Monthly Archive: October 2015

A quick word about “gotcha” questions

Every election cycle, one or more political candidates will be heard whining and pissing and moaning about “gotcha questions”. We are hearing it right now from several GOP candidates following the most recent debate.
Be careful about taking that whining at anything like face value. If you define a “gotcha” question as a question to which there is no answer that makes the answerer look good, there are very few true “gotcha” questions. (Questions like “when did you stop beating your wife” or “does this dress make me look fat?” while amusing, are not exactly common in the political arena).
Most of the time, when a politician is whining about a “gotcha” question what they really mean is:
Question that if I answer it, either makes me look like an ill-informed doofus, or which makes my political party look like it is dominated by squabbling children.
If a question is genuinely defective, it should be possible for a political candidate to explain to the questioner why the question is defective. Whenever I hear somebody dismissing a question as a “gotcha” question, I know I am hearing somebody who is trying to shut down the conversation instead of providing any useful answer.


The Booke Of Graham – Road Return

1.1 After a long day in the Big City, where he partook of various events known as “meetings”, Graham did pack his worldly goods and set out into the urban wilderness
1.2 And lo, it did come to pass that he arriveth by railed chariot at ye munificent construction of steel, cement and modern construction substances various, known to many as Chicago O’Hare Airport.
1.3 And he gazeth upon the sight with glorious thanks for his fortune, for from this point he planned to sit in the big whooshy winged bird and be transported unto his real home, there to be surrounded by all manner of favored pussycats
1.4 And he proceedeth to the place known as Departures, there to engage in a dialogue with a machine that resembleth a failed design for “Dr Who”, which proceedeth, after a small delay and the asking of several damnfool questions, to create a piece of parchment, upon which were written aviation commandments and authorizations various
1.5 And lo, Graham readeth the parchment and weepeth, for the engravement “TSA Pre” was not to be found
1.6 And he realizeth that he had been consigned to the pantheon of the great unwashed, the lesser masses of travelers
1.7 And so he entereth into the Valley Of The TSA with slight trepidation, for his command parchment sayeth that the Whooshy Winged Thingy awaiteth him in only 24 minutes
1.8 And he was confronted by an abundance of objects known as “queues”, adorned by all manner of tribal members, some focused, some confused, and some suffering from what was known throughout the land as Airport Brain Fade
1.9 Whereupon, after much deliberation and the weighing of matters, he selected the queue on the right, and entereth into the Long Valley Of the TSA, there to be bodily examined for the possible presence of objects of evil
1.10 Amidst much tumult and confusion, he noticeth that within his queue, there was a multitude from the tribe of Doofus, notorious practitioners of Airport Brain Fade
1.11 For the Doofi were milling about in great confusion, unable to determine what to do in the presence of the Lords of TSA
1.12 And Graham soon felt the hand of frustration upon his head, as the Doofi continued to move hither and thither, unable to determine their course of action
1.13 And he beginneth to suffer from that syndrome known to all as “weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth”, for the Doofi continued to clog up his bloody path
1.14 A young member of the tribe was unable to collapse his child chariot and asketh his wife “forsooth, how do I get this damn thing through this eye of a needle?”
1.15 And she respondeth “yeah verily thou art a fool of the highest order. Thou noticeth this lever?” And she presseth the lever and lo, the chariot did collapse.
1.16 And the Doofus did say unto his wife “yeah verily, why did I not know of this all powerful lever”. And his wife respondeth “because thou wilt not study the manual, you blithering waste of our deity’s natural resources”
1.17 And the queue did rejoice and cry out loud in pleasure, for they couldst see the end of their nightmare, and the beginning of the Feast At The Temples of Starbucks, McDonalds and Chilis
1.18 But, as the masses danced, the King of Doofus did take his place at the head of the line, where he showeth the multitudes that no matter how low the bar be set for intellect, there is always room for one of God’s children to lower said bar below the lowest imaginable place on the surface of the Earth
1.19 And while the King of Doofus did cause the object scanner to groan from overload of his worldly goods, and the body scanner to cry out in electronic anguish, the masses did consider how they might apply new forms of torture to his miserable, sorry ass, and thence unto his private parts
1.20 And Graham didst cry out inwardly “Yeah Verily, oh supposed omnipotent bearded white haired man who appeareth in that Gary Larson cartoon, please can thou press thy SMITE key? For I have a deserving subject for its use”
1.21 But his cries were in vain, as the King of Doofus did continue to demonstrate how low the bar could be lowered, lower than the deepest place in the World
1.22 But finally the King of Doofus was permitted to pass out of the Valley, and the Great Adventure of the Valley for Graham did culminate in the ritual known as the removal of the footwear, the presentment of vestments for examination, and the smelling of the body by another reject machine from 1950’s sci-fi
1.23 And the machines sayeth unto the Lords of TSA, “yeah, he shall pass”. And the Lords of TSA did allow Graham to leave the Valley of Torture, Doofi and Strange Machines
1.24 Whereupon he made haste unto the Whooshy Winged Thingy as it awaited for him, while wishing a short, miserable future upon persons numerous, but thanking his DNA for preventing him from saying Bad Things unto said persons and their tribal bretheren
1.25 For his delay in traversing the Valley and conversing with the Lords of TSA had rendered him unable to enjoy a long repast with fine comestibles. Verily he was condemned to only the snacks of the harried masses
1.26 Which he did consume in order to prevent an attack of what the books describe as “growlypuss” while making his way across the heavens on the Whooshy Winged Thingy, listening to his celestial orchestra of many and varied performances of musicians playing pieces known to the less educated masses as “weird shit”
1.27 And lo, he landeth at another edifice of construction materials known to all and sundry as “Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport”, there to be greeted by his favorite pussycat, and be transported to his pussycat haven by wheeled chariot
1.28 And he did complete the creation of artifacts known variously as “minutes”, “issues”, “risks”, “emails” and “expenses”, lest the corporate gods be displeased
1.29 Whereupon he did retire to his haven of peace and sleep, surrounded by pussycats various


NFL Comments from an Armchair viewer

1. Dallas Cowboys
They changed quarterbacks, but the quarterback play level was no better overall. Matt Cassel threw 3 interceptions, which cost the Cowboys 13 points. He did show more flexibility in ball distribution, and made several nice throws, but the interceptions were the difference in the score. One might expect that he will improve, but if he does not, benching Brandon Weeden will come to be seen as pointless. The injury to Tony Romo showed that the Cowboys, like many teams who have a franchise quarterback, have no Plan B at that position. (Look around the league and tell me how many teams with a high-dollar franchise quarterback have a durable, reliable #2 who can come off the bench and lead the team. It’s a short list isn’t it?)
The bigger issue is Greg Hardy. His disruptive behavior on the sideline reminds me of Charles Haley when he was playing. Haley turned out to have undiagnosed bipolar syndrome, and I suspect Hardy has the same mental condition. The Cowboys need to get Hardy straightened out fast, before the NFL or the judicial system hijacks him for sanctions once more.

2. New York Giants
They are winning ugly, but finding ways to win. They do not look good on offense or defense, but special teams came up big against the Cowboys.

3. 49’ers
The 49ers are just not a very good football team right now in any area. They lost a lot of players in the off-season, and it is difficult to not conclude that the reason so many players retired is because they did not want to play for a coaching staff led by Jim Tomsula. Tomsula behaves on the sideline and in press conferences like he is out of his depth. His room for manouver is limited. He has a #1 quarterback who is not the finished article, a #2 quarterback that nobody wants to see on the field of play, and holes on offense and defense. While he can babble on about performances being “unacceptable”, benching players is not an option when you have no adequate replacements.
I fear that the ownership, worn down by the incessant squabbles with Jim Harbaugh, wanted a quiet life with a new head coach, and went for the safe in-house candidate who would do the bidding of the ownership. This is remarkably similar to the mode of operation of Jerry Jones after he fired Jimmy Johnson, when he cycled through a succession of non head coaches (Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey and Dave Campo) before swallowing hard and hiring Bill Parcells.
It no action is taken by ownership soon to upgrade the team or the coaching staff, the 49ers risk falling into the same trap as the Oakland Raiders, who, known for being dysfunctional, could only attract free agents by offering too much money to players mostly on the downside of their careers. As a result, they ended up in cap hell, with an ageing roster, and a mediocre coaching staff, and only now are they breaking out of that zone with Jack Del Rio, who has already shown that he is not afraid to jettison high priced free agents if they are not going to be contributors. Right now, based on current performance, a number of people in San Francisco may soon be pointing out that the 49ers are no longer in San Francisco (translation: Santa Clara, you can have them).

4. Carolina Panthers
Quietly advancing to 6-0, the Panthers are not a glamorous team, but an effective one. They have experience and youth in equal measure, and Cam Newton looks mature and polished, quite different to the reckless ball-heaver of 3 seasons ago.

5. Seattle Seahawks
I am not quite sure what to make of this team. They have all of the talent, but they are misfiring badly on both sides of the ball. In particular, Russell Wilson is being sacked way too often. I worry that if he is knocked out, the Seahawks offense will splutter badly.

6. San Diego
They cannot win a game to save their life. They seem to be unable to play consistently for 60 minutes, and have a habit of going walkabout in the second half.

7. Houston Texans
This roster needs a stick of dynamite. They just lost their best running threat Arian Foster to what looks like a season ending injury, and they have a porous offensive line. Both of their quarterbacks are backups who are inconsistent, and one of them cannot set an alarm clock. They have next to no offensive playmakers..the list goes on.

8. Miami Dolphins
Having dumped Principal Philbin, the Dolphins handed the coaching job to tight ends coach Dan Campbell, and suddenly this is a different team. Either the team had tuned out Joe Philbin, or he was just not an energizing coach, because they hung 41 points on the Hpuston Texans in less than two quarters on Sunday, after looking for weeks like they were lifeless, and incapable of getting out of their own way. If they keep on like this, they may make the playoffs, which will validate the decision to fire Philbin, in an era where mid-season coaching changes seldom work well.

9. Jacksonville
This team still looks to be struggling. They are inconsistent, and weak on both offense and defense. I am wondering if the coaching staff is overmatched.

10. New Orleans
After starting badly, they are picking up momentum. They may not be good enough to make the playoffs, and they have major decisions to make in the next off-season, most notably about Drew Brees who is 36 years of age with an astronomical cap number for 2016. Their roster needs a makeover, and with Brees on the roster at his current cap number that will be impossible.

11. Kansas City
With a dink and dunk offense with no playmakers, and a running game shorn of Jamal Charles, the Chiefs look to be going backwards from 2 seasons ago. They need a roster makeover.

12. Tampa Bay
The shine is off of the Lovie Smith era. The team is inconsistent, and incapable of holding onto leads deep into the second half of games. Jameis Winston is making mistakes as one would expect from a rookie, but he is not getting much support from the offense. If this mediocrity continues, Smith may find himself on the hot seat before the end of the season.

13. Indianapolis Colts
The main question for the last month has been when Chuck Pagano will be fired, especially following the bungled fake punt play in a recent game, which brought down ridicule on the team and the coaches. Now the main question may be when Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson will be fired.
The more practical issue is that Andrew Luck does not look to be 100% when playing, despite there being no injury report entry for him. Yet his passes are floating and lack zip and accuracy. Right now, the Colts might be better served by having Matt Hasselbeck under center.

14. Denver Broncos
A 6-0 team being carried by its defense, with a struggling quarterback (which sounds remarkably similar to the story from 2011, when Tim Tebow was under center). This will be Peyton Manning’s last NFL season. His passes are starting to look more and more like wounded ducks. Enjoy one of the great NFL quarterbacks while you can. Whether the Broncos will make it deep into the post-season may depend on the defense. Maybe they can win like the 2001 Baltimore Ravens, using an adequate offense and a suffocating defense.

15. Philadelphia Eagles
Difficult to know what to make of this team. After purging or trading many veterans, swapping quarterbacks and overhauling the schemes, the team is inconsistent, including the quarterback. The strange thing is that there is almost no sign of the offensive innovations that everybody thinks of when the name “Chip Kelly” is mentioned. The Eagles are now playing an offense at a tempo like many other NFL teams, with few wrinkles, next to no gadget plays. It is almost as though Kelly has determined that Boring is Best.

16. New England Patriots
Another 6-0 team despite inconsistency. When your leading rusher in a game is your quarterback, who is not renowned for his mobility, and you are throwing the ball almost every down, but you are still winning, that tells you how good the team preparation and coaching is. Dour and uninformative Bill Belichick may be, but his methods work.

17. St. Louis Rams
They just seem to be inconsistent, like many NFL teams. The big question is when they will move back to California.

18. Cleveland Browns
This team remains in dysfunction, with a #1 quarterback who is streaky, and a #2 quarterback who is still working out how to function as a profesional adult. The roster is full of holes. As a result, the results are not good. Coaching changes may be on the way.

19. Arizona Cardinals
They were cruising a month ago, now they are not looking so good. Teams may have worked out how to cope with their passing attack, and things may be tougher for the rest of the season. The good news is that they are still the leaders in a weak division.

20. Washington Redskins
Although Kirk Cousins still throws too many interceptions, the team just won big after coming back from a deep hole, and those kinds of wins tend to energize a team. They may yet be able to run the table in November and December.

21. Cincinnati Bengals
The best hidden 6-0 team. They may yet be this year’s surprise regular season winner. The challenge is winning in the playoffs. Andy Dalton needs to ask Tony Romo how frustrating that can be.

22. Buffalo Bills
After a bright start, the mayhem of Rex Ryan’s man management is starting to rise up once again. For some reason, Ryan cannot stop talking, and as a result his team is undisciplined and sloppy. The team needs to take a good look at itself and sharpen up quickly on both sides of the ball, or this will become another lost season.

23. New York Jets
After the start of season brou-ha-ha over Geno Smith and his broken jaw, the Jets have settled down to play solid football, They may yet be in contention in January. I am sure that Ryan Fitzpatrick is glad he is not in Houston right now…

24. Green Bay Packers
Despite injuries, the Packers continue to move along like a well-oiled machine. As long as Aaron Rodgers remains under center, their presence in the post-season is assured.

25. Chicago Bears
Although nobody is prepared to admit it, the Bears are already rebuilding. Their trading of players shows that they are working for the future. The big offseason decision will be on Jay Cutler, who continues to be infuriatingly mistake-prone, suffering from Jake Plummer Hurl-The-Ball Disease at least a couple of times a game.


No, Honda and Ilmor cannot re-badge their Indy V6 engines for F1

The FIA and FOM are going to ask engine manufacturers to tender for the supply of a 2.2 liter twin turbo V6 engine from 2017.
Some of the first comments that I saw on discussion forums were that it would be easy for Ilmor (who provide engines for Chevrolet) and Honda to re-badge their Indy V6 turbo engines for use in F1 from 2017.
Nope, this is not going to happen, for commercial and technical reasons.
Leaving aside the question of whether an existing engine supplier in F1 is allowed to bid on the new engine contract (I am unable to determine whether that will be allowed), it is difficult to see why Honda would want to bid on this contract when they have a program under the current regulations. Now…Mugen might bid on it, or Honda could fund another third party to develop a second tier engine (as they did in 1988, when they sponsored John Judd’s V8 F1 engine program in order to help keep F1 grids full).
Ilmor appear to have no such restrictions, although they have been helping Renault this season with ICE design and reliability. Nobody knows how that contract might restrict their own involvement in F1 as a separate entity.
That is just the commercial side. The real issues are in the technical regulations, in several key areas.
1. Size and weight
The Indycar engine formula was designed to minimize costs of development and operations. The engines have a minimum box size (i.e. a minimum overall set of engine dimensions) that is a very large by F1 standards. They also have a minimum weight which is also high by F1 standards. Both of these rules were introduced to the series to prevent suppliers from engaging in “arms race” spending to reduce the size and weight of their engines, as was happening in F1 at the time. A visual image of an Indy V6 shows an engine that is tall and large by modern F1 standards.
2. Rotational speed
Current Indy V6 engines are limited to 12200 rpm. This is an rpm limit substantially below that of the current F1 engine technical regulations and ICE capability. In practice, current F1 engines are rarely exceeding 12000 rpm except in qualifying, due to current fuel flow limits. However, those limits are due to be lifted for 2017 and beyond, which means that ICE rpm will be a lot greater than 12000 in races.
3. Boost levels and power outputs
The boost levels in Indycar, as they have been for a long time, back to the CART era, are modest compared to the historical and current boost levels in F1. The maximum current boost level allowed in Indycar is 1.6 bar (23.2 psi) which is substantially less than boost levels in F1. Indycar engines, because of the lower boost levels, rotational speeds and fuel, do not use intercoolers.
Because of the modest boost levels and rotational speed limits, Current Indy engines generate a maximum of 750 bhp. Current F1 engines are generating 800-850 bhp in races and in excess of 900 bhp in qualifying. The F1 power outputs are expected to rise above 1000bhp when fuel flow limits are increased in 2017.
4. Fuel
Indy engines use 85% ethanol, which has a massive latent heat of evaporation, which reduces thermal stress in the top of the engines. F1 uses gasoline, which has less of a cooling effect.

To sum up: the current Indycar regulations have created an engine which, compared to the current hybrid F1 V6 engines, is heavy, large, with lower rotational speeds, boost levels, no intercooling, and no energy recovery systems. Even a basic F1 V6 turbo engine for use from 2017 onwards will need to be capable of much higher rotational speeds and boost levels in order to generate competitive power outputs, while being much more compact and lighter than current Indycar engines. This will require a brand new custom engine design, not an adaptation of current Indycar engine designs.

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