January 31, 2013

Several years ago I was traveling from Atlanta to Kansas City on one of our nation’s airlines—Delta to be exact.    I previously had been referred to a gentleman who had issues with equipment used in manufacturing a product he designed in his garage eight years earlier.  He persevered, found an investor willing to support his efforts to commercialize his designs, moved out of the garage and was now involved in full-fledged production of the product.   Great success story repeated every year in our country.   The equipment and tooling in question was designed and built by a company no longer in business so he had no recourse unless he wanted to start all over.    Fix it or trash it.   The only two choices he had.   I agreed to take a look.   All he had to do was cover my expenses and I would waive my hourly rate, determine if I could bring about a resolution to the problem, make my report and let him decide on how to proceed.      That’s not really what this is about.

While in flight, there was a modest decompression of the cabin.  The oxygen masks came tumbling down from their compartments in absolute unison.     To her great credit, the lead member of the cabin crew immediately announced:

Ladies and gentlemen as you can see, the oxygen masks have deployed.  Every adult needs to put his or her mask on first—then help the elderly and children place and adjust theirs.  Please do this right now.  We will be coming down the aisles to aid anyone who is having difficulties.  Please do this NOW.”  

Please Note:  The adults were required to save themselves FIRST so they could save others, if needed.

We did—all of us.   Amazingly enough, there was no real panic.  No screaming, no hyperventilating, no evidence of anyone praying; only the immediate need to do as we were told.     The story has a happy ending.  The pilot, I was later told, requested an immediate clearance to descend and was given priority over other aircraft in flight.  Fortunately, an alternate airport was very close and we landed without mishap.  I have no idea as to what caused the decompression.  All I know is we dodged a bullet on this one.

Our country, in my opinion, is in this condition right now.   We do not need to panic, but adults need to take over to insure the ship of state reaches safe harbor.   We need to address the “big things” first.  Remarkable debt, spending like drunken sailors on shore leave, unemployment—you get the picture.  When  workable solutions are found and implemented, we then can address those interesting things such as:  gay marriage, whether or not contraception can be made available to children in middle-school,   arresting five year olds for pointing a finger to fire an imaginary gun, worrying about Kim Kardasian’s pregnancy, etc.  (This is where you make your own list.)  This week, we were told that, for the first time in a long time, our GDP had declined.   A negative 0.10 percent.  You say not that much—I say any decline is too much and could possibly be an indicator that more is to come.   We need to make the tough decisions NOW because this time next year may be too late.   We can’t save the world if we  are unwilling to save ourselves.  I worry about whether or not we are beyond the tipping point.  We have also recently learned that our Legislative Branch has “kicked the can down the road”—again.  We have three months in which the debt ceiling can be contemplated.  Our government will continue running on borrowed money with no one seemingly worried.     “NOW is really the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.”

I would certainly appreciate your comments on this one.

The resource and idea for this posting came from an article written by Robert Johnson and Gus Lubin, published in The Business Insider, January 20, 2013.  Some of the text is copied from their fine article. All of the pictures come from other sources.

It’s absolutely amazing how cities seem to grow over the years, decades and centuries.   What attracts individuals to these metropolitan areas?      Jobs, commercial opportunities, medical facilities, cultural centers, military service.   Probably all of these reasons and many, many more.   The greatest and largest cities in the world were arguably epicenters of human civilization.  The cities we will discuss led mankind to new heights of culture and commerce—though in the end each of them was surpassed and some were destroyed.     Have you ever thought about the great cities that existed over the centuries?    Where were they and what do historians feel were their drawing powers?   Recently a two-man team put together their candidates for the greatest cities of their time.  Let’s take a look.

Jericho—   Jericho may be the oldest continually occupied city in the world, with evidence of settlement dating back to 9000 BCE.  The population was thought to be around 2,000 people, which was considered to be a huge metropolitan area for the time.     During the Younger Dryas period of cold and drought, permanent habitation of any one location was not possible. However, the spring at what would become Jericho was a popular camping ground for Natufian hunter-gatherer groups, who left a scattering of crescent microlith tools behind.  Around 9600 BCE the droughts and cold of the Younger Dryas Stadial had come to an end, making it possible for Natufian groups to extend the duration of their stay, eventually leading to year round habitation and permanent settlement.   An artist’s rendering of the city may be seen as follows:


Uruk— Uruk is famous as the capital city in the epic of Gilgamesh; also thought to be the Biblical city of Erech, built by King Nimrod.  The domestication of grain and its close proximity to the Euphrates River allowed Uruk’s harvest to swell, leading to trade, advancements in writing, and specialized crafts.   The city, with a population of 4,000, declined around 2000 BC due to regional struggles and was finally abandoned around the time of the Islamic conquest.


Mari—Mari, a city of 50,000  was the robust trade capital of Mesopotamia, central in moving stone, timber, agricultural goods and pottery throughout the region.   The city was home first to the Sumerite kings, then the Amorite kings, one of which built a massive 300-room palace.  Mari was destroyed in 1759 BC by Hammurabi of Babylon and then abandoned.  In the 1930s a French archaeologist discovered 25,000 tablets written in an extinct language called Akkadian. Most were municipal documents, economic reports and census rolls—a third were personal letters. The find changed our understanding of the ancient Near East.



Ur–Ur was the most important port on the Persian Gulf. It was also a rich city, which held huge amounts of luxury items crafted from precious metals and semi-precious stones imported from throughout the known world.  Because of possible drought, or changing river patterns, Ur was no longer inhabited after 500 BC.   It remained a holy site, however, and a burial site for people around the region. When archaeologists began sincere excavations in the mid 1850s, they discovered an immense necropolis, or city of the dead.   100,000 citizens occupied Ur at its height.


Yinxu  An old village of 120,000 on the Huan River, Yinxu was reborn as the capital of the Shang Dynasty.  It would be abandoned with the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty.   The city is a major archaeological site for its immense deposits of Oracle Bones, which contain the earliest form of Chinese writing. Pieces of ox bone and tortoise shell were inscribed using a bronze pin, heated until the bone cracked and then presented for divination. Later when the tradition changed to ink and brush, entire genealogies and city histories were written on the fragments and deposited in central pits.


Babylon– Just the word Babylon today conjures up images of decadence and hubris. It was here the Bible says residents believed so fully in themselves that they tried to build a structure into the heavens.     God was not impressed with the Tower of Babel, and the narrative holds that He assigned every resident a different language to confound any future teamwork.   Regardless of belief, Babylon was an epicenter of wealth, power and prestige from 2000 to about 538 BC.  That year Cyrus of Persia is said to have re-routed the Euphrates and sent his army into the city on the bare riverbed and routed the Babylonian forces.  As with Yinxu, the population was thought to be around 120,000 individuals.


Carthage– Carthage is said to have been the greatest city in the world for a short time span before getting reduced to ash by the Romans in 146 BC.   Because all records of Carthaginian life were destroyed by the Romans in such a swift and thorough rage, little is known of the city through its former residents.   It wasn’t even until 1985 that a formal peace treaty between Rome and Carthage was signed, finally ending the 2,100-year period of conflict.  100,000 individuals lived in Carthage.


Rome–   From its humble roots as a small Italian village 1,100 years earlier, Rome in the second century AD was enjoying the pinnacle of its influence and achievement.  A city of 1,200,000 people. At this time, the city was a military dictatorship under Septimius Severus; a move the people welcomed to correct the corruption instilled by Emperor Commodus.   Do you recall Joaquin Phoenix in “Gladiator“?   He portrayed Commodus in that movie.   Rome reached this size because it could draw food and taxes from most of Europe and the Mediterranean, but it proved an untenable position. By 273 AD, Rome had fewer than 500,000 inhabitants and the Dark Ages were looming on the horizon.



Constantinople–   Constantinople, population 600,000, was in a fight for its survival in the year 600.    The nomadic Avars and the Eastern European Bulgarians were crushing the city from the west, and the Persians had completely overwhelmed the city’s defenses in the east.   The metropolis was spared through a combination of impenetrable walls, its navy, and the arrival of soon-to-be emperor Flavius Heraclius Augustus, who eventually routed the Persians from Asia Minor.   The city is now known as Istanbul.   By 618, however, as the Persian Wars dragged on and decimated the city’s supply of grain from Egypt, Constantinople’s population dwindled to one tenth what it was 18 years before.


Bagdad– In the year 900, Baghdad was the center of the Golden Age of Islam—A 500-year Mid-East renaissance that began with the founding of the city and ended in 1250 AD with the Mongol invasion.     Home to the House of Wisdom, where the entire world’s knowledge was laboriously transcribed into Arabic, Baghdad’s enlightenment saved innumerable ancient texts from the western world.      This free exchange of ideas is probably what led to the population explosion, as traders from around the known world came to the city and exchanged farming techniques.   The result was the Arab Agricultural Revolution and a scientific approach to agriculture still used today. In the year 900, the population of Baghdad was thought to be around 900,000 people.


Kaifeng–For centuries, because of its central location on four major canals, Kaifeng was the capital city for a huge swath of China.  By 1200, the city was surrounded by three rings of walls to offset the vulnerability.  Despite the fortifications, Kaifeng was an early casualty in what would become a forty-year war with the Mongols — it was sacked and its residents numbering 1,000,000 fled in 1234.   Kaifeng is also home to the Kaifeng Jews, the most ancient Jewish population in China.


Beijing–To feed its growing population and vast number of troops in 1400 AD, Beijing officials constructed the Jingtong storehouses to house grain it received as tax from the region.  The practice helped control prices and prevent inflation until the city grew to the largest in the world and the demand outgrew supply.  The population of 1,000,000 was then forced to consume the regional forests for housing and firewood leaving only coal, mined from the Western Hills, for heat and fuel. The resulting pollution changed the ecological makeup of the entire region.

Ayutthaya–The island Ayutthaya, the capital of Thailand for over 400 years, was often referred to as the most beautiful city in the world by the diplomats who traveled there.    It was so appealing, in fact, that in 1767 it was sacked by the Burmese, and the capital was moved to its current location in Bangkok.  At its height, 1,000,000 people lived in Ayutthaya.


London–  While the British Empire was flung around the globe bringing in immense wealth for a small portion of England; London was largely a slum in 1825.  And crime was rampant. Not until 1829 did government activate a full-time police force. Named after the Prime Minister at the time, Robert Peel, they’re called “bobbies” to this day.  In 1829, 1,335,000 people lived in London proper.


New York—    New York City took on its modern shape in 1914, when the Bronx was added as the fifth borough.  It was a city that looked to the future as it built skyscrapers and laid plans to build them even larger.   Despite the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, New York went ahead and built the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the Lincoln Building and One Wall Street by 1931, just to name a few.  A whopping 7,774,000 liven in NYC in 1929.

Tokyo–  The economic toll of World War II continued to threaten Japan’s economic future into the 1950s.   But by 1968, Japan had reached an economic and population growth curve that has carried it into the 21st century.  The years from 1950 through 1990 in Japan are referred to as the post-war economic miracle, the most prosperous time ever in Japan’s history.  20, 500,000 live in Tokyo.


If we flash forward 100 years we may find cities such as Chicago, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles will have gone the way of several ancient cities we have taken a look at.  Only time will tell.



January 13, 2013

I can tell from the comments you choose to send me that all of my readers are adults; very few teenagers and certainly no grammar school students.   With that being the case, I don’t give advice.  I don’t give advice to grown adults who chart their own course,   make their monthly house payment, buy groceries and for the most part remain self-sustaining.  I’m not Dear Abby.   I must admit that over the past two years I have grown most pessimistic relative to our financial condition in this country.  We are drowning in debt with apparently no one in Washington D.C. particularly worried about the condition.  I fear we are beyond the “tipping point” and the next great event will be financial collapse.   With that being the case, I am writing this blog to repeat points given by Edward-Jones Investing in their recent publication Charting Your Path in 2013.    “Despite repeated concerns about its slow pace, the economy has persistently grown at an average rate of 2.2% during this recovery.  We expect it to keep on this pace, expanding about 2% in 2013 as the healing housing market reinforces resilient consumer spending.  This modest growth rate should also result in a slowly improving job market.”   Please note the words slow and slowly improving job market.    They indicate several possible obstacles that may inhibit growth in 2013 as follows:

  • Additional regulations—A variety of industries face new regulations over the next few years.   With that being the case, it is wise to keep you investments diversified.  Several publications I read on a weekly basis indicate that growing regulations may stifle growth and certainly add complexities that must be dealt with.  These regulations represent continued intrusions, by the FED, into our daily lives.
  • Higher taxes.– There is absolutely no doubt that we are facing, as individuals AND companies, higher taxes.   For the most part, these higher taxes will NOT be used to retire debt but to increase spending.  In other words, it won’t get much better.  We must be prepared for this certainty.
  • Slow global growth—The International Monetary Fund expects global growth to be just 3.6% in 2013, and many countries are in recession.  This will definitely affect our economy and actions taken by the International Monetary Fund.
  • Europe’s debt troubles—Although Europe’s debt troubles now seem chronic rather than acute, there is no doubt we could suffer a relapse in 2013.

I personally don’t feel I can do much, if anything, to influence Congress and certainly not the Executive Branch of our government.    They will take those actions that got them elected to pay off campaign promises, nothing more but, we can and should make changes that benefit our individual long-range survival.  Edward-Jones recommends the following actions:

  • Boost your 401K contributions this year—and every thereafter.  I f your company provides matching funds, take full advantage of these.  These actions can and will lower your taxable income.
  •  Contribute the maximum to your IRA.
  • Build an emergency fund—If you can, put away at least six(6) months of living expenses in a liquid account.  (Dave Ramsey recommends a minimum of $1,000 for every family.)
  •  Cut your debts—Every dollar that does not go towards debt payment can be invested for your future.   Our credit card debt is astounding so any reduction will seem like a pay raise when payoff is accomplished.  (NOTE: Several financial planners recommend establishing a “hit list”.  Take the card with the lowest balance and pay it off first—even if you have to make minimum payments on the other cards during the interim.  Then choose the next lowest balance and do likewise. )
  • In 2013, look for ways to cut your spending—Small things add up. Do you really need that $7.00 coffee from Starbucks?  How about buying from the Dollar Store those non-consumables; i.e. toothpaste, dental floss, soap, etc.?  You get the picture.
  • Let time work for you—Time is one of your biggest assets, so don’t waste it.  Investments made now will pay off when retirement approaches.
  • Arm yourself against inflation with rising incomes.   Inflation can erode purchasing power.  Develop multiple streams of income to provide a “hedge” against inflation and help pay off debts.  (NOTE:  There are several great books on how to develop multiple streams of income.  Read them.

My wife and I consider our “family unit” to be a small business.  We run it like one.  Income vs. expenses—we always know where we are by virtue of monthly and yearly budgets.

Hope this helps.


January 12, 2013

The photographs for this posting are derived from information furnished by Ann R. Thryft; Design News, “Military Robots Extend Humans’ Reach.

For some reason, when I think of robotic systems designed for DOD applications, I think of drone aircraft and aircraft specifically designed for recon missions and surveillance.  In other words, flying machines specifically designed for flight.   Equally fascinating, are robotic systems  ground-based, that operate and maneuver thereby extending  operational capabilities “in theater” and taking our uniformed military from “harms way”.   Let’s take a very quick look at several recent advancements for ground-based robotic systems.

Nighthawk Micro Air Vehicle(MAV)

The Nighthawk Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) is a rugged, fully automated unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made of carbon fiber composite. It uses GPS and autopilot technologies for navigating unfriendly territories to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. Its range is over 10 km (6 miles) and flight time is more than 60 minutes. The Nighthawk weighs 1.6 lb (725 gm), has a wingspan of 26 inches (66 cm), and a cruise speed of 18 to 30-plus knots. The MAV is equipped with 8-channel command and control, 4-channel video, and operates on batteries. It has forward and side-looking electro-optical cameras and a side or forward-looking thermal imager. A PC-based user interface provides real-time visual feedback and point-and-click waypoint navigation. The system can also be operated in semi-manual and manual flight modes. MAVs are stored fully assembled and ready to launch in a tube measuring 6 inches (15.2 cm) in diameter and attached to an assault pack. The assault pack’s outer pockets hold a rugged laptop computer, the ground control station, and an antenna assembly. The pack’s total weight is about 15 lb (6 kg).  (Source: Applied Research Associates)

Avatar II

The Avatar II is a remote-controlled tactical robot with a 300m (328 yards) operating range for first responders and SWAT teams. It includes a front-mounted drive camera, a high-intensity front headlight, an infrared light, a 360-degree pan-tilt-zoom camera, and a composite chassis that’s resistant to shock and water. Front and rear flippers help it climb stairs at inclines of up to 60 degrees and right itself if turned upside down. It’s also got secure WiFi for live video and audio transmission, as well as two-way audio operation and video and audio recording capability. Separate wireless channels let operators control multiple robots simultaneously. The Avatar II weighs 25 lb (11.34 kg) and measures 24.41 inches (62 cm) by 15.35 inches (39 cm) by 6.14 inches (15.6 cm).  (Source: Robotex)

Python HTR

The Python HTR climbs stairs and navigates difficult terrain to assist humans in hazmat, tactical, and reconnaissance operations. Simulator Systems’ operator control unit software includes a user interface that depends on touch gestures for controlling the robot’s movement, adjusting cameras, modifying settings, or changing views. The software also incorporates a secure, digital communication protocol for transmitting video. The HTR is based on the company’s Robotics Relay System for Communication in Urban Environments software. This incorporates mesh networking, like that used for smart power grids, to control multiple robots or relay surveillance cameras, and to use them as a network of mobile signal transmission points. The robot’s hardware is built in a modular fashion, so operators can swap out all components in the field without tools: accessories, cameras, OEM monitors, and even the Master Control Unit containing the robot’s critical electronic systems.  (Source: Simulator Systems)


Aptly called Pointman, Applied Research Associates’ small unmanned ground vehicle (SUGV) is a remote-controlled tactical robot for conducting video surveillance of multi-story structures and facility perimeters. Video outputs allow its display on an external monitor, and its wireless communication range is up to 600 feet (182.88m). Because its camera boom assembly lies flat, Pointman can also conduct under-vehicle inspection of automobiles, commercial vehicles, and aircraft. It uses wheeled locomotion to move over level terrain at about 5 feet (1.52m) per second, and can climb stairs at a speed of one step per second. It can climb over objects that are up to 11 inches (27.9 cm) high and runs for five to six hours on easy to moderate terrain. Pointman measures 19 inches (48.3 cm) wide x 13 inches (33 cm) long by 5.25 inches (13.3 cm) high, and weighs 18 lb (8 kg). It is water-resistant and can be decontaminated.  (Source: Applied Research Associates)

Clearpath Robotics

Clearpath Robotics says it designed the Husky A200 unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) to make UGV prototype development faster and cheaper for industrial and military engineers, computer scientists, and researchers. Built on an open, low-level, serial communication protocol, the Husky, like the company’s other robots, supports industry standard software such as LabVIEW, layer/Stage, C++, and Python, as well as the open-source Robot Operating System (ROS). Sample code is provided for interfaces with GPS systems, vision, and LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors. The remote-controlled Husky’s high-torque 4×4 differential drive system can deal with most field environments, including dirt, mud, water, gravel, rocks, and snow. 5V, 12V, and 24V user power is provided, and power lines have been filtered and fused for payload safety. The Husky measures 990 mm (39 inches) by 670 mm (26.4 inches) by 390 mm (14.6 inches) and weighs 47 kg (104 lb). Maximum payload weight is 75 kg (165 lb), and maximum speed is 1.0 m/s (2.3 mph).  (Source: Clearpath Robotics)


The TerraMax unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) kit converts any military tactical wheeled vehicle to supervised autonomous navigation in either a lead or follow role, with each vehicle able to navigate independently to the target location. Applications include improving autonomous missions, and protecting soldiers from possible IED (Improvised Explosive Device) threats. Tightly integrated “x-by-wire” brakes, steering, engine, and transmission enable advanced driver assist systems such as electronic stability control, adaptive cruise control, and collision mitigation braking. The multi-sensor system makes possible accurate positioning estimates without the need for continuous tracking through GPS signals or a lead vehicle. Sensors include LIDAR (light detection and ranging), radar, and multispectral vision. Operators can observe and manage internal operations and autonomous systems status, and create or load route information, over tactical data links.  (Source: Oshkosh Defense) Modular Robotic Control System

The Modular Robotic Control System (MRCS) isn’t a robotic vehicle, but an integrated hardware and software kit that converts existing commercial tracked or wheeled construction vehicles to remote control. The software is compliant with the military’s Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS). Vehicles from 3,000-lb skid steer loaders, up to wheel loaders weighing eight times that much, can be controlled with the MRCS, designed by unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) maker Applied Research Associates. The customizable control system provides remote control of a vehicle’s motion, in addition to remote control of attachments such as robotic arms, disruptors, and other tools. The operator control unit includes picture-in-picture high-quality video capability so operators can remotely view the environment surrounding the vehicle, as well as tool operation. The line-of-sight range provided by the digital radio control system is 1.5 miles (2.41 km).  (Source: Applied Research Associates)

TORC Robotics


TORC Robotics’ Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate (GUSS) autonomous vehicle might be thought of as an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) on steroids. It can carry 1,800 lb and travel up to 10 mph over a variety of off-road terrain, for carrying out missions such as route clearance, reconnaissance, and resupply. GUSS drives itself via TORC’s customized AutonoNav software navigation system. The software allows control of mission planning, motion planning, behaviors, and vehicle control, as well as optimized route planning. Interfaces with GPS systems and LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors are provided, and motion planning parameters can be entered via a web-based interface. It can also be controlled using handheld or wearable units. The vehicle is the joint product of a development team that includes Virginia Tech, the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren, and the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.  (Source: TORC Robotics)






January 9, 2013

There are some things in life we cannot control.  As a matter of fact, I’m beginning to believe there are many things we cannot control but, we can prepare for their occurrence and survive to “fight another day”.   Sometimes being prepared is the only defense mechanism we have.   This is my personal belief.   I, quite frankly, have been extremely disappointed with the operation of FEMA and how they have responded to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.   Apparently so much red tape the system simple does not function in a fashion that provides services as designed.  Then again, can anyone really say our government works?

The World Economic Forum Global Risks 2013 report released Tuesday, 8 January 2013, presents a stunning wake up call to the entire world.

The report begins with an unnerving theory that sluggish and stalled economies worldwide are a direct distraction from long-term environmental horrors.  ” Global risks do not respect national borders,” says Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“Two storms — environmental and economic — are on a collision course,” says John Drzik, Chief Executive Officer of Oliver Wyman Group, one of several companies which collaborates with the Global Risks report. “If we don’t allocate the resources needed to mitigate the rising risk from severe weather events, global prosperity for future generations could be threatened.”

More than 1,000 experts and industry leaders took part in the survey. Researchers asked them to rate the biggest global threats in five categories: economic, environmental, societal, geopolitical, and technological.  The following points reveal the 10 Most Frightening Environmental Risks, based on the experts’ responses.    These have to eye-openers to you as much as they were to me.  Let’s take a look.

  • Failure to Adapt to Climate Change.  We have ample evidence that our climate, on a global basis, is changing—no doubt.  I don’t think there is consensus in the scientific community that all of the change is due to man-made circumstances.   Our climate is changing.
  • Incurable Pollution.  Air, water, soil, you name it.  Human beings are polluters.  We are sloppy with the resources we have been given to manage.  We must make changes in the way we do business on our globe.
  • Antibiotic –resistant Bacteria.   Every year scientists and doctors identify new strains of bacteria.  Bacteria that mutates from earlier strains.  Bacteria we don’t really know how to handle.
  •  Land and Water Management.    We actually should say mismanagement. We just don’t take care of the resources we have.  I honestly believe the most precious commodity on our planet is not gold, not oil, not plutonium—but water.
  • Mismanaged Urbanization.   Urban density in some cities is so great the infrastructure is collapsing.  Water, sewage, roads, bridges, natural gas pipeline, etc.   Name it and we probably need to fix it or completely replace existing services.
  • Persistent Extreme WeatherCan’t do much to mitigate this one unless global warming is part of the answer.
  • Rising Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
  •  Species Exploitation—Ecosystem Collapse.  Right now, there are five (5) billion individual species of animals, plants, etc on our planet.   Each day one or more is eradicated due to urban sprawl and loss of habitat.
  • Unprecedented Geophysical Destruction.  Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis
  • Vulnerability to Geomagnetic Storms.   Solar flares.

This summary is not very encouraging at all but at least we can agree we have a problem—a big problem.  The issues are bigger than greed, bigger than political parties, bigger than drinking beer at Ruby Tuesdays on Friday night.  We really need to get behind responsible agencies trying to bring sanity towards dinging solutions.


January 5, 2013

Resources for this posting were taken from   “Machine Design”, April 2012.

There should be absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that automobile safety has improved dramatically over the past two decades.    Even with that being the case, the state of Tennessee recorded over one thousand deaths in 2012.  Admittedly, some of those fatalities were motorcycle deaths and not deaths caused while driving an automobile.  I would love to know how many were “driver error”, DUI, falling asleep at the wheel, texting, talking on cell phones, etc etc.  I suspect most deaths were caused by errors of this nature and not mechanical failure of the vehicle itself.   Major efforts have been expended to improve the crash-worthiness of automobiles even during high-speed situations.

From 1990 to 2012, regulations governing vehicle crashworthiness increased dramatically.  At the same time, the Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)   and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) introduced more crash tests than any other time in history.

Also, during this period of time, The Department of Energy introduced a program that clearly threatened steel’s role in cars and trucks.    The project, called Partnership for a New Generation of vehicles (PNGV), made research money available to develop technologies for lightweight fuel-efficient     vehicles.  This program stressed low- density materials such as carbon fiber, magnesium, and aluminum.  No funding went into researching light-weight and stronger steels.  With this being the case, it became necessary to make much-needed improvements in the ability of an automobile to withstand impact.  The list below will highlight a decade of new crash tests required by “Detroit” and other manufacturers selling into the United States.

  • 1990—FMVSS 214: Side-Impact Test.  A vehicle is struck by a standard deformable barrier moving at 33.5 mph hitting a rigid barrier.
  •  1991—FMVSS 208: 30-MPH Front-Impact Test.  The vehicle moves at 30 MPH hitting a rigid barrier.
  •  1994—FMVSS 216, 1.5 x GVW:  The vehicle’s roof is subject to an inclined plane load equal to 1.5 times the gross vehicle weight (GVW). Roof deflection must be less than a prescribed level.
  •  1995—IIHS, 38.5-mph Side-Impact Test:  The vehicle I sled mounted and traveling 40 mph, running into a barrier thereby striking it with 40% of the front end of the vehicle.
  •  2000—FMVSS, 38.5 mph Side-Impact Test:  This test simulates an intersection collision.  The vehicle is struck in the side by deformable barrier moving at 38.5 mph.
  • 2003—FMVSS, 35 mph Front:  A sled-mounted vehicle runs into a rigid barrier at 35 mph.
  • FMVSS 301, 50 mph 50% Offset:  Like the IIHS 40% offset, but at 50 mph and the offset is 50%.
  • 2006—FMVSS 301, 55 mph 70 % Offset:  A more severe test than above with 55 mph impact speed with vehicle striking a barrier with 70 % of its frontal area.
  • IIHS, Side Impact:  This test simulated being hit from the side by a tall vehicle like and SUV.  The tested vehicle is hit from the side by a deformable barrier traveling at 31.1 mph.
  • 2009– IIHS, Roof Strength 4 x GVW:  The vehicle has an inclined plane pressed into it roof with a load equal to four times gross-vehicle weight.  Both sides of the vehicle are tested.  This test measures roof strength in a roll over.
  • 2012—FMVSS, Roof Strength 3 x GVW:  A federal version of the same roof test given above, but tested to three times gross-vehicle weight.

As you can see, the “FED” and the IIHS are very interested in the protection given during impacts by moving vehicles and stationary objects struck by moving vehicles.  Safety belts and airbags seem to be the methods of choice for protecting the occupants of an automobile along with the worthiness of the automobile structure itself.  I wonder how many more lives would be lost were it not for these added safety features.  Something to think about.

Portions of this posting were taken from “Supply Chain Management Review”: March / April 2013.

I think we all would love to get a glimpse of what the future holds.  If you own a business, this glimpse, even if ever so brief, would bring remarkable insights to facilitate planning.  If that business is global in nature, this “look” would provide a great benefit.  For the purposes of this post, let’s define global.  Global is having a company in the United States while exporting products or services to other countries.  Global is having a company headquarted in the United States but with production facilities in other countries.

According to “Supply Chain Management” Review 2012 Roundtable, there are basically four (4) major factors influencing global commerce:

I would like to give you several brief bullets that will indicate major consensus relative to the participants of the roundtable discussion.

  • There is a significant and growing interest in Mexico and the Caribbean as a possible source for low-cost manufacturing  of products to supply U.S. demands.  Mexico has been for some time a factor in this effort but the Caribbean is now being looked upon as a “good bet” for the relocation of Asian companies doing business in the United States and Canada.  One prime destination—Puerto Rico.
  • Latin America is quickly emerging as an important market opportunity.   One huge advantage is the stability of governments in most Latin American countries.   Lead time issues in the Asia Pacific are also making South America more attractive.  Generally, surface freight from Asia to the Unites Stated takes about five to six weeks, port to port.  Then the products must clear customs.
  • Africa is starting to emerge, particularly South Africa, where there is a more sophisticated infrastructure.    Governmental stability in southern portions of Africa is no longer a real concern, thereby reducing risk factors relative to day-to-day operation.
  • Fuel costs will continue to be a real issue for a long time.  There, seemingly, are no new approaches to lowering these fuel costs although the more advanced supply chain managers may use options to hedge and balance risks.  Global demand is at the heart of escalating fuel prices.  This demand will not lessen over the next decade.
  • “Near-shoring” or hybrid sourcing seems to be one solution to volatile fuel prices.  It is still a matter of conjecture as to how realistic these tactics are.  Different companies will approach “near-shoring” using differing methods so the result of cost-saving efforts will vary.
  •  One huge factor is the opening of the Panama Canal expansion in 2014.  This expansion will allow longer, wider and heavier ships to pass from coast to coast.  This should lessen freight expenses but, the big issue–what will be the “gate rates” for the new portion of the Canal?  Those prices have not been determined and published as yet.
  • Risk factors for safety and stability will need continued scrutiny.  Pre-planning is an absolute MUST for successful management of “off-shore” endeavors.   “State-side” companies must consult with experts on risk issues existing within specific countries.  Risk factors may change over time so continued “due-diligence” is an absolute must.
  • Global regulatory compliance will always be a concern.  New rules change existing laws and businesses must constantly keep abreast of changing landscapes relative to current regulations.  The approach to regulatory compliance should be to build sustainable performance improvement capabilities that are systemically deployed as part of practices and process capabilities—and not as reactive “stick-on”.    MANUFACTURERS SHOULD BUILD PROCESS CAPABILITIES THAT ARE ADAPTABLE TO NEW REGULA TORY REQUIREMENTS THAT MAY BE INTRODUCED. 
  •  Global sourcing encompasses all of the aforementioned factors.  Buying components and assemblies from sources outside the United States presents the very same problems (or opportunities) as managing a company outside the United States.  Having information on the background for sources and vendors is a must and must be a continuing effort. 

In the end, communication is the key.  The role of social networking and other media relationships is growing in importance when it comes to relating supply chain and business advantages.  Global business is a marathon and not a sprint.


January 3, 2013

The following post used as a resource “Machine Design”; commentary by Kenneth J. Korane, Managing Editor.


According to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Federal Research and Development (R&D) budget is basically structured to promote sustainable economic growth, advance American manufacturing, cultivate home-grown clean energy, improve health care and address the mounting challenges of global warming.   This is a mouth-full but the goals are certainly laudable and worthwhile.

OK, with that being said, where does the money go?  Recently the White House released its 2013 budget for Science and Technology R&D–$140.8 billion (yes that’s with a “B”).  A lot of money by any standard.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) gets a paltry $5. 9 Billion This year.  According to the NSF web site, for over sixty years it has had a profound impact on transformative and fundamental research leading to path-breaking advances.  This site details hundreds of research opportunities being currently funded.   I would like to give you several of the projects under way as follows:

  • $199,760:  North Carolina State UniversityA Retrospective Oral History of Computer Simulation will document the emergence of the field of computer simulation since WWII.
  • $96,000: Colby Community CollegeCattle Feed Efficiency Data Technician will train students to use the GrowSafe system, which electronically monitors what cattle eat.
  • $1,616,125: Ohio State UniversityBeyond Penguins and Polar Bears in the K-5 Classroom.  Researches hope to “maximize” the impact of International Polar Year on elementary classrooms by capturing student interest and fostering the ability of elementary- school teachers to integrate polar concepts into their teaching.
  • $30,000: University of California at Santa BarbaraInternational Gender and Language Assn. Student Travel.   Graduate students to present their research and gain professional experience at the International Gender and Language Assn conference to be held this June in Brazil.
  • $ 349,820: Virginia PolytechnicBridging the Gap Between Engineers and Society: Learning to Listen.    This project will explore the relationships between engineering, science, and society and teach engineers to acknowledge and listen to the voices of the community they serve.
  • $1,206,278: Chicago Zoological SocietyClimate Literacy Zoo Education Network.  Develop a new approach to climate-change education that connects zoo visitors to polar animals endangered by global warming.
  • $24,000: Northeastern University:  Maurice Auslander International Conference.    This is the conference on the work of the influential mathematician, widely known for creating the Auslander-R eaten theory.

I do not wish to be a pain and I’m sure all of these projects involve honest, hard-working people with good intentions, but we are not exactly talking about breakthroughs in nanotechnology, fusion energy, or solar-cell efficiency.  Assuming the NSF spends its money as wisely as other government entities, one get the sense we need to better target critical national priorities.  What do you think?  

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