Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Kerfuffle Over Interest Rates is Telling Us Something

The popular story is just fodder for the news media to bash Trump about.  If you look deeper than the headlines, it's a perfect example of why we need to end the Federal Reserve.

I know I've written about this before, and a search shows I did a piece last July, almost exactly 13 months ago.  I understand why Trump thinks what he does.  The Fed practically gave Obama his second term by figuratively air dropping money as we always used to say about Helicopter Ben Bernanke.  The difference is that if money really were dropped from helicopters, it would have been more equitably distributed than the 6 to (as much as) $8 Trillion dollars created by quantitative easing; that money exclusively went to big banks, big Wall Street firms and the extremely well connected and rich.  About a third to a half of that went to banks in other countries to keep them afloat.  Where does the US Federal Reserve Bank get the authority to create money for foreign entities.

As Dr. Mark Thornton noted in "The Skyscraper Curse":
"A monetary system that is dominated by a central bank, such as the Federal Reserve, and uses fiat money, as in our current monetary system, can expect to benefit certain people, such as bankers, financiers, and people with debt. Likewise, because such a system is inflationary, it tends to hurt wage workers and savers. Such a system can be expected to hurt the lower-and middle-income classes and enrich those in the financial industry and the upper-income class.

A gold standard has historically had a tendency for prices to be stable or slightly deflationary. This means that wage rates, cash balances, savings, and bonds tend to gain purchasing power over time. This type of monetary system rewards the hard-working and frugal classes, which leads to an expansion of the middle-income class and the economy."
I understand where Trump is coming from.  He's naively thinking, "if the Fed did for me what they did for Obama, I'd win by a Yuge margin".  It's a truism that people generally vote their wallet and blame the president for the economy.  If things are good, they vote to reelect; if things are bad, they vote for a new guy.  The (supposedly not political) Federal Reserve helped Obama, why not him?

The ugly truth is that the Fed had expanded their balance sheet so much in the wake of the 2008 collapse that they had to "unwind" it from a practical standpoint.  They had to raise interest rates and do some quantitative tightening to reel some of that $8 Trillion worth of digitally created cash back in, and generally do the austerity program that they began when the economy started doing much better under Trump.  In reality, they barely started.

Nobody asks, "why are bankers doing anything for any president?"  Nobody is asking, "how does the Fed Open Market Committee know what the Prime Rate should be?  Shouldn't that be between buyers and sellers?"  The prime interest rate is among the most important pieces of information in the economy.  It sets the price of money which flows into an almost unlimited number of decisions.  Why should a group of unelected bankers have that much power?  In a country that allegedly promotes free markets, why is banking run like the Communist Party of China?  The mere fact that both the US and the People's Republic of China have the same structure with the Federal Reserve Bank here and the People's Bank of China there should be a shocking revelation, not the "ho-hum" it gets.

As I've said many times, the Federal Reserve Bank and all central banks are the worst bit of central planning that the entire world has fallen for and I believe they're not just unnecessary they're damaging.  The only things they add to the financial world are all the things wrong with the financial world: destructive levels of debt, countries engaged in constant currency manipulations to try to get an advantage over each other, the creation of money out of nothing, money as debt rather than asset, the destruction of the information channel in monetary transactions.   Everything that's wrong with the world's economies goes back to central banks. 

Fed chair Jerome Powell (Asia Times).

Monday, August 19, 2019

Red Flag Laws and Mistaken Identity - Happens in Florida

This story didn't make the two local papers or any other local source I see, so we go to the AmmoLand newsletter today.  A St. Cloud (Florida) man had his firearms confiscated and his rights revoked because he has the same name as someone else.
Last Wednesday, Jonathan Carpenter of Osceola County, Florida was sitting at home when a mail carrier knocked on his front door.

The postal carrier had Carpenter signed for a certified letter from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Carpenter signed for it, but he was confused because he was not expecting anything from the state. He quickly opened it and was floored.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was notifying him that they have suspended his concealed handgun permit.
“On or about August 12th, 2019 in Osceola County, Florida, an injunction was entered restraining you from acts of domestic violence or acts of repeat violations,” the notice read.
Carpenter was shocked and confused.  What seems to have happened next is he dove right into the hornet's nest.  An innocent man who believes in the goodness and fairness of the system would do that.
Figuring it was a mistake, Carpenter called the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to clear things up since he has never committed domestic violence against anyone. The representative told him he had to get a form from the Clerk of the Courts saying that there weren't any actions against him.
Of course they did.  When he went to the Clerk of the Courts, he was told there was an injunction against a Jonathon Edward Carpenter - a resident of a different address.  Carpenter told the agent he was not that person, had never lived at that address and had never been accused of any domestic violence.  That person directed him to the Osceola County Sheriff's office to clear things up.  Still thinking the state was just confused rather than malevolent, he went to the Sheriff's office.  He thought he could clear things up.

Not quite.
The Sheriff’s office supplied Carpenter with a copy of the injunction. In the statement, the plaintiff stated that she rented a room out to a “Jonathan Edward Carpenter” and his girlfriend. She alleged that this Carpenter was a drug dealer who broke her furniture and sold her belongings without her permission. He had a gun, and she feared for her life. She was not sure if the firearm was legal or not.

Carpenter had never met the woman in question and never lived at the address listed in the restraining order. Moreover, other than being white, he looked nothing like the man the terrorized the woman.

The man in question is 5'8. Carpenter is 5'11. The alleged drug dealer is 110lbs. Carpenter is over 200. The man has black hair. Carpenter is completely bald. Last but not least, the man in question is covered in tattoos, and Carpenter only has a few.

It was apparent that the police had the wrong man, but Carpenter was in for his biggest shock yet. The Sheriff’s office told Carpenter he had to surrender his guns. Carpenter never even had as much as a hearing, yet he was losing his rights.
And this is where the system springs its "trap"; more accurately, this is where the system shows it  doesn't care the least little bit that they have the right person, they just "got someone".   It's where the reputation for putting innocent people in jail (or worse) comes from.  The Osceola County Sheriff's Office doesn't think the obvious differences in appearances and histories between the man in front of them and the accused is enough for them to say, "oops, they sent the letter to the wrong dude.  Sorry.  No hard feelings."  They should be saying, "here's a few bucks for your trouble"; instead, this is going to cost Carpenter a lot of money to get back property and a life he should have never been deprived of.

And this is why we hate Red Flag Laws, aka Extreme Protection Orders. Guilty until proven innocent.  No due process.  No protections.  Just a stupid mistake causes innocent people financial ruin to put their lives back.

How did it come to be? According to the AmmoLand news,
A police officer I spoke to off the record thinks that the courts ran a check for a Jonathan Edward Carpenter with a concealed carry permit. Although he could not tell me for sure, he thinks that is what happened in this particular case. He did say that this is a common practice.
Seems very plausible that the abomination passed last year would automate this.  A warrant for someone on domestic abuse gets filed and it automatically generates a check to see if that name is associated with a CWFL; if it is, the Red Flag is automatically thrown.  

Meanwhile, Carpenter has to wait until August 27th to begin the legal proceedings to get his guns back. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Radio Sunday #9 Radio Safety

In a reaction to my post looking at 5G, there was a great deal of talk about the limits and whether or not they're realistic.  This ranged from the view that, “we don't know everything and I wouldn't be surprised if there are long term effects we don't know of” to the idea that saying heating is the only proven health impact is just bullshit.   

I thought it would be worthwhile to go over some data.

To begin with, the view I stated that the only recognized cause of injury from radio fields is heating isn't my conclusion, it's the conclusion of every national organization around the world that studies these effects.  If you think the regulatory agencies wouldn't be dying to inject themselves into your life and jump at the chance to regulate something else, I think you have an overly optimistic view of big government agencies. 

Let me start by presenting a summary page from a Canadian RF Safety document, which is managed by Health Canada under Safety Code 6.  Health Canada says they determine a radio frequency level at which effects are seen and then reduce the exposure limit by a factor of 50 for safety margin. 

It's important to recognize that they don't start these studies saying, “let's measure the heating effect”.  Studies are started out under many different protocols to measure anything they can find. The document this is from is called RF Toolkit–BCCDC/NCCEH from Health Canada, dated 2015.

• Studies using animals have historically proven useful for investigating health effects; a large number of such studies have recently been conducted (2005–2012) to evaluate whether exposure to radio frequency (RF) fields has adverse biological effects.
• Long-term bioassays, designed to determine whether RF exposure either alone or in conjunction with known mutagens can initiate or promote development of cancer in animals, have been uniformly negative.
• Studies of RF fields and toxicological effects such as DNA damage, micronucleus formation, apoptosis, reactive oxygen species, and gene expression changes have been inconsistent and the results contradictory. Positive studies have proven difficult to replicate. This lack of consistency reduces the likelihood that exposure to RF fields has toxicological effects in animals.
• There is no consistent evidence that exposure to RF fields produces biological effects in animal central nervous systems. Most recent investigations have been unable to confirm Swedish studies suggesting that RF exposure alters blood-brain barrier permeability; however, other aspects of brain physiology are less well studied. Behavioural investigations of the role of RF exposure on animal learning and cognitive function are mixed, with most being negative.
• Immune function studies have been mostly negative, although most of the studies to date have been conducted in adult animals. Earlier Soviet study results, indicating that serum taken from RF-exposed animals could increase embryo mortality when injected intraperitoneally into pregnant rats, have not been confirmed. Notwithstanding this, more studies are needed on RF effects in young animals.
• Effects of RF exposure on endocrine function, particularly on melatonin levels, have been negative, and studies of their effect on reproductive function in female animals have also been negative.
• Overall, studies have not shown convincing evidence that RF field exposure produces adverse biologic effects in animals. There are many negative results, and the relatively few positive results are rarely replicated in confirmatory studies. Most of the recent studies are characterized by good research protocols including appropriate control of thermal effects and excellent animal care along with appropriate use of reverberation chambers to ensure uniform specific absorption rates (SAR) in whole body RF dosimetry, or of animal restraints in the case of RF fields applied to specific organs such as the brain. These recent studies have generally shown no association of specific outcomes with exposure to RF.
There is no recognized biologic mechanism by which RF exposure might operate to cause adverse biological effects in animals.  [Bold added: SiG]

As I said in one of my responses, about the most stupid thing anyone could say is, "I'm sure we know everything".  The other side of that observation is we really do know some things.  It's possible entirely new fields of science will be discovered in the next hundred years, but it's not a high probability.  It's possible that some mechanism of damage from radio will be discovered in the next hundred years; I also view that as low probability.  Independent of that, the experimenters running these radio exposure experiments have learned much the last 50 years and gotten better at getting more consistent results.  It's possible they'll find effects that are smaller than what they can measure today.  As an RF designer, I can tell you getting radio energy into some place you want it, and getting it to do what you want it to do, isn't always trivial.  Just exposing the animals to a radio source doesn't mean they're going to get the dosage the researchers want.  The researchers need to be good at what they do.

The results of studies trying to find damage from radio exposure have generally not been statistically significant.  As the summary conveys, studies do sometimes show up that give a result that's concerning.   When those studies are redone by more experimenters, the results tend to not show up.  When effects come and go like that there are two reasonable conclusions: the first is that the result was random or due to something other than the RF energy and that other thing wasn't controlled properly between groups.  The other reasonable conclusion is that it's a weak effect. 

Most people act as if radio is a new thing in human experience.  It is not.  As a species, we've been bathed in radio waves for all of human history from natural sources, just not manmade sources.  Earth's atmospheric processes produce radio waves.  The sun produces radio waves.  Other planets produce radio waves.  We measure solar activity by the radio energy it puts out at 2800 MHz (the 10.7 cm solar flux).  That's a microwave frequency, higher frequency than many cellphone systems, that humans have been exposed to for as long as we've been on the planet. 

Radio is electromagnetic energy just like light, and the analogies to light hold over wide ranges of frequencies.  Modern physics teaches that energy is inversely proportional to wavelength; the shorter the wavelength the higher the energy.  The wavelengths of radio waves run from thousands of meters down to a millimeter.   That's a wide range of energy values, but the highest energy radio is still non-ionizing radiation, much weaker than UV or Gamma Rays.  Like light, if radio is intense enough to cause burns, it's harmful, but if no harm is detected, it's not doing anything that will show up in 10 or 20 years.

This should be good news!

A so-called Microwave Diathermy - heat therapy - machine (300 MHz is not microwaves, it's the low end of UHF radio, although 30,000 MHz - 30 GHz is microwave).  If you have gotten physical therapy with diathermy, you've used RF heating.  Source

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The DC Corruption Never Ends - Special "The Squad" Edition.

Thanks to a report from an online journal called FreePressers, we get a look at some facts and figures about The Squad that are a little interesting.  The Squad, if you've been ignoring the news, is the four freshmen congresscritters who have taken over media coverage wall to wall, Representatives AOC, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley. It starts with an interesting tidbit about Occasionally Coherent.
According to FEC data, for the period of Jan. 1 to July 30 of this year, Ocasio-Cortez raised a total of $1,607,957.22 in unitemized individual contributions and $334,401.45 in itemized contributions. 
I believe that those two are added, making her total contributions  $1,942,358 (and 67 cents if you want to be anal).  Nearly two million dollars is good for any representative, let alone a first year kid making far more "sound and fury" than legislative impact.  She received more money than all 87 other House newcomers.

There's another interesting aspect to this.  Contributions from donors in her New York City district 14 was $1,525.50, which is 0.08% of her total.  There was a grand total of 10 itemized contributions from her constituents.  She has the second lowest donations from her district in the entire congress.  Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas was the lowest. Garcia’s re-election campaign reported itemized contributions of $14,400 in total, 0.74% of AOCs total donations, and none of it came from people in her district.

With contributions from non-constituents 1272 times contributions from people she's representing, you have to wonder who exactly is giving her the money.  It adds credence to the idea that she's not popular in her own district but the big money globalist leftists love her.  It's worth reminding everyone that AOC's Chief of Staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, left her team recently and is under investigation for massive campaign finance violations.
[Rahsida] Tlaib reported receiving $470,430.11 in itemized contributions in the first half of 2019, but less than 2 percent came from individuals living within her district.

[Ilhan] Omar reported $717,831.22 in itemized contributions to her re-election campaign so far in 2019. Just over 4 percent came from her constituents.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley far outperformed the others. The Massachusetts Democrat received more than 30 percent of her $248,280.78 itemized contributions from her constituents.
Of the four "squad" members, it seems Rep Pressley has the most legitimate claim that her constituents support her.  She brought in the least amount of total contributions, but a much higher percentage from constituents and not global donors.

(Image source

Friday, August 16, 2019

Woodstock 50th Anniversary

As I mentioned in the start of my posts on Apollo 11, during virtually all of the mission I was with my parents on a trip to New York City on what would end up being our last major vacation together and their last trip to the city they grew up in.  Along some of the streets in the City, we saw signs for something called the Woodstock Music and Art Fair coming in mid-August.  I was 15, so of course I was interested, but I also wasn't old enough to drive alone let alone travel by myself between Miami and upstate New York.  Needless to say, I went home with my parents when their week with family was up and didn't know anything until a few weeks after the concert when stories started getting around.

It started 50 years ago yesterday.  As most of you know, I'm a student of guitar.  It has mostly been acoustic guitar lately, and I get a newsletter from a magazine I subscribed to for a while by that name: Acoustic Guitar.  In celebration of the anniversary, they put together an article on attempts to run down the acoustic guitar acts from Woodstock.
So many of the most indelible images from the quaintly named Woodstock Music and Art Fair, held 50 years ago this August, come from the epic concert film that came out in 1970 and featured electric guitars being wielded at full throttle: Alvin Lee of Ten Years After boogieing with his red Gibson ES-335, Pete Townshend alternately mauling and windmilling his Gibson SG Special, Carlos Santana squeezing out sparks from his SG Special, and of course Jimi Hendrix coaxing interplanetary magic from his gleaming white Fender Strat.

But there were also many important acoustic guitar moments in the film, and no doubt some of those are burned into your mind, as well: Richie Havens playing so hard it looks like his guitar might blow apart, Country Joe McDonald strumming a singalong, John Sebastian’s delightfully stoned-out solo reverie, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, in just their second performance, introducing their unique sound to 400,000 people sitting in the mud.
Author Blair Jackson then goes into the story about the surprising difficulty of finding out about those guitars in those specific performances, turning up an interesting history.  It's a story of real investigative work.
What I found, though, is that there are relatively few shots in the film or bonus footage that show acoustic guitars clearly—the performances are overwhelmingly dominated by close-ups on faces—and just about all of the night footage is fairly indistinct, even in the close-ups. I consulted colleagues to join me in trying to see if the headstock of this or that guitar in the film or photos suggested a specific brand; occasionally it did, mostly it didn’t. I went down dozens of rabbit holes trying to suss out the guitars played by the principals in the Incredible String Band, for example, until I found some folks in Europe via Facebook who could help me in my quest. I lucked out when I learned that the guitar Tim Hardin played was also used by John Sebastian. And, not surprisingly, Martin had an index of the artists who had played their guitars at Woodstock.
From there, Jackson goes day by day act by act, starting with Richie Havens:
Richie Havens was already a pretty big deal in 1969, though the Woodstock album and film are what truly launched his long career into the stratosphere. ... Havens was not scheduled to open the festival but did so after the producers begged him to—so many performers were having trouble getting to the concert site (including Havens’ bass player, who arrived right as he started his set), he reluctantly but graciously agreed to go on first. “I just saw color to the top of the hill and beyond,” he recalled in Joel Makower’s excellent 1989 book, Woodstock: The Oral History.
Richie Havens played a Guild D-40, a large body (Dreadnought) model still available today (example), opening the show with Freedom. Richie Havens was the first guitarist I ever saw who wrapped his thumb around the neck and would fret bass notes with it.  He passed away in 2013.

Jackson proceeds as the acts did, some names you'll know others you likely won't, unless you were very into folk or acoustic music then.  I listened to most.  Liked some a bit and some a bit less.  Some highlights were Melanie, with a different-sounding take on Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man.  Melanie was playing a Goya guitar and ended up as a celebrity endorser for the brand.  Goya guitars are still out there, but the company was bought by Martin in the '70s and doesn't appear to be selling new guitars under that name.
Melanie (Safka), another product of New York’s 1960s folk scene, was a virtual unknown with one album to her name when she was booked as a solo performer at Woodstock at the age of 22. ...  Melanie said she was “terrified out of my mind” to be playing at the massive event, and was actually happy when it started raining hard during the set that preceded hers: “Ravi Shankar went on and it started to rain and I thought, that’s it, I’ll be saved because people are gonna go home now, because it’s raining. Of course, they’re going to go home! I mean, they’re not gonna sit there in the rain.”

As if! She went on, armed just with her Goya nylon-string guitar, and she was ecstatically received for her seven-song set. One of the songs she played, “Beautiful People,” brought her considerable notice at the end of 1969, and then a song inspired by her Woodstock experience, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” became a worldwide smash hit in 1970.
Melanie is still with us, at 72.

I enjoyed Country Joe McDonald from Country Joe and the Fish  and John Sebastian, probably best known from the Lovin’ Spoonful.  The Band was there, playing probably their best known song, The Weight.  Robbie Robertson played his Martin D-28 which is beyond "still currently available" to more like "still considered one of the standards".  Country Joe, Barry "the Fish" Melton, and John Sebastian are still with us, presumably happily retired.  Finally, the concluding acoustic performance was from a new band that was already becoming a big attraction, Crosby Stills and Nash - before Neil Young joined the group!
The final and probably most significant acoustic performance of the Woodstock festival, this was just the supergroup’s second-ever gig. No wonder Stephen Stills told the crowd, “We’re scared shitless!” Crosby Stills & Nash’s eponymous debut album had just come out and was a national sensation—it would be one of the most influential albums of the late ’60s, with its exquisite harmonies, shimmering guitars, and accessible confessional songwriting. Neil Young, Stills’ bandmate from the earlier Buffalo Springfield, had recently launched his solo career, and became a sort of adjunct member of the group as the trio (augmented by bassist Greg Reeves and drummer Dallas Taylor) began working on their Déjà Vu album that summer.
But when is all is said and done, my favorite performance and favorite video from all of Woodstock is still this masterpiece of comedy based on Joe Cocker.  It's not acoustic.  You have to watch the whole thing.  I first posted this in 2015, and I still find it funny. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Technical Difficulties

Well, not really.  Technical difficulties are like my lightning strike stories, being knocked off line by the strike.  This is more like technically having difficulties.  Started a story and couldn't finish it. 

So humor.  Funnin' around. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Starting to Look at 5G Cellular

In the academic sense, I'm not physically looking at a 5G link.  Smallville here will probably not get 5G for years and years.  I don't even get a particularly good 4G/LTE signal here at home.  Still, I hear the buzz and it makes me want to understand what the story is.

There's lots of buzz about 5G for the new technologies it's going to bring, but those largely come down to higher bandwidths and faster downloads for the users.  Numbers like 10 Gigabits/second get thrown around - orders of magnitude faster than 4G.  To the network providers, the attraction is that the number of subscriber devices they can support (sell) jumps up dramatically.  Just as 4G is faster than 3G was and every generation before it.  Despite the fact that 5G services won't roll out anywhere until - maybe - the end of calendar 2019, the buzz seems to center on the idea that whoever controls the networks will know everything about every business and every person in the country.  Why wait?  Avoid the rush and just get one of those "OK Google" or Alexa monitors to bug your own house now.  This security seems more like an encryption issue rather than whose base station it goes to.  No, I don't trust Huawei and the Chinese, but I don't trust the US either. 

That part about security comes from what's actually a completely unrelated technology to 5G, the drive to use internet connectivity to improve services of all kinds, call the Internet of Things, usually referred to as the IOT, or (as I like to call it) the Internet of Things That Just Don't Quite Work Right (IOTTJDQWR - which doesn't quite roll off the tongue as easily).  The IOT and it's cousin, the Industrial IOT, will do simple things like put water pumps, flood gates, and all sorts of civic and utility infrastructure on the net.  The vast majority of these things are not high bandwidth users and don't need the faster data rates that 5G promises, although the lower latency/faster network might be useful.  They could be done today, and many are done over industrial radio links. 

The promise of higher data rates brings the inevitable trade that higher rates usually require higher bandwidths and higher bandwidths usually require higher operating frequencies.  This also scares a lot of people.  Back to that in a minute, but first, let me show you a list of frequencies that 5G can use - not all of these will be in any particular device.  The list is from a document from Keysight, the former Hewlett Packard test equipment group, and still arguably the industry leader in this sort of test equipment. 

It's a bit of an eye chart if you don't enlarge it, but two things to notice are that the new frequencies are all printed in a greenish/teal sort of color; and that frequencies currently used for other purposes that have been reassigned for 5G (or dual purpose, it's not completely clear) are in purple.  Those in black, in the second vertical block, remain for LTE of various flavors.  The only new frequencies capable of high bandwidth, that are higher than the existing LTE services (virtually all below 3 Gigahertz - 3 GHz) are in the top right block and are in a few bands from 24 to 40 GHz.  Why not 60 GHz, where WiGig is currently all alone?  This chart shows why:

This shows the attenuation (loss of signal) due to dry air (in red), water vapor (blue) or the sum of the two losses (in black). You will see a huge peak of attenuation centered right on 60 GHz, going from around 0.3 dB/kilometer up to (guessing) 15 dB.  That means a transmitter on that peak has to put out almost 16 dB more power, or 40 times more power, than the lower frequency transmitter.  That huge a power difference means much more expensive hardware.  It turns out that dip in attenuation you see between the huge peak at 60 and the much smaller peak at about 22 GHz covers the 24 to 40 GHz range for the 5G signals. 

One thing that people don't seem to understand is that it's hard to get radio frequency energy into places you want it.  Even in a controlled, lab environment, on well designed hardware, we regularly fight to get thousandths of a watt that we expect to get but that nature just doesn't want to give up.  Furthermore, the higher the frequency, the more struggles that come. 

In the case of the 5G network, those struggles will be because the signals don't penetrate walls and other things as well as the lower 4G frequencies do.  It's going to call for more towers more closely spaced and fancier antennas.  The buzzword is MIMO - Multiple Input Multiple Output - it's a way of combining antennas to get better performance out of the network.  If you have a WiFi router with two or more antennas on it, you have that now. 

Is 5G going to be dangerous for people carrying handsets or walking around the city?  The power density requirement in FCC-OET Bulletin 56 is the same as for frequencies we've talked about here before, 1 milliwatt per square centimeter.  Industry is experienced with designing for these levels and I don't see any reason why it should be any more dangerous than existing networks.  If anything, because 24 to 40 GHz doesn't penetrate as well as lower frequencies, it might be safer.

I've written many times on RF safety and can do so again.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Goodnight Hong Kong?

The protests in Hong Kong have been going on since the end of March, so over four months.  The protests initially were directed against a new extradition law that China wants to impose on the formerly sovereign Hong Kong.  Now it seems that those protests have extended to wanting to improve their government.  It seems that the root of the protests is that when China and Great Britain reached their agreement for the transfer of Hong Kong, it was agreed that Hong Kong would be autonomous; "one country, two systems" for 50 years.  Here, not quite halfway to 2047, the Chinese have been abandoning that. 

China has been staging units of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as a warning to the protesters.  Tuesday morning (last night US time), the PLA began a show of force of the preparations. Conservative member of the British Parliament Daniel Hannan tweeted an ominous video from the Chinese side of the border with Hong Kong:

The eight second video shows troop carriers and support vehicles as far as the eye can see in two directions from that vantage point.   The Chinese government released this video, showing the vehicles going to Shenzen, on the border.

From my standpoint, the protesters' chances are grim.  They're under a government that's pro-China (or else they wouldn't be allowed to be there) and are protesting the Chinese (mainland) government that killed 10,000 in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests for Democracy.  Communist governments don't have much history of listening to protests and thinking they might be wrong - like all leftists, the Chinese party leaders consider themselves better than the common people. 

Rick Moran, writing at PJ Media has this summary, with a quote from the South China Morning Post:
The protesters are demonstrating against a bill that would allow citizens of Hong Kong to be extradited to China for some crimes. This is a direct attack on Hong Kong's special status within China, and the Communist leadership fully realized it when they proposed it. Little by little, the protesters are seeing Beijing stifle the freedoms that citizens of Hong Kong were guaranteed when Great Britain returned the territory to China in 1997. Beijing underestimates their resolve at their peril. That much has been made clear by the protesters themselves.

South China Morning Post:
Today, this chant is heard everywhere on the streets: “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.” When Edward Leung  invented this rallying cry three years ago, the cause of “revolution” – whatever he meant it to mean – did not resonate. It gains traction now, not because the likelihood of its success is any greater or any less unrealistic, but because recent  responses by our government have made it clear that what protesters (and I believe the rest of Hong Kong) have demanded, namely democracy, autonomy, and above all, good government, will never come to be unless and until the current political order is turned on its head.
The problem for the protesters is that to "turn the political order on its head," there will almost certainly be a lot of blood in the streets before that happens.
A pundit on the news today said (approximately, from memory), "giving Hong Kong to China was like giving a Stradivarius to a chimp."  China, with their puppet Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has filled the protesters with resolve.  The protesters probably see they have no future if things continue the way China is pushing.  If they feel they have no future and nothing to live for, I don't expect this to be over very soon.  Unless the Chinese PLA kills them all.

There was talk when Great Britain and China agreed to transfer Hong Kong back to China that China would take the role model of Hong Kong and make China more like Hong Kong, improving the lives of over a billion people.  In reality, they're going to make Hong Kong into China. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

A Glimmer of Possible Hope

Since the triple header of mass murders from Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton, the anti-gun forces have been attacking like never before.  The president has made statements that make it seem like he's onboard with these useless policies.  (When even a left wing organization like CNN will honestly say it's doubtful these laws would do anything, even the progressives should admit they're useless)

Today a glimmer of hope in a news item from the National Shooting Sports Foundation reporting that the president and his staff have been talking with pro-2A groups like the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA to get their input on these proposals.
The Washington Post reported that the president spoke directly with National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, and the Washington Free Beacon subsequently reported that a “top White House staffer” had talked with Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation and chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Those conversations reportedly covered lots of ground, with Gottlieb stating, “We talked about everything from background checks to banning semi-automatic firearms and magazines to red flag laws.”
Gottlieb went on to say:
"It was a very good, positive conversation," Gottlieb said. "They wanted to address the problems of violence in our society and at the same time protect Second Amendment rights. And doing it not just lip service or symbolism over substance, but making proposals that could work and don't eradicate people's freedom."

"I was happy on two counts," he said. "One, they reached out. Which shows that, you know, their interest and concern for our positions. And their questions were really good. ‘Well, how do we address this and not do this? How do we really solve these kinds of problems? What can the gun rights community support and what can't it support?' They were definitely respecting our input."
According to the Washington Post story, an outright ban on so-called “assault weapons” is apparently a non-starter for the White House, but other options are said to remain on the table. Alan Gottlieb told the Free Beacon that he anticipates more discussions with the White House.

Meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham showed a bit of sense in dismissing the idea of an assault weapons ban.  According to the New York Post, a reporter hit him with the typical "why would anyone need an AR-15?" question, and he gave an honest reply that goes for millions of us in the Southeast.
“Here’s a scenario that I think is real: There’s a hurricane, a natural disaster, no power, no cops, no anything,” the Republican lawmaker told reporters aboard Air Force One.
The reporter asked if he meant looters and Senator Graham said the looters aren't going to be bothering the homes where they know the ARs are.

Taken individually, all of these are small stories.  Taken as a group, it's looking like vestiges of a spine are starting to grow back in DC and perhaps, just perhaps, the Stupid party isn't going to go full retard.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Secret of the People Living Past 100

Full disclosure: I make fun of junk science for a bunch of reasons, but one of the reasons is I'm one of the people harmed by junk science.  In a nutshell, I follow the same sort of ketogenic lifestyle that Karl Denninger talks about, except I don't talk about it, but it's not worth the column space to get into my story since that's not the point. 

Doubtless, though, if you pay attention to the "he-who" junk science health studies that we're bombarded with in the media, you've heard of the Mediterranean Diet.  You've heard the mythical stories of how people from that area live longer, have less heart disease and, well, the whole story.  Have you ever asked if there really is such a thing as one Mediterranean diet?  After all, the countries on the Mediterranean stretch from the ones you've probably read about - rural French, Italian and Greek - to Spain, Albania, Turkey, Slovenia, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria and more, a stretch of coastlines that must go over 8,000 miles.  Are their diets really identical or even all that similar?  How much do they have in common?  Are they really that much healthier and live that much longer?

One of the terms that gets buzz is Blue Zones.  There's a handful of these zones which produce the most per-capita supercentenarians—the oldest of the old, the longest lived of the longest lived—in the world.  A few are in the Mediterranean like Sardinia and Ikaria, but Okinawa also gets a lot of press.  They get celebrated for their diet and lifestyle, and used as examples for what we should all be doing. 

An interesting paper that is out in preview took a look at what the longest lived populations have in common.  I get the inline quotes here not from the study, but from a weekly email I get from a guy named Mark Sisson.  Mark is 64 these days but was formerly a very high level competitive athlete.  He devoted his second career to repairing the damage he did to his body trying to compete and is now best known as the owner of business that makes so-called paleo diet products. 
Red wine consumption didn't predict supercentenarianism.

Legume consumption didn't predict it.

The presence of hills didn't predict it.

It turns out that a strong predictor of super-longevity is the absence of detailed birth records.
That's right - the best predictor of super-longevity is living someplace where there's no records of when people were born!

Wait - it gets better.
In the United States, whenever a state introduced birth certificates, supercentenarianism miraculously dropped by 69-82%. A full 82% of all supercentenarians on record in the U.S. were "born" before birth certificates were used. Only 18% have birth certificates; only 18% of American supercentenarians can actually be verified. Oops.

In Okinawa, Sardinia, and Ikaria, the strongest predictor for regions with high reported supercentenarianism was high crime, low income, and low life expectancy relative to the national average. Ninety-nine percent of male Italian centenarians smoke. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese centenarians are actually dead or missing. These aren't what you'd expect. Oops again.
Gee, the strongest predictor of longevity is living in high crime, low income and low life expectancy areas compared to the rest of the nation?  That seems completely backwards from everything we know about poverty being a substantial health risk.  And that's not even touching 99% of Italian centenarians smoking.  Something very strange is going on here. 
The conclusion of the paper is that the primary causes of reported supercentenarianism in these countries are pension fraud and reporting error.
Sorry, but this literally made me laugh out loud.  They're not measuring longevity, they're measuring fraud.  This is the quality of science we get out the medical junk science world.  This is what diet advice is being based on.  

(Verified Italian supercentenarian Maria Giuseppa Robucci (20 March 1903-18 June 2019))

Saturday, August 10, 2019

I Don't Know What's Up With All My Fellow Bloggers

I don't what's up with all y'all, but just about everyone had a piece on Jeffrey Epstein's suicide and not one believed it was suicide. 

Come on!  Don't you believe it when New York law enforcement says someone on suicide watch committed suicide?  Don't you trust law enforcement?   New York law enforcement, where there has never once in recorded history been a case of corrupt officers?

I'll have you know that I fully believe that a guy under suicide watch, a guy who wasn't allowed to have anything he could potentially suffocate or harm himself with down to and including chicken bones, can manage to off himself in the few minutes between periods he was actively being watched.  All these deaths they blame on the Clintons are just 60 or so coincidences.  Or else Russian meddling.

I also fully believe that 9/11 was an inside job, because all the Jooos working in the towers took off that day, and besides, steel doesn't soften when it gets flames impinging on it for an hour.   I've seen pictures of the fields around the Pentagon and I damn well know that an airplane is metal and metal just doesn't disappear if it's flown into a building.  People I trust told me there was no debris in the grass outside the building. 

Although I know I talked about the moon landings just a few weeks ago, those were faked.  Yes thousands of people worked on those missions but they're not in on the fake.  Only the very highest levels of NASA knew it was fake.  The Saturn V really did blast off but it stayed in Earth orbit.  Those crews never went to the moon.  Their doubles acted everything out on a sound stage.  Those things that they supposed left on the moon that can be seen or detected from earth like the laser corner reflectors for measuring the distance to the moon very precisely?  Put there by robot lunar rovers, not astronauts. 

And, seriously, if I need to tell you that this whole post was put together as a joke, you need to get out of the house more often.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Rocket Lab to Attempt to Recover and Reuse Boosters

We've met the small booster company Rocket Lab on these pages before.  They're a small company, originally from New Zealand, now multinational, specializing in launching small payloads (under 220 kilograms) with their Electron booster.  Originally, they expressed no interest in trying to land boosters to recover and reuse them.  Then they started getting very successful, and a funny thing happened.  Ars Technica has the story with a long, interesting interview with Peter Beck, Rocket Lab's Founder and CEO.

Their success at what they do has increased demand for their vehicles and they realized that if they don't throw the boosters away after one launch, they don't need to build as many.
Scaling production is not a trivial thing. We need to quadruple production over the next couple of years. You can take any product on this planet—a chair or a consumer product—and say I want a 4x production of that product. And that's no trivial thing to do. When you have a supply chain as they have in the aerospace industry, which is really quite fragile, and you're not just asking yourself to scale four times—you're asking your suppliers to scale four times. Take the engine, for example: even if we wanted to double engine production and order a bunch more printers, those printers are six- or 12-month lead time. Really, we need to be all in. We're crazy-expanding our factories and hiring. But this is an additional step we need to take to increase launch opportunities.
The approach they've taken to recovering the boosters has never been done on a commercial scale.  They plan to catch the booster falling to Earth with a helicopter.

While I realize that this is a computer-generated video, I didn't notice the helicopter jerk downward when it suddenly supports that extra weight.  "For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction" isn't just good for CGI, it's the law.  Nor did I notice the booster swinging like a pendulum and pulling the helicopter around as it does so, which I think is unavoidable.  In any case, this ought to be entertaining to watch.  Peter Beck, again:
The idea of mid-air capture has a long history, right back to the Corona missions in the 1950s and 1960s. That's not new. And it's funny, if you look at the helicopter capture, most people think that's the hardest thing to do. But that's really not hard at all. That's the bit I'm least worried about being successful. It's getting it through the atmosphere and down to a sensible speed that is really where the challenge lies. That's where a lot of the innovation is going to come from in this program. We have some very unique aerodynamic decelerators that we'll be employing to control the reentry but also to scrub the velocity.
The article is worth a read.  Rocket Lab sounds like they've been instrumenting boosters for a while now and trying to understand every detail of what they're going through - Beck mentions "thousands of channels of data" coming down from every launch.  When asked about when they plan their first recovery, he talks about the reality of preferring to do several tests, each a bit more intricate than the last, rather than trying a complete recovery right away.
Yeah, so the next flight on the pad here is an important one [Flight 8, due to launch later this month (Note: from New Zealand - SiG)]. We have some critical flight instrumentation on that. Flight 10 is a block upgrade, with some visible changes to the booster. Really, after flight 10, there will be new things we're trying on every flight. But look, this is a very, very difficult thing to do, and I'm reluctant to define a flight number that we're going to do a full recovery on. It's a very methodical and iterative approach we're taking here.
Asked how many times they'd like to reuse boosters, Beck says, "If we could reuse it once we've effectively doubled production. Once would be wonderful. Anything more would be really fantastic."

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Exception to the Post on Scarcity

Two days ago, I posted on the disconnect between the first laws of economics and politics.  To once again borrow from Thomas Sowell:
The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.
In one sense (only one) the key message of all 22 clowns on the debate stage was that there's only one pie, and that if anyone has more pie than you (those evil, rich, bastards!) it's because they stole some of your pie.  All of the messages I've heard were focused on taking pie back from them and spreading it among the people who think they've had their pie stolen. 

In reality, the picture is different.  We aren't stuck with one pie that we divide, we can make many more pies.  The one economically valuable commodity that doesn't seem to be limited by scarcity is human ingenuity.  Because we can write things down and pass them on, ingenuity is cumulative.  The old saying along the lines of, "if I've seen farther it has been from standing on the shoulders of giants" sums it up perfectly.  We are all standing on the shoulders of giants; taking advantage of all human creativity down through history.  In a very real sense, we're living on the accumulated ingenuity from the earliest of history through yesterday.

Is it true that innovations sometimes don't come as quickly as we'd like?  Of course!  On the other hand, if you look at the stunning progress of Western Civilization over the last couple of hundred years, it's hard not be in awe of what ingenuity and innovation have given us.  We went from horse drawn wagons and genuine debates if humans could survive traveling in the early trains at 45 miles per hour, to over 10,000 airplanes in the air at any given moment, carrying thousands of people at several hundred miles per hour.  In the space of just the 20th century, we went from the first spindly aircraft to the moon and probes to the edge of the solar system.  We went from only being able to communicate with someone else in person (or by letter) to nearly instantaneous global communication.

Don't miss for a second that those advances came from individuals working in liberty, not the heavy yoke of government trying to more fairly divide the pie.

Instead of dividing one pie,

we can make more pies

To borrow something I wrote not long ago (and linked above).
It's always the same mistake with these guys.  They take some trends, make a linear extrapolation and predict doom.  They never consider that history isn't linear.  They never seem to grasp that human ingenuity is the most powerful resource on Earth.  Time after time, humanity has faced environmental problems or shortages and figured out ways around them.
The history of the human race is a history of using that ingenuity to improvise, adapt, and overcome.  It's not a smooth continuum but things get better.  In the long term, that's always true.

To quote the British historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, “On what principle is it that with nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?”


Thanks to a tip from Irish at the Feral Irishman, I have a link to the coming new version of No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money.  Except that if you click on the link in my right side bar, it's currently not working.  The previous link you just read through works.  The difference is that for reasons unknown, when I put that in the blog list, it comes up differently. 

Instead of
https://onlygunsandmoney.wordpress.com/   it shows up as https://onlygunsandmoney.wordpress.com/feed  and Firefox (at least) doesn't like it.  I'm guessing if you have a RSS reader, the second one would work.
Hopefully, that glitch will get ironed out.  There's no content there at the moment, just an address.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Is Google Coming for the Gun Bloggers?

I learned from Gun Free Zone this morning that John Richardson at No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money had his blog shut down.  He's the only one I'm aware of, but I can't tell from my reading list how far that might be going.  I've linked to John's blog for as long as I can remember.

I suppose that Wayne LaPierre, or one of his minions, might have complained to Google because of things he posted that are critical of Wayne, but we don't know that.  I've certainly never seen anything I'd consider out of line for a blog. 

I don't have John's contact info, and I'm not on Twatter, so I can't ask him what the story is.  When I go there, I get a Blog Gone message:

Meanwhile, I keep talking about moving off Google, dropping the blog and GMail, and signing up for a more "Do It Yourself" service, but when it gets down to it that sounds like work and I've put it off.  

I'd think they'd get me first.  After all, I tell people how to cast an AR lower - an untraceable gun! - from aluminum cans.  I have a whole series on making another untraceable AR from an 80% lower, and a whole series on making a GB-22 from plain steel bar stock

What did John do?  Tell the truth about the NRA?

I haven't said where I stand on the NRA "coup" stuff, but the more that goes on and the more I see, the more I agree with calls for an independent audit.  Maybe Wayne's holding off because he figures the New York attorney general will have them audited and have the New York taxpayers pay for it, instead of the NRA paying for the audit, but I'm convinced that the old adage from the business world applies here: "the appearance of impropriety is the same as impropriety."  If the NRA were a functioning commercial enterprise, Wayne LaPierre would be out.  At some point, and maybe we're already there, Wayne is already costing the NRA too much money in lost donations and lost opportunities. 

I really need to get off my butt and get moving to a new system.  Today, the news crossed my path that it's not just gun blogs they're after.  They driving traffic away from "alternative health" sites.  How long until users aren't allowed to talk about anything that isn't approved? 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

All the Things are Free!

The mantra of the democratic debates.  In the last debate, former Maryland congressman John Delaney, apparently trying to appeal to the legendary (if mythical) moderate Democrats, criticized the pitching of free Medicare for All and Free College as being “fairytale economics.” When asked for her reaction, Elizabeth Warren said,
“I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for. I don’t get it.”
That reaction itself is not what this is about.  What it's about is the fundamental disconnect between the world of politics and the real world, as studied by economists, embedded in that response. 

Thomas Sowell, one of the great economists of our times, once wrote:
The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.
The second lesson of politics is that voters apparently rarely hold politicians responsible for not delivering on their promises.  As a result, scarcity may limit what politicians can deliver, but it doesn’t limit what they can offer.  In the case of the debates, if they're serious about getting to be president there doesn't appear to be much risk in offering lots of things they can't deliver.  Remember, blame is never scarce; the politician can always blame their failure to provide scarce resources on other people.

Let me start by saying it's a fundamental tenet of personal liberty (well, it's one of mine) that it's immoral to force someone else to provide anything which depends on the time and talents of that person.  Nothing that someone else does is a right.  People may want to provide something due to their own altruistic leanings, but other people have no right to expect or demand that.  The provider has the right to ask compensation for their time and effort. 

Generally something can only be “free” when it is not scarce.  There must be so much of it that Group A can use as much as they want without diminishing Group B’s ability to do the same. Economists call that “superabundance.”  For example, as long as we're not sealed into a confined space, air is “free.” My intake of oxygen doesn’t meaningfully deprive anyone else of their intake of oxygen.  Thinking about that in a supply vs. demand sense, superabundance means there's so much of a thing that the price is zero. 

By that definition, health care and education can never be “free”.  First and foremost, providing either medical care or an educational lecture depends on the sum total of knowledge and experience of the provider - and it's hard to get a better definition than the essence of a person than their “sum total of knowledge and experience”.  In a more straightforward sense, pills and surgeries or lectures and teaching are scarce. The same pill can’t be swallowed by two people. The material and labor that go into producing those things are also scarce. Resources cannot be endlessly lavished on one area without making other uses of those resources impossible.

When scarcity is involved, we naturally need to ask how we can afford more of something.  Sometimes, the answer is we can't.  

The opposite of a politician is entrepreneur.  While politicians ignore scarcity, entrepreneurs are in a continuous dance with scarcity; they face it and deal with it all the time.  Because of that, they do a much better job of innovating ways to deal with scarcity.  The same people who don't hold politicians accountable for promising more than they can deliver will take their business elsewhere if an entrepreneur's product doesn't do what it was promised to do.
Because customers hold them accountable, entrepreneurs also do a much better job than politicians at alleviating scarcity through efficient, value-creating production. Entrepreneurial projects do fail, but then they go away when their customers do, clearing the stage for something better. Since government projects are financed by involuntary “customers” (taxpayers), they are ultimately unaccountable and “free” to fail indefinitely.
Naturally, with a stage full of clowns ignoring scarcity, promising free everything, and ignoring the harsh reality of having to reign in spending, there was no mention of the national debt

John Delaney - who seemed to understand the resources aren't infinite.

Monday, August 5, 2019

"Why Do We Still Have This (Mass Shooting) Problem?"

That was among the first things I heard after the El Paso mass murder.  I didn't write down who said it, whether it was politician or someone who isn't a megalomaniac (which pretty much all the politicians are). 

I muttered to myself, "because we punish the people who had nothing to do with the killing and reward the killers with the attention and celebrity status they want."  It's a rule of life: "if you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've been getting."  They can't keep doing the same things.

It started within minutes.  You heard it - punish gun owners, punish the NRA, punish everyone except the murderers.  Meanwhile the leftist, environmentalist, whack job who wanted his diatribe read on the news gets it read on the news.  So they change a few words here and there to blame Trump for motivating him, why should he care? 

What's so hard to understand?  There's on the order of 75 million gun owners in America with 800 million guns.  One murderer broke at least a dozen laws to kill people because the planet is overcrowded.  He said plain as day (though not in these words) that he wanted to play the role of Thanos from the Marvel Avengers movies - there are too many people in America so he needed to kill lots of them off.

You get more of what you reward and less of what you punish.  The people who commit the mass murder, and the aspiring mass murderers out there get incentivized to do more killing.  That leads to more mass killings, but the people being punished didn't do anything wrong to start with so there's nothing to get less of. 

What's so hard to understand?  Killers prefer gun free zones.  They prefer to have the longest time possible to rack up the most kills.  If they really want to stop the killers, we need to eliminate their killing fields. 

In fact, if they really want to get rid of the mass killings they need to do the exact opposite of what they're talking about and the exact opposite of what they've been doing for at least 50 years.  They need 50 state constitutional carry, an end to free fire (gun free) zones, and more armed citizens.  In both cases this weekend, the police did a stellar job of response, but the first person to see and hear the shooter is always already there when the shooting starts.  The Dayton police got that shooter within 24 seconds, but what if someone in the crowd - or five, ten or twenty someones - got a good shot off in half that time? 

From John Lott's Crime Prevention Research Center

Very simply, if they keep rewarding the guilty and punishing the innocent, they're never going to end mass killings.  There is simply no solution they can legislate to stop this.  The people they're passing the laws against are not the ones committing the crimes.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

NASA, SpaceX to Work on Refueling in Space

On Tuesday afternoon, as part of an announcement of 19 different public/private sector partnerships with 10 different companies, NASA announced that SpaceX and two NASA centers, the Glenn Research Center in Ohio and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, would work together on space-borne refueling systems.
"SpaceX will work with Glenn and Marshall to advance technology needed to transfer propellant in orbit, an important step in the development of the company’s Starship space vehicle," the NASA news release states. This is a significant announcement for reasons both technical and political.

For its part, SpaceX welcomed the opportunity to help advance NASA's Artemis Program, which NASA hopes will send humans to the Moon by 2024 (and, later on, to Mars). “We believe SpaceX’s fleet of advanced rockets and spacecraft, including Falcon Heavy and Starship, are integral to accelerating NASA’s lunar and Mars plans," a company spokesperson told Ars.
Much as aerial refueling seems essential to extending the ranges that aircraft can achieve, refueling in space has long been considered necessary for deep space missions.  One of SpaceX's principal engineers behind the Starship project, Paul Wooster, has said that he has estimated five Starship launches worth of fuel (as payload) would be required to refuel a single Mars-bound Starship in low-Earth orbit, and this would involve the transfer of hundreds of tons of methane and liquid oxygen. NASA's Bobby Braun, a former chief technologist at NASA who is now dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder has said,
"I’ve got a stack of studies that go from the floor to the ceiling that list the critical technologies needed for humans to become long-term explorers in deep space, and in-space refueling is always on the list."

The new partnership recognizes SpaceX's maturity as a leading space transportation company, Braun said. And Glenn and Marshall are the right centers for SpaceX to partner with, even if there simultaneously exists a strong rivalry between SpaceX's low-cost rockets and Marshall's lead development of NASA's Space Launch System rocket.

SpaceX graphic of the need for refueling in a Mars mission. 

As part of that "stack of studies" Braun mentions, NASA has previously done considerable work studying the handling, transfer of, and storage of rocket fuels such as liquid oxygen, hydrogen, and methane in space—they are difficult to work with and susceptible to boil off in the space environment (hydrogen atoms are so small they can even migrate directly through metal fuel tanks).  Under the new agreements, NASA civil servants and SpaceX employees will work together, each side paying their workers from the joint effort funds.
"The civil servants at Marshall and at Glenn are very talented in this area," Braun said. "The people at SpaceX clearly know their system, both the capabilities and the needs of the Starship architecture. The fact that they’re all going to get together in the same room, and work on the same problem, that’s tremendous."

NASA concept for an orbiting refueling station with a set of propellant and oxidizer tanks.

As with all government programs, politics plays a large part in this effort.
Braun served as chief technologist in 2010, back when the Obama administration created NASA's Space Technology program to foster just this kind of innovation in America's private space industry. It was a contentious time in space policy, as the White House was pushing for more funding for new space companies—and new space ideas such as fuel-storage depots—while Congress wanted to keep NASA in the rocket-building business.
In 2010, Spacex had been flying the Falcon for two years and it was hardly the commercial/technical success it has turned out to be, so the desire to keep NASA launching rockets was understandable.  We've covered the influence of Alabama Senator Richard Shelby in getting NASA's SLS rockets funded and keeping the program going. 
The potential of in-space fuel storage and transfer threatened the SLS rocket because it would allow NASA to do some exploration missions with smaller and cheaper rockets. As one source explained at the time, "Senator Shelby called NASA and said if he hears one more word about propellant depots he’s going to cancel the Space Technology program."

The line from other NASA officials was that as a technology, propellant depots were not ready for prime time. In 2011, former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and current Executive Secretary of the National Space Council Scott Pace—both SLS advocates—wrote a withering criticism of the technology for Space News.

"Fuel depots as an element of a near-term space architecture are an example of magical thinking at its best, a wasteful distraction supported by the kinds of poorly vetted assumptions that can cause a concept to appear deceptively attractive," Griffin and Pace wrote. Ironically, their chosen heavy-lift rocket for use in NASA's "near-term" architecture, the SLS rocket, remains badly behind schedule and over budget. It is unlikely to fly meaningful exploration missions for at least three or four more years and is holding up the Trump administration's Artemis plan.
Charles Miller, a consultant to NASA in the 2011 time frame, was among those performing studies to show that the use of propellant depots could significantly lower exploration costs for NASA. On Tuesday, he praised the Trump administration and NASA chief Jim Bridenstine for putting the Space Technology program to good use.
"Administrator Bridenstine is clearly executing on President’s Trump’s guidance to increase commercial public-private-partnerships at NASA," Miller, now chief executive of UbiquitiLink, told Ars. "The game-changing technology that NASA has discovered is capitalism. This program proves NASA leadership has figured out the future is reusability mixed with commercial public-private-partnerships."
In my way of looking at it, if a Mars mission is necessarily going to be a long duration mission, what they really need are ways to manufacture methane and liquid oxygen on Mars rather than take everything they ever need with them.  That would bring the vision of extended settlements to fruition faster.   

SpaceX concept artwork of a manned outpost on Mars with four Starships visible among the acres in the settlement.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Some Steps Forward, Some Steps Back

I don't know how interested folks are going to be in my cleaning up after the lightning strike, but it's how I spent the day and how I'll spend some more.  Yes, I heard about the El Paso shooting, but remember my First Law:  First Reports are Always, Always Wrong.  It's not worth paying too much attention to. 

There were good steps and bad steps today.  On the good side, I tested all three CNC machines and they're all fine.  Since the key seemed to be long wires, I was concerned about the wires between the controller boxes and the motors conducting picked up voltages into the stepper motor controllers.  I didn't use a caliper to measure the accuracy of the moves, but I did move all four axes on both mills and both axes on the lathe.   There are distinctive sounds motors make when some forms of problems are present and I didn't have any of those.  They're probably fine. 

Yesterday, we thought Mrs. Graybeard's computer monitor had blown out.  She realized the comparison with the replacement monitor was using a plain VGA input while the blown one was DVI so she found a way to test the DVI output on her computer and that was what had blown.  When she went from the VGA output of her video card to the VGA input of her old 23" monitor, the monitor was fine, so she put the big monitor back and put the 17" monitor aside.   

Last night, my monitor, which had been perfect, started developing an oddball problem.  Latent failure showing up?  The problem was while typing, suddenly a large black square with a white padlock icon in it showed up in the middle of my screen, flashing on and off.  The monitor (Dell) has a group of controls on the lower right side of the screen that bring up a menu of adjustments; color temperature of the display, which input its using, stuff like that.  That display started flashing on the screen.  It's a problem that shows up in web searches but the usual suggestions didn't work for me.  This morning, it got worse, going to solid color screens in green, blue, red and gray.  As time was going by, it kept getting worse, so I took it off the system and replaced it with the spare 17" monitor.

It was time to look more into the ham shack computer/monitor and see what was up with that.  Recall that the computer wouldn't start and the monitor looked like it was dead.  Some quick voltage measurements and inspections in the box confirmed the computer's power supply looked dead.  We have some spare computers that we never tossed out and I put one of those in place on the radio bench.  It immediately came on and the monitor sprung to life.  Changing over to a new computer is going to entail reinstalling all of my ham radio software and it was bitchy to get everything working and to play nice together.  Most ham gear and software requires a serial port - just as ham manufacturers started putting serial ports into all their gear, the computer companies stopped using RS-232 serial ports and switched to USB.  My radio has a USB port, but the accessories use serial ports. 

The old computer had a dual serial port card in it, so I moved that card and the hard drive from the old system into its replacement.  The good computer now wouldn't start.  Since I only put two things into it, taking them out one at a time showed the serial port card kept the PC from starting.  Whut?  Then I took a better look at the card.  Uh oh.  Parts were blown off it.  So I looked at the other end of the serial cable link.  This serial port connected to my antenna rotator controller.  It had parts blown off it, too.

Computer card on the left - the top IC has major damage, and the components to its right are blown, along with traces on the PWB being blown.  A chip capacitor appears to be blown physically off the board.  There are three components visibly destroyed in the rotator interface on the right.  Top right, there's a voltage regulator that's blown into two physically separate chunks (no, I didn't move one for emphasis).  The top most IC, between the four black cylinders (electrolytic capacitors) has half its package blown off and the chip closest to the bottom edge of the card has its lid blown off, too.  It looks like the overvoltage might have come out of the rotator serial port, traveled into the PC, blew out the parts, shorted high voltage onto the power supplies, which blew up the power supply.  After our experience with the monitors, I tried starting up that computer without the serial port card in it - still no go.  The power supply is really dead.
The really good news here is that it looks like we've gotten over the hump and have identified everything that needs repair or replacement.  Some of it can be worked around and lived with, like the DVI output of a video card not working.  Some of it might require a replacement, like my 23" monitor or our water heater controller unit.  Some of it is "just sit down and work on it" stuff, like moving apps to my replacement computer in the shack.  It looks like the work for the next few days will be in the ham shack.  Between getting that computer running, figuring out some odd results I get on the antennas (which I need software on that old computer to test with) and trying to see why my amplifier won't turn on, it will take a while.

Friday, August 2, 2019

My Turn for a Bad Lightning Strike

On Wednesday, fellow Florida blogger Divemedic said that his house had a lightning strike on July 30, just one day short of one year since the last time he was struck.  I honestly don't know where he lives with respect to me, but I believe he has mentioned being closer to Orlando and Orange County which are north and west of me.  Closer to the actual lightning capital of the US.  I live on the east coast of the state, south of Cape Canaveral.

In this graphic, I live where the light blue and green areas converge just south of the bump on the middle of the east coast.  Call it 15-20 "flashes per square mile per year" while I think he's in one of the red or orange areas (25-30).  Like all statistics, those numbers never apply to the individual.  When you're number's up, your number's up.

Our number was up yesterday.  Early after sunrise (which is around 6:45 EDT) and not quite out of bed yet, we had an enormously loud crack of thunder.  Startled awake, I looked out of the bedroom window and thought that for a second I saw a glowing red ball in the air, as is sometimes seen immediately after a lightning strike in the super heated air the lightning blasted through.  As seen in this photo, taken from a now-unavailable ten second video I linked to in May of 2015.  I dismissed that as probably impossible - I've become less sure of that.

It wasn't until we got out of bed 10 or 15 minutes later that we realized we had been struck.  To begin with, there are three clocks close to our room; all three had been reset to midnight and started over.  Here's the weird part: one of those clocks is battery-backed up to keep time through a power outage.  Here's the exceptionally weird part: the other is battery operated (no power line) and one of those so-called atomic clocks that gets time sync by radio (no external antenna).   It's not just one.  Another battery operated atomic clock in our guest bathroom also reset to midnight.  This sounds more like EMP stuff than lightning strike.  Has anyone ever seen a battery operated clock get reset by nearby lightning?

I've heard that lightning strikes are capricious - the damage seems to jump over some things to  damage another.  In the next room over is another battery operated atomic clock - it was unchanged.  We still don't know all of what was blown up, after a full day of combing the house, but damage is scattered throughout and in all rooms of the house.  On this computer desk are two desktops with 23" monitors.  One monitor blew out, the other monitor, virtually touching that one, is fine.  Both computers survived.  Also on this desktop, our internet cable modem and WiFi router were destroyed.  Since we stream TV services over the internet, our TV was out.  (Once again, we told each other if we had VOIP phone service we'd be 100% cut off from the outside world)  A couple of the house's circuit breakers were thrown but power came back OK when they were rest. 

Our central air conditioner's thermostat, mounted about 30 feet from the indoor air handler unit that it's wired to, blew out.  We have two model years of some wireless (2.4 GHz) remote telephone handsets.  One of the system bases and its wall wart power supply were blown out while the other set is fine.  Our hot water heater has a remote control head, again about 25 feet from the water heater that it's wired to, that was blown out.  The water heater (a tankless, gas fired water heater) is mounted outdoors and plugged into a weather resistant, GFI-protected, outlet outside.  The outlet was blown up - it wasn't possible to reset the GFI.  We replaced the outlet and once plugged in, the water heater seems to be running normally.  Without a control panel it defaults to 120F water and that's fine for a couple of days.  Ordered a control panel today to be here by Tuesday. 

All around the house, things are plugged into surge-protected outlets.  The router and cable modem that blew up were plugged into a surge protected strip.  What seemed to matter was long wires to act as antennas to the induced electric fields from the lightning.  A variable that complicates that conclusion is how susceptible the thing is by itself - we can hardly ever know how susceptible the thing is.  For example, we have an exercise bike that runs on a 9volt wall wart.  That 9 V supply is plugged into a surge-protected AC strip, but through a 6 foot long extension cord.  The 9V wire itself that goes to the bike is another few feet long.  The 9V supply blew out.

If you looked at our house for lightning targets you'd focus on my ham tower and the oak tree that has almost overgrown it.  It's possible the tower got hit, although I see nothing obvious.  My radios are working, but a central part of my station (and the most expensive part) is apparently at least partially blown.  It won't turn on.  The main HF antenna (a 14-30 MHz log periodic) is acting funny and needs to be looked at with my antenna analyzer, but I couldn't do that because the computer and monitor in the shack both act dead. 

We were able to talk with a helpful and nice kid at our local Staples and upgraded to a combination router and cable modem in one box.  We came home, hooked it up and found it wouldn't work.  We have to call tech support to authorize the modem and the woman I was speaking with said she could get signals from my neighbor's houses but not mine.  A cable company technician was out this morning, came in and found no signal on our cable.  Went outside and found no signal coming in from their closest distribution point.  Came back about a half hour later, after laying a temporary cable from their distribution point to the side of our house.  They have contractors who will be out to bury this one, like the one being replaced. 

I've had lightning damage before, but this is hands down the worst I've ever had.  I've lived in this house since 1984, 35 years, and we've lost a few things to lightning now and then.  A little over 20 years ago, in the days of dial-up modems and bulletin boards, we put in a second phone line for the computers.  We had a nearby strike that blew the phone line junction box off the back of the house, but there was surprisingly little else damaged.  I think some diodes in my antenna rotator control box blew.  Hmm.  Got to remember to check those, too.  I'll be doing this for a while.