Monday, June 17, 2019

Confidential to New York Democrats - The Vietnamese Communists Saw Rent Control was Stupid

According to the Marginal Revolution, rent controls are returning to New York (hat tip to FEE)
The bills announced on Tuesday night by the Democratic leaders of the State Senate and the Assembly would abolish rules that let building owners deregulate apartments and close loopholes that permit them to raise rents.

The legislation would directly impact almost one million rent-regulated apartments in New York City, which account for more than 40 percent of the city’s rental stock, and allow other municipalities statewide beyond New York City and its suburbs to adopt their own regulations…

The rent regulation package, which is expected to be approved before the end of the week, is perhaps the most resonant symbol of the change in power in Albany since Democrats took complete control in November.
It turns out that actual communists are smarter about their failures than the American "wannabe communists".  In the 20 years after the Vietnam war, the communist leadership realized that rent controls destroyed Hanoi more effectively than US bombs ever could. 
NEW DELHI—A “romantic conception of socialism” … destroyed Vietnam’s economy in the years after the Vietnam war, Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach said Friday.

Addressing a crowded news conference in the Indian capital, Mr. Thach admitted that controls … had artificially encouraged demand and discouraged supply…. House rents had … been kept low … so all the houses in Hanoi had fallen into disrepair, said Mr. Thach.

“The Americans couldn’t destroy Hanoi, but we have destroyed our city by very low rents. We realized it was stupid and that we must change policy,” he said.

—From a news report in Journal of Commerce, quoted in Dan Seligman, “Keeping Up,” Fortune, February 27, 1989.
Fee does a little Economics 101 on the subject that might help your denser friends who want rent controls.

I'm sure the socialists will say it's the nasty, greedy landlords, or the Big Renters manipulating the city that force this, not the invisible hand of the free market.  I was saying elsewhere today that you never hear the Democratic Socialists say that if someone is manipulating the cities that government is at fault, too.  It's stupid to only blame someone paying a kickback (also known as a bribe) when taking the bribe is a crime just like paying one.  Corruption is a crime for both parties.  Monopolistic practices are a crime for both the company and the government regulators.

Everybody has been in the situation where the rent was higher than they'd like.  I've got that tee-shirt, too.  The free market is always better at fixing things like the supply of rental units than government committees will be.  Yes, it's an axiom. 


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Entertaining Little Side Project

Although my main project in the shop is the Webster engine, I still can and do use the shop for other little things.  I had one of those this week. 

Last year I mentioned a friend I have who makes wooden signs for entertainment and a little supplemental income.  He had brought me an idea for an improvement to his setups, making a version of his plastic templates out of aluminum that can be dropped onto a wood blank and help him fixture it much faster.  A few weeks ago, he came to me with another idea.  It concerns the metal bushings that sign routing kits use (example product and photo).

It's important to point out that this view of the bushing is upside down.  That circular, brass disk with a protruding collar is down in contact with the template while he's cutting.  That disk is also in plane with the base of the router so that it slides smoothly, without tipping catching, or getting stuck on an edge.  

He had noticed that sometimes it seemed the raised collar (which is sized to be just a few thousandths larger than the outside diameter of the router's cutter) wasn't allowing him to move the router properly because wood chips would get stuck between the bushing and the template.  He reasoned that even though he had a vacuum attached to the router, the brass covered the chips and there was no way for the vacuum to get at them. 

So he asked me if it would be possible to perhaps mill out sectors of the bushing leaving enough metal so that it was still a working bushing.  I thought about this for a while and said I could do a few different diameters but not everything he had - the end mills to cut out a partial groove might not be available in every size that we'd need.  I countered that there'd almost certainly be any size drill bit one would ever need and that I could drill an array of holes - kind of like the lug nut holes in a tire rim. 

We pondered and I went home with a damaged sample to draw it up in CAD and play with clearances for given drill bit sizes. 

This week, I drilled the holes in the sample piece and then brought it back over for him to try.  This was designed by determining the radius of the circle of holes (in CAD), chucking the bushing in the rotary table, and drilling a hole every 45 degrees at that radius.  The bushing surface is now mostly open space. 

Playing in CAD told me that for this size bushing, for 1/4" diameter router bit, the largest drill bit I'd feel comfortable using was 7/32" - 0.219".  I haven't tried to see how much room there is for other sizes, and it might be that three arcs cut out with an end mill while spinning the rotary table.  If I had another of these, I might try to do that with a 3/16" (0.188") end mill (I think I have one...) cutting three arcs. 

Actually, it could be interesting to try to make some of these bushings on my CNC lathe.  I have no brass, but I have aluminum and cold rolled steel in a size that could make some.  Hmmm... 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Congrats to Canadian Space Agency and SpaceX

I noticed this story on the ARS Technica Rocket Report last week and waited for this week to see if the scheduled launch took place.  With a diversion to the Tesla and SpaceX fan website, Teslarati
As early as June 12, SpaceX will attempt to launch a trio of Canadian satellites worth $1 billion from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Built by Maxar for the Canadian Space Agency, the Radarsat Constellation Mission comprises three remote-sensing spacecraft designed with large surface-scanning radars as their primary payload
The launch took place on the 12th, with a beautiful remote view of the rocket breaking through the morning fog (video here).

The video is over an hour long, but if you watch until the booster lands back on Vandenberg AFB, that's near the 20:30 minute mark, with liftoff at almost 12:38.

The launch and booster recovery are not the reason for this post.  The $1 Billion dollar mission is from an agency that has an annual budget of about $250 Million.  That's right, four years worth of the agency's entire budget for this mission, which boggles my mind.  It's not surprising that they spent a bit of time haggling with SpaceX to find a "lightly used" booster and get the lowest price they could with what they thought to be their highest chances of success.  This is the part Teslarati adds:
From an external perspective, forgoing a twice or thrice-flown Falcon 9 Block 5 booster after nearly a dozen successful demonstrations does not exactly appear to be a rational decision. However, whether it was motivated by conservatism, risk-aversion, or something else, Maxar and CSA likely have every contractual right to demand certain conditions, as long as they accept the consequences of those requirements. In the case of RCM, the customers accepted what they likely knew would be months of guaranteed delays to minimize something they perceived as a risk.

To some extent, it’s hard to blame them. After going more than $400M over budget, the Maxar-built trio of upgraded Radarsat satellites are expected to end up costing more than $1 billion. CSA’s annual budget typically stands around $250M, meaning that this single launch is equivalent to four years of space agency’s entire budget. A failed launch would be a huge setback. Additionally, RCM will likely become the most valuable payload ever launched by SpaceX, beating out the Air Force’s ~$600M GPS III SV01 spacecraft by a huge margin. For RCM, mission assurance is definitively second to none. 
A few hours after the launch, prime contractor Maxar said the satellites were "performing according to plan.", so it sounds like the mission is a success. 

Again, congrats to the Canadian Space Agency, Maxar and SpaceX. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Days of Trillion Dollar Deficits Are Returning

During the Obama years, deficits of a trillion dollars were not uncommon (example).  You may think that the economy is fundamentally different today, and that annual deficits are shrinking.  Despite that fact that Trump's tax cuts led to record tax revenues, it looks like we'll be close to a $1Trillion deficit for this fiscal year.  Maybe over that.  We'll hit the trillion dollar limit if the next four months of 2019 transpire along the same average spending per month as the first eight months did.
The gap between the amount the government takes in and spends came in at $207.8 billion last month, the Treasury Department said (pdf) Wednesday, nearly 42% higher than a year earlier. The increase happened in part because of June 1 falling on a Saturday, a non-business day, meaning some benefit payments were made earlier than usual.

Lawmakers typically try to reduce the deficit when the economy is strong, but recent legislation has taken it in the opposite direction. In the first eight months of the fiscal year, the deficit increased about 39% from a year earlier to $738.6 billion.
Let me show my work.   Eight months is 8/12 or 2/3 of the year.  Multiply the deficit through eight months by the reciprocal of 2/3 (3/2) to extrapolate the same spending rate to the year and your calculator tells you $1.1 Trillion deficit this year.  It's not a great way to determine the deficit for the year because each month doesn't necessarily have the same spending as every other month - but it gets you "close enough".

As a matter of interest, while looking for some background information on this topic, I ran into a piece I posted in February of '18, "Ron Paul Was Right" that offered a prediction for this year's deficit that's remarkably close to what I just derived.  The article started with a quote from Senator Paul saying that the government spends closer to $2 Million/minute.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), an independent think tank, projects that the deficit for FY '19 will balloon to $1.2 trillion in FY 2019, or $2.3 million per minute.
I don't know exactly whom to pin this deficit spending on.  The House starts spending, and they're all Nancy's little babbling numb nuts.  The Senate is in Stupid Party control, where spending bills can be modified, and President Tariff keeps talking about adding a trillion dollars of spending on infrastructure - although there are no real details to relay to you

In the end, it probably doesn't matter who did it because the pattern over the years is that the party out of power complains about deficits and spending until they get power, and then the roles switch.  Now the party out of power has economists telling them it doesn't matter and they can spend whatever they want.  They can't run out of dollars like the football stadium can't run out of points.  When they eventually get power back, it's going to be a fun experiment to watch.  From another planet. 

I tend to believe that things that can't go on forever won't go on forever and that all bubbles pop.  Eventually "political reality" collides with real reality.  There is a real world, with real consequences.  It's not all in our minds.  Economic collapses happen around the world all the time.  I've been predicting one for nine years, now.  So don't look at me. 

One thing is certain.  With record tax revenues, that's a vivid demonstration that it's not that we don't tax enough -- "It's the spending, stupid!!"

(I have to admit the way I report on economics isn't as ... interesting to read as John Wilder, who puts his economic plots on pictures of girls in bikinis)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Because I Like the Name

It's natural that the news in the tech world tends to focus on the glamorous aspects: self driving cars, 5G wireless networks, autonomous AI, sexbots and so on.  In reality, a lot of applications are pretty mundane.  Autonomous monitors that could survey a section of forest or some amount of land and work on its own for days or weeks at a time would solve a few problems.

With that in mind, let's introduce SlothBot - an autonomous robot under development at Georgia Tech and inspired by a sloth:

“In robotics, it seems we are always pushing for faster, more agile and more extreme robots,” said Magnus Egerstedt, the Steve W. Chaddick School Chair of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and principal investigator for Slothbot. “But there are many applications where there is no need to be fast. You just have to be out there persistently over long periods of time, observing what’s going on.”

Based on what Egerstedt called the “theory of slowness,” Graduate Research Assistant Gennaro Notomista designed SlothBot together with his colleague, Yousef Emam, using 3D-printed parts for the gearing and wire-switching mechanisms needed to crawl through a network of wires in the trees. The greatest challenge for a wire-crawling robot is switching from one cable to another without falling, Notomista said.
SlothBot consists of two plastic bodies connected by an actuated hinge with one body holding a couple of small solar panels.  SlothBot doesn't swing between branches like its namesake; instead, wires or ropes are pre-strung in areas the robots will operate.  Each body houses a driving motor connected to a rim on which a tire is mounted. The use of wheels for locomotion is simple, energy efficient and safer than other types of wire-based locomotion, the researchers say.

So far, SlothBot has operated in a network of cables on the Georgia Tech campus. Next, a new 3D-printed shell – that makes the robot look more like a sloth – will protect the motors, gears, actuators, cameras, computer and other components from the rain and wind. That will set the stage for longer-term studies in the tree canopy at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where Egerstedt hopes visitors will see a SlothBot monitoring conditions as early as this fall.
Real-life sloths are small mammals that live in jungle canopies of South and Central America. Making their living by eating tree leaves, the animals can survive on the daily caloric equivalent of a small potato. With their slow metabolism, sloths rest as much 22 hours a day and seldom descend from the trees where they can spend their entire lives.

“The life of a sloth is pretty slow-moving and there’s not a lot of excitement on a day-to-day level,” said Jonathan Pauli, an associate professor in the Department of Forest & Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has consulted with the Georgia Tech team on the project. “The nice thing about a very slow life history is that you don’t really need a lot of energy input. You can have a long duration and persistence in a limited area with very little energy inputs over a long period of time.”

(Two-toed sloth using cables on Georgia Tech campus as a Sloth Monorail)

The operational plan for the SlothBot is exactly that last sentence: hang around for a long time in a small area, observe and record, then move to an area of bright sun to recharge.
The researchers also hope to test SlothBot in a cacao plantation in Costa Rica that is already home to real sloths. “The cables used to move cacao have become a sloth superhighway because the animals find them useful to move around,” Egerstedt said. “If all goes well, we will deploy SlothBots along the cables to monitor the sloths.”
About 12 years ago, I consulted to local school on the radio system for a monitor like this that would be left in the field and then report back from time to time.  Energy usage becomes a major concern - budgeting how big the battery is, how much power individual systems are allowed and a lot of tough, systems engineering questions.  Egerstedt is no stranger to these decisions.
Egerstedt is known for algorithms that drive swarms of small wheeled or flying robots. But during a visit to Costa Rica, he became interested in sloths and began developing what he calls “a theory of slowness” together with Professor Ron Arkin in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing. The theory leverages the benefits of energy efficiency.

“If you are doing things like environmental monitoring, you want to be out in the forest for months,” Egerstedt said. “That changes the way you think about control systems at a high level.”

Flying robots are already used for environmental monitoring, but their high energy needs mean they cannot linger for long. Wheeled robots can get by with less energy, but they can get stuck in mud or be hampered by tree roots, and cannot get a big picture view from the ground.

“The thing that costs energy more than anything else is movement,” Egerstedt said. “Moving is much more expensive than sensing or thinking. For environmental robots, you should only move when you absolutely have to. We had to think about what that would be like.”

Closeup of SlothBot showing the 3D printed gears. 

There's a video of SlothBot in motion

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Webster Update

I've completed the next part on the Webster engine I've started building.  The first part was almost two weeks ago, May 30.  That's a long time to make a plate with seven holes in it, but there have been some extenuating circumstances.  The Game of the Other Thrones kept me out of the shop a couple of days itself.  

Top side: 

The part fought me in some ways, too.  There's an obvious rectangle of four holes on the left, with a pair of smaller holes mixed in with them.  The smaller ones get tapped 6-32 and one of them fought me bitterly.  It's a long story centered on breaking the tap.  The Click Of Doom happened when I started to back the tap out, which I guess means the chip had clogged the tap.  I was tapping on the mill's table, where the holes were drilled, and had a 1/8 dowel pin in the drill chuck on the mill which went into the gap on the top of the wrench holding the tap.  I'd advance the tap 1/2 turn then lower the pin to keep the tap very close to perfectly vertical, and I must have not backed the tap out often enough.  I'm fairly sure I had not backed it completely out yet and this was going to be the first.

Well, that's probably TMI, but I need to tap a lot of 6-32 blind holes in this thing and I'm pretty sure the only taps I've ever broken were 6-32.   I've also read it's the hardest common thread for tapping; something about the ratio of the depth of the thread to root diameter.  I need to buy some more 6-32 taps - I only have one left.  Maybe a gross will get me through.

Bottom side:

The rectangular pattern holes and the big one in the upper left in this view get a countersink that required I buy a new set of 82 degree countersinks; everything I own is 90 degree.  It's not an optical delusion that the bottom looks like a better finish.  I should have noticed that and machined it with that side up.  I'll see if some finish work can pretty it up. 

The next parts are modeled and ready to machine.  These are two side plates made from 5/16" thick aluminum. 

The faint green outline represents the sheet they'll be cut from, the two parts are in blue and the red lines are the tool paths for cutting out the two parts from one small plate. 

I have another piece of metal ready to work on, the cylinder, which is cold rolled steel.  I've done a little work on that, but barely scratched the surface (if you'll pardon the pun).  Not quite sure which part gets the attention to get completed first.  There are arguments in favor of both. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

A Rather Unusual Saturday

We did a first for us and went to a weekend concert in the biggest auditorium in the area, the King Center for Performing Arts

But you don't care about where we went; you want to know whom we went to see, right?  The "first for us" is we went to see Weird Al Yankovic on his Strings Attached Tour that started a few days ago.  Al was in town a few years ago and we didn't go; ever since then Mrs. Graybeard has talked about not missing him if he comes back.  Last January when she saw he was coming it was a natural to grab tickets before they sold out.  And it was sold out.
I feel a disturbance in the force... as if hundreds of people are closing their browser tabs.
The reason for the name is that the concerts use (what they called) a 39 piece symphony orchestra.  Rather than bring a symphony on the road with them - with all the complications that entails for travel, accommodations and so on - they use a local orchestra.  I assume the musicians get the music and program they'll be playing long in advance. 

Confessing that I would actually pay money to see Weird Al probably lowers some of your opinions of me (and for many, nothing could make your opinions of me lower), but I've had a soft spot for music parodies since Alan Sherman in 1963.  I appreciate clever language, puns and lyrics that lead to vivid visualizations, but it simply has to fit the meter of the song! 

The reason for the tour is a new album so the tour itself is a bunch of old favorites and new music (Mental Floss says this is Al's biggest selling record ever).  They didn't play all my favorites - Al has been doing this for over 30 years, there isn't enough time to play everything - but they played a lot of good stuff and it was a very enjoyable show.  It's entertainment, after all, and Al tries to be entertaining.  In addition to the symphony, there's just an eight person act band, one guitar, one bass, one keyboardist a drummer and three women doing backup singing.  They mix in a bit of multimedia by way of a large slide show or video in the background.

The show starts with the symphony playing favorite songs, like the themes from various movies (Indiana Jones, Superman, and a few more) - then everyone took off for 20 minutes.  The orchestra plays backup throughout the evening.  Al uses a lot of energy in the show, and is performing for about 90 minutes including an encore of one of his big songs, The Saga Begins.  He does several costume changes, and there are moments where Al basically goes into the first few rows and plays with the audience.  This is "optional at extra cost" - the VIP package that includes meeting Al and the band after the show, pictures, and a few mementos.   

The craptastic iPhone picture of Al during The Saga Begins is a reminder of the only thing about the evening that really torqued me off.  On the King Center's web page, they say that interchangeable lens cameras aren't allowed, or a camera with a lens bigger than 6", so I brought my point and shoot camera, which isn't going to challenge the image quality of a long lens on a good camera, but is going to be sharper than the cellphone.  The event security guys wouldn't let me in with it.  I quoted chapter and verse of that page, and took it up the chain of command as far as I could, but (of course) they were not going to allow me to challenge their authoritah. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Shutting Down Federal Fetal Tissue Research Funding

Although it wasn't widely reported, this past Wednesday the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would end the use of federal funds for human fetal tissue from elective abortions for medical research.  The federal funding has been in place since 1993, when Bill Clinton signed a Ted Kennedy bill which reversed a 1988 Reagan decision banning such funding.   In the intervening 25 years, it has become evident that the so-called "gold standard" fetal stem cell research has not returned any benefits in scale with its funding.
For over 25 years, Congress has allowed the National Institutes of Health to dole out what now amounts to more than $100 million each year to researchers who utilize the fetal tissue of aborted babies. There is little to show for this money. As a House select investigative panel found, fetal tissue research didn’t fulfill any promises of major scientific discoveries. As Sean Duffy and Kathleen Schmainda write in The Federalist, “the panel investigation further discredits the claim that fetal tissue plays an indispensable role in 'life-saving' research.”
The article in The Federalist goes into more details about the research, the claims and the realities. For example:
Proponents of research using aborted fetal tissue claim that it is critical for research in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, autism, and schizophrenia, or that it provides the gold standard for studies in immunology. However, a “peek behind the curtain” quickly reveals that these arguments are not backed by scientific practice or historical fact.

A plethora of alternative tissue and cell sources, both proven and of high potential, are now available without ethical concerns. Examples include stem cells from bone marrow, circulating blood, umbilical cord, and amniotic fluid, as well as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and even neural stem cells from cadavers.
Examples of treatments developed using non-fetal sources are endless. To name a few, insulin for diabetes, Herceptin for breast cancer, and TPA for heart attack and stroke were all developed using non-fetal tissue sources. There are more than 70 successful treatments developed using adult stem cell sources.

Each year nearly 18,000 people ages 0-74, who are diagnosed with a serious illness including blood cancers and metabolic or immune system disorders, benefit from adult stem cell transplants from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood, with more than 1 million patients treated by the end of 2012. Meanwhile, fetal tissue transplants have shown no validated benefit to patients, and in many cases have made patients worse.
It began to be acknowledged in the early 2000s that fetal stem cell transplants can create cancers and that stem cells from adults were more useful.  The year-long House Select Panel investigation summarized in their 2016 final report that in the nearly 90 years of unrestricted research , “not a single clinical treatment has been developed from human fetal tissue.”  Note that other stem cells, not from completely non-differentiated, pluripotent fetal stem cells, have successfully been used in therapies.  As the quote from the Federalist says, stem cells from adults that have been induced to become pluripotent have been used successfully.

As Scientific American magazine (paywall warning) said in a report warning of the dangers of using stem cells as a treatment:
"A dark side of stem cells-their potential to turn malignant-is at the root of a handful of cancers and may be the cause of many more. Eliminating the disease could depend on tracking down and destroying these elusive killer cells."
It's not that there's no research going on using fetal stem cells.  Some of it is because the fetal cells are cheaper - and some of that in turn is the Federal subsidy - but the root cause is simply the supply and demand for the millions of aborted babies.  (Abortion clinics sell deceased babies to fetus processors for as little as $30 while the processing companies sell each “component” of the baby to researchers for up to $550.)  It's just that fetal tissues (or byproduct stem cells) are used in only 0.01 percent of clinical trials currently underway.  In NIH funded grants between 2010-2014, fetal stem cells were used in 0.2 percent of the grants.
None of these are investigating Alzheimer’s disease, either, where many claim fetal tissue is “required” and the “gold standard.” In many cases, aborted fetuses are not the most appropriate tissue source. Rather, these tissues are used because they are cheaper and easier to obtain than adult tissues.

The NIH strives to fund research that has a high likelihood to exert a sustained, powerful influence on a field with a great potential to enhance human health. Given the lack of medical breakthroughs using aborted fetal tissues, continued NIH support for its use would be contrary to its stated mission of funding research with high potential impact.
I'm sure that fetal tissue research supporters would argue that in this era of nearly trillion dollar deficits taking $100 Million out of Federal spending is like celebrating a few pennies found between the sofa cushions.  I find it easy to think their real justification would be that the effects of the federal money lowers their costs, but it's always worth asking if perhaps should be wiser about how they spend that money.  The saying, "watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves" is credited to Ben Franklin, and it certainly goes here.

Induced pluripotent (adult) stem cell flow chart - source.

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Game of the Other Thrones

My absence on Wednesday night and most of Thursday has to do with the other thrones.  At least in common usage of the word throne.

(Stock photo from a throne store)  

I'm of that certain age when screening colonoscopies get recommended more often.  I had my first one 11 years ago, so I'm due (overdue for a 10 year repeat, actually) and scheduling that has been a background thread of the last few months. 

It was time to get more closely acquainted with this throne.  Whether I wanted to or not.

It's not possible to do an article on getting a colonoscopy that's got a better tone than Dave Barry's 2008 classic (coincidentally almost exactly when I had my first one).  It's all bathroom humor, after all, so who better than the self-deprecating author of "Boogers Are My Beat"? 

This isn't the same doctor I went to in '08, but he also had a set of detailed instructions to follow, starting from five days out to the night before.  Examples are like, "Day 5 don't eat anything with seeds: tomatoes, peppers, strawberries or anything similar";  "Day 3 no raw vegetables - no salad or cole slaw".  All of this pales next to the day before.  That's a "clear liquids only" diet that allows black coffee but not Coke or Root Beer.  There's a prescription "prep solution" to buy and take with very specific instructions.  "At 4:00 PM, pour the contents of bottle 1 into the mixing container, add cool water to fill it to 16 ounces, then drink it all.  Over the course of the next five hours, you must have five 8 ounce glasses of clear liquid, at your own pace".   The second dose, which must be done at 4:00 AM the day of, is just different enough to really mess you up. 

I distinctly remember from my first one in '08 that it became my calibration for exactly how bad projectile diarrhea can be.  If I ever got sick in the intervening 11 years, I'd think "was that as bad as the prep?  Did I need to strap myself to the floor to keep from going airborne?"  This one wasn't that violent.  Through a marvel of modern chemistry, the prep solution draws water out of every tissue in your body and forcibly washes everything out of your intestines from the inside.  I spent a lot of quality time with the throne from 1600 yesterday through about 2200.  Then the alarm rang at 3:45 this morning for round two, from 0500 until we went to the hospital at 0830.  If you don't drink that "five 8 ounce glasses of clear liquid", the prep would probably turn you into a giant prune-like figure still spurting water.

The experience is draining.  After some lunch, I ended up napping a couple of hours, to get back some semblance of feeling normal.  I don't think it's from the anesthesia, I think it's just being messed up by my hours on the throne.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

D-Day and the Gettysburg Address

As has been widely noted, today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6th, 1944.  John Richardson at No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money gives some demographics in D-Day: The Largest Seaborne Invasion in World History, a post I almost put up last night.  Borepatch has a couple of pieces; 75 years ago tonight they jumped about the parachute jumps behind the Nazi front lines and The Day of Days on the landings themselves.  Almost everyone has a post commemorating the day.

The world, not just America, is indebted to everyone who took part, from the front line grunts to the Rearest REMF logistics guy (because everyone knows an army marches on its stomach).  For obvious reasons, we honor the guys who went ashore in the face of wilting gun fire, mortars and other threats. For equally obvious reasons, the planning, logistics and coordination of the entire invasion needs to be honored, too. 

Because of all that I see it as incumbent to say something nobody else has, which is to invoke the closing lines of Lincoln's Gettysburg address, about 80 years before Normandy.  Remember that Gettysburg had the largest number of casualties in the War Between the States.  It was the most horrific battle in the most horrific war.  Lincoln's message was about them, but it speaks to us - to me - through the ages.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  [BOLD added - SiG]

Lincoln tells me not to just honor these guys' memories, fight to make sure the forces of evil and stupidity don't destroy everything they fought for.  There's at least two thirds of the 691 candidates running for president on the Evil Party side who qualify for inclusion in those "forces of evil". 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Germany's Lost WWII Uranium And How Close They Got

Timothy Koeth is a physicist at the University of Maryland.  Several years ago, a friend gifted him an oddly heavy cube of metal, about 2" on a side.  He says he instantly recognized it as a cube of uranium and believed it to be one of the missing cubes from Germany's WWII attempt to build a nuclear reactor.  It might have helped that there was a note in the package saying, "Taken from Germany, from the nuclear reactor Hitler tried to build. Gift of Ninninger", and that the friend giving the gift was there to explain things.
Thus began Koeth's six-year quest to track down the cube's origins, as well as several other similar cubes that had somehow found their way across the Atlantic. Koeth and his partner in the quest, graduate student Miriam "Mimi" Hiebert, reported on their progress to date in the May issue of Physics Today. It's quite the tale, replete with top-secret scientific intrigue, a secret Allied mission, and even black market dealers keen to hold the US hostage over uranium cubes in their possession. Small wonder Hollywood has expressed interest in adapting the story for the screen.

Until quite recently, Koeth ran the nuclear reactor program at UMD, which is how he met his co-author. Hiebert is completing a PhD in materials science and engineering, specializing in the study of historical materials in museum collections (glass in particular) and the methods used to preserve them, using the reactor facility for neutron imaging of a few samples. Koeth told her about his research into his cube's origins, and she started collaborating with him as a side project.
There were 664 uranium cubes in the reactor project and the team has tracked down 10 in the US.
[T]he Smithsonian Institute had a German uranium cube in storage. "We wound up in a warehouse that looked like the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, wooden crates from floor to ceiling," said Koeth. "And in one of those crates there was another German cube."
They tracked a third to Harvard University, where it's regularly passed around in classes for students to "experience" (my words).  Uranium is dense, the 2" cube weighs about five pounds, and for all the concern most people have, the cubes aren't dangerous to hold.  According to Koeth, the uranium is so dense, "it winds up shielding itself.  The radiation you measure from it is only coming from the surface."

The Germans were said to have a two year headstart on us at the time the Manhattan Project began in the US.  The German project, though, was broken into three facilities, Berlin (B), Gottow (G), and Leipzig (L), and was plagued by "fierce competition over finite resources, bitter interpersonal rivalries, and ineffectual scientific management", according to Koeth.
Renowned physicist Werner Heisenberg headed up the Berlin group, and as the Allied forces advanced in the winter of 1944, Heisenberg moved his team to a cave under a castle in a small town called Haigerloch—now the site of the Atomkeller Museum. That's where the group built the B-VIII reactor. It resembled an "ominous chandelier," per Koeth, because it was composed of 664 uranium cubes strung together with aircraft cable and then submerged in a tank of heavy water shielded by graphite to prevent radiation exposure.

Mockup of the B-VIII (eighth Berlin experiment) reactor at the Atomkeller Museum. 

By the winter of '44, the Allied Forces were advancing on Berlin and Haigerloch, forcing Heisenberg into action to try to save the experiment.  Heisenberg took apart the B-VIII experiment and buried the uranium cubes in a field, ferreting away key documentation in a latrine. (Pity Samuel Goudsmit, the poor physicist who had to dig those out.) Heisenberg himself escaped by bicycle, carrying a few cubes in a backpack.

Koeth initially assumed all the uranium cubes would have been confiscated after the Nazi defeat and sent to the uranium processing facility at Oak Ridge in the US, but a historian told him that by April 1945, the US had plenty of feedstock material and wouldn't have needed the extra uranium. So he wondered if someone might have handed them out as souvenirs, perhaps to serve as paperweights.

One of the interesting things to come out Koeth and Hiebert's research was to find out that the Germans got close to creating a sustaining reactor but were kept from achieving it by their management system.
One of the most surprising things Koeth and Hiebert have discovered so far is that while the 664 uranium cubes at Haigerloch weren't enough to build a self-sustaining reactor, an additional 400 cubes were located within Germany at the time.

"If the Germans had pooled their resources, rather than keeping them divided among separate, rival experiments, they may have been able to build a working nuclear reactor," said Hiebert. "This highlights perhaps the biggest difference between the German and American nuclear research programs. The German program was divided and competitive; whereas, under the leadership of General Leslie Groves, the American Manhattan Project was centralized and collaborative."
The extra 400 cubes would have given them enough uranium, but it's still doubtful that they would have made the reactor work because they were short of another key requirement: heavy water.
"Even if the 400 additional cubes had been brought to Haigerloch to use within that reactor experiment, the German scientists would have still needed more heavy water to make the reactor work. Despite being the birthplace of nuclear physics and having nearly a two-year head start on American efforts, there was no imminent threat of a nuclear Germany by the end of the war."
While it seems there's no good answer to where the other 650-odd uranium cubes are, Koeth and Hiebert say that they believe the rest of the cubes are in various schools and collections as historical oddities.  They're actively trying to track them down and account for all of the missing uranium.
Koeth and Hiebert said that anyone with any information about one of these uranium cubes, can contact them via email at
Which is probably the coolest Gmail address that I've ever seen.

Hiebert and Koeth with the cube he was gifted.  The green glassware behind them is probably uranium glass, given Mimi Hiebert's research interest cited above.  Uranium glass, sometimes called Vaseline glass, is easily found in places like eBay and can be sent through the mail. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

We Were Talking About This Back in February

February 11th, to be exact, I noted that four days earlier had been the 45th anniversary of the release of Blazing Saddles, noting "it's regularly referred to as the greatest movie that couldn't be made today."  Today, thanks to a tip from 357 Magnum, we learn the SJWs have started to make their moves to make the movie Go Away forever.
Now, four decades after it was released, the film has come under fire by social justice warriors because of its portrayal of white racism as comedy. Indeed, it’s hysterically funny.
PJ Media is on the story.  Anybody who has seen the movie knows it's satire that finds its humor in making fun of every racist trope there is.  The problem is that Blazing Saddles is satire and satire requires a functioning sense of humor, which isn't compatible with a constant desire to be offended at everything imaginable.
This was self-evident when feminist Cathy Areu weighed in on the film:
Displaying the stunning ignorance that propels so many of the politically correct, the shockingly far-left Areu complained that "auf wiedersehen" is “a Nazi joke.” She added, “Nothing is funny about the Nazis.” (Brooks’ musical “The Producers” — the Tony-winningest Broadway show of all time — blitzkriegs that claim.)
As Buddy Bizarre (Dom DeLuise) shouts into a megaphone late in “Blazing Saddles:”


"Auf wiedersehen" is German for “goodbye.” It’s as Nazi as the words tag (day), wasser (water), or straße (street). Amid his myriad atrocities, Adolf Hitler surely uttered tag, Wasser, und Straße. Would Areu now make those words verboten?
Likewise, while I don't know beyond a shadow of a doubt, I'm pretty sure that at some point in his childhood, little Adolph said, "Ich liebe dich Mama" or "I love you Mama".   Do we ban that because Hitler said it? 

Back in February, I borrowed a quote from the Hollywood Reporter; they republished parts of their original, 1974 review of Blazing Saddles.  I think it's worth it to see the movie through 1974 eyes. 
The Hollywood Reporter celebrated the occasion by republishing its original review of Blazing Saddles. Here is an excerpt:
The screenplay by Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor and Alan Uger (from a story by Bergman) is totally irreverent, never passing up a chance to point up a cliche and sparing nothing or no one along the way. The language is definitely R-rated but it never becomes offensive. In fact, the incongruous pairing of the language and the characters accounts for a great deal of the boisterous humor.

Brooks' fast-paced direction is a masterpiece of comedy detail, filled with delightful and perfectly timed sight gags. The predominant style is one of the extremely broad burlesque but the film is also packed with more subtle touches, especially in Morey Hoffman's clever set decoration and in Peter Wooley's production design.
The line about "sparing nothing or no one along the way" is key. Blazing Saddles seems to send up almost everything. And it does it brilliantly. The humor employed is filled with what today would be known as triggers for the emotionally weak, politically correct, Social Justice Warrior crowd.

Ethnic jokes abound. There is enough juvenile sexual humor to keep a thousand generations of pubescent boys entertained. The movie also has the most memorable fart joke scene ever.
As PJ Media's Stephen Kruiser said back in February, 
It's almost sickening to think of the fact that we've gone from a society capable of creating and supporting something as masterful as Blazing Saddles to one filled with humorless youth who would protest it to death before it could get released in just forty-five years.

A humorless society that seeks to make words criminally offensive is a society in severe decline. Hopefully, we're just in a phase from which we'll soon emerge.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Is Obama Stupid Or Malicious - Plus, Why I've Dumped Waze

According to this morning's daily email from the Blaze, ex-President Obama was in Brazil recently and spread a bunch of absolute lies about American gun laws.
The moment was captured and put on YouTube, where it has since been removed by the user. But not before it was shared on Twitter and Facebook. 

"Some of you may be aware, our gun laws in the United States don't make much sense," said Obama. "Anybody can buy any weapon any time, without--" he had to pause as the foreign audience applauded him criticizing the United States. He then continued saying "You know, without much, if any regulation, they can buy it over the Internet, they can buy machine guns."
At the risk of being too pedantic, and at the cost of repeating myself yet again, when anyone questions whether another person is stupid or malicious that's not an exclusive OR choice.  They can be, and often are, both stupid AND malicious.

I feel pretty confident that my readership doesn't need the facts explained here, so I won't.  For the rest of you, nothing after the words "don't make much sense" is true.  Not even slightly true.  To borrow a quote from author Caleb Howe:
But Obama obviously wasn't going for facts. He was just indulging one of American liberalism's favorite pastimes: criticizing America to an audience abroad.

In fact, that was kind of his specialty, back in the day.

My absence of a post yesterday was not at all planned, but ran afoul of too much day with not enough free time. 

Yesterday was a memorial service for a friend's mother, about an hour's drive away in the center of the state.  We've been to this place once before but a year ago, so while I remembered much of the area and how to get there, knowing exactly where to turn was fuzzy.  During our 2017 eclipse trip, we auditioned the GPS driving app Waze, and while we weren't delighted with it ("I'll give it a 3 out of 5") it still promises the helpfulness of users reporting accidents, delays, and other problems.  I've had it off and on my phone since then but thought I'd use it. 

It's hard to estimate how big an audience an app like Waze has, but these folks imply it's one of the more popular GPS-driven apps with over 30 Million users in the US.  During the eclipse trip we compared it to the native maps app on the phone, and there didn't appear to be much difference.  Except for the unnecessary side trip Waze imposed on us that day. 

The place we were going to was on a street called Lakeview Drive.  This is like Main Street in being the kind of name that there could be one in almost every town, maybe more than one, so we were careful entering the full address, down to the zip code.   As we neared the end of the drive, Waze directed us off the main road we knew to be on.  It wasn't completely clear why, but we followed its driving directions.  There was construction going on and we didn't know if was routing us around that.  It wasn't long before we found we were not just at a wrong address, we were in the wrong city, about 10 miles away from our friend's home. 

Here's the kicker: on the Waze app and on the native Maps app on the iPhone, it said we were on  Lakeview Drive.  On the the street sign in front of us it said Lakeside Boulevard. 

There's the occasional story in the news with the theme that someone following their GPS drove into a lake or did something stupid like that.  This is how it happens.  When we were on that street, the signs clearly said Lakeshore Blvd and as you know there's no way to convince Waze (or Maps) that it's wrong.  It was telling us to drive into a park near a pavilion, which we knew was wrong, but it took a lot of puzzling to figure out how to get where we needed to be. 

We ended up being over an hour late to the memorial service and being later getting home than expected.

Like many people, we have a few options for a GPS.  Most people have switched from a standalone unit (Garmin is still the big name) to an app on their phone.  I have an '09 Ford Exploder with the first gen Microsoft Sync; that has GPS maps in it (that cost about as much to upgrade as to buy an entire Garmin GPS).  We have choices.  For now, I've deleted the Waze app again and I think I'm going back to my standalone Garmin GPS.

Thankfully, we didn't come across anything like this sign.  Posted here; somewhere in the history I think it said this was in New Hampshire. 

Friday, May 31, 2019

The War on Competence in American Colleges and Universities

Perhaps this could better be titled "The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization" because that's what we're really talking about.  It isn't some sort of natural process that comes as a result of Western Civilization being old; it comes as the result of planning and deliberate actions by Marxists and other groups bent on destroying the west so that they can plunder the wealth of those nations for themselves. 

None of this should surprise you; I've talked about it here and plenty of others have talked about it on other blogs (for example).  The reason for tonight's little rant is an article in PJ Media "The Death of Merit and the Race to Mediocrity in our Increasingly Marxist Universities" by Philip Carl Salzman.  It's worth your time to RTWT.  Salzman begins with some numbers to help readers see the problem.  Recently, there has been a TV series called "The Enemy Within" that talked about 100,000 foreign agents - spies - here in the US from China and other adversaries.
There are 756,900 teachers and professors in Canada, and 5.2 million in the U.S. Almost all of these professors and teachers are daily resolutely and relentlessly attacking Western culture, rejecting American culture, and advocating cultural Marxism.

How did this come about? During the 1960s and 1970s, two converging social movements transformed the culture of education. One was the adoption of Marxism by a wide range of North American university professors in the social sciences and humanities. The other was the widespread adoption of feminist theory. Together, Marxism and feminism redefined North American society as a hierarchy of oppression, with white, patriarchal capitalists at the top, and poor lesbians of color at the bottom. All citizens were redefined as members of racial, economic, gender, sexual, and ethnic classes, with people of white oppressing people of color, males oppressing females, rich oppressing poor, heterosexuals oppressing LGBTQ++, Christians and Jews oppressing Muslims, and so on. This approach is called “social justice” theory.
When normal folks reply we don't care about that; we care that the people who design and build our bridges are competent, their answer is that ideas such as “merit” and “achievement” are male, white supremacist ideas, used to ensure the unfair dominance of white men.  Conveniently, no one mentions little details like the pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University in Miami last year.  It doesn't matter if the contracting company knows how to build a bridge as long as they identify as being able to.  It's the case all over in education:
McGill University, in its “Open Call” for Canada Research Chair applications, claims that “Chairholders are nationally recognized as exceptional researchers and innovators in their discipline.” But, “for the purpose of a nomination for a Canada Research Chair in the October 2019 round, preference will be given to qualified applicants who self-identify as a person with a disability or as an Indigenous person.” In actual choices, for McGill, disability and ethnicity count more than achievement, merit, and potential. And note that you do not actually have to be disabled or Indigenous, but merely to “self-identify” as disabled or Indigenous. Even in our top universities, identity is regarded as more important than facts.
Get that?  They say their "Chairholders are nationally recognized as exceptional researchers and innovators" and without skipping a breath saying “... preference will be given to qualified applicants who self-identify as a person with a disability or as an Indigenous person.”  If those chair holders really are "nationally recognized", it won't be for long if academic standards are no longer used to determine who holds the chairs.

That's right, "academic standards" are "male, white supremacist ideas, used to ensure the unfair dominance of white men."  The dirty little secret is that students who get into University based on affirmative action score and other programs (like the SAT's new adversity score) are hurt by the experience of finding themselves in over their heads.  They realize that they don't belong there. 
The reality is that, while minority students with strong backgrounds do reasonably well in university, students with weak backgrounds and levels of achievement, admitted to university for “social justice” reasons, do poorly, and are harmed by being put into a position that they are ill prepared for. But the overall effect of “social justice” admissions and hiring is the dumbing down of universities and of the U.S. and Canada. Just as world competitors, such as China, ramp up their academic and research achievement, North American universities are catering to  “identities,” and raising subjectivity—“everyone has their own truth”—above objectivity, truth, and reality. This is a deep dive into decadence.
The target of this attack, though, is western civilization itself.  This goes beyond just preferred “equity, diversity, and inclusion” admissions and hiring.  They aim to discredit Western Civilization and particularly American and Canadian society because they were founded and built by white men. The great literary and philosophical works of Western Civilization are no longer read because they are the creations of “dead white men.”  Today's Social Justice Warriors insist on judging anyone from any era in the past by today's ethical system - their ethical system because they tolerate no diversity of opinions.
It was white men in Europe who made slavery redundant by inventing science, modern agriculture, and the industrial revolution, raising productivity through the work of machines, so that slave labor was no longer desirable. Furthermore, anti-slavery movements among white Europeans and white Americans led to the banning of the North Atlantic slave trade, policed by the Royal Navy, and the emancipation of the slaves in the Caribbean and the American South. Estimates are that at least 360,000 Union soldiers, almost all white, died in the Civil War that led to emancipation.
Until retiring, I regularly had the chance to work with young engineers in their first years out of college.  As a "Fortune 500" employer with a big name, we got to choose from the tops of the engineering classes and the best are as good as they've ever been.  We haven't seen many signs of social justice indoctrination; they realized that if they did their jobs wrong people could die and they took it seriously.  The problem is that I don't know how long the sciences and engineering can hold out in modern academia.  There are many, many jobs that not just anyone can do.  Do you want the doctor doing your surgery chosen because they identified as a certain protected class, or do you want them to be the best surgeon in the area (if not the best on earth)?  If you're in this car, do you want to be sitting under a bridge designed and built by people chosen for their diversity points or by people who do the math and sweat the details? 


Thursday, May 30, 2019

First Piece For the Webster Done

OK, that's not technically true.  The part isn't "done done" as they say, there's one hole that needs to be tapped and I needed to order the tap.  It's expected on Saturday, but it's coming by USPS delivery and they regularly beat their estimated delivery dates.  Given the size, I think it will be pretty easy to tap that hole which is why I'm calling it done.  The hole is for the spark plug.  It's a widely used motorcycle/small engine plug with a metric thread.  

I showed this view a couple of days ago,

and here's the part this morning.

You'll note that the top corners (on the left) aren't rounded off like the computer model.  That's called "optional" on the prints, and I'm just not sure I'm going to do it.  I have a little while to decide. 

On the left side, above the cutaway, those two holes are 4-40.  I don't think I've ever tapped 4-40 blind holes before.  Blind holes tend to get some of the chips that don't get pushed out of the hole by the tap and accumulate in front of it, so I was super cautious about breaking the taps.  They survived just fine.  Five holes in three different screw sizes: 4-40, 6-32 and 10-32.  

Not visible in this view is a large bored out area: behind that large hole in the top middle.  That's the combustion chamber for this engine and gets mounted to the cylinder, a lathe project in the near future.  The bore is 1.000" diameter by 0.500" deep. 

Next is to switch over to the other piece I wrote about Saturday, the base plate.  This part is mounted to that plate via the hole on the right (bottom). 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

I Got Nothing

One of those days where I'm not sure where it all went.  I tuned out the Mueller presser.  The same handful of stories won't go away and it's hard to pay attention to them.  There are important things going on but all we get is the same bickering over collusion and impeachment. 

Just having a periodic stale. 

Here's some Michael Ramirez to make up:

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

French Yellow Vests Protests Show Prescience of Frédéric Bastiat

Ironically enough, 21st century yellow vest protesters are proving the wisdom of their 1800s countryman Frédéric Bastiat, and his famous 1850 book, "The Law".  It's unfortunate because they aren't seeing Bastiat being proven right and are demanding things that he specifically showed were wrong.  Tabitha Alloway writing at the Foundation for Economic Education opens with with this harrowing story from the Guardian.
"I see my hand and scream in horror as it hadn't completely come off, it was hanging from my wrist, with the bones completely exposed."

A young man who has taken part in the yellow vests protests in France tells his story as he shows The Guardian cameraman the stump of his wrist, a testament to the violence of the clash between police and protesters.

Another who lost an eye during a protest says despondently, “I no longer believe in freedom.”
The yellow vest protests, as you probably recall, have been going on since last October.  An early reason claimed was rebellion against an imposed carbon tax on gasoline.  Tensions escalated, and these protests often turned violent, with thousands having now been injured and several killed.  The protests drew other anti-government other protesters and the movement spread, turning this into a phenomenon going well beyond France, from Australia to Canada.

Ms. Alloway does as good job as you'll find explaining Bastiat's main points.
For the sake of brevity, his work can be distilled down to a few basic points in question-and-answer format:

Q. What is the purpose of law?

A. Organized justice.

Q. What is justice?

A. Use of the collective force (law) to secure persons, liberty, and property, maintaining each in its right.

Q. What is the perversion of law?

A. Legal plunder and any use of force for reasons beyond the purpose of securing persons, liberty, and property.

Q. What is legal plunder?

A. Use of the collective force (law) to take the property of some persons to bestow it on others.

Q. What motivates legal plunder?

A. Two very different things: naked greed and false philanthropy.

Q. What is the outcome of a government that persists in legal plunder?

A. A discontented populace ready for revolution.

Bastiat argued that a government has but three choices regarding its relationship to personal property rights:

    1. The few plunder the many.

    2. Everybody plunders everybody else.

    3. Nobody plunders anybody.

    We must make our choice among limited plunder, universal plunder, and no plunder. The law can follow only one of these three.

How do you know if your government practices legal plunder? He answers:

   See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

In other words, if it would be a crime for me to enter your house and demand your money at the point of a gun so I can share it with the "poor," there's nothing that magically makes this moral simply because it's done by a man wearing a badge.

What is morally wrong for me is morally wrong for government. What is ethically wrong for an individual is ethically wrong for a group of individuals (government).
Bastiat came to a simple conclusion: economic justice means that my property is safe from the looting hands of any individual or collective entity—including government.

A person free from plunder is free to prosper.
And this is how we know the yellow vests are wrong.  They're not demanding freedom from plunder so that they may prosper; they're demanding the Macron government plunder others for their benefit.  While supposedly protesting taxes, they've simultaneously demanded that the government abolish homelessness, increase the minimum wage, provide free parking in the city center, give a minimum pension equal to $1,369.46 US dollars, raise taxes on big companies, etc..  Demands the government can't possibly meet - nor should they.  They're not protesting taxes so much as they're protesting not receiving more tax money - more plunder - from other people. 

At the time Bastiat was preparing his book, France was recovering from the Revolution of February 1848. This was the period when France was rapidly turning to complete socialism.  He was studying and debunking each socialist fallacy as it hit the legislature.
Bastiat argued that for the government to organize charity, it would have to disorganize justice. He observed that the natural consequences of making the government responsible for everybody's wellbeing and happiness are a litany of complaints, discontent, and unrest tending to violence and revolution.

(Screen capture from the Guardian video)

The problem of the yellow vests and the perspectives of Frédéric Bastiat are worth looking at because America in 2019 bears a striking resemblance to 1850s France; the socialist arguments from 1850s France are talking points on most of the 691 Democratic presidential candidates' platforms. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Memorial Day 2019

I know that for a lot of the country, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer and there will be cookouts and parties at the lake or beach or park.  That said, it has been a weird week of weather.  While it was snowing in Arizona as recently as Thursday (H/T Virtual Mirage), the SE US is at the opposite end of the spectrum with a record heat wave for the inland portions of the area.  Here near the east coast in the middle of Florida, it has been slightly cooler than normal.  Our temperatures haven't gone over 90 more than once or twice this month, and the summer thunderstorm season hasn't cranked up yet.  Both of those seem to happen by the middle of May most years.  It has been dry with temps in the upper 80s for the last couple of weeks, since what was almost certainly the last cold front we get until next fall some time.

All that aside, allow me to join the chorus of folks saying that while you're enjoying your day, be it beach, barbecue, pool or whatever, take a moment to remember and thank those who have given their all in service to us.  Some don't get the chance to have that cookout, or be with their loved ones.

Yeah, I've run this picture lots of times, and it still gets to me.  The story:
In a final act of loyalty, Hawkeye, the dog of slain Navy SEAL U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jon T. Tumilson walked up to his fallen master’s casket during the funeral in Rockford, Iowa, and then laid mournfully down beside the body for the rest of the proceedings  [Note: Petty Officer Tumilson was one of the 30 killed in Afghanistan in the shoot ing down of Extortion 17 which the families blamed squarely on the Obama administration - SiG]
Far too large a portion of the deep state could use Hawkeye's loyalty. 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

First Steps On the New Engine

The first steps have all been done with CAD. 

The design for the Webster internal combustion engine was released to the public domain by designer Joe Webster in 2004 with 2D drawings of the parts as .DXF format files.  My CAD program, Rhino3D ver 5, imports DXF format files but they're still 2D shapes; from there, I have to convert it to 3D if I want a 3D drawing.  If I'm going to cut it out with CNC, this is the first step.  Let me show an example.

The first part is the base, a roughly 8x5" plate of 3/8" thick aluminum with a handful of holes drilled in it.  For something this simple, I'll just drill all the holes using the mill as a precision drill press and then cut out the plate's outline with an end mill in the CNC mill.  Most of the holes have far side features (countersinks) and I'll do those after the plate is cut out.  The DXF looks like this:

I turn this drawing into a 3D solid object with some Rhino operations.  I highlight all the curves that make up the outline of the part and combine them into one curve.  Next, I Extrude the Curve to the 3/8" thickness, and then cap the top and bottom to make it into a solid.  The part looks like this as a 3D solid:

I save this solid model in the .STL (stereolithography) format the CAM program can use, import that file into my CAM program and generate tool paths for cutting the outline.  This is a screen capture of the part with the tool paths shown (horizontal red lines).

The part is ready to be fabricated at this point. 

The second part I've made a model of is a bit more intricate and will require more operations.  Making a model like this starts out as taking the outline, extruding it to the right thickness, capping it and then creating all the holes.  Each hole has to be created by the tedious process of creating a cylinder to the dimensions of the hole, putting it where it belongs in the part, and then doing a Boolean operation to subtract the cylinder from the hole.  In the end, it looks like this:

You can see that it has holes along the two sides that can be seen.  The vertical face on the bottom right in this view is the bottom of the part; it's overall size is 2.750 in the long direction; the width is 1.500, that notch on the left is 5/16 wide by 1.25 tall.  The part is 3/4" thick.  The large hole in the top section is for the spark plug on the engine, so its exact dimensions depend on which plug I can get.  The far side of that hole, though, has bore that's 1.000" diameter and 0.500" deep. 

This one has a simple shape, the challenge is the holes on the different surfaces, top, bottom and left side.  I think it's enough like other parts I've made that I know how to get there, and won't do CAM tool paths for this one. 

This is a few afternoons worth of work before I can cut metal. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Japan Creates Intelligent Test of Self-Driving Vehicles

Where intelligent translates roughly as, "for God's sake don't put actual cars on the road with that software shit running - you're going to kill people!" 

According to a piece in Electronic Design, a partnership between Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Panasonic announced a plan to develop and test autonomous wheelchairs for use in Tokyo's Narita International airport.  Wheelchairs are already provided for travelers who require them, but the new motorized wheelchairs will be intelligent and autonomous.
These wheelchairs will be capable of safely navigating through the airport independently. Jointly developed by Panasonic and WHILL Co. Ltd., the wheelchairs are able to detect and avoid and obstacles on the way to their destinations. Front- and rear-mounted cameras and sensors provide wide angle visibility and obstacle detection.

Pre-collected map data is compared against current driving situations to create the safest and optimal route for the rider. In the event an object unsafely enters its pathway, an auto-stop function will prevent a collision. For further assurance of safety at Narita, the self-driving electric wheelchairs will operate by following a predetermined leader to a common destination (see figure), and ANA staff will be on hand to serve as guides.
(Style Note: I don't know how they'll feel if we call them WHILL chairs.) 

The chairs have several novel features, including a smaller turning radius than a typical wheelchair due to an innovative front wheel that doesn't swivel like a caster, as wheelchair front wheels typically do.
WHILL’s Personal EVs, which can travel up to 12 miles indoors or outdoors between charges, run at up to 5 mph, and climb obstacles up to two inches in height. Omnidirectional wheels roll forward like normal wheels, but also can slide sideways without skidding during turns. Conventional omnidirectional wheel technology was invented for vehicles such as forklifts. However, according to WHILL, it hasn’t been applied effectively for wheelchairs and mobility devices due to several design flaws in previous implementations.

The omnidirectional front wheels engineered by WHILL use 24 small rollers that collectively create one large wheel. The rollers all move individually, allowing the EV wheelchair to glide sideways and achieve a tighter turning radius, while simultaneously providing greater terrain coverage.
The important part here, IMO of course, is that the system will test the software in an environment that will limit accidents to minor injuries.  I've never been to Tokyo Narita, but think of the crowds in places like Atlanta Hartsfield or similar hubs and the throngs of people in apparently Brownian, random motion.  If the software can handle that chaotic situation, it's a good step toward handling the chaotic systems driving on roads will require.