May 2011

Somewhere down this page is relevant content for microwave engineers, but as usual it may be a painful process to uncover that...

Recently Newt Gingrich announced he is running for the Republican nomination for 2012 president. You remember good old Newt, old white guy, the only Speaker of the House to be formally reprimanded for ethics violations, who used to share wine and cigars with his mortal enemy while talking about their girl friends. He's as good as any of the other identified candidates, a familiar bunch from 2008. Seems like Momma Grizzly's star has faded, she pretty much gave away all the twelve states on her infamous bullseye graphic to the Democrats. Gingrich used Twitter to announce his candidacy, a bold departure from the many old-white-guy candidates. This activity made me consider that I need my own bold old-white-guy plan of action to help the nation. More on that later...

Several teachable moments have come and gone in the past few year. We've seen man-made disasters on new scales, driven by quest to extract as much energy as possible. The nuclear accident ongoing in Japan proves that you can't foresee every possible problem in the future. What's going to happen when all of our nuclear plants are owned by the Chinese and they are looking for ways to increase profits? No way we'd ever consider selling off infrastructure to pay off our debts... BP's Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers in 2010, and spewed almost 5 million barrels of oil in the gulf of Mexico. Upper Big Branch coal mine claimed 29 lives in 2010. You'd think out of respect for energy workers we'd want to conserve it, but that's not the case.

We'd never be stupid enough to build a nuke plant near the beach, on an earthquake fault line,
would we? The workers are probably well trained for emergencies...

A teachable moment... this is not an effective way to remove cholla cactus!

Add to energy mess the banking mess which caused the fiscal mess which is now a political mess. $1.5 trillion dollars in the red, and no wants to give up any government services, or provide an extra tax dollar or two to cover what is already committed. Have you ever been to a dinner with twelve people, helped ring up a $900 bill, then dropped a $20 on the tablecloth while you scooted out muttering that you didn't touch any of the appetizers? I've not done that, but I have certainly witnessed it. Just like people under 30 years old who are witnessing the free lunch provided to their parents by the government, I was not impressed.

In spite of all the recent opportunities, no politician has come up with the modern equivalent to Kennedy's inaugural speech. Today it's political suicide to remind people that shared sacrifice is the only way to get us out of the mess we are in. Let's all pause and go back to January 1961:

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".

For 2011, how about we all take a little less, and pay a little more?

The biggest challenge facing the dysfunctional US government will be working toward a balanced budget. Notice that I said "working toward", I am not optimistic that we'll get there, ever again. The path requires equal helpings of budget cuts, and tax increases. See, here's the thing... if you are serious about balancing the budget, you can't cut taxes, unless you cut spending so much that we have a surplus, which is not going to happen.

On previous rants I have suggested many ways to close the deficit, making rich people pay more taxes for example. It's time to define a few more, and even provide some ideas that will cost you and I some real folding money. Everybody should occasionally put some ideas into the POTUS Suggestion Box, these are mine, yours are yours.

Raise my taxes

Let's start by raising my taxes. I am begging Congress, please raise my taxes by $750. This is not an arbitrary number, and I expect something in return. I pay an accountant $750 to do my tax return, because it is tedious, and I have no interest in solving the yearly Taxdoku puzzle that the US government created for our enjoyment. Simplify my taxes so I can do them in one hour, and raise them while you are at it, heck, raise them $1500 if like. I can afford this, and probably, so could you if you are reading this. Politicians, go ahead and pretend that you are channeling the spirit of Ronald Reagan, that's arguably one of the best things he did when he was president. To misquote Senior Bush: "read my lips, simplify our taxes, and raise them on people that can afford it".

The Unknown Editor must be crazy, according to Republican standards. His hobbies include recycling, he "believes in" manmade global warming, and he can afford to drive a fast car but prefers to ride a Honda Passport 70, and he just asked for his taxes to increase. He must be part of that left-wing conspiracy!

Cut Nasa's budget

There was a time when we all believed that having a "space truck" would enable lots of great things, and would actually save us lots of money because it was reusable. Now the remaining space trucks are all heading for museums, and the real savings can begin.

Nasa has its own layoff program, now that we have retired the space shuttle. But their $20B budget doesn't seem to have decreased for the future. Huh? And please shut up about how Endeavor has "flown 116 million miles". You mean "orbited 116 million miles". By Nasa's definition of flight, we all travel 584 million miles each year as the Earth orbits the Sun.

NASA was so much more relevant in the 1960's. Can anyone name anything important that goes on in the International Space Station? Other than the first earth-space duet? Holy cow, Ian Anderson needs emergency bypass surgery, look how purple his face is!

Cut the defense budget

Yes, now that Bin Laden is gone, its time for Bin Layoffs at many defense contractors. That exploding TV remote you were working on? He's not gonna get a chance to try it. But there's other things that can be cut, that are more frivolous.

How much is the total budget for military bands? Hundred of millions. This particular activity, when necessary, could be outsourced. If you need an army band to play at a funeral, start by rounding up a few homeless guys. Look for one with a guitar.

America's got talent, and that's an order!

The Thunderbirds and Blue Angels air squadrons can be done now. Yes, your kids all say "that's cool" when they see the Thunderbird show. But it's a show, it doesn't serve any defense purpose, and the little rascals are likely going to be too obese to be airmen. The future of air defense is with unmanned air vehicles. 26 Blue angels pilots have been killed connected with this venture, a full 10% of the roster. In 1982, the Thunderbirds killed four pilots in one spectacular four plane crash. Somehow this is supposed to enhance recruiting efforts. If we really need more recruits, maybe it's time to re-institute the draft board. And do we really need to further pollute the air with smoke oil?

Oops, there goes another $35M... but the crowd goes wild!

I feel so much safer knowing that we have pilots like these protecting us....

Energy policy

It's time to make gas cost $5 per gallon or more, by increasing tax at the federal level, which serves a long list of ways towards the public good: preventing the mother of all recessions when oil hits $200 to $400/barrel, reducing our support to unfriendly governments, and earning the "participant medal" for trying to slow climate change. On top of that, let's double the taxes for gas served at marinas and small airports. If you want water hobby, buy a sailboat or surf board.

Let's remove tax credits for oil and gas extraction, but increase investments in sustainable energy. It's time to mandate a conversion of all water heaters in the southwest to solar, it is insanity to dig up coal in Pennsylvania, railroad it to Arizona using diesel fuel, burn it to make electricity, then deliver 10% of the energy to showers and hot tubs that could be heated for free.

There is a myth about birds being killed by windmills. In the United States, cats kill 500,000,000 birds each year yet contribute no usable energy. How many bird species will be wiped out by climate change? Yes, cats are cute and like to cuddle when they are hungry. Maybe we should design windmills to look like cats.


DARPA has long been a supporter of advanced microwave technologies, a sacred cow to device researchers. But if the purpose if DARPA is to maintain US technical lead, why do they tell the whole world what they are developing? From their web site:

"DARPA’s original mission, established in 1958, was to prevent technological surprise like the launch of Sputnik, which signaled that the Soviets had beaten the US into space. The mission statement has evolved over time. Today, DARPA’s mission is still to prevent technological surprise to the US, but also to create technological surprise for its enemies."

Where's the surprise when you issue broad agency announcements over the internet, and publish hundreds of papers on the results of key programs? This way of doing business costs the US more money in the long run, once you have developed swarms of killer robots, you need to develop counter-swarm technology. Then counter-counter swarm... next thing you know you've violated the three laws of robotics.

Then there's the whole conflict-of-interest and ethics thing. DARPA is a good target for the budget ax, even if their budget is only $3B. Tag the DARPA furniture and send it to ONR, AFRL and AMRDEC, at least they know how to keep a secret.

Tax churches

This probably won't affect me too much, except all the hate mail I will get over "attacking peoples beliefs". The future of the planet involves science and engineering, and learning how to get along, I am sure we can agree to that. Religion is supposed to remind us all that what we do is part of a larger picture beyond our own pitiful selves. But religion today seems focused on settling thousand-year-old feuds, oppressing women, discriminating against GLBTs, and arguing that the world was created 2000 years after Sumerians started brewing beer. In this belief, the US is out of synch with Europe, maybe it's part of the reason we are failing to compete globally in math and science. It's big business that believing that the rapture will soon settle all scores (check it out, May 21 is the big day, wear clean underwear!) If you ran your company like this (or put these beliefs on your resume) you would be at a severe disadvantage.

Today millions of people attend churches that are that preaching prosperity, the opposite of charity; everybody wants to high-five the Dalai Lama but no one wants to be him.

In 2010, televangelist Benny Hinn Ministries brought in $97.93 million, Kenneth Copeland $100 million, and Joyce Meyer Ministries (JMM) hauled in $112 million. Could it be that they are abusing the tax-free advantage to support a lavish lifestyle? It's time to render unto Caesar, and cough up some cash to the US Treasury.

>Tax the internet

Remember that whole spiel about not wanting to tax the internet because it would kill innovation? Time's up, start charging spammers for delivering email, and tax any transaction that crosses any state boundary. I have no idea how to do this, just hire some hackers to tap into Amazon's bank account.

My announcement...

Yes, fellow countrymen and women, I must announce something that took some long and hard reflection on my part. My announcement is: I now have a twitter account. Look for @unknowneditor when you are tweeting, to see what the old twit is up to. I am not planning on dishing any daily inspirational messages, but I thought it might be a good way for some of us microwave types to get together at the IMS symposium in Baltimore. I'll tweet a paper review or two if something strikes me as amusing or groundbreaking, and directions on getting together for a Microwaves101 rump session at a local gin mill. Topics could include:

  • CEOs: who has the best hair piece? Most overpaid? Closeted?
  • Career killers... should metamaterials come off the list?
  • Microwaves101: unlocking the shareholder value
  • What precautions to take when drinking with British microwave suppliers
  • Field trip to Johnny Eck's grave site

See you there! No worries, I will pick up at least my share of the bar tab...

Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!