Directed Energy Weapons: What’s New?

The Splett Set knows about my long-standing interest in advanced weapon systems in general and directed energy weapons in particular.  Since my last post, if anything the urgency for fielding and deploying directed energy solutions has become even greater as the global threat environment has, in the opinion of all the major stakeholders, become at least significantly more complex and probably significantly worse.

Although I remain a big fan of High Energy Lasers, I’ve taken a shine in recent weeks to High Power Microwave systems which I see as the “Little Engine that Could” in the DE arsenal.

This is not to say that I’m not aware of their limitations.  The “sex appeal” of DE weaponry in general is clearly based in its defensive versatility in countering the emerging threats from fast projectiles —  be they ballistic missiles, hypersonic cruise missiles, or hypersonic glide vehicles —  utilized by technologically adept hostile state and non-state actors.

Unfortunately, the microwave weapons currently under development have too short a range to create significant weapons effects on missiles.  Right now, their primary utility is in riot-control where they can be used to incapacitate crowds by heating the water in their bodies much like a baked potato in a microwave oven.  The resulting pain is said to be excruciating though there are no lasting effects and rioters can return to their jobs almost immediately.

Still, does it have to be so?  Must microwave weapons be stuck in the “weapons ghetto” of riot control duty as opposed to the far more glamorous A-List of Missile Defense.? There are some forward thinkers, especially in the Navy which has taken the lead on DE research and development, who believe that it may be possible to increase the effective radiating power of certain HP Microwave Weapons operating in RADAR wavelengths by pulsing their output so that they destroy incoming missiles by targeting sensitive electronic components through their sensor apertures.

As a big fan of HE Microwave Weapons, I’ve got my fingers crossed that this approach will pan out.

Stay tuned for more on this fascinating subject!

Reflections on Race and Cinema

Although I know they mean no harm by it, I always find it slightly racist when white people come up to me and say, “I bet you loved that movie ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance!’”

First of all, I’ve never seen “The Legend of Bagger Vance” for the simple reason that I don’t particularly like the name “Bagger.” My Auntie had a friend named Martha or Mary who had severe diverticulitis and eventually needed to wear a colostomy bag. The other ladies in church would call her “Bagger” behind her back, further proof that being religious doesn’t automatically make you a good person (something today’s radical Islamic terrorists would do well to remember!)

And just because a black person is in a movie that doesn’t necessarily mean that other African-Americans will automatically like it. Just because you loved “Soul Plane,” that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily enjoy “Pootie Tang” and vice versa (although I’m definitely flying with Team Soul Plane.)

So here’s some advice for my Caucasian and Latino friends, I know you mean well, by don’t walk up to me at a party and say, “I watched ‘Capricorn One’ last night and it’s so great to see O.J. starring in a film that has nothing to do with how he allegedly murdered those people. So much potential. Such a shame.”

Let’s face a few facts. “Capricorn One” is no “Towering Inferno.” Also, I don’t even know you.  (Don’t get me wrong. I love making new friends.)

The funny thing is, my favorite movie genres, science fiction and 1940s hillbilly films, have almost no black people in them. (I don’t really count Lando Calrissian.) But I don’t think that makes me a racist.

Also, if your name is Bagger or something with “Bag” in it like “Bagley” or “Bagworth,” please don’t think that I hold it against you just because of the mean women in church. My point is just that the writers of “The Legend of Bagger Vance” made a decision when they named their character and they have to accept the consequences.

Mastering the Game: Connect Four

I’m trying to increase my appreciation of different games. One game I’ve always enjoyed is Connect Four. I invented my own annotation system to keep track of the games I play as I grow as a player.

In my system, the rows are numbered 1-6 from top to bottom, and the columns are labeled A-G from left to right. The reporting player’s left. I can see how you’d use another system. Maybe they do in Europe. Did you know that deaf people in the US and England speak different sign languages? But everyone around the world uses the same notation for chess. As far as I know this is the first standard system for Connect Four for America, at least. One advantage of having a system like this is you can play by email, as I recently did with my friend Amit.

Here’s how the game went:

RICHARD: D6

AMIT: D5

R: C6

A: E6

R: B6

A: A6 (I wasn’t fooling Amit that easily)

R: E5

A: D4

R: C5 (I’d read a lot about V patterns)

A: C4

R: E4

A: B5

R: D3 (nice try Amit)

A: G6

R: B4 (in retrospect this was really my big mistake)

A: B3

Amit wins.

Lessons:

1)    Pay attention to diagonals.

2)    Don’t just play offense, pay attention to defense.

3)    Don’t just think about your next move, think about the move after that.

I look forward to improving.

Next time on Mastering the Game: the simple trick that will help you win Parcheesi every time.

A Splettcipe You Can Make Tonight!

Many home chefs (pointing a finger right at myself here) get bogged down with complicated recipes.  But a delicious meal doesn’t have to be difficult.

Here’s my recipe for Spaghetti alla Riccardo — but there’s a twist:

1)    Buy spaghetti. Any brand will do, I haven’t found a bad one yet. I don’t want to endorse any specific products here but Garofalo, the kind they sell at Costco, is delicious and shares a name with Janine Garofalo, a comedienne who’s given me her fair share of laughs.

2)    Buy sauce. Ideally on the same trip to the store as (1). Again, I can’t recommend specific products due to the Splettnet code of ethics, but Ragu has been around for a long time for a reason. Prego is also delicious. If you’re already at Costco, well: Kirkland may not be the most Italian name, but I’ll be surprised if you find yourself disappointed.

3)    Boil water. Simple, just put water in a pot. Not too much, don’t want it to boil over. Trust your gut.  

4)    Add spaghetti to sauce. Your spaghetti package will say how long to cook it for. You can trust them, they’re on your team.

5)    Put something else in the sauce. Wasn’t expecting that, were you? Here’s where it gets interesting. If you put a chopped up zucchini into the sauce, well then you’ve made Spaghetti alla Riccardo. But if you put anything else? Anything you like? Then guess what? You’ve made Spaghetti alla You. An onion? Garlic? An apple? Sounds crazy, but it’s your dinner.

6)    Heat up the sauce. I usually do this in my pan.

7)    Strain spaghetti. This is the most fun part, in my opinion.

8)    Put sauce on the spaghetti. Not too much. Remember: the number one way to spoil spaghetti is too much sauce. On the other hand the number two way is not enough sauce.

9)    Enjoy.

Anonymous No Longer

Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve enjoyed helping others. When I was in grade school, I always let other students copy off of my tests even when I was pretty sure that all my answers were wrong. That’s how strong the urge to help is with me.

In my adult life, I’ve found a lot of different ways to “make a difference.” One is through my work as a public servant. Another is by eating at restaurants that probably recycle and maybe donate some of their leftovers to the poor. You know the kind of restaurants I mean. I’m definitely not talking about Greek coffee shops which almost always seem to have really untidy trash areas.

Thanks to the powerful tools of communication we have now (the Internet, Facebook, etc.) there are more ways to help people than ever. For example, sharing experiences that others can learn from and sharing problems so that people who suffer from them don’t feel so alone.

That’s why I’m “going public” to announce that I am a member of a twelve-step program to help me cope with a lifelong personal issue. I joined Sleepwalkers Anonymous 15 years ago after an embarrassing incident caused me to have to move off-campus to a ground floor apartment I could barely afford at the time.

More people suffer from sleepwalking than you probably imagine.  I bet the numbers are in the millions. And chronic sleepwalking can affect people of both sexes, all ethnicities, all ages, and from all walks of life. Sorry, I probably should have said “any sex” rather than “both sexes.” Some of the problems associated with sleepwalking are accidents, sleeplessness, divorce, and fatigue. Some doctors believe that it may lead to a shortened lifespan. Hope not!

If you or someone you love is a sleepwalker, help is available! There are doctors who specialize in sleep disorders. They may not have been the top of their medical school class but they’re still pretty darn good. And they can prescribe powerful sleeping pills.  But beyond that there is Sleepwalkers Anonymous which addresses the shame of sleepwalking through the patented “12 steps.” According to their website, there are branches in 15 states, maybe including a state near you!

So get help today and if you’d like more information or to share your sleepwalking nightmare story, go ahead and e-mail me.

Nintendos and Nintendon’ts

My first video game console was a used Nintendo that my auntie bought me at a yard sale for $15. The only hitch was that it didn’t come with cables to connect it to the TV, so I just set it up in front of the TV and used my imagination to play games. When I finally got the cables, the games were kind of a letdown compared to the games I was playing in my head, so I unplugged it and went back to my imaginary games. I got really good at Bonk! (Imaginary) and Warriors of the Seventh Realm VII (Imaginary).

Prose and Conse: Veganism

I’ve been debating going vegan. On the pro side, I would not be contributing to the death of animals. On the other hand, the supermarket is basically full of animal corpses, and if no one eats them, then they’ve died in vain. So, at the end of the day, I feel like my eating meat at least gives those poor animals some purpose to their lives. Guess I’m having hot dogs tonight! Again.

Banana Blooper

Major apols to all the Splettnetistas I offended with my post about the Cavendish banana. When I thoughtlessly wrote that it’s the banana ‘we’ eat, I should have said ‘North Americans,’ as the plantain is a major food staple in West and Central Africa, Central America, the Caribbean Islands and northern coastal parts of South America.

Neo-Kantian Moral Systems: My View

If you’ve spent as much time in politics as I have, you’ll become pretty convinced that the prevailing ethical paradigm of our day both in terms of individual action and actions taken by society as a whole is fundamentally teleological in that it is primarily ends-directed. And I have to say, I completely understand the appeal of utilitarianism. Was it Mr. Spock who said “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?” Yes, it was.

Now, I’m very reluctant to cross logical swords with Mr. Spock but I have to say that I beg to differ.

(And before you point out that in the film after that one Kirk says that the “needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many” to explain why the crew risked so much to save Spock and that in the film after that one, Spock jeopardizes the entire crew (many) to save Chekhov (one), let me just say this:  you’re right.)

So, the point is, Spock’s position may have changed on its own without my having to try and prove him wrong (which would be hard.)

Anyway, back to my view.  I am a committed neo-Kantian in pretty much every respect: epistemology, philosophy of science, the mind-body problem, even Aristotelian idealism. But first and foremost is my profound belief in deontological means-directed ethics as elucidated in the Grundlegung and so brilliantly expanded upon by Schopenhauer in his affectionate Critique. 

What’s your opinion? I’d like to know!

Death Comes to the Warrior (Fish)

It is with a heavy heart that I must report that Sherman, one of my Siamese fighting fish, has passed on. As you may remember both Sherman and my other fish, Mr. Peabody, become enraged by certain types of colorful lights and will beat themselves against the side of their tanks attempting to reach the light and destroy it. As I explained in a previous post, the TV seems to have been the problem in the past which is why I moved it into my bedroom, even though the bedroom is pretty small and I don’t really like watching TV in bed (though many Splettsterinos clearly do and more power to them! Diff’rent Strokes! (By the way, why did they replace the “e” with an apostrophe in the title of the TV show? If you know or “have a theory,” e-mail me at splettnet2@splettnet.net.))

That paragraph was getting pretty long so I’m going to start a new one. Usually when I leave the house, I close the curtains in the living room so that Sherman and Mr. Peabody won’t see anything out the window that might infuriate them and cause them to smash themselves into the side of the tank.

(Do you like analogies? I can take them or leave them but I sometimes wonder if the glass walls of the fish tank are to a fish like God is to us. Both are invisible; both prevent us from going where we want to go and doing what we want to do.)

Anyway, this morning I forgot to close the curtains and when I came home, Sherman was floating belly up and beginning to decay. There’s no point in trying to revive a fish when they’re in that condition. I can’t say for certain that the open curtains were to blame but I did see a colorful yellow rental truck from Hertz driving past as I was leaving and I thought to myself, “That’s just the kind of moving colored object that would drive Sherman and Mr. Peabody crazy.”

To anticipate your next question, I don’t blame Hertz for killing Sherman and I don’t plan to sue them. I wouldn’t mind an upgrade to a full-size vehicle the next time I rent a car, though 

To anticipate the question after that, I gave Sherman a “porcelain burial.”  Mr. Peabody seems to still be in the first of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief: denial. Will I get another fish? I think it’s a little soon to be hypothetically asking that!

No Comment

Why is it that this post has no comments?  Some people might think it’s because readers aren’t interested in it.  But I prefer to take it as a compliment, a vote of confidence, if you will.

Splett on Rye: Rye Sandwich Recipes for a Rainy Day

Fun fact: if you pronounce “rainy” like my friend Carlos does — he’s from Australia — then it sounds like “rye-knee,” which is why I wrote that title. I was thinking about him saying it, and how that would sound. Actually, now that I think about it, Carlos is from Bolivia. It’s another friend who’s from Australia.

Step One: Rye Bread

It’s important to select a rye that has a firm crust, but tender interior bread. I like the rye that they sell at Glen’s in Dupont Circle, but if you’re reading this blog from >50 miles away, I would suggest finding bread closer to you, because of the carbon footprint and all.

Step Two: Choose Your Meat

For meat, you have two options: pastrami, peanut butter or cheese. Peanut butter is my go-to, because there’s nothing like a good peanut butter base for a sandwich. Pastrami is, of course, classic. And cheese, there are so many choices, from a hard yellow cheddar to a spreadable white cream cheese. You can also combine your meats, but some combinations are better than others. I like to use this mnemonic: Pastrami with cheese is stomach-pleasing. But cheese and peanut butter? Try another! (combination)

Step Three: Garnishes

Lettuce, pickles, basil, arugula, radicchio, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, sprouts, onions or leafy greens are all great choices. Also, any sandwich can benefit from the addition of cheese (except peanut butter, see mnemonic above). If your main meat is cheese, choose a different kind of cheese as your secondary cheese. If your main meat is peanut butter, try some jelly or a banana for some added zest.

Step Four: Snap a picture and enjoy!

For best food photography, I suggest a DSLR for professional-quality sandwich close-ups — Nikon makes a great one — or a mirrorless ILC, with an extra macro lens to really capture the rye texture. There are also cameras that can connect directly to your favorite social networking platforms (splettnet.net, for example)*, for quick and easy uploading while you eat!

*please do not send me your food pictures, as my site has recently overloaded its data capacity. Still trying to get ahold of Jason.

From the Electronic Mailbag: Questions, Questions, and More Questions!

Zach and Dave want to know:

 Hi Richard,

I have a couple of questions I thought you could answer:

1) What is the legal precedent on ballots with hanging chads?

2) What is the meanest thing Jonah has ever said to/about you?

1)    Hanging chads are considered the “third rail” of recount law. There’s no way I’m touching that one. I can’t recall Jonah ever saying anything mean to/about me. He’s the most decent person I know!

Roger writes:

hi

Hi, Roger!

David asks:

Will you go to prom with me??

I think you’re so dreamy! And knowledgable! 

I’m blushing, David. I’m also glad to know that you find knowledgeable people attractive. Stay in school!

David wonders: 

Who are your top 5 Favorite characters in the Meet The Parents Universe?

You can’t say Jinxy Cat, because he is obviously number 1

Sorry, David, but for me Robert de Niro’s Jack Byrnes is always going to be #1 with a bullet! There’s nothing de Niro can’t do. The rest probably goes like this: 

2)    Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Ben Stiller)

3)    Kevin Rawley (Owen Wilson)

4)    ???

5)    Dr. Larry Banks (James Rebhorn)

Redesign on Hold

My auntie used to say: “Be happy with what you’ve got, not what you hope you’re going to get.” So, right now, I’m pretty darn happy with Splettnet.net the way it is. #grateful

Million Dollar Idea Free to a Good Home

Had a dream that POTUS went to work carrying a White House-shaped lunch box, like a construction worker. They should sell those. Kids would love them. And government junkies (as in enthusiasts, not people physically dependent on opiates, which is a sad epidemic that Jonah Ryan has pledged to end. Or at least look into ending.)

Behold the Pacer

Hey, Detroit, if you can bring back the Dodge Charger, what about the AMC Pacer? Yes, I know, there is no longer an American Motors Corporation, but maybe GMC could release it and just make their G look a little more A-like? I’d buy one. Probably used. If it was the right price and decent condition. Low miles. No rust. And I got a little help. And some reasonable financing. Still, parking might be a problem — but not your problem, Detroit!

Redesign Update

Finally talked to Jason. He’s hit a pretty rough patch in his personal life. Gambling addiction is pretty serious stuff. Unfortunately, the Boba Fett funds were wagered on what, in Jason’s defense, looked like a pretty sure bet of a college volleyball game. So back to square one, but with less money. Is there a square before one? If so, we may be there.