Bunker Mulligan "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." ~Mark Twain

December 31, 2003

New Year’s Eve

Filed under: Society-Culture — Bunker @ 5:54 pm

Actually, it means nothing to me, and never really has. To me, it’s just another day. In the past, I looked forward to watching some bits and pieces of parades, then settled in for a long day of football. Now, even the bowl schedule is all screwed up, with this intense desire of TV Sports to “crown a National Champion.” And that serves what purpose? Nothing except to increase viewership of a particular bowl each year, and increase the money going to the athletic departments of the two schools involved.

Some (many) advocate a playoff system as the only way to truly determine a champion. Both Division II and Division III of the NCAA have playoffs. Can you name this year’s champions?

Even that system has its limitations. My oldest son played for Cornell College (Div III) and his team was 10-0 his freshman year. They were ranked #4 in the nation. They didn’t go to the playoffs because another team in their geographic area was rated higher than they were. A bit of a farce. If they hadn’t had a playoff system, Cornell would have finished the season as the #4 team in Division III that year. Wouldn’t that be preferable to missing out entirely?

The BCS system was set up to account for both human intuition and computer analysis. This year, Oklahoma is ranked #1, even though they lost their conference championship. Is that right? Or, would it be better to have co-champions, as it was in the past when the UPI and AP each ranked the teams, and selected different #1s?

College football has already grown beyond anything else in college sports. Each team used to be limited to 10 games a year. Many of them now play 12, not counting bowls. Most players are ready for the season to end. It takes a huge toll on them physically. But don’t be surprised if they soon end up playing a schedule made up only of conference games followed by playoffs. What a boost in revenue. But it will be a loss to college fans when USC never plays Notre Dame, and Florida State never plays Miami unless they meet in the playoffs.

December 30, 2003

Air Marshals, Bullets, and Air Pressure

Filed under: International — Bunker @ 6:54 pm

For generations who have been fed a steady diet of fantasy in movies and television, the thought of an armed Air Marshal or armed pilot firing a gun through aircraft skin may be horrifying. From Airport with Van Heflin exploding a briefcase bomb, to Auric Goldfinger being sucked out of a tiny window of his private jet, the uninitiated believe rapid decompression sucks everything out of an aircraft.

My first experience with rapid decompression came during the altitude chamber phase of physiological training as a crew member. The chamber, about 15 feet long and 10 feet in diameter, was brought to a low pressure rapidly to simulate decompression. The chamber clouded up as all the moisture inside condensed, and we donned oxygen masks as quickly as possible. That was it, except for changes in ear pressure for some.

The movies always show gale force winds lasting for many seconds as the higher pressure air escapes through whatever hole has been created. Never is the source of this hurricane explained. It’s as if there is a huge reservoir of air at the other end of the cabin which must somehow find its way out the hole.

As an engineer in the airplane business, I’ve had to do some calculations on precisely this contingency. Interior doors must be capable of opening to allow equalization of pressure between cabin areas (which is why airliners have curtains rather than doors) to preclude bulkhead failure. The volume of air is actually negligible, and it escapes at, roughly, the speed of sound. Which means it’s all over rather quickly. No more than one second to completely evacuate an entire airliner cabin.

Consider a football or basketball. The pressure in the ball is about 13 pounds per square inch. That is actually the gage pressure, or differential between internal pressure and atmospheric pressure. If you put an inflation needle into the ball, it returns to something close to atmospheric pressure pretty quickly.

Airliners fly at altitudes of about 35,000 feet as a general rule. Some can fly higher, but 40,000 feet is the limit established by the FAA unless specific conditions are met in construction and operation. Above 40,000, the air pressure is low enough that at human body temperature, water boils. This causes problems with the bloodstream!

At 35,000 feet, the atmospheric pressure is 3.5 psi. I don’t know what interior pressure airlines maintain in their cabins now, but they used to keep it close to, but below 10,000 feet. That is because cabin pressurization requires compressed air to be extracted from engines, which lowers the efficiency of the engine, which costs more to operate. Any altitude above 10,000 feet is bad physiologically because available oxygen isn’t adequate to support human respiration for more than about 30 minutes. At a cabin altitude of 9,000 feet, the air pressure is about 10.5 psi.

What this means is that the difference in air pressure from the cabin to the exterior while flying at 35,000 feet is about 7 psi, or about half the pressure in a basketball. Not enough of a difference to cause a huge rupture of the aircraft skin if pricked.

The real danger of a bullet penetrating the skin of an aircraft is crack propagation. Modern airliners are designed with Damage Tolerance features. Manufacturers spend a great deal of time and money doing structural analysis and testing, and FAA requirements are very stringent. For Damage Tolerance compliance, skin stresses and fatigue vulnerability are validated first by calculation, and then by testing, and must exceed the requirements by a factor of 1.5, which means at least 50% stronger than it needs to be. In addition, there are techniques for stopping cracks from reaching a critical length which are built into the airframe. Critical length for a crack is determined to still be flyable.

What this all comes down to is that the danger of a bullet penetrating the skin (pressure vessel) of an aircraft is minimal. There will be no gaping hole through which all unsecured passengers are sucked out, and no Force 10 gale blowing down the aisle. So if an Air Marshal or pilot carrying a gun worries you, you are worried for the wrong reason.

Now, a bomb is a different matter…

December 29, 2003

Bush Doctrine

Filed under: International — Bunker @ 1:31 pm

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

So said George Santanya. Yet the past is sometimes a chain we wear which prevents us from progressing. That word, those, means mankind in this context. Others in the world are tied with their own chains of memory. Santanya’s opinion is often cited as a bromide rather than viewed in its entire application. People like the sound of it. But like other quotations used as substantiation for an opinion, they are nothing more than opinion themselves.

Another opinion, written by Will and Ariel Durant in their book, The Lessons of History, is just as valid, and often more appropriate:

“Furthermore, an element of chance, perhaps of freedom, seems to enter into the conduct of metals and men. We are no longer confident that atoms, much less organisms, will respond in the future as we think they have responded in the past. The electrons, like Cowper’s God, move in mysterious ways their wonders to perform, and some quirk of character or circumstance may upset national equations, as when Alexander drank himself to death and let his empire fall apart (323 BC), or as when Frederick the Great was saved from disaster by the accession of a Czar infatuated with Prussian ways (1762).”

The Durants penned an excellent series on the history of civilization. I’ve owned several volumes of the 11-volume set, and read several others. I have not made it through all. Their writing style suffers, I think, from the limitations of any text co-authored. The long sentences, foreign phrases (I’m not conversant in French or Latin), and constant references to things I’m not familiar with make for difficult reading at times.

They did compile a quite comprehensive history, though, and is worth the effort. And I believe the opinion they share in the quote above is imminently valid in the world today. Whereas some have clung to Santanya’s view, expecting future events to be a continuum with the past, I believe President Bush has followed the logic of the Durants’ analysis.

The United States has generally dealt simply with aggressors, following the European model of buying off opponents when possible, and tossing a few bombs or missiles their way when not. Bush took a different tack. When the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden, he destroyed the Taliban. In his State of the Union Speech last year, he said:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late

December 28, 2003

I must be a racist

Filed under: Bunker's Favorites,Society-Culture — Bunker @ 4:24 pm

When I was visiting my folks this week, the local newspaper (left-leaning) published a syndicated political cartoon showing a poor child staring at a growth chart for the economy. She was dragging a rag doll from a dilapidated Christmas tree.

In the same paper, different section, they published a photo of two ‘poor’ boys riding their new scooters in front of their house.

That night I rode patrol with my son. His regular area of patrol includes houses just like the one in the photo–and some much worse. There were plenty of people wandering the streets, and quite a few hanging out at isolated houses. Men sat on cars out front, or on the porch. As the police car approached, they moved back toward the front door. My son told me the laws were different when you dealt with someone in their yard, and when they were in a house. These guys were the local punks, or gang members, or drug dealers.

As I rode around, I kept asking myself why people would live like this. For most of them, it was a choice, although they didn’t realize the choice they were making at the time. All it takes to get out of an environment like that is to get an education and leave.

Those are two things which are very difficult for the young people there. Getting an education is seen as ‘acting white’� That is a fact. Regardless of the quality of our public schools, it is possible to get a decent education. You simply have to make an effort. They are not ‘required to support their family,’ because the government does that. So, working a job while going to school isn’t an issue. They’ve had no help in learning prior to going to their first class because the Head Start Program has failed to teach them anything. They have no motivation to learn.

If they do learn and earn a high school diploma, they have to be willing to leave to get work. Many will not. While there may be no jobs in their neighborhood, there are jobs available. In the past there have been great migrations in this country to move where the work was. Not today. People aren’t interested unless they can remain in their own back yard. I’ve seen this with engineering students about to graduate, so it isn’t limited to the poor.

Without these two preconditions, all the welfare, job training, and good intentions mean nothing. These people and their children, and their grandchildren will remain in this poverty.

I was struck by how much the environment resembled animals in the wild. They are a large herd, or family group. They don’t mate for life, rather the males struggle with one another to achieve dominance and females. Children are born to be reared by the females. Males travel in packs, preying on the weak. The rest of the time they lounge around. The older males educate the young in these practices, bringing them into adulthood as full members of the pack.

When I was young, I remember (right or wrong) that familial ties were strong in southern black communities. Homes were generally overseen by a matriarch, who tolerated no sass. When my high school integrated (one of the first), we received half the students of the local black high school. We also received their teachers. I remember, and fondly, Mr. Riley Stewart. He was the principal of that school, and became our vice-principal. An absolutely wonderful man. When any black student got into trouble, they went to see Mr. Stewart. That was one appointment I never wanted to have. He demanded self-discipline. Mr. Stewart knew this was an opportunity, and the black community needed to take advantage of it. He would not tolerate any student putting it in jeopardy.

Mr. Prince Barfield was a band director. He, too, expected self-discipline. My Civics teacher was a wonderful lady whose name I don’t recall at this moment. She was an excellent teacher, and understood government far better than I do now.

Those teachers, and their students, succeeded because they saw themselves in a larger world. Many of those black students became good friends of mine, and they also became successful adults. They broadened their own outlook by expanding their world.

The poor blacks I saw the other night have the same opportunity for success as anyone else in this country. What they don’t have is enough desire to overcome the inertia of their environment. There will be a very small number willing to invest the effort in their own education, and willing to take that first difficult step into a larger world by leaving the ‘hood. Those that do are the only ones exercising the freedom they have to improve their lives.

And they won’t come back. There’s no place for Riley Stewart in the ‘hood.

Christmas Hangover

Filed under: Society-Culture — Bunker @ 2:18 pm

Over the belt, that is…gained 5 pounds.

Christmas with the Mulligan Clan. Got to see my grandson, who is eleven months old, walking and throwing balls. We had my parents, and two of the sons. The third was at Ft Bragg building up pallets for deployment. My daughter was in LA doing some film work. All in all, very gratifying.

On the day after Christmas I rode with my son the cop for about 5 hours of his shift. If you haven’t been in a police car during patrol, I can guaranty you have some misconceptions. In a city of more than 200,000 people, the entire force on patrol at any given time is 25 officers. They’re covering a large area. And they don’t have time to simply drive around and write tickets. My son told me he tries to write one each shift. That gets him a couple of hours of overtime when he appears in court.

Except for that, he isn’t making any effort to find driving violations. We got on a freeway a couple of times to slow down traffic. He just got into the traffic flow and waited for everyone around to slow down. Then we exited. Once, when someone ahead didn’t slow down, he turned on the radar and video camera and followed. About the time he was ready to hit the lights and siren, the driver finally decided to let off the gas. We took the next exit.

This was, in his words, a slow shift, He normally works a very dangerous neighborhood, but that night was sent to patrol an upper middle class area as a stress break. He couldn’t stand it, and any time someone got a call in his regular beat, we blasted over as backup. On this ‘slow night

December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas

Filed under: Society-Culture — Bunker @ 8:35 am

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:1-20)

A card for you at The Federalist

December 23, 2003

Thomas Paine and Christmas

Filed under: Society-Culture — Bunker @ 10:37 am

Man has the power of making books, inventing stories of God, and calling them revelation, or the Word of God. The Koran exists as an instance that this can be done, and we must be credulous indeed to suppose that this is the only instance, and Mahomet the only impostor. The Jews could match him, and the Church of Rome could overmatch the Jews. The Mahometans believe the Koran, the Christians believe the Bible, and it is education makes all the difference.

Books, whether Bibles or Korans, carry no evidence of being the work of any other power than man. It is only that which man cannot do that carries the evidence of being the work of a superior power. Man could not invent and make a universe – he could not invent nature, for nature is of divine origin. It is the laws by which the universe is governed.

I like Thomas Paine. I think I’m becoming more and more like him in my views on religion. Paine, Like Jefferson, was a Deist. Both had a strong belief in God, but not in organized religion. Mark Twain had similar views. He loved people, but absolutely despised ‘people.

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