Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sanibel Wildlife

Pileated Woodpecker

Democrat marketing --- will Obama Motors succeed?

The recently passed stimulus package contains $32.8 billion in incentives for renewable energy, heavily skewed to photovoltaic solar power. It is primarily in the form of tax incentives to manufacturers to ramp up production of solar cells and loan guarantees to folks who want to install them. The goal is to dramatically increase the US market share of PV arrays from the 10% we now hold. Yet within 6 weeks of the signing of the stimulus package BP Solar announced it will lay off 140 employees at its Frederick Maryland plant and outsource module assembly to Europe to save 25% in production costs. Even with all the incentives in the offing, they simply couldn’t compete. I have always been amazed by Democrats’ lack of grasp of market economics. Their assumption is if a product is made in the US, consumers will line up to buy it. The reality is there must be demand for the product, it must be made and sold at a competitive price and it must live up to acceptable quality levels to succeed. One only wonders what will happen when Obama starts running GM and Chrysler. With his motivation to produce not what the public wants, but what he thinks they should have and then having the UAW as co-owners and decision makers with their reputation for producing shoddy products, it should make for challenging times. Very challenging! It won’t help either, that nearly half voted against Obama and are terrified with the direction of the country. Losing half your market isn’t a great way to start. The success of Obama Motors will definitely be an up hill battle.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Arctic sea ice not disappearing … Global Warming or Global Cooling?

Arctic ice coverage, far from disappearing, is currently (04/26/2009) at the highest level for this date since 2002. It is nearly at the 1979-2000 average. Global sea ice (Arctic and Antarctic combined) is nearly a million square kilometers over the 1979-2000 average. Question. Is this caused by Global Warming or Global Cooling?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Will the NY Times have another Public Editor?

As I pointed out last August, Clark Hoyt has been a lame excuse for a public editor. His two year term is due up May 13. The question is, will the Times keep the position going? I think not, simply because the focus of the Times is not on long term integrity but simply keeping its head above water. Hoyt was too much a sycophant to be effective. Nothing since I wrote the August article has changed my opinion of him. He did write a sternly worded piece on the overuse of anonymous sources in late March in an apparent attempt to burnish his reputation in his waning days. Anonymous sourcing is a common and ongoing complaint at any newspaper, not just the NY Times. It’s an easy target and he didn’t approach it very effectively. He never brought up why anonymous sourcing is so improper. It is that too many times reporters use them to embellish and, even worse, falsify a story. The Jayson Blair fiasco was not only one of the worst examples of this, it is the very reason the Times established the public editor’s position in the first place. The real test of a public editor at the Times is whether he or she could and would ferret out another Jayson Blair. I don’t think Hoyt was up to it. Alert: The NY Times annual shareholders’ meeting is today, beginning at 10am. There is a potential for some fireworks, especially after Tuesday’s disastrous first quarterly report. The value of NYT stock has plummeted from $20 last year at this time to less than $5 yesterday, a drop of 75%, and all dividends have been eliminated. If anything exciting happens, I’ll post it here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Disastrous quarter for the NY Times

The New York Times has just released their Q1 figures and they are a disaster. They like other newspaper chains have given up reporting monthly revenue gains or losses in an attempt to minimize negative exposure. But this is the worst so far. Ad revenues are down 27%, far exceeding the 15 to 20% declines of prior periods. Operating losses are $74.5 million or 23 cents per share, far in excess of consensus estimates of a 4 cent loss. The New York Times (NYSE:NYT) reported a Q1 loss of 23 cents, ex-items, missing consensus estimates for a 4-cent loss. Revenues in the quarter fell 18.5% year-over-year to $609 million, and came in short of consensus estimates of $631 million. The company reported that Q1 ad revenue fell 27%. President and CEO Janet L. Robinson made this statement, "At this time, and it is early in the quarter, we believe the rate of decline in ad revenues in the second quarter will be similar to that of the first. It even has generated speculation the Times will run out of cash and borrowing authority within a year, and possibly have to file for bankruptcy. At the current rate of cash consumption, assuming no one-time expenses (highly unlikely), we estimate that the company will max out its current borrowing capacity in 4 quarters. At that point, it will owe about $1.2 billion in debt. This estimate does not include any payments on the company's $600+ million pension and benefit obligation, of which $181 million is due next year.

Nuclear Power … Score: Luddites 1, Reason 0

In March Energy Secretary Seven Chu said he would shut down the nuclear waste strorage facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, casting a pall over hopes for a resurgent nuclear power industry. The Yucca Mountain project came about from President Jimmy Carter’s decision not to permit reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel in an effort to prevent nuclear proliferation. The alternative was a long term nuclear waste storage facility that eventually was sited and developed at Yucca Mountain. That was taken off the table by Chu but it is doubtful any long term storage site can ever meet the absurdly stringent regulatory requirements which require absolute guarantees of radiation safety a million years out. So thousands of spent fuel rods continue to sit near nuclear power plants bathed in pools of water.

Reprocessing spent nuclear fuel separates the uranium fuel from fission byproducts for reuse. One of these byproducts is long half-life plutonium (27,000 years) which can be recovered and used again as fuel or as a nuclear explosive. The latter is the problem. Carter’s concern wasn’t so much founded in the fear of proliferation from the US (strict US regulatory controls make that nearly impossible), he wanted to set an example for the rest of the world would follow. They didn’t. France, Russia and Japan now all reprocess their spent fuel. It makes sense to them as it should for us.

Only a small percentage of the uranium is burned up in the “once through fuel cycle,” a waste of ever more precious uranium resources. With reprocessing, the life of the uranium can be extended and the plutonium blended back in as a fuel itself. The plutonium generated in the normal fuel cycle gets overcooked anyway and is generally unusable for weapons. It becomes contaminated with Pu 240 (a byproduct of neutron bombardment of normal plutonium from uranium fission) by the time the fuel rods are spent and need replacement. The real threat of proliferation now comes not from the US but from other nations, some of whom are terrorist friendly, that have nuclear programs of their own.

Unfortunately Chu, aside from closing Yucca Mountain, also closed the door on reprocessing. Chu also told lawmakers that the United States would not consider reversing a 30-year-old policy against reprocessing spent nuclear fuel

In the age of limiting carbon emissions, nuclear power offers the only low cost method of electric generation. France has gone that route and generates 80% of its power from nuclear plants. Nuclear electricity is cheap enough there to heat homes economically in the winter with no carbon emissions. China wants to have 100 nuclear reactors in operation or under construction by 2020 according to Westinghouse. This will nearly close the gap with the 104 nukes the US currently has in operation.

In the meantime we are subsidizing wind and solar which are far more expensive and worse, intermittent sources of electricity that can't satisfy electrical demand 24/7. Electricity can’t be stored economically other than pumped water storage. There are only 31 of these sites in the US and their capacity is spoken for. It is doubtful any more will be built in the near future. And there are times when there is no sunshine and no wind over vast expanses of the US as documented in a previous post. The result will be an expensive, unreliable energy source and the potential for massive blackouts.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

NATO allies practice “Catch and Release” with pirates

Today’s New York Times carries a story about an attempted seizure of a Norwegian tanker last night. NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- NATO warships and helicopters pursued Somali pirates for seven hours after they attacked a Norwegian tanker, NATO spokesmen said Sunday, and the high-speed chase only ended when warning shots were fired at the pirates' skiff. Seven pirates attempted to attack the Norwegian-flagged MV Front Ardenne late Saturday but fled after crew took evasive maneuvers and alerted warships in the area, said Portuguese Lt. Cmdr. Alexandre Santos Fernandes, aboard a warship in the Gulf of Aden, and Cmdr. Chris Davies, of NATO's maritime headquarters in England. You might wonder what happens to these brigands once caught. Here is the surprising answer: Both ships deployed helicopters, and naval officers hailed the pirates over loudspeakers and finally fired warning shots to stop them, Fernandes said, but not before the pirates had dumped most of their weapons overboard. NATO forces boarded the skiff, where they found a rocket-propelled grenade, and interrogated, disarmed and released the pirates. The pirates cannot be prosecuted under Canadian law because they did not attack Canadian citizens or interests and the crime was not committed on Canadian territory. I pointed out the necessity of establishing a legal framework if we are to cure the cancer of piracy in an earlier post last November. The worst thing any nation can do is exhibit weakness and a lack of resolve, it only emboldens the pirates. Piracy on the high seas comes under universal jurisdiction and can be enforced and prosecuted anywhere. Surely the laws of Norway were violated, where are they? If the Canadians don’t permit prosecution, they should not be part of the protection force, they only complicate the problem. Treating piracy as a domestic legal problem will never solve the problem. Only a legal framework that allows preventative force will solve it. Prebble and Decatur went after the source of the Barbary Pirates in 1804 and cleaned house. What would their attitude be of Catch and Release?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Russia looks at its declining population

Russia has a major problem with population loss. Today’s Moscow Times reports on a study (Babel fish translation here) which addresses the causes, consequences and potential cures for its declining population. At present, even with immigration, the population of the Russian Federation is declining by almost a million people a year, she writes, and consequently it is time to pay close attention not just to the overall figure but to the specific consequences of the depopulation of the country. The population of the Soviet Union, when it was disbanded in 1991, was 293 million. The population of the new Russian Federation has since declined from 148 million to 141 million, and is projected to be 111 million by 2050. A low birth rate, a high death rate, high abortion rate and lack of immigration are the prime causes. Alcoholism is the major reason for the short life expectancy among Russian men (59 years) compared to 72 for women. The Times goes on to outline some of the major concerns of depopulation including a “demographic shift in national composition and national traditions,” the threat to maintaining its territorial integrity, the dilution of young productive members of society by older social dependants and tensions between young and old over who supports whom. The study postulates a number of solutions, some of which are lost in translation: And tenth, she concludes, the depopulation of Russia is likely to produce a variety of demands, not now in evidence, to engage in such “fantastic” population-boosting measures as state-supported “incubator” children, “hybridization of embryo” (artificial insemination??), cloning and greater efforts to extend life spans and working lives. Not mentioned in the article or the study is the “brain drain” of the more intelligent and productive members of Russian society to Western Europe. When a society feels there are diminished opportunities where they live, they stop having children or they vote with their feet. Both are now happening in Russia.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why Obama’s experiment will fail, why free markets will succeed … “The Commanding Heights” is still the bible

As our country lurches down the path to a state controlled economy, a road others like China, Russia, Czech Republic, Poland an the rest of Eastern Europe have traveled, only in the reverse direction, we should look at the reasons the Obama experiment will fail. It will fail because the practitioners of state control, where they still exist are abject failures, as were their communist predecessors. Cuba and North Korea are prime examples. Founded in idealism, loved by the left, their people live in misery. Other nations now following the wrong trail are Venezuela and Bolivia, where seizures and price controls are destroying their economies. Probably the best book on the subject is The Commanding Heights that documents the reversal away from Keynesian economics and the march to Hayek's market based approach. In the late 70s, Great Britain was considered the “basket case of Europe” and the US mired in the malaise of stagflation. Both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan became the standard bearers for a revolution that brought unparalleled prosperity to their nations. From PBS’s storyline on The Commanding Heights: But in the 1970s, with Keynesian theory at its height and communism fully entrenched, economic stagnation sets in on all sides. When a British grocer's daughter and a former Hollywood actor become heads of state, they join forces around the ideas of Hayek, and new political and economic policies begin to transform the world. And more: Worldwide, the strategies of government planning are failing to produce their intended results. From Bolivia and Peru to Poland and Russia, the free-market policies of Thatcher and Reagan are looked to as a possible blueprint for escape. One by one, economies in crisis adopt "shock therapy" -- a rapid conversion to free-market capitalism If you can’t spend the time reading it, PBS produced a made for TV six hour series that is faithful to the book and riveting to watch. Once into it, you will be hard pressed to turn it off. It is available free in a streaming version from PBS or purchased on a DVD from Amazon. It will become the bible for the road back to sanity.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fort Myers Florida Tea Party

The Fort Myers Florida Tea Party, held at Centennial Park at 5pm, was a well organized affair, spearheaded by WINK Radio’s Mandy Connell. Not only is she an outstanding conservative talk host, she is simply an outstanding person. Also on the agenda was Henry Mihet, formerly from Rumania and now a US citizen, who gave a rousing talk on what the US means to him. There were formation flybys by smoke equipped T-6s and live music, mainly patriotic songs. The crowd estimate given at the event was at least 6,000.

Naples Florida Tea Party Photos

The Naples Florida tea party was an outstanding success thanks to the efforts of many volunteers. It was held at noon at the busy intersection of US 41 (Tamiami Trail) and Pine Ridge. The drive by traffic was enthusiastic with “thumbs up” and blowing horns showing support. About 2,500 showed up. The top photo is of Joanne DiCarlo who organized the rally and about whom I wrote earlier. She is a fantastic individual.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Battery longevity, the Achilles heel for the electric vehicle?

With the push for electric cars the emphasis seems to be primarily on range. And that would be a mistake. Battery cost is also very important, but most critical factor is battery longevity. It is potentially the Achilles heel for electric vehicles. The battery of choice for EV applications is the lithium ion battery, a true breakthrough in lightweight electric energy storage. With 3 to 4 times the energy density of lead acid and NiCad batteries, and 2.5 times nickel metal hydrides, lithium ions are the first batteries that can offer acceptable range with a reasonable weight. The initial version of GM’s EV-1 used lead acid batteries with a weight of 1,310 pounds (595 kg) and “fuel” capacity of 18.7 kWh. By comparison the Chevy Volt’s li ion battery pack weighs around 400 pounds (180 kg) and has a capacity of 16 kWh. Li ions have been around for nearly 20 years, powering laptops and then cell phones. The revolution came in 2004 and 2005 when manufacturers found ways to vastly increase the discharge rate without destroying the battery. Hobbyists caught on and soon electric model planes were flying with 60 amp bursts of power from a 5 ounce battery pack. DeWalt power tools began using the durable, American made, A123 cells. Higher discharge rates were what the auto industry needed and they took note. At that time, startup company Tesla Motors and established GM began development work on their EV projects: a pure EV from Tesla and a plug-in hybrid from GM. Shortly after, the whole automotive world followed suit. Li ions have a very low self discharge rate, about 5% per month, far better than the leaky NiMhs, and they have extremely low internal resistance. But they do have drawbacks. They are very expensive, they don’t like to be kept at full charge and they don’t like heat. Both GM and Tesla are using liquid cooling to keep the cell packs at reasonable temperatures. GM is only using about half the capacity of their battery pack and not charging above the 70% level in order to achieve a 10 year/150,000 mile life. They plan to warrant it at that level. GM is estimating their cost for a pack at around $10,000. Tesla rates the range of their Roadster from full charge to full discharge, which if used in practice, will seriously degrade the battery. They are estimating the pack will retain 70% of its capacity after 5 years/50,000 miles. That represents a range reduction from 221 to 155 miles. But it is warranted for only 3 years/36,000 miles. They have indicated the estimated cost of a replacement pack at slightly under $36,000. To soften the blow they are offering a buy-ahead program for $12,000 where you pay now and take delivery after 7 years. Based on the fact the Tesla battery has a little over three times the capacity of the Volt’s (53 vs. 16 kWh), the $36,000 figure for the Tesla probably more accurately reflects their true cost. So be prepared. Another entrant in the market Fisker Automotive, a plug in hybrid like the Volt, but far flashier (and more expensive), has not released warranty information, though it plans to begin selling its cars by the end of 2009. All EV manufacturers are, or will be using battery technology that is less than five years old and, at least in the case of GM, are planning a warranted lifetime double that. That’s a heavy risk for a very expensive part. Warranty issues could cripple even the largest of the car companies.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Liberty and Tyranny number 1 at the Times … Where’s the review?

Mark R. Levin’s new book, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto hit the New York Times Best Sellers list as number 1 in non-fiction. It has not been reviewed which leads to the question of whether it will be. You may remember in 2004 John O’Neill’s Unfit for Command was on the Best Sellers list for 7 weeks, four of them in first place before they found the courage to review it. Then, of course, they dutifully panned it. In fairness Jennifer Schuessler does comment on the book in her column, Inside the List. It’s a short, rather snarky take on a very serious book. And it’s evident she hasn’t read the whole thing. Reviewing this book presents a challenge to the Times. It’s the difficulty in finding a reviewer on staff who can tolerate 8 to 12 hours of total immersion in conservative thought. Ah the pitfalls of the liberal monoculture!

Another “Serious Warning” for North Korea

During the early 1960s the People’s Republic of China (mainland China in those days) would issue an incessant number of sternly worded diplomatic complaints, called “Serious Warnings.” They were delivered on their domestic radio broadcasts. They were generally issued for some perceived territorial incursion, usually a US Navy ship entering Hong Kong or a flyby of the disputed Paracel or Spratly islands in the South China Sea. They numbered in the hundreds. They usually read like this: At 0800 on 29 June a US Navy ship intruded into the territorial waters of the People’s Republic of China south of (you name it). This is a clear violation of international law. For this the People’s Republic of China issues Serious Warning number 283. Often there would be two or three a day. No one in the US Government took the Serious Warnings seriously. They were toothless complaints issued for domestic consumption. The recent flap over North Korea’s missile launch shows the same impotence by us as the Chinese exhibited in the 1960s. Calling an emergency UN Security Council meeting with the knowledge that any substantive action will be vetoed by Russia or China accomplishes nothing. Best to keep silent.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Government to get tough with the auto unions

The government is weighing the possibility of delaying support measures for the auto industry in order to win meaningful concessions from union workers, official sources said Sunday. Too good to be true? Has the government finally realized the unions are a major part of the problem with the auto industry? The answer is yes, but it’s not the US government. The story is datelined Seoul, and the unions are South Korean. There is very little hope the Obama administration will address the union problem with any degree of enthusiasm. Nor will they let GM declare a bankruptcy that will allow a bankruptcy judge void or alter union contracts. All talk of bankruptcy is in terms a “surgically structured” one. By that they mean the administration wants to be in control of bankruptcy proceedings, and rest assured meaningful labor reform is off the table. And the reform needed isn’t just labor costs. It’s who controls the shop floor. It’s ending the ceaseless grievances for the most insignificant changes; it’s ending the practice of being able to call a strike at a plant because every single grievance hasn’t been resolved even though a national contract has been agreed to. What the new administration won’t address is the reputation for shoddiness the UAW label has given the Big Three. Instead of matching the efficiency and quality of the domestically produced imports, the administration’s plan is to force them to organize through Card Check, reducing their efficiency and sullying their reputation. Card Check allows a union to organize a company without a secret ballot, an open invitation for intimidation and thugishness. And even worse it mandates an arbiter write the new labor contract. In a world where there is massive overcapacity in the auto manufacturing industry, the Big Three are the high cost manufacturers. They still will be. Obamanomics can’t make water run uphill, and it won’t save the Big Three.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Boundary Waters Adventure

This was written two and a half years ago and while I try to publish only current topics, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is timeless and will remain that way.

It began when I visited my old summer camp (Red Arrow Camp) in northern Wisconsin I had attended more than 50 years before. It is still in operation. One of the most vivid memories I had from this camp was participating in the "Canada Trip", which you were eligible for if you were a “senior”, had earned the requisite number of badges and daddy ponied up a couple more bucks. The Canada Trip was a 6 day canoe and camping adventure in the northern reaches of Minnesota along the Canadian border in what is now known as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Then, as now, virtually all the waters were “paddle only” with no motorized watercraft allowed. Our trip consisted of canoeing for about 5 hours followed by a series of portages around falls and ending up on Crooked Lake which is the international border between the US and Canada. Near the base of the falls, we passed Picture Rocks, a 50 foot cliff with ancient indian pictographs painted on it. This was the moment I wanted to relive.

Early in the year we began our planning and research. We found that entry into the Wilderness is limited, and each entry point has its own daily maximum, which must be reserved in advance. Fees are reasonable, but there are a variety of them: entry permit fees, Forest Service camping fees, fishing licenses and the like. Next we checked on outfitters of which there are many. The internet was a great help. Our choice was Williams and Hall out of Ely Minnesota, mainly because they specialized in ultra-lightweight equipment and supplies. If you have ever portaged, you know weight is the enemy. Williams and Hall has the latest ultra-light canoes. Chosen was a Kevlar We-no-nah 17 footer that weighs only 42 pounds. In addition, meals are freeze dried similar to military MREs, and this would be a new experience for us. Indeed, the technology advances in camping gear have been phenomenal, with tents that fit in a narrow 24” long drawstring bag and weigh only 4 or 5 pounds. Cooking gear has also undergone a revolution. No more cutting wood for a campfire, a small collapsible single burner, powered by butane is all that is needed, and it weighs less than a pound.

The next step on the agenda was convincing Julie this was a good idea, and considering we are both Social Security age, I anticipated some reluctance. Some people are blessed with great wealth, some with fame. I am blessed with the world’s most wonderful and accommodating wife. She agreed, but only with the understanding that she would be given luxury treatment on our next adventure. The deal became “five days in the rough for five days at a five-star”. Fair trade. The outfitter sent us several brochures, a planning map, a video, a “what to bring list” and a meal order form. The stress was on traveling light. We assembled the suggested first-aid kit which did come in handy during the trip. Other items were a good hunting knife, compass, flashlight, sunscreen, insect repellant, camera, reading material, assorted clothing and lightweight foul weather gear. In addition we took a handheld GPS, a small portable radio and a cell phone, all unnecessary or unusable. We also brought along a small supply of adult beverage (necessary). The rest was to be provided by the outfitter.

For Julie’s benefit mid-July was our choice for the warmest temperatures which can drop into the 40s at night, even in midsummer. At last we were on our way. On our drive north we stopped at our daughter’s home in the Minneapolis area. She gave us a book she had picked up on canoeing in the Boundary Waters. It gave us a premonition we might be in a little over our heads. It reviewed the popular routes, and every one from Mudro Lake, the entry point we had reserved, was described as “challenging”. We had selected Mudro to avoid a very long first day paddle, followed by a mile long portage and three short ones the alternative required. We were to find out what challenging meant later. We arrived at the outfitter the next day. Williams and Hall didn’t disappoint. They have dining facilities and a lodge with accommodations, where we spent the first night. They also have a tackle shop where they gave you advice on what to use and where to go to catch the “big ones” (see photo for the results-and that’s a real fish, not a lure). After our briefing, we asked what our book meant by “challenging”, hoping it was only slightly worse than “easy” and nowhere near “difficult”. Our briefer pored over the maps, found our planned portages, looked at us and said the first portage involved quite a bit of climbing. “If you can do the first one, the rest are no problem”. The word if stuck in our minds.

The next morning we were trucked, along with our canoe and three backpacks, to the Mudro Lake entry point. Our five day adventure was about to begin. Having four items (a canoe and 3 backpacks) to transport meant each of us would have to do two trips per portage. Both of us are healthy and stay in reasonable shape, so we didn’t anticipate any great problem. What we didn’t anticipate was the heat. The normally temperate northwoods was in a heat wave, with temperatures in the nineties for all five days. “Only happens once or twice a decade” one of the locals told us. At least, I thought, Julie’s fear of frostbite wouldn’t be a problem. After an hour’s paddle we reached the first portage. Along the way, we chatted with some returning canoeists as we passed. “How was the last portage?” we asked. “Terrible and the return is the worst”, and these were guys in their twenties!

The portage was only a quarter mile, but going our direction it was a climb of 35 feet and then a drop of over 95 feet. The footing on the steepest portion was treacherous and especially dangerous going downhill over loose rocks with an ungainly canoe or a heavy backpack. But we did it. I couldn’t see behind me carrying the canoe, but when I reached the end I looked around and there was Julie about 30 yards behind, carrying a backpack nearly half her body weight. We rested and returned for the remaining packs. We had accomplished the big if. The following portage was longer, a half mile, but flat with good footing. As we paddled on, the effects of the heat and dehydration were taking its toll. We both realized we had reached our limits and it was apparent portaging was taking most of our time and, by far, most of our efforts. We looked at the map and found a great camping spot ahead and decided to spend the night there.

After rehydrating ourselves, we set up camp. We opened our backpacks, found the tent and put it together. It was much easier than we had expected. Out came the sleeping bags and next the cooking gear, pots and pans and the collapsible single burner we were to cook all our meals on. Then came the meals, in foil packages, marked with their contents such as Beef Stroganoff with wild rice, corn, chocolate peanut pie and beverage, Chicken a la King, frying pan bread and vanilla pudding, and the like. The freeze dried vegetables were simply outstanding, even better than fresh or frozen. The main course items were good and filling, but not restaurant quality. All were made by adding them to boiling water with some items needing additional cooking.

Next came protecting ourselves from predators. Julie had done extensive research on the only threat to life and limb -- bears. One article said to try to slink away if bears are over 250 feet away, between 250 and 50 feet make noise by yelling or banging on pots and pans, and inside 50 feet get away fast. All the time you must avoid eye contact. I had checked with a camping store about the effective range of pepper spray. 15 feet was the answer. Not reassuring, especially with the thought of trying to spray a charging bear in the face, while running away and avoiding eye contact. Williams and Hall had better advice about the “cute little black bears”. They said there had been no problems but if you encounter them, they usually are only after your food. Keep your food away from your sleeping area and hang it from a tree if possible, they told us. So we tried that. The only suitable tree had its lowest branch 25 feet high. After several tries at lofting the pulley over the branch, it snapped back and nailed me in the face, resulting in a bloody nose. “Let’s try the distance option” I said to Julie, who agreed as she handed me a towel to wipe the blood off my face.

As it turned out, we had no problem with bears. After a good night’s sleep, we made the decision we would continue no further. The thought of another portage, which would have to be repeated on our return, was just too much. We would have to miss Picture Rocks. We would just enjoy our camping adventure where we were for two nights and at another site on the way back. The scenery was fantastic, mainly tall pines and birches with a number of rock cliffs and outcroppings. We explored by canoe and hiking, spotted an old logging camp (the area in no longer logged), fished and swam. We even passed within 12 feet of a deer drinking from the edge of a stream. The water temperature was in the high seventies, maybe more. Other than the heat, the weather was great with just a light drizzle one day for about 20 minutes. On most evenings there were thunderstorms nearby, but none hit us. On our last day, smoke from a nearby wild fire obscured the sun and later we heard the Forest Service was letting it burn itself out after confining it to an area it would cause no property damage. At the portages we chatted with other campers. Many were boy scouts, one group was from a girls’ camp, and some were college age boys. While most were much younger than us, we did meet one couple with the man our age and a younger wife (third wife) who was built for portaging. We think he wore the first two out. Insect life was abundant. Black flies, ankle biters and mosquitoes were constant companions. Mosquitoes were extremely heavy from dusk to dawn, but not a problem during the day. 95% deet kept all but the most aggressive black flies at bay. To avoid insects, the outfitter recommends taking your trip in mid August when the temperatures have cooled down a bit.

If you are wondering why Julie is smiling in the pictures, it’s because she knows she’s going to be staying in a suite at a 5-Star hotel next year.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

N. Korea missile test to come within 500 nautical miles of Pearl Harbor

Between April 4 and 8, the North Koreans intend to launch their longest range missile, the Taepodong 2 (TD-2) on a test into the Central Pacific. It is ostensibly a satellite shot, but is in reality a nearly full range test of the missile. The satellite ruse is being used to get around UN resolutions and the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration in which Kim Jong Il promised the Japanese not to test long range missiles in exchange for humanitarian aid. Based on the two danger zones published by the International Civil Aircraft Organization (ICAO) from information provided by North Korea, the projected flight path of the third stage will take it about 460 nautical miles (approx 850 km) south of Pearl Harbor. And the data from the launch will be shared between these two remaining Axis of Evil nations; Iran and North Korea. The test will also be a signal to Asian nations as far away as Taiwan, Thailand and the northern Philippines that they are within missile range of a new nuclear power with an unpredictable, irrational leader. Not a pleasant thought. Commercial satellite imagery from March 29 shows the missile fully assembled on the launch pad. The flight path will take the missile over northern Honshu, Japan’s main island. It will pass near the US operated TPY-2, X band tracking and target prediction radar at the Shariki sub base. The first stage will splash down just short of the Japanese mainland (Danger area 1) and the second about 2,100 nm downrange in Danger Area 2. A previous attempt to launch the TD-2 in 2006 ended in failure.