Sunday, August 30, 2009

Impossible Sailboats 2

Following our visit to Maine, Julie and I visited another Sanibel friend who has a “camp” in the Adirondacks (NY) on St. Regis and Spitfire Lakes. Sailboat racing is the central focus of the St. Regis YC and its premiere class is the Idem. Idems are gaff rigged lightweight 32 foot centerboarders. There are only 12 of them and all, except one, were built between 1900 and 1902. Class rules allow only cotton sails. Idem is the Latin word for same and used to describe this one-design class. They bear a faint resemblance to the later inland scow classes popular primarily in Wisconsin and Minnesota. A dedicated group of owners keeps this class alive despite the exorbitant costs and difficulties of maintaining a hundred year old wood boat in racing condition. Here are some photos of the race last Thursday. Nine of the twelve boats participated.

Impossible Sailboats 1

During my “vacation” travels Julie and I visited with our Sanibel friends who summer in Maine. They live in a coastal community just north of Camden and and are active sailors. The coastal area of Maine produces some of the finest and most unusual sailboats in the world. These include the 155 foot Scheherazade, and the 124 foot Antonisa.

But what caught my attention was a daysailer tied to a floating dock in Rockport harbor. It evoked the same emotions as my first close up look at a Ferrari when I was 17 years old. Here was a sailboat designed for high performance and built to impeccable yacht standards. It is a boat that would turn heads at any yacht club in the world. It is the Ginger, a 50 footer designed to be handled by as many as 3, but easily sailed singlehanded. Just as the Ferrari of my youth had no heater or roll down windows, Ginger has no lifelines to clutter its sleek lines nor does it have roller furling, just a racing foil on its forestay. Compromises to performance are only to improve its “yachtiness,” such as the teak decks. Ginger is the product of its imaginative owner and the Brooklin Boat Yard, Brooklin Maine.

Dueling GPSs

I have been on a trip visiting friends my wife Julie and I have wanted to see, but never had the time. Our previous retirement “vacations” have been to see things or do things. Some of the friends are long lost school mates, friends from the Washington, DC area where we lived for many years, relatives and our dispersed children and their families. It will be an 18 day, 4,700 mile trip by the time we finish next Thursday.

To ensure we arrived where we wanted to go, when we wanted to be there, we equipped ourselves with two GPSs (one a built-in, another, a portable Magellan), as well as Mapquest printouts for each leg. A bit of overkill, but we have been very, very lost on past trips.

The multiple voices guiding us often have given conflicting instructions with one more insistent than the other. Julie named the shrillest Maggie Magellan, but as the trip progressed she became Naggy Maggie. Generally we used Mapquest as the tie breaker, but the calmer sultry voice of the built-in often had me giving preference to her. To counter that, Julie turned the volume down from Naggy Maggie and substituted her own even more sultry voice. Calm, sultry, reassuring female voices always win. In general the Magellan gave the best directions for routes we are familiar with. It, like Mapquest, can be adjusted in advance to follow a preferred route or freeway exits. Possibly there is a way to do it with the built-in (Toyota Prius) but I couldn’t find it. It would give 3 choices (two fastest and the shortest). Estimated Time Enroute also is vastly different for the three systems, with the Prius’s giving the highest time allowance for “pit stops.” The Magellan has been closest to uninterrupted driving time and Mapquest in between, but closer to the Magellan.

As our travels went on, we adjusted to the difference. In one case, the Prius system did not have the ten miles of public roads plotted leading to a community on Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. Fortunately both of the others did. But with freeway driving, it has extremely helpful split screen displays to aid in making the correct turn at the right time. So it is upward and onward with three young ladies guiding me. Life can’t get any better.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mystery Art

Seen at Niagara Falls, Ontario in front of a Korean restaurant.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Huey … another time, another war

Early today Sanibel sounded a bit like Vietnam in the late sixties. It was the nostalgic lub-dup-dup-dup sound of a Huey maneuvering at low altitude. Nothing else makes that noise. The Lee County Mosquito Control District has five Hueys (UH-1E) in its inventory, as well as 5 ancient C-47s to now wage war against mosquitoes, not Charlie. While the LCMCD has a number of quiet, vibration free and air conditioned Jet Rangers, the preferred delivery system remains the Huey. It can carry 300 gallons of liquids, the Jet Ranger only 90. The greatest saving is the time and fuel spent ferrying back and forth to replenish the delivery tanks. The Huey was a breakthrough helicopter with its lightweight gas turbine engine when it entered service in the late ‘50s. It’s great to see it still in operation.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Swine flu vaccine allocations will stiff seniors … Misleading figures from CDC at work.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is using misleading figures to rationalize the denial of life saving H1N1 flu vaccine to seniors and other older age groups. In a study in which they give infection rates and hospitalization rates for different age groups, the CDC uses meaningless share data for deaths from the flu in an attempt to give the appearance of lower (non-threatening) death rates for older age groups. Size differences of groups affects results because larger groups such as 5-24 (83 million) and 25-49 (106 million) show higher numbers of almost anything than the smaller 65+ (39 million) group. They simply have a higher share of the population. This gives the impression the younger larger groups have a higher death rate and have a higher need for the vaccine. In reality the over 65 group has a higher death rate than the 5-24 group but they are allocated no vaccine. From the Wall Street Journal: People ages 65 and over, who are normally among the first to get seasonal flu shots, would be last in line for the new H1N1 shot, because their rates of infection have been far lower Seniors get shortchanged because of their low infection rate, but they die at a far higher rate than other groups once infected (see the bottom graph for the explanation). The older you are the worse you are affected. And the difference isn’t miniscule. A 50 to 65 year old has nearly a 15 times the chance of dying once infected than a 5 to 24 year old. And 65 and over 34 times, giving a higher mortality rate.
The use of spurious data this way is particularly disingenuous for an organization that lives by statistics. And it affects peoples’ lives.
President Jimmy Carter planned to provide sufficient dosages for the entire population of the US in 1976 when face with another influenza epidemic. There was no rationing then! The current administration should do no less.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mr. President, it’s time for openness on your birth certificate

I am not a birther. There is ample evidence President Obama was born in the US, and his mother was a US citizen. Either qualifies him as a US citizen. But it is beyond me why he doesn’t authorize the release of a photocopy of the original certificate of live birth, and put this issue to rest. But rather than resolve it, he has his minions attack the birthers as nutcases. That is irresponsible.

But what information on the certificate is so damaging he would allow a goodly portion of the nation challenge his legitimacy as President? The sample shown is from 1964, about 3 years after Obama’s birth and probably similar to, if not identical in format to Obama’s. There is not a lot of information on the form: Name of the father (correctly named in the birth announcement in the Honolulu Advertiser, and presumably on the certificate), name of the mother (not in dispute). The only possible area of concern could be in the race boxes, and in particular for the father. The term used in that era and also used in official census reports for race was Negro. That shouldn’t cause embarrassment, tens of millions of African descent were categorized as that for nearly two hundred years. Even if someone fibbed and called the father Caucasian, it shouldn’t be a major issue. There is no box for religion, another contentious issue, nor anything regarding citizenship.

For President Obama, it’s time to put the country at ease. Release the certificate.

Monday, August 3, 2009

British combat ineffectiveness is more than offset by its chutzpah.

In a report made public over the weekend, Britain’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chastised the US for “the absence of a unified vision and strategy” in conducting the war in Afghanistan. It warns of “considerable cultural indifference” by coalition partners (translation: Americans). And it blames the US for its use of UAV rocket attacks. It goes on to berate other NATO members for not contributing to the coalition effort. It blames everyone but the British themselves. Yet it is the British who have exhibited the lack of a unified strategy often by defying coalition policies and negotiating its own truces with the Taliban in its area of responsibility. In one case, after the truce had been signed, the Taliban quickly occupied a city that had been in coalition hands and subsequently the Taliban had to be removed by force. But worse than this duplicity is the deep seated defeatism of the senior British military leadership in Afghanistan that is the problem. It became so bad last October, US SecDef Gates found it necessary to give a blistering rebuttal of a newspaper interview given by the senior British commander. From the Telegraph (10/07/2008): “While we face significant challenges in Afghanistan, there certainly is no reason to be defeatist or to underestimate the opportunities to be successful in the long run,” Mr Gates said on board a military aircraft flying to Europe for Nato meetings. He was speaking in reaction to comments from Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, who said in a newspaper that the war against the Taliban could not be won, and the ambassador, Sherard Cowper-Coles, who said an "acceptable dictator" would be the best political solution for Afghanistan. Any US commander would be relieved on the spot for such a statement. This not the first time the British have exhibited such a shameful lack of backbone. In Iraq, they negotiated a truce with al Sadr’s Shia militias in Basra, ceding total control of the city to them. They moved their base of operations out of the city to a safer area near the airport. They simply took themselves out of combat. The Telegraph again reports (10/28/2007): Rather than fight on, they have struck a deal – or accommodation, as they describe it – with the Shia militias that dominate the city, promising to stay out in return for assurances that they will not be attacked. Since withdrawing, the British have not set foot in the city and even have to ask for permission if they want to skirt the edges to get to the Iranian border on the other side. When 6 months later, after Prime Minister Maliki had taken control of the Shia areas of Baghdad, he then set his sights on the militias in Basra in the British area of responsibility. Where were the British? They were no place to be found. So using what the press called an ill trained force, the Iraqi army took on the militias and cleaned house in three days. The militia thugs threw down their arms and people, for the first time in years, walked the streets without fear. There is no love lost between Maliki and the British. They had confined themselves to barracks and stayed out of the fray when they were needed most. If they had only the courage to simply pack their bags and leave, he might have respected them. So in December 2008, when it came time to set withdrawal deadlines under the UN mandate, he threw the insult back. Unlike the US forces which were given until the end of July 2010, roughly a year and a half to leave, the British were told to pack and be gone a year earlier, barely enough time to get all the equipment and men out. Yet after completing their humiliating departure last Friday, the British now have the gall to tell Americans we don’t know how to fight and win a war. But the latest pontifications from the Foreign Affairs Committee are no different from those espoused four years earlier by British Brigadier, Nigel Aylwin-Foster when he blasted the US counter insurgency strategy as overly harsh in an article in a British military journal. He even used similar terms such as “cultural ignorance” and “institutional racism.” As it turned out the British model failed in Iraq and the US succeeded. You don’t take a city like Fallujah by giving jelly beans to the kids. It takes going in, and staying, and living there, the Marine model. And, yes a lot of hard and dirty fighting too. Perhaps the British Ministry of Defense should concentrate on bigger and better jelly beans. The liberal politicians would love it, and also apparently the generals. But it won’t win wars. Update: One of the best recaps of the British failure in Iraq was put together by Greyhawk at The Mudville Gazette. From published articles, he traces the British involvement from the early days in April 2003 until the fall of Basra at the hands of the Iraqi Army. It is good read for history buffs and scholars. Read it here. Also, Richard North, publisher of the blog EU Referendum has written a book Ministry of Defeat 2003-2009. I haven’t read it yet, but his writings on his blog have been superlative.