Monday, August 20, 2018

Audacious Plan to Charge Electric Vehicles While Operating

Electric vehicles come up fairly regularly around here, and one of the weak spots of EVs is the amount of time spent in recharging, which leads to inferior performance for most buyers compared to an internal combustion vehicle.  While going through some old links ("I ought to read that..."), I stumbled across an audacious plan published in Power Electronics magazine back in February.  What if the entire infrastructure was designed to accommodate electric cars, so that they could be charged during operation?  Maybe instead of audacious, we should say "mindbogglingly expen$ive".

From a technical standpoint, it doesn't look like there's new tech that has to be completely invented; it's re-using existing ideas.  They need to be optimized for this use, but what they have to do is probably well understood.  If you have a phone or other personal electronic device that's put on a charging mat it's probably the same technology: a common electrical component called a transformer is conceptually split in half: one side is in the mat and the other in your phone.  In this case, one side of the transformer would be buried in the road and the other half mounted in the car.  The combination is called Near-Field Wireless Power Transfer.  This won't be as efficient as plugging a car in, but with dense enough placement of these transformers, the cars could have their batteries continuously topped off by the road.
Near-field WPT systems are of two types: inductive, which use magnetic field coupling between conducting coils, and capacitive, which use electric field coupling between conducting plates to transfer energy (Fig. 1). For medium-range applications (in which the distance between the transmitter and the receiver couplers is comparable to the size of the couplers, as in EV charging), inductive WPT systems have traditionally been preferred.
A simplified electrical block diagram with the transformer coils shown as green for the road and red for the car.  The concept drawing of the car shows its transformer coils in red passing over the green coils in the road.   The same figure could be redrawn with minor changes to show metal plates (capacitors).  There are profound circuit differences between the magnetic (inductive) coupling based on transformers and the electric (capacitive) coupling based on capacitors, but conceptually they're just transferring power either as an electric field or magnetic field.  The authors appear to do most of their analysis based on capacitive coupling after arguing that the transformers will depend on large hunks of ferrite (a ceramic with iron powder and other metals fired into it) while the capacitor approach will rely more on high performance electronic circuitry.  They expect the ferrites will be more expensive than the electronics approach and the electronics will get cheaper over time.

Let me break from the technical details here, and say if you want to read them head over to Power Electronics.  Honestly, they assume more familiarity with electronics than I'm doing, but not much.

What I want to address is the sheer megalomania of it, and some of the obvious problems. The article begins like this:
Consider a future in which a driverless ridesharing electric vehicle (EV) pulls over as you exit a building, takes you to your destination, and proceeds to drive passenger after passenger without ever needing to stop to recharge its battery. Instead, power generated by nearby wind and solar resources is delivered wirelessly from the roadway to the vehicle while it is in motion.

Not having to stop for recharging will make EVs truly autonomous, and, because the vehicles can thus remain in service for more hours, fewer vehicles will be needed to meet passenger demand. Furthermore, EVs with in-motion (dynamic) wireless charging can have much smaller batteries, an option that can reduce their cost and accelerate adoption.
Think of what it would cost to put electric plates with supporting electric circuitry every few feet down every road in a city; any road you don't put charging circuits on would be a back road either not-served or not well-served by electric cars, depending on how well they'd be charged and how long they could go without being charged.

Did you notice the part where it said you'd call a "driverless ridesharing electric vehicle"?  That means it's some sort of future where you're not going to be driving your own car, some entity like the city or state or some crony, er, contractor to the city or state will be renting rides to/from where you want to go.  As long as it's on a road that has the required million dollar a mile (PFA number) worth of electronic circuity.  Think back to the back road that won't get the electronic charging circuits; is that an ideal way for politicians to get "contributions" to ensure they make sure those businesses get a new road?

On this basis alone, I say it ain't happening this way.  Cities and states are far too broke to do something like this.  This is a massive, gargantuan public works job.  Only someplace as crazy as Califruitopia would spend on something this crazy, if even they would.  

Now think of the safety.  Those electric fields from the road are capable of transferring energy into pedestrians and animals, too.  The cars would need to be specifically built to shield the occupants.  The metal plates in the road would need to be able to sense when the vehicles are moving over them, pulse the power on and turn it off when the vehicle goes past.  That only adds a little cost.  The fact that the plates are in a road actually adds a little safety; after all, a stray dog or a kid will be more likely to be killed by being hit by the car than the electric field.  (That was irony - nobody would think that's a good idea).  

The cars would have to be pretty well aligned over the plates to get a good percentage of the electrical power across (i.e., good coupling).  Any placement to the side, rather than directly over/under each other would decrease the coupling.  The car couldn't be too high off the ground either: ground clearance would be a design requirement.  Any snow, or other foreign matter (like discarded hypodermics or feces, speaking of California) would make the charging less efficient.

Like most of these wild-hair design proposals that get into these magazines, this is the author's lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, showing you what they can do.  This doesn't have a snowball's chance in Florida of being adopted.  In my opinion (of course).  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Agonizing Over the Ballots

Our primary election is the last Tuesday of the month, the 28th, and "early voting" started yesterday.  The phone has been flooded with candidates calling and the postal mail flooded with campaign flyers.   There have been visitors knocking on the door, some of whom I've actually talked with.  This is likely to not be interesting except for people in this area, but some thoughts while trying to sort this out.

First off, the "marquis race" this year, the one has gathered the most press, is the race to unseat our Reliably Lefty Senator, Bill Nelson.  Running against him is current governor Rick "Voldemort" Scott.  Except that's not officially true, yet.  The candidates haven't been chosen.  Rick Scott is running in the primary against a candidate impossible to take seriously, a guy named Roque De La Fuente, or Rocky De La Fuente.  He's running for the Senate in nine different states, and I believe lives in San Diego, CA.

I'm still anti-Scott for what he did after the Parkland school shooting, pushing through almost the entire Democratic gun control agenda for them.  This may be a bad aspect of his one, strangely positive feature: Scott is an incredibly inept politician.  Being bad at politics has its good side, but his gaffs and missteps could fill a book. 

I probably won't vote for either of them.  If (when) it turns into the actual Bill Nelson/Rick Scott race I'll have to think again.  Nelson needs to be retired, I just don't know what to expect of Scott as a senator.  After a career as a CEO, followed by CEO of Florida, would he work in a "debating club" as the senate is often referred to?  What's the alternative?  Nelson will vote for any policy the Dems put forward and I can't recall the last "moderate" positions he took.  Does it matter?  Marginally.  Maybe.

The governor's race to replace Scott (Florida passed term limits years ago) is the next big one on the list.  After an endorsement from President Trump, US representative Ron DeSantis is leading agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam.  DeSantis' district is Florida 6, up in the vicinity of Daytona.  While my only knowledge/familiarity with the Agriculture department is as the agency that manages our concealed carry licenses, and that is run well, Putnam has run a mainly negative campaign against DeSantis, with radio ads accusing him of all sorts of things.

Other statewide offices I need to pay attention to are Putnam's replacement at the Dept. of Agriculture, Attorney General, and our State Representative.  The first requires a bit more research, the last two are brain-dead easy choices.

Possibly the nastiest race this year is for our County Commission seat.  The incumbent is being challenged by a CPA who was on the commission a few years ago and wants to get back.  She was famous for digging into the numbers deeply and was routinely voted down for being too sane on spending matters.  Too fiscally conservative for the others.  Between the two of them, they're probably responsible for the bulk of the mail we've gotten and have driven me to hate both of them.

The Song of the Republican Candidate has long been, "I'm pro second amendment", "I'm pro-life", and "my opponent is a career politician" - which is routinely thrown out once they're elected. This year they've added, "my opponent hates Trump", and most surprisingly (to me), "I'll do more to save the River".  (The Indian River Lagoon runs pretty much the entire length of the county, and quite a bit more.  It's in bad health in many areas, and the county passed a "please raise my sales tax" bill two years ago to fund a major river restoration program.)  Every candidate from the county commission and up sells that they're going to be the one to save the river.

Similarly, last week Bill Nelson and Rick Scott were blaming each other for allowing a bloom of red tide to remain on the SW coast of Florida (far from the Indian River).  I get a weekly email from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and while this particular bloom is longer lasting than many, red tide blooms are pretty normal things in the state.  I recall hearing about them 40 years ago. 

As always, these choices are the lesser of two (or more) evils.  I think I said once in this space that if you've never gone into an election and been in the situation where you don't like either candidate, and you find yourself voting for the "least disgusting" candidate instead of one you really like, welcome to your thirties!  That threshold was long, long ago for me. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

We Pause for Different Content

Afternoon at my friend's funeral, so a little diversion. 

Scott Adams at Dilbert, of course.  No one thought for a zeptosecond that I did that, right?

Friday, August 17, 2018

Crazy Left Coast Story of the Day

From the National Shooting Sports Federation newsletter Ammoland, we find the story of a salmon researcher in Washington's Okanogan forest who was circled and surrounded by a pack of wolves, climbed 30 feet up a tree to keep from being eaten, and was almost abandoned to the wolves by the state.  According to a linked piece in the Capital Press, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officials sounded more concerned about not harming the wolves than letting the woman be eaten by the wolves.
Washington wildlife managers initially opposed sending a helicopter or a search-and-rescue team to save a woman treed by wolves in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, according to recordings and summaries of emergency calls obtained Tuesday.

The Department of Natural Resources pushed back and prepared to dispatch an air crew that eventually executed a swift rescue. Notes from a call between DNR dispatcher Jill Jones and a wildlife officer summarized WDFW’s position, and her position, shortly before the helicopter launched.

“No helicopter. Federally listed species. 3 WDFW personnel saying so,” according to DNR’s call log.

“We are more concerned for her life than the listed animal,” Jones told the officer. “He indicated that she is safe up in the tree. ... I told him that we do not know how safe she is. I don’t know how stout the tree is, and if the limbs will continue to hold her or how long she can hold on.”

Minutes later, WDFW and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, at the request of DNR wildfire supervisor Chuck Turley, OK’d an air rescue. Within a half hour, the woman was safe in the DNR helicopter piloted by Devin Gooch. The wolves had scattered as Gooch flew overhead before landing in a meadow.

The swift air rescue — reaching the woman by foot would have taken 2 to 3 hours, officials estimated — ended a hectic 45 minutes in which state, federal and local agencies discussed what to do.
In hindsight (always 20-20), WDFW wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said the wolf experts thought the woman was in no trouble, but later admitted they were making the wrong call.  “To tell the helicopter not to go was not the right call, and we have to own that,” Martorello said.

Bottom line to me is that the woman is very lucky to be alive.  First, the wolves didn't ambush her; she saw them and had time to react.  She pepper sprayed the first wolf, and more came forward to take his place.  Second, she's lucky there was a sturdy tree there, lucky she was able to climb that tree to 30 feet and lucky she was able to wait there safely.  If the branch she had been standing or sitting on had broken, the 30 foot fall probably would have left her unable to move, and she'd be an easy target for the wolves.  What if she was up there and couldn't call for help by radio or cellphone? 

Dean Weingarten, in the Ammoland News says the wolf apologists already have an answer from the "wolves are not a threat to people" file.
Researchers have already created an excuse for the aggressive wolf behavior. They say the area the woman was in is a “rendezvous site”; therefore the wolf behavior was “defensive” not aggressive. From
They determined that where the researcher was treed was a “rendezvous” site, and the wolves were likely acting defensively to protect offspring or food sources.
Look, I love animals, too, but the tree huggers and greenies that pushed the reintroduction of wolves in America are putting people at risk.  I have a pair of rescue cats around here who regularly boss me around, and while I've had many more cats than dogs in my life, I've had both.  Wolves are not domesticated dogs, they are extremely intelligent, top-echelon predators.  We're told that wolves are "not really dangerous" and "wolves never attack people".  If wolves aren't a threat to people, why do so many legends and sayings (one example) from our ancestral civilizations say they are?  Like mountain lions, wolves require massive ranges of land.  Lions are solitary hunters, not pack hunters, but attacks happen. Why should we think wolves won't attack people?  Weingarten puts it this way, and concludes with an unsettling observation:
When European immigrants first came to North America, they assumed that wolves were dangerous. All of their experience in Europe showed wolves to be dangerous. Wolves in North America are the same animals as wolves in Europe.

The mythology of the harmless wolf was created out of the success of the developing North American civilization. They were successful at protecting themselves and their animal resources from wolves. The European immigrants brought technology that was effective in keeping wolf populations on the defensive, afraid of contact with man. When wolves came in conflict with men who had access to firearms, steel traps, and poison, wolves learned to fear men or die.

The best way to keep wolves harmless is to keep them in fear of man. This pack in Washington state has successfully treed a woman, without any loss. They have learned from the experience. They are likely to treat the next human more aggressively.

File photo of a gray wolf, the species in the area.  John and Karen Hollingsworth/US Fish and Wildlife Service

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Apparently, It's Not Just Math That's Racist

Last year, Campus Reform was reporting professors saying math is racist because "algebra and geometry perpetuate privilege because 'emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi' give the impression that math 'was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans.'"  (Confidentially, professor Gutierrez, that's because it was).

Now we learn it's not just math.  It's Chemistry, too.  A version of the periodic table showing the nation that discovered each element, found at Daily Timewaster.

Not a single non-Western country in the chart.  About a dozen (out 118) say, "known to ancients".  Dollars to donuts that was mostly the Greeks and Romans - Europeans - but possibly Egypt.  Go ahead and credit all 12 to the Egyptians, the Mayans, Chinese or whomever you want.  The deck is still pretty stacked.


So sorry to hear of her passing.  It wasn't unexpected as I knew she has been in declining health, but it's always sad to lose someone with her talent.  She was part of the sound track of my life.

For however long they allow embedding, here's a little bit of her magic, with one of my favorite songs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Are Standard Time/Frequency Radio Stations WWV/WWVH Going Away?

A buzz has started circulating in the ham radio community since it became apparent that in the proposed 2019 budget (summary online), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) mentioned in their proposed budget that they propose to cut:
$6.3 million supporting fundamental measurement dissemination, including the shutdown of NIST radio stations in Colorado and Hawaii
Radio stations WWV and WWVB are in Colorado while WWVH is in Hawaii.  WWV and WWVH have a lot of duplication between them, but Hawaii doesn't have an equivalent of WWVB.   Apparently, the first report on this was from a guy named Tom Witherspoon, K4SWL, who maintains The SWLing Post website; he's credited by the American Radio Relay League, the National Association for Ham Radio in their post on the subject. 

The SWLing Post doesn't address WWVB, the Very Low Frequency (VLF) station and probably the most useful of the NIST services.  If you have one of the so-called "Atomic Clocks" or watches, those synchronize to WWVB.  Around our house, we're probably over 90% clocks or watches that sync to WWVB. 

Comments on The SWLing Post seem to show the majority are in favor of keeping the time and frequency stations on the air, which I expect.  In reality, it's hard to conclude that they're really at risk.  First off, there are five frequencies: 2.5, 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz on the air 24/7 at each location.  Prudence would dictate that if the designers intended to be on the air with over 99% availability that the stations would either have redundant transmitters or the ability to put a spare transmitter on the air quickly.  Could they be talking about cutting back the numbers of transmitters, the numbers of towers, or perhaps getting the realization of some actions already taken to improve reliability and reduce cost?  These sorts of details are simply not visible online.

NIST has some online photos and information on the stations.  There's a great deal of hardware there, exactly what they plan to eliminate to save money isn't clear.

It's also possible that someone in the NIST is playing some form of "Art of the Deal" and proposing this to get public outcry against budget cuts.

From Colorado Section Manager's blog.

The sign at the top says it's the Primary transmitter for the 2.5 MHz station, which automatically implies at least a secondary transmitter.  It's also a fairly recent vintage Rockwell Collins commercial High Frequency transmitter; I don't know the model number, but the color scheme of that orange stripe with the rest black dates as being post 2006.  It's not like this is a 1950s vintage transmitter hand built by the NIST (which was the NBS back then - the National Bureau of Standards).

So are WWV/WWVH going away?  I'm afraid I can't answer that either way.  It seems that something might be set to happen, but I can't track down enough details to say for sure.  There are other HF time/frequency standard stations, the main drawback is that their signals are going to be quite a bit weaker and less available in the mainland US.  The station with the most utility appears to be their VLF station, WWVB.  Since it has become so widely used commercially, it seems least likely to be affected, but that's just a guess.   Does anyone know any more?  Drjim, you're practically in their near field; heard anything? 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I'd Tell You the Story If I Knew the Story

Last night I mentioned a "major issue" that hit friends close enough to feel like family.  I can only tell you the vaguest overview of the story, because it's all I know for sure. 

Our friends, whom I'll call Gilligan and Mary Ann, are a few years younger than Mrs. Graybeard and I, so still working.  That tends to limit the times we can see each other.  Gilligan worked in home construction, while Mary Ann is a secretary in the corporate world.  Gilligan and I used to joke about doing "roofercize" on the roofs around here in the summer, or other problems of working construction when you're over 50.  Super sweet, super nice folks.  Mary Ann was out with her mother on Sunday, and when she arrived home she found him dead in the hallway of their home.  Shot twice in the chest.

We've been unable to get more details, but with nothing missing the police are saying "probably a botched robbery".  Perhaps Gilligan was in another room and walked in on the criminal, or perhaps he was also away, returned home, and walked in on the crime in process.  It's possible that it's weirder than that.  One of the things that strikes us the strangest is that there is nothing in the local newspaper, or any local news we can search online. 

So, while we're feeling a bit more normal a day later, it's still hard not to think about.  We're still missing a story; some framework to force some context and sense onto the situation. 

Both Gilligan and Mary Ann are OK with guns: we've talked about going to the range several times, but with construction being busy around here, work had been keeping him busy enough that it was hard to arrange a time.  We never talked lots of details about what that meant practically.  Was he ambushed?  Walked in and the other guy shot first?  Was there exchange of fire?  We simply have no idea. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Why Do I Like to Pick On Them?

Banjo players. 

I have nothing against banjo players.  I'd like to have that skill set, just don't feel like doing the study required.  I'm in the middle of a class on "finger style" guitar playing, which has tons in common with banjo.  It's just six strings instead of five, and all the notes are in different places. 

On a much more serious note, we've had a major issue hit friends close enough to feel like extended family.  It was difficult coming up with even this to post.  I don't feel it's right to talk about it at the moment, and might be scarce here for a few days. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

It's Two! Two! Two Parts in One!

Those of you who have spent too much time in front of a TV will recognize that line from an old  commercial (substituting "mints" for "parts").

The two parts in one is the crank arm for my fire eater engine.  It's a complex little part that is mostly made on the rotary table, except for some drilling, reaming and tapping of five holes.  That meant going from the milling vise for cutting the piece to size, drilling, tapping, and reaming; over to the rotary table for the three radiused cuts; back to the milling vise to cut the tapers, and finally to trim off the brass plug I turned to size and press fit into the 3/8" hole.   Almost every cut meant re-establishing the coordinates.  

This is the drawing for the part. 

And this is how it came out.

The brass plug started out as a cube roughly 1/2" on a side cut from a piece of scrap brass I've used for practice cuts.  It was held in a four jaw chuck on the small lathe until I could turn enough of it into a smooth cylinder.  A smooth cylinder meant I could turn it around and get a better grip on it with a three jaw chuck.  Once in that chuck, it was turned until it was a press fit into the crank arm.  The crank arm is 1/4" thick, though, so I had to trim off about a half inch of brass that was sticking out of the back.  The tool for that seemed to be my smaller mill, and I trimmed it to just a bit over the thickness of a paper gum wrapper that was handy - about .002 above the surface. 

It has taken a long time to be able to say this, but this part completes the machining of all the parts in the engine.  Left to do is to make the mounting base plate the engine will sit on.  The plate needs four holes to be precisely located and drilled.  Other than that, I need to get/make a couple of springs.  It's almost time to build it.  

Saturday, August 11, 2018

In a Week, You'll Thank Me

I read it's being released on August 19th.

They say this will be the last one.  We can only hope.  (Disclaimer - I haven't actually watched one.  It might be modern-day Shakespeare and wonderfully written drama, but I'm willing to take the bet it's not and not bother to watch.)

EDIT 8/11, 2115EDT: the typo monster got one by.

Friday, August 10, 2018

NASA To Produce Next X- Plane to Test Reducing Sonic Booms

NASA's X-planes are justly famous.  The X-15 rocket plane from the 1950s that came close to suborbital spaceflight, the X-1 that broke the sound barrier for the first time, and the X-29 with its bizarre, reverse swept wings, to name just a few.

This year, NASA announced they've cut a contract to produce the next plane, the X-59 aimed at researching a hot area of aviation: whether supersonic aircraft can be designed to produce less boom and become commercially viable - a topic I covered a few years ago.
To help with that first issue, noise, specifically the sonic booms generated by aircraft breaking the speed of sound, NASA plans on building its first manned X-plane in decades, the X-59 Low Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD). The single-engine jet will be built by Lockheed’s Skunkworks as they were the only company to submit a bid on NASA’s request for an aircraft. Lockheed, which will be paid about $247.5 million for the single aircraft has a vested interest in supersonic flight; it is partnering with Aerion on a supersonic 12-passenger business jet.
To summarize the earlier discussion, everyone has heard about (or heard!) sonic booms.  When an aircraft passes through the air it creates a series of pressure waves in front of it and behind it, similar to the bow and stern waves created by a boat. These waves travel at the speed of sound, and as the speed of the aircraft increases, the waves are forced together, or compressed, because they can't get out each other's way. Eventually they merge into a single shock wave, which travels at the speed of sound.  This expands in a cone behind the plane and creates a loud sound, sometimes close to the volume of an explosion.  On a smaller scale, virtually all rifle rounds are supersonic and much of what you hear at the range is the sound of the sonic boom the bullet generates.

A theoretical model was developed by aerodynamics researchers that said the aircraft's shape could be modified to change the interaction of the waves and reduce the "boom".  Tests were performed by modifying existing aircraft and results confirmed there was improvement, leading to this X-plane program.  Rather than small modifications to an existing air frame, this one starts with a clean sheet.
That theory postulated that shockwaves generated from the front and rear portions of a plane as it sped past Mach 1 coalesced or joined together as they expanded away [from the] plane, creating two thunderous booms when they hit the ground. So, NASA’s X-59 will have a fuselage shaped by aerodynamicists so that there will be small and nuanced volumetric changes from nose to tail designed so that shockwaves off the plane do not come together and coalesce as they move toward the ground. It is hoped they create an S-shaped boom that creates a mild thump as loud as a car door closing, not the classic double-bang of an N-wave sonic boom.
(X-59 concept art.  The engine is mounted above the wing and shielded from the ground. This should direct engine noise up, keeping it from being too loud on the ground under the plane’s flight path.)
“The airplane is a brand-new shape,” says LBFD program manager at Lockheed Martin Peter Iosifidis. “Everything else within the plane, however, is commercially off the shelf or salvaged from other aircraft.”

The plane will also fly slower than the Concorde since speed is directly related to the sound level of the boom. The cruising altitude will be above 50,000 ft, about 15,000 ft higher than most airliners’ cruising level. Higher altitudes soften the booms.

The plane is designed to replicate the sonic boom of a small supersonic airliner. It is predicted to have a maximum boom loudness of 75 PLdb when going Mach 1.5 at 55,000 ft. The Concorde generated a boom of about 110 PLdb when cruising at Mach 2. (PLdb stands for “perceived decibel level. It was developed to compare the loudness of aircraft in flight and takes into account the frequency content, rise time, and several other acoustic parameters.) Flight experts think a PLdb of 75 would be low enough that regulators would permit unrestricted supersonic flight over land, but NASA’s goal is to get the X-59’s boom down to 70 PLdb.

“This is a purpose-built experimental research aircraft,” says director for air vehicle designs and technologies at Lockheed Martin, Dave Richardson. “It is not a prototype for a supersonic business jet or weapon systems. It is not a derivative or some other modification an existing airplane.”
(Confidential to Lockheed: your last few dB from 75 to 70 will probably cost as much as going from 110 to 75.  DAMHIK)  Current schedule is for the aircraft to be delivered to NASA in 2021, with first test flights from Edwards AFB's supersonic test range.  This will be to confirm safe flight and then make measurements of the sonic booms (with some interesting photographic techniques I could do a separate piece on).
Then from 2023 through 20205, Phase Three, the plane will make “community response” flights staged out of Armstrong Flight Research Center located inside Edwards AFB. There it will flyover some as-yet-unnamed California cities. Then it will demonstrate its hushed sonic boom over four to six other cities around the U.S. The communities’ responses to the sonic booms, along with readings from ground and flight instruments will be given to the U.S. and international flight agencies. Those agencies could use this data to rewrite the rules governing supersonic flight over land and open the hangar doors to faster-than-sound passenger and cargo travel over the U.S. and other countries. If the booms are too loud and obnoxious, however, supersonic flight over land will remain a dream.
(The X-59 will fly precise flight profiles as it creates sonic booms. The chase plane will also have to maintain a precise flight path as it maintains a set distance from the NASA plane while it takes schlieren photos of the X-59 backlit by the sun as both fly supersonic. A TG-14 plane will record the shockwaves in the air, and NASA will record the sonic booms those same shockwaves make on the ground. Later analysis will let NASA determine how turbulence and weather affect shockwaves.)

I'm a little schizo on this.  It is pretty cool.  If we're going to pay for a National Aeronautics and Space Administration, this is exactly the kind of research they should be involved in.   On the other hand, if they're not able to do it, someone like Lockheed or Boeing should be paying for it out of their own R&D funds. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Lock Out and Tag Out

If you've ever taken any electrical safety training, you've heard of making doubly sure no one can turn something back on that's being worked on.  Usually, the circuit breaker is locked open and a large, conspicuous tag is hung on the breaker box to make as obvious a warning as possible.  Stumbled across a picture that seemed like a perfect example of the kind of job you'd want to not just switch the breakers, but you'd want to pull the breaker and keep it in your pocket while you're working.

That's a BFS.  He appears to be sharpening the saw's teeth with a file. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

New Angle on That Canadian Mass Shooting

The mass shooting on Toronto's Danforth Avenue in Ontario, Canada last week that killed 12 sent a lot of ripples through the wider world.  It's virtually a meme that if the killer's name isn't instantly released, the killer must have a name that would lead others to conclude it might be an Islamist terrorist attack, and sure enough  the killers' age was released before they said they knew his name was Faisal Hussain.  In what universe can you know someone's age without knowing who they are?

Ammoland News, from the National Shooting Sports Federation, today prints an opinion piece from the Canadian Shooting Sports Federation that deserves a read.
Fahad Hussain, the Danforth killer’s brother, has a long criminal history involving both drugs and guns. By court order, he lived with his family friend Maisum Ansari, his bail surety.

Fahad and Ansari had 42 kilograms of Carfentanil and 33 guns in the basement of Ansari’s home. Thirty of those guns were a single model of Glock pistol, still in their boxes.
That second paragraph pegs my "that's weird" scale.  I have no problem with someone having 33 guns, but thirty identical, New In Box, Glocks?  Starting a store or equipping a task force so everyone has the same hardware?  Still, despite the screams from Toronto's mayor, guns don't commit crimes, and except for (assuming Canada's laws resemble ours) the part about Hussain probably being prohibited from being around those guns, it's just an oddity.  The real eye-popper, though, was 42 kilograms of Carfentanil.  That's an insane amount.  How insane is it?
A dose of just 20 micro-grams, smaller than a poppy seed, is fatal to humans. With 1 billion micro-grams per kilogram (yes, Billion) it translates into 50 million fatal doses per kilogram.

Police seized 42 kilograms of Carfentanil, or 2.1 BILLION fatal doses, from the basement of Ansari’s home, the same home Fahad Hussain was removed from when he overdosed on a combination of cocaine, heroin and an unnamed substance.

What drug dealer can sell 2.1 billion doses of any drug, let alone one as lethal as Carfentanil?
A better question might be what kind of small-time, two-bit drug dealer can get the cash – estimated at $50 to 100 million dollars – for 42 kilograms of Carfentanil when they can order smaller amounts with far less financial risk?  You're left with big questions about that.  Questions the Toronto police appear to be in no hurry to answer.  Could any drug dealer, even a big time dealer, sell that much of any drug in a reasonable amount of time?  Let's assume they don't want to kill everyone, so that instead of 2.1 billion doses, half that amount isn't fatal, so they'd have to sell 4.2 billion doses.  Canada isn't that big.  In fact, the CSSF does the math and tells us:
Hussain and Ansari possessed enough poison to kill the entire Greater Toronto Area (GTA) 328 times over, or enough to kill the entire population of Canada 58 times. 
It also corresponds to enough poison to kill the entire US population more than 6 times over.  

The CSSF goes down the path of assuming this was going to be the basis of a terrorist attack, and I don't think that should be dismissed without more investigation.  A question that they don't address is how Carfentanil needs to be administered.  Could it have been used in a terrorist attack that a couple of guys could pull off?  How about 30 guys (one per new, in box, Glock)?  There are reports that before it was discovered by drug dealers, Carfentanil was viewed (and used) as a chemical weapon, including by the Russians against the Chechens in the 2002 movie theater hostage situation.  Sounds like it could be aerosolized.  

Could this really have been a couple of guys trying to pull off a mass murder on a scale never seen before?  An entire metropolitan city at once?  An entire nation at once?  Could it be related to a suddenly increased police presence at at an area park?  Or the Canadian government expanding its distribution of Naloxone

You all know that Toronto's mayor blamed the shooting on guns and refused to acknowledge that it was a terrorist attack.  It would conflict with Trudeau's vision of bending over for Muslims.  The rest of the government is apparently silent about the details on this. 


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Hot Enough For Ya?

Administrivia - my blog reading list has been shortened by dropping a couple of guys that haven't updated in a year.  I'm sorry to let the Mogambo Guru go, but his last post was August 3rd of last year.  I know Richard's retired now, and has been for several years, but his silly, self-deprecating writing about gold and real money always struck a chord with me.

I bet you've heard stories about a few "hottest temperatures evah" records being set this summer. You probably don't know that most of those haven't been real, but have been due to siting issues with the weather stations. Watts Up With That has been covering this well, of course.

For example, on July 6th there were reports that the all time world record temperature was broken, in Ouargla, Algeria, reporting a temperature of 124.3 degrees.  (Pause for all the Texans to say, "hold ma beer")  The problem is the thermometer is located at an airport with a large military presence, right next to the tarmac.   Guess what?  Jet wash is hot.  Even hotter than Algeria's desert air.  It makes the temperatures measure high.

This is a recurrent theme; the location varies, but the records keep getting reported.  In a similar story, the all time Scottish high temperature record was dropped when they discovered an ice cream truck had parked next to the thermometer station - running its engine continuously to power the refrigeration.  The temperature measuring station is in a parking lot, surrounded by black top, that's part of what appears to be park with boat ramps and (I expect) lots of traffic.

You probably heard that Spain set a new all time record.  In this case, the monitoring station is in a state of poor maintenance.  The thermometers are supposed to be mounted in whitewashed wooden boxes with slats for ventilation.  The box in Spain is now brown from losing its whitewash

When Anthony Watts (who founded WUWT) started the blog, he was running what he called the Surface Stations Project.  The idea stemmed from a simple little question: those boxes are supposed to be whitewashed.  Many were instead being painted with a different sort of finish, so Anthony wondered if the different white finish would give the same results as the old way.  Along the path to answering that, he discovered that over 90% of the surface stations in the US didn't meet siting standards for the accuracy needed.  How can the temperature record be trusted if the data is no good?  And the US is supposed to have the best data.    

It goes on.  Headlines recently said Death Valley set a record for its monthly high temperature this July.  The siting issue here is that the thermometer is located in the parking lot of the visitor's center, and as the number of visitors goes up, the chances of vehicle exhaust or other non-weather related things affecting temperature go up as well.  There are a number of other things in the vicinity, including large solar power panels (photovoltaics), and a change in the reflectivity (albedo) of much of the area, which is sure to effect temperature.   The most important thing to know is that there is a monitoring station a few miles away from the visitor's center that is sited much better; it's monthly temperature for the same period was 1.5 degrees cooler.

I have a habit of referring to summer here as life in Crematoria, the fictional prison planet in Vin Diesel's "The Chronicles of Riddick".  Truthfully, I know that we're better than some places.  We get a seabreeze almost every afternoon that dissipates even a few miles inland from here and I'm thinking of places I've been in the desert Southwest that don't get a lick of breeze.  It's summer in the northern hemisphere.  Hemisphere-scale patterns have set up hot in the western US and much of Europe.  In trade, a lot of the plains and Midwest aren't as bad.  It's summer; it's hot. 

Remember when weather was weather, and every little storm, cold front or warm front wasn't a harbinger of Climate Doom?  That's still really the case. 

(Tourists make a big deal out of the thermometer sign at the Death Valley National Park Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Image:

Monday, August 6, 2018

Tantalizing Story Line - Serious Shortage of Details

One of the headlines from Machine Design this week tells us "Uranium Extracted from Seawater" with a note saying it was done with "modified acrylic yarn".  The story, unfortunately, talks about some of the big-story facts, but doesn't provide details.
Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, working with engineers from LCW Supercritical Technologies, have extracted enough uranium to make five grams of yellowcake, a powdered form of uranium used to make fuel for nuclear power plants, using acrylic fibers to extract it from seawater.

“This is a significant milestone,” says Gary Gill, a PNNL researcher. “It indicates this approach can eventually provide commercially attractive nuclear fuel derived from the oceans, the largest source of uranium on Earth.”

The engineers at LCW developed the acrylic fiber which attracts and holds on to dissolved uranium naturally present in ocean water. It was made from an inexpensive yarn that was chemically modified into an adsorbent and selective for uranium, and efficient, and reusable.  The yarn’s adsorbent properties are reversible, and captured uranium is easily released for processing into yellowcake. An analysis of the technology suggests that it could be competitive with the cost of uranium produced through land-based mining.
A search at PNNL shows the work was divided by specialties and involved several of the national labs.  The piece goes on to say that uranium is present in seawater at the part per billion levels, about 3 PPB, then goes on to drop this bomb (pardon the pun):
... it's estimated that there is at least four billion tons of uranium in seawater; this is about 500 times the amount of uranium known to exist in land-based ores, which must be mined.
As we all have seen, mining on land is not without its ecological drawbacks; removing uranium from seawater would have to make greenies happy; except that they hate nuclear power.  Mining underground brings issues that just aren't there with extracting it from seawater.  More importantly, they estimate the known uranium deposits on land will last 100 years and prices will certainly go up this century as those sources are extracted.  "Mining the oceans" will make much more uranium available.  They then go on to say the yarn can be modified to collect other metals and could be useful for all sorts of environmental clean up work.  Another metal they mention in particular as a target for the technique is vanadium, an expensive metal used in large-scale batteries. 

The test vessel, in which a kilogram of the yarn was exposed to circulating seawater and produced 5 grams of yellowcake.   PNNL photo.

Before you ask, I don't know if this technique could be used to extract gold from seawater, however the Wikipedia says the current estimates of the amount of gold in seawater are many times smaller than the 3 PPB of uranium: not even 1 part per trillion.  The number for the amount of gold in seawater seems different everywhere I look. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

More Small Parts

I really only made two more parts for the flame eater engine this week, a non-standard screw that becomes the Cam Roller Shaft, and a part called the Cam Roller Fork.  It will eventually hold the Cam Roller, pictured last Saturday next to the cam.  

The screw, the Cam Roller Shaft, is a small part, just 11/32" long (0.343).  The screw head is 1/4" diameter and 1/32" thick, and the screw threads are 4-40.  Yes, I had to cut that slot for the screwdriver - using the Sherline CNC mill and the fixtures that were in place on it.  The fork is enormous by comparison, 1-1/8" long by 1/2" wide and 11/32 tall in that thick section.  There are three holes visible on the thick section: a 1/8" reamed hole for the valve push rod, and two at right angles to that hole that are threaded 4-40.  

The holdup this week was that screw.  I chose to make this little part on my little, manual, Sherline lathe.  Unlike most lathes which come either with a gear box or changeable gears (like my big lathe), the Sherline doesn't cut threads when stock from the factory.  They sell a threading accessory kit, but their method has the user remove the motor and a fair number of users had decided that was too much hassle.  If the handwheel is mounted on an extension tube, the handwheel will clear the motor and there's no need to remove it. 

When I went to set up the threading kit, it had been long enough since I used it that I needed to relearn how to do everything.  I couldn't quite get it set so that the last gear meshed.  It took a full afternoon and walking away from it for a while for me to get the method straight in my head and start cutting threads.  After a few practice pieces, I was able to cut the real piece.  Before I put the kit away, I took lots of pictures and wrote myself a paper on how to set it up next time. 

There are only two parts left on the page of "fiddly bits" I've been working at for a while, and neither of them looks as hard as some of what I've done already.  I think there are two other parts after that.  A die is on the way to cut some 5-40 threads I mentioned, and I need to spend a little time with the list of necessary nuts and screws and make sure I have everything. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

About That New York Times Twit

I know.  Some of you are saying "New York Times Twit"?  "Which one?  You gotta help us out a bit more"

I'm referring to one of the other outrages this week, the racist Asian woman with a history of all sorts of anti-white tweets dating back years.  I don't recall her name and wouldn't link to her anyway ('There's no such thing as bad publicity'). 

Simplest summary possible:  I  Don't Care. 

Longer version: Is she a racist bitch?  Yes.  Is she serious?  Hard to know; in her circles this might just be virtue signalling; showing she hates whitey more than most people.  Her most likely readership, Progtards, believe only whites can be racist, and whites are the only group that can be discriminated against and openly hated, so they'd think nothing's wrong with what she said.  Was the Times stupid to hire her?  Hello?  This is the NY Times, of course they're stupid.  They ceased being a real news organization long ago.  Should she be fired for it?  Nope. 

Why not?  I think it would be extremely two-faced and dishonest to spend days talking about free speech with regard to CAM files for guns, and disallow free speech like this.  Especially after saying
"...we allow people to say what they want, even if we abhor it.  In fact, we allow it especially if we abhor it.  Offensive speech is the only kind that needs protection.  If we all agree with it, there's no controversy."
I like people to say what they really think.  If no one says what they think, it's hard to know who your real enemies are.   We know she's one.  If people keep their lips zipped in fear of losing their job, we don't get to know that. 

I will continue my decades long tendency to never buy any NY Times publication, and you may not have noticed it, but I rarely even link to them.  Being aware of the likelihood of Gell-Mann amnesia, my default is to not trust the Times on any article even if it seems reasonable.   Unlike Gell-Mann amnesia victims, I remember all the things they've printed that weren't reasonable.  I believe my impact on the NY Times organization by doing my best to make sure not even a fraction of a cent goes to them is exactly the same as Bluto's grade point average: "zero point zero". 

 "All the News That Fits Our Narrative"

Friday, August 3, 2018

No, Math Isn't Racist

In fact it's hard to get less racist than math.  No matter who works the numbers, regardless of race, age, sex, native language; regardless of anything, anyone starting with the same problem and doing the same work gets the same answer.

Let me back up for a second.  First off, Hat Tip to Zendo Deb at 357 Magnum for "Finally the Left Admits They Want to Outlaw Math".  She links to a UK article saying "Maths Textbooks Should be Banned Because They Intimidate Students", and also to a wonderful web page "You're Not Bad At Math, You're Just Lazy", which puts a bit of a point on it.  One of the links on that page is to a 2013 article on The Atlantic, "The Myth of 'I'm Bad at Math'".
We hear it all the time. And we’ve had enough. Because we believe that the idea of “math people” is the most self-destructive idea in America today. The truth is, you probably are a math person, and by thinking otherwise, you are possibly hamstringing your own career. Worse, you may be helping to perpetuate a pernicious myth that is harming underprivileged children—the myth of inborn genetic math ability.
The thing is that this isn't a new movement, but it appears to be gathering steam.  I first heard of the Radical Math, "Social Justice Math" stuff back in 2011, and it had been going for a while by then.  Now we hear that math proficiency is somehow racist, and perpetuates the dreaded White Privilege.  Is there some genetic tendency for some people to be better at math than others?  Apparently, yes!  But solving mathematical problems properly is a skill just like shooting a basketball, and if the kids who say, "I'm just not a math person" applied the same persistence to doing math as they do to pickup basketball, or shooting 3-pointers, they'd get better at math.

As an aside, I read a book called Innumeracy (this, I think) many years ago; I think it was the late '80s.  In it, the author presents something that has stuck with me forever: in our society, it appears it's acceptable for a parent to tell a child that it's OK that they can't do math at an eighth grade level, but wouldn't dream of telling their child it was OK to not be able to read at that level.  Why do we treat numeracy so differently from literacy?

The question is: why?  Why are there attacks on math?  What does math have to do with "white privilege anyway?  There are tremendous mathematicians from all races, so why are these idiots suddenly equating math with the horror of "whiteness"?  I've used the phrase "war on competency" far less than I've thought on this blog, but I see a lot of the attacks on math as that. All out war on competency and meritocracy. 

I heard an interesting viewpoint from Glenn Beck that I think bears considering.  Glenn says the left has gone past trying to sell socialism and communism to postmodernism.  His theory is that they see our society has been one of the most successful in history, and the enlightenment that sprang out of Europe giving rise to the Western world is their biggest obstacle to one world (communist) government.  Therefore, the postmodernist movement is determined to destroy the entire enlightenment and everything that flowed from that.  Math driving engineering and science is at the heart of the successes of Western society.  Since Western society must be destroyed, Math must be discredited. 

Besides, if people can't do the simplest arithmetic, they can't understand the numbers that show their socialist or communist schemes can't possibly work.   

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Confidential to Alyssa Milano

In the weird world of the internet, there's a chance that either you or one of your followers will actually read this, so this is for you, Alyssa.  There are just a lot things you're missing and getting wrong about the whole "3D printed guns" thing.

Who am I to say?  What do I know?  As you might gather from the name Graybeard in the blog title, I'm an old guy.  The word Silicon reflects the fact that I made my living in silicon - I'm an electrical engineer.  When you've flown someplace, whether large jet or smaller plane, chances are your life depended on my designs.  I'm also a member of what we usually call gun culture 2.0, and have trained myself to use machine tools passably - well enough to make guns out of aluminum and steel from the raw stock. 

You see, this isn't about the second amendment or about guns per se; this is about first amendment-protected freedom of speech.  It's just that the speech is specific directions for someone with savant syndrome (a handy mental model for programming a machine)  Like the stereotype of someone with savant syndrome, the computer (in this case, built into a 3D printer) is pretty useless, but like the savant, it's really good at one or two tasks. 

We have over 200 years of legal precedent that it isn't permissible to prohibit the printing of anything, no matter how distasteful you might think it is, and there is solid precedent that computer code is included under the first amendment. 

Your "downloadable death" phrase is a nice, catchy, phrase, but like most such advertising slogans has little do with reality.  Your breathless description in the CNN op ed might possibly be as much as half true.  It is certainly full of exaggeration.  You say,
Imagine this: the convicted domestic abuser next door tries to buy a gun. He’s turned down because he fails his background check. When he gets home, he opens up his browser, and in half an hour he’s printing out his own undetectable, fully functional plastic gun, with no background check and no record of his purchase.
First, these guns are not trivially easy to make.  On typical low-end, home printers, they'll take over a day or two of printing.  They don't come off the printer ready to use.  A lot of parts have to be printed, the finish work done on those parts, and they have to be assembled properly.  Second, these guns are not "undetectable" because they have metal parts inside.  As you might think, plastic just isn't strong enough for some things and metal is needed for some components.  Plus, an old law on the books requires all guns to be detectable by airport security-level devices, practically stating that they need some metal in them.  You might call Cody Wilson a lot of things, but "stupid" isn't a word you would use;  Cody made sure that the otherwise plastic Liberator contained enough metal to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act. 

As for "no background check and no record of his purchase", that's no different from how the majority of guns used in crimes are obtained.  They're not bought by law-abiding people who then go wild.  They're either stolen, or bought from someone who stole the gun.  A recent study in Chicago said the typical criminal was never more than 3 acquaintances from a gun.  Your hypothetical "convicted domestic abuser" can get a gun cheaper and with less effort that way than getting a printer. 

The picture you chose to Tweet is particularly dishonest and deceptive.  You tweeted a picture of a solid metal gun printed by a high end (half million dollar) metal printer.  Would anyone in their right mind buy a half million dollar printer to print a gun they can buy on the corner for a hundred bucks or two?  Again, the parts coming off a 3D metal printer also require finishing and assembling, so 3D printing metal guns is a circus trick.  It can be done, but that's just to show you can do it.  It's economically stupid.

No, this is about the ability to disseminate knowledge as computer code and the constitutional protection of things people are uncomfortable with.   Have you ever heard of the Anarchist Cookbook, Alyssa?  This book has been continuously available in the US since the early 1970s and includes information on making bombs, horrible poisons like ricin, other weapons, and even drugs like LSD.  You can buy a more recent, more "sanitized" version of it right now from Amazon, or you can download the original 1971 version from several places online.  The point is this is protected free speech and our society has a couple of hundred years of precedent that we allow people to say what they want, even if we abhor it.  In fact, we allow it especially if we abhor it.  Offensive speech is the only kind that needs protection.  If we all agree with it, there's no controversy. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The latest episode in the Mission: Impossible franchise, Fallout, came out this weekend to good reviews and a $61 Million box office.  Mrs. Graybeard, who likes an adventure/action movie as much as anyone, and I went to catch it yesterday at the morning show. Retiree's privilege is that if we rearrange our sleeping in and playing with tools a little, they let us into the theater for $4 each.

As virtually all of these movies have been, it's a nonstop series of sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat action sequences with a few moments here and there to catch your breath.  The plot is intricate: the MI team has to find black market plutonium, held by an organization that has not a single known face or name, to keep them from making plutonium bombs based on the work of a nuclear scientist who wants to wash the world in chaos.  Or something like that.  Thankfully, they didn't let the plot get in the way of the story; there are enough story twists and little surprises to keep me (at least) entertained and guessing.

Last week at some point, I saw a graphic on Pinterest (The World's Single Largest Waste of Time) like this one:

Beside the good natured ribbing over being a 56 year old stud muffin in amazing shape, Cruise has gotten a lot of positive press for doing his own stunts, and there are a lot of impressive stunts in the film.  It's hard to pick the most impressive but the technically most difficult stunt was doing a HALO (High Altitude Low Open) skydive out of a C-17 into Paris.  In the story line, they jump from about 30,000 feet and open their chutes at 2000 (going from memory).  This video (H/T John in Philly) goes into details of the amount of time it took to get this done safely in a movie.  They say that Tom Cruise is the first actor to do one of these jumps. 

As my wife commented, Tom is a big dollar property and you've got to know there's probably concern about losing the Franchise if something should happen to him.  Key Person insurance policies are nothing new in the rest of industry; you can bet there's a big policy (or two or more) on Cruise. 

The principle cast is the same as the last movie; besides Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames resume their roles as Benji and Luther (respectively).  In many ways the movie follows as a sequel to 2015's Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.  A bad guy captured in Rogue Nation figures prominently in this one as a prisoner being exchanged, bartered over and kidnapped over and over.  Sean Harris as Solomon Lane spends much of the movie in a straitjacket, shackles, chains and more.  Henry Cavill, who plays Superman in the current DC comics universe guests - in a very convoluted role.  I think he's in there so Tom Cruise can beat up Superman. 

A lot of fun.  As I said about Ant Man a few weeks ago, be prepared to leave a few laws of physics behind and don't overthink it.  "Voluntary suspension of disbelief" and all.  When they talk about microwave transmitters that are small enough to inject into someones neck, that are powerful enough to be heard from anywhere, or heard from a satellite, don't go saying "but microwaves don't work that way".  It'll just spoil the fun.  Five stars.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Breaking - Federal Judge Block Release of CAD Files for "Printed Guns"

As the deadline of August 1st approaches, where there are to be no more restrictions on the release of these CAD files, a Seattle-based federal judge has blocked the release of the files.
The restraining order from U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik puts that plan on hold for now.

"There is a possibility of irreparable harm because of the way these guns can be made," he said.
If you want a copy of the files, Gun Free Zone has hosted one (as I'm sure tons of other people are doing).  Help yourself - I got mine.  They've only been available since about 2013, after all. 

The pearl clutching going on over this ruling has reached levels that might possibly exceed Trump Derangement Syndrome.  I guarantee that these prints being available will lead to just as much blood in the streets as concealed carry has always been accused of: none whatsoever.  Miguel and J. Kb at Gun Free Zone have done yeoman's work at pointing out the stupid, but the base meme is that (to quote "actress" Alyssa Milano)
Imagine this: the convicted domestic abuser next door tries to buy a gun. He’s turned down because he fails his background check. When he gets home, he opens up his browser, and in half an hour he’s printing out his own undetectable, fully functional plastic gun, with no background check and no record of his purchase.
Half an hour?  Not bloody likely.  Half a week is more like it.

Milano shows a picture of a solid metal 1911 (you remember that one, right?) which is an absurd example undoubtedly used just to create fear.  Last time I looked, that's a half million dollar printer.  Your average gang banger or terrorist or whatever they're arguing just isn't going to drop half a million on a printer and spend the months required to get good results out of it. 

The second meme is that these will be undetectable, plastic guns.  The pistol at the heart of this is the Liberator 2, which is printed ABS plastic.  Even a relatively high end home printer ($1500 class) is going to take a few days to print this.  According to his book Wilson left a metal firing pin in the gun specifically because of laws about undetectable guns brought about by the first use of a Glock in a movie.  Besides, in some places (like a barrel) strength can be gained by using a larger part.  Much like aluminum parts have to be bigger to perform like steel, plastic can work for the barrel if it's much thicker.  But there's not enough room in a handgun to make a firing pin out of plastic.  It would be bigger than the round!  The firing pins will show up on X-Rays. 

Never one to be the second most stupid person in the room, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D - Uranus) takes the idiocy to 11 saying there will be fully plastic AR-15s taken onto airplanes and no one will ever know until someone shoots up the airplane. H/T for the meme to Gun Free Zone.

The serious side here is that Democrats are pressing the president to decree releasing the CAD files to be illegal and I have less than 20% confidence in the president's tendency to do the right thing.  This is the guy who walked around saying "ban bump stocks" a couple of months ago, and is breaking just about any conservative principle there is in this trade/tariff thing (bailing out farmers?).  In the last couple of days, I saw a video of him in what looked like a cabinet meeting, but with Jeff Sessions and some LEOs, threatening to destroy someone who's opposed to civil asset forfeiture, and it almost made me throw up.

EDIT: 080118 at 0710 EDT - Added photo that Blogger wouldn't let me add before original posting.  Reworded slightly around that.

Monday, July 30, 2018

If You're Looking for Crazy, Don't Forget Bernie!

Before Evita Guevarra-Castro, when you talked about openly socialist idiots you always mentioned Bernie.  Don't forget Bernie!  He's still there and still talking nonsense.

Bernie released his plan for single payer, universal health services Medicare for All (like the failing British NHS) last September, and a George Mason University study released this week said the plan will cost taxpayers $32.6 Trillion dollars over 10 years.
Sen. Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for all" plan would increase government health care spending by $32.6 trillion over 10 years, according to a study by a university-based libertarian policy center. That's trillion with a "T."

The latest plan from the Vermont independent would require historic tax increases as government replaces what employers and consumers now pay for health care, according to the analysis being released Monday by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia.
As I always say, these "over 10 years" numbers tend to be about as accurate as when someone asks you "pick a number"; go find an archive of your favorite news sources and see what they were saying 2018 would be like back in '08.  Nobody gets it right.  Plus, they tend to be constructed to favor spending by making it appear linear ("just 3.26 Trillion a year?") when it's cheaper at the start and more expensive at 10 years. 

The important point is that the US National Debt is $21.3 Trillion right now, and we're racking up debt every year.  It's true that we currently have the highest tax revenues in history, thanks to the tax cuts, but the projected FY 2018 deficit still adds $600 Billion to that debt.  The entire Federal Budget is officially $4.1 Trillion, adding this plan would cost 80% of that.  There is simply no way to get that $3.26 Trillion/year.

What Bernie says is laughable, or would be, if it wasn't so serious.
Sanders said that this plan could be paid for by a “6.2 percent income-based health care premium paid by employers,” a “2.2 percent income-based premium paid by households,” and a progressive income tax rate that ranged from 37 percent on those earning $250,000 to 52 percent on anyone earning $10 million or more. He also proposed cutting tax deduction options for wealthy people and increasing taxes on inheritances for the wealthiest Americans.
This is either deliberately lying or economically illiterate, as you'd expect from a self-proclaimed socialist.  Anyone who has thought about it a moment knows that anything "paid by employers" is part of your pay.  If they're paying a “6.2 percent income-based health care premium”, that means they're not paying you that money.  Much like your social security contributions where you're told that you and your employer both pay half; in reality, their half is your money, too.  If you're self-employed, you know you pay that.  A tax that goes from 37% to 52% is guaranteed to result in forms of pay that aren't taxed as ordinary income (stock options, different types of non-monetary bonuses; we've seen these things before).  

That paragraph can be rewritten more honestly as: the plan could be paid for by an “8.4 percent income-based health care premium paid by all taxpayers”, and a penalty ranging from 37 percent on those earning $250,000 increasing to 52 percent for anyone earning $10 million or more.  Plus there will be an all out effort to screw over as many wealthy people as possible. 

Like I said three paragraphs ago, that's increasing federal spending by 80%.  Increasing income taxes by 8.4% ain't gonna cut it.  I don't think they could make their Wealth and Success penalties big enough.

There's only one way they can hope to pay for that: confiscatory taxes rates; tax hikes much bigger than 8.4%.  Since the top 50% of incomes pay over 97% of the tax revenues, such taxes will by necessity hit the middle class and higher the hardest.  That probably wouldn't work.  The Blaze piece on the Mercatus report includes this:
The study argued that a “doubling of all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan.”

The Mercatus study also speculated that this plan could also cut the amount of medical services offered to patients, since the payments awarded to providers would be cut “by more than 40 percent.”
The socialist magazine Jacobin cherry picked data from the Mercatus study that said Bernie's plan would save (an oddly specific) $2.054 trillion in national health expenditures.  Only they would think spending $32 trillion to save $2 trillion is a good idea.  As always, I don't think that's the only option here. 

Bernie at the podium, flanked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., left, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., right, supporters, and obligatory actor looking like a doctor.  Andrew Harnik / AP

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Bizarre Addendum to a Strange Story

Back in March of this year, former Russian Military officer and British spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, were sickened in an what is always described as a Russian poison attack.  I assume you're familiar with the incident from news reports.  (Background of the incident).  Both survived the attack with what's called Novichok poison. Perhaps ironically, the only person to be killed in this attack was a British police officer investigating the attack.

Around the start of this month, a second Novichok poisoning made the news from the UK.  Two people who apparently had no ties to Russian or British intelligence were sickened, Charlie Rowley and his girlfriend Dawn Sturgess.  Miss Sturgess died.

Here's where it gets bizarre.  Mr. Rowley apparently found a bottle of liquid disguised as a perfume.  He gave it to Miss Sturgess who tested it and was sickened by it almost immediately.
The new revelation that there could be more Novichok in the otherwise quiet town comes as a man poisoned by the same agent several weeks ago near Salisbury told the press that he came across the nerve agent in a branded, cellophane-wrapped box containing a bottle he thought was full of perfume. The victim in that case, Charlie Rowley, 45, didn’t reveal—or remember—exactly where he had found the box. He said that on June 30 he gave it as a gift to his girlfriend, Dawn Sturgess, who recognized the branding on the box.

Rowley reported that he had put a pump dispenser onto the bottle, spilling some of the oily liquid onto his hands in the process. Although he said the liquid didn’t smell like perfume, he washed it off without thinking about it and gave it to Sturgess, his girlfriend of two years. The 44-year-old sprayed the liquid on her wrists and rubbed them together. Within 15 minutes, she developed a headache and went to draw a bath, Rowley said. He discovered her shortly after in the bath, fully clothed, and in a “very ill state.”

Both were later found unconscious and were hospitalized. Rowley has since recovered but Sturgess died from the poisoning over a week later, on July 8.
This is causing quite a bit of concern in the UK, as well it should.  The method of this poisoning was to disguise the poison as something that might be attractive to the target.  This seems more like a random psycho than a Russian state operation aimed at eliminating someone who spied on them.  Unless, perhaps, this is how the nerve agent is transferred from Russia to their agents in the field and somehow the Russian agent/assassin lost it, or never got it.  Somehow the transfer went wrong.  
British officials determined that the Skripals were likely poisoned after a would-be assassin smeared the nerve agent on the front door handle of Mr. Skripal’s home. It’s unclear how or why Rowley and Sturgess came into contact with nerve agent, however. British officials reported that there was nothing in their backgrounds to tie them to Russia or suggest they were targeted. Investigators are looking into whether they simply accidentally came across remnants of the batch of poison used in the Skripal attack. Thus, they may have been inadvertent victims from discarded or lingering nerve agent—a possibility likely to put residents on edge. [Note - the piece this is quoted from is dated July 5th; the piece explaining about the disguise as a perfume box is from July 26, three weeks later.]
It leaves a very obvious, very large question hanging.  Is there more?  Are there more "branded, cellophane-wrapped boxes", boxes made to look like a perfume that people will recognize, around the UK? 
"What we can't tell, and probably will never be able to tell, is actually is there anything else out there," Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills, of Wiltshire Police, said during a press briefing Wednesday. "So, all we can do is be intelligence-led… and be meticulous with the searching," he added.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal.  After what you've been through, raise a glass and enjoy.  Have one for me, too.