Why Are Our Warships Colliding?

The guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain have recently crashed into huge merchant ships. This is shocking, disgraceful, and unacceptable. Two collisions in two months indicates that there are one or more major fleet-wide problems. These collisions occurred in the western Pacific Ocean and reflect poor navigation and ship handling skills. 

My limited warship experience 
When I was in my early teens, my Sea Cadet division was invited on Chesapeake Bay day cruises aboard 1950s vintage destroyers and destroyer escorts. I remember seeing five to ten sailors on their bridges, together with a large radar PPI (plan position indicator) display. Even this relatively ancient radar displayed a remarkably detailed picture of the Chesapeake Bay out to fifty miles or so. This radar plus alert sailors on watch meant that there was no way that any civilian or enemy vessels could get near these old warships.

Current civilian ship practice 
A crew member on a 130 foot long yacht tells me that when underway, they always have two crew members on watch, and radar on the bridge that displays out to thirty miles or so. This sailor tells me that merchant vessels have the right of way because warships are faster, more maneuverable, and enjoy more situational awareness information.

So, what’s happening with our warships?
These possibilities occur to me:

  • Sabotage. System software has been maliciously altered. 
  • GPS signals have been spoofed. While this has been done with civilian GPS signals, spoofing encrypted military GPS signals would be difficult. 
  • Dereliction of duty. Poor command of ship. 
  • Incompetent sailors. Obama’s focus on armed forces’ diversity and social issues has diluted sailors’ competence.

The Navy has removed the two senior officers and the senior enlisted man from the destroyer Fitzgerald. Yesterday it dismissed Vice Admiral Aucoin, commander of its 7th Fleet. (He was scheduled to retire soon, anyway.)

A Navy inquiry reportedly has excluded cyber intrusion or sabotage.

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Become A Safer Pilot

I’ve always enjoyed reading Flying magazine’s “Aftermath” and “I Learned About Flying From That” monthly columns. Both contain forensic examinations of general aviation calamities — from narrow escapes to fatal disasters. In flight, there are thousands of things that can go wrong. Most flights can survive one or two failures, but bad things happen when multiple failures stack up against the pilot. 

The AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) has a rich Air Safety Institute channel on YouTube that’s filled with well-done safety related videos. My favorite is their Accident Case Studies channel. Most of these include voice recordings of ATC (air traffic control) radio traffic, and video graphics of the plane in flight, together with a narrator. If you’re a pilot, check out this channel. We can always learn from others’ mistakes.

Here’s one accident case study: (“IMC” = Instrument Meteorological Conditions. i.e., bad weather)

The AOPA’s Air Safety Institute has plenty of other helpful safety related video playlists as well. I recommend their YouTube channel. 

Live Music Streaming Via Periscope 

I’ve been using the Periscope app on my Android phone to stream live music from Fort Lauderdale. Music genres include solo guitar, rock, reggae, and Cuban. 

South Florida has always been blessed with hordes of great musicians. These “scopes” contain some of them.

You can browse through my “scopes” by clicking www.pscp.tv/therussbellew.

What’s Periscope?
Periscope is a live streaming video app. There are both IOS (Apple iPhone) and Android versions, which can both broadcast and view video streams. Since Periscope is owned by Twitter, you may use your Twitter account to begin broadcasting your own scopes. Also, Periscope streams may be viewed within any web browser by going to www.periscope.tv.

Tweets As Prose Haiku

I like simple English. Long words and complex sentences only obscure meaning. Our goal should be to express ourselves in as few words as possible.

Have you ever tried to write a Haiku? It’s a Japanese poem form which contains seventeen syllables in three lines. Its brevity imposes discipline. Try writing a Haiku. It’s not easy. 

Twitter imposes a 140 character limit on tweets. It’s sufficient to express one or two thoughts — but only if you distill your idea into a few simple but powerful words. It reminds me of writing Haiku — but without rhyme. (Reason only.)

(Haiku and illustration credit Kelly R Fineman)

Walt Mossberg, WSJ Tech Critic

I just listened to an excellent interview with Walt Mossberg, who since 1991 wrote a weekly computer industry column for the Wall Street Journal. Walt’s now retired. Leo Laporte, an industry podcaster, coaxes some great stories from Mr. Mossberg. 

Walt’s perspective was always that of a user — not a tech freak. Most industry reporters are techies who don’t appreciate that most of us don’t care about the inner workings and secret mechanisms of computers.

Walt speaks a bit about his long relationships with both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. (Walt sat in the passenger seat as Gates, frustrated by traffic, drove his Lexus for miles on the road’s shoulder.)

It’s a pleasant and informative hour-long conversation. 

[Triangulation (MP3)] Triangulation 310: Walt Mossberg

http://podplayer.net/#/?id=39772523 via @PodcastAddict

Google, the app killer

Meebo, Picasa, Wave, Google Plus . . . All of these useful apps were killed by Google. Google has a fickle reputation. More often than not, they quickly kill struggling projects, rather than refine them.

Compare this to Microsoft. Excel, Word, Access, Internet Explorer, Windows Server, Windows itself — all were weak also-ran competitors to much stronger market leaders. Yet in each case Microsoft worked hard for years at improving its initially weak product until finally it kicked the king off its perch.

Google doesn’t seem to have Microsoft’s tenacity. Why? Maybe success came too quickly to Google. Pagerank and AdWords were instant succeses.

Which model will succeed? Don’t assume that Google will always be the search leader. Microsoft continues to refine Bing, and there’s a long trail of onetime market leaders — Novell, WordPerfect, Lotus, Netscape — lying dead in Microsoft’s wake. 

Why some videos have disappeared from this blog

Some videos that I’ve linked to in this blog are no longer available, for one or more reasons:

  • Someone has claimed a copyright and objects to its being published here,
  • A video hosting or file sharing service has changed its policies or is no longer on line,
  • I’ve goofed in any of dozens of ways.

I hate seeing these dead links. In some cases without the video, the article is pointless, so I’m taking these articles off-line. In other cases, the article still makes sense, so I’ll leave the article on-line, dead video links and all.

Stop annoying pop ups on your phone’s web browser(s)

When using my Android phone, I’ve become reluctant to click on links to unknown webpages because many — maybe most — of them contain obnoxious pop ups. I’ve stopped this by disabling Javascript in my phone’s web browsers(s). Each browser is different, but in general go to the Settings for your web browser and turn off Javascript. This will work on both Android and IOS (Apple iPhone) phones. 

Most browsers will allow exceptions to this Javascript off rule. Your webmail hosting service, bank, etc. probably require Javascript. Add these sites to your browser’s list of sites on which Javascript may execute.

I know — it’s inconvenient to configure, but you’ll be glad that you did, when you’re no longer bothered by those awful pop-ups.