Happy New Year!

January 1, 2013

I’d like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year, and I hope that 2013 turns out to be happy, healthy, and rewarding for you.  And, as always, thanks for stopping by.

This is only a test …

November 7, 2011

This Wednesday, November 9, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] will conduct a test of the national  Emergency Alert System [EAS] at 2:00 PM EST.   The test, the first ever,  will affect all TV broadcast and cable channels, as well as radio stations; it is expected to last approximately 30 seconds.  As the saying goes, Please Do Not Adjust your Set.

Ars Technica has a short article that discusses the test, and some of the steps that are being taken to ensure that folks realize that it is only a test.  It also has a short sample video announcement (warning: it’s quite noisy!).

Happy 2011 !

December 31, 2010

I want to wish all of you a very happy, healthy, and successful New Year !

We’re Back

November 23, 2010

Some of you who are regular visitors have undoubtedly noticed that there have not been very many new post here of late.  I’ve been pretty tied up with a sort of short-term crisis project, and we also had a couple of hardware failures to deal with here.

The good news is that, as far as we can tell, there was no permanent damage done, and we are, I hope, back in business.  Some of the posts you will see in the next day or so were actually written (mostly) a bit earlier.  I am doing my best to check that links still work, and so on; I hope you will forgive any that I miss.

A Not-So-Happy Anniversary

August 6, 2010

It was near the end of World War II, 65 years ago today, on August 6, 1945, that the US dropped the first nuclear weapon ever used in war on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.  (There is an article on this at Wired.)  The immediate death toll was about 70,000 people; many more died later from the after-effects of radiation.   Of course, another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki a few days later.  Japan surrendered shortly after that.

It’s fashionable in some circles to denigrate the US for introducing nuclear weapons.  Hindsight is always good, of course, but I am not willing to be too harsh with the President and other members of the US government who took that decision.  It was clearly the case that one of the Axis powers, Nazi Germany, was actively trying to develop nuclear weapons of its own.  And the decision to use the bomb came near the end of a very long and costly war, which had been started in the first instance by Germany and Japan.  The official US explanation has always been that the bomb was used in order to avoid the necessity of invading the Japanese Home Islands, a battle which would have resulted in horrendous casualties on both sides.  We should also remember that the US had recent and painful experience of the first suicide bombers, the kamikaze, in recent battles like Iwo Jima.

Of course there are many “what if” questions that can be asked — but probably most of them have no satisfactory answers.  For myself, I hope never to be in a position where I have to make such a decision.

Happy Birthday, Rube Goldberg

July 4, 2010

Today is Independence Day in the United States; it is also the anniversary of the birth, in 1883, of the cartoonist Rube Goldberg.  Although he was a newspaper political cartoonist, and won a Pulitzer Prize for this work, he is most widely remembered for his cartoons of “Rube Goldberg Machines” that used a convoluted, chain reaction process to carry out a simple task.  In honor of Goldberg’s birthday, and of Independence Day, Google has a Rube Goldberg version of their logo, on the main search page.    Click on the “Stars and Stripes” arrow at the left to see how the skyrocket is launched.

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