Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Doggies Needed In Afghanistan

Note that doggies get PTSD, too.

WASHINGTON — Marines in Afghanistan want to more than double the number of bomb-sniffing dogs at their disposal in the battle against record-setting attacks by insurgents using makeshift explosives.

Marines in the heart of the Taliban stronghold in the southern part of the country have asked to boost the number of Labrador retrievers from 300 to 647, according to 1st Lt. Joshua Diddams, a Marines spokesman.

"We want as many as we can get," Diddams said.

MILITARY FAMILY: Welcomes dog that saved lives in Afghanistan
DOGS: Sensory skills valued in war
EYES IN THE SKY: Spy balloons in high demand

The new dogs will allow downtime at home for the veteran canines, some of them dragging tail after their fifth or even sixth deployment. The dogs come back "thinner, just like Marines" after a six- or seven-month combat tour, said Doug Miller, the Pentagon's program manager for "working dogs."

Stateside, trainers will sharpen the Labs' bomb-sniffing skills and "fatten 'em up," Miller said.

The Pentagon has invested billions to protect troops from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It has spent $40 billion on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) trucks, and billions more on devices to jam signals that trigger roadside bombs and drones to spy on insurgents planting them.

On Monday, the Pentagon announced that it will pay as much as $34 million to a Virginia firm to supply it with IED-detector dogs and provide care for them until September 2012.

Insurgents planted 1,292 IEDs in August, down slightly from the all-time peak of 1,358 in July, according to the Pentagon.

The Labs undergo rigorous selection and training, just like their human counterparts, Miller said. In the end, the military is looking for a few good dogs.

Trainers will look at 400 dogs, buy 200 of them and settle on 100 that are suitable for training, Miller said.

They work with the Labs for four months, training them to detect the scents found in homemade explosives and other elements in IEDs.

Dogs that achieve certification as bomb sniffers will ship out to Marine units for training that takes several more weeks. Then it's off to war.

The Labs have been performing well in the field, Miller said, hence the Marines request for more. Some dogs have been killed by IEDs, he said, though none of their handlers have died.

Other dogs become terrified by war — "a few cases of canine PTSD," Miller said, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder.

They're sent home for adoption.

Commercials- Adverts to be regulated for audio levels

The average audio for commercials has been elevated as a tactic forever.

Now, the FCC can be held accountable, for not regulating. :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

There's A Reason Against Too Many Numbers/The Password Problems

Charlene Hyman ran into a big problem last week when her grandson busted his cell phone.

Hyman gave him her own cell to take to school. That's where the trouble starts.

"I can't even call his mom today to tell her he needs to get his phone," said Hyman, 59, of Pontoon Beach.

She can't call because the only place the number is recorded is in her cell phone's address book. Hyman doesn't have a clue what it is.

Hyman's issue is becoming a common one. As almost everyone has acquired a cell phone, people are relying on the devices more and more to keep track of numbers. And that means the need to remember seven digits (plus area code) is all but gone thanks to phone address books, speed dial and other shortcut gizmos.

"I tend not to worry about remembering them, because they're already there, which is a bad thing, because if you lose your phone, then you're in trouble," Hyman said.

How bad is it? An experiment: Quick - think of your childhood phone number. Now think of your current home phone number. Took you a while, right?

Dave Grah, of Dupo, knows the feeling.

"Half the time I try to think of a number, I have to look it up," said Grah, 44, last week. "If you had a gun to my head, I couldn't tell you what my daughter's phone number is."

A generation ago, such a thing would be unthinkable, if not plain dangerous. Back then, it wasn't unusual to remember a dozen phone numbers - workplaces, friends, family members, even the police department. Some of this might have been because phone numbers are especially easy to memorize. Breaking seven numbers into two sections (or three depending on if an area code is included) is a perfect memorization device.

Some still retain that mental address book, such as John Graves, of Columbia. He said he's been using cell phones for 20 years and has no problem recalling numbers.

"When you're as young as I am, you don't forget," said Graves, 67, an automobile dealer.

One person who agrees is Amy Storey, a spokeswoman for CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group.

"People do remember others' cell phone numbers and certainly the ones that are important," Storey said.

Storey said she remembers her relatives' numbers. Still, she said, people shouldn't rely only on the technology.

"People should have backups of their phone numbers," Storey said.

Storey may not believe there's a problem, but mail carrier Amy Stephens, of Collinsville, does.

"I can remember some that I've used for years, but newer phone numbers I can't remember," said Stephens, 39, as she relaxed at a Collinsville bar recently.

At the same bar, Linda Gnaegy, 62, a retiree from Collinsville, said she had the same problem.

"I never remember my daughter's number unless I look it up in my little directory or use my cell phone," Gnaegy said.

And outside of a grocery store in Granite City, Alice Mikuleza talked about the problems her forgetfulness have caused.

"New numbers, I just put in the phone. I just don't write it someplace else," she said.

Contact reporter Jim Merkel at 344-0264, ext. 138

Percentage of Americans with cell phones

1995: 13 percent

2000: 38 percent

2005: 69 percent

2009: 91 percent


Monday, September 13, 2010

What The Tea Party Is *Really* All About

The Tea Party's unifying bogeyman: the socialist

By Paul Froese
Some worry that the amorphous "Tea Party" is seething with racism. But if we listen to the leaders and media stars of the Tea Party, we hear little about racial enemies and a lot about ideological enemies. And the greatest ideological enemy is the socialist.

Yes, the fear of socialism, or to use a phrase that was thought to be a thing of the past — the Red Menace — is taken very seriously by Tea Party supporters. As it was in the 1950s, socialism (a kind of communism-lite) is something that many Americans love to hate. This re-energized hatred has produced some strange political bedfellows.

Why do libertarians and conservative Christians tolerate each other at Tea Party rallies? The libertarian wants greater freedom, presumably to have abortions, marry whomever and worship or not at will. This is a far cry from the family values of conservative Christians. But the conservative Christian and the libertarian equally despise socialism, and in their shared disgust they find tolerance for one another.

Libertarians hate the socialist because he or she threatens their liberty and takes their money through taxation. But there is a different and often overlooked reason why conservative Christians fear the socialist: Because the socialist is also an atheist.

Encroaching secularization

The anti-religious agenda of the left is something that conservative Christians take seriously. This will surprise liberals who tend to have no real religious agenda except to guarantee that religious liberty is protected. But most conservative Christians do not see it this way. They tend to feel embattled by the encroaching forces of secularization. And while Tea Party celebrities such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck continue to stoke the flames of libertarian ire, they simultaneously and somewhat ironically fuel concerns about the decline of Christianity.

Some observers in the media expressed surprise that Beck and other speakers at his recent "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington spoke so fervently and somewhat exclusively about God. The rally's organizers even touted it as an apolitical gathering. But references to God are highly political, especially when the underlying message is that good Christians need to be worried about the dawning of a new era of godlessness. That was the thrust of Beck's message. Tea Party supporters can easily tell you who is imposing this anti-Christian ethos: the socialist.

Merging concerns

The historical roots of the Tea Party are not really found in the deism of the Founding Fathers nor the racism of the segregated South. Rather, this growing movement is a direct descendent of the Red Scare. And, like the Red Scare, the Tea Party appeals to a wide range of Americans, many of whom are at direct odds over very central issues of freedom and religion. By reducing libertarian and conservative Christian concerns to a common enemy, the Tea Party has become a very potent political force.

Who exactly are the Tea Party's socialist enemies? In answering this question, we must return to the issue of race. The fear of socialism is strengthened by the idea that wealth redistribution is especially attractive to minority groups. Racial minorities, therefore, become dangerous to the extent that they are the pawns of the socialist menace.

If we trace this logic, it becomes clear why Beck is concerned with the legacy of Martin Luther King. He and his followers desperately want to show that Dr. King, too, was scared of socialists. And if they can do that, the Tea Party tent just got bigger.

Paul Froese is a sociologist at Baylor University and author of The Plot to Kill God and the forthcoming America's Four Gods.

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Visible Evidence that The Good Old Days Are Gone For Good

Just how hollow is our mighty America nowadays? Check this.

It might cost over a billion to replace, due to the unique construction:

ST. LOUIS • Severe corrosion has continued inside the Gateway Arch with no significant effort to try to stop, fix or record it, according to newly released documents from the National Park Service.

Inside the base of the north leg, where water may have collected for long periods, workers fight the effect with the most basic of tools — a mop.

R. Craig Jerner, an expert metallurgist who reviewed the fresh documents for the Post-Dispatch, said he foresees the "distinct potential for a very big and expensive problem."

The newspaper first reported corrosion problems on Aug. 22, based on a cursory look at the 2006 "Gateway Arch Corrosion Investigation," a report that was withdrawn from public view the next day. It and some related documents have since been released under a Freedom of Information Act request.

None of the material suggests any short-term safety concern for the 630-foot monument to westward expansion that was completed on the downtown riverfront in 1965.

But corrosion has become obvious on the upper reaches of the stainless steel skin.

New photos of carbon steel inside the north leg, provided Wednesday by the park service, show orange and red rust that has been evident in other pictures since at least 2005.

Jerner, president of Dallas based J.E.I. Metallurgical Inc., said it is likely the same type of thing is happening with the carbon steel lining of the upper reaches. The report indicated that possible corrosion within the steel walls is bleeding through failed welds and staining the glimmering outside surface. Some of the corrosion at welds or at contaminated areas is taking place aggressively, according to the engineering documents.

But the corrosion's aggression and origin are hard to measure because of a lack of maintenance records, the report stated.

It had recommended the taking of periodic pictures to document the deterioration. But more than four years later, the park service has not done it.

"We are not photographing because the recommendations are preliminary and do not provide sufficient detail as to location, method, frequency, etc.," said an e-mail from Frank Mares, deputy superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which oversees the Arch.

One report said that numbers scrawled on interior components suggest an earlier attempt to document corrosion, but there is no record of it. The same report notes that construction workers told current engineers that the Arch was designed to be maintenance-free.

Park officials said that a second phase of the corrosion investigation, which is expected to make recommendations on addressing the problem, was only recently funded and has not yet begun.

The first phase was conducted by two engineering firms, Bahr Vermeer Haecker, of Nebraska, and Wiss, Janney, Elstner, of Illinois. Both have declined to comment.

Officials provided current photographs of the north leg interior corners after a request from the Post-Dispatch.

"At the foot of the base section ... severe corrosion was found at two corners where water may have collected for prolonged periods," the 2006 report stated. It did not define "prolonged."

The new photos now show visible corrosion in the third corner of the leg.

Mares said maintenance workers are trying to keep the base of the interior legs dry. They use mops and a makeshift system of wicks and barrels to collect some of the water. No other repair work or cleaning has been done, he said.

He said that "at most it could be two or three days before staff would notice the water and mop it up." A mop is seen in one of the pictures.

The water is likely a byproduct of leaky welds and a unique Arch ecosystem that sometimes produces rain inside, according to the report.

Jerner, the metallurgist, warned, "Corrosion is much like a cancer. If you leave it alone, it will eat the steel up."

John R. Scully, an engineering professor at the University of Virginia, said: "Corrosion of carbon steel does not necessarily mean that structural integrity is threatened, but it could. The case would have to be developed in detail and then subjected to independent audit."

One of the park service reports speculated that it could take a "long time" before corrosion would "induce any integrity concern."

The report also recommended an "expensive" cleaning within 10 years but did not give a cost estimate. Indeed, an estimate may be difficult because there is no clear way to access the upper reaches of the unique structure's exterior.

"The designers of the Arch provided no means of exterior access for future maintenance," according to a 2010 Historic Structure Report. It mentioned the possible use of cranes, scaffolds, ropes or helicopters — all with possible drawbacks.

Officials said the structural issues and any possible cleaning are separate from — and would not compete for funding with — competing plans revealed last month to rebuild the Arch site in time for its 50th anniversary celebration in 2015.

And People Wonder Why I'm Not Flying Anymore

Almost as bad as my ACES 2...

By Charisse Jones, USA TODAY
Think your seat in coach is cramped? Take a look at the SkyRider.

The new airplane seat, to be unveiled next week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas conference in Long Beach, would give passengers an experience akin to riding horseback.

They'd sit at an angle with no more than 23 inches between their perch and the seat in front of them — a design that could appeal to low-cost airlines that have floated the idea of offering passengers standing-room tickets on short flights.

More consumer retrenchment

And, it will be marked on future spending.

By Sandra Block, USA TODAY
Americans have sharply reduced their use of credit cards, and some analysts believe the trend will continue even after the economy has fully recovered.

The Federal Reserve Board reported this week that credit card borrowing fell at a 6.3% annual rate in July. The last time borrowing with credit cards increased was in August 2008.

Separately, a survey by Javelin Strategy & Research found that 56% of consumers used credit cards in 2009, down from 87% in 2007. Credit card usage could fall as low as 45% this year, the report said.

Do you really want to be a teacher?

The State Of Missouri doesn't think so.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Observations 9 SEP 2010

The remnants of a hurricane are expending themselves over STL for the next few days. Scruffy isn't fond of the rain.

I'm not fond of our soggy, irrational, and angry political and economic climate. Apart from personal frugality, and voting, there seems to be little I can do.

The estate saga is over. A headstone miraculously appeared on my Mom's grave a week after I photographed a piece of broken ground, and no headstone. I forwarded it to my attorney, and my sister (the executor, who had already closed the estate) There is now some grass and sod on the grave, now.

Somebody expected that I would never visit my Mom's grave.

I also broke my own personal discipline of not buying the latest tech toys. I bought an HTC 4G Evo from Sprint. It was a *wonderful* toy. But, like many another all-in-one device, it wasn't worth the hype- and the price per month. $100 a month for what is still a cell phone is too much. I have since changed carriers, and have a Milspec-tough cell phone. Not nearly as cool, but reliable, and about 1/3 the cost per month. I also managed to cut my landline cost, and get cheaper internet service in the bargain. The 32 GB ITouch serves well as music player, and toy. No monthly fees. A Kindle, or equivalent might be in the next calendar year.

Adopting Scruffy has been a milestone. I'm now moving on. No more estate worries. I'm free of my dysfunctional family. I still grieve for Mom, but the leaden weight is lessened. It seems appropriate that it is the start of a new school year. Fall has always been a start, not an ending, for me.

The time spent reflecting on the past has been somewhat useful, but all too painful. As I was asked, what do I want to do with the second part of my life? Not be miserable is an obvious answer.

I'm organizing my life better. The time spent caring for Mom, and the madness of the estate, is now being spent on friends, getting rid of clutter and excess, and a new doggie. As usual, it takes me much more time to adapt and change than the "normal" person.

The re-doing of the front bedroom into a home theater has been very successful. Slowly, the living room is being redone into a space that I can entertain in. I still need more exercise, and I need to get out more. Walking Scruffy helps.

I've gone back to the old forum occasionally, and found that it's simply not very rewarding. I can post information here that would draw howls of pettiness over on the forum. If I find something interesting, I can post it here, saving the hassle. Why should I function as an unpaid netzine editor for somebody else, when I can be properly ignored here? :)

As I said, re-visiting the past isn't worth it. I only have so much time. Expect the blog to be more active, and on more current events. If I had only started a diary, or an IRA when I was younger...