Thursday, October 31, 2013

Game 7

Tonight would have been Game 7 of the World Series.  I'm glad Boston won last night, but sad not to have one more game to watch.  I don't watch much baseball during the long summer season.  But I have been hooked on the World Series for many years.  The first series I remember well was in 1975, Boston vs Cincinnati.  I was pregnant. Game 4 was played on the day of one of my pre-natal checkups. I sat in my car in the parking lot at the obstetric clinic listening to Luis Tiant pitch for Boston and tie the series 2-2.  It must have been an afternoon game.  I was late for my appointment.  I was lucky to be watching Game 1 in the 1988 World Series.  The Oakland A's played the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The A's led in the bottom of the 9th with the Dodgers at bat.  Power-hitter Kirk Gibson was injured in both legs and had stomach flu. He was watching the game from the clubhouse.  After the first out he called manager Tommy Lasorda and said that he was available to hit.  With two outs and one man on base, Gibson limped to the plate.  His home run is legendary, now considered one of the greatest hits in the history of the game.  The Dodgers won that night, and went on to win the series.  Watch the play tonight.  It nicely fills the "no Game 7" hole.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Reuse Reduce Recycle

Here is an interesting example.  I'm not sure if it qualifies as reuse, or recycle.  Carbon fiber is a hot commodity.  Composits are light weight and strong. The rear fuselage of Boeing's Dreamliner 787 is made from carbon fibre.  The construction process reminds me of the paper mache objects we made when I was a child - newspaper infused with a paste of watery flour laid up over a balloon.  The balloon is popped when the newspaper dries and voila! a ovoid object..  The carbon fiber is infused with epoxy and laid over a mold.  After baking, the mold collapses and voila! an airplane.  Or in the reuse/recycle case, an 80 foot long racing yacht made by America's Cup winner Oracle Team USA.  The mast and hull have been cut into 4 foot segments and shipped to the maker of stand up paddle boards.  It used to be fashionable to find an old barn whose weathered timbers could be salvaged for an upscale interior.  The yacht pieces will be fired in high heat and repurposed in new molds - unrecognizable as salvage from a sleek racing machine.  Is this good?  It is different.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


We have had fog for over a week. We live near salt water. The wet fog air smells of the sea  The fog is caused by a temperature inversion with warm upper air trapping the still, cold air rising from the land. There is no wind. Many complain. They would be well to consider the fog that fell on London on December 5, 1952 and be thankful for our grey mist. London's fog fell in the winter when coal burning furnaces  were working full time. The emissions were enveloped in the fog, engulfing  London in thick yellowing smog. Visibility fell to one foot. Those with the weakest lungs suffocated quickly. 400 on the first day. Four thousand before the air cleared on December 9. Many thousand more whose breathing was compromised beyond recovery died in the months following. We are expecting sunshine tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why is This News Not Front Page?

Several weeks ago the IPCC issued its Fifth Assessment Report about climate change. Although the report was a compilation and summary of already published research, and therefore not new analysis, it garnered headlines refueling anxiety and alarm about carbon dioxide levels.  "Climate change is a fundamental threat to sustainable development and the fight against poverty" intoned the World Bank.  Every media outlet carried the news.  Yesterday, The United States Energy Department issued a report of their own.  Their analysis showed that the United States has cut its energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by 3.8% since last year.  Their report concludes that the reduction is not related to the recession, but to the efficiency of newer cars and the on-going shift from coal to natural gas in energy production.  Read the report for yourself. You won't find any headline stories about it.  In our paper, it received a very short mention in a "newsline" summary.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Very Bad News for Some

I had to read the newspaper article twice.  I had difficulty believing what I read.  In the Washington Post last week a story reported on the results of a blind taste test: farmed salmon vs wild caught salmon.  It is an article of faith in Alaska that wild salmon is superior. The state-supported Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute spends public funds telling the world about its merits.  Now comes a panel of noted seafood chefs and a seafood wholesaler.  They taste fillets steamed with a little salt.  The results are disastrous for the fishing industry that is based on wild caught fish .  The fish were rated 1 - 10 with 10 being the highest.  The list below shows average scores.

  1. (7.6)  Costco farmed Atlantic, frozen in 4% salt solution; $6 per pound          
  2. (6.4)  Trader Joe's farmed Atlantic, from Norway; $10.99 per pound         
  3. (6.1)  Loch Duart farmed Atlantic, from Scotland; $15-$18 per pound 
  4. (6.0)  Verlasso farmed Atlantic, from Chile; $12-$15 per pound  
  5. (5.6)  Whole Foods farmed Atlantic Salmon, from Scotland, $14.99 per pound
  6. (5.3)   ProFish wild king (netted), from Willapa Bay, WA, $16-$20 per pound
  7. (4.9)   AquaChile farmed Atlantic, from Chile, $12-$15 per pound
  8. (4.4)  ProFish wild coho (trolled), from Alaska, $16-$20 per pound
  9. (4.0)  Profish wild king (trolled), from Willapa Bay, $16-$20 per pound
  10. (3.9)  Costco wild coho, from Alaska, $10.99 per pound
So, foodies who won't touch anything but wild caught fish will have to rethink.  A quick trip to Costco may be in order.  Our oldest son is a commercial fisherman in Alaska.  I'm not sure what this taste test means for him.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Over the Meadows and Through the Woods...

Only this time, Grandmother is the one making the trip.  I am off to Anchorage to be "Namma Nessa".  Back at my desk later this month.

Friday, October 11, 2013


The Montana legislature has passed a law allowing motorists to salvage deer, elk, moose and antelope struck by their vehicles.  I guess this makes sense if you consider that the wild game are a public resource and the legislature is representing the public interest in assuring the meat will not be wasted.  But.  Each road-killed salvage will require a permit.  The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved new regulations which have gone through public rule making, assuring drivers that the permits will be easy to obtain using a website and printing them out at home.  Absurd.  Is it expected that the driver will drive home, print out the permit and then drive back and pick up the carcass?  Absurd.  Montana is the 4th largest state with the 48th population density.  There are miles and miles of roads in Montana (leading over some of the most beautiful scenery in America) on which to strike an elk.  What public purpose is served by the application for and issuance of a permit?  What bureaucratic cost will pertain? Why not allow the law to be self-implementing: issue clear terms and conditions and let the burden of compliance rest with the driver.  Salvage for human consumption, whole carcass taken, no entrails left behind.  Next we'll be suing Mother Nature for vehicle damage sustained in the collision.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Time to Go To School on Government Finance

You may already have read about the memo circulating on Capitol Hill from Moody's Investor Services. Moody's is on e of the credit rating agencies on Wall Street.  Moody's has maintained a AAA rating for United States' bonds and consistently supported their view that there is adequate liquidity to justify the rating.  Listening to the fear mongering  from politicians about the national debt limit you might think that the Treasury's cupboard will be bare on October 18th if action is not taken.  No so says Moody's.  You can read summaries of their memo in many places.  Here is a link to the weekly Standard's article.  I cannot link you to the Moody's report which is available only to their subscribers.  All you need to know is in the linked article.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ping Fu and 3-D Printing

Last night the television news told a story about 3-D printing.  The video showed printing underway of food - the menu items coming out of the printer as icing oozes from a pastry bag.  NASA is hoping that 3-D printing will bring an entire mechanic's kit to astronauts from a toaster-sized printer supplied with soft ware to create every tool or spare part they might need.  In an earthbound hospital 3-D printing can make replacement joints for spent knees and hips. In 3-D printing, the coordinates of the object to be printed are entered into software that sends three dimensional information to the printer.  The "printing" is done on stocked material such as plastic, metal or flour and water.  There are many smart people to credit for this astonishing development.  One is Ping Fu, a woman whose story of her childhood in China during the Cultural Revolution is told in her book "Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds".  Fu's difficult childhood as a conscript in camps and factories is followed by an astonishing immigration and success in America.  She graduated in Computer Science & Economics from UCSD and went on to found Geomagic, one of the first 3-D graphics software developers in the United States.  Recent controversy swirls around Fu fueled by Chinese critics of her account. Fu and her publisher, Portfolio Hardbook defend her story.  I recommend "Bend, Not Break".  The title is the advice given to her by her grandfather as he described  bamboo in a storm.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


I am reading about war, again. I am drawn to military history.  I want to know how war is planned and prosecuted.  I don't want to know, but learn inevitably about the human failings that prolong war.  Generals, ours and the enemy's, are not the inspired and wise leaders that we want them to be.  The soldiers are always young and mostly brave.  They are butchered unnecessarily when battle planning is compromised by bad intelligence, stubborn leadership, inadequate supplies or  bad weather.  Its the same in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I and World War II.  Probably in Vietnam, Iraq and all other conflicts.  I am reading "The Guns at Last Light" by Rick Atkinson.  It is the last book in his trilogy about World War II.  It covers the Allied invasion of Europe through victory in the war with Germany. It will chill you to the bone.  Atkinson offers detail.  We learn that as the Allies liberated the low lands they feared that Germans would use carrier pigeons to call in support for their retreat.  Based on "Pigeon Reports" issued to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces Atkinson tells us that trained falcons stood ready in England to be sent to the front if pigeons were deployed.  Military censors kept much of the bad news about the Allied assault from reaching families at home.  Atkinson spares nothing.  As the campaign stretched into winter, and progress was measured in yards gained per day, he quotes a chaplain speaking about the psychological toll: "..sound mental health requires a satisfactory life-purpose and faith in a friendly universe".  Atkinson's observation: "On the battlefields of Europe in 1944, no such cosmology seemed likely. "  Good book.  Be prepared to mourn.