Thursday, January 29, 2015

NASA's Worst Week

It's a peculiar coincidence that all NASA missions that ended in the crew being killed and vehicle destroyed occurred in the same week.  

Apollo 1 burned on the pad during a test, killing Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White on January 27, 1967 .  It was the result of a pure oxygen atmosphere and a spark from a wiring defect. A local legend here in the shadow of the KSC is that from then until at least the beginning of the space shuttle program, as lower level managers were promoted into positions with more Go/No-Go responsibility they were taken into a private room and required to listen to the tape of the men being burned to death. 

Shuttle Challenger was destroyed on January 28, 1986 a mere 73 seconds into mission 51-L, as a flaw in the starboard solid rocket booster allowed a secondary flame to burn through supports and cause the external tank to explode.  It was the kind of cold day that we haven't had here in some years.  It has been reported that it was between 20 and 26 around the area on the morning of the launch and the O-rings used to seal the segments of the stackable solid rocket boosters were too cold to seal.  Launch wasn't until nearly noon and it had warmed somewhat, but the shuttle had never been launched at temperatures below 40 before this.  Richard Feynman famously demonstrated that cold was likely the cause during the televised Rogers Commission meetings, dropping a section of O ring compressed by a C-clamp into his iced water and noting that it had lost its resilience at that temperature.  Kevin at the Smallest Minority links to Dr. Sanity who blogs about her experience as flight surgeon for that flight.  Her column is haunting.  Go Read. 

Shuttle Columbia, the oldest surviving shuttle flying as mission STS-107, broke up on re-entry on February 1, 2003 scattering wreckage over the central southern tier of the country with most along the Texas/Louisiana line.  As details emerged about the flight, it turns out that Columbia and everyone on board had been sentenced to death at launch - they just didn't know it.  A chunk of foam had broken off the external tank during liftoff and hit the left wing's carbon composite, punching a hole in it.  There was no way a shuttle could reenter without exposing that wing to conditions that would destroy it.  They were either going to die on reentry or sit up there and run out of food, water and air.   During reentry, hot plasma worked its way into that hole, through the structure of the wing, burning through piece after piece, sensor after sensor, until the wing tore off the shuttle and tore the vehicle apart.  Local lore on this one is that the original foam recipe was changed due to environmental regulations, causing them to switch to a foam that didn't adhere or stand up to abuse as well. 

There's plenty of evidence that the crew of Challenger survived the explosion.  The crew cabin was specifically designed to be used as an escape pod, but after design, NASA decided to drop the other requirements to save weight.  The recovered cabin had clear evidence of activity: oxygen bottles being turned on, switches that require a few steps to activate being flipped.  It's doubtful they survived the impact with the ocean and some believe they passed out due to hypoxia before that. 

There's film from inside Columbia until the moment the vehicle is ripped apart by the aerodynamic forces.  I suspect the forces ripped apart their bodies just as fast.  

January 27 to February 1 is 6 days.  Not quite a full week.  Every year, there's a memorial ceremony on the Cape.  On a personal note, I remember them all.  I was a kid living in Miami when Apollo 1 burned.  I was living here and watched Challenger live on TV.  Instead of going outside to watch it as I always did, I watched it on NASA Select satellite TV.  Mrs. Graybeard was working on the cape, next door to the facility that refurbished the SRB's between flights, and was outside watching it.  It took quite a while for the shock to ease up.  I saw those spreading contrails everywhere for a long time.  Columbia happened when it was feeling routine again.  Mom had fallen and was in the hospital; we were preparing to go down to South Florida to visit and I was watching the TV waiting to hear the double sonic booms. 

Final words to Dr. Sanity:
I remember the Challenger and her crew frequently and with love. They are a part of me now. All of them represent the best within the American spirit, and always will. Since that day in 1986, I have come to see NASA as one of the greatest impediments to the Dream of space exploration; but I have never given up the Dream itself. Nor have I forgotten any of the pioneers who have died in the service of that Dream. Some day we humans will leave this small planet and joyfully play in all the corners of the cosmos.
"I have come to see NASA as one of the greatest impediments to the Dream of space exploration; but I have never given up the Dream itself."  We're in complete agreement.   



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Techy Tuesday - Microsoft Changing Their Business Model?

If I asked you to do word association with the word Microsoft, chances are you'll say Windows.  Microsoft got its big boost as a business and into the upper echelons of the business world by providing the operating system for the IBM PC (PC-DOS) in 1981 and has dominated the world of computer OS sales almost since then.  Windows has been with us since 1985 (frankly, that surprised me, my first version of windows was 3.1 in the early 90s).

And all through that time, Microsoft has hounded the users to pay up for their OS as well as any application they sell.  Bill Gates, in fact, is famous for having written an "Open Letter to Hobbyists" in 1976 complaining about rampant copying of his BASIC programming language for the first home computers.

With that in mind, I was surprised to learn the distribution model for the next version of Windows, which will skip 9 and go directly to 10, will be distributed free, if you upgrade from Windows 7, 8.1, or Windows Phone 8.1 within one year of the final release.  (It's currently available for anyone who wants to Beta test it).

The exact mechanics of how this will work aren't clear to me.  It appears to be real (not rumor), but the plan is still in development.  Windows 10 will remain free for the lifetime of the device on which you upgraded during that first year.  The reporter said they don't really know how they plan to get paid for the products, much less how they'll handle updates or upgrades to Service Pack 1 when that inevitably comes out.  Their goal appears to get all Windows users: desktop, Surface tablet, Windows phone, or whatever, using a common OS; with the goal of a common experience across all platforms.  Microsoft uses terms like:

  • mobility of experience across an increasing number of devices
  • trust, putting people in control of their privacy because they are the customer, not the product
  • natural interactions via voice, pen, gestures, and gaze in an intuitive way
  • But I couldn't help but think:
    One OS to rule them all 
    One OS to find them 
    One OS to bring them all 
    and in the darkness bind them.
    The list of features gets a giant "Meh" out of me with a possible exception or two.  But the change from the old way of buying Windows is the unusual thing here.  
    Details on the features, etc., here


    Preserving the Dignity of the Office - Part II


    If you don't understand this, you're probably mentally healthy by today's standards.  (WARNING: An actual description of the actual acts that inspire this cartoon follow.  Those with delicate stomachs may lose their meals.  You have been warned.)  See, this YouTube star who interviewed the president, GloZell, did a video where she put on bathing suit, filled a tub with milk and Froot Loops, immersed herself in the tub and ate the cereal.  Its depicted at the upper right on the wall. 


    Monday, January 26, 2015

    "It's Snowing and We're Out of Kale" - Chaos Erupts in NYC Whole Foods

    Funniest thing I've read on the Twitter in quite a while.  I don't have a twitter account, but I read the agglomerator, Twitchy from time to time.
    ‘Free range cannibalism’? Hearty mockery as blizzard-fearing NYC hipsters storm Whole Foods
    Some favorites:
    "911, what's your emergency?"

    "IT'S SNOWING AND WE'RE OUT OF KALE!"
    ...
    BREAKING: NYC Whole Foods runs out of ironic beverages; hipsters attempt to flee city; thousands of electric cars frozen on area highways.
    ...
    I just watched a woman cry in the empty kale aisle of the Tribeca Whole Foods. Life is a prison.
    ...
    And from our buddy Iowahawk, Dave Burge wins the Internets with: 
    Next big NYC foodie craze: free range cannibalism
    " at Whole Foods in Chelsea with bigger crowds and more on edge than before Hurricane Sandy"  Paul B. Raushenbush         @raushenbush 

    New York City Mayor Bill "Che" Deblasio,  rapidly increasing his competition with Michael Bloomberg for the title of Most Dependable Asshole in politics declared a “winter weather state of emergency” and essentially shut the city down.  Just a bit of an overreaction, but probably has something to do with his pattern of not sending snow plows to wealthier neighborhoods.   Or not.  

    Speaking of which, do you remember reading a while back that "the end of snow" was coming, and the stories that children born soon will never know snow in their lives?  Like all climate alarmism, this has proven laughably wrong.  Instead, Joseph D'Aleo, the chief forecaster for Weatherbell Analytics, points out this decade, just hitting the halfway point, is the snowiest decade in the NOAA records on the east coast
    “Assuming this storm gets ranked by NOAA as one of the high impact (population affected by snowstorm) snowstorms (likely since the November storm was), we will have had 14 major impact storms this decade (only half over) beating out the 10 in the 1960s and 2000s,” Joseph D’Aleo, CCM (Certified Consulting Meteorologist), told Climate Depot on Monday.
    Go 20-teens!  That's pretty impressive.


    Sunday, January 25, 2015

    Well How About That?

    No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money has an infographic from the NSSF about the rapid growth of women in shooting.  For attempt at convenience, I'll copy it here:
    While we regularly hear about making sure we welcome new shooters and help them acclimate into the gun culture, both good things,  it looks to me like these new women shooters are full-fledged gunnies Right Now.  Why?  Look at the features they're shopping for:  (1) Fit,  (2) Quality,  (3)  Practicality.  Note to gun manufacturers:  did you notice that "Pink" doesn't appear in that list?  Why do they buy guns?  (1) Self defense  (2)  Hunting  (3) just to go shooting with Friends.  Just like any guys I know.  Notice the 3 most popular types?  (1)  Semi-auto pistol  (2)  Revolver and (3)  Shotgun.  I'd bet that it's either the same for men, although one of the three might turn into a semi-auto rifle (AR-15s are Barbies for Men, after all).  What else are women buying?  Gun cleaning products, eye and ear protection, targets, cases.... how much more "mainstream gunnie" can you get? 

    While I'm impressed by the increases in the numbers of women getting into shooting, and I certainly hope I'm as welcoming to all new shooters as can be, women are becoming shooters to become shooters.  They're as much gunnies as any grizzled old guy.  More so, if the guy has guns but never goes shooting. 


    Saturday, January 24, 2015

    Preserving The Dignity Of the Office

    (Chip Bok)

    I think it was Rush who was asking (to use my words), "in what universe does this make sense"?  I've often wanted to ask Obama what color the sky is on his planet; this just makes the question more pressing.  Apparently he's reaching out to ... someone.  The youth vote?  The YouTube fanboi vote?  And why would he even be reaching out for votes in the first place, since as he so pointedly reminded us, he has no more elections to run?  Trying to be the King Maker?    



    Friday, January 23, 2015

    How About A Bit More Chaos?

    Good Lawd, what a week!!  Could we get more chaos?   Could we put any more pressure on global systems that are creaking worse than the most awful wooden floors or stairs ever seen?

    To begin with, just over a week ago, the Swiss unpegged their Franc from Euro.  Long the most stable currency in Europe, they finally dropped their peg (a fixed exchange rate) and the move immediately shook the financial world.  It triggered a rush to Swiss assets for safety.   EU and German banks got hammered.  The Euro's exchange rate immediately dropped 30% .  Gold went back up to $1300 and silver jumped to $18.  (BTW, both metals are off to pretty big starts this year.)

    In light of this (IMO) the European Central Bank announced a new round of bond buying - quantitative easing or monetary creation.  The ECB said it would combine purchases of government bonds with an existing smaller program of private bond purchases, to create 60 billion euros a month through September 2016.  All told, the program will amount to 1.1 trillion euros ($1.16 trillion).  The aim, of course, is to revive the EU economy.  As many have pointed out, they're going to fix the problem of over extended credit by extending more credit - exactly the same as fixing a hole by digging it deeper.   

    The Euro is down against the dollar, it's almost 1:1 and I don't recall it ever being there, there's virtually a full tilt currency war going on, and the dollar is the 800 pound gorilla in the room.  Strange that it seems to have started with Obama essentially declaring he was going to crash the dollar.  Weaken it to the point where our exports increased greatly.  The problem with currency wars is that no one wins and everyone loses. Currency wars don’t create growth; they just steal it.  Growth  is stolen from trading partners until those trading partners steal it back with their own devaluations.

    Yemen has collapsed as a nation - to the extent that it really was one to begin with.  Worse yet, it appears that Iran is involved

    Saudi Arabia has lost one King and gotten another.  The combination of Yemen and Saudi Arabia pushes the region further into some deeply disturbing directions. Last week, John Robb posted a plausible scenario of how ISIS leverages a successful assassination of Saudi general into collapse of the Kingdom and how that could prompt global economic collapse - today's sub-$50 oil bounds up to $150 within a few months.  The death of King Abdullah probably makes that even more likely, as Robb reports today.   Even worse, he sees the possibility that ISIS captures and flips the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!
    PS:  If this doesn't occur, ISIS missed the opportunity, and we're all better off for their mistake.

    PPS:  ISIS is a theocratic network of networks that is both entrepreneurial and dynamic. The KSA is a theocratic hierarchy that's risk averse and inflexible.  Which one wins?
    One of the more plausible explanations for the Saudis driving oil prices down is that it pressures their old enemies: Iran and Syria (Sunni vs. Shia, round 9 million).  It punishes Russia for helping Iran, both of whom are economically hurting from it, and it also hurts ISIS who gets funding from selling their stolen oil.  If the Saudi hand is ripped off that figurative valve by the ISIS jihad, do you think $50 oil stays? 

    Iran!  Like many others have said, Iran and other countries see us as a weak country now and are likely to be thinking they need to take their action against Israel or us soon, before a stronger leader takes the reigns again.  I think the Iranian general that the Israelis took out this week could have been in the vanguard of putting plans into action.
    Iran’s brazenness, or audacity, goes further. While a desperate-looking US administration tries to advance talks over the Iranian nuclear program, the regime in Tehran continues to run a wild foreign policy throughout the Middle East. Though the regime’s income has fallen dramatically in the wake of the drop in oil prices, Tehran is still investing huge sums of money taking control of new assets in the region, from Afghanistan to Libya — almost the territory of the ancient Persian empire of Ahaseurus.
    Hezbollah, for its part responded to the Israeli strike by saying they're preparing for war in the Galilee region of Israel.  Galilee is in the northern part of Israel, near the Golan Heights and Syria.  I spent a few days there last August. 
    “If the highest level of Hezbollah commanders were in the Golan Heights and the high level of Iranians, it means that their idea, [what] they’re planning could be a kind of operation, an act against Israel on a high level,” Reuven said during a conference call Monday organized by the Israel Project (TIP). “It’s significant, the high level of this meeting, of this reconnaissance of the Iranians and Hezbollah.”
    In the meantime, Obama has transferred almost $12 billion of your tax money to Iran; no doubt helping fund their development of atomic weapons.   This past Wednesday they paid $490 million in cash assets to Iran and will have released a total of $11.9 billion to the Islamic Republic by the time nuclear talks are scheduled to end in June.  Good thing we keep paying them even when oil is down, or they might not be able to arm Hezbollah to keep killing Israelis and whatever US troops they can get to.  
    With all that chaos going on in just the last week to 10 days, what more could we pile on?  Mandatory $15/hr minimum wage increases?  That ought to throw a good sized quake through the economy.  Increasing spending?  Taking away programs that encourage saving for college?  Increasing taxes on the people who already pay the most?  The image of the Fabian Socialists was that the world needed to be heated up so that it could be re-forged and remolded to their desires. 

    Hot enough for ya?


    Wednesday, January 21, 2015

    Quote of the Day

    To Stilton Jarlsberg at Hope n' Change Cartoons:
    No, we didn't watch the State of the Union Address last night.  We didn't watch it for the same reason we didn't shove meth-crazed porcupines up our poop chute: because it would be an unbelievably stupid and painful thing to do.
    And that says it all better than I was saying it.  It was on in the other room while I was working last night but I had to turn off the TV.  I can't stand the voice, let alone the content of what he was saying.  Fact-check articles are out and about if you care, written not just by people who are bound by actual verifiable reality, but by anyone who thinks their opinion makes sense.  The prez himself makes as much sense as this Octopi Wall Street dood, who has the same message as Obama but is only a little more direct. 



    Tuesday, January 20, 2015

    Techy Tuesday - Tech You Can Use

    How about boots that can recharge batteries

    As technical advances have increased the amount of electronics that's useful to soldiers, the amount of batteries they need to carry has steadily increased, with some reports saying the typical soldier carries 20 pounds of batteries.  Now, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and STC Footwear has produced boots that can replace some of those batteries carried.  In its current design, the Kinetic Boot is capable of generating up to 1.5 watts of power per foot to charge reusable batteries or connect directly to systems.
    Previous solutions, such as solar-power chest panels and helmets, still added significant weight to soldiers’ uniforms, but the Kinetic Boot only adds 2 to 3 ounces of weight per boot—all while generating more energy. In a demonstration at the Marine Corps’ Experimental Forward Operating Base (ExFOB), a pair of Kinetic Boots was able to generate between 2 to 3 average watts of power...
    I don't know the voltage available at those boots, but let's assume we can use it to charge a phone with no losses due to inefficiency.  A standard iPhone 5 original equipment battery, for example, is 1440 mA at 3.8V or 5.47 Watts.  It would take almost two hours of walking to completely replenish that battery.  Still, that's otherwise wasted energy, and it will add up in a day with a lot of walking.  I couldn't tell you how useful those 20 or so Watt*Hours produced by walking around would be.  
    While the concept of harvesting energy from motion is not entirely new, efficiency has remained an ever-present problem. Further optimization of the boots will help achieve maximum power generation while ruggedizing the design for harsh military conditions. Enhanced ruggedized packaging will not only protect the boots’ components from environmental factors including dust and mud, but will also standardize the components’ positioning to increase reliability. 
    I suppose these are a little while out, and even longer until they show up as surplus.  No idea of cost so they might be too much for the commercial market.  
    U.S. Marines try out a Kinetic Boot prototype at ExFOB 2014.  (Photo courtesy of the US Marines.)

    No references to Bennie and Jets. 


    Monday, January 19, 2015

    A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

    Administrivia:  in the past few weeks, I've added two blogs to my reading list.  I've neglected to point these out, but I should have.  One is fellow Florida blogger 90 Miles From Tyranny.  Hosted by Mike Miles, he's a common sense, small government, firearms friendly guy - who needs a link from me about as much as Instapundit does.  He has about 5x as many views as I do in way less time than I've been blogging.  But blogs that are short, pithy, and visual are fun to watch and I do.  He's in the Florida blog section.

    The other is a blog that Western Rifle Shooters Linked to a few days ago, Come and Make It - reminiscent of the Molon Labe cry.  He's a maker dedicated to helping the home gun and knife maker.  Almost everything I've seen is tool related.  His article on the state of the art in 3D Printed guns was WRSA's link that got me there.  In turn, he links to MaDuece.imgur.com where you'll find a lot of very interesting work in progress.  A 3D printed AR fire control group?  Still need metal for the springs, and it doesn't quite work yet, but experimentation is the mother, right?  Keep an eye on this one, if you're interested in making stuff. 

    Meanwhile, my shop is in place and hardly being used.  I sanded the project guitar kit to 220 grit yesterday, and will follow up with the next size finer that I have.  Then it's time to start messing with stains (where "mess" is the key word).  I'm still leaning toward a cherry sunburst, as I said when I posted originally, but don't really know how to get there.  Need to do some more reading.  Over at the show Saturday, I saw a few flame maple guitars finished in "natural".  It doesn't look bad.  Nah... I'll stick with trying for cherry sunburst because otherwise I don't learn anything for the next project.  The back and sides are mahogany, so they'll be given a more reddish-brown stain. 
    Yeah.  In my dreams it comes out looking pretty much like that.  Except for the sides, because the cheapo kit doesn't have flame maple on the sides. 


    Sunday, January 18, 2015

    How Did I Get Here?

    How did it get to be Sunday night?

    Yesterday was the Orlando International Guitar and Music Expo.  We had never been to one; in fact, I first learned about it last year the Monday after the show.  After looking in a few calendars for another guitar show in a reasonable driving distance, I put a memo in my Calendar to look for it in December.  We took the 90 minute or so drive over to see what these shows are like. 

    To begin, it's held at Orlando's Orange County Fairgrounds, the same venue that houses the Orlando Hamcation I've written about before, but in only one of the buildings while the Hamcation uses three.  Still, it was a big room that was completely full and while the dominant impression is a room full of guitars on tables, there was quite a bit more.  This picture from last year is only part of the room, and it's less densely packed than this year looked.  (Photo from the show organizers)
    I was astounded at the sheer number of instruments commanding four digit prices - and there was at least one I saw that was priced at $100,000 (I think it was this one).  There were other instruments as well: mandolins, ukeleles, banjos and others - including a harp guitar.  I saw instruments that I can't name.  70s rocker Rick Derringer was there as a spokesperson for a manufacturer, taking pictures with folks and doing a demo.  The room had the usual din of hundreds of people talking along with a few dozen people at any moment playing different riffs and songs as they tried out new purchases. 

    But that only took up six or seven hours, including 3 to 4 driving the round trip.  Didn't buy a thing, except a small wooden pick tray from a CNC router shop primarily selling raw Telecaster and Stratocaster bodies for home builders.  We were home before 5 and had a normal Saturday evening. 

    Today...I almost can't tell you what we did.  Other than a short Wally World trip to get sandpaper for my project, and an hour or so doing some sanding, I would swear it should be noon.

    Regular content will resume and all that.


    Saturday, January 17, 2015

    This Made Me Cringe

    It is so incredibly ... amazingly, embarrassingly juvenile. 
    I just don't know where to start.  It's the Amateur Hour writ large. 

    Greg Gutfeld of Fox News and Red Eye commented, "This is like if the French sent a troupe of mimes over after 9/11".



    Friday, January 16, 2015

    A Stopped Clock Is Right More Often Than Eric Holder

    The stopped clock is right twice a day; Holder may be right for the first time in his tenure as AG.  H/T to Market Ticker.  Holder has issued a ruling to limit civil forfeiture, where police departments have been incentivized to seize property and cash from anyone they find convenient. 
    Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred.
     Denninger continues
    This will not stop all civil forfeiture, but it will stop nearly all of it.

    States can certainly continue to try to proceed with their programs under state laws, but the "Equitable Sharing" program made it very easy and thus cheap to administer -- and also gave the states a wide degree of immunity from being hammered in the courts with civil suits, since the underlying action was federal.
    I've written about civil forfeiture incidents here before, and it's not a new problem.  It goes back to drug laws first passed in 1970, when Congress allowed police to seize aircraft, boats and other property used to transport narcotics or bought by drug lords with ill-gotten gains.  Like all laws useful to the police state, it has expanded over the years.  As I wrote a couple of years ago:
    Around Daytona, Florida, in the 1990s, sheriff Bob Vogel was notorious for stopping cars on I-95.  If you had cash, you must be a drug dealer, so the cash was seized.  Drivers were virtually never charged with a crime, guilt was therefore never proven and the police made over $8 Million dollars for a department fund.
    This pattern has expanded and been used repeatedly all over the country.  My previous article featured a story of the laws being used to sue an inanimate object. 
    This town’s police department is conniving with the federal government to circumvent Massachusetts law — which is less permissive than federal law — to seize his livelihood and retirement asset. In the lawsuit titled United States of America v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts, the government is suing an inanimate object, the motel Caswell’s father built in 1955.
    But the stories can go on endlessly.  The WaPo article reports that since 2008, more than 55,000 civil forfeitures have been used to seize cash and property worth $3 billion from people whom are rarely if ever charged with crime.  The usual approach would be to seize cash if it appeared it was from a small business or individual, because they would be least likely to afford a legal staff that would be a threat to the states, then drag the cases out and run up legal bills until the victim went bankrupt trying to get their money back.  Case in point:
    That includes people such as Mandrel Stuart, who was stopped in 2012 by Fairfax County police, detained without charges, handcuffed and stripped of $17,550 in cash that was to be used for equipment and supplies for his barbecue restaurant in Staunton, Va. He eventually hired a lawyer, and a jury gave him his money back in 2013. But he lost his restaurant while fighting the government, because he had no working capital.
    Of course, the police departments see a threat to their undocumented funding efforts and are upset:
    “It seems like a continual barrage against police,” said John W. Thompson, interim executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association. “I’m not saying there’s no wrongdoing, but there is wrongdoing in everything.”  
    Read that last sentence again.  Sounds like Otter in Animal House.  "The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests - we did.  But you can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals"  This whole thing sounds like organized crime to me.  If you have something valuable and don't seem to have the legal force to protect it, the state is taking it.

    So why would that despicable little troll Holder do this now?  Has he become sensitive to his legacy, and wants to be known for doing something right?   If so, this is a good candidate because it seems that there is no political base that likes civil forfeiture.  Left or right, I've never heard anyone say it's a wonderful thing.  Maybe statists think so, but I've never come across them saying it.

    Although it burns my mouth to say this, I have to acknowledge that Holder did something right.  I always heard that while it's not strictly true, if something happens less than 5% of the time, it's probably a random event.  They used to say "even a blind pig finds a few acorns". 
    (from)  By the way... did you know there's an entire "Eric Holder looks like sloth" meme out there? 


    Thursday, January 15, 2015

    Microwave Cloaking Technology Demonstrated

    When this month's Microwave Journal trade magazine arrived, I was rather surprised to see a feature article called "Wideband Omnidirectional Microwave Cloaking" with a rather good explanation and demonstration videos.  The article is full of details, references and all needed information, but is written for working specialists with good foundation in electromagnetics.  I know some of my readers will understand it, but you may have seen it already.  If you have the resources, you might be able to duplicate it, but the company, Fractal Antenna Systems of Bedford, MA, has patented several aspects of the system. 

    In a nutshell, what happens is they cover an object with an antenna array which keeps an object from reflecting or absorbing radio waves.  Instead the array of antennas (printed antennas on flexible, hi quality insulators) cancels reflections or backscatter from the body, and directs the waves around and away from it in the direction it was originally traveling.  Fractal Antenna Systems' technique uses printed Minkowski Fractal patterns, with antennas spaced closely to each other.  The antennas are passive; they absorb the field from source and re-radiate it in directions that add up in the desired way direction, forming what they call a metamaterial.   Metamaterial cloaking is an area that has been discussed theoretically for several years.   This is it.  The term for the forward radiation, seen in this diagram, is evanescent surface wave, or ESW:
    Imagine coating an aircraft with this, so that radar pulses are directed around the aircraft and aren't reflected to the radar operator. Similarly, radio returns or noise from beyond you would pass through you as though you weren't there. 

    If you've got a really good memory and have been coming here for years, you'll remember that we've spoken about cloaking technologies before (read the comments, too).  In the conclusion of that little piece, I said,
    The technology to do this in visible light is very likely many years away, but imagine light-piping (fiber optics) an image from one side of a cloak to another, so that the objects on one side of you can be seen as if you weren't there.  I expect the first uses will be to disguise soldiers from being seen from great distances; it will be a long time before you could stand near someone and not see them.
    That is essentially what this is doing, only at low radio frequencies instead of light frequencies.  I think the day of operational cloaking devices for most sensors just got a bit closer. 

    Although I couldn't embed them here, if you want to see a couple of short (~ 5 minute) videos of the system at work, the journal has another interesting page.   No, it doesn't look like a Klingon War Bird decloaking (although I can imagine how it could someday), but you can watch an engineer become invisible to microwaves. 



    Wednesday, January 14, 2015

    Who Carried Out the Charlie Hebdo Attacks?

    Depending on who you ask, you'll get different answers.  It's too easy to accept that radical Islamic murderers acting to avenge their insults carried out the attacks.  That's not fun.  You need to think outside the box!

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan blamed it on the French.
    'French citizens carry out such a massacre, and Muslims pay the price,' Erdogan said yesterday.
    ...
    'That's very meaningful ... Doesn't their intelligence organisation track those who leave prison?
    ...
    'Games are being played with the Islamic world, we need to be aware of this.
    ...
    'The West's hypocrisy is obvious. As Muslims, we've never taken part in terrorist massacres. Behind these lie racism, hatespeech and Islamophobia,' Erdogan added.
    Vladimir Putin and the Russian powers blamed it on the US; or the just the general wickedness of the west. 
    "As for the events in Paris, I am sure that one way or another American curators stood behind the Islamists that carried out the attack," said Aleksei Martynov, the head of the International Institute of the New States, an organization created shortly before the 2008 Russia-Georgia War that appears to focus on promoting breakaway regions in Russia's periphery.
    As you'd probably expect, it's rather common to blame the west in General if not the US in particular, whether it comes from college professors, Syria, Hamas or other dependable idiots.  

    But my favorite is blaming it on the Jooos.  Who else is do devious and powerful?  But not just regular Jooos.  Magical, shape-shifting Jews.  Srsly.
    Dana Kennedy of the Daily Beast spoke to a "cross section" of French Algerian Muslims in suburban Paris and learned "they felt the attacks were actually a conspiracy by the Jews to make Muslims look bad. One person told me that in fact they weren't just regular Jews that were doing this, in fact they were a race of magical Jews, shape shifting Jews"
    ....
    Diaz-Balart: You talked, Dana, to some of these French Muslims who say this was all a conspiracy. What do they mean?

    Kennedy: Well, I went out to what they call the suburbs of France which are not what Americans think of as the suburbs, really the housing projects they’re outside Paris and there are a couple of areas inside Paris where a lot of poor Muslims live. I talked to cross section of mainly French Algerian young men who said to me it was pretty much they felt the attacks were actually a conspiracy by the Jews to make Muslims look bad. One person told me that in fact they weren't just regular Jews that were doing this, in fact they were a race of magical Jews, shape shifting Jews, master manipulators that could be everywhere at the same time.
    (Odo, famous shapeshifter from Star Trek Deep Space 9 as portrayed by actor René Auberjonois)

    Ordinarily, I like to come up with something pithy to finish a posting.  Something that really sums it up well, or maybe something that's memorable, or funny.  I can't think of a single thing to say that even gets close to "...a race of magical Jews, shape shifting Jews, master manipulators that could be everywhere at the same time. " 


    Tuesday, January 13, 2015

    Techy Tuesday - A Little CES Wrapup

    I've never been to the Consumer Electronics Show.  The simplest explanation works here: I've never worked in a business that valued it and sent anyone.  I've spent my career in industrial and military electronics, which is more concerned with absolute dependability than with low prices or "Wow factor".   It's still fun to read what's coming in gadgets and other home electronics, though, and I try to keep an eye on the show every year.

    If there was a theme to CES, I think it would have to be personal electronics.  One of the big marketing buzz words was "wearable".  Not just smart watches and Google Glasses, but LED-enhanced clothing and fitness trackers/monitors.  You'll be pleased (?) to note the Golden Age of Narcissism I wrote about in August remains in full swing, with swarming, intelligent, autonomous drones to take selfies of you on the floor at CES.   Parrot showed of its Bebop Drone, the lightest drone of its kind, with a 14-megapixel fisheye camera that does image stabilization. Though image stabilization generally requires more weight, Parrot's drone weighs in at 400-grams, and can stream live video across a Broadcom 2x2 WiFi chip (capable of 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies) while a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, and pressure sensor stabilize the camera's 180-degree view.  Preview video here.

    Personal medical devices were big.  A Mountain View, CA, company called Scanadu showed a new medical sensor called the Scout.  The device can track heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen levels in the blood.  After the device scans a user's forehead, the data is sent to your smartphone via Bluetooth.  (Sound like a rough cut at a Star Trek Tricorder?  It's not a coincidence.  Qualcomm, the electronics component and wireless infrastructure company is offering an X-Prize for the first Tricorder and the Scanadu Scout is in the running)  Meanwhile, Scanadu is developing a Scanaflo, a urinalysis test kit capable of testing for levels of glucose, protein, leukocytes, nitrites, blood, bilirubin, urobilinogen, microalbumin, creatinine, ketone, specific gravity, and pH in urine. It will send you the results via your smartphone, or directly to your doctor if you prefer. 

    Something I thought was cool was the jamstick.  Most people are aware of MIDI, the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a standard that's used for transmitting music between composers, instruments, and users.  Where do you start?  Often with a MIDI Controller, where you'll compose different pieces, give them different voices, and write all the tracks.  If you go to a music retailer and look for MIDI Controllers, you mostly find a lot of keyboards.  What if you don't play keyboards, but you do play guitar?  That's where the jamstick comes in.  It looks like the last five frets on a guitar's neck but rather than actually simulating the notes you hit and synthesizing a sound, it's the equivalent of the keyboard.  It uses proprietary IR sensing to determine finger position and detect the pick on the fretboard.  JamStick connects to your device or home network by WiFi. 

    Of course there was more; acres more.  Not all egotistic features like the drones to follow you and document your life, a lot of things to make life a bit more enjoyable.  I'd like to go someday.  Maybe after I retire...
    TRW used this cutaway car to show all the active and passive safety equipment they make for modern cars. 


    Monday, January 12, 2015

    About That "Free" Community College

    Of course everyone who reads this page regularly can recite from rote that "there's no such thing as a free lunch", or a free community college in this sense.  The president's plan, is adding two years to public education at an estimated cost of $60 billion over 10 years

    To begin with, I hate numbers like that.  There is simply no way to know what assumptions are ground into that sausage: do they linearly increase it by year, do they assume no cost now and totally load it into the last years (as they always do with proposed budget cuts).  So let's start with the simplest assumption: linear, constant per year of $6 billion. 

    The US Census clock says there are 320 Million Americans.  To the best accuracy I can determine using the Debt Clock's ratios, it seems there are 117.4 Million taxpayers.  That means every taxpayer's bill goes up by $51.  Of course, that is absolutely not how taxes are distributed; it will be paid by the top quintile of taxpayers, just as the highest incomes pay the biggest percentage of taxes now.

    As is usually the case with his speeches and handouts, it displays a stunning ignorance of how the world works.  The president asserts that since current community college attendees appear to have an increased value in the job market, we should create more of them.  This belies complete ignorance of the law of supply and demand.  If people coming out of community college make more than high school graduates it's because they are worth more to employers.  To create more of them is to reduce their differential value. 

    Simply stated, if everyone goes to community college, there's nothing to distinguish the community college graduates.  It becomes the same as high school.  It's already regularly referred to as 13th and 14th grade, this program will formalize it. 

    Which leads to an uncomfortable truth.  The public education system is a wretched failure.  A 2004 study (pdf warning) by the American Enterprise Institute found that 68% of community college students had to take remedial classes to be ready for college, with the typical number of classes being three.  So their public education isn't preparing them for 13th grade as it is.  Then there's the uncomfortable fact that over the last 40 years, high school test scores are independent of the amount spent on education; they're the same regardless of spending or the number of staff per student.  
    In four year colleges, it's pretty obvious that the Federal rush to fund college educations has raised the cost of college; college tuition has increased at three times the increase in the cost of living and just about twice the increase in medical costs over the last 37 years.  
     
    Look at it this way: there's only so many colleges and so many chairs in them.  Only so many butts will fit in those chairs.  If the demand goes up for those seats because more people can afford to go, what else is going to happen when demand goes up but supply doesn't?  Or from the colleges' standpoint, if all that money is available for students, why shouldn't they suck it up? 

    So the president's plan will drive up the cost of community colleges and institutionalize the two year degree as extended high school, which will make the achievement of students continue on the same trajectory as high school.  I have to assume it will impose new levels of work on the Colleges' part to comply with the Federal paperwork (there's always more paperwork).  After a few years of adaptation, the college inflation will require completing a BS instead of community college to get a little competitive advantage.  As it is, only certain BS degrees have actual value in the market.  That will remain true.    


    Sunday, January 11, 2015

    What To Make of "The Economy"?

    So we heard on Friday the official Bureau of Labor Statistics report saying that the economy added 252,000 jobs in December, a drop from November’s 321,000 but still in line with the recent pace. The official unemployment number (U3) rate fell to 5.6%, the lowest it has been since W's administration.  Yet everybody knows that the actual unemployment is higher than the U3; it doesn't count people who have fallen off unemployment or who have "given up looking".  Shadowstats estimates the real unemployment rate at close to 23%.  

    5.6% is optimistic news, yet the Dow shrugged and dropped 170 points.  Since the start of the year, the Dow dropped most of December's gains and then promptly regained them, finally settling out around where it was at the start of December.  The stock market is extremely sensitive to the Federal Reserve's money wrangling, since the inflow of US money is driving it.  A new force has entered the scene, though, foreign investment in the American equities markets.  Equities markets in other countries are doing poorly and our stock market is viewed as safer, better investments.  The dollar is at near-record highs compared to other currencies, under the belief that we may have our own troubles, such as our $18.1 Trillion national debt, but the other countries' troubles are worse - or as I like to put it: the US is the least disgusting girl at the dance. 

    Even with all these positive signs, it's not too hard to find things that make you a bit less sanguine.  The free Technical Analysis newsletter I get is full of charts that indicate caution: the inflow or outflow of money into the market from the large institutional buyers, the number of stocks setting new lows, and the Relative Strength Index for the stocks.  Everything is indicating caution.  In an article on the effects of immigration on employment, the Atlantic Monthly threw out the little fact that the percentage of men aged 25 to 54 who are working or looking for work has dropped to the lowest point in recorded history. I don't have a graph of that, but the graph of the % of the population in the labor force shows a value last seen around 1977.
    Elsewhere around the world, as reported last month, the price of oil dropping into the high $40s is having an impact on all producers. And also, as reported, the price of oil that keeps producers in the red runs from $77 for Qatar to $181 for Libya.  Per barrel.  It's $47.55 as I type this.  This is absolutely wonderful for you and I but it doesn't look quite as good from the global geopolitical stability view.  It doesn't just impact Vladimir "Studs" Putin (who needs around $100/bbl): it has the potential to crash a lot of the financial sector in this country. Go read Jim Rickards' article linked there for some good examples of how this can play out. 

    The money quote might be:
    Through the derivative contract the loss now moves over to the bank. It’s not the oil company that suffers the loss, it’s the bank. This is the case with the global financial system today — you never know where the risks end up.
    That risk just might be in your 401k or other retirement account, if you bought the right investment vehicle.  

    And there's more.  Russia has been reported to have bought hundreds of tons of gold last year.  It's no secret they want to end the dollar's reign as the world's reserve currency.  Their agreements with the BRIC countries and particularly China to not trade in dollars are well known.  We know, for example, that a few times in 2013, China bought the equivalent of every single ounce of gold produced in the world, while our Federal Reserve clings to their Keynesian talk of gold as a "barbaric relic".  Makes you wonder which side knows something and which side is wrong.

    So what do we make of the economy?  It's hard to say.  It's not in collapse, but it sure isn't as rosy as the "thrill up my leg" media would have you believe.  I don't want to be someone who always sees collapse coming, even when everything is wonderful, but (1) I damned sure want to see collapse coming when it really is coming, and the sooner the better, and (2) I've always believed that if you hope to make more than the majority in the markets, you shouldn't do what everyone else is doing. 

    It's a cliche that the time to buy into a crashed bear market is when there's (metaphorical) blood in the streets and everyone is at their absolute most pessimistic.  They're desperate to get rid of their investments that have been sinking and bleeding their wealth away.  Likewise it's true that every bear market starts at the peak, when everyone is happy and thinks the good times will roll on forever. 

    Since I get to guess, I think that the situation is pretty dicey.  The proverbial black swan could fly in at any time in the guise of a really bad attack like the Charlie Hebdo massacre here in the US, or worse.  On the other hand it could sit like this for quite some time.  Given the timing of other market crashes, my bet is on next September or October.


    Saturday, January 10, 2015

    Starting A New Project

    Just not today.  Today I've been patching some damage and doing some other prep to the garage walls so I can paint them tomorrow.  (What Fun!... groan)

    No, this is a little project that I've thought about a few times, but never gotten around to until now. 
    This is a "semi-hollow" body electric guitar kit.  These kits are mostly what woodworkers consider finish work: sanding, staining, sanding and finishing - aside from gluing the neck in.  You need to solder in and wire up all of the electronic parts like the pickups, volume and tone controls, and the output jack; it's not connectorized so that all you do is plug things together.  The top is flamed maple veneer over maple (laminate) while the body and neck are mahogany, with the neck capped with rosewood.  It actually looks pretty nice, although I'm sure I'll learn more about the details as I go along.  I'm probably going to stain  it a cherry sunburst (found an example - it might be there a while), and finish with gun stock oil, which is fairly popular among the kit builders. 

    The kit is patterned after the Gibson 335 model, rather popular with jazz players, although the neck looks different.  The trapezoidal synthetic pearl inlays are more like a Les Paul (not that it matters).  I don't expect it to sound as good as "real" one, but I saw one video of a homebuilt that looked like this kit, and that one sounded OK.  (The video is here but don't watch the whole thing unless either (a) you're a masochist, or (b) you're really into this stuff.  If you want to hear what it sounds like go to the 8:00 mark for a minute or so.)

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

    BATFE - Making It Up on the Fly Since, Well, Forever

    I don't know how many of you saw this item that happened recently, but JPFO sent a link from David Codrea saying that in their first ruling of the year, BATFE has made up some interesting rules out of new cloth.  I don't believe for a zeptosecond that the anti-gunners are happy with the idea that you can make your own gun for yourself (ZOMG!!! Ghost guns!!11!) and there are absolutely anti-gun forces in the BATFE, even ignoring their rabidly anti-gun bosses willing to kill thousands to get a push for tighter laws.  These rulings make it harder for anyone who is interested in 80% lowers.

    Kurt Hoffman writes the JPFO piece and describes the ruling.
    (T)he Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has determined that a business, merely by making its machining equipment available for a fee, to individuals to use in building a firearm, has now "manufactured" the gun, and must meet all the requirements imposed on commercial gun manufacturers. This includes a gun manufacturer's license from the BATFE, the marking of the firearm (or receiver, which for legal purposes is the firearm) with a serial number, manufacturers' record keeping, and conducting a background check on the person who actually did the work in making the gun.
    What does that mean in daily use?  Let's say you've bought an 80% lower and want to make an AR-15.  You have a hand drill, but no milling machine or other even a good drill press (both of which will do the job), but you have a friend who works in a machine shop.  Could you pay the shop a little something, maybe bring a box of donuts by when they open, in exchange for use of their machines?  This ruling says no.  I'm not sure this excludes you using the equipment if you yourself worked at the company, but if you're not paying anyone for use of the equipment, and they're not paying you your salary (that is, this is done on your own time - what we used to call a G job) I don't see this being equivalent to this ruling.

    But let's bring it down to the hobby level.  It says, for example, that I can't let you come over to my place, and I pop your lower onto my CNC mill and run a Gcode file in exchange for a pizza or something.  I think I could let you use my equipment as long as no payment changes hands, which would be like the machine shop above renting out its equipment.  But as Kurt says, "if renting out access to one's machining equipment, which is then used to manufacture a gun, is to be considered "being in the business of" manufacturing firearms, how is selling the equipment any different?"  Does this make Grizzly, Horrible Freight, Little Machine Shop and everyone selling machine tools into gun manufacturers? 

    Don't worry, it gets worse.  BATFE has previously ruled that once you take that 80% lower and drill a single hole in the fire control cavity, or mark the area that has to be removed, or (as ARES did) make the area to be removed a different color, you have just made that piece of metal (legally, no different from paperweight) into a firearm.  You're now the manufacturer. 

    This ruling backfired on BATFE almost immediately.  After all, if making that drill hole made it a firearm, and it's now your legally owned firearm, why can't you take it to a gunsmith and have them complete it?  After all, they handle legally owned guns all the time.

    ARES, who has been fighting BATFE for almost a year now, must have been chortling and rolling on the floor laughing when they read this, but recovered enough to post this on that book with faces place. 
    Question 1: So an 80% lower is not a firearm...
    ATF Answer: Correct

    Question 2: So if I drill a single hole in the fire-control pocket of an 80% lower then it is a firearm...
    ATF Answer: Correct

    Question 3: Ok then... If an 80% lower with one hole drilled in the FCP is a firearm... can I then take the firearm that I made at home to an FFL and have him complete the rest of the work because he isn't manufacturing the firearm, he is just "gunsmithing" the firearm... I already manufactured the firearm by drilling the hole so it should be no problem right...

    ATF Answer: Oh Crap!!!!!!!! ummmmm... Let me get back to you on that. No that can't be right... There is no way you can do that... That is not fair! you cheated!
    Realizing they'd legislated themselves into a corner, the BATFE put language into this week's ruling to try to fix this.   My version of the two paragraphs turned into a few words:
    "Uhhh... gunsmiths don't do that.  They fix guns and they can modify them, but gunsmiths don't use milling machines to make them.  Because we say so."  
    Kurt Hoffman again:
    So now, any gunsmith or machinist who is hired by the "gun" owner to complete the machining is going to be ruled to have "manufactured" a gun, and will thus be held to the same restrictions that apply to all commercial gun manufacturers. The BATFE is insisting on having its cake and eating it, too. They have previously argued that an 80% receiver ceases to be an 80% receiver, and becomes a "firearm," if the manufacturer does so much as scratch an outline showing where material needs to be milled away; but now, if the buyer of what the BATFE recognizes as an incomplete receiver similarly removes some of the material that must be removed in order to make the receiver function in a firearm, and then turns it over to a skilled professional gunsmith or machinist to finish the work, the professional ends up being considered the one to have "manufactured" the gun.
    And now I'm going to do something I've hardly ever done: I'm going to quote myself from last March.
    To me, the bottom line is that the BATFE might succeed in court against Ares and EP, but they will be unable to stop the 80% lower market as much as they hate it and want to shut it down.  They might desperately want to keep people from being able to build guns, but they're bucking one of the most powerful trends in society.  This is convergence, the new industrial revolution.  With the advance of personal fabrication - the intersection of home CNC, 3D printing, continually more powerful digital electronics, what's called the Maker movement, it is literally getting to the point where you will be able to buy anything you need to make any gun you want. Dimensioned drawings for the AR family lowers are online; it doesn't take much to turn those into tool paths.  The open source movement will provide that.  To use the cliche' again, "you can't stop the signal".
    Trying to stop this new industrial revolution because you don't like it or you're afraid of it is like standing in the Bay of Fundy, yelling at the tide that it's not allowed to come in.  Good luck with that.  

    (Original ARES polymer lower)




    Wednesday, January 7, 2015

    So Here We Are Again

    Yet again, the civilized world has to bear not only the depraved antics of the Muslim murderers, we have to bear the pea-brained apologists telling us, "it's the religion of peace" or "yes, but it's just a small minority", or "what about the Christians or Jews or murder in the name of their religion?". 

    The news broke this morning while I was about to leave for work.  Mrs. Graybeard assumed it was Muslim terrorists; I said, "I'll bet you any amount of money it wasn't the Amish".  She replied, "When was the last time a busload of Rabbis did something like this?"

    Of course we knew it was Muslims because it virtually always - always - is.  And that's a problem.
    Google and my high school French translate that as: "I'm not afraid of reprisals.  I have no kids, no wife, no car, no creditIt probably makes it a bit pompous, but I prefer to die standing than to live kneeling".  

    I heard Dr Zuhdi Jasser, head of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Cardiologist/Internist, and US Navy veteran, on Dana Loesch's TV show tonight.  Dr. Jasser's organization is devoted to pushing for a reformation movement in Islam similar to the Christian reformation.  One of his points was that the politically correct constant pandering to the violent Muslims by not condemning their views is actually giving them the advantage in society.  The Western groups saying all religions are the same are preventing the dialog and change that Islam needs.  Political correctness, yet again, is doing the exact wrong thing, and endangering us all. 
    The attack leaves me saddened, but more than that, it leaves me angry.  I can easily see something like that happen here in America.  I can easily see that happening to fellow bloggers whom I consider friends.  There's a joke going around you may have heard that I'll give the name "cowboys and muslims" to.  Without repeating the whole joke (here) the gist of it is a Montana cowboy, a Native American (hmm, I'm a native American... let's call him a Blackfeet Indian) and a muslim end up sitting next to each other in an airport.  The Indian bemoans the fact that his people were once many and now they are few; the Muslim replies his people were one few in this land and now they are many, so why do you think that is?  The Cowboy replies, "That's because we ain't played Cowboys and muslims, yet, boy". 

    I think the time is coming when we're going to need to play a serious game of Cowboys and muslims. None of this "run a few fighter sorties"; more like "What the hell do you mean we're out of ICBMs and MIRVs??"

    Je suis Charlie.  Nous sommes tous Charlie, si nous nous soucions



    Tuesday, January 6, 2015

    Techy Tuesday - Radical Improvement in Aluminum Sheet Production

    Aluminum giant Alcoa has announced a new way of producing aluminum sheet, called a Micromill.  The eye opener is that they claim that the process time from when they melt the alloy constituents until the sheet is done has been reduced from 20 days to 20 minutes.   Along the way, they get improvements in the sheet's characteristics: it's got 40% greater formability, and is 30% stronger.  Those improvements, while noteworthy, aren't in the same class as the 20 days to 20 minutes. 

    In truth, it's a whole new way of making sheet and the times aren't exactly comparable.  In an old plant, the aluminum was cast into enormous ingots,  roughly 2 to 3 feet wide, 2 feet tall, and 20 feet long or longer.  The ingots took most of that 20 days to cool to a temperature that could be manipulated and rolled.  The Micromill pours the molten alloy, cools it in a thin layer and then rolls it into sheets.  The Micromill reduces the size of the factory required to produce the sheet.  Joe Butler, Alcoa Micromill plant manager, San Antonio Works, says a current aluminum mill "is usually contained within a quarter to a half mile, and we're doing it in about 150 ft."  Another benefit is the process offers better microstructure of the metal crystals as they cool.  All useful metal alloys are greatly influenced by the processing the alloy gets as well as the composition. 

    Alcoa has released an interesting PR video on the process. 

    The new process is primarily aimed at automobile sheet metals, replacing steel to save weight and meet the coming 2025 54.5 MPG CAFE standards the Obama administration mandated, but the technology allows them to alter the process to change the properties of the alloy coming off in a more fluid, seamless process.  The benchmark of formability has been the steels the auto industry is familiar with, and aluminum hasn't allowed that.  They claim this process yields aluminum sheet as formable as steel.  That means they'll be able to get the shapes they want to produce in aluminum and not just steel. 
    Customer trials at Alcoa's pilot Micromill facility in San Antonio have already validated the material's characteristics, surface quality, and overall performance. Alcoa has also acquired a strategic development customer, and is now qualifying the new material for next-generation automotive platforms.  Looks like Ford's aluminum F-150 pickup is just the first of a new wave. 
       

    Monday, January 5, 2015

    Their "Inalienable Right" to Get In Your Face

    As the momentum to continue their anti-police demonstrations fizzles, the diehards in the movement have decided they have a right to get in people's faces and interrupt their lunch or other personal moments.

    Of course, it's only acceptable to do this to white people.  According to the Mail (UK), the groups targeted areas they considered to "white spaces".  Not just brunch spots, they even ended up protesting in the Apple Store in Berkeley.    
    Dozens of demonstrators today stormed restaurants and targeted white diners in New York and California as part of a 'Black Brunch' protest against alleged police violence.

    Carrying banners, the chanting protesters entered a number of venues in New York City that they identified as 'white spaces', including midtown eateries: Lallisse, Maialino and Pershing Square.

    Once inside, they 'disrupted' customers' meals by reading out the names of African-Americans killed by police, including Michael Brown, 17, who was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson last August.

    Addressing staff and patrons, they shouted: 'Every 28 hours, a black person in America is killed by the police. These are our brothers and sisters. Today and every day, we honor their lives.'
    At least one of the demonstrators took to Twitter to proclaim her disdain for people who thought they could go out for a peaceful, friendly meal with friends or family.  (Found here)
    I'm not sure what the definition of a "white space" is, since discrimination in restaurants is a violation of Federal laws, but this is even more stupid.  How can she say a paying customer has no right to be there?  Yet she, as a non-patron has a right to interrupt a business, piss off their customers and create a public nuisance? She doesn't want equal rights, she wants special treatment. 

    Of course they have the right to protest and say what they want, but those customers have their right to be left alone, and the restaurants have their right to run their businesses lawfully. 

    There was little in the way of push back, and some customers raised their fists in solidarity, possibly assuming they'd be pulled outside and skinned alive interrupted longer if they didn't.  Of course, anyone knows that if you fought back against some form of attack, you'd be torn apart in the press as if set upon by wolves.




    Sunday, January 4, 2015

    Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Back to Work I Go...

    Today was my last day of the Christmas/New Year's break; we closed on Tuesday 12/23 and I've been sleeping late, playing with tools, radios, guitars, recording boxes and just about anything I can think of since then.  Tomorrow it's back on my head. 

    Today was pretty busy getting everything done I should have gotten done in the last 10 days.  Out to the Bulk and Bundle Store to get some things for the house that are a bit big for Mrs. Graybeard to handle.  Picked up a couple of draftsman's stools for the shop.  The benches I used are tall and my selection of chairs isn't.  Built one, and got a floor demo model for the other - which was made by monkeys.  No time to think of a post.




    Saturday, January 3, 2015

    Health and Pure, Dumb, Luck

    I couldn't help but smirk at yesterday's story that despite all of our anguishing about eating the right things and avoiding all the wrong things that are causing cancer, two thirds of the time getting cancer comes down to pure, dumb, luck

    I've posted before about our experiences with cancer - probably the best summary here.   In our talks with oncologists one of them left me with a quote that I'll never forget, "sometimes cells just freak out".  I think the study confirms that view.

    Research published in Science (the house journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science), showed two thirds of the cancer types analyzed were caused just by chance mutations rather than lifestyle.  Naturally, the chattering class is saying this doesn't mean you can just do what you want.  Who do you think you are?  You're not allowed to live as you want. 

    Certainly smoking is so strongly linked to lung cancer that when doctors find non-smokers with the disease, they're considered remarkable cases, and the study doesn't say you can ignore that and go light up a few. 

    Beyond smoking, though, I personally think the links are weaker.  Sun exposure is linked with skin cancer, but it's not the strongest link you can imagine.  For example, melanoma, the most lethal type of skin cancer is often found on the soles of feet and in other places where most people don't expose themselves to the sun.  The British Medical Journal published an article back in 2008 saying sunlight was not a major cause of melanoma.  Chances are you've heard that you should get lots of fiber to prevent colon cancer, but that link has been discounted many times, such as this summary link to a 2005 JAMA article.  I recall reading an article in student science journal saying the same thing about 20 years before that.

    Cross-cultural dietary studies that give rise to "eat this, not that" links always seem to be more tenuous when they're closely studied.  If you've got the time and interest, Denise Minger's fisking of the China Study is worth reading - and probably got her the contract to write her book
    (lung cancer cells dividing - highly processed image from the BBC)

    When Mrs. Graybeard had her bout with breast cancer, one of her coworkers gave us another quote that stuck with me: "what did you do to get cancer?".   Too often, people seem to live with the idea that if they just live this one right way, or eat this one super food, or take this one supplement, they'll never get cancer, and consequently, if you do get cancer it's because you did something wrong.  Another one of those things I heard that stuck with me was the director of the bone marrow transplant clinic who said, "I have a clinic full of women who were doing everything right" - about that idea. 

    Maybe this study will remove some of accusatory tone directed at cancer patients.   Lord knows they have it tough enough without that.

    Speaking of which, Lawyer With A Gun, who has been in my linked blogs for as long as I can remember, reports his wife is in the worst of it right now.  Stop by and send prayers, good wishes, or just kind words.  I certainly do the same for any of you readers who might be in the same spot.