Thursday, June 28, 2018

Never-Trumpers at Fox and WSJ

First, let me give you some background about my online activities.  Obviously, I occasionally write posts for this blog.  I don't use or read Twitter.  I rarely use Facebook.  I've joined a couple of the CDT groups (observing only), and occasionally I view a friend's or relative's posts.  I use email and vastly prefer it to my rare texts.  You might call me a hermit, and you wouldn't be too far off. 

I had an excuse earlier in life.  At that time, I was a government employee with a security clearance.  I didn't want to risk my employment.  Even further, most people with the clearance I had did not want to write about the government or participate in any political activities.  Both were thought too much of a risk of accidentally violating rules, regulations or laws, and thus losing your clearance and your job.

Further, I don't like cursing or name calling.  I also don't appreciate people that do not tell the truth, either with falsehoods or by omission.  And, I have to say it, I don't think much of people that fail to think through the logic of an argument and instead base their decision on emotion or bad data.

So, getting back to my thesis, for the most part I don't use social media.  But I tend to read multiple online news sites and blogs to keep up with current events.

Before Trump was elected, I was an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal.  I got a couple of years at a reduced price (about $200/yr), but by the time Trump was elected, I was paying $100 per quarter.  That hurt.  But I really loved the in-depth writing that fully explored the issues under discussion.  They seemed to be pretty non-political, though their analysis tended to line up with conservative positions.

After Trump was elected president, the articles seemed to become less non-political.  Bret Stephens appeared like a rabid Trump hater, and his articles were actually offensive.  I wasn't surprised when he moved to the New York Times.  After his first couple of post-election articles, I didn't look at his material again. 

But more bothersome was what happened to the Best of the Web, a daily humor column that would start with current events.  Before Trump, they had been spot on.  Afterwords, the conclusions were generally the same, but you had sprinkled everywhere things like "Trump went about it the wrong way" or "Trump's approach was unnecessarily offensive."  It didn't seem to matter that Trump's position and goal were correct, he did it wrong and hence was subject to criticism.

As I mentioned before, I don't follow Twitter.  I see it quoted extensively in online articles.  But if someone doesn't quote a tweet in an online article or blog, I'm not going to know about it.  Further, tweets are not part of our governmental processes.  The fact that Trump my hit back at his attackers in a tweet bothers me not a bit.  In fact, when I see liberal tweets with extensive cursing and crude language, President Trump's tweets seem particularly mild.

Bottom line here on the Wall Street Journal, I liked the core content of their articles, but could not stomach the constant Trump criticism for non-policy behavior.  At $400/year, I was not going to pay to read off-hand criticism of my President that has nothing to do with policies that I whole-heartedly support.  Each of those articles would be just as strong, and as interesting, without the presidential attacks.  I stopped my Wall Street Journal subscription.

Fox News is a slightly different situation.  They had both TV and online media that I watched and read.  Then they moved Hannity out of my prime time period and canceled Bill O'Reilly's show.  His No Spin News was my favorite talk show.  I didn't always agree with him, but he always had reasonable positions.  And he gave people the benefit of the doubt.

Fox News also replaced Brit Hume with Bret Baier on their Evening News show.  I really enjoyed Brit and his panel.  It all seemed to change when Bret took over.  Bret just didn't seem to have the depth of understanding and grasp of the issues that Brit displayed.  I may be doing Bret a disservice, but I stopped watching that show too.

Maybe all the change at Fox was innocent, but it sure seemed to remove the biggest Trump supporters from the scene.  Though I think Brit's departure really was a normal retirement.  He had an opinion piece in yesterday's Fox News web site that talked about Maxine Waters' suggestion to mob Trump supporters and staff.  Just like with the Wall Street Journal's editorial pieces, he threw in that Trump's actions were likewise uncivil.  Of course, he didn't quote any of Trump's 'incivility' like he did Rep Waters'.  Why?  Maybe because it wasn't on the same level.

My conclusion is that most of the Wall Street Journal editors and some of those at Fox are Never-Trumpers at heart.  They have conservative beliefs, but cannot reconcile those beliefs with Trump's unusual style.  They have to criticize the President, even when they are writing a piece that agrees with his policy and actions.

Fox News has one good thing going for it.  Their opinion pieces do not seem to all be written by Never-Trumpers.  There is some straight stuff.

On the other hand, their web site seems designed to gather clicks.  Often their short titles are misleading.  Yesterday I read an article about the Army's acquisition of about 476 new Bradley fighting machines/troop carriers.  I don't remember the article's title being misleading.  But today, the article was labeled "...Big Tank Buy..."--though now I've seen it changed again back to Bradleys.  A Bradley is NOT a tank.  My point is, they change article titles to get you to read them.  It is very irritating to open an article when you are assuming the subject is one thing, and get another.

Worse than misleading titles is the fact that the top section of their home page is mostly what I would call personal interest articles (gossip).  I suspect that approach must get more clicks than straight news would.  In all fairness, it doesn't seem to be much different than the approach of  USA Today or Google News, except that those sites have strong liberal bias.  Reuters seems to go more with straight news (good), but it too has a strong liberal bias (bad, but not quite as bad as CNN, MSNBC, USA Today or Google).

So if Fox News ever added a pay wall (like the Wall Street Journal), I would drop it like a hot potato.

Obviously, I'm unhappy with my previous two conservative favorites (Fox and WSJ).  My suggestion, for what it's worth (ha!), would be that, when writing about a government policy,  reporters/journalists stick to the facts about the policy.  That is, what is the policy and how is it being executed.  Leave out irrelevant quotes from political parties and their propagandists.  Opinion writers should write their opinions of the policy and how it is being executed.  Leave out their personal opinions about the character of the government employees involved.

That doesn't mean reporters/journalists should not write articles on political controversies.  I just don't want to read those.  I also don't want to read opinion articles focused primarily on personal behavior of politicians. 

But most of all I really don't want to read another irritating, one-sentence, hypocritical and offensive quote from some politician about their opponent's proposal or action.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Prius C Review in Local Paper

The anti-Trump propaganda in most news publications and the liberal social values propaganda in Hollywood productions have really ticked me off.  But there is still some straight news (though usually with a lot of unanswered questions) that I find informative when going through the media.

So it surprised me when my wife cut out a review of the new Toyota Prius C from our local newspaper.  She's pro-Toyota and I tend to go along with her automotive preferences.  We have had only Toyota vehicles for years now, and that includes previous models of the Prius.  But this article was written so poorly I couldn't get past the mileage figures.

The author claimed to have driven the vehicle 300 miles and stated that he still had 2/3 of a tank of gas remaining, implying that the vehicle could get 900 miles on a tank of gas.  OK, that's a bit outlandish as I've never heard of a vehicle being designed to get more than about 450 miles on a tank of gas.  But maybe Toyota came up with a better design.  He also said that with a full tank, the Prius was indicating 760 miles of travel remaining.

Then he says that the vehicle's instruments showed he was getting 46.6 miles per gallon.  According to that, he would have used over 6 gallons to go his 300 miles, and his tank must be over 18 gallons if the data was accurate, including his 300 miles and 2/3 of a tank of fuel left.

Our three year old Prius (not the small C model) shows about 48-49 miles per gallon, and if we go over 300 miles we are getting low on fuel.  It has a very small gas tank.  Did they increase the size of the fuel tank by a factor of 2 or 3?  Was the miles per gallon shown on the Prius dash wrong?  Were the miles driven or the fuel remaining wrong on the instruments?  Did the author make a typo?

The author did not qualify any of his statements indicating uncertainty.  Nor did he suggest further testing to resolve any kind of inconsistency in his report.  Neither he nor his editor seemed to have any problem with the published article.

Personally, I could not trust this car reviewer in the future nor his paper to publish an accurate description of an event (even a non-political event).

I'm not sure what they are teaching journalists today.  Throwing out the political and social propaganda that you can hardly avoid, even the straight news is deficient in information.  Nearly every article leaves out critical information on who, what, where, when and why.  I don't know whether the journalists and their editors cannot think and write, or whether they just are unwilling to expend the resources to gather the information.

And even finding a written article is somewhat difficult.  All of the online media seem to be going to short video clips.  There's no way in a 2 to 5 minute clip that you are going to get thorough questions and answers on a topic.

I think that's enough frustration for today. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

BRS-3000T vs Soto Micro Windmaster

While I was hiking the CDT this year, they announced fire restrictions for several national forests.  Essentially, they allowed only the use of stoves with on/off switches.  I believe the intent was only to allow canister stoves with the standard twist control to open and close the gas valve.  Since I have used only alcohol stoves for the past few years, this was a big impact to my backpacking.

Well, I ordered a Soto Micro Windmaster and planned to buy a canister while on the trail.  My knee injury and return home left me with a Windmaster, but no immediate use for it.  A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to the BRS-3000T stove that is only 26 grams as opposed to the 68 gram (2.4 oz) Windmaster.  The BRS was about $17, the Windmaster about $70.  Because of the low price and weight, I couldn't resist ordering a BRS.

This post provides a rough assessment of the relative performance of the two burners and some of their potential pros and cons.

Here's a picture of the two burners.

As you can tell, in addition to being heavier, the Windmaster is significantly larger.  It also has a built in spark generator to light the stove.  And it has a broader base that mates more securely with the valve stems on canisters.

On the other hand, the BRS is titanium.  Its burner head is smaller (and cools down a lot faster).  And the pot support limbs are permanently attached (hinged) to the unit.

Here's a picture of the two burners broken down and ready to pack.

This morning, I wanted to see if the performance of the two burners was comparable.  I started with an old (2014) Jetboil Jetpower Isobutane / Propane 100 g fuel canister.  I had used it for an 8 day hike with a Jetboil Sol Ti stove back in 2014.  After which, I decided to lighten my pack load and switched to alcohol stoves.  I used the Jetboil for about 13 meals, and had used 37 grams of fuel.  That was about 3 grams of fuel per meal.  I only boil water for reconstituting freeze dried meals, so it was about 3 grams to heat a cup of water.  The Jetboil was very efficient!  But relatively heavy.

Anyway, the canister still weighed about 163 g with fuel; 100 g would be the empty weight.  So the performance today was with an old, partially filled canister.  The temperature out was in the lower 80's.  The altitude was about 1200'. The test was outdoors and the wind was negligible. The water I used was probably about 70 F, as this is south Texas and it came from the tap on a well system.  My pot was a light titanium Toaks 550 ml pot/cup with a lid that I believe is 90 mm in diameter--its just big enough to hold the small canister.  The lid has 3 small holes to let out steam.  The pot weighs 2.54 oz with the lid.

I only ran one test for each burner.  In both cases, I boiled 300 ml of water, about 1.25 cups.

I tested the Soto Micro Windmaster first.  I lit the stove, immediately put the cup on the stove (with water and lid on), increased the gas burn rate, and waited till I saw steam coming out of the holes on the lid.  I took the lid off and observed a rolling boil.  This is the same procedure I used for the BRS burner.  I saw steam after about 1 minute and 50 seconds.  The boil used about 6 grams of fuel.

The second run tested the BRS.  In that test, the steam happened at about 1 minute and 55 seconds. I tried to adjust the burner to the same level--by sound. The boil used about 7 grams of fuel.  However, the boil did not appear as energetic as it did for the Windmaster.

Here's what the BRS burner and pot look like configured with the canister.

The conclusion was that the two burners essentially burned fuel at the same rate and boiled water at the same speed.  Please note that I did not open the two burners wide open, and this is just one test.

But I don't think performance is everything.  Let me explain...

First, attaching and detaching the burners.  The BRS caused a longer hiss (escaping gas) during attachment than the Windmaster.  But the Windmaster made a little pop on disconnecting that appeared to be due to a slight vacuum around its wider base seal.

Related to that is the fact that the BRS requires the valve to be open an eighth of a turn in order to rotate the support limbs down for packing.  When I first attached the burner to the canister, I thought I had a bad seal as I still heard gas.  Then I realized I hadn't fully closed the valve.  You will need to remember to re-close the valve when setting up the burner.

The BRS was also a little difficult to deploy.  The pot support limbs have to ALL be rotated (180 deg) up, before any of them can be rotated the final 90 deg into their locked positions.  In the up positions they are loose and it is a little difficult to keep them there until you get the first two locked down.  Then there is the support hinges that may or may not last during a long trip.

On the other hand, I don't know if the one-piece Soto Windmaster pot support will be reliable over long use.  It requires bending the metal supports to an open position, and then closing them again before packing.  I would expect long term stress and failure.

The Windmaster burner took a long time to cool down.  Though the valve stem cooled down pretty quickly.  The BRS was cool to the touch (titanium) shortly after use.  The BRS's quicker cooling might allow you to pack up the stove before your food is reconstituted--if you are just boiling water.

I used a new, smaller pot for this test.  The Windmaster support legs extended maybe half an inch past the pot in each of the three directions.  The BRS support legs did not quite reach the edge of the pot.  Both burners provided adequate support for my small pot.  The Windmaster does have a larger pot support system I can attach with four support limbs.

Obviously, the BRS required an ignition source; I used a match.  The Windmaster did not.  My preference there is for the integrated spark system.

One other thing I noticed during the boils.  The BRS burn sound had a few abnormalities.  Several times it sounded like the burner's fuel burn changed rates.  I couldn't tell whether it was more or less efficient, but each anomaly would last for several seconds.  The sound/burn always returned to the same default rate.  I didn't notice any wind, but the BRS burner is smaller and more exposed. 

I cannot tell you anything about whether the Windmaster actually works well in wind.  That's what Soto advertises, but I would be surprised if you can get an efficient boil without a decent wind screen.  You will notice from the picture that the Windmaster's burner includes a curved shell that does not directly expose the fuel ports to the wind.  On the other hand, the BRS makes no such claim.

I would probably not recommend using the BRS if you have a significantly larger pot or intend to cook larger quantities.  However, for a single user, especially one that just boils water, the BRS appears to have a significant advantage in weight and cost without losing any measurable performance.

On the other hand, the Windmaster appears to be a better (stronger) quality build.  It has a better canister seal.  It has an integrated spark generator. And its pot support is just a little bit larger.  You can also leave your lighter, matches, or other fire starter packed away during meals.

I looks like I'm going to have to take both for a field test!