Friday, March 24, 2017

The Start of the King Kong Story Arc

Most readers will have seen at least one of the trailers for the movie Kong: Skull Island that opened on March 10th.  Mrs. Graybeard and I went to see it yesterday afternoon, as weekday movie matinees have been our habit since my retirement.  If I had seen this trailer, I might not have been left with some of the impressions I left the movie with.

There might be some spoilers in what follows, but nothing that I don't think you'll find by reading more than I did.  If you really want to discover the whole thing for yourself, be warned: "Here be spoilers"

To begin with, this is absolutely not a re-telling of the classic 1933 King Kong story.  There's no bringing Kong back to New York; no Kong on display in a small theater and being freaked out by camera flashes; no Kong climbing the Empire State building with the pretty girl in hand.  There is absolutely not a "it was beauty killed the beast".  There's no Kong tap dancing on Broadway to "Puttin' on the Ritz".  No... Wait.  Come to think of it, that was Young Frankenstein.  Scratch that last one.

Instead, it's a re-imagining of the King Kong story, set at the very end of the Viet Nam war in 1973; a key scene includes a recording of Nixon announcing the end of the war.  The movie opens, though, at the closing of WWII with an American P-51 crashing onto the sands of Skull island and its pilot following under his parachute canopy.  The Japanese Zero he was fighting crashes moments later, followed by its pilot descending under his parachute canopy.  1973 makes sense in terms of the movie being based on an undiscovered island; they portray Skull Island as being discovered by Landsat, one of the first full-Earth surveying satellites.  They milk the undiscovered island story for all it's worth and throw in some plot devices to isolate the folks on the island despite the relatively modern technology of 1973. 

The movie has the feel of an anti-war movie like Apocalypse Now; Samuel L Jackson plays Preston Packard, the military leader who seems disappointed to be leaving the war behind, and plays the sort of over-the-top crazy MoFo he does better than any other actor.  The anti-war feel is accentuated by the designated pretty girl, Brie Larson, who plays the "anti-war photographer" Mason Weaver, and Tom Hiddleston plays the jaded Ex-British Special Forces operator and "human tracker" James Conrad who seems to have left the British under circumstances he never talks about and whom has to be tracked down in a seedy Bangkok bar.  The Apocalypse Now feel is deliberate: director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, when asked what kind of monster movie he had in mind, suggested to it be in the Vietnam war era, as a sort of 'Apocalypse Now with monsters'.  Throughout the movie, the music of the late 60s and early 70s blares in the jungle alongside Vietnam era military hardware of all sorts. 

The movie centers, though, on John Goodman as Bill Randa and Corey Hawkins as Houston Brooks, two scientists from a shadowy organization called Monarch.  Bill Randa makes reference to an atomic test in 1954 that wasn't really a test but an attack on something and being sole survivor of a ship destroyed by that thing.  The test was an attempt to kill Godzilla and both pins this movie onto a timeline in the Legendary Pictures universe defined by their 2014 Godzilla and also creates a reference to the story arc Legendary Pictures is creating, which will end in 2020 with Godzilla vs. Kong.  After the credits, there's a scene where Houston Brooks meets Conrad and Weaver and shows them records that indicate other monsters existing on Earth; the monsters seen are Rodan, Ghidorah, Mothra and Godzilla. The scene ends with Godzilla's roar.  Before the 2020 finale of this arc, Godzilla will be reintroduced in 2019 in Godzilla: King of Monsters

(the almost-obligatory "pretty girl meets the monster and doesn't get et" scene, somewhat like the one in the movie)

What did I think of it?  I think it was entertaining, fast-paced, Kong was great CGI, and most of the rest was great too.  All in all, it was fun.  Were the characters a little too one-dimensional and stereotypical?  Was it a bit too predictable in parts?  Well, yeah.  We're watching a freakin' giant ape movie, not Shakespeare in the park.  Still not as fun as the Iron Man movies, which I always find a lot of fun, and well played.  Tom Hiddleston, who is fantastic as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has a really low-key role in this one (see what I did there?), despite top billing.  I'll give it a four out of five star rating.  A fine Thursday afternoon diversion.   

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I'd Say A London Style Attack is Coming Here

But the fact is that "lone wolf" or "self-radicalizing" jihadi attacks are already here in the US. 

What else was San Bernardino?   Ohio State?  

The Ohio State attack followed a pattern that's becoming all too familiar; and the same pattern was in today's attack on Parliament in London.  The attacker drove a nondescript car into crowds and then came out slashing.  Nothing unusual, like the trucks used in Nice on Bastille Day; or the Christmas market in Berlin; just a plain old SUV.  It doesn't require tactical ninja training, access to a weapons cache, organizational skills or anything beyond the ability to drive and desire to die for Allah. 

It's jihad for dummies.  ISIS is proud of it.
Chances are none of us will be in an attack, no matter where we live.  On the other hand, the chances aren't very good any one of us will ever win the lotto or get hit by lightning, but someone wins the lotto pretty much every week, and that's less likely than getting hit by lightning. 

I don't have any great words of wisdom here, certainly nothing that you haven't heard before.  Stay alert.  Stay armed; and if you can't lift your hand and retrieve a gun RFN you aren't.  Consider carrying a little more capacity.  Practice.  Put in a little extra time at longer distances.  It's not all preparing for someone within 3 yards who wants to grab your stuff and get away.  Someone wanting to die isn't going to stop until you help them achieve that goal.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Judge Gorsuch Doesn't Give Me Warm Fuzzies

John Richardson over at No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money has a video from the confirmation hearings for Judge Gorsuch.  You can watch either the 5 minute version or a 2 hour 40 minute version.  I watched the short one.

The video is of Babs Feinstein* questioning Judge Gorsuch and trying to get him to commit that he'd overrule Heller and declare AR-15s as being illegal.  Gorsuch is no fool and is not going to be cornered by someone of her dubious intellectual abilities.   
Does he answer properly?  I would say he does say the right things but he doesn't fill me with warm fuzzy feelings that he's really filling Scalia's chair properly.  He does say Heller is the law of the land, and that it gives certain tests that he's to apply.  He doesn't address anything about those tests.  He doesn't address how he might interpret those going forward, which, I suppose, is the game all supreme court nominees go through. 

Justice Scalia said that the 2nd Amendment is certainly subject to regulation.  One thing I recall him saying was that right to bear arms for an individual implies that there is no right to weapons that an individual can't carry.  Examples of what might be forbidden could include crew served guns, a cannon, or perhaps anything larger than a BAR or M2 (and that's my interpretation, not what Justice Scalia said).  You certainly wouldn't have the right to have an Abrams tank, and by extension, I would think you wouldn't have the right to an M2 mounted in a pickup truck.

I'd like to see some indications gun rights are going to expand and not be reduced.  I'm one of those self-identifying fools who signed that White House petition to repeal the NFA of 1934.  I'd like to see that, the GCA of 1968, and to be honest pretty much all of it, thrown onto the junk pile of history.  I see no clues that Neil Gorsuch is such a guy.  Maybe that's the way they want it to be.

* to those who think "Babs" is too disrespectful, I'd say I'm trying to be respectful.  Ordinarily, I would call her "Back seat Barbie".

Edit 03/22 @0800 EDT: Judging by the first couple of comments, I suffered from my usual unclear writing.  My point is that while Justice Scalia was the high water mark of recent Supreme Court justices, he was not a perfect supporter of the second amendment and left a lot to be desired.  I was hoping that Neil Gorsuch would be better but I don't see any signs of that.   [SiG]

Monday, March 20, 2017

Odds and Ends - Shop Edition

Saturday, I was able to get the oiling system for the CNC mill running despite the battery issues I talked about Thursday.  It didn't go as easily as expected.  I found a wall wart from an old Sound Blaster speaker system that was marked 12V at 4.2A.  Since the highest current I measured was 3.5-ish, I said, "hot diggity - I'm there".  Not quite.  The pump ran for a solid 4 or 5 minutes with oil never seen moving in the tubes.  Since the 35AH battery wasn't ready, it was on the CBA for the second discharge test, the only thing I had was my Gooloo jump starter.  The reason I picked this jump starter is that it has a 12V 10A output, enough to run my SHTF ham HF radio for hours.  That output ran the pump, so it's obvious that the basic system is OK, but the pump really sucks some serious current while it gets going and the current I read on the HF ammeter is a gross underestimate.

I have a spare PC ATX supply, as commenter matism suggested, and I pressed that into service.  Its 13 Amps is enough current, so it works to get the oil delivered from a dry start in about 4 minutes.  I need to build a case, to keep the power supply dry and add a few niceties like an on/off switch, but it will get the job done.  I don't plan to run the oil under the CNC control; just punch the switch every now and then. 

The 35 AH battery recovered nicely after a couple of cycles.  The first time, I tried to discharge it at C/10 rate (3.5 A) and it failed quickly.  The output was erratic on the CBA.  I lowered the discharge rate to 1.75 (half that or C/20) and ran the battery down to about 30% discharged, then recharged it on my new "good" charger.  The second time, it discharged at the C/10 rate and looked completely normal.  I discharged it to about one third remaining and recharged it. 

The biggest improvement is that the enclosure now closes thanks to some cheap magnets from eBay - 73 cents each including shipping.  I found a piece of half inch angle aluminum I salvaged out of something years ago, drilled some holes for mounting hardware and everything went together.
Closeup of one of the magnets and holders (the extra hole, upper right, is original - just happened to be there but was too high to be usable).
The drawback to these is that they will stop the doors from opening as far as I might need.  I find if I loosen the screws just a tiny bit, they'll stay attached to the extrusion but slide out of place if I want them to.  Perhaps I might improve that a bit with a bit of design and machining.

I took the opportunity to take the tweak I did to fix backlash on the Y-axis and try it on X.  I was able to reduce that from 0.013 to .003.  That's not as good as Y, which came out at .001, but I think it's usable; certainly for now.  That makes X, Y, Z, .003, .001 and .004 respectively. 

I'm working on the coolant system design now, and the option is either flood cooling with a couple of gallons of coolant and a sump pump, or something like the Fog Buster system.  Fog Busters are like mist cooling in that they spray a relatively tiny amount of cooling fluid, but in larger droplets than a mist.  I've read guys saying they have no drain and storage bucket under their mill at all with a mist cooler.  One user I read sprays a tiny amount of kerosene to cool aluminum.  I suppose that's not that different than using WD-40.  The professionals all seem to be using flood cooling, I'm just a bit concerned that this enclosure isn't an aquarium, and I need to do some testing before I'd feel comfortable spraying water around in there. 

Basically, though, it's a fully ready CNC system.  Which means I've been pondering what I might build for my first project on it.  Does this look familiar to you? 
I understand it's hard to visualize from one view, but it's supposed to be a 10/22 receiver with an integrated picatinny rail.  I know there are products like this out there, but what's the fun in that?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Last Month's Story Sounds Rather Different Now

Remember the early February story of the guys walking into a police station open carrying rifles?  Widely criticized as epic-level stupidity, epic failure, the story goes that these guys walked into a Dearborn, Michigan police department station openly carrying rifles and handguns, because they had been hassled while open carrying on the street and wanted to protest that their civil rights were violated. I think every gunny site I read essentially summed this up as "how stupid can you get?"

If today's Daily Caller can be believed, the story is not at all what we've been fed.

Here's the story that I think we've all heard:
Brandon Vreeland, 40, and James Baker, 24, were arrested Feb. 5 after the younger one, clad with a black ski mask, walked into the police department with a short-barreled rifle strapped to his chest, and a semi-automatic pistol tied to his waist, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Vreeland left his gun in the car so he could videotape the encounter as an experiment to see if police would respect the Second Amendment rights of the U.S. Constitution. Both have previously said they are legal gun owners, and that Michigan law allows them to carry their weapon openly, including in a police station.
According to their lawyer, though, there's more here than that summary implies.
The men allege that police knew of their arrival because of a fake Facebook account that was used to track their activities. Officers reportedly had their guns drawn before Baker and Vreeland reached the precinct.

“After the discovery, it is very clear that Dearborn (police) knew that they were coming, knew who they were, and planned the ambush,” said attorney Nicholas Somberg, who represents Vreeland, according to the Detroit Free Press. “It’s not that they were reacting to a situation they thought was going to be violent. They actually knew it was not violent, knew who they were, and just wanted to teach these guys a lesson.”
[Note: I believe phrase "After the discovery" refers to the stage in a trial called Discovery, in which the two sides question each other about the evidence they're going to use. ] 

Fake Facebook account?  Being used by the police for surveillance of gun owners and activists?  The story morphs quite a bit from emphasizing the "admirable restraint" the police showed in not shooting them on sight. 
Somberg alleges that not only did his client and his associate do nothing illegal, but the police were acting in a wrongful manner. He says documents show that police created a Facebook profile with the name “Olivia” and scanned publicly posted conversations on the social media platform.

“My clients have other activist friends,” Somberg said. “They have a whole network, so they’re just screen-shotting everybody.”
Vreeland was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, assaulting/resisting/obstructing a police officer and disturbing the peace; Baker was charged with two counts of carrying a concealed weapon and one count of brandishing firearms in public.

“We audit police to see how well they honor the Constitution and people’s rights,” Vreeland said after posting $1,500 bond. “We showcase police abuse and abuse of police power in the totalitarian police state that we live in.”
Sounds a bit different from the original "two open carry idjits walk into a police station ... all open carry guys with rifles are idjits".  
(the video that Vreeland filmed was shown widely; this screen capture is from

And in case you missed the point the other 9 gazillion times it's been made, you have no expectation of privacy on Facebook - or other social media.    Likewise, in case you missed it the other 9 gazillion times it has been reported, the regularly passes rules and laws saying what they can't do, and just as regularly completely ignores those laws.  Like the BATFE, for example. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mining in the Landfills

About 10 years ago, I heard an astonishing fact.  I was told the richest copper deposit in the world is the wiring that has been added to New York City.  Whether or not that's still true (or was ever true), it brings about an important point: our extraction of materials by mining, refining and manufacturing also includes putting those materials back into environments by landfills.  Landfills and junk yards have higher purity iron ore, copper, tin, and a bunch of other metals than you'll find in a typical mine.  To me, a sure sign that some industrial metal is getting rare is that companies will want to mine old landfills. 

Today, I learned that those discarded metals and other things are combining into new minerals
A mineral called Simonkolleite, a corrosion product of Zinc.
[S]imonkolleite, was described as a new mineral in 1985 for samples collected at Richelsdorf, Germany. It is a rare secondary mineral formed by weathering of zinc-bearing slag, and is associated with native zinc, 
Maybe I'm a bit sensitive to it, but the linked article on Science Alert seems to have a bit of a greenie-inspired "mankind is destroying the world" tone to it (IMO, of course).  The geologist they talk to says that since the industrial revolution, we've seen the creation of the largest number of minerals in the shortest period of time in history.
"This is a spike of mineral novelty that is so rapid - most of it in the last 200 years, compared to the 4.5-billion-year history of Earth. There is nothing like it in Earth's history," one of the team, Robert Hazen from the Carnegie Institution for Science told The Guardian
On the other hand, Hazen followed that statement up with an argument that strikes me as rather weak.  He said he and his team analyzed the 5,208 minerals on Earth that are officially recognized by the International Mineralogical Association, and found that 208 of them would not exist if it weren't for human activity.  208 out 5208 (4%) in 200 years is the most dramatic creation in history?  Previously, the most dramatic period of mineral creation was when oxygen was introduced into the atmosphere (a period known as The Great Oxygenation Event).  That event led to an increase in the number of minerals on the surface from just over 2,000 varieties to more than 4,000, essentially doubling.  That's a far cry from 4%.

Most of the 208 minerals triggered by humanity came about thanks to mining, while six were found on the walls of smelters, three in a geothermal piping system, and four on prehistoric sacrificial burning sites in the Austrian mountains.

Many other new minerals could also be forming in our giant waste dumps, encrusting old batteries and electrical appliances like never before, the team suggests.

"There are probably all sorts of things forming as a result of old silicon chips or batteries," Hazen told Chelsea Whyte from New Scientist.

"TVs have all these exotic phosphors they use, and magnets and all sorts of high-tech materials. When you start hydrating and oxidising them, you're going to start finding a lot of exotic new materials."
The point of the article, instead of pointing out that things like this are going to be mined in landfills in the future, is that this "rapid" formation of minerals marks a new period in the earth's history, the Anthropocene.  Clearly, Hazen is an advocate for that explanation:
"That's really I think the most important factor in deciding whether or not the Anthropocene is a new geological time period - the fact that we have created these materials, these crystals, that are incredibly diverse and beautiful and they persist through billions of years," Hazen told Nicola Davis at The Guardian.
 After the fall of the iron curtain, and the arrival of pollution control in former "Eastern Bloc" countries, a new mineral made the scene among crystal and gem collectors.  Called Zincite, it was zinc oxide, ZnO, something that occurs in places like Franklin, New Jersey, but it's virtually never seen in the size and clarity of a new crop of specimens coming from Poland.  The Polish zincites were deep red, sometimes yellow, or yellow to orange, and typically long, prismatic crystals.  It turned out they were collected from the smoke stacks of zinc smelters, and obtained the size and beauty they displayed only because of the conditions in the smoke stack.
Is Zincite a naturally occurring mineral or an Anthropogenic mineral?  Certainly natural because it's found in deposits of zinc ore, just rarely that big and pure.  And that's the heartburn I have with this insistence on "Anthropocene minerals".  Consider the first picture, that Simonkolleite, which is another zinc compound (zinc chloride hydroxide monohydrate).  Calling it a man made mineral is simply saying we've never seen it before, but have we really examined every microscopic particle of grit from every zinc deposit?  Most Zincite deposits are small crystals.  Is it really new, or is it just an unusual occurrence?  Can we ever really know? Likewise they talk about abhurite, which was found on the wreck of the SS Cheerful, which sank off the coast of Cornwall, England in 1885, and only formed because of a chemical reaction between the salt water and the ship's sunken supply of tin ingots.  Given the right constituents, this could have formed anywhere. 

I have to say it's interesting, but I'm not sure I'm convinced. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Using Cotton Candy Machines to Create Synthetic Blood Vessels

The topic of tissue engineering comes up from time to time here, and I ran across a story in Design News that I thought was really cool.  Dr. Leon Ballan of Vanderbilt University has developed a way to use a cotton candy machine to create networks of tiny blood vessels - capillaries - that are essential to grow other tissues on.
Leon Bellan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University, said he began working with a cotton-candy machine several years ago as a graduate student. He used a process called electrospinning to make nanofibers to form nanochannels, which led him to the idea that it could be used to form artificial capillary system, he told Design News.

During his research Bellan said that by chance he spoke with a reconstructive surgeon, who mentioned that a major hurdle in the field of tissue engineering was the difficulty of building a vascular network.  

“I figured that my nanofibers and nanochannels looked like capillaries, but were too small, so I had the idea to try cotton candy instead,” he said in an interview. Bellan paid about $40 for his first machine at a local Target store.  

His team eventually built a custom fiber-spinning device to makes fibers from solution for their latest research -- a paper about which has been published in Advanced Healthcare Materials -- but it is still “effectively a cotton candy machine,” Bellan added.
Of course it's not just as simple as buying a cotton candy machine and dumping some sugar in it; and it's a modified cotton candy machine, no longer the $40 machine from Target.  If an experimenter creates a network of fibers using sugar, when they pour a hydrogel on it, the sugar dissolves away because the hydrogel is mostly water.  The key was to have a chemical with the right physical characteristics.  
“First, the material has to be insoluble in water when you make the mold so it doesn’t dissolve when you pour the gel. Then it must dissolve in water to create the microchannels because cells will only grow in aqueous environments,” Bellan said. 
After experimenting with many different materials, Bellan's group discovered that the key material is PNIPAM, Poly (N-isopropylacrylamide), a polymer with the unusual property of being insoluble at temperatures above 32 degrees Celsius and soluble below that temperature. In addition, the material has been used in other medical applications and has proven to be cell-friendly.  
A three-dimensional slab of gelatin that contains a microvascular network. (Bellan Lab / Vanderbilt
The researchers first spin out a network of PNIPAM threads using a machine closely resembling a cotton candy machine. Then they mix up a solution of gelatin in water (a liquid at 37 degrees) and add human cells, like adding grapes to jello. Adding an enzyme commonly used in the food industry (transglutaminase, nicknamed “meat glue”) causes the gelatin to irreversibly gel. This warm mixture is poured over the PNIPAM structure and allowed to gel in an incubator at 37 degrees. Finally, the gel containing cells and fibers is removed from the incubator and allowed to cool to room temperature, at which point the embedded fibers dissolve, leaving behind an intricate network of microscale channels. The researchers then attach pumps to the network and begin perfusing them with cell culture media containing necessary chemicals and oxygen.
Experimentally, they've shown that in their perfused microchannels, 90 percent of the cells in a scaffold remained alive and functional after seven days, compared to only 60 to 70 percent in scaffolds that were not perfused or did not have microchannels.  Their task now is to develop methods that will allow other researchers to create the artificial vasculature needed to sustain artificial livers, kidneys, bone and other organs 

Tissue engineering at the level of growing replacement parts for those damaged by injury or disease has remained elusive.  As with this example, it appears that the key is to develop the right substrates so that the required 3D structures can organically form.  As an engineer, it has always seemed to be to be the real answer to a lot of problems.  

15 years ago a technician I was working with asked me if I'd like to live forever.  I surprised him by saying no.  Tissue engineering might provide an exception.  I think his idea came from someone (Ray Kurzweil?), who said if we can survive until the year 2030, we will have the option of immortality.  I think that's wildly optimistic.  Before that would be reasonable, every disease would have to be cured, and it would have to be possible to surgically fix or grow a replacement for every part of the body.  Spinal cord repair would have to be as reliable as changing a fuse in a car.  All those annoying things that happen as you age would have to be eradicated; things like old injuries turning arthritic, deteriorating hearing, metabolic problems, all the rest.  Not to mention replacing all the scars from every little cut and injury, lest we turn into one continuous mass of scar tissue.  Forever is a long time, and I don't think the futurists have really thought it through.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I'm Starting to Really Dislike Batteries

I'm starting to really dislike batteries because they always seem to be the cause of a lot of problems in my life.  I know I mentioned a problem we had a few months ago where the batteries in two old iPhone 3ses (that's supposed to be plural for 3s) suddenly started swelling, one breaking its case and the other causing the phone to roll off the stand it was on, fall and break open.  I think I mentioned replacing batteries in our current (almost four year old) phones.  I know I've mentioned batteries a lot, and even did a few podcasts on them last year when I was guesting on the Gun Blog Variety Podcast.  I even did a pretty thorough introduction to rechargeable batteries 15 months ago.  And that's just the rechargeable ones; don't get me started on alkalines that leak!

I got hit by that hammer again today. 

Now that the mill enclosure is working, I thought I'd "just" hook up the oiling system "for real" and get oil pumping.  I wrote lots about the oiling system back when I was doing it, but I don't think I mentioned how it works.  The system uses a universal fuel pump for cars that can be found virtually everywhere.  I got this one from a seller on eBay (no connection, etc.).  Hoss recommends a thin oil compared to what others use on their machines' surfaces, a 0W-20 oil, but not knowing any reason not to do so, I picked up a quart at the local auto parts store.  I started trying to get it running yesterday and could not get the oil to pump out of the pump.  Since my tubing is clear, I could see oil moving up the tube until it got to the pump but it never came out of the pump, which must mean it had stopped flowing at that point. 

When I started back on it this morning, I did everything I could think of.  I even took it all apart and looked into the the pump to see if I could find a dead critter stuck in there (hey, I had a dead lizard lodged in my printer keeping that from working... it's not that far-fetched).  Nothing.

At one point, I primed the tubing by injecting some oil into the outlet tube that goes to all the fittings on the mill.  Then I put a little oil into the outlet side of the pump.  Still, nothing. 

As you may have deduced by now, it was the battery.  Starting on the job yesterday, if there was anything I thought was beyond suspicion and didn't need to be troubleshot, it was the battery.  Today, I noticed the sound from the pump, which was loud enough to be rather annoying, suddenly getting quieter.  Some time later, I noticed that when I was done with a troubleshooting step and reconnected to the battery, it started out loud and then got weaker.  That triggered an old memory that batteries can behave like that: deliver a surge of current when you first hook them up, then tail off.  It happens in a lead acid battery that's in bad shape (sulfated).  After a couple of attempts that kept pointing at the battery, I tried my jump starter.  Not only did it sound better, but I instantly saw oil coming out of the pump and moving in the hose.  This jump starter has a button on it to trigger the surge and it stays on for a few seconds.  I hit the button when it stopped to run it again.  After a few cycles, I had oil flowing everywhere.

This is the battery in a picture from that December of '15 column, with the "smart charger" it has been living on for a few years.  As you can read on the battery's top, it's an AGM (absorbed glass mat, lead acid) battery.  Considering the poor performance of the battery, this calls into question just how "smart" this charger really is, as well as how suited it is for AGM batteries.   As a side note, the charger's slightly smaller, slightly younger "brother" that has lived on our boat died about three weeks ago and was replaced with a charger that is for AGM batteries only and supposedly incorporates features that keep the battery healthy. 

Troubleshooting the battery has started, along with trying to ensure it cycles properly.  I put it on the battery charger/discharger that was also featured in the 12/15 post, set it to discharge at a 1A current, but it only discharged at 300 mA, which I think means it can't draw a higher current without depressing the cell voltage too much.  I think I need to cycle it harder. 

Back at the Orlando Hamfest in February, I bought a Computerized Battery Analyzer from a ham radio accessory maker called West Mountain Radio.  Strangely, I had yet to hook it up.  It obviously needs a computer and the best one to use logistically is my CNC computer, but I've been pretty busy with that one.  Today I got that running and tested it out on yet another battery.  It seems to work pretty easily.  What it does is give a plot of the discharge of the battery and measure of its capacity.  I tested it on a 9.6 V, 2.8 AH NiCd battery.  After entering the battery parameters (and it offers some "expert advise" on what to use), it discharges the battery and gives you a plot like this:
You'll see in the legend at the top of the plot that it says the capacity is 2.29 AH, or just over 81% of rated.  Since it suggested (and I agreed) that 80% of that should be considered good, it says the battery passes.  Realistically, it's pretty much at the end of its life. 

On the down side, if things are really so complicated that we need computerized battery analyzers, computerized/smart chargers, battery dischargers/conditioners and a shelf full of accessories to get our batteries to work, it's getting too complicated.  I'm starting to really dislike batteries.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hawaiian District Court Stops Trumps Travel Inconvenience Ruling

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson also said Hawaii would suffer financially if the executive order blocks the flow of students and tourists to the state and concluded that Hawaii is likely to succeed on a claim that the ban violates First Amendment protections against religious discrimination.
Ohs noes!  The Muslim ban lie again!!   I think Michael Ramirez handled that argument pretty well.
Seems like such an effective ban on muslims when you look at it that way.  Why, it must be inconveniencing something like 1/1000 of the possible muslim immigrant population.  How dense does one have to be to see that as an attack on a religion? 
Watson was nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama in 2012 and is currently the only Native Hawaiian judge serving on the federal bench and the fourth in U.S. history. He received his law degree from Harvard in 1991.
An Obama appointee from Harvard?   That's like the density of a neutron star.  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It's an Enclosure -

Except for that whole "closure" part.  The doors barely close.  On the other hand, the other 95% of it is pretty good and very likely good enough to be done.

As I was saying last week, the enclosure isn't on the DVD I bought, but is in the open on Hossmachine's YouTube channel and discussed to some degree on the CNCZone forum.  In his final video, Hoss says he used some magnetic latches that grab the steel L brackets (seen pretty much whereever the horizontal and vertical elements of the frames come together).  The magnets are held in some plastic housings that Hoss 3D printed and screwed to the top rail in the front.  Well, I don't have the magnets and I don't have the 3D printer.  To compound things, you can see the enormous chrome plated handles Hoss had picked out.  How he gets the enclosure to close is to put both handles in his right hand and squeeze them together.  That pulls the two door panels closed and the magnets grab them.  In my version, the handles bang into each other and just barely allow the door frames to touch.  It will close, but it doesn't stay closed without those magnets.

Compared to a pin or some hardware to lock the doors in place, the magnets are a convenient solution, but I obviously need something to latch it closed.

For now, I'm going to try to find a few parts.  I'll say the enclosure is over 90% done.  Granted the last few percent are very important, but there's still more tweaking, optimizing and maybe even upgrading to do on everything.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Will 2017 Be the Year Ransomware Attacks Cars?

That's what Andy Davis, transport assurance practice director at NCC Group (Manchester, the U.K.) thinks.  The NCC Group is an information assurance firm that specializes in software escrow and verification, along with cyber security.  Davis belongs to a technical steering committee of FASTR (Future of Automotive Security Technology Research), an industry group founded to foster cross-industry collaboration on automotive security technology.

The article, "Your Money or Your Brakes" in today's EE Times newsletter focuses on the growing implications of so much software in cars; software that's so badly protected.  How much software?  FASTR presents this:
100 MILLION LOC and almost 100 ECUs in a luxury vehicle?  That definitely needs more software assurance than the industry seems to be doing, but most importantly, that software needs to be inaccessible except to the service centers that work on the cars.  The problem is car buyers are so acclimated to their smartphones and internet-connected computers that they expect software upgrades to "just happen".  It's inconvenient to schedule time to bring your car to a dealer so that some system can be upgraded, and users prefer the so-called "over the air" software patches.  The problem is that systems that are open to the outside world are an invitation to disaster.
The very nature of a vehicle today has been altered by consumers who want a car to be like a smartphone, explained Davis.

They demand cars with more functions and features, just like smartphones, so they can run new applications. Fine, but most new features go into vehicles “without rigorous security assessment,” Davis explained.

Consider a smartphone app that can unlock a car. It’s a convenience feature. But every time such smartphone apps are integrated into vehicles, it’s an open invitation for ransomware. The attack surfaces in vehicles – available for hackers to play with – are many. Cellular, WiFi and Bluetooth network connectivity and their protocols can be all penetrated, said Davis.
So what sort of attack are we talking about?
Picture yourself in your car. You’ve turned on the engine, and a message pops up on the dashboard.” The message says, “This car has been hacked. Pay up XXX dollars in the next Y days, or we won’t allow you to start the car.”

This could be a very simple attack. It could be a bogus message. But you can’t help but wonder what will happen the next time you hit the ignition. Will it start? Will it blow up? Will it crash intentionally into someone else?

“Few drivers would take the chance.” said Davis. Most likely, they would get out of their car and simply walk away, because those ransomware messengers “are inducing fear.” Ransomware typifies an aspect of “social engineering” – in the hacking sense --designed for psychological manipulation.

There is a second scenario, said Davis, that “can be more lucrative but potentially riskier.” Hackers could go directly after car manufacturers for extortion. They’d play “a reputational angle,” he said. Of course, the bigger the car OEM they target, the greater law enforcement’s involvement, which could result in the hackers’ capture.
Imagine you get into your new high-end car to go to work and you get that message.  Now what?  Unlike Davis, I don't think people would just walk away from their car.  I think they'd call the dealers in outrage.  If a large percentage of the people with that model car were to call their dealer, it would backlog the dealers ability to shut the systems down and replace them.  If the dealers themselves aren't crippled by the same attacks.  Yet the auto industry appears completely unprepared for something like this to happen.
For years, traditional automotive engineers maintained that car hacking was far-fetched. They offered two reasons. First, they said, it’s “not possible” to pull it off without physical access. Second, there’s no way to make money from hacking a car. Granted, penetrating a car is no trivial task. It would take hours of work and expert knowledge.
The well-publicized 2015 Jeep attack (which led to a recall of 1.4 million vehicles) blew away the first shibboleth.  With automotive ransomware emerging, the second article of engineering faith stands on shaky ground. What if instead of demanding hundreds of dollars from car owners to get use of their cars, the ransomeware authors said, "pay us $25 and we'll leave you alone"?  With the choice of something small like 25 or $50 weighed against weeks or months waiting to get the car into the dealer, would most people pay that? 

Given how big the threat is, how prepared are the carmakers?  EE Times reports on a few surveys in the industry, and while about half of the respondents think hackers are "actively attacking" automobiles, less than half think their companies are taking the threat seriously. 
When we asked Davis why car OEMs remain so casual about cybersecurity, he said that he doesn’t think that’s the case. Rather, the challenges among traditional OEMs are more cultural. The engineers working on components at a carmaker are not the same as those who work in IT.

Blame, he added, falls on the internal communications and priorities set by car OEMs. Do car OEMs/ executives expect automotive hardware engineers to be software developers or security experts? Probably not.
Personally, I find the conclusion uncomfortable
The bottom line is that “it takes a real world incident” for the whole industry to take automotive cybersecurity seriously. The world’s first ransomware aimed at vehicles might finally be the industry’s wake-up call, Davis concluded.
There's an unfortunate saying in the aviation business that the regulations are written in blood; nothing gets changed until a big "real world incident" with a large body count happens.  Sounds just like that. 

I drive an '09 Explorer, and while it has an early version of Sync in it, the only way to update its software is to go to the dealer and pay them.  I don't think it's reachable from the outside.  When Borepatch talks about car security, he always ends up suggesting we return to the old iron with no electronics whatsoever.  The only car I had with no electronics was my '72 Pinto.     

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dr. Salim Yusuf and the PURE study

The PURE study is the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiology study, chaired by co-investigators Drs. Salim Yusuf and Koon Teo of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  PURE is the largest global study looking at environmental, societal and biological influences on obesity and chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  The PURE Study consists of over 150,000 participants from 17 countries of low, middle and high income.

A side track around here is that a dear friend of ours has been in and out of hospitals most of the last month.  He had been having some shortness of breath, and some swelling in his legs, so went to see his primary care doctor.  The PCP did an EKG, took one look and told him to get to the ER.  To keep this short, over the course of the next three weeks he was in and out of two hospitals, home and back to an ER a few times, eventually getting a pacemaker and oxygen at home.  He has been home for about a week, now and we went by today, finding him looking much better than earlier in the week.  There are many more doctor visits and tests in the near future.

His discharging physician (not his regular doctor) told him to eat a heart healthy, low sodium diet.  Right away, most of you have a picture in your mind of what that is.  I invite you to watch this video of Dr. Salim Yusuf describing their results.  Yes, it's a 22 minute video.  It's important to underline that Dr. Yusuf is about as mainstream as it gets.  He's the president of the World Heart Federation and the Department Chair in Cardiovascular Disease at McMaster University Medical School.  This is not "quack alert" time.

[EDIT 03/22/17 1030 EDT - The video has had embedding turned off.  You may still watch it at this link.  SiG] 

Note that the ideal sodium consumption for minimization of cardiac events was in the range of 3-5 grams of salt/day.  3 grams is approximately twice the MDR of salt and twice what my friend's discharging physician recommended for salt consumption.  Sodium was especially interesting because for some people there was a "check mark" shaped curve of cardiovascular disease (CVD) vs sodium intake; that is, when the sodium intake got too low or too high, CVD went up. 

Now - some important stuff.  Studies like the PURE and virtually everything you get on the evening news are observational studies, and I maintain my belief that when most of those stories break, like last week's buzz story about gluten, they're not worth much attention.  Observational studies are essentially not able to distinguish cause and effect, but are useful for determining what needs to be studied in randomized, controlled studies.  There's somewhat of an exception to this, the Bradford Hill criteria, which basically say that if the effect is "ginormous" like it was with smoking (smokers got lung cancer something like 15 times more frequently than non-smokers), and if there's a plausible mechanism, and if a few other criteria are met, then you can attribute causality.  On the other hand, lack of correlation in an observational study can prove lack of causality.  If something causes another they have to be correlated, but being correlated itself doesn't prove anything.  (Easy example: there's a 100% correlation between people that breathed and people that died so that dying and breathing are correlated, but breathing doesn't cause dying). 

The conclusions through the 9th year of the PURE study are shown below:
  • CVD = cardiovascular disease.
  • MUFA = monounsaturated fatty acids - monounsaturated fat as found in olive oil, some nuts (e.g. almonds), and famously recommended in the "Mediterranean Diet"
  • PUFA = polyunsaturated fatty acids - typically found in vegetable oils, and in some nuts (e.g. walnuts) and recommended for years.  This is saying that despite at least 30 years of promoting vegetable oils - margarine over butter - there is no data showing it's protective
  • CHO = carbohydrate.  No distinction is made between complex sugars (starches) and simple sugars.  Restrict to less than 50% of caloric intake.  For the last 30 years, authorities have been recommending more like 65%. 
Not clear from the conclusion chart is that there was some evidence that saturated fat is protective; certainly not harmful.  There is no evidence that drinking 1% or 2% milk instead of full fat milk is protective; in fact, dairy fats appear protective.  All of which shows, according to this study, that a bacon cheeseburger - without the bun - might be the best food you can eat.  Do you like a salad with that?  Dr. Yusuf says "you have to eat something - if you like vegetables, eat vegetables".  So go have some bacon!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Seems Like This to Me

Lisa Benson's summary of the Obamacare story.
Like I said a couple of weeks ago (about "repeal and replace"): 
Why should we want to replace it?  Why wouldn't we just want to burn it to the ground and do everything we can to create a free market in medical care?   From what I can see, the problem with healthcare is over regulation and a thoroughly broken market because of it.  This brokenness has been building for over a hundred years.  Naturally, anything that took a hundred years to break is going to be hard to unscrew.
While I know the president is going through his campaign promises and ticking them off his "to do" list, Rand Paul is among the most reasonable voices in this whole mess.  Rand says repeal it now because everyone is in agreement on that part, then work on a possible replacement.   According to The Hill, Paul introduced a repeal bill on Thursday:
By introducing the new bill, Paul hopes to repeal the ACA without immediately rushing to replace it. He argued in a written statement that Republicans are much more united on repeal, saying:
The Republican Party is unified on Obamacare repeal. We can honor our promise right away by passing the same language we acted on in the last Congress."
Paul continued by pointing out that they could replace it later on, saying, “we can have a separate vote on replacement legislation that will deliver lower costs, better care, and greater access to the American people.”
John Hawkins at has a good summary:
Although Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic Party are guilty of a multitude of sins against America, the worst one was Obamacare. The bill was never popular. In fact, it was so hated that it catapulted Scott Brown into Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts for a term. The bill was an albatross around the party’s neck and the results were devastating.

During the Obama years, the Democrat Party lost 12 governorships, 900 state legislature seats, 69 House seats and 13 Senate seats.

Why was Obamacare so costly to the Democrats? Because the bill wasn’t bipartisan. Because they sold it with lies. Because it was never popular to begin with. But most of all, they created a system that had a small number of winners and a large number of losers.
So popular, it drove the people in Massachusetts to give a seat that has been under Democratic control since the last ice age to a marginally competent rookie like Scott Brown. It has literally made the Democrats a marginal party.  All they can do is work at screwing up things. 

Look, I'm sure there's a subset of the population for whom Obamacare works.  Someone with an expensive existing condition, or was otherwise so broke and got such good subsidies that they got a winning hand would certainly be happy with it.  As many people have pointed out (including me); getting insurance for a condition you already have isn't the typical risk mitigation role of insurance, it's redistribution of the premiums.  On the other hand, most people were not in that small group and saw their deductibles and premium costs skyrocket.  Retirees are forced to pay for insurance for maternity care they'll never use; non-drinkers are forced to pay for alcoholism treatment insurance, and more.  They completely destroyed what little resemblance health care had to a market-driven system. 

Why should we want a replacement anything at all like Obamacare?  It was designed from the start as socialist income redistribution.  I could do (and have done) days worth of columns on this.  For example, way back in the first year of this blog, 2010, I wrote a piece on Donald Berwick, who had been given a recess appointment to be the Medicare/Medicaid czar in the early days of Obamacare.
Dr. Berwick is now in charge of a program with obligations of 95 trillion dollars (debt clock) - far, far higher than the GDP of every nation in the world.  As far as I can tell, he has zero experience with finances.
Dr. Berwick was not only an unabashed fan of "death panels", but of socialist redistribution of wealth.
"Any healthcare funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent healthcare is by definition redistributional," said Berwick. ...  Is health insurance redistribution?  I voluntarily pay into a system that will pay benefits to any member based on the money it collects from the members of the plan.  I fail to see that being socialist.  So if insurance isn't "just, equitable, civilized, and humane" what exactly is he advocating?  Taxing you to pay for other people.  Government, as Washington said, is force.  Try not paying your taxes, and if you're not a member of the administration (e.g., Timothy Geithner), how much do you want to bet that you eventually don't get a gun pointed at you?  No, this is not humane, it is theft.  
One of the architects of the law was Rahm Emmanuel's brother Ezekiel, who argued we should all die at 75 for a handful of egotistical reasons.  Another was Democratic street thug organizer and scumbag Robert Creamer, who came up with many concepts for Obamacare while in Federal Prison in the mid '00s. 

It is such a fetid cesspool of legislation it should be torn up from the ground up.  There's no reason to want anything like it at all.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Florida's RINO Infestation

My out-of-state friends have probably not heard that a great package of gun bills is apparently being scuttled in the Florida Senate, again - just like last year, by an influential Republican, again - just like last year, a Republican who made public commitments to being a supporter of the 2nd amendment, again - just like last year.

The RINO this year is the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Anitere Flores of Miami.  Miguel at Gun Free Zone has been doing the yeoman's work of reporting on this with important pieces starting yesterday, March 9th, when the story broke.  Miquel's first report summarizes as follows:
Flores, a key vote on the Judiciary Committee, vowed she wouldn’t support Steube’s 10 other bills, which means they would have virtually no chance of making it onto the Senate floor. 

Flores is one of five Republicans and four Democrats on the committee, so if she votes against bills and all Democrats vote in lockstep, Steube’s gun bills would be sent to their graves early.
Senator Greg Steube, who is referred to here, is a genuine advocate for Florida's law-abiding gun owners, and had originally (January) proposed a single large bill that embodied campus carry, open carry, carry in the "non-sterile" parts of airports (such as where the Ft. Lauderdale airport attack took place), courthouse accommodations, and more.  He broke it into 10 smaller bills after concerns that one portion might block all the others.

Marion Hammer, the NRA-ILA representative in Tallahassee and former NRA President responded to questions this way:
"I cannot tell you why Sen. Flores suddenly turned on law-abiding gun owners because I do not know.  (Until yesterday she had a 100% rating with NRA and USF)

I cannot tell you if Sen. Flores was acting on her own behalf or on behalf of the Senate President or Senate Leadership because I do not know.

I cannot tell you whether or not she has the power to kill all pro-gun bills and not allow the Senate to vote on them because I do not know.  But -- as the old saying goes -- "it ain't over 'till it's over,"  and this is only Day 2 of the 2017 Legislative session.

And finally, am I giving up for this session? ABSOLUTELY NOT.  I represent law-abiding gun owners statewide and they depend on me to fight for them and I will."
Like Miguel and others, I've sent the Senate President my own comments, which start like this:
It's being widely reported that Ms. Flores effectively turned her back on her supporters and said she wouldn’t support any of Senator Steube’s 10 gun proposals.  Whether this is simply being a turncoat or if it's the result of bribery or other corruption, readers can't say but it's a betrayal of her supporters and all of Florida's law-abiding gun owners.  In spite of her anti-gun vote promise, in recently (post-Pulse club shooting) writing pro-2nd amendment letters to Marion Hammer, Ms. Flores clearly and plainly said she was on the side of legal gun owners.  In reversing direction she has betrayed not just all of her supporters, but has cast a pall over every Republican elected official in the state.
Anitere Flores, right, with Michelle Gajda, head of the Florida chapter of Michael Bloomberg's (the most dependable asshole in American politics (tm)) "Moms Demand Action".

Miguel proposes a simple approach: reset every senator's NRA grade to zero.   We no longer grade on PR statements or returned questionnaires: we grade on results.  Pass laws restoring our rights, you get good grades.  Block them, you get left at zero.  Unfortunately, I don't think that's right either.  To Michelle Gajda and her fellow travelers, a zero from the NRA is a good grade and I don't want to give her a good grade.  Likewise, Senator Steube really is a better advocate and friend than Flores, so if we go by the idea that nobody gets above zero if the laws aren't passed, he ends up rated the same as she does.  She's the roadblock and needs to be seen as the roadblock.  I don't think there is a fix for someone flipping like this, until the primaries, by which time we're fighting a rear-guard action to try and get rid of them to keep them from doing more damage.  Again - just like last year

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Did Mad Dog Nominate A Muslim Brotherhood Supporter?

I ran across word on PJ Media that Secretary of Defense Mattis has recommended the appointment of Anne Patterson to be the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.  The author of that piece, Raymond Ibrahim, went so far as to call her a Muslim Brotherhood Stooge.  Is she really a Brotherhood stooge, or is she just a career State Department wonk who was in Egypt at that time?

Becoming Undersecretary of Defense for policy would make Patterson the third highest official in the Pentagon, and the only one of the top three (the other being Deputy Secretary Robert Work, an Obama appointee holding over until he's replaced) to not be a retired career officer.  Politico describes the problem this way:
As ambassador to Egypt between 2011 and 2013, Patterson worked closely with former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Islamist government. She came under fire for cultivating too close a relationship with the regime and for discouraging protests against it -- and White House officials are voicing concerns about those decisions now. 
The emphasis of the Politico piece is that Mattis keeps nominating people whom he knows and has some regard for, and the Trump administration keeps refusing them.  Middle East Briefing seems to back that up, at least partly, simply reporting that Mattis and Patterson worked together when he was still a general.
General Mattis’ choice of Patterson for the top policy post at the Pentagon is the result of their close working relationship when Patterson was serving as Ambassador to Pakistan from 2007-2010, and later during her posting in Cairo. General John Kelly, the Secretary of Homeland Security, who headed the U.S. Southern Command before taking the Trump cabinet post, and is a close collaborator of Defense Secretary Mattis, also knew of Patterson’s earlier career as Ambassador to El Salvador (1997-2000) and Colombia (2000-2003). She served, briefly, in Colombia during the presidency of Alvaro Uribe, who took a hard-line stance against the FARC (Armed Forces for the Liberation of Colombia). As head of Southcom, General Kelly had been a strong promoter of aggressive action against the Colombian drug cartels, including the leftist FARC.
The PJ Media piece is more negative about Patterson.
Back during the months leading to the June 30, 2013 revolution, Patterson -- the “Brotherhood’s Stooge” as she was called by all, from news analysts to the Egyptian street -- was arguably one of the most hated individuals by the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets against Morsi and the Brotherhood. Not only did her face regularly appear next to Obama’s in placards; it sometimes appeared alone, indicating just how closely she was seen as supporting the Brotherhood.
Ibrahim includes several photographs of protests in Egypt directly attacking Patterson.  For example:

There are more of these, as well as quotes from Egyptian sources who seem to be uniformly against Patterson.  There are allegations that she's Muslim Brotherhood agent, and more.  Is it just because she was the visible face of a very unpopular Obama policy? 

As I mentioned, Politico seems to emphasize the conflict between Trump and Mattis, saying that several of his appointments for assistants have been refused. 
The skirmish surrounding Patterson’s nomination is the latest in a series of personnel battles that have played out between Mattis and the White House, with each side rejecting the names offered up by the other while the Pentagon remains empty. The White House has yet to nominate a single undersecretary or deputy secretary to the Defense Department, while Work, Mattis’s deputy, is an Obama administration holdover who only agreed to stay on until the secretary taps a deputy of his own.

But it is Mattis who’s dug in most stubbornly, insisting on staffing his own department. “Mattis is a guy who cares very much about personnel,” said a Mattis friend. “He doesn’t want people off the tracks that he has laid down and that he’s running his train on.”
Which indicates that he feels he can trust and work with Anne Patterson.  The above quote from Middle East Briefing implies that General John Kelly of Homeland Security also likes and trusts Patterson.  Middle East Briefing continues:
The harshest criticisms of Patterson center on her close relationship with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and their former President, Mohammed Morsi, when she was Ambassador in Cairo from 2011-2013.

Patterson arrived as Ambassador to Egypt four months after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, and she immediately established strong ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, while also keeping lines of communication open to the ruling armed forces. She became the emblem of the Obama Administration’s policy of courting the Muslim Brotherhood as a “moderate” force within “political Islam,” which had been enshrined in President Obama’s Presidential Study Directive-11 (PSD-11) of August 2010, and the later Presidential Decision Directive-13 (PDD-13) of February 2011, which set forth a policy of opening to Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria. In the spring of 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had announced a public opening to the Muslim Brotherhood, and she later approved a visit to Washington by a delegation of Muslim Brotherhood leaders from all over the Middle East and North Africa.
It's being reported that Trump and the administration are opposed to Anne Patterson's nomination, and they will probably win that argument.  My respect for Mad Dog Mattis leads me to believe that if he feels he can work with her and trust her, that's probably adequate vetting.  On the other hand, everyone makes mistakes.  It really comes down to the question of whether Anne Patterson is really a Muslim Brotherhood supporter, or is she just a career diplomat handed a crappy job and trying to make her boss look like not-quite so big an idiot as he is?  Yet another question looming is if there will be Brotherhood ties into the Trump administration as there were into Obama's, where they were apparently embedded from top to bottom.
Anne Patterson (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


The work on my CNC mill enclosure is idling a few days because of finding I was missing a couple of screws.  These aren't called out on the DVD I bought; the entire enclosure project isn't on the DVD.  There has been some discussion on the CNCZone forum about it, where I got most of the hardware list, and a handful of videos on YouTube.  While watching a couple of those videos for the third or fourth time, I noticed a couple of screws I had missed.  After spending half an hour at Lowe's looking for #6 pan head wood screws, I didn't think I'd find M3 x0.5 screws in the oddball length I need, so it was off to Bolt Depot where I got everything I thought I could possibly need, and some spares.  Like most of my Bolt Depot orders, the hardware I ordered was about half the price of shipping: $2.24 for the hardware and $4.95 for the shipping.   The hardware should be here tomorrow.

It's also idling because while cutting the clear acrylic for the front doors, I broke two pieces.  It's a comedy of errors thing.  Such comedies aren't usually funny for a while when they happen to you.  

On the positive side, the other three panels are all up and the basic enclosure is built.
The structure uses latches to hold the sides to the back, one is visible at the top of the right corner, and also uses latches to hold the sides to the chip tray.  The picture below is a detail zoom of the right side top and bottom latches, along with another L bracket with two screws in it which attaches the side to the back.  To take this apart, I remove one screw from that L bracket and one from a matching bracket on the left side, then pop latches open. 
If you look behind the mill, you'll see a PVC pipe sticking up with two 90 degree elbows on it.  Those feed the wires from outside the enclosure up into the chip tray and the tube is sealed to keep coolant from getting out of the tray. 

Once this is done, the rest of the "To Do" list becomes smaller projects.  In no particular order:
  • Get oil for oiler and get it working. 
  • Get coolant system running.
  • Edge finder using electrical contact. 
  • Limit switches
  • Get rotary axis working
  • Spindle speed & on/off control
It's usable for projects now, maybe like this one...  Those upgrades are primarily to increase friendliness and usability. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My Long Taurus Story is Over

The story that began in early August of 2015 has come to successful denouement.  The short version: Taurus sent me a replacement and it's no longer a Taurus.

As I wrote last Friday, 
Today at about 5:30, my FFL called and said they had a gun for me.  The situation was all news to them, but it appears tomorrow I'll go up to the Friendly Family Licensee and see what we can work out.  I don't feel much need for another 9mm handgun, but maybe we work something out.
I may as well plug my FFL, our local shooting range with and attached restaurant that serves drinks, Frog Bones Family Shooting Center (no, I get nothing for plugging them - I just think they're a good place).   Saturday in the early afternoon found us talking with the guys at the gun counter, and they were quite receptive.  I told them I had bought the PT-145 as a .45 in an FTF sale and that I'd sent it in when word started getting out Taurus would check the guns and "repair or replace".  I told them that with it being 19 months later, I've done without it for long enough that I just don't care to replace it with a 9mm.  If Taurus had offered a .45 as the replacement, I might - might - have taken that option, but I was more interested in getting another .45 to replace it. After looking at a handful of options, we all agreed it would be best for us to come back when it was less busy, so we went back yesterday. 

Before going to the store, I had checked to see about what the PT-111 goes for online and found Buds has it for $275.  That would add $30 at the local shop: $25 FFL transfer and $5 FDLE background check.  I speculated that I bet that their wholesale price would be around $200 and they'd probably offer me that in trade.  That turned out to be exactly right.  Was it the truth?  I don't know.  I reasoned that if I never took possession of the PT-111, then it would not be a used gun and should sell for more in their store but it's unreasonable to expect they'd offer me more than what they pay wholesale when they buy that model.

So what did the Taurus morph into?  A Springfield Armory XD-s 3.3 in .45ACP.  Naturally, today seemed like a good day to take it for its first drive.  Temps were in the mid to upper 70s and the breeze around 15, so really pleasant in the shaded outdoor range.  I ran 100 rounds of FMJ (Blazer Brass) and 20 JHPs (Remington Ultimate Defense - supposedly optimized for compact handguns) through it.  Zero problems of any kind; no FTF, FTE or anything, which is what I expected.  Here's a quick portrait with Mrs. Graybeard's Sig P238 Equinox. 
I've mentioned having a Taurus Slim, PT-709 9mm, which is one of the reasons I didn't feel the need for another 9mm handgun.  I find the Taurus a bit painful to shoot due to its small width and my arthritis (the fact that compact, single stack 9s can be uncomfortable is not a revelation).  I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to spend quality range time with the XD-s because it's also a single stack, narrow gun.  Before pulling the trigger on the XD-s, so to speak, the sales guys set us up with a demo gun and free range time to test it (we just had to buy a box of their ammo).  The XD-s gives me no troubles at all.  Mrs. Graybeard has similar issues with the 709 and likewise had no discomfort with the 45 ACP XD-s at all.  I'll admit that's a little puzzling, but write it off to better ergonomics.  Perhaps the beavertail safety puts our hands into a better position. 

This is about as good a resolution as I could have hoped for.  It took a long time for the system to resolve the issue, but Taurus supplied me, not the original owner of the gun, with a replacement for it that I was able to use as a trade in for something I'm more comfortable with.  I think some of that delay was due to the settlement issues with the various plaintiffs.  Taurus first told me they were going to replace my gun in November of '15.  The extra year delay appears to have come from the lawyers and various plaintiffs in the class action settlement against Taurus. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Calling in a Rain Check

Busy day, which thoroughly got away from me.  So a cartoon of the day. 

Michael P. Ramirez

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Recommended Reading on Civil War 2.0

On Thursday,  Tam posted a link to a very thought provoking and rather long piece on a blog I'd never heard of:  Days of Rage on Status 451.  The author pokes at many things going on that lead to the widely stated thought that we're in the low-intensity phase of the second civil war in our country. I haven't actually finished reading it, but I will when I'm done here.  The title, "Days of Rage" was the title of a book about the violence of the early '70s (for reasons that aren't clear to me, much of what people consider "the 60s" actually took place between '68 and '72).  “People have completely forgotten that in 1972 we had over nineteen hundred domestic bombings in the United States.” — Max Noel, FBI (ret.)

As I always do, I'm going to pull a few quotes here to whet your interest to go read it.
One thing that Burrough returns to in Days of Rage, over and over and over, is how forgotten so much of this stuff is. Puerto Rican separatists bombed NYC like 300 times, killed people, shot up Congress, tried to kill POTUS (Truman). Nobody remembers it.

Also, people don’t want to remember how much leftist violence was actively supported by mainstream leftist infrastructure. I’ll say this much for righty terrorist Eric Rudolph: the sonofabitch was caught dumpster-diving in a rare break from hiding in the woods. During his fugitive days, Weatherman’s Bill Ayers was on a nice houseboat paid for by radical lawyers.
You have to understand: in 1968, many radicals absolutely believed that the United States was getting ready to collapse. One Weatherman puts it: “We actually believed there was going to be a revolution. We believed 3rd World countries would rise up and cause crises that would bring down the industrialized West, and we believed it was going to happen tomorrow, or maybe the day after tomorrow, like 1976.”
The FBI was up SDS’s ass, and Weatherman’s. They harassed the core cadre. Beat them. Threatened them. This does not dissuade revolutionaries. Weatherman started doing crazy stuff with SDS: street brawls, public nudity, sexual orgies, ordering established couples to break up. If you think it sounds like a cult, you’re right. This is literally cult indoctrination stuff. They were remaking people, seeking the hardest of hardcore.
Institutions are one of two major assets that the Left has and the Right lacks. The other is Shock Troops.
My point is: did you notice the Left and the Right use fundamentally different tactics?

This is no accident. They’re different cultures. The Left and Right don’t just want different things. They also have different abilities, goals, resources, and senses of propriety. Meaning contemporary political violence from the Left and from the Right will look very different.
People tend to think that the Right will be an awesome, horrific force in political violence. The SPLC’s donations depend on that idea. Righties tell themselves that *of course* they’d win a war against Lefties. Tactical Deathbeast vs. Pajama Boy? No contest. Why, Righties have thought about what an effective domestic insurrection would look like. Righties have written books and manifestos!

It’s horseshit.

The truth: the Left is a lot more organized & prepared for violence than the Right is, and has the advantage of a mainstream more supportive of it.
The whole thing goes 48 screens on my desktop, here.  Column widths are about what I run (close to 100 characters per line).  On the other hand, it's rather interesting.  I was unaware that Puerto Rican separatists shot up congress in 1954 and tried to assassinate Harry Truman in 1950.  The same group was behind a wave of bombings in the '70s.  They were well trained, probably by Cuban intelligence, and well-disciplined bombers.  The biggest asset they had, like all leftist groups, was support from mainstream organizations.  Their biggest benefactor was the Episcopal church.  Heck, I was a young adult while this was going on, but reading it feels like reading somebody else's history.  It's not just that I was too busy trying to get into adulthood, and trying to get my life going; it's like a memory selectively destroyed by our culture.  The author talks about not remembering any of this, too.   

Final words to Status 451
There’s a famous case where a shadowy group was after a high-value, high-status target who used his considerable resources to retreat. The group couldn’t get to him. So they targeted everybody associated with him: Friends. Family. Staff. Lawyers. Sympathetic journalists. Eventually, that utter devastation of infrastructure led to the death of the high-value, high-status target, whose name was Pablo Escobar.

That’s what I’m really scared of. Killing like that, on repeat. It’s my nightmare scenario. I know it’s unlikely. But — and this is the stupidest part of this whole thing — after 2016, I’m a little superstitious, and I’m wary of omens.

The shadowy group that unleashed carnage on Pablo Escobar’s Institutions had a name.

They were known as Los Pepes.