Things I Enjoy Saying

As I was walking back from work today I tried to think of a few quips I like to offer others. I do not have a particularly good reason for thinking about this particular topic. It does follow along the line of thought into which I fell summer 2003 when I was deployed with some of my Panton compadres to Singapore; and I thought out of sheer random curiosity to ask my friends to please “Tell me the first sentence of your favorite story.” That tale is covered elsewhere; perhaps someday I’ll republish it here. Without further ado, here are the couple phrases I like to turn:

I’m probably smarter than you. But I doubt it.
– Normally I rehearse in my mind saying this to folks I whom I believe are condescending. In such situations I sometimes feel like I need to push them back onto their heels a little bit with a blunt assertion of superiority. With the same breath I offer them a sort of a philosophical “Face-saver.” I’ve used this phrase a couple times, but only with people I’m certain will understand the entire phrase.

Me: “I have good news, and I have bad news. Which do you want me to explain first?
Nearly Everyone: “What’s the bad news?
Me: “The bad news is that I’m a pessimist, and I don’t have any bad news. The good news is. . . .
– This is often good for a laugh.

If I’m approaching the right person I’ve also had some success with the sister of the above phrase:

Me: “I have good news, and I have bad news. Which do you want me to explain first?
Occasional Good-Natured Person: “I’d like to hear the good news first!”
Me: “The good news is that I’m a pessimist, and all I have is bad news!
– This was met with a grinning groan, as best I remember

I hope you enjoy my sense of humor as much as I do! On the other hand, when an audience clearly does not enjoy my sense of humor as much as I do, I like to say “I’m sorry, I thought that was going to be funny.” I probably say that a bit too often. Once upon a time that phrase was good for a chuckle at minimum, but it’s clearly gotten old.

Posted in Humor | Comments Off on Things I Enjoy Saying

Adding to the Absurdity

One of my frequent reads over at PJ Media is fellow (former) St Louisan Stephen Green at VodkaPundit (who “Covers the absurd in American politics,” and does it quite nicely from a libertarian frame of reference). I finally got a chance to weigh in at the comment section on a short article he posted about the probable pending retirement of the Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II (better known as the “Warthog” or just simply the “‘Hog.”)

The A-10 is an amazing airplane piloted and maintained by great folks, several of whom I’m proud to call mentors and friends. As of now, I don’t believe Congress has given its approval to retire the jet from the fleet; the proposal to retire it has been made by the Air Force and seems to have been ratified by the Executive branch in the 2015 budget proposal. In the VodkaPundit article commentary, I attempted to explain a couple of the reasons the A-10 is likely to get the axe. It’s an imperfect, incomplete explanation, but I felt it was best to leave it where I did.

Whether it retires sooner or later, the ‘Hog has certainly earned its place in the annals of aviation history as a close air support all-star. It will be a fitting testament to the patriotism and dedication of the Americans who designed, built, maintained, and flew it. It will be great to keep it in place for a little while longer. But when its time comes, I hope it retires with its record intact.

There have been precedents for obsolescent technology hanging on just a bit too long, to the detriment of the system as a whole. For the most recent examples, take a virtual tour of the Saddam-era Iraqi Air Force; or walk the ground of the Beka’a Valley circa June 1982 (if you dare), and try to not let your feet get cut on the shards of the decimated Syrian Air Force. Granted, the technology in those instances was operated poorly. But fleets of third generation fighters with support from single-digit surface to air missile (SAM) batteries were no match for well-flown fourth generation fighters.

Aviation history is ushering in its fifth generation fighters. The sixth generation went onto the drawing board several years ago. The historical lesson needs to be taken to heart. The A-10s time is nearly spent, along with the rest of the fourth generation jets.

I’ve seen a lot of jets that were fine for their time flown one last time to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s “Boneyard.” It was the right thing to do, even if it was a little sad to know that birds like the Phantom, the Corsair, the Intruder, the Raven, and the Tomcat put their gear down for the final time.

One final “Base, Gear, Stop” radio call to D-M Tower is certainly better than the alternative radio call in combat.

Posted in Military Affairs, Rest of World Military, Rest of World Military, Uncategorized, USAF | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Genesis of No Twelve-Step Program

Just in case anyone happens to click over here from the Ace of Spades blog comments section: I was just kidding, I don’t actually have a Twelve-step program that helps transition lurkers into commenters.

Posted in Humor, Internet | Comments Off on The Genesis of No Twelve-Step Program

Amazing Camaro Sale!

I want to say “Thank you” to whomever purchased this 2014 Camaro COPO (Central Office Production Order) at Barrett-Jackson.  (Image Credit (as best I can tell): Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

2014 Chevy Camaro COPO Auctioned at Barrett-Jackson for $700k for Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Warriors

2014 Chevy Camaro COPO Auctioned at Barrett-Jackson for $700k for Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Warriors

There look to have been other charity auctions there.

I can’t wait until I get to attend another Barrett-Jackson auction! It’s been a long time.

Posted in What\'s Right | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Amazing Camaro Sale!

A New Kind of Sunroof?

This gives a whole new meaning to the term “Sunroof!”

Posted in Engineering, Science | Comments Off on A New Kind of Sunroof?

Merry Christmas 2013

Another year is almost ready for the ‘Recent History” archive!
May your New Year 2014 be blessed and happy!

Updated:: Now with 100% more Christmas Tree!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Merry Christmas 2013

From a Certain Point of View

The title is a reference to a parcel of dialogue from one of my favorite childhood movies (the guessing contest to “Name the movie” will be hosted in the comments section below).  One character says to another something to the effect “You’ll find many of the truths we cling to depend upon our point of view.”  This was the quip that came to mind immediately after reading the paragraph below at the UK Telegraph:

For among the rebel lines in al-Safira flutters the black flag of the al-Nusra Brigade, the jihadist group that recently declared its allegiance to al-Qaeda. Known for their fighting prowess honed in Iraq, they are now taking the lead in nearly every frontline in the Syrian war, and earlier this month, pushed to within just over a mile of al-Safira, only to for the Syrian troops to regain the ground last week.

 In particular, the statement “Known for their fighting prowess honed in Iraq,” caught me. 

I suppose from a “Spirit of George Orwell’s writing” point of view “Fighting prowess honed in Iraq” can be some sort of contextual shorthand for “Expertly dodged American combat forces by blending in amongst the native population making only occassional and furtive covert ambush-style attacks which were operationally and strategically ineffective, and eventually succumbed anyway to either American combat forces or Iraqis who tired of you hiding amongst them when you weren’t treating them barbarously.”

I would have loved to have posted this to Twitter, but I just couldn’t figure out a way to condense that down to 140 characters.

Posted in Military Affairs, Rest of World Military | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on From a Certain Point of View

Praying for Boston

Forth For Freedom

Forth For Freedom

I feel compelled to share this photo today. I’m praying for Boston, I hope you will too.

Twitter: #prayforboston.

Follow me on Twitter: @CPenningroth

Posted in Military Affairs, USAF | Comments Off on Praying for Boston

Farewell, Lady Margaret Thatcher

I’m going to keep some fond memories of you, Lady Thatcher. Thank you for speaking to us at my University of Missouri campus (I started at least one of the rounds of applause). Thank you for your televised speech at President Reagan’s funeral; you adding a touch of your grief made mine a little easier to bear at the Great Man’s passing; I do wish you could have been there personally, but I understand and accept that you could not. Most of all, thank you for securing the future for us, at least for the time it was within your power to do it. HIstory will remember you well. I will do the best I can to ensure that. It’s the least I can do. With gratitude and sadness from the bottom of my heart, I bid you goodbye.

Posted in History, International Relations, Politics, What's Right | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

This post has been gathering dust as a draft for seven months now.  It looks like now is a good time to dust it off and finish it, it may go some small way to explain some of the back-story behind a pair of my previous posts (one and two). 

I received as a 2011 Christmas gift the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson on audio CD.  I listened to it in May and June 2012.  I found it answered some questions that had never really been nagging me but had always wondered about in the occassional moment from time to time ever since the Apple IIe was introduced and I bought an Atari instead. 

The first question I never really asked myself aloud was “Why I am reluctant to buy an Apple product?” The practical answers were usually “Apple is too expensive for the product (the product was either overvalued compared to its utility or it was too exclusive for no particular reason)”‘; or “None of my friends/coworkers/employers use them and therefore I’d have to learn an operating system and software that is not immediately useful to me.”  Rule #1 applied to the Apple IIe (although we did have a couple in our high school), the Macintosh (which appeared in our high school computer labs and came closest to being a possible exception to Rule #2), and the iPod (it looked too simplistic for the price although apparently it works well as an MP3 player; but thanks also for revolutionizing the music industry, producers of another series of products I use only infrequently!).  In the case of the smart phone, the iPhone debuted while I was in Japan and was not available to me until I moved back to the U.S.  Upon returning to the States I rushed to the AT&T store as soon as I could to acquire an iPhone, only to discover the data plan was $90/month! So a permutation to rule #1 was in effect, the ‘necessary accessories’ were overpriced for the perceived value.  To this day I do not own a smart phone.  As I mentioned, I recently bought an iPad Mini for the Foreflight aviation application, and I’m actually quite pleased with it for the Foreflight application and for casual web-browsing.  Actually, when it comes to casual web-browsing, it annihilates my Netbook, as the Netbook takes several minutes to boot up and log in; where the iPad is available within seconds of picking it up off the table.  For PowerPoint, Word, and Excel, the Netbook still rules the roost when I need an ultra-portable platform.  But I digress a bit.  What was illuminating about the Jobs biography that shed light on my early apprehension about Apple?

In a nutshell, Jobs returned time and again to a need for Apple to “Control the users’ experience” (Why 1984 won’t be like 1984, indeed? I cede control of my experience to Apple rather than to Big Brother?).  He regarded his products as ‘Superior’ and overall his attitude kind of reminds me of the attitude some teenagers (or even some people who have physically matured but are still adolescent in heart and mind) affect:  “I’m the smartest kid in the room, and if you don’t want what I’m selling, you’re the one who’s wrong because I’m smarter than you are.”  After I had finished this audiobook I coined my computing continuum which I described in the Silicon Rubicon post.  While I prefer to operate as far away from the Apple side of the continuum as I possibly can, I admit there are times when an Apple product fits the bill and is the most useful in some circumstances. 

As for Steve Jobs as a person, I can’t say I’d’ve been happy to have known him personally, but then the feeling would likely be mutual.  There were aspects of his personality that sound like they served him well.  His dogged determination to perfect his products is probably the trait I admire the most and the one we likely have most in common.  Kudos to him for ‘Letting it all hang out,’ so to speak, in his biography.  Once upon a time I would have (and in fact have) done the same.  I no longer think it to be terribly useful to repeat all of the inhibiting traits each of us frail humans display.  It’s useful to highlight character flaws only to remind the reader that “Yes, in fact this person was a human being just like you.”  Otherwise to not do so may result in a tendency for future readers who did not know the human to tend to elevate the person’s stature in the reader’s mind unnecessarily.   Let the world have the positive from the outcomes I achieved and let me take the preponderance of my embarrassments to the grave. 

Steve Jobs’ particular traits as a leader gave me the most headache.  Obviously when we as a society arrived at smart phones and tablet computing, his point of view on the design and function of those devices won the current day.  But the way he finally arrived at the pinnacle? His scorched earth leadership (if you’ll take ‘Earth’ to be a metaphor for his employees) seems like it resulted in a lot of unneeded angst in his wake in his early days at Apple.  Perhaps the best thing that happened to him (and to Apple) was being fired; to some extent it seems to have made Jobs a better (if only marginally more tolerable) person and entrepreneur.  Another issue was that while he seemed to have a decent idea of the way the end-state Apple products should look, I did not get a sense that Jobs was actaully involved in the fundamental engineering that got the products working; Steve Wozniak apparently was the technical brains of the early organization and Jobs appeared to be able to find exemplary talent that could package the technology into the design.  That in itself is a mark of good leadership.  His corporation became indisputably successful, another mark of successful leadership. 

At the end of the day, in the 1980s I passed on an Apple for an Atari; now I own an iPad and use it while the pair of Atari classic video game systems I have are sitting in boxes gathering dust.  What goes around is sometimes just gone in later days.  Sometimes what almost went away comes roaring back when the time is right. 

I’m not sorry to know now what I know about the late Steve Jobs.  Somehow I don’t really think I’m a better person for knowing all of the details presented in the biography.  The bio was long on ‘What happened’ and short on ‘How it happened’ from the technical sense, but then such information would have been divulging Apple  trade secrets, so I understand the omission.  All the biography did was, as I mentioned, answer some of my personal questions that were really mere curiosities.  I validated some hunches.  I suppose there’s some value in that.  I now know a bit more why I can trust my hunches, at least with computers.

2013-05-27 Update:  Corrected spelling/grammar (“know know” to “now know”).

Posted in Arts, Internet, Literature, Programming & Technical Computing | 4 Comments