Friday, October 09, 2009


The genius of John Boyd's OODA Loop lies in its simplicity and brevity. Developed to give allied fighter pilots an edge during WWII aerial dogfights, it proved immensely successful - even over superior pilots and aircraft. Briefly, it outlined a strategic process to "observe", "orient", "decide" and "act". And then repeat as often as necessary. Modern businesses found the process to be so understandable and intuitive they adopted it wholesale after the war. Read the full Wiki piece for clearer details.

What our current president has cleverly done is modernize that process - at least as far as the war in Afghanistan is concerned - into an endless cycle of repeated observations and orientations, thus eliminating his onerous duty of actually forming a decision and doing something about it. As pointed out in Young Hamlet's Agony published today by RealClearPolitics and by the pen of Charles Krauthammer, after a lengthy process begun post-inauguration in January our leader claims to have "decided" March 27 on a "Comprehensive New Strategy" (CNS) vis-a-vis Afghanistan and Pakistan, going so far as to publicly "outline" the CNS. Only we now find out the "decision" forming the CNS was probably announced before it was really ready.

Fast forward two months later to early May. We are told the apparently still pre-decisional CNS is now "under review". OK, we have a new military commander on the ground and he needs time to "orient" himself. Point taken.

But then, five months later on October 4, we learn "The president is currently in the midst of an involved, overall strategic review of the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan." Hmmmmmm. What happened to the CNS? Still no deciding and acting reported. Just observing and orienting. And today we learn from the president's national security adviser, James L. Jones, Jr., "you don't commit troops before you decide on a strategy." What? We STILL don't have a "strategy"? Isn't that what a "CNS" is - or was?

Egads! Hamlet would be proud. But poor Colonel John Boyd should be rolling over in his grave. At this rate a real decision might not be forthcoming until the next US administration takes office. Way to go, President International Rock Star. Keep talking - essentially about yourself. No sense "doing" anything now and besmirching your regime's reputation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hi-Jinx on American Idol?

Are the sound engineers for American Idol on air broadcasts that bad or simply rank amateurs? The truth is for the last two weeks they stunk. Imo I know of several unpaid sound guys in junior colleges and churches who could work rings around those so-called professionals. But they don't belong to any broadcast union.

Watching the two hour airings this week brought deja vu memories from last week's first group of twelve show. During both broadcasts I thought the sound person(s) "riding the boards" were either deliberately sabotaging certain contestants, or learning their craft on-the-job. Either way, they did a lousy job.

What I'm speaking about is the "mix". During "live" artist performances using background vocalists and instrumentalists there should be at least four - or more - main categories of sound, plus a large number of minor categories. First and most prominent should be the artist, then the background group, then the instrumentalists and finally the concert hall. Last week and again tonight home viewers could clearly hear the concert hall, the instrumentalists and the background singers. Down somewhere in the "mud" both weeks were the first three or four - or more - artists. Just couldn't clearly hear their voices, their notes, their tones or their lyrics in order to judge how well they did. Until afterward when they began talking to the judges. Oddly, that part worked OK.

[NOTE: I am not even mentioning the obvioous short-comings in the "monitoring" process (direct sound feeds for the artist, etc.). That important function's failures were also obvious. But to keep it simple this rant is only about the sound being broadcast].

During both weeks' shows the singers further along in the sequence benefited from better broadcast acoustics, in my opinion. This gave them a tremendous advantage. But was it fair? In my opinion, no! If it had happened just one week it could have been an odd occurrence. But two weeks in a row make it a pattern. In my view it is most likely a deliberate attempt to skew the rating results. And that makes the entire series merely an underhanded, cheating set-up. Boy, am I surprised.

Oh, well. That's just Hollywood.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Smile, please!

It is official. The Monterey Bay and its environs have become overly-saturated with touristy types. See this item in the Monterey County Herald. So-called playful sea-otters of the area may have noticed this, too, and although unremarked upon in the daily paper, are apparently compiling evidence to be used for goodness knows what type of future complaint? For proof see this:

This shot, taken from a tour boat in the Elkhorn Slough on February 3, 2009, by freelance wildlife photographer Enrique Aguirre, shows a "happy critter" spotted turning the tables on a boatload of photographers who themselves were enjoying a photo shoot on the bay. At any rate, this is fair warning that whenever visiting the Monterey Bay and its sanctuary, one should now stay alert for the latest menace - nautical paparazzi.

Monday, February 09, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

Found on is this graphix of a bus from the Netherlands, but it is not what it appears to be. What you think you see is not actually happening. Study the photo again if you haven't yet figured it out.

And then scroll down for the solution.

OK, scroll a little further you cheater, you!

Careful scrutiny will show red stop and taillights on both sides of the "front face" of this coach, plus high in both corners may be seen red and amber marker lights. Even in the former Holland red lights may only be displayed on the rear of a normal vehicle, so what gives?

Well, the "windshield view of the driver and interior of the bus scene" and "the headlights" are merely hi-res graphic wraps, but the license plate, route designator, manufacturer's marque and company logos are all legit. It turns out an advertiser - apparently Apeldoorn Insurance in Amsteredam - is using this simple but effective eye-catching scene to establish name recognition and competitive positioning in this marketplace. Pretty cool, I say.

No word on what the local motorists think about this situation, but the mind boggles when considering the reaction of some folks on their way back to offices after extended "business" lunches. What they think they are seeing is a city coach "backing up" at normal speeds on the regular bus route. Talk about too much information to filter. 12 Step Programs, here we come.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Reflections on [not-always] Solid Waste

One of my regular "reads" is William M. (Matt) Briggs' interesting site [His MOTTO: "All manner of statistical analyses cheerfully undertaken"] wherein the author frequently expounds on a statistician's life's work and its associated travails. Lately Matt is sounding somewhat introspective and bored, as per this post on a study comparing satisfaction factors of 200 careers. Close to the bottom of the list were "garbage collectors". Said Matt:
For the last eleven years I have seen the same two guys drive their garbage truck down my street. They are always chatting and appear happy. They are outside and not hunched in front of a computer. There’s very little stress. They get good pay and benefits and first dibs at any choice garbage1. They don’t need to shell out cash for a gym membership to “exercise”, which is better defined as work that you pay for. In every parade I’ve ever been to, it’s the garbage men following after the horses that get the biggest applause.
His comment re: one of my cherished former occupations could not in all good consciousness remain unanswered, thus the following 49er Fiction and Fact tidbits:

  • The most rewarding time of the year for G-men vis-a-vis choice of food scraps is the week after Thanksgiving. Turkey is king!
  • On average it takes a retired G-man 20 years to sort through and dispose of the "usable" trash hauled home during a 10 year collection career. When all is said and done he will actually be able to use less than 2% of the stuff.
  • A hauling company will cut 25% off their labor budget if they require drivers dump loads at local transfer stations rather than outlying landfills. Locally there's much less opportunity for drivers to be distracted wasting time looking through "good stuff" others have dumped.
  • Usual question from a new customer: "Do you deliver in River City"? Usual answer: "Sure. How many truck loads do you want"?
  • Residential hauling technique pre-1965. Open top dump-truck with running boards on both sides; at least one man on each side plus driver, stepping on running board while lifting/carrying can, lifting and dumping can at least 45" above ground, sweeping upside-down can from side to side to spread trash around, stepping down and dropping empty on ground then picking up next can and repeating as needed. Jumped on running boards and held on till next stop. Time: About 45 seconds per can. Capacity: 220 cans. Work interval between bad back episodes: five days
  • Residential hauling technique post-1965. Covered bodied compaction truck with rear loading hopper; one man plus driver, lifting and dumping can into empty hopper from ground level, dropping empty on ground and repeating as necessary. Jump on rear step, activate compaction lever and held on till next stop. Time: About 30 seconds per can. Capacity: 800 cans. Work interval between bad back episodes: forty five days

OK, that's enough for now. Too many memories. And too much turkey-ala-king.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

To my children

We here in America usually don't keep close track of happenings in other nations. That's probably more because we lead extremely busy lives and have full plates just "getting by," much of the time, and not due to our parochialism or arrogance I hope. But I could be wrong.

Anyway, something is now occurring in The Netherlands [nee Holland] that bodes ill for your future, and as the "supreme authority figure in this family" [interpretation: ancient of days] it is my solemn duty to draw the issue to your attention - not that you can change it, but because you need to be aware of the ramifications that might eventually flow over you and yours from it.

Please read this post from one of my favorite web sites. Maybe even follow its links. Afterwards you might want to "google" Geert Wilders and read more about his supposed "crime". The sad fact is that America is the ONLY major nation left in the world that allows our level of "free" speech. Not Canada, not Australia, not Great Britain, not Scotland, not France, not China, not Japan, not any of the major players. All those nations in some way limit "free" speech if the words in question cause someone else to "feel" a certain way. In other words, they've given up one person's freedom to accommodate another person's feelings. I'm trusting you each see the fallacy in this line of thinking.

Now I'm not an absolutist on "free speech". There are reasonable limits to this freedom, such as not being permitted to yell "fire" in a crowded theater when there isn't one, etc. But arresting a person just because one's exercise of free speech might cause others in opposition to the expressed viewpoint to become violent is not "reasonable," in my view. Someone else's criminality is their responsibility, not a speakers merely because the speaker expressed an opinion. And any nation or peoples group which thinks otherwise have slipped a cog in the rationality department I fear.

By-the-way, taking away free speech would be the important first step in eventually altering or removing freedom of religion, and though that end result might at first glance seem far away, in fact once "free speech" could be shackled a restriction on religion is probably less than a decade behind - in my estimation.

The reason I raise this issue with you now is because there is a fear, whether realistic or not, that some radical supporters of our new administration, along with a few congresspersons, also favor the approach taken by The Netherlands in limiting certain aspects of "free" speech. Please be vigilant in the years ahead over this issue. If it comes up please exercise your rights as citizens to be heard. This issue sounds so innocuous at times, but once taken away, freedom of speech can almost never be restored without bloodshed. And the thought of that possibility waiting my offspring's future saddens me.

Ranting lesson over. Resume normalcy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The "Cleanliness" of Hypocrisy

Nothing seems to excite liberals quite so much as when they go about supposedly "righting wrongs" perpetrated by evil conservatives. Latest example is BHO's order closing down - within a year - the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A thread on The Volokh Conspiracy blog has been discussing a few ideas on how that task might be accomplished, but some of the commenters there seem giddy about this supposed "victory" over GWB. See here and here, for instance. Or read the entire thread for more flavor. [208 comments at one count].

Widely seen as the epitomy of torture and brutality, few take the time to remember why "Gitmo" was needed in the first place. For that memory jogger one needs the historical perspective of this Belmont Club entry. During his administration if it hadn't been for WJC's desire to keep his hands "clean" by cruelly and unproductively dealing with terrorists through third party entities, and the deniability - and paucity of intelligence - that afforded him, we likely wouldn't have had the deadly result of 9/11.

But who really knows? What
is provable is that since then, by virtue of the intelligence obtained from interrogations at Gitmo [of non-state affiliated terrorist gunmen captured while dangerously trying to blend in with local citizenry], the war on terror has NOT had to have been fought on our shores. But for some that apparently is not a good thing.

So once again liberals throw out wisdom in search of "cleanliness". The terrorists we capture post Gitmo will apparently not have to worry about gaining weight during incarceration any more, but will they tell us anything to prevent future attacks - or will they even survive? Their future - and ours - looks much bleaker. I suspect we are returning to "don't ask, don't tell" once again. Merely in order to "feel good" about ourselves. Hypocrisy. Hope and change.