Monthly Archives: October 2013

Will Battery-Powered Cars Ever Be Practical?

I read an article recently about a new development in "battery technology" by a research group in Singapore.  I put that in quotes because what they have developed is not a battery in the conventional sense.  It is a capacitor.  A capacitor with really immense storage capabilities, if you believe their press release. For electric vehicle (EV) applications, a capacitor is far superior to a battery.  Batteries store energy electrochemically.  Capacitors store it electrostatically.  What’s Read more [...]

Why A Standing Ovation?

Ken Santucci and I have a lot in common.  We are both retired aerospace engineers living in Southern California, both around seventy years old.  He worked for the old North American Aviation corporation before it was bought by Rockwell and became Rockwell International.  So did I.  He also worked for Douglas Aircraft before it became McDonnell Douglas, as did I.  Our careers were parallel paths for more than thirty years.  It’s a wonder we didn’t meet, somewhere along the line, but we never Read more [...]

You are gonna do WHAT with a power pole????

Our power company, Southern California Edison decided it was time to replace the 50-year-old power pole in the back corner of our yard.  The pole is used to provide electric power and communications (phone and cable TV) to our house and our next door neighbor. When they told me that they were going to park a crane in the middle of the street and lift the pole over a 70-foot ash tree in our back yard and drop it in a hole over 200 feet away, I was flabbergasted.  What kind of a crane could do Read more [...]

When Democracy Doesn’t Work

I live in California.   I wouldn’t live anywhere else.  Great climate, great people, wonderful cultural venues…oh did I mention?  GREAT CLIMATE! There are a few negatives:  Too many people agree with me, so it’s crowded and expensive to live here…unless you bought your pad 50 years ago, as I did.  And then, there’s Proposition 13…passed in 1979.  It limits property taxes and fixes it so those evil tax-and-spend Democrats can’t raise taxes without a 2/3 majority in the California Read more [...]

What My Mother Saw

This would have been my mother’s 115th year if she were still alive.  She was born in 1898.  She lived a long, and for the most part, healthy life, dying in 1990 at the age of 91.  Even though she was born in the waning moments of the 19th century, my mother was very much a creature of the 20th, living all but her first year and a few days in that tumultuous century. The United States of her childhood was a much different place from the one we know today.  Over 60% of the people lived on Read more [...]

Written on September 11, 2001

This day Tuesday, September 11, 2001 is a day I will remember for the rest of my life.  I was too young to remember the events of December 7th 1941, but it is also there, burned into my brain.  They were both days of national tragedy and crisis.  Days when our nation's very foundations were threatened.  The assassination of President Kennedy and the Oklahoma City bombing were also terrible events, but not in the same way, or on the same scale.   This is an attack on every person in this country.  Read more [...]

The Word

In the beginning there were the Colonies. And the Colonies were without form. And the King named George oppressed the Colonies. And the Colonies rose up and smited George’s armies and defeated them. And the leaders of the Colonies said, “Let the Colonies have form.” And they created a nation, giving shape and form to the Colonies. And they called it The United States of America. And they saw that it was good. And they created a Constitution, giving all citizens freedom Read more [...]

False Moral Dilemmas

Moral or ethical dilemmas are often presented in an attempt to manipulate us to accept a particular point of view, no matter how distasteful we find it.  In many cases, the dilemma is bogus, based on illogical or unsupportable premises…a false dilemma.  I will consider three false moral dilemmas here, involving torture, collateral damage and abortion. False Moral Dilemma No. 1:  Torture of prisoners. When the controversy over torture of captured terrorists erupted a year or so ago, an Read more [...]

The Trouble With Green Cars

This was written a few years ago but sadly, not much has changed. When the Toyota Prius first came out, I was really happy to see it.  At last, a major automaker was trying to address the problems of dwindling world petroleum supplies and environmental pollution.  True, GM had introduced the EV-1 battery-powered car back in 1996, but it was soon obvious that it was a token effort, quickly withdrawn from the market.  Other hybrids like the Honda Insight also appeared, but did not achieve widespread Read more [...]

The Tragedy of the Commons

The Tragedy of the Commons (TOC) is not widely known or understood, except among people who have studied environmental science.  The depletion of fishery stocks and whale populations are graphic examples of the idea.  Here is how Wikipedia defines it:   "The metaphor illustrates how free access and unrestricted demand for a finite resource ultimately structurally dooms the resource through over-exploitation. This occurs because the benefits of exploitation accrue to individuals or groups, each Read more [...]

Three Wise Guys

A long, long time ago, there were humans on the earth.  Records show that the first ones probably lived in what we now call Africa more than fifty thousand years ago, and from there, they gradually spread to the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, continued eastward into Asia, northward into Europe, and then into Indonesia, Australia and North and South America via the Aleutians, which at that time, formed a land bridge connecting Asia to North America. They were hunter-gatherers.  Nomads.  Read more [...]

The Poison Pill

I originally wrote this more than ten years ago, not long after the WTC attacks.  Since then the problem has remained, and even worsened. In his book, “The End of Faith,” Sam Harris makes a convincing case that the world’s two major religions, Christianity and Islam, are heading for a climactic confrontation.  Since the origin of Islam in 610 CE, this conflict has simmered and festered.  The Crusades and the Ottoman Empire’s conquests of southern Europe were samples of what is to come.  Read more [...]

The Nonsense of Airline Baggage Weight Limits

On our recent trip to Australia and New Zealand, we were unhappy to learn that domestic flights in New Zealand had severe weight restrictions.  Only one piece of checked luggage is allowed, maximum of 20 kilos, and one carry-on limited to 7 kilos.  The intercontinental flights did not have these restrictions, but our plans included domestic flights in New Zealand. Our trip was over three weeks in length, and included both cool and warm climates, and requirements for both casual and dress clothes.  Read more [...]

The Gracious Twenty Ninth

Mozart's Symphony No. 29 in A Major, that is.   I was listening to a nice recording of it on KUSC this evening, and I was reminded of how much I like this symphony.  It's so...gracious.  Sunny and exuberant, but most of all, it has this wonderful, grace about it.  Most of Mozart's late symphonies seem pretty intense to me, but the 29th seems a bit more relaxed.   In contrast, Symphony No. 25 in G minor...the so-called "little G minor"...is dark and brooding, all sturm und drang.  That's Read more [...]

The Creative Spirit in Eastern Europe

A few years ago, we took a three week trip to Eastern Europe.  We visited Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia on a river boat cruise that followed the Danube from Budapest, Hungary to the Black Sea and back.  These nations were all part of the former Soviet Bloc, operating under the Communist system for over fifty years following World War II.  As a card-carrying Capitalist for nearly seventy years, I was curious to see if the spirit of innovation and creativity was alive and well in Read more [...]

The Birthrate Wars

A couple years ago, I received an Email containing a video. It opens with a sepulchral voice, intoning a dire warning: Muslims are engaged in a worldwide conspiracy to conquer the world for Islam by outbreeding the western Judeo-Christian democracies, driving us to extinction. They plan to conquer the world…with their birth rate! I immediately suffered a severe attack of déjà vu. Where have I heard that before? Ah yes! The Great Mexican Belly Conspiracy! A few years ago, right wingers in Texas Read more [...]

Some Thoughts on the Pledge

I was thinking about the national ruckus over the words “…under God…” in the Pledge of Allegiance the other day, and I decided that I should form a political action committee (PAC) to address this issue.  The purpose of the PAC is to suggest some alternate words to be inserted in the Pledge.  I think it should read “…one nation, under booze, with liberty and justice for all.”  The PAC is going to be called UB, short for “under booze” and our slogan will be “UB With Us.”  Read more [...]

Some Thoughts on Capitalism and Human Nature – Part 2

If you read the first part of this essay [Some Thoughts on Capitalism and Human Nature], you probably realized that there was a lot more to say on the subject.  The first essay argued that unrestrained Capitalism was increasingly unsuited to the problems of the earth in the 21st Century.  So what’s the solution?  Re-regulation of industry?  More government oversight? That’s part of the answer, but there are some fundamental systemic problems to overcome…and a profound change in human Read more [...]

Some Thoughts on Capitalism and Human Nature

Capitalism is conventionally defined in economic terms such as the following: An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market. Source: Dictionary.com Implicit in this definition is the idea of property rights.  In fact, without individual and corporate property rights, capitalism, as defined above, could not exist. Our nation is Read more [...]

Some Thoughts on Automotive Safety

I have grown increasingly exasperated with the constant escalation of automotive safety requirements which have resulted in “economy” cars with hundreds of pounds of structural strengtheners added to protect the occupants in a collision. While the safety measures, on the surface, are laudable, they are penalizing the consumer by mandating heavy, inefficient vehicles.  And still, a Honda Civic…which is nearly twice the size and weight of the Civic of ten years ago…would be a dangerous, Read more [...]