Too Damn Many Numbers

While cruising over at JimSpot, I came across this post, covering something that is one of my major pet peeves when it comes to the telecommunications industry.

Phone numbers. Or rather, the proliferation of phone numbers.

Here in the US, as in many nations, telecommunications has spread everywhere. There are your plain old telephone system (or POTS) phones, cell phones, one-way pagers, two-way pagers, fax lines, data lines (for those using dialup connections to the ‘net) ad nauseum.

All of these new gadgets and services eat up phone numbers. This has caused more and more area codes to be created, either by splitting existing area codes into two or more or overlaying new ones over old ones. One of the complications of all of this has been the requirement for people to dial 10 digits (or 11 digits if the local phone company also requires you to dial 1 at the beginning) even if you’re only calling your neighbor across the street, rather than dialing 7 digits as has been done since sometime in the 60’s.

Despite protestations to the contrary, it isn’t that phone numbers are being used up at such a prodigious rate, but that phone numbers are being allocated at such a rate.

When a group of phone numbers is allocated to a phone, cell, or pager company, they are given out in blocks of 10,000 numbers. This block of numbers constitutes an ‘exchange’, (i.e. the first three digits in a seven digit phone number is the exchange number). As an example, a block of 10,000 phone numbers is given the exchange of 555. The block of numbers for that exchange run from 555-0000 to 555-9999.

Now what happens if, of those 10,000 numbers allocated to a telecommunications company, only 500 are ever used? It means 9500 numbers in that block are ‘lost’, not usable by anyone else. It is this allocation system that is eating up 10,000 numbers at a time, not the number of phones and so on, actually being used.

My home state of New Hampshire narrowly avoided having to add a second area code because exchange numbers were rapidly being depleted. It took a lot of work with the NHPUC, the FCC, the Regional Bell Operating Company (Verizon), a number of competitive phone companies, cell providers, and pager companies to change how numbers are allocated. Rather than being given out 10,000 numbers at a time, the phone numbers are now given out in blocks of 1000. In other words, if WeekendPundit Telecom wants to get a block of numbers for its new cell phone service, it will receive 1000 numbers: 555-0000 to 555-0999. JimSpot Telecom also wants a block of numbers for a new pager service. It gets its thousand numbers that run from 555-1000 to 555-1999, and so on. Using this system, the worst case scenario will create only 1000 ‘lost’ numbers, greatly reducing the demand for numbers. In effect, the exchange numbers are now 4 digits, i.e. 5550 or 5551, rather the 3 digits. The extensions (the last 4 digits in your phone number) are now 3 digits. The phone numbers won’t look or work any different than anywhere else in the US, they’re just given out differently.

One idea I’ve always liked is that cell phones and pagers should have their own area codes. It’s no different than overlaying area codes as is done now. It’s only how the overlay is performed. POTS lines would be able to keep the ‘original’ area code, while cell phones and pagers would all be given distinct area codes. If memory serves correctly, this was proposed at one time for one state out West, but I have no idea if it was ever implemented. It certainly makes a lot more sense than someone dialing 11 digits for a local call does.


Thanks to Jim over at JimSpot for giving me tonight’s topic.


A Clueless Voice In The Netherlands

My brother posted earlier about eight great voices in Europe, friends and allies of America that chose not to be silent, not to follow the lead of France and Germany.

Then comes a post by Bill Whittle that shows that idiotarians know no national boundaries or cultures. Marius in the Netherlands claims that Bill is making him ill, that all of our cowboy ethics and antics are the real reason for war. I’m surprised that he didn’t also accuse us ‘cowboys’ of causing cancer, dandruff, ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, Mikhail Gorbachev’s birthmark, agita, halitosis, male pattern baldness, and Britney Spears. (Well, I guess we do have to take the blame for Britney.)

Bill is being a bully, presenting poor Marius with facts that might confuse him because they are in opposition to his beliefs.


“What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what ‘the stars foretell,’ avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable ‘verdict of history’ – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!” – Lazarus Long

What A Crowd!

All it takes is one link from a popular blog and all of a sudden the hits keep on coming. In this case a WeekendPundit post was linked from U.S.S. Clueless. Shortly after lunch yesterday I checked our blog stats and was surprised to find 3 times the number of hits that we’ll sometimes see in a single day. It wasn’t until I checked the referral log that I saw the hits were all coming from Mr. Den Beste’s blog. It appeared that my dear brother had managed to post during the workday, disagreeing with a point or two in Steven’s assessment of the State Of The Union address. By the end of the day we were about 8 times above the normal volume that we usually see.


I mean WOW!

This is just so cool!


We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog….


The State Of The Union At First Glance

I'm not going to delve deeply into President George W. Bush's State of the Union address as this point. Like many of you out there, I'm going to read the transcript on the web or in the morning paper, and only then will I comment. But a few things stuck with me, particularly in relation to Iraq and our relations with our supposed allies in the UN.

“The course of our nation does not depend on the decisions of others.”
(Emphasis mine)

This appears to be aimed at France, Germany, and other of our allies in Europe and to members of the UN Security Council. George is telling them that we will do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves with or without their blessings.

Many of his critics say that, unlike JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis, George has not provided concrete evidence that Iraq has and is still working on developing weapons of mass murder. He's answered those critics by announcing that Secretary of State Colin Powell will provide that evidence and more before the UN Security Council of February 5th.

He was also forceful in his pronouncement of America's effort to track down Al-Qaida operatives.

“...many Al-Qaida operatives are no longer a problem for America, its friends and allies,” and, “One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice.”

In other words, George is kickin' ass and takin' names. And Saddam has been invited to a well deserved and long overdue Texas-style ass-kicking.


N’ Hampsha’ Humah

It seems that forces beyond my control keep dragging me back to the subject of regional dialects, as well as the accompanying humor. If you want to blame anyone for this, I can point the finger to Fred at Fragments From Floyd. He started it all.

But the question I have pondered has been whether to focus on the regional dialects or the regional humor? Both have their amusing parts, but sometimes the regional humor doesn’t work very well without the regional dialect. A Down East Maine story doesn’t have the same impact if it’s told with a Brooklyn accent, does it?

But there are a few here and there that can escape the need for the appropriate dialect. This one is near and dear to my heart because it so aptly expresses some of my own prejudices.


There are four men driving in a car together, one from Maine, one from Vermont, one from Massachusetts, and one from New Hampshire. Down the road a bit, the man from Maine starts throwing bags of potatoes out of the car window.

“What are you doing that for?” asks the man from New Hampshire.

The man from Maine replies, “We have so many damn potatoes just lying around our state. I'm just sick and tired of seeing these things.”

Down the road a bit more, the man from Vermont starts throwing jugs out maple syrup out of the car window.

“Why are you doing that?” asks the man from New Hampshire.

The man from Vermont says, “We have so many of these darn jugs just lying around our state. I'm just sick and tired of seeing these things.”

Moments later the man from New Hampshire throws the man from Massachusetts out the car window.


SuperBowl Ad Superstars

As I mentioned in my previous post but one, the ads run during the SuperBowl are the stars of the show.

Even the opening sequence with Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his role as the Terminator was pretty damn impressive, as were the teasers for The Hulk and the next two Matrix movies.

Then there was the Visa Check Card ad with Yao Ming and Yogi Berra. My, but Yao is a big guy!

One of the ads I truly enjoyed (even though I know I’m going to get hate mail on this) is the beer ad where a poor schmoe is rehearsing in front of a mirror, trying to figure the best way to tell his girlfriend that he really likes her roommate. He visualizes her response, a slap, but faces up to the consequences. What he didn’t anticipate was her response being, “Well, then you should date both of us.”

Iraqi Duplicity

A full White House report on the Iraqi Apparatus of Lies illustrates that nothing is as it appears in Iraq.

The report lays out Iraq’s manipulation of foreign media by staging shows of grief, supposed destruction of civilian areas by Coalition forces, and purposeful deployment of military assets in civilian areas to cause as many civilian casualties as possible in order to sway public opinion in the U.S. and elsewhere.

(Link via Samizdata)

Random Thoughts On Superbowl Sunday

Even though it is the day of the Big GameTM, domestic chores must still take precedence. In this case it’s time to do the laundry here at World Domination, Inc. HQ. (Our motto - “Subjugating Humanity One Individual At A Time.”)

That’s right. The secret’s out. The WeekendPundit is actually a front for WDI. Betcha’ didn’t know that, did you? Though my brother has made mention of this in passing now and then, you probably weren’t paying attention, were you? And now our evil plan to take over the world will soon come to fruition!


And don’t think you can hide. We know where you live and where you work.

And your little dog, too!

But still, the laundry must be done and it’s up to me to do it. After all, even Evil Overlords need clean underwear.


Though neither of my favorite teams will be playing at the SuperBowl in San Diego today, I’ll still be watching the game. Not for the football, but for the commercials. It has become a SuperBowl tradition for some of the best ads on TV to make their debut during the festivities.

Does anyone remember the first Apple MacIntosh ad that looked like something right out of Orwell’s 1984? It was a slam against ‘Big Brother’ IBM. It was run only twice, but a lot of people still remember it. You can still see it on some of those ‘Best Commercials’ TV shows that pop up now and then. Or you can watch it here. (Requires Apple’s QuickTime viewer plug-in.)

The following year Apple had another ad that was a dark take-off from Disney’s ‘Whistle While You Work’ of Snow White fame. While not nearly as popular or as memorable, it was still pretty darn good.

One of my all time favorite SuperBowl TV ads was for McIlhenny’s Tabasco Sauce. It was all of 15 or 20 seconds long. All it showed was a man sitting outside his tarpaper shack in the bayou, a pizza box at his side. He takes out a slice, pours Tabasco sauce on it, and eats it. As he munches on his pizza, a mosquito lands on his arm and starts to drink his blood. The man stops munching, watches as the mosquito drinks his fill, then flies off. A few seconds later the mosquito explodes in midair. The man smiles, pulls out another slice of pizza, and douses it with more sauce.

Simple, to the point, with no music or flashy graphics.

And memorable.


Does anyone know where Glenn Frazier went? All we get is an error when trying to connect to his blog. Or has he purposely pulled the plug?


It’s snowing after a hiatus of over 2 weeks. It’s been so cold due to the push of arctic air out of Canada that all of the storm systems have passed well south of here. But now we have a blanket of new snow, pristine white, covering over the older snowfall. The snow banks had started to look brown and black, collecting the dirt and grime from the passing traffic. Now it all looks pretty again.

Of course New England will be heading back into the deep freeze for a few days, but I think this might be the last gasp of really cold air we’ll have to deal with. With February and March rapidly approaching, we should be seeing some real humdingers in the way of snowstorms. February and the first week of March tend to have the heaviest snowfalls of the winter up this way.

I’m looking forward to it!


There’s an interesting debate going on in the little college town of Plymouth and neighboring town Holderness, New Hampshire.

There’s an old steel girder bridge that spans the Pemigewasset River that is in need of replacement. The river is the boundary between the two towns and is the closest river crossing to the center of Plymouth. Townspeople in both communities have been lobbying to replace the old girder bridge with a new covered bridge.

Even though the state Department of Transportation doesn’t like the idea, and the cost of constructing the bridge will be up to $5 million dollars higher than a steel and concrete bridge, there is still a lot of support for the covered bridge.

Personally, I like the idea. As a former resident of Plymouth, I can understand the appeal of replacing a rusting eyesore with something more traditionally identified with New England. But there’s another reason that I like the covered bridge idea, one that appeals to my engineering background.

Covered bridges last longer than steel and concrete. At least in this climate they do. They require less maintenance and aren’t prone to the problems that steel and concrete spans exhibit.

From an aesthetic viewpoint, they’re also a lot prettier. Check the two concept sketches at the top of the article I linked to above. Which one would you choose?

There are tradeoffs involved with a covered bridge, but I know the folks in Plymouth and Holderness well enough to know they’d be more than willing to deal with the downside as long as they get a beautiful bridge. It’s certainly better than what’s there now.


“Cheops’ Law: Nothing ever gets built on schedule or under budget.” – Lazarus Long


It’s All A Matter Of Perspective

I am constantly reminded of this small truth.

It was as I was composing an e-mail to Vicky that I was reminded of this truth.

I work for a small fiber optics firm based here in New Hampshire. Our parent company has a facility down in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where one of our employees is based. This morning he called our project coordinator to ask what he should charge the ‘snow day’ they had enjoyed down there yesterday.

Snow day? In South Carolina?

Yup. South Carolina.

They had a massive snowfall of four inches, which closed schools, highways, and workplaces throughout the affected parts of the state.

Around here, four inches is barely enough to plow, let alone cause a snow day to be declared.

But then I thought about it all being a matter of perspective. Four inches down there is damn dangerous while here it is something of a nuisance. Here we have snow plows and snow tires and chains. Down there all they have is shovels, front end loaders, and road graders. We’re prepared to handle weather like that and they aren’t.

But still, four inches?

France And The Marginalization Of Europe

I was checking out one of the more unusual blogs on our WeekendPundit links list and came across this over at Methuselah’s Daughter. Both her post and the link to Stephen Green’s post (The Vodka Pundit is back!) certainly helps put things in perspective.

MD writes:

“In the case of France, this was a World Power of the Old Continental Europe- a nation to be reckoned with whenever any nation sought to make any sort of power play in wide swaths of the world. They handed America her independence simply to annoy the British, and in the process sowed the seeds of their own demise- the collapse of the
Royaume de France in to revolution essentially eviscerated nation’s ability to remain a world power. Unlike the United States, France descended in to the Reign of Terror that most modern revolutions spawn; rather than a Stalin or a Mao, they begat Napoleon (after some serious struggles) who proceeded to seal their fate as an essentially failed world power. That France has been able to remain the force it is today is a tribute to American charity and the social inertia that plays such an immense role in the post World War II miasma that is modern Europe.”

And from Vodka Pundit:

“Cheap shots aside, France is – or rather, was – a truly great nation. French generals out-generaled the German General Staff in the opening weeks of the First World War, resulting in a nation-saving victory at the Battle of the Marne. French soldiers held their trenches against German onslaughts at Verdun, never cracking despite Falkenhayn’s promise to ‘bleed them white.’ It was the French who provided arms, tanks, and training to the green American Expeditionary Force in 1917 and ’18.

French soldiers and ships helped bring us victory in our Revolution. French farmers gave us brie and crème fraîche and the wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux. French thinkers gave us Voltaire and Victor Hugo. France stands second to only the United Kingdom as the European nation contributing most to Western Civilization.

But after WWI, France went as bad as potato salad left out at a sunny summer picnic.”

Is France’s denunciation of America’s intention to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime and rebuild Iraq a true concern for the effects of war, or a knee-jerk reaction to hold back an upstart ascendant world power that it denigrates in an effort to say, “See, we were great once, too!”

Regardless of the motivation, France’s reaction and behind the scenes machinations have come to show how marginalized one of the great powers of Europe have become. Of the old powers, the only one that still shows the greatness of its past in its actions today is Great Britain. It understands what the term ‘ally’ means. It has shamed France and Germany, illustrating that even though its’ great empire is gone, it is still a power to be reckoned with. A stauncher friend the US could not have.


Flatlander News

It’s Thursday and it means that guest blogger Brendan Smith will grace us with his thoughts on the ‘not normally seen as mundane to flatlanders and natives alike’ issues here in New Hampshire.

His timing is excellent (as always) because Fred over at Fragments From Floyd had gotten into a similar situation regarding regional accents and the meanings of words. But Brendan puts things to right (sort of) in the great Underwear/Rubberbands Debate.


The Results Are In!
By Brendan Smith
The Weirs Times

It's been quite a month. The emails, snail mails, phone calls, drive-bys and late-night visits from perfect strangers has finally slowed. Each and every one weighing in on the crucial debate started here a few issues back. Is it “underpants” or “underwear”? “Rubberbands” or “elastics”? Today the results will finally be revealed.

Apparently the question of language and its usage by both native and Flatlander always strikes a chord with many readers. The last time I had such a response was when I touched on the irritating usage (at least to me) by many native New Englanders of the term “So Don’t I” which, logically, should mean “So Do Not I.” That meaning, being poor grammar itself, would be excusable since it makes some sort of sense. The fact that the term “So Don’t I” means “So Do I” can only make one ask when and how this contraction was added. Don't you wonder? I don’t. (But I really do...I think.)

The “underpants/underwear” controversy was further confused by the "exact" definition of particular forms of undergarments (that word itself a more proper form of “underwear” I was informed.) Most Flatlanders agreed with my designation of undershirt as a “shirt worn under another shirt” but some took me to task for calling it a “T-Shirt” when worn without another shirt. Many claimed that A T-shirt can only be an “Undershirt type without the sleeves.” Others agreed with the term “Underpants” but only if worn by women and then those too are even more commonly referred to as "panties.“ On the men’s side, only they can wear “briefs.” Some made the whole idea much easier by just referring to the whole mess as “Undies.” (I must admit, interesting e-mails to be opening up all the same.)

Some wrote to me with, what I took to be, dictionary definitions to defend their insistence on the proper terms. Looking in the dictionary I found definitions for both “Underwear” and “Underpants” and neither of them matched the ones emailed to me.

As far as the “Rubber Bands/Elastics” debacle is concerned it seems that the further south down the Eastern Coast you have moved here from the more likely you are to say “Rubber bands” and the further North you go the faster it is for the term “elastics” to begin to take hold; even though the word “Underpants” is still hanging strong (no pun intended...I think.) For example, most people from New York will say “Underpants/Rubberbands” while in Massachusetts there becomes a strong mix of the “Underpants/Rubberbands” & “Underpants/Elastics” crowd. (Confused yet? Good it serves you right.)

On the other side of the coin, the whole “Underpants/Rubberbands” brouhaha has opened a whole new can of worms for me. The vote was pretty much a 50/50 split between natives and flatlanders so it is apparently always going to be a regional issue. What concerned me was the slew of other language idiosyncrasies and differences which made it clear that the cultural gap between natives and flatlanders was still pretty wide and possibly in need of a Flatlander/Native dictionary.

For example: one reader, whose first concern was that she was actually spending time responding to the survey, grew up on Long Island like myself and voted for “underpants/rubberbands” as expected but also reminded me that I've probably been caught asking for “sprinkles” instead of “jimmies” on my ice cream cones. It made me ponder the whole ice cream language barrier. There’s shakes and frappes and sundaes but depending on where you grew up they all meant what the other was to someone else. That’s why those lines at Dairy Queen are always so long in the summer - it’s a translation problem. Then there’s the Grinder/Sub/Hoagie mess along with the Tonic/Pop/Soda Tug-Of War. The list seems endless and as hard as I might try to mediate the whole fiasco, I'm afraid I won’t see a resolution in my lifetime.

Even dialects became an issue. Is your brother‘s sister your “Ahnt” or your “Ant” as we say in New York. One woman who wrote told of an argument where she told a New York Flatlander friend of hers: “An ant crawls on the ground” and he responded with “yes, my favorite Aunt did that.” Ahhh... that brings back memories.

Anyway, it seems as this issue isn't entirely, or might not ever be fully, resolved. Feel free to continue to weigh in on the subject and I'll do my best to keep tabs and update the debate whenever I can. I'm hoping to get more input also at the next F.A.T.S.O. meeting. I would also like to thank everyone who did respond and I hope I can count on your continued support for the future.

In the meantime, during these long, hard winter months where tempers may get a little bit on edge, try to keep the “Underpants/Rubberbands” arguments down to a minimum. When someone says they say “They call it this” or “they call it that ”just say “So don’t I” and everything will be alright.

A quick personal note: Thanks for the earmuffs Lee!!


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


Guns, Gun Control, and Crime

For some time now I’ve been reading the posts and listening to the debate on both sides of the Atlantic about guns, their owners, and their use in crime prevention. Frankly, I’m not hearing anything new. But too many innocent people are being caught in a ‘Catch-22’ when it comes to defending themselves or their families using a firearm.

Tony Martin in the UK is being sued by the burglar he shot who was in the process of raiding his home. Martin is presently serving time in prison for killing the burglar’s accomplice.

Then there’s Ronald Dixon in New York, a hardworking father and Navy veteran, who stands a chance of being sent to jail for up to a year because he defended his family against a career criminal who had broken in to Dixon’s home and threatened his 8-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.

Obviously the rights of the criminals has far surpassed that of the victims when the victims are the ones being sentenced to prison rather than the other way around.

I’ve mentioned here once or twice that at least in New Hampshire, gun control means, “Hitting what you’re aiming at.” The state constitution prohibits restricting the rights of law abiding citizens from owning or carrying guns.

News Editor Tom, a friend of mine that I helped to escape from the People’s Republic of California, was amazed at the ease with which he obtained a permit to carry a concealed weapon here in New Hampshire. That’s when I told him that any law-abiding citizen (i.e. not a convicted felon or committed mental patient) above the age of 18 can carry a gun openly. A permit is required to carry one concealed. And in Vermont, no permit is required to carry concealed.

A large percentage of the residents of New Hampshire own and/or carry guns.

Coincidentally, the crime rate here is one of the lowest in the nation. Could there be a connection?

Baby, It Is COLD Outside!

Though BogieBlog beat me to it, I have to say that it is damn frigid out there today! I’ve experienced colder temperatures and higher winds, but never at the same time, at least not while I was anywhere except the Mount Washington Observatory one winter as a volunteer.

The wind chills at the warmest part of the day today were still between –25 and –30 degrees. And tonight it will hit about –15 degrees without the wind chill.

This is the first day I’ve actually felt cold in three winters.

Looks like it’s time to break out the flannel sheets and the woolen long johns.


Is This Thing On?

As I wrote from work earlier today (something I am loath to do as I'm busy enough without posting to the blog), my cable modem bit it late last afternoon or early evening. The post I had written has now been consigned to the “It was a great post, but it's no longer timely” pile, and I haven't decided what I'm going to post in its stead. I certainly don't count this as a viable replacement. It's more of a filler until I can decide what great words of wisdom I shall pass down from on high.

But my adventures with the cable TV company/ISP (now called called an MSO, or Multi-Service Operator) certainly fills me apprehension. Let me explain.

I called the cable TV compa...um...er...MSO and explained that my cable modem was on the fritz. After being transferred to a couple of different people, each more clueless than the previous one, I finally got to talk to someone I thought was technically savvy.

After explaining what had happened, this Joe Q. I.T.person told me point blank, “It must be something else. We've never had a modem fail. Are you sure it isn't your cable connection or network card?”

Hmmm. I thought I'd already told Joe Q. Idiot all of that, including the steps I'd taken to prove it was the modem that was at fault. One of the biggest clues that something was indeed amiss was the fact that none of the indicator LEDs came on when power was applied. No self test, no power indicator, no nothing. I explained it again.

“What are you, some kind of engineer?” he asked in a tone that told me he thought he was being smart.

“As a matter of fact, I am. Hell, I helped design some of the fiber optics test equipment that you use to test your network.”

“Fiber optics? We don't use fiber optics in our system,” he replied.

That's when I knew I was wasting my time. Just about every MSO uses fiber optics in their system. Most of the 'cable guys' know that. But this wasn't a 'cable guy'. It was someone on a help desk that had little or no knowledge of how things work.

After another back and forth over the next few minutes, I was able to get authorization to return the dead modem and get a new one.

After work I swapped the modem, took it home, unpacked it, plugged in all of the appropriate cables, powered it up, and just like that I was back among the bloggeristi.

I have to say I was getting a little anxious, thinking I'd have no connectivity at home. No e-mail. No web. It's was frightening to think tha jhsoncvu8aw4hcv be785jfgia0fn[ hi;nekvjq'en.....


France And Germany In Cohoots With Iraq?

Steven Den Beste has a chilling post about possible motivations for France and Germany's reluctance to support a possible attack on Iraq. According to Steven, it has nothing to do with domestic resistance to such an action and everything to do with possible discovery of their duplicity in regards to violating the UN sanctions on Iraq.


Note: My connection to my ISP went away yesterday afternoon when my cable modem died. So a post I had put together still sits on my computer at home. Hopefully I'll have a new modem in hand by this afternoon.


Just Say Yes!

Megan McArdle has an answer to all of the anti-war protestors signs and tee-shirts. It’s this logo that can be found on tee-shirts and other articles of clothing here.

I’ve already ordered mine. Get ‘em while they're hot!


Thoughts On A Chilly Sunday Afternoon

The Boys Day Out was a success. No bail money was needed and they’ll never prove it was us in any case.


It was another cold night on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. I don’t know what it is about full moons, but they always seem to make a cold night feel even colder. Maybe it makes the snow cover look colder. All I know is that it was damn frigid last night. When I got up at 7 this morning, it was –10 degrees. Even the trusty Neon knew it was too cold because it absolutely refused to start. This also tells me it’s time to get a new battery for the Neon.


Jim of JimSpot down in Rhode Island has also been having fun with the cold weather. In this case he’s wrestled with windows that leak air, trying to seal them up with the heat shrink plastic and double-sided tape.

Ah, the joys of living in an older home in winter! I’ve also had fun with that here at The House. Sealing things up has certainly helped keep the heating bill to a minimum. I just went through my first tank of No. 2 heating oil, last filled sometime back in October. I figure this tank should last me until April, then one last fill until the October. Of course, my last place of residence would use one tank of oil a year. I could have stayed there rather than moving here, but no, I just had to move here to the lake and closer to work. The cost of the two extra tanks of heating oil (about $600) would have more than paid for the longer commute to work, with some left over.

What a mistake that was.


I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the Philadelphia Eagles today. Since my favorite AFC team failed to make the playoffs, I can at least root for my favorite NFC team. Of course my dream Super Bowl would be to see the Patriots play the Eagles.

Well, maybe next year…


I had to see about replacing the Neon’s battery today, rather than waiting until Monday morning. I managed to resurrect it by putting it on a battery charger, but it was only a short-term solution. We were still looking to more below-zero nights here at Lake Winnipesaukee over the next 4 or 5 days, and I doubted that the Neon’s 4-year old and much abused battery would handle them very well. So I made the trip to the local VIP Auto Parts store to get a new battery, pulled the old one out, dropped the new one in, and then returned the old battery to the store to be recycled.

I had no doubt that I was only one looking for a new battery because cold weather like this has a propensity to kill weak batteries. The clerk at the parts store told me I was right – I was the tenth person in that afternoon looking to replace a dead battery.


Another down side to the cold weather is a dirty car or truck.

That’s right. A dirty vehicle.

As one of my co-workers was reminded late last week, it’s not a smart thing to run your car or truck through the car wash the night before a big freeze. As he explained it to me, he couldn’t open the doors of his pickup truck one morning this past week because they were frozen shut. He’d run it through the car wash after work the day before. Over night the temperature was 0 degrees or pretty close to it. The next morning he couldn’t even budge the doors no matter how hard he pulled and tugged. Finally he had to pry the driver’s side door open using a claw hammer.

Many of us know of this problem, and that’s why our normally pristine cars and truck are all the same color – salt gray. And they’ll remain that way until we know we’ll have at least a few days of warmer weather, warmer meaning overnight temps in the 20’s rather than the single or double digit negative numbers.

Of course, some of the A.S.S.’s will learn this lesson the hard way after they’ve had their SUVs washed, waxed, vacuumed, and frozen shut.

Snicker, snicker, chuckle, Bwuh-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!


One thing I haven’t had to deal with too much around here yet is frost heaves. I won’t go into a lot of detail as this subject has already been well covered over at BogieBlog, but for those of you in much warmer climes here’s a brief explanation:

Frost heaves are what happen when melting ice and snow work their way under the pavement surface and then freeze, causing the pavement buckle. It’s hell on the suspension and a driver’s nerves.


The effort has started to move WeekendPundit off of Blogger and to a new home. Quite frankly, my brother and I are frustrated with the constant repairs to our template and regenerating our archives after every other post to the blog. Obviously there will be some changes in the appearance of our blog, but for the most part it will look very similar to what you’re seeing now.

We will post updates as we get closer to making the move.


This quote is for Laurence over at Amish Tech Support:

“Never try to outstubborn a cat.” – Lazarus Long

France Attacks!

Bill Whittle has a couple of interesting posts where he corresponds with Francois in France. It is apparent that Francois has an interesting, though horribly twisted, view of history starting from World War II through the Cold War.

Francois writes:

“One or 2 thousands of Us troops dead in Europe, that's right and 30 millions of Europeans and Russians, 3/4 of them were civilians.

How bright are your governments! Have you ever heard about an institution called NATO. Originaly the US troops couldn't fight the Soviets by themself in Europe. The Us generals are in command of thousands of foreign troops all paid by European tax payers.

The Marshall plan was good for reconstruction of Europe but the money was paid back ten times to Us. The Us troops came back to Europe to protect the Us investments and the Us economy boomed thanks to the hard work of Europeans.”

Bill fires back:

“Francois' letter seems to me to be an astonishingly perfect example of getting the facts exactly backward. He says, in response to my post below, that we may have suffered "one or two thousand dead" Americans in World War 2, dying to liberate his nation from the Germans. Francois, we sent fleets of B-17 bombers, each with a ten-man crew, over France to bomb Germany pretty much daily for three years. We would, on very bad days, lose 100 bombers -- that's a thousand men A DAY. To claim one or two thousand dead Americans, fighting to aid France, over the course of two self-inflicted European wars is a mortal insult. Claiming many millions more in European civilian deaths does nothing to negate my point that it was WE who were over there dying for YOU.”
(Bold emphasis mine)

If Francois’ point of view reflects that of the French in general, then that would certainly explain Jacques Chirac’s attempts to prevent the U.S. from defending itself or of its attempts to pre-empt future attacks by taking on Iraq now.

My suggestion to you, loyal reader, is to go to Bill’s blog and read the posts and the comments. As always, he does a much better job of responding to Francois’ allegations and twisted view of history than I ever could.


“A generation that ignores history has no past – and no future.” – Lazarus Long


Poor Frozen Fred

Fred at Fragments From Floyd was lamenting his state of comfort this morning. Apparently it was quite cold in Floyd County, Virginia when Fred tried to type this morning. I think he said something about it being 5 degrees outside his humble home. For Virginia, that’s cold.

What he really needs is a Mad Bomber Hat like Brendan Smith’s to help keep him warm, or maybe something like this or this or this. With one of these he’d even survive a winter up here, where this morning it was –8 degrees at Lake Winnipesaukee and even colder north of the notches.


A Boys Day Out

The weekend is upon us and already plans are in hand for a Boys Day Out. In this case the ‘boys’ mean yours truly, good friend and networking wiz Submarine Tim and his two boys, Peter and Paul, NewsEditor Tom, possibly Eddie of ‘Eddie and Kim’ fame, and if I can talk him into it, my brother.

I haven’t got a clue as to what we’re going to do, but you can bet it will probably have something to do with firearms, movies, large furry meat-eating animals, and Apres Ski Snobs.

I’ll keep you all updated as time (and bail money) allow.


The Ski People Are Here

It’s started. The winter version of ‘summer people’ have arrived.

The ‘ski people’ are here.

Cars and SUVs trek up north at the beginning of each day, ski racks and Thule boxes mounted on roofs and snowboards and other snow brick-a-brack in trunks or piled on back seats. Many of those same vehicles are traveling south once the sun has gone down. And on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, the northbound traffic is bumper to bumper as skiers head to the slopes for the weekend. On Sunday afternoon and evening, the same is true of the southbound traffic.

It’s just like summer traffic, except we’ve got four feet of snow.

And just like ‘summer people’, the ‘ski people’ have their own version of ‘summah people’. For lack of a better term, let’s call them “Apres Ski Snobs” or A.S.S.’s.

A.S.S.’s have a lot of the same attributes as summah people – condescending attitudes towards those of us fortunate enough to live here year round; constantly reminding everybody how much money they spend when they’re here; treating everyone not in their circle like servants or lackeys; belief that No Trespassing and No Parking signs mean everybody but them; reservations at the local restaurant are only for the little people; and being a general pain in the ass to everyone even remotely connected to a ski resort.

Fortunately A.S.S’s aren’t all that common around here. One tends to find most of that breed out west in places like Aspen or Vail.

Occasionally one of the few A.S.S.’s gets their comeuppance at the hands of one of us locals. Sometimes when their SUV breaks down or gets stuck in a snowdrift, one of us comes to the rescue. If the A.S.S. is particularly vile, they’ll probably see an additional line item on the repair or towing bill labeled ‘Extra Charges’. You see, up here we’ll charge extra for sass. We don’t take sass from our kids, and we aren’t going to take any from an A.S.S. unless we’re paid for it.

If we’re going to deal with A.S.S.’s around here, we’re going to be justly compensated for it.

It looks like we’re going to make a lot of money this winter.

Driving Rules To Live By

While visiting the aforementioned JimSpot, I came across this link to 12 Lessons From Driver’s Protocol 101 at QuitThat!

I can say without a doubt that I have seen every one of these mistakes (except one) at least once since the first of the year.

Kind of scary, huh?

Some Kind Words

My dear brother and I received an e-mail from Jim over at JimSpot. Apparently he’s a fellow New Englander who found WeekendPundit during the Amish Tech Support Blog A Day Tour 2003 stop here last weekend. He liked what he saw and dropped us a line. I have since visited his blog and have decided that it must be added to our links.

Go on over and give it a look.


The End Of Affirmative Action?

President Bush’s support of lawsuits against the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policy being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court is seen by some of the Left as an attack on affirmative action as a whole. While affirmative action has helped right some of the wrongs of prejudice and segregation, there must be a point where the American people say, “Enough already!”

Today, President Bush made clear that a program of racial preferences for minority applicants at the University of Michigan was “fundamentally flawed” and unconstitutional.

From an ABC News report:

“The program ‘amounts to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students solely on their race,’ Bush said in announcing that his administration would file a legal brief in the case with the Supreme Court on Thursday.”

While Bush did not condemn affirmative action as a whole and focused on this one case, condemnation of his actions were heard from a number of Democratic members of Congress, including Senator Tom Daschle.

My question on this matter, and affirmative action in general, is why is it acceptable to overcome past prejudice, discrimination, and civil rights violations by doing exactly the same thing to a different racial group? How does discriminating against non-minorities fix the problem?

It doesn’t.

Affirmative action encourages and prolongs the very discrimination that it was supposed to end. As the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

What Dr. King would say about the situation?

My guess is that he’d be angry.

Death In The White Mountains

Normally I prefer to keep many of my non-political opinion pieces as lighthearted as possible, sharing stories about people here, both the incredibly good as well as the incredibly stupid. But this time the story will not be of someone doing something stupid and looking foolish in the process, but of someone doing something stupid and paying for it with their life.

I love living in New Hampshire and enjoy seeing other people from elsewhere enjoying their visits here, but too many of the visitors here have no concept about how harsh the weather conditions can be here during winter. They are unprepared for the bitter cold, high winds, and deep snows. The following story is a perfect illustration of how deadly the weather, in combination with alcohol consumption, can be.


Sunday night was the last night in the life of Karen Grainger, 41, a visitor from the UK. She was here on vacation with a companion, staying in the town of Jackson in the Mount Washington Valley.

As reported to the Manchester Union Leader, Jackson Police Chief John Kelly said, “She was vacationing here with a friend, a (male) companion. They had had dinner and consumed alcohol and spent the evening there. Witnesses said there was no arguing, nothing suspicious; they appeared to be happy. There was no suspicious behavior.”

Just before 1 a.m. Grainger decided to walk back to the Wentworth Hotel while her companion decided to stay on until last call. The bartender, who had been talking to the couple during the evening, was not in the room when she left.

It was a short walk, all of a quarter if a mile.

She never made it.

“It’s not unusual for anyone to walk back to their hotel,” Kelly said. “What is unusual is to walk back when it’s 5 degrees (-18 degrees C)” for a person not dressed appropriately for the bitter cold.

Karen Grainger hadn’t worn a jacket or coat, had on a short sleeve shirt, trousers, and high heels.

Police found her eight hours later, about 10 feet off the road, frozen to death. They had retraced her steps from the Shannon Door Pub, following her footprints along the snow-covered road, over an embankment, and to the place where she finally lay down and died of hypothermia.

“It took me no longer than 15 minutes to walk where she did; it took me about 12 minutes,” Kelly said. “But I imagine it took her a lot longer.”

Alcohol consumption leading to poor judgement, bitter cold and summer weight clothing all came together to kill Karen Grainger.

It’s one hell of a way to end a vacation.


Honor Where Honor’s Due

From Samizdata comes word of a Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to a British commando of the SBS (Special Boat Service).

It will be the first time the medal has been awarded to a living foreigner.

The SBS senior NCO led a patrol of half-a-dozen SBS commandos who rescued a member of the CIA's special activities section from the fort at Qala-i-Jangi near Mazar-e-Sharif, last November. The fort was holding 500 al Qaida and Taliban prisoners, many of whom had not been searched and were still armed.

An exchange of fire developed into a full-scale revolt and two CIA officers who had been interrogating the prisoners were caught in the battle in which one, Mike Spann, was killed. The uprising went on for three days and the SBS commandos remained throughout, bringing down aerial fire to quell the revolt.

Similarities Between Bush And Reagan

L.A. Times columnist James Gerstenzang makes a comparison between George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan that surprised me until I’d thought about it.

“The similarities between the two Presidents are striking: The retreats to the ranch whenever possible to clear brush and to clear their minds; the readiness to delegate important tasks to their aides; the reliance on tax cuts to spur the economy.

In many ways, George W. Bush, as President, has more in common with Ronald Reagan than he has with George H.W. Bush, his father.”

At first I thought Gerstenzang was off his rocker. But as I thought about it, it became quite obvious that he was right.

Despite George Bush’s verbal foibles and fumbles, he still is able to get his point across to the American people. The usual suspects figure that George is a bumbling idiot, not unlike what many of them thought about Ronald Reagan. To quote the former President, “There you go again!”

As I’ve written here in the past, George is no fool. And those who think that he is are constantly surprised when they find out he’s pulled a fast one. Of course, they will conveniently forget that he isn’t anybody’s fool and will be surprised again and again when he reminds them.

It’s like the Reagan years all over again. A case in point:

“The similarity to Reagan was driven home last week as President Bush unveiled a $674-billion tax cut and economic stimulus proposal – much larger than expected – at a time of ballooning federal budget deficits and a military buildup.

Indeed, Vice President Cheney drew on Reagan’s experience to rebut critics who say the tax cut would drain money from the war on terror. ‘We’ve been in similar situations before,’ he said in a speech on Friday. ‘Back in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan cut taxes to stimulate economic growth, increased defense spending and won the Cold War.’ ”

Though George H.W. Bush had labeled Reaganomics as ‘voodoo economics’, it worked, broadening the tax base and increasing tax revenues beyond what had been lost due to the tax cuts. The economy turned around. It didn’t balance the budget, but it increased tax revenues. Does anyone remember the Laffer Curve? It appears that George W. Bush does.

It is to be expected that many of George W. Bush’s critics will be waiting for the kind of mistake that derailed his father’s re-election bid in 1992 when it comes time for his own re-election campaign in 2004. I have a feeling they’re going to be very disappointed.

(I haven’t been able to find a link to the Gerstenzang article so far. If I do, I’ll update this post.)


“You can go wrong by being far too skeptical as readily as by being too trusting.” – Lazarus Long


Must See TV

Normally I’m not one to review or make comments on a TV show or movie, but I’m going to make an exception just this once (subject to change without notice or if I damn well feel like it).

I watched Mr. Sterling on NBC (Fridays, 8PM) having been intrigued by some of the teasers I’d seen over the past month or so. To keep this brief, I really liked it.


Because I wish more of our U.S. Senators were like the lead character, portrayed by Josh Brolin - Not beholden to any political party, lobbyist, or other special interests. All Mr. Sterling wants to do is serve his constituents. He’s not concerned with re-election. He’s willing to tell the press that certain aspects of his private life are none of their damn business.

I think it’s going to be a ‘must watch’ kind of TV series.

Back Home Again

I made it back from Maine with little difficulty, though the traffic was slowed here and there by the timid drivers gracing our highways and byways. Every bit of blowing snow or oncoming traffic inducing many of them to use their brakes, causing them to go even slower than the 10 or 15 miles per hour below the posted limit at which they were already traveling. That turned a two-hour trip into a nerve-wracking three-hour drive through hell. At least the trip from New Hampshire to Maine was nowhere near as harrowing as the trip back.

One of the things I did while in Brunswick was to help Doctor Allan set up his wireless network, allowing his bride to use the laptop while downstairs. We finally had the network up and running and I figured it was a good place to stop for the day. Apparently Doctor Allan thought otherwise.

It wasn’t until later in the evening when he told me he was having problems with the network. What I found was that the network wasn’t working at all.

He had changed some network settings on the wireless router in the process of trying to get the networked printers working and now nothing was talking to anything else.

This morning we got almost everything working again except for printing. Nothing I did got the printers to communicate with the rest of the network. And then it was time for me to go home.

So it looks like I’ll be trying to troubleshoot the printing problem over the phone. I just hope that Doctor Allan can follow arcane directions.


Laurence Simon came through for us, filling in admirably while I was away. He’s still working on his Amish Tech Support Blog A Day Tour. Let’s all give him a hand and help him reach his goal of 365 blogs in 365 days.

I have to say he did pretty darn good on a New England blog even if he is in Texas.

Thanks, Laurence!


“Thou shalt remember the Eleventh Commandment and keep it Wholly.” – Lazarus Long


The 2003 Blog A Day Tour

It's true. The Amish Tech Support 2003 Blog A Day Tour has come to the WeekendPundit. On a weekend, no less, when the Excellence In Blogcasting Network usually just airs repeats and Best Of shows.

I figured I'd share with you short, sweet, and simple today. I have here in my Cheeto-stained fingers (rustle rustle) a piece I've ripped from the headlines you might find amusing, where the bigger they are the harder they apologize before they fall. The Political Correctness witch-hunt has come to the NBA:

AP: Shaq says Yao comments were said in jest

The Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal said he was joking, not being a racist, when he used a mock Chinese accent while talking about Houston center Yao Ming.

A columnist for AsianWeek complained in his newspaper that O'Neal made several derogatory comments recently about Yao, with the Lakers' center saying, "Tell Yao Ming, 'ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh."'

"I said it jokingly, so this guy was just trying to stir something up that's not there. He's just somebody who doesn't have a sense of humor, like I do. I don't have to have a response to that (the charges of racism) because the people who know me know I'm not," O'Neal said Friday before Los Angeles' game against Cleveland.
Well, it's no wonder why he made such a hurtful and stupid remark. I guess according to Senator Patty Murray, Osama bin Laden hadn't built up any of his tolerance-teaching schools, universities and hospitals to help raise poor, confused Shaquille O'Neal, having to fall back on LSU for an education, instead. And despite his best efforts and valiant attempt to get the right end of the pencil to mark his SAT, he came away with nothing for his years of effort and had to fall back on a basketball career.

"I mean, if I was the first one to do it, and the only one to do it, I could see what they're talking about. But if I offended anybody, I apologize."
Stop the tape! Stop the tape! Will someone please check the tape and compare that to what Trent Lott did? And did Trent Lott make a remark that defended his actions with "Well, everybody's doing it and I'm not the first" as an excuse before giving a bogus apology?

"Over my 11 years in the NBA, I know for a fact that most of you guys are going to write what you want to write, and it's our job to either defend it or just let it go. At times I try to be a comedian," he said. "Sometimes I make a good joke and sometimes it's a bad joke.

"That's just the ups and downs of trying to be a comedian."
Don't I know it.

Yao Ming took the high road with the following:

"There are a lot of difficulties in two different cultures understanding each other. Especially two very large countries. The world is getting smaller and I think it's important to have a greater understanding of other cultures. I believe Shaquille O'Neal was joking but I think that a lot of Asian people don't understand that kind of joke," Yao said.

"Chinese is hard to learn. I had trouble with it when I was little," Yao joked.
He looked at the comment for what it was, a joke and an ignorant blurt from a man who couldn't get a decent education because we don't build schools and universities for our people like Osama bin Laden does for his people over there (thanks, Patty Murray!), and he interpreted and dismissed it for what it was.

And then, he made his own, more intelligent and funnier joke right back with a degree of self-effacement. My opinion of Yao Ming as a person just went up by ten points.

(This has been today's post as part of the Amish Tech Support Blog A Day Tour. Where will he show up next? Well, if you write Laurence Simon at his blog and volunteer, he'll stop by your blog!)


Down East Maine, Ayuh

I'm headin' over to Brunswick, Maine to visit Doctor Allan and his family, don'tcha see. I've got a lot of things to discuss with him and his bride, Melinda. So don't get your knickers in a twist if postin' is light for a day or two.

Besides, Laurence Simon from over ta' Amish Tech Support will be doin' just that – supportin' this here blog while I'm out. And who knows, it's quite possible my brothah might get it in his head to actually post somethin' profound, ayuh.


Flatlander News

It’s Thursday, time for guest blogger Brendan Smith to bring us up to date on the latest adventures of a Flatlander trying to make a go of it here in New Hampshire.


The Mad Bomber
by Brendan Smith

The Weirs Times

There’s nothing like the feel of going downhill, snow blowing in your face as you weave your body side to side trying to stay upright. The thrill of making it to the bottom all in one piece and then, with a brave face, making one’s way back up to the top to do it all over again. Is this Gunstock I'm talking about? Or maybe it's Loon Mountain. Waterville Valley? Actually it’s my driveway as I, the Flatlander that I am, struggled with the challenge of using a snowblower for the first time.

The snowblower arrived on Christmas Eve. Not a Christmas present, we had been waiting for it for a couple of weeks. The fact that it arrived on the day before Christmas didn't make me think of it as a present. But the morning after Christmas, it was the only thing I wanted.

I did pretty good on Christmas morning. Got a lot of great gifts from my wife and family. One of the more practical things, though I didn't know it at the time, was a rabbitskin Mad Bomber Hat with earflaps which at first, I thought, might have been a joke gift from my native spouse to her Flatlander husband, but which became in just a few hours the essential Christmas Day attire.

Now in case you missed it; maybe too much eggnog; we received quite a present of snow throughout the Lakes Region on Christmas night. Upon arriving back from a visit to the in-laws we were greeted with a large helping of snowbank delivered by the roads crew in the entrance of our driveway, a present I'm sure many of you also got. (Just to vent a bit... maybe I'm wrong, but don't the city and towns own from the sidewalk down to the street? Doesn't that make them the owners of most driveway aprons and entrances?? Doesn't that make them responsible for clearing them?? I'm sure it won't do any good, but just thought I'd say it.) I got out of the car, Mad Bomber hat in place, climbed over the snowbank and trudged up the sloped driveway like Admiral Peary arriving early for a yard sale in the Antarctic. I opened the garage door and saw the snowblower... resting, waiting, looking at me. I looked into its eyes then down at my family staring at me through the rapidly frosting windows of the mini-van. Did I dare pretend to know what I was doing and take it out and become trapped in the snow with the monster while they waited in vain for me at the end of the driveway thinking of ways to melt snow for drinking water and gnawing at the leather seat backs for nourishment? I grabbed the snow shovel, trudged my way back down and shoveled out an entranceway at the same time tightening the already present knot in my shoulderblade that appeared after wrapping Christmas presents leaning over in the bedroom.

Safe and warm in the house we spent the rest of the night watching movies and assembling Zoids on the living room floor. (For those of you who are Zoid-less I can only tell you that it is an experience closely related to painting the entire collection of Beatles album covers on the head of a pin but that’s only if you've been resisting the move to bifocals as I have and constantly switching from glasses to none as you go back and forth between directions and minuscule Zoid pieces.)

The next morning, as most of you know (and a really big surprise to you egg-noggers) there was enough snow to keep the folks at Gunstock from bugging the taxpayers for years. (Too bad they can't freeze it for next year.) The knot in my back felt like it had been used as the practice net for Tiger Woods' practice drives. Shoveling wasn't even an option. I'd have to make my peace with the snowblower.

My wife was the only one home when the person we bought the snowblower from came by to show us how it works so she came out with me to give me the lowdown. After figuring out the choke, clutch, blower logistics I gave a few pumps to the primer, pulled the cord and felt the rumble of the snowblower come alive in my hands. I also saw, though she will never admit it, a slight look of fear in my wife’s eyes as she high-tailed it into the house.

At this point I should explain the layout of the driveway. This wasn't your standard walk up and down and blow snow to either side easy deal. The driveway is on an incline and is surrounded on both sides by two houses, fences and two stone walls at the bottom half. Every snowflake must be blown (or shoveled) up and over something. The snowblower was supposed to be powerful enough to clear the stone walls, and it was, but the big issues was first moving the snow down towards them and then up and over.. I put the blower in gear, turned the blower tube (is that what you call it?) straight ahead and pushed down on the handle to turn the augers. The snow lifted straight up, since I had the directional sleeve pointed that way, and then back towards me as the heavy winds of the morning decided at that moment to blow that way. Within seconds my Mad Bomber hat was covered with snow as was the rest of me. I stopped to consider the situation. I thought I saw, out of the corner of my eyes, a face peeking at me from the window, when I looked up no one was there though the curtain was moving slightly.

I decided the best mode of attack was a back and forth attack between houses, blowing the snow down to the end of the driveway and then a quick up and down, chute turned to the side and over the stone walls. It worked. Soon I was blowing snow faster than a Red Sox September collapse. I weaved my way to the bottom of the driveway, back and forth, trying to keep my footing on the slippery terrain. In no time I was at the end of the driveway. I lifted my head to survey my work. I had done good. I turned to acknowledge recognition from the face at the window, but it wasn't there.

It was then I noticed a neighbor of mine, a fellow flatlander who had only moved here this past summer. He had his unergonomically correct shovel in one hand staring at the Kilimanjaro snowbank which the road crews had left for him. (To give you an idea how big this snowbank was all I can see it was ten degrees colder at the top than it was at the bottom.) I watched for a few minutes as he violently attacked the mountain for a few minutes and then stood back to see that he had made less than a dent. It was then I proudly walked down the street, snowblower loudly proclaiming its arrival. He looked at me and I at him, the noise too loud to talk over but it was understood. He stepped back wordlessly as I made mincemeat out of the snowbank within a matter of minutes.

When I was done I turned to go back home. His eyes met mine with an appreciative nod and he gave a respectful glance to the machine.

I strutted my stuff back home, tucked the snowblower back in the cozy spot I had made for it in the garage. I gently turned it off and patted it's steely head, burning my finger on that really hot piece on top. It was a small price to pay for I had tamed the monster and had made it my friend.

I went inside to have a cup of coffee and accept the platitudes of those inside. Before I took off my Mad Bomber I was reminded to take out the garbage.

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


Kinda Late

I just got home after a long day at the lab and meetings down in the state capitol. Let's face it folks, I'm tired. So no great words of wisdom from the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee tonight.

But here's one thing that just might assuage your disappointment - Brendan Smith's latest installment on the life and times of a Flatlander in New Hampshire can be seen here tomorrow.

Now I'm going to bed....


Wind Of Winter

I must warn you up front – I stole the title for this post from Fred over at Fragments From Floyd.

His post reminded me so much of the many winters I’ve spent here in New England and elsewhere. But while he has never really come to terms with winter, or more specifically, the winter winds, I revel in them.

And though at times I may complain about the snow, I love it.

There’s nothing more delightful than watching the snow come down, dancing about at the mercy of the winds. But even as powerful as the winds might be, the snow mutes the sound of them, making them more felt than heard. It is the snow that dominates, the snow that colors the land, the snow that gives the only voice that will be heard.

How many times have I stood on the stoop or at the edge of a field and heard the quiet hiss of the falling snow? Even in the dark of night when color has faded, the voice of the snow can be heard. The wind may drive it, causing it to ululate, almost like waves washing against an empty beach.

As snow falls, it quiets all about it, the sounds of civilization fading away to be replaced with the muffled rumble of people in their cars carefully making their way home. Snow makes home feel more like the haven it truly is.

There have been many times when I have trod the snow-covered roads on my way home, walking in the gathering dark, my boots making the sluff-sluff-sluff sound that is almost like a mantra, heightening my awareness of all around me. Here and there during my trek, the sharp and inviting aroma of wood smoke fills my nostrils, transporting me back to the time when I was a child, visiting my grandparents one winter long ago - Their large fireplace filled with the light and heat of seasoned wood, the coals underneath glowing with warmth, the occasional shower of sparks climbing up and into the flue as the burning wood shifted as it was consumed. Even on the darkest winter night, that image warms my soul and brings the smile of a fond memory to my face.

How can I not love a season of such contrasts? How can I ignore winter when it restores my appreciation for the seasons that follow?

The Shade Of Neville Chamberlain

Jack Anderson brought up an excellent point in one of his recent columns – Time is not on our side.

When it comes to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Kim Jong Il in North Korea, time works against the United States.

Anderson writes:

“Iraq’s Saddam Hussein threatens his neighbors with weapons of mass destruction and the world with the disruption of its primary oil supply. It is our inaction that encourages a continuation of the same. It also encourages others to act. North Korea, discerning an international paralysis bordering on appeasement, has taken the opportunity to proceed with its nuclear bomb building, which the Bush administration has said is a diplomatic crisis, not a war crisis.

It is all reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain in the 1930’s, who said he could deal with Chancellor Hitler. He, too, believed Hitler’s actions – occupation of the Rhineland, the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia and Austria – created a diplomatic crisis, and he declared ‘Peace in our time,’ after acceding to the land grabs. Winston Churchill knew better. He understood that talk is not deterrence, that inaction allows action, that only two equal and opposite reactions could offset Hitler’s actions: surrender or war.”

And that is the dilemma we find ourselves in today. The UN and many of the antiwar-at-all-cost lefties believe that there is a diplomatic solution to the evils of dictators like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il. What they don’t seem to understand is that war is an extension of diplomacy, just a very pro-active and violent one. Carl von Clausewitz knew this. There are times when talk will do more harm than good and war will do more good than harm. We are rapidly approaching that time, assuming we haven’t already passed it.

We certainly cannot surrender to dictators like Hussein or Kim. We cannot show weakness or even an appearance of appeasement. All this does is encourage rash actions in the belief that we will cave in and allow them to continue with little or no interference. We must disabuse them of that belief. We must not let others like the UN decide whether we will be allowed to defend ourselves and the rest of the world from madmen such as these.

Anderson makes the point that the president made a mistake when he deferred U.S. policy toward Iraq to the UN:

“The president should not have allowed UN weapons inspectors to determine if Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction. U.S. intelligence sources had already confirmed this fact and reported the Iraqi threat was a clear and present danger.”

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I get the feeling that the UN weapons inspectors are trying very hard not to find any weapons of mass destruction. It is apparent to me that Hans Blix doesn’t like the idea of war and doesn’t want to be the trigger for U.S. military actions against Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

But inaction can have worse consequences than war. What will Hans Blix tell the American people if an Iraqi nuclear warhead is smuggled in to the U.S. and detonated in an American city?

“Sorry about that, old chap?”

I’m sure such words will bring great comfort to the survivors. Of course he won’t be able to offer such conciliatory words to the people of Iraq if such a thing should happen because most of them will have died in a nuclear fireball of U.S. origin.

And it will be seen that it all could have been avoided if the U.S. had gone to war against Iraq.

Let’s not let that possible reality come to pass.


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


U.S. Military Weapons Part III

This post has actually been done for some time. However, other things that I thought were more important (or at least, more fun) came up and I put this aside.


In this part, we’ll be looking at more of the aircraft used by the U.S. armed forces, particularly bombers and support aircraft. As in Part II, much of what is written here is not my work, but is quoted from the various web sites I used and linked to, primarily the Federation of American Scientists. Here and there I edited some of the text to clear up grammatic errors or correct some awkward phrasing.

See Part I here.

See Part II here.


-- B-52 Stratofortress

The B-52H BUFF [Big Ugly Fat Fellow] is the primary nuclear capable bomber in the USAF inventory. It provides the only Air Launch Cruise Missile carriage in the USAF. The B-52H also provides theater CINCs with a long range strike capability. The bomber is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters). It can carry nuclear or conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.

The aircraft's flexibility was evident during the Vietnam War, in Operation Desert Storm, and again in Afghanistan. During Desert Storm B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq's Republican Guard. The Gulf War involved some of the longest strike missions in the history of aerial warfare when B-52s took off from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., launched conventional air launched cruise missiles and returned to Barksdale -- a 35-hour, non-stop combat mission.

A total of 744 B-52s were built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962. Only the H model is still in the Air Force inventory and all are assigned to Air Combat Command. The first of 102 B-52H's was delivered to Strategic Air Command in May 1961. The H model can carry up to 20 air launched cruise missiles. In addition, it can carry the conventional cruise missile that was launched from B-52G models during Desert Storm.

In a conventional conflict, the B-52H can perform air interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations. During Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces. It is highly effective when used for ocean surveillance, and can assist the U.S. Navy in anti-ship and mine-laying operations. Two B-52s, in two hours, can monitor 140,000 square miles (364,000 square kilometers) of ocean surface.

Starting in 1989, an on-going modification incorporates the global positioning system, heavy stores adapter beams for carrying 2,000 pound munitions and additional smart weapons capability. All aircraft are being modified to carry the AGM-142 Raptor missile and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.

-- B-2 Spirit

The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.

Along with the B-52 and B-1B, the B-2 provides the penetrating flexibility and effectiveness inherent in manned bombers. Its low-observable, or "stealth," characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy's most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended, targets. Its capability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provide an effective deterrent and combat force well into the 21st century.

The blending of low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload gives the B-2 important advantages over existing bombers. Its low-observability provides it greater freedom of action at high altitudes, thus increasing its range and a better field of view for the aircraft's sensors. Its unrefueled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers).

The B-2's low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for the sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2's composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its "stealthiness."

The B-2 has a crew of two pilots, an aircraft commander in the left seat and mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B's crew of four and the B-52's crew of five.

The B-2 is intended to deliver gravity nuclear and conventional weapons, including precision-guided standoff weapons. An interim, precision-guided bomb capability called Global Positioning System (GPS) Aided Targeting System/GPS Aided Munition (GATS/GAM) is being tested and evaluated. Future configurations are planned for the B-2 to be capable of carrying and delivering the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.

B-2s, in a conventional role, staging from Whiteman AFB, MO; Diego Garcia; and Guam can cover the entire world with just one refueling. Six B-2s could execute an operation similar to the 1986 Libya raid but launch from the continental U.S. rather than Europe with a much smaller, more lethal, and more survivable force.

-- B-1B Lancer (or Bone)

The B-1B is a multi-role, long-range bomber, capable of flying intercontinental missions without refueling, then penetrating present and predicted sophisticated enemy defenses. It can perform a variety of missions, including that of a conventional weapons carrier for theater operations. Through 1991, the B-1 was dedicated to the nuclear deterrence role as part of the single integrated operational plan (SIOP).

The B-1B's electronic jamming equipment, infrared countermeasures, radar location and warning systems complement its low-radar cross-section and form an integrated defense system for the aircraft.

The swing-wing design and turbofan engines not only provide greater range and high speed at low levels but they also enhance the bomber's survivability. Wing sweep at the full-forward position allows a short takeoff roll and a fast base-escape profile for airfields under attack. Once airborne, the wings are positioned for maximum cruise distance or high-speed penetration. The B-1B holds several world records for speed, payload and distance. The National Aeronautic Association recognized the B-1B for completing one of the 10 most memorable record flights for 1994.

The B-1B uses radar and inertial navigation equipment enabling aircrews to globally navigate, update mission profiles and target coordinates in-flight, and precision bomb without the need for ground based navigation aids. Included in the B-1B offensive avionics are modular electronics that allow maintenance personnel to precisely identify technical difficulties and replace avionics components in a fast, efficient manner on the ground.

The aircraft's AN/ALQ 161A defensive avionics is a comprehensive electronic counter-measures package that detects and counters enemy radar threats. It also has the capability to detect and counter missiles attacking from the rear. It defends the aircraft by applying the appropriate counter-measures, such as electronic jamming or dispensing expendable chaff and flares. Similar to the offensive avionics, the defensive suite has a re-programmable design that allows in-flight changes to be made to counter new or changing threats.

The B-1B represents a major upgrade in U.S. long-range capabilities over the B-52 -- the previous mainstay of the bomber fleet. Significant advantages include:

 Low radar cross-section to make detection considerably more difficult.
 Ability to fly lower and faster while carrying a larger payload.
 Advanced electronic countermeasures to enhance survivability.

Aerial Tankers

-- KC-135 Stratotanker

The Boeing Military Airplane Company's model 367-80 was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker. In 1954 the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future fleet of 732. The first of these aircraft left the assembly line at Boeing Airplane Company, Renton, Washington, July 18, 1956, and flew for the first time August 31, 1956. The Air Force received its first KC-135s at Castle Air Force Base, Calif., Jun 28, 1957. The first aircraft flew in August 1956 and the initial-production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, Calif., in June 1957. The last KC-135A was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.

About 550 of the tankers built - all by Boeing at its Seattle facilities - remain in service. In addition, Boeing built 88 aircraft in over 30 different models for other Air Force uses, such as flying command posts, pure transports, electronic reconnaissance and photo mapping. The last of these special-purpose aircraft was delivered in late 1966. Responsibility for the KC-135 was transferred to Boeing in Wichita in 1969.

In Southeast Asia, KC-135 Stratotankers made the air war different from all previous aerial conflicts. Mid-air refueling brought far-flung bombing targets within reach. Combat aircraft, no longer limited by fuel supplies, were able to spend more time in target areas.

Structurally, the KC-135 is similar but not identical to the Boeing 707 commercial airliner. It is a swept-wing, long range, high altitude, high speed jet transport. The KC-135 can haul either 83,000 pounds of cargo, airlift up to 80 passengers or carry 202,800 pounds of JP-4 jet fuel, most of which is transferable for global refueling missions.

The primary mission of the KC-135 is the refueling of strategic long-range bombers. It also provides air refueling support to Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft as well as aircraft of allied nations. The KC-135 is equipped with a flying boom for fuel transfer; a special drogue can be attached to the boom on the ground so it can refuel probe-equipped aircraft. During air refueling, the large flyable boom attached to the airplane's belly can offload fuel at 6,500 pounds per minute. This is enough fuel in one minute to operate an average family car for one year.

-- KC-10 Extender

The United States Air Force/McDonnell Douglas KC-10A advanced tanker/cargo aircraft is a version of the intercontinental-range DC-10 Series 30CF (convertible freighter), modified to provide increased mobility for U.S. forces in contingency operations by refueling fighters and simultaneously carrying the fighters' support equipment and support people on overseas deployments: refueling strategic airlifters (such as the USAF C-5, C-17 and C-l4l) during overseas deployments and resupply missions; and augmenting the U.S. airlift capability.

In most instances, the KC-10A performs these missions without dependence on overseas bases and without depleting critical fuel supplies in the theater of operations. Equipped with its own refueling receptacle, the KC-10A can support deployment of fighters, fighter support aircraft and airlifters from U.S. bases to any area in the world, with considerable savings in both cost and fuel compared to pre-KC-l0A capabilities.

The aerial refueling capability of the KC-10A nearly doubles the nonstop range of a fully-loaded C-5 strategic transport. In addition, its cargo capability enables the U.S. to deploy some fighter squadrons and their unit support people and equipment with a single airplane type, instead of requiring both tanker and cargo aircraft. The Air Force is calling the KC-10A the "Extender" because of its ability to carry out aerial refueling and cargo mission without forward basing, thus extending the mobility of U.S. forces.

Although the KC-10A's primary mission is aerial refueling, it can combine the tasks of tanker and cargo aircraft by refueling fighters while carrying the fighters' support people and equipment during overseas deployments. The KC-10A can transport up to 75 people and about 170,000 pounds (76,560 kilograms) of cargo a distance of about 4,400 miles (7,040 kilometers). Without cargo, the KC-10A's unrefueled range is more than 11,500 miles.

The KC-10A tanker can deliver 200,000 pounds (90,719 kg) of fuel to a receiver 2200 statute miles (3539.8 km) from the home base and return, or it can carry a maximum cargo payload of 169,409 pounds (76,843 kg) a distance of 4370 statute miles (7031 km). Unrefueled ferry range of the KC-l0A is 11,500 statute miles (18,503 km).

Aerial Warning, Command, and Control

-- E-3 Sentry (AWACS)

The E-3 Sentry is an airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft that provides all-weather surveillance, command, control and communications needed by commanders of U.S. and NATO air defense forces. As proven in Desert Storm, it is the premier air battle command and control aircraft in the world today.

The E-3 Sentry is a modified Boeing 707/320 commercial airframe with a rotating radar dome. The dome is 30 feet (9.1 meters) in diameter, six feet (1.8 meters) thick, and is held 11 feet (3.3 meters) above the fuselage by two struts. It contains a radar subsystem that permits surveillance from the Earth's surface up into the stratosphere, over land or water. The radar has a range of more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) for low-flying targets and farther for aerospace vehicles flying at medium to high altitudes. The radar combined with an identification friend or foe subsystem can look down to detect, identify and track enemy and friendly low-flying aircraft by eliminating ground clutter returns that confuse other radar systems.

Other major subsystems in the E-3 are navigation, communications and computers (data processing). Consoles display computer-processed data in graphic and tabular format on video screens. Console operators perform surveillance, identification, weapons control, battle management and communications functions.

The radar and computer subsystems on the E-3 Sentry can gather and present broad and detailed battlefield information. Data is collected as events occur. This includes position and tracking information on enemy aircraft and ships, and location and status of friendly aircraft and naval vessels. The information can be sent to major command and control centers in rear areas or aboard ships. In time of crisis, this data can be forwarded to the National Command Authorities in the United States.

In support of air-to-ground operations, the Sentry can provide direct information needed for interdiction, reconnaissance, airlift and close-air support for friendly ground forces. It can also provide information for commanders of air operations to gain and maintain control of the air battle.

As an air defense system, E-3s can detect, identify and track airborne enemy forces far from the boundaries of the United States or NATO countries. It can direct fighter-interceptor aircraft to these enemy targets.


The Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) is a long-range, air-to-ground surveillance system designed to locate, classify and track ground targets in all weather conditions. While flying in friendly airspace, the joint Army-Air Force program can look deep behind hostile borders to detect and track ground movements in both forward and rear areas. It has a range of more than 150 miles (250 km). These capabilities make Joint STARS effective for dealing with any contingency, whether actual or impending military aggression, international treaty verification, or border violation.

Joint STARS consists of an airborne platform--an E-8C aircraft with a multi-mode radar system--and U.S. Army mobile Ground Station Modules (GSMs).

The E-8C, a modified Boeing 707, carries a phased-array radar antenna in a 26-foot canoe-shaped radome under the forward part of the fuselage. The radar is capable of providing targeting and battle management data to all Joint STARS operators, both in the aircraft and in the ground station modules. These operators, in turn, can call on aircraft, missiles or artillery for fire support. With a reported range in excess of 155 miles, this radar can cover an estimated 386,100 square miles in a single eight-hour sortie.

Wide Area Surveillance and Moving Target Indicator (WAS/MTI) are the radar's fundamental operating modes. WAS/MTI is designed to detect, locate and identify slow-moving targets. Through advanced signal processing, Joint STARS can differentiate between wheeled and tracked vehicles. By focusing on smaller terrain areas, the radar image can be enhanced for increased resolution display. This high resolution is used to define moving targets and provide combat units with accurate information for attack planning.

Synthetic Aperture Radar/Fixed Target Indicator (SAR/FTI) produces a photographic-like image or map of selected geographic regions. SAR data maps contain precise locations of critical non-moving targets such as bridges, harbors, airports, buildings, or stopped vehicles.

The FTI display is available while operating in the SAR mode to identify and locate fixed targets within the SAR area. The SAR and FTI capability used in conjunction with MTI and MTI history display allows post-attack assessments to be made by onboard or ground operators following a weapon attack on hostile targets.

Joint STARS operates in virtually any weather, on-line, in real-time, around the clock. The augmented Army-Air Force mission crew can be deployed to a potential trouble spot within hours and provide valuable data on ground force movements.


For a brief overview of future US military weapons systems, look here.


A Military Draft For Equality?

Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) has called for reinstituting the military draft in the name of equality. He feels that the all-volunteer armed forces are inherently discriminatory because not too many of the rich white folks and women enlist.

Though a draft would create an artificial 'balance', the quality of our armed forces would go down. Though the decline in quality would have nothing to do with the backgrounds of the draftees, it would have everything to do with the fact that the conscripts would be there against their will. Something like that is not a big motivator when it comes to the military.

I much prefer a military where each and every soldier, sailor, airman, or marine is there because they want to be there, are motivated, and aren't thinking about getting out as soon as they can. The turnover in trained military personnel will increase dramatically, increasing the cost of training and readiness at a time when we can least afford it.

This proposal is just too P.C. for my tastes. I wonder whether Rangel bothered asking any of the military personnel presently serving whether they think it's a good idea. Somehow, I doubt he has. If he had, he'd find it wasn't a particularly popular idea. I know many people serving in the U.S. armed forces, both enlisted and officers, and asked a number of them what they thought of the idea. Every single one I asked (about a dozen) told me it was stupid, something that would do more to hurt morale than anything else.

Though some have voiced the opinion that the draft worked in World War II, the motivation for the draft then was completely different compared to now. During World War II, we were fighting for our very survival. The draft was more a formality because so many young men enlisted. The 'draftees' were highly motivated and knew what they were fighting for.

This draft would be purely political, ensuring nothing except Representative Rangel's re-election.


"No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and, in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: 'Come back with your shield, or on it.' Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome." - Lazarus Long