31 January 2009

Ubuntu wireless driver issues

As I have blogged before, I've been using Ubuntu 8.10 amd64 bit version for the primary OS on my laptop. Since a few weeks have gone by I have experienced a few things that a normal computer user might find annoying.

The update function does not factor in your hardware. Whenever ANY packages are updated they are presented to you whether you need them or not. I have an nVidia gpu, so I do not need intel or ATI driver packages for my laptop. Also many updates are for functionality that I do not need, such as the fortran compiler functionality or some of the server packages. I just don't need them, I didn't install them to begin with, and I haven't figured out a way to keep these extra updates from populating the update manager list.

Secondly, updates have the ability to screw up your drivers, and there isn't a handy "rollback" feature. A kernel update screwed up my wireless connection and it took over half a days work to get wireless connectivity restored.

Bottom line, if you could handle DOS and Windows on the same computer then Ubuntu linux isn't going to stretch you outside of your comfort zone if you don't mind spending the time to hunt down solutions to the issues that may crop up. This is more stable than any windows product out there, but every time you use the update function it has the potential to truly screw your system.

I am currently looking for a way to disable the automatic update notification. That way if I needed to give a system running Ubuntu to someone I could get it functional and stable, then lock it that way.

30 January 2009

Cupcakes and iPhones

I'd been considering a new phone, perhaps a Blackberry, to help me stay connected with work while I am not at work. A PDA style phone with wifi seemed like the best fit for my needs. I've been using the same flip phone since I got it a few years ago, and it has filled the bill until now.

But I forgot my phone yesterday, and it rang a couple times which annoyed my wife, so she went out and bought me an iPhone. Which surprised me. She also brought me red velvet cupcakes.

So now I'm learning how to use my first Apple product since playing around on the old Apple IIe.

29 January 2009

The Revolution isn't going to happen any time soon.

If hardy self sufficient people united in revolution against an encroaching socialist government then Finland would have had their civil war by now. Of course there is no nation quite like the United States of America so any comparison has to be diluted with reality.

As long as the "PTB" (powers that be) do not turn a military force on the American public then it is my prediction that the American public will pretty much take the stance of RobertaX, a modicum of freedom because you can't win fighting the PTB. It is a very practical stance for an individual, but by it's very nature defeats the power of numbers. And you can't have a successful revolution without appropriate numbers. You don't have to have a majority, but you have to have a plurality. No picking on Roberta, if we had more anarchists like her and less busybodies like Pelosi trying to tell us how to live I would be a much happier citizen.

What made our founding fathers so passionate that they would pledge their life and property to the cause of freedom? Is it something that my generation lacks? Did somewhere along the line we lose our self identity and accept a pale imitation idea of freedom? Or have we not been abused enough to kindle the flame of rebellion? Have we not been subjected to the degredations of a ruling class that thinks of us as nothing more than subjects to tax?

I don't know. I see the people around me and no one is ready to give up on the system that we currently have, for all of the corruption it does work a large amount of the time. Revolutions are bloody nasty things, and even now with the Democrats controlling our government it doesn't seem worth the price. I have to wonder what could be the tipping point, the spark that ignites wildfire?

27 January 2009

Fringe

Fringe is the new "X Files"

The X Files was sort of twist on the "Twilight Zone"

And the modern "Twilight Zone" sort of resembles "Fringe".

There is nothing new under the sun.

26 January 2009

The Belt

If you have ever heard the term "belted magnum" you can bet you were talking about some offspring of the old 375 Holland and Holland belted magnum. The first belted cartridge was Holland's 400/375 Nitro Express, but it wasn't a magnum. I don't know which of the belted magnums came first, but it is safe to say that the first three belted cartridges came from Holland and Holland.

There are those that see no utility in the belt. However, before taking sides on the issue let us examine what a belt actually does.

The belt sets headspace. The belt strengthens the case head.

From a subjective perspective the belt gives your fingers a nice gripping surface, a trait shared with "flanged" or "rimmed" cartridges. Peter Capstick wrote about how he would hold two 470 Nitro Express cartridges between the fingers of his left hand to reload his double rifle in a hurry. Capstick had automatic ejectors on his rifle, but if you didn't have that feature having a belt or rim to grap onto would be a very nice feature.

Now the question comes up "is the belt necessary?" and the answer is that in the same era that the 375 H&H made it's name in Africa, the unbelted rimles 9.3x62 Mauser was making its own reputation. In fact the debate is still quite hot as to whether the 375 or 9.3 is the better medium bore.

This blog post isn't going to end that debate. But by a few simple observations we can conclude that the belt isn't completely meaningless even if the reason for having them isn't as compelling as it was one hundred years ago. And the observable fact that there are multiple modern beltless replacements for the old belted magnums means that they were doing something very right.

24 January 2009

Musings on Cartridge Taper

Older rifle cartridges often have a pronounced taper to the brass body. This aids in feeding and extraction because a cone shoved inside another cone loses contact with the outside cone immediately as it moves rearward. The taper of the brass is not optimal for powder burn or accuracy, but in a hunting rifle the accuracy has always been acceptable.

Newer rifle cartridges are mostly minimal taper bottleneck designs that maximize powder burn and velocity. The problem with moving a cylinder within a cylinder is that you have constant contact until the smaller cylinder exits fully. This can lead to difficult extraction if the round is "loaded hot" or any grit or debris comes betweent the brass and the chamber.

Now, the above applies to the outer dimensions of the brass. Let's think about the inner dimensions. If you have ever cut a rifle brass in half you know that it gets thicker the closer it gets to the case head, and thinner towards the neck. This means that the no taper modern miracles of internal ballistics are not giving you a concentric cylinder for the powder burn column any more than the older rifle cartridges. From the internal ballistic perspective the only difference is powder column length and width.

Possibly the best compromise for case taper and bullet performance would be where the case thickness creates a tapered outer surface, and a cylindrical inner surface. Now whether the belt is really necessary or not is stuff for another post.

23 January 2009

Survivorman....

I got home this afternoon, reheated some leftover pizza, and watched half an episode of "Survivorman". The formula for each episode is the same, Les goes somewhere and tries not to die for seven days.

Anybody else see the similarity between Les Stroud's "Survivorman" and Franz Kafka's "Hunger Artist"?

The idea that it would be entertaining to watch someone not eat, the only real difference is the motivation of the performer. Les is looking for stuff to eat and generally starving, and the hunger artist is not looking to eat so he can starve. But both are performing for our entertainment.

21 January 2009

Lost my muse...

One of the reasons that I enjoy my job is the new and exciting challenges that come up.

One of the reasons that I don't enjoy my job is that new and exciting challenges turn into the daily grind really quickly.

If posting is a bit light for a while, don't worry, assume that all is well until informed otherwise.

19 January 2009

Weekend project

This last weekend was a 4 day for MLK day. I got lucky and finished turning an old PC into a media center PC. Instead of using Linux my brother in law talked me into trying out Windows Vista. I had some doubts about the old hardware, a single core 32 bit processor and one gig of ram, two hard drives (20 and 80 gig) and a 4x AGP mobo.

This project really started when I figured out that the new flat panel TV I bought on black friday had a VGA in port, and audio in jack to hook a PC into it. It would probably help if I actually read some of the documentation that came with home electronics, but slowly I've been turning the flat panel into the center of a real home entertainment center. I hooked the audio out to a shelf component stereo system so we get better sound, and now we have a PC set up to record off of the cable input as well as play streaming media from the web.

One interesting problem was frame rate from streaming media, the video card is six years old (which is pretty cool that this project works at all), I had to turn the resolution down to 800x600 in order to make hulu.com play at a watchable refresh rate. On the flip side that is OK, since the visual difference between 800x600 and 1280x1024 is absolutely minimal since the vertical to horizontal ratio is so similar. I might try a different AGP card later, one that I know isn't being used by a different brother in law, but so far I'm happy with the project as it came together with relatively minimal cost.

Although anyone who wants a media center PC could purchase a new econo box from any store and have one with better specs than what I'm using. There is something satisfying about wasting your time instead of your money.

15 January 2009

Angels on the heights, devils down below

"Down from Heaven comes Eleven and there's Hell to pay below!" The Eleventh Airborne Division may no longer be with us, but the spirit of the Division song still rings true.

Since the Paratrooper became part of American military history the Airborne units have had an interesting relationship with pilots. Much like Marines and the Navy have an interesting relationship.

Airborne units fly in cramped conditions in cargo haulers, C-130s and C-17s. Then they get to jump out into the sky, trusting their life to a parachute manufactured by the lowest bidder. Once they hit the ground, and God willing didn't break anything important, it is time to rally and go forth and do great things.

But the role of pilots doesn't end with the drop off. High flying Fighter/Bombers provide close air support, as well as low and slow A-10s and Spectres. Getting CAS from an A-10 or Specter is like firebolts raining down from Angelic forces in the sky. When we have to pull out our wounded a dustoff bird flies them out. From insert to extract pilots are part of how we do business.

The relationship isn't always pilots supporting grunts. When a pilot is in down we will fight to move heaven and earth to get them out.

I have lived a charmed life. I've floated peacefully down under a parachute, my own ragged breathing the harshest sound. I've charged across a field of wildflowers carrying a machinegun while butterflies danced in the afternoon light (my very favorite memory from Ranger school). Odd moments of peace amidst chaos linger like perfume worn by an old lover.

It is odd, the change in perspective from up high to down low. Godlike to gruntlike from heaven to earth.

14 January 2009

Consequences of BRAC

Base Realignment And Closure was meant to save the taxpayer money.

And from a purely monetary standpoint it does, however cramming more units onto fewer bases makes it harder to have a fully ready fighting force. This effect of BRAC can cost the taxpayers quite a bit in terms of reduced combat effectiveness.

On the flip side you can't easily measure "unit effectiveness" when an SFODA will draw for a one day range more ammunition than a line infantry company will shoot in three months. It is just a difference in budget. And as the Long War goes on, the regular Army is picking up more and more traditionally SF missions. Need to build up the local forces? The Regular Army now sends Military Transition Teams instead of ODA's. Foreign Internal Defense? Counter Insurgency? Everybody gets a piece of the action.

But not everybody gets a piece of the budget or training resources. I've spent quite a bit of the last two months trying to get range time to train, and I have been unsuccessful. My "give a damn" level is dropping to dangerously low levels.

13 January 2009

Anger lies in the heart of a fool

One of the most timeless books of the Bible is Ecclesiastes. One of the passages, Chapter 7 verse 9: Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger lies in the bosom of fools.

Centuries later James would admonish, "be slow to wrath".

As better men and women than I have known for years, it is very difficult to talk about your faith without sounding overly self-righteous or overly humble. But since this is my blog, and I've been thinking about this for a bit, I'm going to give it the old college try. Anger is a loss of emotional control, even if it isn't a loss of physical control.

Neither the Tanahk (also called the Old Testament) nor the New Testament say to never be angry, only that your anger shouldn't come quickly. I've been angry (not as in control of my emotions as normal) a bit more than usual lately, and that could mean a few things.

1. The environment changed. There is a bit more to be angry about (I don't think this is likely, but it is a possibility)
2. The environment stayed the same. Maybe my coping methods are being overwhelmed by overuse or competing concerns.
3. Some combination of 1 and 2.

I did a quick search for "top ten most stressful events" and came up with this list from answer.com

Death of spouse
Divorce
Marital separation
Jail term or death of close family member
Personal injury or illness
Marriage
Loss of job due to termination
Marital reconciliation or retirement
Pregnancy
Change in financial state

Notice that six of the top ten deal directly with the relationships we have. I've put in bold the issues that have been affecting me lately, and with a lowly two out of ten, that puts my environmental stress level somewhere at the "low to healthy moderate" level. If we start to consider "impending" stress, well that includes "marital separation" and "marital reconciliation" with the upcoming deployment cycle. That puts my "present" and "future stress" at 4 out of 10, not insurmountable, but it I am definitely feeling it.

Clearly these are not the only sources of stress in my life, but for the purpose of showing a way to numerically score stress it is a handy tool.

I used to wonder how people who were "living the good life" were paying for therapy. And the answer is (now that I'm living the good life) that any life will have ups and downs, times of plenty, times of lean. And that takes us back to Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 3, verses 1-8.
For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.

One of the secrets of happiness is knowing which time is which. And now that I've got the bitter clinging to religion out of the way, where's my gun?

10 January 2009

Anthropologist attacked in Afghanistan has died from burns; New Orleans man accused of executing the attacker

by The Associated Press

McLEAN, Va. -- An anthropologist has died of burns she got when was set on fire in Afghanistan in an attack that authorities say prompted her fellow contractor, a New Orleans resident, to kill an Afghan man.

Greg Caires, a spokesman for military contractor BAE Systems, says Paula Loyd died Wednesday at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio more than two months after she was doused with fuel. The 36-year-old suffered burns over 60 percent of her body.

Loyd's job with BAE was to help U.S. soldiers navigate local culture.

One of Loyd's colleagues has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of the man who attacked Loyd. Forty-six-year-old Don Ayala of New Orleans is accused of shooting Loyd's attacker in the head minutes after she was set on fire while speaking with civilians.

My last post was about the difference between winning hearts and breaking hearts.

I understand that Afghani culture does not respect women as anything more than property. I get it. But it is also my culture to protect women, so a little give and take is in order.

Shooting this guy in the head probably set us back about six months of work in the area, but it also got rid of an extremist that probably wasn't working on our side anyways.

So send some prayers for Don Ayala.

09 January 2009

Breaking hearts, and winning hearts

The main job of the Infantry is to go places, kill people, break hearts and make things go "boom". That is our required job, if we can't bring those skills to the table then we have failed.

However the current Long War is not a maneuver war, and pretty much anybody who really needs killing is already dead, or smart enough that we aren't going to kill them from traditional kinetic ops. The current Long War in Iraq is different, it is provide security, assist local nationals, train police and soldiers, hand out soccer balls, and get ready to get the heck out.

In Afghanistan things are a little different, it is "full spectrum ops", which means breaking things, passing out soccer balls, blowing things up, building a school, all the stuff that makes an insurgency go away.

One of the historical take aways from Vietnam was the massive logistical support the NVA and VC got from "neutral" neighbors. Pakistan has finally started to help us crack down on their side of the border, which will do a lot for the Afghani people.

The average farmer in any society really doesn't give a rats ass if the government is a theocracy or communist or democracy. What the average farmer cares about is what is going to be in his best interest right now, and that means providing tangible and intangible benefits. Tangible things are seeds, equipment, and roads. Intangible benefits are things like security and know how. And you have to do all this while respecting their culture and doing things their way.

We can dominate the ground, air, and even space. But we cannot dominate the people, and people are the most important part of the battlespace. If we can't win and hold the people it doesn't matter how many FOB's we build.

That is the real battle in the Long War, stopping the bad guys who want to gain control of the people. In the past there was a definite line between "Spec Ops Unconventional Warfare" and "Regular Army Conventional Warfare". That line is much more blurry, and I am tentatively hopeful that the line will remain blurry in the future.

07 January 2009

Counter Insurgency

Every time I get to play with the SF guys I get reminded that we don't have an unlimited budget, exhaustive training pipeline, or even relaxed grooming standards.

What we do get are trained, disciplined, and adaptive warriors. One of the things that the Regular Army has a poor track record of is "unconventional warfare". But we are getting better, because we have to, because there aren't enough SF out there to cover all the geography.

But with increased responsibility and broadened mission focus means more frequent schooling. Part of a junior officers schooling is learning how to coordinate with other branches and units. Infantrymen are experts at taking terrain, breaking things, and making things go boom. This week I've been learning to work hand in hand with Military Intelligence and Civil Affairs to do our mission more effectively. Those branches don't have the manpower to provide security, and we don't have the skillset to do their job. One of the side effects of the "War on Terror" is that we started to get a lot more "LNO's" or Liason Officers from specialty branches and civilian agencies.

One of the instructors mentioned that a modern Company Commander has the same level of responsibility as a Battalion Commander did in WWII. Except that a Company Commander doesn't have dedicated staff, he has me. So my job has also been expanded beyond what it was in WWII, by quite a bit.

05 January 2009

Why you should avoid Sigforums, comments like this

A guy put a VLTOR stock on his M1A build and here are some of the "expert" advice from the senior members of the forum.

Mars_Attacks (5432 posts): A voltor on an M14 is like putting rails and handle with an eotech on a musket.

Horse (6529 posts): That stock is really cool for the wannabe seal kids that can't afford a sage for thier socom. Get rid of the nm front sight,it is useless without the proper matching rear companion..... the vltor is too unstable for the consistency your build can do.
You came to a forum that is extremely knowledgeable about the m1a and its history; please take advantage of this.

You have a 500mtr gun which means it is a 300mtr gun till you get a shitload of trigger time on the platform.

So a guy I known for years, former Marine scout/sniper, who teaches precision rifle, chimes in that an M1A build he has that is similar and easily makes hits at 500 yards.

And what does our wise senior member say?

Horse: You are completely full of shit.
Do not come here and try to prop up your 'cred' with crap like that.
Go to some other forum with a bullshit crowd.

Not even Carlos Hathcock could do that on a homemade unbedded folding stock.

Which is kinda funny because Carlos did a lot of things that people say can't be done. Any rifle that capable of 2 MOA with the reach can make that shot.

You are a forum poser for a multitude of reasons.

1.You said you could make the shot with a socom and a homemade stock using the most uncomfortable folding stock known to man.
That right there did you in.

2.After being openly told your fos the socom magically became a "tuned" rig by Old man Hook.
Well Mr.Hook(not to be confused with the Sgt.Hook at amu who blew his brains out),built several m1a's sent there by Tom Buss(rip)on
devine recievers(I still might own one or two)

So knowing who Hook is and his disposition/your bs so far,i'm going to err on caution and say it is highly unlikely the man would touch in his eyes such a abomination of a weapon platform for you.[maybe....big freak'n maybe].

While your dropping names(we can do that till the fucking stars burn out concerning m1a's), go ahead and give Ron Smith a call for advice on your socom project Big Grin

If you were a scout sniper you would'nt even say something so ridiculous on a forum.

1.The ones i've met are so anally ingrained/trained concerning the anatomy of a shot they could not even speak/fathom/kid/joke of such a "stunt"

2.If you came from such an alumni you would not spend a half page listing such a resume.

3.If you were trained in any way even the basics of marine corp advanced marksmanship you would not have even gave the dignity of a reply to my accusation(no matter how offensive). If you were indeed a 100% of the time iron sight marksman you would have the same opinion of the vltor stock because you would know it is incapable of such consistent performance,especially considering the quality of the op builds potential. I would'nt waste my time at your school due to the fact you can not make a professional statement someone of the creds you list would adamantly state.

And just so to get back on track of trashing one guys choice of stocks,

Jumper (650 posts): Hideous. Put a conventional style stock on there before the gods smite you for your blasphemy.

Now I am one to argue passionately, but there are some things that are beyond the pale. Calling a man a liar is one of them. It seems that Sigforums has a problem with "cult of personality" where a few senior members dominate the forum and ban anyone who does not agree with them or kiss their ass.

If you want rifle advice head over to thefiringline.com. If you need info on some strange old milsurp with non-standard markings head over to ParallaxBill's. If you want to get a good education on exactly what you can do to a Mauser or Mosin head over to sporterizing.com. If you want to get into long precision shooting head over to snipersparadise.com and hit up 6mmbr.com while you're at it. You will find good info at all these sights, with none of the abuse.

Sigforums has nothing to offer you but inbred opinions. The knowledge of a Marine Corps Scout/Sniper, SWAT Sniper, Precision Rifle Instructor, gunstore owner (I bought a rifle from him), and all around good guy just wasn't good enough for them.

04 January 2009

Avoid Sigforums

I spent a portion of the afternoon checking out the posts in the rifle section over at sigforums.

Do not go there for advice.

That is all.

03 January 2009

Interesting Phone Call

Out of the blue my mother called me and asked "Did you and I ever make fudge?"

"Yes, the marshmallow fluff recipe." I replied.

"Oh." Mom answered back. "Your sister told me that she and I never made fudge together, just you and I."

Now it was my turn to try to remember whether or not my sister had ever made fudge with Mom. I couldn't. Not that it never happened, just that when it came to cooking, I usually did anything that didn't require baking. Some people have the baking gene, some people do not.

I can roast, braise, and grill with the best of them, even stir fry. Never got into pan frying or deep frying, it may not be manly but I'm not a huge fan of fried food (with the possible exception of french fries).

But back to my mother and the phone call. I am one of four children, and my Mom was and is a stay at home Mom (now Grandmother). Which means that every once in a while she would have to run through the name of children to get to the one that she was trying to address. Once she included the names of two dogs when she was trying to get to my name. True story.

So my mother remembers making fudge with my sister, even though my sister doesn't remember making fudge with Mom. I remember making fudge with Mom and my sister remembers the same. I left for the Army when I turned 18, so I wasn't there to see if Sis made fudge with Mom in the two years that she was at home and I wasn't. The good news is that Sis and Mom can make fudge now, and there are no brothers around to get in the way.

02 January 2009

Hypnosis and Astrology

If you google the phrase "I can't be hypnotyzed" you will find a large number of articles that are intent on telling you that you CAN in fact be hypnotized.

However if you google the phrase "Astrology is bogus" you will come up with a bunch of sites that say "astrology is just a fun diversion". Astrology is pretty well debunked, but like anything that you can't "prove" you will find zealous adherents. Those same adherents will cling to any anecdotal evidence to support their beliefs.

What adherents of hypnosis generally agree on is this, the vast majority of people are capable of some form of hypnosis. Normally they will include any trance like state such as being engrossed in a movie or book, in their definition of hypnosis. Unfortunately that is an overly broad definition for conversational use.

A more appropriate way to pigeonhole hypnosis is to identify the two main features, the trance and the suggestion. Some people can achieve trance and not take a suggestion, some people can take a suggestion without ever achieving trance. I postulate that it takes both features to be "hypnosis" instead of "meditation" or "day dreaming" for the trance and "cognitive therapy" or "affirmations" for the suggestion.

Now there really isn't a lot of what I would call scientifically relevant studies on hypnosis mainly because it is flipping difficult to do a double blind study against a placebo. Also there aren't a whole lot of double blind studies on things like meditation as an effective therapy. But there is good clinical evidence on "cognitive therapy", people retraining their internal monologue to be more positive, having a statistically significant effect.

What is interesting is a comparison between normal "cognitive therapy" and hypnotherapy. That there is a statistical difference leads to the conclusion that the "trance" portion of hypnosis is a significant contributer to positive patient outcome. An alternate conclusion is that therapy is more effective when a trusting relationship is established with the therapist.

So why do hypnotists have to spend so much time and energy trying to convince people that they can in fact be hypnotized? Probably for the same reason that newspapers still print your horoscope. Hypnosis won't work for everyone all the time, just like occasionally your horoscope will be spot on.

01 January 2009

Time

It is a new year. At a time when most are focused on new beginnings my mind has broadened the scope to dwell on the idea that time only marches in one direction.

Last night we brought in the new year with my older brother and his family. Children get bigger, new babies are added to the clan. Part of a soldiers life is that we live in snapshots of time. My soon to be 15 year old niece was just a precocious young'un before I blinked.

The communications age has allowed us all to communicate more easily, but I'm not sure that such my generation makes as much use of email, cell phones, and whatnot as previous generations used the post office and land lines. We talk more, but is it real communication? Or is it just chatter?

Part of taking life as a series of snapshots is that I experience transitions differently than the rest of my family. They experienced my nieces smooth (and sometimes not so smooth) transition from a little girl to an outspoken teenager. I experienced it simply as a before/after event. My nephew went from a baby trying not to fall down to a fully walking toddler.

There is a difference between being there for significant events, and simply being there. Quantity time IS quality time. Hopping into and out of children's lives is fine when you are an uncle, but not so good when you are the daddy.

I am really happy with my life, but if there is one resolution that came out of these thoughts is that I need to really spend my time wisely. You can't stockpile time, you have to spend it.