Musing About Music

My new car is my first with Sirius Radio, and as a lover of music I am impressed. The satellite bandwidth means a lot of depth, and there are just so many stations.

That is important to me because I live in the hills North of the City of San Diego, and the radio reception ranges from variable to awful. The only nearby classical station in in Tijuana!

Now they offer Internet Sirius for just a few dollars more, so…

I have my iPhone connected to my Bose Wave Radio in the bedroom, my iPad connected to my Apple TV and Bose system in the Living Room, and my main PC playing Sirius through a Bose Wave System in the office.

It may be too hokey for you but on Channel Four (Four for 40) the music from the 40s is on…Ink Spots, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw…I had forgotten how short those pieces were, but 45 RPM records didn’t hold a lot of music.

Now not all songs from the 40s were great — in 1944, a song called,””Mairzy Doats” hit the tops of the pop charts, but remember, we were in a world-wide war, WWII, and levity was hard to find, so it had to be manufactured.
The lyrics, courtesy of Wikipedia, go like this:

“Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe”

If you are of ancient age, you remember that.

Come to think of it, some of the modern lyrics should a lot like that!

Speaking of music, Happy Birthday, Astrud Gilberto — just the sweetest voice I ever heard. She was born on this day in 1940, and broke through with The Girl From Ipanema, recorded with Stan Getz and John Carlos Jobim.

A stunning voice — hers was the first record I ever bought within an hour of hearing it. I heard her sing The Girl From Ipanema on a car radio driving down the street in Vallejo, California and went directly to the first record store I could find(1964).

She was dating a drummer in a band when the lead singer became ill, and the band called on her to fill in — the Getz, Gilberto and Jobim album was her first. The lead singer was the Wally Pipp of singers.

(Just in case you don’t get that reference, Wally Pipp was the First Baseman for the NY Yankees, and one day he didn’t feel well, so the Yankees replaced him, as it turned out forever, with a player named Lou Gehrig.)

She has her own playlist on my iTunes, iPhone, and iPad.

Happy birthday!

Both the NY Times and the Christian Science Monitor have recently written analysis pieces on the NATO situation vis-a-vis the US participation.

At the end of the Cold War, the US had 400,000 troops in Europe. Today we have 67,000. We had 40,000 Sailors, and today we have 7,000. We had 800 aircraft, but today we have 172. We have zero Carrier Groups in the Mediterranean.

No wonder Russia thinks it can be aggressive!

Certainly, no force of the Europeans will dissuade Russia. The limits of Russia today are how much territory Putin wants to control.

He currently does not have the amphibious forces to take Britain.

Otherwise, he knows Obama will do nothing.

Putin knows that Germany raced across Europe so fast that Hitler’s troops barely had time to eat, taking Paris without a shot being fired and forcing private boats from Britain to rescue the British and French forces from the beaches of Dunkirk.

Putin also knows that satellites mean that the US could not pull the sleight-of-hand that we pulled in WWII, convincing the Germans that the invasion at Normandy was a feint, while we let the Germans keep waiting for Patton at Calais, France.

Now I don’t think Putin wants Europe, but Estonia, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the Ukraine are certainly on his “want” list.

There is some price he is not willing to pay to fill his plate, but we don’t know what price that is and Europe does seem willing to exact any price.

You have to wonder about the state of the world when Obama is the Hawk of the West, even with a weak hand.

Obama Is Turning US Into a Regional Power

The US public is ambivalent about the use of force in both Europe, and the Middle East.

Me too.

I wish I had an answer, but history tells me that when the US has to come and retake geography that the feckless Europeans have given up — either without a shot or without many shots — then it takes three or four times as many troops to attack than it does to defend.

The Europeans spend about half the % of GDP that we do (2% compared to our 4% for US) and if they don’t care about their countries, why should we?

And the answer is that it is American lives that must be paid UNLESS we are willing to cut Europe off from our protection. That runs up against all sorts of cultural issues.


I am torn between telling the Europeans that they, collectively, are about as economically powerful as is the United States, but their 2% (and shrinking) military budgets must be doubled or the United States will withdraw from NATO on the one hand, and just withdrawing all European-based US troops altogether and telling them they are on their own.

Isolationism is a strong US sentiment, but the problem is we can’t seem to make it stick, and the longer we hold onto isolationism the more blood and treasure it costs us in the long run.

President Obama has worked mightily to turn us into Europe, and he has had some economic success but he has succeeded far beyond his wildest dreams in the diminishing of US Superpower status to that of Europe. (Close to the French level.)

Just reviewing the bidding: Withdrawing fro Iraq; withdrawing from Afghanistan; fudging the “Red Line” in Syria (which still has not met its obligations to reduce the poison gas inventory); then the Chinese incursion into Japanese held islands brought only fly-throughs, and need I mention the Iranian deal that permits Iran to continue enriching just weeks short of bomb grade material?

Obama is suffering the problems of his “Reset” — he based his Iranian and Syrian efforts on Russia, and now he must “lead” a reluctant Europe, dependent on Russian fuel and oligarch money, to oppose their own economic interest for philosophy and future interest.

President Obama is turning our nation into a regional power!

Supreme Court

I favor a woman’s right to choose an abortion right up to a fetal cognitive brain wave, and I am an Atheist … But I favor Hobby Lobby being able to decide what it will and will not support in the medical insurance that IT pays for.

We allow people with personal religious objections from war, surely we can let Hobby Lobby skate from four methods of contraception!.

The Obama Administration wants 20 separate birth control products paid for. Hobby Lobby says it is willing to cover 16 of the 20, but four are abortionist pills, and that is why Hobby Lobby draws a religious line.


How Secure Is YOUR Job?

The James Martin 21st Century School at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England most recent study, the Impacts of Future Technology, addresses what has been featured in my on-line blog for several years — the coming loss of jobs to technology. John Maynard Keynes, writing in the 1930s warned of “technological unemployment,” but the predicted wave is much closer.

This subject may seem obvious, but the acceleration is so great that many people in different job categories are whistling by the graveyard.

The middle-class in ancient Greece seldom worked — the gathered at the Forum and discussed the meaning of life, while slaves did the work.

The new “slaves” will be robots.

We have seen the tip of the iceberg with the loss of many bank tellers and travel agent positions, but with the advent of autonomous robots the change over time is much greater. Know anyone working in a Stenography Pool?

In autonomous automobiles we have come a long way from the DARPA autonomous car challenge I witnessed in 2009 in the Victorville desert. (The Stanford entry won, and earned $2 million, but even it was not too impressive.) Even with the quality of entries, ranging from General Motors to OSKOSH Trucks, No entry approached the fleet of Google cars roaming the world today without a driver.

The only reason we do not see many such driverless vehicles on the road today, is public acceptance. Various aspects of autonomous cars are slowly being introduced in order to groom the populace to fully autonomous cars, which could be introduced today if they would sell.

Throughout the 20th Century, automation and technology INCREASED jobs, and with that increase, average income. So, why do we now think that trend will change? The answer is AI, Artificial Intelligence and the ability of computer programs to design still more sophisticated programs, and robots to design and build still smarter, more sophisticated robots…which in turn…

The Oxford Martin study tries to look at the future to warn current workers, “Who’s Next?” Well, next are cab drivers, accountants, lab technicians, loan officers, real estate agents, and a host of other currently well-paying middle-class professions. The profusion of drone technology means airline pilots are an endangered species, particularly if, as seems likely, the are prone to crash planes and take hundreds with them.

The current unemployment rate as featured on the evening news masks the actual unemployment rate. Millions upon millions have given up looking for employment, and while some of that can be attributed to economic policy, some, and an increasing amount will invariably be because of ever-increasing Artificial Intelligence.

This is more than an economic problem. It is a political problem during the transition. Paying people not to work will cause resentment among those required to subsidize them. Some, with lots of time on their hands will read or attend concerts, while others make mischief.

When I wrote the first Navy AI program in 1968, and taught the subject into this century, I had no clue that AI would come to this.

Out With (Some of) The Old, In With (Some of) The New


The standard answer posed by defenders of the teacher tenure system is that school districts will fire the more senior teachers to hire less experienced teachers and save money thereby.
Sure, it happens in the real world also, corporations let older, more experienced workers go (keeping some for continuity) while hiring younger, often brighter and certainly better educated (or those with more technological education), but that is better for moving corporations or schools forward than the French method of never replacing workers, and having the brain drain to competing nations!
I am 80, but began in computers in 1967. I taught teachers, and at least in technology they are dense, while their students are superb — it is not wise to have students smarter than the teacher…it makes students zone out because they already think they know everything and their teachers prove it!
I have to tell you a story: some years ago a friend called and told me he had been hired to be a computer teacher at a North County High School — reputed to be a top high school.
I said I didn’t know he knew anything computers. He said he didn’t, but was calling me to see if I could give him “an hour or two” so he could stay ahead of his students!
I did, but he was obviously never going to teach HIS students ANYTHING, so I offered to teach his first class. It was a ball. I loved it, and midway through a woman came in and sat down. At the end, she asked me to teach HER class…
(She also said she didn’t understand a word I said, but that obviously the students did.)
It’s like medicine…you need a mix of older, experienced Doctors, and younger Doctors with technological expertise. I discovered after a five-way heart by-pass the old chest-cracking way that there is a Da Vinci procedure that could have reduced my recovery from eight weeks to one week.
When I asked a Da Vinci qualified Doctor why my Surgeon used the old procedure, he said, “He has 35 years experience, and does it his way very well, but the Da Vinci device requires years in Medical School to master!”
It is inevitable that marginally performing old teachers (and old Doctors) will be  should be  replaced by newer, and inevitably cheaper  people and technology.
High performing but elderly Doctors, and teachers will always be welcome.
Tenure gets in the way of both progress and reality. It should go!

Things That Just WORK!


Today (Friday) is J. S. Bach’s birthday — in 1685.
One wonders which of the current crop of musicians will still be popular in 300+ year?
One of my great joys is listening to Bach in my IS350c, which is a quiet compartment with a spectacular Mark Levinson stereo. I once remarked about the efficacy of putting a $3,000 stereo system in a convertible, but this system is light years above the same system in my previous hardtop convertible, a Lexus SC430.
Lexus and Mark Levinson finally got it right. Even with the top down.
Bach would have cheered. (Quietly.)
While I am giving out kudos, I might mention my favorite new program, at least new compared to Word and Excel, and it is Evernote. I am certain that Microsoft’s competitive One Note is an excellent product as well, but the advent of the Fujitsu Evernote Scanner gives Evernote the edge, in my opinion.
Evernote is a free form database that stores text, photos, audio, video, e-mails…you name it. Then Evernote automatically makes it all available instantly on your smartphone and tablet, in my case iPhone 5s and iPad Air.
I just installed the Evernote scanner, which is quickly diminishing my stacks of paper. I am a “pile maker..” (It is just one of my bad habits, but my wife forgives it, reluctantly, because I never smoked or drank — unless you consider a glass of wine twice a week as “drinking.”)
She has always looked on my piles of paper — I am still in Residential Real Estate at the age of 80 — as something she must put up with so long as she doesn’t have to look at it.   She seldom comes in my home office, lest she be swallowed. (It’s not actually that bad because it is stuffed into an “In” and an “Out” basket, neither of which represents either In or Out.)
Those baskets are disappearing at a rapid rate. If you are in business, or even run a community organization, this Evernote combination is a must.
Many years ago we in the computer community yucked it up saying, “We may have a paperless toilet before we have a paperless office.”
The paperless office is closer. Much closer.
It isn’t cheap, but it is GOOD!


One of the most dangerous acts a Sailor can be called upon to perform, and one every Sailor is trained for, is firefighting, because in the middle of an ocean you MUST save the ship.
I have noticed that on the news, almost zero structures are saved…the effort appears to be to save nearby buildings. That is NOT the case on a ship.
The Navy is working with a robot, the prototype cost about a million dollars but will be far less in production. Firefighting is a team effort, and a team of robots are still a few years away, but the first prototype will be doing its first land-based trials in August.
I remember going through Firefighting School as part of Company 640 at Boot Camp in San Diego, and it was exciting for a 17 year-old kid, but fires on ships are deadly serious. On Submarines, doubly so — water of any kind is unwelcome. Compartments on all ships are tiny, filled with flammable fluids and gases, with narrow ladders, hatches that must be un-dogged and opened.
Robots will be welcomed.

Chess Game


The so-called “sanctions” by both the US and Russia against each other is a farce.
First the sanctions against certain Russian politicians and oligarchs was proposed so soon before executed that everyone had plenty of time to sell off any assets, or remove all funds from banks. Russian oligarchs are crazy, but they are not stupid — they know how to move assets around at the click of a mouse.
The sanctions against the US politicians is even less than useless — no politicians do not invest widely in Russia, nor do they keep accounts there.
It is all for show, and it is a bad show.
The good news is that serious sanctions are available only next October when Russia COULD cut the natural gas that fuels Europe — and it would be difficult for Qatar and the Netherlands can pick up some of the slack, but ONLY the US could replace a serious amount of the natural gas. That could only happen if the US starts NOW! (Of course those preparations could be, and should be underway right now, without announcement.)
Here is an interesting fact: All of the fuel for the Crimea comes from the Ukraine — but with Russian forces massed on their borders the Ukraine is in no position to cut off the fuel to the Crimea if Russia cuts off fuel to the EU.
This is an interesting chess game, and so far we are losing.


The most devastating Work Rule school districts have is a “Post and Bid” system, and that the system provides the opportunity for those with seniority to select the plum schools, leaving newer, less experienced teachers to the less desirable schools..
(I have flown 27 times to Hawaii, and airlines use the same system. You find a lot of 60 year old “Flight Attendants,” while the American Eagle flights to Tucson get the younger, more lithesome attendants. Note: At my age, the older Flight Attendants are just fine!)
Certainly, some senior teachers dedicate themselves to the under-served out of dedication, but as the old saw goes, “The race does not always go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to put your money.”
I put my money on experienced teachers acting in their own self-interest and selecting the more exclusive communities.
Some believe that we should not end Post and Bid (easy) but rather change the environment (Uber-hard), reminds me of the apocryphal story of FDR calling together the professors of MIT in WWII to devise a solution to the U-Boats devastating the Allied Shipping.
Their solution: “modify the environment — raise the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean to 212 degrees F and force the U-Boats to the surface.”
FDR asked incredulously, “how do we do this?”
The answer – “You asked how to surface the U-Boats. We gave you an answer. The details are up to you!”
No, the Education(sic)  system should end Post and Bid.