil before it grew too big to deal with on any level except all out war, including the use of nuclear warheads?

Will Al Qaida be as much of a threat after other nations that might harbor them see what we did to the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Ba'ath in Iraq for hosting them or providing support to them? Probably not. No one else will want to be on the receiving end of Uncle Sam's 'Big StickTM' for giving aid and comfort to Al Qaida. Not that Al Qaida will just go away, but they will be weakened further as their places of refuge become fewer and farther between. Their Jihad, their Holy War, has been turned into a Fargin' War, the kind that we are very very good at fighting.

All of this brings to mind a political cartoon I saw shortly after Desert Storm began. It so aptly sums up what the Iraqis experienced in 1991, what the Taliban and Al Qaida experienced in 2002, and what the Iraqi leadership will experience again in 2003.


“Courage is the compliment of fear. A man who is fearless cannot be courageous. (He is also a fool.) - Lazarus Long

Baby Its COLD Outside! Part II

As cold as it has been around here earlier this winter, it's going to be dangerously cold around northern New England tonight. The warmest temps in New Hampshire tonight will be -10ºF and the coldest -30ºF. And that's before figuring in the wind chill.

It's a damn good thing I had the heating oil topped off earlier today.

It's also a Bad ThingTM:

I just spent $1.75/gallon for No. 2 heating oil, all 197 gallons of it. I can hear my wallet screaming even now.


A Late Night

Normally, I'll start thinking about a topic for a post shortly before I leave the lab. I did that today, too. However, I didn't get back from the lab until late, leaving me a bit out of sorts. The things I'd really like to comment upon are numerous and would all be rather lengthy and with my late arrival home, I don't have enough time to write something pithy or funny or stupid.

I will do these two things however.

First, I'm going to point you you to this by Methuselah's Daughter. She has an interesting analysis of what's going on with the French and Germans.

Second, I'm going to fall back on the crutch of using my favorite philosopher to provide something profound for all 10 or 20 of our loyal readers out there in the blogosphere:

“Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate – and quickly.”
- Lazarus Long


War Drums

How many times have we watched some of the old movies, be they westerns or stories out of Africa, where the war drums start to sound. The can be heard a long way off, gaining in number and in volume as time goes by.

At some point a minor character says something like, “I wish they'd stop beatin' those damn drums. They're makin' me nervous.”

It's then that one of the other characters, usually an older and wiser man says, “Son, as long as they're beatin', we got nuttin' to worry about. It's when they stop beatin' 'em that we're in trouble.”

And so it is with Iraq. In the blogosphere, the media, governments, and amongst just plain folks, the drums of war are beating.

Within the media, some of those who opposed war in the past have changed their minds. Even within the European media, there are some that say that war is the right thing to do. One of those is William Shawcross. Though not one to be fond of war, he makes his case for supporting disarming Iraq, even if it means war. He also knows that time is not on our side and that something must be done soon. He has added his beat to the drums of war.

Another within the media that makes a case for war is Peggy Noonan, and she does a pretty good job telling us how she was convinced that the case for war has been made.

If nothing else, Osama bin Shithead has helped make the case for war against Iraq. His latest 16 minute diatribe certainly implies a tie between Al Qaida and Iraq. Despite his exhortations for Iraqis to commit suicide attacks against Americans, Israelis, and other Muslims that he considers infidels, I doubt very much that many will heed his call. Most Iraqis just want to be left alone to live out their lives without the fear of the knock on the door in the middle of the night. The last thing they need or want is yet another fanatic, bloodthirsty tyrant telling them what they should do and that they should be happy to die for the greater glory of God, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

Of course, you won't find Osama on the front lines in Iraq putting his life on the line. That's for others to do. After all, he has a jihad to run. But he has managed to put yet another nail into the coffin for Saddam Hussein's regime.

Yet another drummer adds their beat to the war drums. And the drums get louder.

Until they stop....

...and the war begins.


Deadly Mount Washington Revisited

When I wrote this, little did I realize that Mount Washington would endanger its human inhabitants so soon and in this way:


Sometime yesterday afternoon the building housing the generators that provide the electricity for the summit caught fire. The generators supplied the Mount Washington Observatory, two commercial radio stations, and a number of state and federal public safety organizations such as the New Hampshire State Police. Both generators housed in the building were destroyed, leaving the summit without power.

This left the four occupants of the Observatory in peril, though not directly from the fire, but rather from the weather. The decision was made to evacuate the summit crew. Ken Rancourt, Director of Research at the Observatory, traveled to the summit in a snowcat last night to retrieve the four Observatory staffers and the only permanent observatory resident, Nin the cat. Though the crew could have survived for a time without power, impending poor weather could have stranded the staffers at the Observatory with no heat or power for days. Frigid temperatures and winds in excess of 100 mph had been forecast for the near future and the observers' safety was the primary concern. It was the first time the Observatory had been evacuated since it opened in 1932 and the first time in 70 years there have been no human inhabitants at the summit.

Because of the severe weather conditions and the lack of accessibility, it was not possible for fire crews to attempt to reach the summit to fight the fire. It is these same extreme conditions that make use of commercially supplied power at the summit impossible, requiring the use of on-site generation to meet the power needs there.

Ironically, the only system still known to be in operation at the summit is an amateur radio repeater located at the Observatory (146.655 MHz, W1NH/R) running on battery backup power. It is unknown how long the battery will power the system before shutting down.


Thoughts On A Sunday Afternoon

What the hell are France and Germany thinking? I keep asking myself that question and all I can come up with is that the leadership in both countries are in denial. They hope that if they can delay the US, the UK, Australia and others from acting against Iraq that the whole problem will go away all by itself. To them, the words 'Last Chance' have no true meaning, particularly when it comes to Iraq.

Of course, if Iraq does something rash like lob Scuds carrying something other than conventional warheads into Israel and Tel Aviv disappears in a ball of nuclear fire, they'll still try to find some way to give Iraq yet another 'last chance' to disarm.

Not a comforting thought, is it?


There was an ad in one of the Sunday papers urging a removal of UN sanctions on Iraq. It stated that 500,000 children have died in Iraq because of those sanctions. Not surprising, the people behind the ad assume that we are responsible for the deaths of those children. Rather, it is Saddam Hussein who is the responsible party. Food, medicines, and other aid that should have gone to them were diverted and sold in order to raise money to re-arm Iraq and fund weapons research.

In areas not under Iraqi control, like northern Iraq, the people live far better than in the rest of the country. Why? Because Saddam has no control over the aid reaching them, has no control over the politics or economy of the area, has no control of the people. They flourish while the rest of Iraq (with the exception of Tikrit, Saddam's home province) suffers. They suffer because that's the way Saddam wants it. It gives the useful idiots in Europe and the US a cause to support, even if it's the wrong one.


It's things like this that make me wonder what the hell Ted Kennedy thinks he's doing. Has the man lost his mind? Does he really think that what he proposes is going to do anything but make it easier for our enemies to enter the US, allowing them to commit, beget, or aid others to perform acts of terror?


Once again I had to head in to the lab today to plot data and change test setups. One of the problems with 12 hour tests is that they take 12 hours. With all of the other tests going on during the workweek, long tests have to wait until evenings or weekends. The problem with limited test equipment and environmental chamber availability is that all of the necessary tests can't be performed during the day. So it's inevitable that such conditions will require weekend and overnight testing. One of the downsides is that some poor shmoe has to go into the lab to actually setup and run the required tests. This weekend it was me. Next weekend it will be me, too. It is but one price that we must pay to excel in business. sigh


Snowmobiles were quite in evidence today, more so than any time I've seen so far this winter. The weather has been perfect for riding sleds – sunny, temps in the 20's, groomed trails, solid ice on the lakes, and almost 3 feet of snow cover with more on the way for Monday. This has probably been one of the better winters for riding in 5 years.


One big negative aspect to the extremely cold weather has been the increased consumption of heating oil here at The House. At worst I've gotten about 2 months between fill ups during the winter. I checked the oil level in the tank yesterday and it looks like I'll have to call for another delivery by the end of next week, meaning that I only got 6 weeks out of a full tank rather than the usual 8 or 9.

I'm not looking forward to seeing how much I'm going to pay for 200+ gallons of No. 2 heating oil. The last time I filled up oil was running about $1.19/gallon. Gasoline was about $1.38 at that time. Now gasoline is about $1.62 and I'm guessing that heating oil will be closer to $1.50 this time round. That's going to put one hell of a crimp into the household budget.


“Small change can often be found under seat cushions.” - Lazarus Long


A Little Side Trip

I’ve been a bit of a lazy bum today. There are lots of things I could have been doing today, like chopping back the huge snow pile at one end of The House to make room for more snow when the inevitable happens and we get another snowstorm. I could have finished repacking some of my possessions and stored them in the basement in anticipation of a move away from The House. (Not that I’ve found a new place yet, but I’m looking.) I could have continued work on novel Number Three. I could have even wasted time in front of the One Eyed Monster, watching inane shows and slowly turning my brains to mush. But I did none of these things.

Instead, I took a little trip in the trusty, though salt covered, Neon.

First stop, the lab.

That’s right, I stopped by work for a moment, just long enough to change around some lasers I’m testing and restarting the tests. I’ll be going back again sometime tonight to do the same thing. (I am so pathetic.)

Second stop, my land near Newfound Lake.

My original intention had been to take a quick walk around the property. All I was going to do was put on my snowshoes and walk the perimeter and maybe up along the ledge that has a rather nice view of the mountains. It should have taken all of half an hour.

But while I was working my way through the snow I became aware of how quiet it was. Not that I haven’t noticed it before, after all the quiet is one of the reasons I bought the land in the first place. It wasn’t that it was quiet in a different way than any other time I’ve been up there. It was just that it was quiet.

All I could hear was my breathing, the wind as it rattled some of the bare branches about me, and the rustling of some brown dried out oak leaves stubbornly clinging to their trees.

After walking the land I returned to the trusty Neon to retrieve a blanket out of the trunk and made my way back to the rock ledge. I placed the blanket on the rock and sat upon it. And then all I did was sit there and wait.

The quiet was still there. The wind occasionally gave a voice to the winter. I could hear it coming a long way off. It would finally reach me on the ledge, blowing small crystals of snow along the ground, causing them to flash in the sunlight like miniature stars. The wind would also swirl around me, blowing this way and that, feeling almost like a warm caress. And then it would move away as quickly as it had arrived, allowing the quiet to return.

I’m not sure how long I sat there. All I know is that the sun was just above the western horizon when I finally stood, picked up the blanket, and returned to the trusty Neon.

And for the first time in a very long time I felt rested and at peace.

How I have missed that.


Mount Washington

Or How I Managed To Survive The World’s Worst WeatherTM

For those of you not familiar with Mount Washington here in New Hampshire, it is a mountain worthy of legend. It’s not very high as mountains go, only 6288 feet at the summit. It’s not all that difficult to reach the summit – you have the choice of hiking, driving, taking an Auto Road Stage van, or riding the Cog Railway.

Lots of people make the trip to the summit every year, primarily during the summer months. Trips to the summit are difficult, if not impossible, from mid-fall to mid-spring. The Auto Road is closed. The Cog isn’t running. Many of the trails are treacherous.

And then, there’s the weather.

Even in the summer, weather above the tree line can be severe. More people are hauled off the mountain for hypothermia during the summer than any other time. While it can be 80, 85, or 90 degrees at the base of the mountain, it might only be 40 degrees at summit with a 20 or 30 mph wind. It doesn’t take long for hypothermia to set in if someone isn’t properly dressed for the summit conditions. Of course, the argument could be made that the reason more people suffer from hypothermia during the summer months is because there are simply more people on the mountain then.

But think about it.


In the summer.

Mount Washington has its own unique climate. In fact, it is known to have the world’s worst weather. Other places may be colder, or windier, or wetter, or snowier. But no other place combines all of these conditions in a single location. The highest wind speed was recorded at the Mount Washington Observatory back in April of 1934 – 231 miles per hour.

That’s no typo. Over 200 mph. As we say around here, “That’s a might breezy.”

I’ve had the good fortune to spend time at the Mount Washington Observatory during each season of the year, including a week during one winter or another as a volunteer. To say the experience was otherworldly would be an understatement.

Though the daytime conditions during the winter can run from clear and windy to fog with rime ice, or snow so heavy that white out conditions exist where you can’t see your hand held a foot in front of your face, at night it’s downright eerie.

Think of the night scenes at the end of The Shining. Only a few lonely lights here and there, glowing dimly during a windy, snowy evening. The only other people here are the few in the Observatory. The next closest human being is over eight miles away. You almost expect a crazed Jack Nicholson to come limping out of the snowy dark carrying an axe.


There are two particular weather related experiences I’ve had at the summit of Mount Washington that will probably be with me until the day I leave this vale of tears.

The first occurred when a fellow amateur radio operator and I were repairing an antenna mounted on the turret of the Observatory. We paused after finishing a difficult repair to mounting bracket and we both happened to look to the western horizon. As we watched, the cloud cover that had hidden the sun all day broke. Just above the horizon was the setting sun, framed above and below by clouds. It was breathtaking. Though lasting for only a few moments, all I need to do is close my eyes and I can see it as I saw it then.

The second happened one summer when I was at the Observatory servicing some of the amateur radio gear located in one of the equipment rooms. I’d gone up into the turret to check the coaxial cable running between the radio gear and the antenna mounted outside the turret. As I finished checking the cable a thunderstorm rolled over the summit, bringing very high winds, heavy rain, and lots of lightning and thunder. Every time lightning struck the summit, St. Elmo’s Fire would run along all of the metal fittings, ladders, and racks inside the turret where I’d taken refuge. It was the most exhilarating and frightening weather experience I’d ever had.


One of the greatest adventures on Mount Washington can be the trip up to or down from the summit on the Auto Road.

In relating the story of his travels to and from school, Fred at Fragments From Floyd tells of traversing Don’t Look Down Road in an effort to get there on time. The Mount Washington Auto Road has its own version of Don’t Look Down Road as well as Oh…My…GOD! Corner.

Don’t Look Down Road, Mount Washington version, is tucked along the side of one of the steeper ascents on the eastern slope. Should someone have the misfortune of going off the road along that stretch, they would have about 2700 feet to say their prayers and watch their life flash before their eyes before coming to a sudden stop at the bottom of the cliff. There is no guardrail, nor will there ever be one because there isn’t any room for one. The road is just wide enough for two midsize cars to pass each other. A guardrail would reduce the road to a single lane and that just isn’t practical along that stretch.

One of the more common aromas one will come across during the trek along the Auto Road is the smell of overheated brakes. Anyone familiar with auto racing will also be familiar with that smell. Folks ride their brakes on the way down the road often find that they become less effective the farther down the mountain they go. On more than one occasion a tourist has found that their brake pedal has become nothing more than a decorative item instead of a functioning safety system. For the most part it means they become quite familiar with the flora once the brakes surrender. Fortunately most brake failures occur well below the tree line and away from the precipitous drops higher up the mountain.

As fast as someone might travel down the road, there are actually a bunch of auto enthusiasts that try to travel quickly up the road. The Climb To The Clouds is a timed auto race, or time trial, pitting man and machine against the mountain road. From start to finish the course runs 8 miles and climbs over 4000 feet. Racers drive everything from vintage sports cars to street stock sports cars to highly modified high performance cars. If I recall correctly, the record for a bottom to top run is a fast 6 minutes 41.99 seconds. That’s an average speed of 71 miles per hour. The fastest speed ever recorded on the road was 113 mph. Uphill.


Despite the charm, beauty, and challenge of Mount Washington, one must also remember that the mountain is a killer. Over 120 people have died on the mountain over the years, either through bad luck, bad planning or just plain stupidity. One of those to fall victim to the mountain was a good friend from work, Don Cote.

The causes of death are many: hypothermia, falling ice, falling rocks, falls, skiing or sledding accidents, avalanches, train accidents (Cog Railway), climbing accidents, murder, plane crashes, drowning, car crashes (Auto Road), heart attacks, and strokes.

But that doesn’t stop those of us fascinated by Mount Washington. Nor should it stop any of the dozen or so regular readers if any of you are ever up in this neck of the woods. Just remember to dress appropriately, and don’t look down!


Flatlander News

It’s Thursday, and that means it’s time to hear from guest blogger Brendan Smith. I can say that I definitely have sympathy for his plight, having had to deal with a similar affliction now and again. But I have faith that he will muddle through the dry spell and grace the blogosphere with his hard-earned wisdom and techniques for flatlander survival here in New Hampshire.


Writer’s Block
By Brendan Smith
Weirs Times

I hate to admit it, but I'm at a loss about what to write for this week’s column.

I'm sitting here at a local sandwich shop eating a turkey sub/hoagie/grinder/hero, pad of yellow paper at the ready, just waiting for that flood of inspiration to come erupting from my brain like Mt. St. Helens, but nothing much is happening, unless you count mayonnaise dripping off my chin as something.

I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it’s the long stretch of arctic weather we’ve been through. I haven't been out much so there hasn’t been anything happening. Not even the sub-zero temperatures have played nasty tricks on this Flatlander. My car has started every morning, so far, nothing’s frozen (or froze as the natives tend to say) and there hasn‘t been any home projects for me to mess up in awhile. It’s been pretty quiet.

Even though the temperatures have been sub-zero record breakers I couldn’t even generate any interest in FATSO (Flatlanders Adjusting To Solitary Oblivion) meetings this past month. None of the newly transplanted wanted to take any chance by coming out and maybe getting stuck somewhere. Unfortunately the topic of our next meeting was to be about survival tips if just such a thing were to happen. But I guess that will just have till next time. I've even pondered the thought of traveling the back roads and by-ways as Flatman in hopes of finding a poor, transplanted soul to help, but that costume really doesn't have the same affect with a giant winter coat over it. So I won’t be writing about any of that this week.

Talking to friends and family in the New York City area has taken up some of my time. I get a laugh as they tell me how cold it is there. “With the wind chill it’s about 15 (above).” A silence on the other end as they expect an outpouring of sympathy. I wait and then tell them the same thing about up here. Of course I change the above zero to below and then throw in some comment like: “Okay, gotta go now, need to get back outside and do some work on the foundation of the house,” trying to make it sound like I’ve become a hardened New Hampshirite. I usually end up on the living room couch, blanket wrapped around my feet, cup of hot chocolate in the other, watching reruns of “Miami Vice.”

The people behind me here at the sandwich shop caught my ear a few minutes ago as they were discussing some of the differences between New York and New Hampshire when it comes to temperature. “At 60 degrees in New York people turn on the heat, in New Hampshire they plant gardens. At twenty degrees New York City water freezes, in New Hampshire people have their last cook-out before it gets too cold. At 10 below most everyone in New York has made their way to Florida, in New Hampshire it’s time to put away the windbreakers and get out the winter coats.” Pretty funny stuff, but they didn't give me enough material for a full article.

Their discussion reminded me of one of David Letterman’s Top ten lists “You Know It’s Winter In New York City When...” some of which were: “Mob corpses seen skidding across the East River.” “Vendors selling down-filled hot dogs,” and “Cabbies wearing flannel turbans” just to name a few. It made me think of creating a top ten list about the same thing here. I did come up with a few like: “You know it’s Winter in New Hampshire” when...”A native replaces his early morning greeting from ‘Hot enough for ya?’ to ‘Cold enough for ya?’”People begin to shiver uncontrollably because the NH House and Senate are back in session,” and “The most watched reality show is the Weather Channel.” I'm sure if I could get the old brain working I could come up with a few more, but not enough yet for a column so it'll have too wait another day. Maybe some of you have some ideas.

It’s interesting to see, watching the line of people queued up for sandwiches, the difference in the clientele most anywhere you go in the winter opposed to the summer, especially here in the Lakes Region. I know I'm a flatlander myself but I can't help but comment on how the steady summer look of designer clothes and not-so-comfortable, but fashionable shoes, has been replaced by the working clothes look of jeans, heavy shirts and work boots or sneakers, myself included. A bit more down to earth and practical. Maybe I could think of something funny to say about all of that someday. But not today, I'm afraid.

I started thinking that maybe I could come up with a few good jokes about Flatlanders and this season. Something like: “How many lakefront-owning flatlanders does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Answer: “Doesn't matter right now, you won’t see any of them back here before May 1st anyway.” But that's only one joke and I'd need a few more to make a good article. So not this week.

Well, my turkey sub/hoagie/grinder/hero is just about done and my yellow notepad is still empty (if you don't count the soda spills) and my deadline for this week’s issue is just about here. I'm sorry to disappoint those of you who were looking forward to one of my columns this week. I apologize for not having anything to write about. I'm sure that now that the cold spell has broken and things are moving again around here that there’ll be plenty to write about soon.

Thanks for understanding, I promise to do better next time.


Brendan Smith can be reached by email at brensmith@metrocast.net


A Poignant View Of The Iraq Question

While checking out some of the more interesting blogs for comments about Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council, I came across this at Methuselah’s Daughter.

MD writes:

“What the world faces today is not a war of American Imperialism. Rather it is a battle between the forces of reactionary fanaticism and western liberalism. The world is divided in to two essential spheres (three, if one is fond of splitting hairs): the modern, liberal sphere; and the primitive sphere mired in strongman leadership and internecine struggle. Portions of the primitive sphere struggle to join the modern, other portions struggle to destroy the modern. The second camp is not one that can be ignored, or held at arm’s length, nor can it be negotiated with. The basic assumptions of both sides between the modern and the reactionary primitive are too divergent for there to be a common interest around which to build a framework for discussion.”

I believe she’s caught the essential reasons for the conflict that has brought us September 11th, the battles with the Taliban and Al Qaida in Afghanistan, and the more than probable hostilities with Iraq.

None So Blind

Like many, I listened to Secretary of State Colin Powell as he laid out the evidence of Iraq's duplicity before the UN Security Council. I listened as members of the Security Council also addressed the assembled diplomats. Little was said by Powell or the others that took me by surprise.

I’ve also listened to the reactions of the media and some ‘man on the street’ type of interviews (most of them on college campuses). There was nothing there that was surprising either. Some of the more lengthy reactions slamming Powell and the evidence presented to the UNSC tended to focus on one or two pieces, denigrating its validity. If someone was looking for a smoking gun among the evidence, then they were looking for the wrong thing.

What Powell did was to present the UNSC with a preponderance of evidence against Iraq. There was no one thing that stood out proclaiming Iraq’s guilt. It was the sum of all those things that showed Iraq had no intention of being forthright and open, choosing instead to delay, hide, obfuscate, obstruct, and outright lie about its activities to produce weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq’s representative to the UN baldly lied when he stated that Iraq had never used chemical or biological weapons against anybody, despite overwhelming proof from the Iran/Iraq War and Saddam’s own war against Iraqi Kurds and Shi’a that they did indeed use chemical weapons.

Jack Straw, British Foreign Minister, backed Powell’s assertions that Iraq is violating UNSCR 1441.

"In respect to Iraq, Saddam is defying every one of us. He questions our resolve and is gambling we will lose nerve rather than enforce our will."

Straw equated the U.N. approach to Iraq to the inactivity of world powers between the wars that led to the rise of Hitler and World War II. Straw said the United Nations' predecessor, the League of Nations, "had the same high ideals as the U.N." but failed to take action. As a result, "small evils went unchecked, tyrants were emboldened, then greater evils were unleashed."

"At each stage, good men said wait; the evil is not big enough to challenge. Then before our eyes the evil became too big to challenge. ... We owe it to our history as well as to our future not to make the same mistake again."

But the French, Russian, and German delegates obviously were not persuaded. They haven’t changed their tune. They want to wait, let the inspectors continue, and wait some more. It’s almost as if they are tempting fate, daring history to repeat itself and leave us with yet another murderous tyrant to fight and defeat, but only after millions of lives have been lost.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.


This quote is a repeat, but somehow quite appropriate for this post:

“Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.” – Lazarus Long


Hyperwar Or ‘Wizard War’

Allow me this one little indulgence, just once, OK?


As my brother has put it on more than one occasion, with today’s military technology warfare has become more like something out of a wizards and warriors role playing game. In the games it goes something like, “With magic, they go ‘POOF’ and you’re dead.”

Today, when the U.S military uses its magic, “They go ‘POOF’, and you’re dead.”

Though Saddam Hussein got a taste of hyperwar back in 1991, I doubt he can even conceive of the magical weapons in Uncle Sam’s arsenal 12 years later. The names for these weapons sound almost magical – Hellfire, Predator, JDAM, JSOW (or ‘smart pigs’), UCAV, Slammer, Paveway, Warthog, Nighthawk, Bird of Prey, Tomahawk, Daisy Cutter, Spectre, HPM, and THEL.

They all bring fire, death, and destruction, some from the air, others from the ground. Some are like the lightning of the gods, striking down the enemy’s weapons before they can be loosed against us. Others strike down upon the enemy itself as a thresher does wheat in a field. Night brings no cover to the enemy because our wizard vision (night vision goggles and FLIR) lets us see them even in the dead of night. Lightning in a bottle (EMP weapons like HPM) will cripple their communications and kill their electronics, rendering much of their equipment not much more than junk. Some are like a magic spear, thrown a great distance and striking without warning and with devastating accuracy.

Our warriors weapons are almost magical, too. What one knows, they all know. Individually, or in groups, our warriors are more powerful, better armed, and better trained than the enemy. Our warriors can call down death from the skies, laying waste to everything around them.

Mind you, we’re not to the point of “phased plasma rifles in the 40-watt range”, photon torpedoes, phasers, disruptors, shields, structural integrity fields, or neutronium armor, but we're getting there.


“Never meddle in the affairs of wizards, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.” - Lot's of different places, I don't remember where.



Ralph Peters has an engaging column in today’s New York Post, tearing away the curtain behind which the con game of sovereignty hides. As he states in his column:

“Today, claims of territorial sovereignty by dictators and illegitimate regimes amount to the biggest con in history. No matter how unfairly borders are drawn, no matter how monstrously tyrants behave toward their populations, no matter how ruthlessly a strongman seizes power, the world pretends that those who hold the reins in the capital city are entitled to do whatever they want on their own territory.

The current system is the greatest collective violation of human rights in our time. The United States must shatter this antiquated scam designed by kings and princes to protect their personal fiefdoms. In the 21st century, a government must earn its right to claim sovereignty.”
(Emphasis added)

There it is folks, the whole shebang summed up in two paragraphs.

Mister Peters goes on to explain how the system should work.

Level One: Every government, from Mexico to India, that respects the will of its people through democratic institutions, works for the betterment of its citizens, demonstrates progress toward respect for human rights and strives toward the rule of law deserves continued recognition of its full, legal sovereignty.

Level Two: States that cannot control their own territory, that lack the ability to protect their own citizens or to prevent international terrorists and other criminals from using their territory as a refuge, would be able to claim only partial sovereignty. More capable, rule-of-law states would have the right to intervene for limited purposes to bring killers and other criminals to justice. In every other respect, these weak, but well-intentioned states would enjoy the traditional privileges and protections of sovereignty.

Level Three: Regimes that refuse to enforce the rule of law inside their borders, that knowingly harbor terrorists and criminals, that behave aggressively toward their neighbors or that abuse their own citizens would forfeit their territorial sovereignty and their right to govern. Period.”

And don’t bother trying to argue the point with him that human rights are relative and must be taken in context. He’s not buying it.

And neither should we.

(Link via VodkaPundit)


Thoughts On A Snowy Sunday Afternoon

The cold blast from out of the arctic has fled, warmer temps prevail, and the snow has returned. Already the plow guy has been here to clear away the few inches that has already fallen, and there’s the promise of another inch before it all ends.

All in all it’s a pretty good day, weather wise.

Who knows, I might even get around to doing some grocery shopping today.


I had the pleasure of dining with Eddie and Kim upstairs last evening. As always they outdid themselves. A ham done in the smoker, salad, a nice pilaf, and cheesecake to wind things up.

They’re spoiling me sumthin’ awful.


During the winter I have a tendency to become something of a couch potato. It’s not that I’m not active, it’s more that it’s too damn dark and too damn cold to do some of the things I like to do. Most of those things have to wait until the weekend. But during the week it’s not uncommon to find me plunked down in front of the one-eyed-monster, just soaking it all in.

My winter favorites?

Farscape, SG-1, Mr. Sterling, Law and Order (all three versions), Dead Zone, Third Watch, Crossing Jordan, NYPD Blue, and CSI (I don’t really care for CSI: Miami).
I’m looking forward to checking out Dragnet on Sunday nights, too.

But once we get closer to summer, about the only time the idiot box will be on is to catch the local news and weather and just maybe something on DVD.


My boss, Monster Mike, was showing a possible new hire around last Friday. Goodness knows we need another electrical engineer. Besides, it’s always fun to have a ‘new fish’ to torment.

In case you’re wondering, Monster Mike got his nickname because of the black, monster sized Blazer that he drives. Think of a four-wheel drive version of the Delta Tau Chi Deathmobile from the movie Animal House, and that’s Mike’s truck. It’s a scary looking truck. It’s so scary that when he mounts the snowplow on it, the snow is afraid.

Even his Harley is scary. I don’t think there’s a stock part on that bike. And in case you’re wondering what he looks like, think of a scaled down Michael Chiklis (The Shield on FX), and that’s Monster Mike. He’s just nicer, is all. Sort of.


And that’s the thoughts for this Sunday from Lake Winnipesaukee, where all of the women are married, all of the men wishing they weren’t, and all of the kids know they’re smarter than Mom and Dad.

Chain Of Events

After listening to a number of briefings given by NASA spokespersons, it appears that the Space Shuttle Columbia was lost due to the separation of the left wing from the fuselage during the re-entry phase. This is not a NASA conclusion, but mine.

Reports of damage to the left wing caused during takeoff appear to have some validity. Apparently insulation from the external fuel tank separated from the tank and collided with the left wing during the ascent phase.

As I was listening to one of the briefings, the NASA official gave a chronology of the events leading up to the loss of Columbia.

Here are the facts as given by the official as best I recall:

- Sensor failures of the left inboard and outboard elevon hydraulic systems. (The elevons are the trailing edge flaps on the wings of the orbiter.)
- Temperature sensor failures along sections of the left wing and along the left wing root.
- Failure of temperature and pressure sensors on the outboard, then inboard left main landing gear tires.

Seconds after that, the Columbia stared breaking up. Looking at the videotapes of the orbiter’s descent, the first hint of real trouble was when a large piece appeared to separate from the main ‘plume’. Even though there were smaller bits and pieces seen separating from the shuttle prior to this, I believe the big piece was the left wing tearing away from the orbiter. From that point on the orbiter appeared to be tumbling, eventually breaking up, causing the multiple plumes seen on the tapes and by witnesses.

Remember, this is only my opinion and not that of NASA.


The High Frontier

It came to us this morning via an Internet chat room, of all things. We usually don’t turn on the TV first thing in the morning, so I was reading and my wife was chatting on-line with friends in the UK when one of them told her about it. I flipped on the TV, and it was 1986 all over again.

There is a part of America that has no love for the space program, and while those people will feel the grief along with the rest of the nation, they will also see this as another argument against devoting precious resources to a program that they believe has so little return and is so dangerous. I understand how they feel, but I could never understand how they came to believe such things. Yes, this is dangerous- each of those seven astronauts knew the risks when they embarked on this ill-fated mission. They all expected to come home safe and sound, but they all knew that space exploration is inherently dangerous and that death rides shotgun every time mankind arcs free of the earth’s surface. They knew this and they believed the risk to their lives was worth it, a price they were willing to pay to continue the march of human progress. Furthermore, when the next shuttle flies there will be no lack of volunteers ready to step aboard. These men and women know what the job is, what it brings with it and what it may demand.

Is this worth it? The answer to that question lies in the future, but history teaches us that nothing truly valuable comes without some sort of cost. We push knowledge forward and in the process old ideas and ways of life are often shoved aside, sometimes quite brutally; but to stop, to decide to hold back and not explore, not discover, is simply not an option. Mankind moves forward and outward because it must. Stagnation is decline, and decline is death. Our future is in the stars and anyone who loves this planet understands that. The planet is too small- if we choose to turn away from space we condemn ourselves and our descendants to extinction. Space is the only place that can provide pollution-free energy and raw materials our globe will require in order to continue to support an expanding population.

The frontier has always been a dangerous place and the High Frontier is the most dangerous mankind has ever faced, but it also possesses the most promise. All those who aspire to conquer this frontier seek to claim this promise, not for glory but for the betterment of all mankind. Ask them. Talk to them. Then understand that when something like this happens they mourn, and they ask questions, and they seek to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. And when the time comes they strap in knowing full well that nothing is guaranteed. The High Frontier beckons, and its call is irresistible to those whose vision includes a future of hope and prosperity for mankind.

Today we lost seven pioneers. We will not turn away. Others will go and carry with them the hopes and dreams of every man and woman who has ever sought to climb a pillar of fire in to the sky.

Unfeeling Idiot

One thing I have to mention in relation to the Columbia accident is that it proves to me that there are still unfeeling idiots out there that will look upon this tragedy to put forth their political views.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I was heading to a friend’s house to drop some things off. My friend is an EMT instructor and was going to be tutoring a few EMTs this morning in an effort to help them upgrade their skills.

It was while walking up to the door of my friend’s house that one of her students made the comment, “Oh, George will find some way blame it on terrorists or Saddam Hussein, giving him an excuse to go to war.” At first I thought he was making light of a bad situation. But further discussion with him showed me that he was serious.

It took all of my will to keep from popping him one in the mouth.

At a time of this national tragedy, all this asshole can think of is to put an anti-war spin on the death of the Columbia crew. But he did not utter one word of sympathy for the crew’s families, and made no other mention of the incident except to slam the President.

I’m still tempted to drive back there and lay a hurtin’ on the jerk.


For me, it’s January 28, 1986 all over again.

This morning I was driving to Barnstead, NH to drop off some things at a friend’s home. Halfway there I heard the news that all contact had been lost with the space shuttle Columbia during re-entry.

The ‘empty pit’ feeling in my stomach returned, just like on that day 17 years ago.

Seventeen years ago I watched someone I had come to know and admire die. Christa McAuliffe and her six crewmates on Challenger perished while the nation watched. And today all of the feelings that went with that moment have come slamming back full force.