Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

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Harley L. Sachs

 
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Have a seat... composting toilet

Features Harley L. Sachs Have a seat... composting toilet
Harley L. Sachs 2/23/09

So you found that perfect place to build your vacation cabin. The views are lovely and you made plans to build. But there’s a catch: The building site on the shore of Lake Superior is solid rock. You’re nowhere near any water mains or municipal sewer system. There’s no place to dig a hole for a septic tank, and even if there were, there’s no soil suitable for a drain field. Your family doesn’t like the idea of a pit toilet privy, either. Are you sunk? Not necessarily.
There are many parts of the country where a conventional water-flushing toilet is impractical. An alternative is a composting toilet. It can not only dispose of “humanure” and urine, but can digest table scraps and function as a garbage disposal as well. Some people actually hasten the digesting process with worms.
 
Monday, November 17, 2008

Data in the clouds

Features Harley L. Sachs The latest Internet concept involves the creation of a world-wide “cloud” to store massive amounts of data. Think of the cloud as an “information bank” which will largely replace your hard drive as a place to store your data.
To compete with Google’s massive data retrieval system, Microsoft is incorporating a data cloud with its next bloatware platform, Windows Azure. It will allow users to store and access their info from anywhere on the planet.
“The basic idea is simple enough,” writes Daniel Lyons in Newsweek. “Instead of storing your data on your PC, you store it on a server on the Internet. You don’t know, or care, where that server is located. Your data might, in fact, be scattered across a bunch of different servers. It’s just all up in the sky someplace (hence the name ‘cloud’).”
 
Monday, September 8, 2008

Breezy... is there a wind-powered car in your future?

Features Harley L. Sachs Sails were the main propulsion power for transportation for thousands of years. Pecos Bill, that American folk hero, was said to sail across the American plains in a square-rigged prairie schooner. Pecos Bill’s land ship was depicted in a Disney movie. But what if you could actually sail across the land?
The fastest any human being had ever traveled back about 1910 was on an ice boat. An ice boat, rattling along on a smooth, frozen lake, can reach speeds of over 90 miles an hour. On a broad reach, the wind amid ships, a sailing craft can exceed the wind speed.
Of course, the ice boat speed was soon surpassed by racing cars. The fastest land speed record was achieved by Campbell in the Bluebird, a jet-powered fuel-gulping monster blasting along on a salt flat.
The existing wind speed record for a land sailing craft is 115 miles an hour. Now a couple of eco-friendly Brits, remembering Campbell’s Bluebird, have named their vehicle “Greenbird” and plan to test it on a salt lake in Australia.
 
Monday, August 18, 2008

One step closer to the Invisible Man

Features Harley L. Sachs Shades of Harry Potter and his cloak of invisibility! The gee whiz scientists are buzzing with experiments in invisibility.
There have been other stories of invisibility, as in the book The Invisible Man, in which drinking a chemical rendered the hero invisible as long as he went around naked, and the radio series The Shadow, in which Lamont Cransten could hypnotize people so they could not see him. In the Star Trek science fiction series it was the Romulans and Klingons who used a cloak of invisibility. That’s fiction, too.
But what about some sort of paint that bent light? What if, for instance, a tank could be made invisible? Now it’s looking like invisibility is possible and not merely fiction.
 
Monday, August 4, 2008

A car that runs on air

Features Harley L. Sachs The energy crisis and the impending end of oil have people scrambling for alternate fuels. We read about fuel cells, hydrogen powered cars, cars running on used cooking oil, and biodiesel -- even cars that run on water that’s broken into its hydrogen and oxygen components.
But what about a car that runs on air?
 
Monday, July 21, 2008

The pulsing power of EMP

Features Harley L. Sachs An electromagnetic pulse, EMP, is created when the radiation of a nuclear blast at high altitudes interacts with the ionized layers of the upper atmosphere and the earth’s magnetic field. If an electromagnetic pulse were fired off in the atmosphere above the United States. not only the power grid, but everything that runs off an electronic circuit board -- which means your phone, your late-model car, your computer and anything that has a chip in it -- might be wrecked.
It would be like the effect on our cheap telephone when it was hit by a static electricity spark: the dialing chip died. If an EMP weapon were set off we’d be thrown back into the 19th century. Maybe a Model T Ford would still run, but not much of anything else.
 
Monday, July 7, 2008

Sailing: The Green Alternative

Features Harley L. Sachs If you’re one of those go fast boaters who likes to roar around the lake, the cost of fuel this summer may keep your boat at the dock. You sit, glum in the back of your fuel guzzling “stink pot” motorboat, and enviously watch those parsimonious sailors happily coasting by on the free wind. Suddenly “rag men” don’t look so dumb after all. Maybe, as the world’s oil runs out, it’s time to consider sailing as a green alternative.
With the possible exception of the water skier and hydrofoil racer, sailing has something for everyone. After all, the main point is to get out on the water, and you don’t have to be rich to do it.
 
Monday, June 9, 2008

A hard road for the U.P.

Features Harley L. Sachs The impact of the increase in gasoline prices seems to follow a pattern. When the price per gallon hit $2 a few years ago, the reaction of tourists to the Upper Peninsula was taking shorter trips. Now with gasoline nearly $4 a gallon and even more for diesel, the impact will probably be the same: more travelers from Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin, but not so many drivers coming from farther away. Detroit is about 600 miles from my home town of Houghton in the U.P. Those folks may opt for Traverse City or Petoskey instead.
 
Monday, May 19, 2008

Thruvision T-Ray

Features Harley L. Sachs After Wilhelm Conrad Rntgen discovered the X-ray in 1895, there was widespread fear that devices using it would see through clothing. There were absurd ads in newspapers to sell X-ray proof clothing so women would not be the victims of peeping toms using X-rays.
 
Monday, April 7, 2008

It‘s tax time

Other Opinions Harley L. Sachs Because of some past foreign employment records, in addition to our annual U.S. federal income tax, I get tax forms for two very small foreign pensions.
Other than actually owing nothing abroad because the sums are so small, I do get an insight into tax filing practices in Sweden and Denmark. The tax forms of both countries consist of a single sheet of paper. No, they don’t say: 1) write down everything you earned, and, 2) send it. They do have high rates for those who earn enough to pay, but that’s another story.
 
Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Winter Survival Primer

Features Harley L. Sachs The country was gripped last year by the story of a California family of four that took a wrong turn in the middle of the night on the road to the Oregon coast, got stuck in the snow, and were trapped. Nine days later the mother and her two children, one four, the other a few months old, were rescued in good shape because they had done the right things to survive. The father, however, made the fatal mistake of leaving the shelter of their car and going on foot in search of rescue only to die of hypothermia. Being as that winter is almost upon us once again, this is a good time to revisit rules for cold weather survival.
 
Monday, December 3, 2007

The Perfect Toy

Features Harley L. Sachs With all the recalls of toys, primarily from China, for having lead in the paint, parents are having a dilemma regarding what to buy for their kids. The cuter the toy, the more quickly a kid is likely to be bored with it. Toy boxes are full of toys that were played with for an hour or two, then discarded or broken.
The perfect toy is one that engages the child’s imagination for many hours and even longer. I grew up before plastic. Toy cars were either made of tin, sometimes recycled tin cans from Japan, or pot metal, like the little Tootsie Toy cars which sold for a dime. Other toys were wooden.
 
Thursday, November 29, 2007

Something?s Watching You

Other Opinions Harley L. Sachs Technology, like a ravenous wolf, is closing in on our heels.
 
Thursday, November 15, 2007

The road to obsolescence

Features Harley L. Sachs Instant obsolescence may be a tactic to keep manufacturers like Microsoft in business, forcing us to continuously upgrade hard and software, but it irritates me. Just look at that next shopping insert from Office Max or Office Depot. Thirty years ago most of those products didn’t exist. Soon they won’t!
In 1983 when I bought my first computer, a 64k Cromemco C-10 compatible with the then standard CPM operating system, I chose it because it used double-sided, double density 5 1/4 inch floppy disks, a step up from the Apple I single-sided disks. The disks then cost four dollars apiece. When I wanted to add a spell checker from Random House, it came on an eight inch floppy that was already obsolete but accessible because, at the university, I knew where an eight inch drive still existed. Now that eight inch floppy disk is only suitable as an exhibit in a museum of old technology.
 
Thursday, November 1, 2007

Can you hear this?

Features Harley L. Sachs It’s well known in the annals of electric engineering that when the middle-aged men at RCA were developing television, they needed a sound they could use to test the equipment. They chose something in the high frequency range that they could not hear but would show up on their oscilloscopes.
 
 
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