A nice compromise between controlling power and stoppability
The .380 Auto is known in Europe as the 9mm Short. Does that mean the .40 S&M is called the 10mm Shibari over there?

Freudian slip noticed in comments to a post about defensive handguns at DailyPundit.


Carnival of the Vanities
This week hosted by John Ray. Please go visit.
Idea number 241
I would also very much like the USAF to buy me a PDA. Not that I don't like my present platform, the Palm m500.

A commander some years back shared with us his vision that "someday the Air Force will not issue its airmen rifles, but computers." That vision is coming true haphazardly and unconsciously; we are now required to update dependent information through a website, for example, and we use the execrable FormFlow to prepare travel vouchers (the FormFlow version of the travel voucher still admonishes you to "press the pen firmly so all four copies are legible"---on an electronic form). But the automation has not penetrated deeply enough, and I still need the rifle.

Virtually all Air Force instructions ("regs") are available as PDFs now, downloaded from either a central Air Force site or from a CD-ROM copy. Technical Orders (equipment manuals) are beginning that painful transition from paper to pdf. My career field depends upon a constellation of AFIs, AFMANs, AFHs, TOs, and purpose-built network clients. I already share my schedule with two peers, two managers, three classrooms, and three email lists.

The only reason that all of these files cannot be crammed into 16 MB on a PDA is that the AF simply dumps full-size JPEG images into their pubs, in effect bloating a 300KB document to several MB by adding color photographs, even in a document that will only be printed in black and white anyway. If the AF simply hired some illustrators to take these photos and "compress" them the old fashioned way, Idea number 241 would. be. feasible. Today.

The AF then issues a standard PDA to everybody---Palm or the OS formerly known as Wince, makes no difference---and each office would have one or two cradles to dock them. "Hey, Tony, there's a new 10-2501 waiting for you at your next synch. Look at my notes attached to it. And there's a change 3 for 14P4 dash 15 dash 1!"
Yes, we do verbalize the dashes.

The AF could then stem the explosion in the number of desktop and notebook computers it has to buy, maintain, and replace. Even morale uses of these computers could be reduced---just read and compose emails to Significant Other offline, and they'll be sent the next time you dock. You can still get your Instapundit and your DavidMSC too.

In a small way, I've done this already---four of us bought our own Palm pilots before a recent deployment, and shared schedules, documents, and so forth. Sand didn't bother them (perspiration did---somebody needs to build a waterproof PDA).

If you came here from this post, then you can guess what's coming next.

Either the digital camera snaps on to the PDA, or communicates with it. The PDA uploads the images, calculates the contamination and digests it to a file. I would caution against using a flash memory device to transfer images from camera to PDA, because handling those little devices while wearing rubber gloves is difficult and invites ESD. Wireless would be unwise because RF on an airbase is discouraged. Infrared is cheap and proved, and you won't be using this capability while hostiles are watching you through night vision gear.

When the images are uploaded and digested, you get yourself to the nearest dock and blurt the digested information to the mapping terminal. If the PDA gets slimed, throw it away and restore your backup to a new one.

Then the mapping terminal blurts back to you a password-protected map of where the slime is.
Idea number 372
We have received some constructive criticism of Idea number 354, from none other than an experienced cadre member at a US military NBC training facility.

The portable paper-band contamination tracker fails to satisfy on several counts:

  • Even if the device went out for competitive bid and somebody like Lexmark or Brother won the contract,
    Uncle Sugar would still never buy enough of them to cover an airbase with the granularity needed to capture a meaningful
    image of the "plume," the footprint of deposited liquid agent.
  • Of course Uncle Sugar would never put this device out for competitive bid, and would ultimately pay five thousand dollars each, for seventy-five bucks of hardware and a fifteen-dollar expendable paper band cassette. There's a reason I suggested two fax/printer/copier manufacturers as bidders---this device is no more complex than that.

So Cadre one-upped me. "Our people have already stationed the detector paper around the base, as part of pre-attack detection measures. Give us a device that looks at that paper and quantifies the contamination. What do digital cameras cost these days?"

OK. The required granularity would be there. We'd be using an existing resource more wisely rather than procuring a new system with its own expendables. So:

  • Control the focus and lighting with a simple, folding (disposable?) plastic frame that holds the camera at a fixed distance and reflects the flash evenly across the sample detector paper. Put a thermometer in a corner of the frame.
  • Capture an image of the paper under known shutter speed and aperture, with a known resolution and color depth. Done right, this system could be independent of camera make and model. Just meet the exposure, resolution, and flash specs.
  • Imprint coordinates with the image, captured from a GPS receiver. Better yet, snap the coordinates of the paper when it is stationed in the first place, and record the coordinates directly on the paper so it's imaged there, instead of captured later.
  • Issue software that sucks the images in from several cameras,
  • assesses each image by color of spot, size of spot, number of spots, and
  • determines agent type and concentration of deposition, then
  • plots the concentration on a base map for the Wing King.

If any readers are familiar with the equipment used to perform complete blood counts, for example, please reality-check me. The software involved in counting colored dots in an image with fixed background color can't be so complex it can't be packed into a high-end notebook, right? Statistical output of an image compressor, such as JPEG?

In fact, might this software be simple enough to run on a properly configured PDA? If so, check out idea number 241.

The challenge to such a system would be porting all of these images back to one location where they can be assembled and assessed. The bandwidth required for hauling around two-meg jpegs would kill a base network; if the assessment function were pushed out to the periphery of the system, closer to where the images are captured, then the message coming from the imager to the mapping software would be a few bytes showing color, concentration, and temperature, a couple bytes identifying the camera, operator, and date/time group, and a couple bytes of location coordinates.

It's also a reason for the USAF to buy me AutoCAD.


Why I'd rather not fly any more
" . . . freedom is kind of a hobby with me, and I have disposable income that I'll spend to find out how to get people more of it."

Penn Jillette talking to a TSA representative after an unpleasant security experience; found via Armed Liberal.
Cafe con piernas
Mind the web filters, y'all.
During a business trip to Chile in 1995, our hosts took us to a coffeeshop whose name translates to "coffee with legs."

There was no seating; all customers stood. The walls were mirrored such that we could admire the young women serving coffee, in dresses that revealed their legs very flatteringly.

Courtesy of dustbury, links to the blogosphere equivalent of cafe con piernas.