Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Confidential to Bernie and AOC - We Already Know Medicare For All Won't Work

There's a wonderful quote attributed to Thomas Sowell that says, "It is usually futile to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance".

Despite the warning from the obvious genius of Dr. Sowell, I'm going to try to present facts and analysis for AOC, Bernie, and all of the idiots running around now saying we need to have a nationalized healthcare system like those other countries.  Perhaps you have friends or family members who are parroting the same lines and this will be useful to you. 

We already know it will fail because it is currently failing in every single country that has it.

This is drawn from an article by author Jim Kelly at FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) called "How We Know Single-Payer Won't Lower Health Care Costs" and it's in the format of four questions for anyone advocating for this.

Let's start at the top.  Bernie and the Bunch say we'll save money because the government doesn't have to make those awful profits that insurance companies make.  Bernie says we'll lower costs 20%, others have gone as high as saving 60%.  This is really easy to dispel because all of those insurance company financial annual reports are available.  As Kelly puts it:
Unfortunately, outrage buys fewer tongue depressors than one might hope. The top health insurers averaged 4.1 percent profit in 2017 (per Yahoo Finance). That’s taken on half (at most) of spending for-profit insurers handle. Eliminating those profits would save about 2 percent. Since health care gets 4.5 percent more expensive every year, that would in effect roll prices back to last August.
The advocates say that we'll be able to negotiate better deals with pharmaceutical companies.  Maybe, like President Trump says, they're all awfully crappy negotiators now because Medicare is already the largest single-payer system in the world, and if they can't get a better deal now why should we think they'll negotiate better in the future?  That's an argument against Medicare for all, not for it.

What exactly has the Federal Government ever taken over and reduced costs over time?  Not education. Not defense. Not police and fire protection.

In what country is single-payer making health care cheaper from one year to the next?  Not one.of the 36.

Not to insult any of my dear readers, but if healthcare costs were going down, the growth rate would be negative and there's not one negative growth rate on this chart, which includes the UK's National Health Service, Canada and other places always put up as a paragon we should try to reach.  In fact, the US has a cost growth rate in the lowest third of all 36 countries.

Which says if we were to go to single-payer and even held costs down at the average rate, our costs would go up not down. 

Where has adopting single-payer lowered costs?  Kelly can't find any country that has lowered costs.

Granted that the first few years of the NHS in the aftermath of WWII were abnormal in the UK (and much of the world), but ...
In the first year, it spent 32 times what it had planned for eyeglasses. It had to raise salaries to attract more nurses. Prime Minister Clement Attlee pleaded over the radio with citizens not to overburden the system.
In the early days, prescription drug volume tripled and was threatening to collapse the system.  They had to start adding charges for prescriptions, which helped reduce the explosive growth, but over the last 68 years, their costs have gone up an average of 4% per year.

Let's assume there is still some waste in the medical industry.  The thin profits the insurance companies are making seem to be a reasonable indicator that there's not much waste.
Less than a dime of every health care dollar gets distributed to someone as profit. The great majority goes into someone’s paycheck—maybe a nurse, maybe an advertising copywriter, maybe an IT guy at the FDA. Health care is 18 percent of the US economy, which means 30 million of the country’s 165 million jobs.

Any health care reform that has us put fewer dollars in means fewer dollars out to all those people. For costs to halve, 14 million people need to lose their jobs. Or 27 million need to take a 50 percent pay cut. Or there needs to be some combination of the two, all without comparable drops in quality and while handling higher demand.
When the advocates talk about cutting costs, they don't talk about putting people out of work, do they?  Can you imagine a politician campaigning on wanting to put 14 million Americans out of work?

The public in general, but especially leftists, seem to have terribly inaccurate ideas about company profits.  The American Enterprise Institute published a study back in 2015 in which people were asked as rough guess what percentage profit companies make.  The average response was 36%, which is only 5 times higher than reality.

According to this Yahoo!Finance database for 212 different industries, the average profit margin for the most recent quarter was 7.5% and the median profit margin was 6.5% (see chart above). Interestingly, there wasn’t a single industry out of 212 that had a profit margin as high as 36% in the most recent quarter.
With ideas this distorted from reality, it's not surprising that Bernie, Occasional Cortex, and the rest try to sell the idea that they can save money by eliminating that big profit.

The truth, of course, is far more sinister.  By taking control over health care the gets total control over every aspect of your life and death.  It has always been, and still is, the dream of tyrants everywhere to have that control over the masses.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

On the End of a Physical Kilogram Standard

Like many of you, I had come across stories in the last few years saying that Standard Kilogram, long stored in a tightly controlled location in Paris, was going to be replaced by one that can be more precisely defined.  All of the preparation work is done and the switch over to the new standard kg is set for this coming May.  The standard kilogram, formally referred to as the “the International Prototype Kilogram,” or IPK, is the last of the real, physical objects used as a standard in the SI, Systeme Internationale, or International System of Units - what Americans typically call the metric system.  I was puzzled about how mass could be linked to other fundamental quantities used as standards in a practical way. 

Let me back up for moment.  Normal people rarely think about this, but how do we know exactly what something like a kilogram weighs?  To what accuracy?  Welcome to the science of metrology: how things are defined and measured.  This could get quite deep and long and is mostly things I'm only dimly aware of, but I also know from conversations with others that it's a realm that most people are completely unaware of.

Back to the kilogram.  Scales that balance two things against each other go back to 2000 BC, so a simple way to measure a kilogram is to compare something else to the standard kilogram.  "Standard" just means everyone agrees that it is the standard.  The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (another French acronym - BIPM) is an intergovernmental organization in which countries work together to define standards and create measurement methods that anyone can use so that their measurements can agree.  That leaves us in a lurch - we need to create a standard kilogram.  The standard used to be defined as the weight of cube of water a tenth of a meter on each side (one liter) at just above freezing.  This relies on two other standards: length and temperature.  The meter was defined as one/ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the north pole (on the meridian through through Paris, France) and the Celsius temperature scale was defined by the freezing and boiling temperatures of water at standard pressures.  Don't ask me how they calculated that fraction of the distance between the equator and the north pole because the same problem of a standard exists there.

I'm going to skip over a ton of interesting history here, but the important points are how the standards have been redefined over and over and that recent changes have been in an attempt to relate them to fundamental characteristics of nature that can be measured anywhere (with sufficient sophistication).  The standard meter used to be the distance between two scratches on an iron bar kept in Paris.  Later (1875) that was upgraded to a 90% platinum 10% iridium bar.  Similarly, the standard kilogram changed in 1799 from that "liter of water just above freezing" to a (much smaller) platinum bar and then to another  90% platinum 10% iridium bar also kept in Paris.  In principle, someone could make a duplicate of the BIPM standard by placing the standard and their work on opposite ends of a balance and refining the one they're working on until the weight exactly balanced the BIPM standard.  That would then be a secondary standard. 

Starting in the 1960s, metrologists began an effort to use fundamental properties anyone could observe.  For example, the meter is now defined as the distance light travels, in a vacuum, in 1/299,792,458 seconds with time measured by a cesium-133 atomic clock which emits pulses of radiation at 9.192631770 GHz (Gigahertz or billions of cycles per second).  Counting this number of pulses tells you one second to very high precision.  The distance light travels during one of those pulses tells you the length of the meter. 

The NIST's (US') standard kilogram, front, under double bell jars.  Behind are stainless secondary standards of various sizes.  NIST photo. 

The key to how the kg will now be defined is to use the best known value for Planck's constant, h on that card which relates energy to frequency.  They are changing Planck's constant to be defined rather than measured, which turns the kg into a derived unit from fundamental properties of the universe.
In theory, the seven defining constants [first figure - SiG]  allow anyone, anywhere, to recreate “perfect” calibration and metrology standards without need for comparison to a master. For example, SI has redefined the kilogram using a fixed value for Planck’s constant and the definition of the meter and second, which are already based on constants. Using these, a mass of any magnitude can be realized by equating the electromagnetic force it takes to hold that mass against the force of gravity using a Kibble balance.
(graphic from the Suplee/NIST)
This instrument uses the fundamental E = mc2 relationship between mass and energy, along with the extremely accurate value for Planck’s constant (which relates a photon’s energy to its frequency). Scientists and engineers can now relax, knowing that they can achieve the extraordinary accuracy they need for mass measurements without checking their “master” kilogram at NIST or at similar measurement institutes at other countries.

The replacement of the master kilogram as an artifact with a reproducible primary standard represents the culmination of a long-sought dream of metrology experts. Now, none of the defining constants and primary standards are tied to a single physical artifact that could be damaged, lost, stolen, or even changed over time for uncontrolled reasons, as the IPK and Earth’s orbit have been doing.
There's an interesting page on the Kibble balance (named for Bryan Kibble at the U.K.’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL)) on the NIST web page, including a good video of how it works.  As you might imagine, at the level of precision they need - the sheer number of decimal places they're aiming for - everything matters and has to be taken into account.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Keeping Electric Cars From Catching Fire

You don't have to search very hard to find stories of electric cars catching fire.  Unlike gasoline, which is pretty stable in bulk liquid form (but as explosive as can be as vapor), batteries have a problem with thermal runaway during operation.  Preventing a full thermal runaway condition is the focus of a lot of engineering effort

I can imagine some you saying, "Wait... what's thermal runaway?"
Each cell in a lithium-ion battery contains a flammable liquid electrolyte. If the cell short-circuits, the electrolyte can combust; pressure in the cell then rapidly climbs until the cell bursts and vents the flammable electrolyte.

Temperatures of the ruptured cell can increase to above 1,832°F (1,000°C). The rapid and extreme rise in temperature (thermal runaway) can easily propagate to nearby cells in a domino effect that has been dubbed thermal runaway propagation.

Thermal runaway generates smoke, fire, and even explosions. Occupants need as much time as possible to escape the vehicle if it happens.
As the number of electric vehicles continues to grow, the number of fires is going up.  I did a piece about burning Teslas five years ago, in February of '14.  At that time, Tesla seemed to have a catastrophic fire rate of about 1 in 4000 cars.  For perspective, at the same time, GM had just recalled 370,000 of their GMC Sierra pickups for a software fix that had caused eight fires, or 1 in 46,250, less than 1/10 the electric Tesla's rate.
Although thermal runaway is clearly life-threatening, so far there are no global regulation in place. Whereas China has implemented the GB/T 31485 standard (Safety Requirements and Test Methods for Traction Battery of Electric Vehicle), the UN has only proposed legislation. This leaves automakers with the choice of whether to design battery packs for their cars that can deal with thermal runaway. It’s up to their own risk assessment programs to determine how likely thermal runaway incidents are.  [BOLD added: SiG]
And that's a bit of a sticky situation.  One of those sayings in engineering is that it's all about compromise; if there were an ideal, perfect solution, everyone would be doing that and the problem you're working on wouldn't be a design choice.  In this case, adding things to batteries to make them safer might well impact the Electric Vehicles' other Achille's heel - inadequate range on a charge -  worse, because room in the battery pack will have to be sacrificed to make the cars safer.  Studies say that inadequate range is keeping some potential buyers away from EVs. 
Companies such as Morgan Advanced Materials have been researching and developing a range of thermal management protection materials and methods over the years. They provide more time for occupants to exit a vehicle and dissipate heat to cut the chances of a thermal runaway spreading uncontrollably. ...

There are three levels of protection engineers can design into batteries to reduce the effects of thermal runaway in electric vehicles. Namely, these are cell-to-cell, module-to-module, and battery pack level.
Cell-to-cell protection puts some sort of material between individual cells. It is the highest level of protection, but also the most challenging due to space constraints.  These materials typically undergo a phase change: solid to liquid or liquid to gas.  The phase change to gas seems to have the advantage of forcing open safeties already present in the battery pack to vent the hot gases.  The idea, though, is that the material keeps the heat and flames from propagating, breaking the "runaway" conditions.

Module-to-module protection puts insulation between modules to stop thermal runaway from "running away" and spreading to adjacent modules.  Naturally, the design depends on the battery module being protected, but treated paper (e.g. fish paper) has a long history in electrical components and could be used.  Module-to-module protection offers significant weight savings compared to cell-to-cell protection.  Lighter batteries in turn increase the range and lets the battery be more easily accommodated in the vehicle’s design.

Pack-level protection is the simplest and most affordable type. It is aimed at giving occupants more time to exit the vehicle. It provides little protection for the battery pack itself, so the car is likely to burn and take everything you own that you left in it when you bailed out.  On the other hand, if the aim is to save lives, it's far better than nothing.  Standard insulating paper is a common form of pack level protection, such as Superwool Plus Paper.

A large paper liner between the pack and the passenger compartment is the essence of pack-level protection.

In each of these protection schemes, cell-to-cell, module-to-module and pack, car makers can choose active or passive protection.  Paper barriers are obviously passive, but those aren't the limits of passive protection.  It could include separation barriers, heat sinks, and other ways to remove heat from the batteries by normal, heat transfer processes: conduction, convection, and radiation.  Active protection would utilize cooling technologies which consume energy themselves.  This would includes air, liquid, and refrigerant cooling. It also involves an external device that helps dissipate heat.  Active methods are generally more expensive and complex than passive techniques.

The best protection against thermal runaway places protective material around each cell in the battery.  It is also the most challenging, because all of the protective material consumes space that could go to passengers and cargo.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

When You Were A Kid, Did You Mow Lawns, or do Chores For Money?

Did you mow lawns?  Trim hedges?  Babysit?  In my day, only girls would babysit and I doubt a family would have hired a boy to babysit.  Those days may be over now.  Author Lenore Skenazy at Reason magazine posts a story about a Washington Mom who posted an ad to help her 9 year old daughter do chores to make a little money.  In turn, she was reported to the police and questioned. The mom in question wrote Ms. Skenazy to tell the story.  Lenore Skenazy is founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids, and president of the nonprofit Let Grow
A mother in Woodinville, Washington, posted an advertisement on behalf of her 9-year-old daughter, Sarah, who was willing to do housework—laundry, dishes, etc.—for neighborhood moms who needed help. Six hours later, the cops showed up to make sure Sarah wasn't being abused or worked to death.

That's according to Christina Behar, Sarah's mom, who wrote me a letter about the incident.

"Apparently the ad generated multiple phone calls from paranoid neighbors thinking I was using my child as a slave," wrote Behar.
Woodinville appears to be part of King County and a suburb to Seattle.  Seattle is famously deep sapphire blue, of course,  and that leads me to assume whoever called the police is probably just overly cautious, but incapable of thinking that having a child work might teach them some useful lessons.  I'll let the mom tell the story:
My husband and I have three kids ages 9, 7 and 5.  We have always tried to raise them to be independent and let them play outside for hours in our family-friendly suburban neighborhood outside of Seattle, walk alone to the neighbors, and have taught them how to cook, clean, do laundry and other household chores that we deem age appropriate.  Inspired by your book [Free-Range Kids] I posted an ad on our neighborhood website advertising my daughter as a mother's helper.  Moms often ask me for her help and I figured I would take your advice and reach out to others in my neighborhood I may not know. This was the ad:

Mother's Helper

Hello! My almost 10-year old is available as a mother's helper.  She is the oldest of three and is quite capable. She can fold and put away laundry, sweep, set tables, clean dishes, take out the trash, make beds, vacuum, make light meals, and keep your kiddo busy. We are a homeschool family so she has a flexible schedule.  Please message me if you are interested in meeting with us.

Six hours later the Sheriff was knocking on our door.  He was embarrassed and apologetic but said he had to do a welfare to check to make sure I wasn't running a sweat shop! Apparently the ad generated multiple phone calls from paranoid neighbors thinking I was using my child as a slave.
The mom notes in another correspondence that the deputy did "leave me with a warning that I should never post anything about my child wanting payment for her services."  Does this violate labor laws now? 

There's probably nothing more American than overreaction.  The same mindset that says "if a little is good for you a lot must be better" with regard to any food, vitamin or exercise turns into "since we know there are such things as child slaves and human traffickers then everyone must be a human trafficker handling child slaves".   A common example is that fathers doing anything alone with their daughters, like traveling, instead get questioned to ensure they don't have a kidnapped child they're going to exploit.  Similarly, you probably recall the stories about a mother being charged with a felony for letting her child walk half a mile (that's half a block in many places around here) to the park.  Lenore Skenazy's site is full stories like this.

Working your first jobs that someone actually gives you some money for is big step in a child's life.  It was common where/when I grew up that we didn't get an allowance, we got a list of chores to do and if we did them well we got paid.  Even as little kids, we knew it was different when someone else paid us.  Today, lawn mowing is something that adults do with lawn tractors, edgers and blowers.  50 years ago, it was a way for kids to make some money after school or on the weekend.

Last words to Ms. Skenazy:
The knee-jerk distrust of all adults around all kids is a hallmark of our times. Where we could see verve, we see vulnerability. Where we could see neighbors helping neighbors we imagine the worst. Where we could see kids growing up with confidence and competence, we see a rising tide of anxiety.

Letting kids do some work for money isn't making them into slaves. It's making them into adults. That shouldn't be a crime.

Sarah - the nine year old who would like to make PB&J sandwiches for someone else - for hire.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Little Shop Update

I don't know how much interest there is in this subject, but I've entered the refinement phase on the threading-under-CNC project.  Besides, it keeps me off the streets.  In my last post, I mentioned that there was a small chip in the cutter I was using and that I was looking for replacements.  I ended up ordering this set via Amazon, because a larger version was recommended to me on a machinist's forum specifically pointing out the thread cutting insert.

The set comes with six other cutters, including a parting or slotting tool, three general use cutters in different profiles, and a pair of matching left and right cutters in a good general-purpose shape.  (Left and right mean the direction the cutter is intended to be advanced while turning).  I have other cutters that could fill in for everything except this threading cutter. 

It may not be obvious in that view, but the tip of the cutter angles up several degrees (called the  back rake angle - the optimum value depends on the material it's cutting, so any one cutter is a compromise).  The front of the holder is angled away from the work so that the bottom of the holder is farther from the work than the part of the holder that the carbide sits on.  My only issue is that when I ordered this I should have done more research.  The tool makers do make different inserts for intended ranges of thread pitches; for example, you might see one sold for pitches from 8 to 48 Turns per Inch.  I'm not sure what this one should cut, but my guess is it won't cut everything I'll end up needing to cut. 

At the top of the frame is another 10-32 screw, this time cut from 1018 cold-rolled steel; it cut easily, and I'm guessing the tool will be fine for 4-40 up to about 1/2-13.  It may be the same as that 8 to 48 insert.  I need to look at options, whether it's a bigger holder and a little bigger size class cutter than this or some other tool.   I know: it's a surprise that one cutter for a micro lathe won't cut everything imaginable?  Who would have thought? 

Before doing the threading, the 1/4" steel rod blank needed to be prepared and I did that with another of the inserts from this kit.  Worked like a dream. 

CNC lathes can be used for much more than threading, and it's becoming time to try to get it to do other tricks.  Tapers are a natural, and perhaps other shapes generally done with a fixture, like a sphere.  I've done preliminary shaping on the manual lathe, moving that to the CNC lathe, but my goal has been to do it all on one lathe without needing to find part zeroes more than once, so that a piece can get put onto the lathe as piece of bar stock and come out as the part needed for the project I'm working on, or as close as can be done with one lathe.

Friday, January 11, 2019

192 Year Old Boston Restaurant Closing

When Boston's Durgin-Park opened in 1827, restaurant, John Quincy Adams was president of the United States.  The restaurant and the city have seen lots of changes in the intervening 192 years, but the owner says they can no longer make a profit with the prices they can charge and workers were told last weekend that the restaurant will be closing tonight. 
According to Ark Restaurants CEO Michael Weinstein, the restaurant wasn't profitable anymore. He says business has been down about 30 percent over the last five years. Weinstein says the dwindling head count, increase in minimum wage and health care costs, the expensive upkeep of an old building and competition from the growing Seaport District were all factors in the restaurant's downfall.
That collection of reasons for shutting down the well-known restaurant can be summed up as "increasing costs, decreasing income", a combination that can squeeze any company to death. The Daily Signal singled out the increasing minimum wages in the city, citing a recently passed law that raised the minimum wage from $11 to $12 an hour on Jan. 1, and will further increase it to $15 by 2024.  It's hard to rule that out as being a factor, and the combination of increased minimum wage and health care costs from Obamacare surely were a big factor. 
Certainly, the restaurant business is tough, regardless of minimum wage laws. There are a number of reasons one would close.

However, there’s no doubt that the mandated increase in wages can have harmful consequences to business owners and workers alike. That isn’t because of petty meanness. It’s the bad policy, regardless of intentions.

It turns out the consequences of those bad policies don’t just fall on business owners. They fall on workers, too.
The national “Fight for $15” movement has been going on for years and I've been writing about it all along.  Study after study has shown that these laws hurt the people they're claiming to want to help the most, and time after time when some city does it the results are what the the studies say will happen.  A 2017 study in Washington studied how Seattle's mandated minimum wage increases were hurting these people.
... the “wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees’ earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016.”
Losing $125 month is a $1500/year decrease in pay when they got a raise, along with more people losing their jobs as employers relocated out of the city where the law didn't apply. Losing $1500/year when you're on the very bottom of the wage ladder (the definition of minimum wage) is quite a smack in the face.

Similarly, a study in 2015 that I summarized here showed that as minimum wage went up the percentage of teens working those jobs went down.
This is a busy chart, but the vertical lines mark minimum wage increases in California in January '07, followed by a Federal increase in July of '07, followed by state increases again in January of '08, Federal raises in July of '08 and '09.  Before the '06 increase, 18-19 year old workers had an employment rate of close to 47%.  After the minimum wage increases, that dropped to 37%.  A similar pattern applies to the 16-17 year old workers who went from 27 to 28% down to 16 to 17%.
There have been many studies that show adverse effects of a high minimum wage.

Almost six years ago, I wrote that I'm so tired of this issue that it's hard to even write about it, and I'd already written several pages on it by then, the third year of this blog.  In essence, those of us who oppose federal wage control like minimum wage laws always predict that it's not actually going to help people.  The laws are passed, the predicted bad things happen, and the answer is always to raise the minimum wage higher which causes even more trouble.

It's like watching an imbecile sticking a metal fork in the wall outlet over and over.  You tell them, "don't do that - you'll get hurt", you watch them do it, get knocked over by the power, then they wobble back to stick the fork in the outlet again.  All you can do is warn them, and you get tired of warning and not being listened to.  Repeat this forever.   

The marketplace where Durgin-Park is located has this placard outside. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The American Psychological Association Goes Extremist

This story seems to have gone by without comment anywhere, but I think it's worth noting in the war on Western Culture.  Columnist Brianna Heldt at Townhall writes that  the American Psychological Association (APA) has decided that being a "traditional man"; that is, filling the traditional role of husband, father, provider, defender and so on is now considered equivalent to a mental disorder.
For the first time ever, the APA has issued a set of guidelines for how to approach men and boys, specifically, within a counseling practice. The new APA protocols for mental health professionals working with men and boys--released in August and available to read in their entirety in a document titled APA Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men--were recently summed up on the APA’s website by the statement that “research finds that traditional masculinity is, on the whole, harmful.”

“The main thrust of the subsequent research is that traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful,” the January article from the APA goes on to read. “Men socialized in this way are less likely to engage in healthy behaviors.”
Translated into direct speech, they've gone full tilt, progressive Social Justice Warrior on us.  More specifically, modern constructions of gender, the patriarchy, sexism, and male privilege appear to be driving the organization’s updated approach to men.
“What is gender in the 2010s?” asked Ryon McDermott, PhD, a psychologist at the University of South Alabama. McDermott helped write the new men’s guidelines. “It’s no longer just this male-female binary.”

According to McDermott, boys and men identifying as gay, bisexual or transgender face higher-than-­average levels of hostility and pressure to conform to masculine norms.
It sounds to me like Dr. McDermott doesn't understand the meaning of the word average - at least he seems to be using it wrong.  This is probably too far into the weeds, but he's comparing two different groups, one much larger than the other and facing much less pressure, and saying the smaller group gets more than average - not that they get more than the bigger group. 

I assume that boys and men identifying as GBT really do face higher levels of pressure to conform to masculine norms than boys and men who already conform to those norms.  People who already conform to any norm face far less pressure to conform, probably none.  Only people who don't conform to a standard get pressured to conform. 

By analogy, what Dr.McDermott is saying is that bald men face more bald jokes than men with a full head of hair, therefore we need to redefine a normal amount of hair downward so nobody hears bald jokes. 

Besides, saying the group farthest from those ideals gets more pressure to conform to them doesn't say those norms of masculinity are harmful.  Pressuring the slowest guy running from the fire to go faster isn't harmful, you might be saving his life.  To insinuate those masculine ideals are harmful, the APA trots out some questionable statistics and says "we need to save men", apparently by turning them into women. 

Heldt at Townhall links to American Conservative writer Rod Dreher who does a more thorough fisking of the APA article.  The easy summary is:
To be fair, it’s not all PC codswallop, but given the social justice warrior jargon throughout, I suspect this is mostly about psychologizing the gelding of American males. I do not trust Ryon McDermott, PhD, to decide what is and is not healthy masculinity.
Dreher takes the APA to task for blaming things on "men" that by and large appear to be caused by specific groups of men, which automatically should lead to the consideration that gender might not be the cause.  For example, the APA says "men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent of homicide victims." which hides the fact that black men commit murder at a rate eight times higher than white men and four times the national average of all races, yet gender is the problem and not other (cultural, perhaps) reasons?  On the other hand the APA says men are 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than women, but again overlook the strong tie to "other" explanations.  In the case of suicide, white men are at the greatest risk, 6x higher than black men, and particularly middle-aged, working-class white men.  If the risk isn't the same (or very similar) across all groups of men, why do they blame it on their gender and exclude other factors? 

The APA is sloppy with their statistics; in fact, it just looks like sloppy thinking.  That makes their work far less credible.  This comes across as Soviet Science.  The party has said the new gender ideology is backed by Science!.  If you disagree you're clearly insane.

Pajama Boy - you remember him - the APA's new ideal for American masculinity.  Idea from Dreher.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Technical Difficulties

Or technically having difficulties. 

Saw the optometrist today, on account of it has been over 3 years since I have.  He dilated my pupils to look around in there and I still can't see quite right (although better).  Figure I should be able to read what I'm typing here.  It would probably be asparagus to profligate properly.

So a little humor

Monday, January 7, 2019

Another "That's Funny" About Radiation

Just about six years ago, I touched on the topic of radiation dosing and the effects of Chernobyl. The essence of that was the "no safe amount" dosage doctrine that's the official position of establishment science wasn't holding up well to examined conditions in the closed area.  Briefly,
If you believe no amount is tolerable, you have to ask yourself some tough questions.  Start with the fact that some places on earth have naturally occurring radioactivity at much greater than background levels.  Why doesn't life die off in these places - or have horrible cancer rates?  Colorado, with 15-20% higher natural radiation than surrounding states, has a lower cancer rate than the states with lower radiation.  When radioactivity was first discovered, all sorts of claims were made about radiation being good for you.  The claims resurface from time to time, here's one from 2002, but these claims get little traction in the general public. 
Another one of those papers has surfaced.  Real Clear Science ran the article, "Was Low-Dose Radiation From the Atomic Bombs Beneficial?" before the end of 2018, summarizing results from an article published on 19 December 2018 in the journal Genes and Environment.  What I've read of that is fun reading.

The paper studies survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and found they had lower mortality rates than people farther out who received less radiation.
Researcher Shizuyo Sutou of Shujitsu Women's University is the author of the paper. Sutou examined data from the Life Span Study, which has followed 120,000 survivors of the atomic bomb blasts since 1950. His analysis showed that survivors exposed to between 0.005 and 0.5 Grays of radiation had lower relative mortality than control subjects not exposed to atomic bomb radiation.

Sutou's finding is in line with the hormetic theory of radiation (hormesis), which states that very low doses of ionizing radiation might actually be beneficial, producing adaptive responses like stimulating the repair of DNA damage, removing aberrant cells via programmed cell death, and eliminating cancer cells through learned immunity.
Radiation hormesis is backed by a number of studies, but scoffed at by the establishment.  In that piece from six years ago, a couple of people left very interesting comments, including Mike Sivertson who left a really good introduction to the concept.

Real Clear Science puts it this way:
Radiation hormesis is backed by a number of studies, but it is currently not accepted by organizations like the National Academy of Sciences or United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, which support the linear no-threshold (LNT) model of radiation protection. This model effectively states that any dose of ionizing radiation is harmful. Scientists like Carol Marcus, a Professor in Nuclear Medicine at UCLA, thinks this stance is overly cautious to the point of itself being hazardous. Irrational fear of radiation, no matter the amount, is counterproductive, she says.

"Forced evacuations in Fukushima have caused some 1600 premature deaths; forced evacuees from Chernobyl have a higher death rate than the 'babooshkas' who returned to the area despite government policy against it," she wrote, referencing studies suggesting that potentially unnecessary Fukushima evacuations disrupted healthcare services.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki are easier areas to analyze than Fukushima, as well as being easier to visualize.  The sources of radiation from the A-bombs were point sources which created an exposure that was over quickly compared to Chernobyl or Fukushima (itself a tiny fraction of Chernobyl), both of which went on for an extended time, spreading radiation over a wider area.  The model is easy to visualize.  Those closest to the blasts died instantly or almost instantly for those a little farther out.  Deaths further out were due to the radiation, particularly by damage to their immune system.  The low-dose survivors in this study were much further out than that. All of them lived because they weren't close enough to be killed.  The complication is that there appears to be a range of doses where lifespan went up instead of down.
Taking these facts into consideration, the effects on lifespan and cancer incidence of A-bomb survivors were reexamined for the present analyses. Letting the data speak, one would hear that low-dose radiation from A-bombs has extended survivor lifespan and reduced cancer mortality on average for A-bomb survivors and not-in-the-city control subjects (NIC). The key to resolving the apparent discrepancy between the received notions and actual data is radiation hormesis and the radiation doses of a hormesis range to which a large fraction of A-bomb survivors and NIC were exposed. Of course, A-bomb survivors who received high doses exhibited shortened lifespan and increased cancer mortality, but they accounted for a minor fraction of all local residents. Therefore, results show that the “average lifespan” was longer and that “average cancer mortality” was reduced overall.
I concluded that piece six years ago by saying, "The conclusion here isn't "Chernobyl Was Good!" ".  We can substitute "the conclusion here isn't that dropping atomic bombs was good".  I just see evidence that our body's homeostasis systems that keep us normal despite everything that happens to us deal with radiation better than the linear no-threshold LNT says.  I see that, perhaps, the persistent low level radiation leads to some sort of adaptation.  It that makes me think the LNT model of radiation protection is not well-supported by evidence. 

It's admittedly hard to study in a controlled environment because it would be unethical to dose people with radiation without knowing how much is harmful or how much is beneficial.  Population association studies like this one (and like the vast majority of epidemiological studies) are the only way to keep getting data.


"Offered for your consideration".

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Face That Launched A Thousand Memes

Not to mention a thousand parody names.  Occasional-Cortex, Occasionally-Coherent, She Guevarra, Evita Guevarra-Castro, or Obrador Chavez-Maduro to drop some of the more memorable names.  (props to 90 Miles From Tyranny)

These memes are all in good fun as long as everyone realizes they're made up.  Don't think she said this.  Unless a specific attribution is made, like this:

It's fine to make fun of a young, socialist twit (pardon my redundancy); she's a junior representative from "Moscow on the Hudson", New York City, and is more of a media darling than someone with real power in the House of Representatives.  Granted that being a Media Darling brings some sort of power of its own.  My concern is that if all we ever get is mock stupidity to laugh at, we may not get to hear of anything real that might be getting through. 

The powers that be could be using her as a screen.

Keep your eyes and ears open. 

Confidential to Boston University: a while back, Ms. Occasional-Cortex's campaign website said she has a degree in economics from Boston University.  For the future respect and marketability of BU economics degrees, the University should nullify her degree. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Imagine if We Paid for Food like We Do Healthcare

That's the provocative title of an article on Libertarianism.Org and reprinted by FEE (the Foundation for Economic Education).  The article is by Dr. Ryan Neuhofel, DO, MPH, a board-certified family physician in Lawrence, KS. As he puts it:
Imagine if you purchased food like most Americans obtained healthcare.

No, I really want you to try to envision it…


I am a family physician whose father worked in a grocery store and I enjoy eating at Mexican restaurants immensely, so maybe I can help:
I think most of us have some inkling of how screwed up the health care system is in this country, but Dr. Neuhofel puts together a world in which Food is paid for with a system just that screwed up.  Perhaps it's the "after" state for whose who argue that food is a basic human right.  I can't say I was really surprised by anything, but he did a good job of creating a parallel universe populated with a "Green Cross Green Shield (GCGS) Bronze-Select food plan" and an Affordable Sustenance Act (a.k.a. ASA, or “Obamafood”).  Instead of Costco, BJ's Wholesale Club, Amazon, Walmart and dozens of other companies competing to see who can provide a better price per pound or better quality food to get your business, this parallel universe features giant Food Plan providers and (of course) the totally destroying the market incentive to provide better food at lower prices.

I really recommend you read the whole thing, but as I usually do, I'm going to grab a few excerpts to whet your appetite.
Thankfully, your new Green Cross Green Shield (GCGS) Bronze-Select food plan is a benefit provided by your new employer. There is some payroll deduction stuff that you don’t quite understand yet. Most of the plan’s $680 monthly premium is hidden from you and drastically reduces your wages. Still, you are happy that your food plan costs only (as far as you know) $123 per paycheck.
Worried that you won’t be able to afford everything on your list, you cross off any special items and opt only for the basics. As you scurry up and down the aisles, you see there are no prices listed on anything, nor labels telling you what is a Bronze-Select item. You suspect the delicatessen with your favorite cheeses is off limits because of the large “included with United Food Platinum-Plus” sign above it but with no mention of Green Cross Green Shield. Remembering that eggs are included as a “free” GCGS wellness benefit you get 3 dozen of those—even though you don’t really need any right now.
During check-out, the cashier rings up the items and asks you for a $30 copay. You are given a 6-page receipt with indecipherable codes and then asked to sign a few other forms because some of your items will be billed to you later.

As you drive home, you remember that your monthly food deductible is $250 and you hope that the balance of the bill isn’t overly expensive. (Several months in the future you get a bill for $276 from FoodMart. Although vaguely suspicious that you’ve been taken advantage of somehow, you are happy that you got a big discount on your $18 box of Tasty Flakes cereal and have now reached your deductible.)
Upon checkout, you present the waiter your GCGS card, and you are asked to pay a $10 copay. (The billing statement weeks later reveals that the “plan discount” did reduce the initial charge from $64 to $37 and that GCGS paid Burrito King another $27 a few months later which got applied to your deductible.) You question how a simple burrito can cost $37, but nobody, including the majority of food policy experts, knows exactly why.
Politicians, regardless of their ideology and grandstanding, are lobbied heavily by a swamp of power players to preserve the status quo. Understandably, most Americans are fed up with all of this, and an increasing number now believe the only solution is a national, federally-administered “single food plan.”
As always, the thing that boggles my mind is those people arguing for a "single payer food plan" are begging the ones who screwed up the existing system to "do it again, only harder".  Whenever there's some sort of corruption found where some industry lobbies the Feds for giveaways, they pounce on the private sector guys and totally ignore the  If someone bribes a legislator, they've both committed a crime.  

Friday, January 4, 2019

A Milestone Day in the Shop?

In the comments to my last post on my CNC threading project, commenter John suggested that instead of making my own dead center that I use something like broken drill bit.
Or, if you have a broken off drill bit, chuck it in a drill, then spin it against a grinder or belt sander to put a point on it.
Slide your Jacobs chuck into the tailstock and stick the drill bit into the Jacobs chuck. A quick and dirty dead center.
Yes, it isn't heavy duty, but cutting threads in to thin rods isn;t heavy duty either.
As luck would have it, I didn't have a broken drill bit, but I had something conceivably better: a broken #1 center drill.   One end was broken off, so I chucked the good end into a drill and ran it against some heavy sandpaper and a file to dull it.

As before, I did preliminary cuts to length and diameter for the threaded portion on my manual lathe.  Then I drilled the center to give my modified center drill a place to hold the screw. (Should have done that first!)  Transferred everything to the CNC lathe, set my length dimension, and started the program.

Bingo.  First pass success.  After I pulled the threading cutter and dead center out of the way, a nut threaded on easily and felt the same all along the length. Unlike the others I've done, it didn't feel different along the length - too tight at the far end and too loose near the chuck.  My last couple of attempts needed a wrench or nut driver to start and then threaded by hand.  This one had proper fit by hand all along. 

Sharp eyed viewers will notice that the my brazed carbide cutter's tip broke off, so the search for new threading bits has become a bit more urgent.  I need to get some good cutters, before I try other experiments.  I'd like to cut some more different screws in different pitches and different materials, including \a steel alloy or two.

I can conceive of things I might want to do that this isn't adequate for.  The smallest threads I've cut are #4; the untrimmed diameter of this dead center is 3/64 or 0.0469.  A #2 screw is .064, so that should still work as long as it's not too long.  Still way short of Jerry Kieffer territory.  Jerry is known for inventing ways of cutting screws that were unheard for scale models.  Things like bolts under .010 in diameter with 340 turns per inch.

A real cool "end state" to shoot for would be what's called a chucker lathe.  (Example video)  That would move the entire process from rough stock to finished threaded part onto one CNC lathe.  Conceivably put a piece of rough stock in the lathe, load one program, and make the screws.  It's just that as a way of making parts for a model, I've never made more than a couple of anything.  And that was either one with a couple of practice pieces, or a replacement for one I screwed up.  On the other, other hand, there sure are a lot of duplicate parts in a V-12, aren't there?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Stop Practicing Shooting

That's the title of a thought provoking piece on The Street Standards back on 12/12.  If you don't know the blog, as I didn't, the author is Ralph Mroz, and according to his "About This Blog" page, he writes from the standpoint of having been involved in training for over 20 years.
I’ve been training in the self-defense disciplines for some time, writing about them for the major firearms and law enforcement  magazines since 1994, and even teaching them a bit at international law enforcement conferences.  I am the principal presenter in many of the Armed Response DVDs, and many of the video programs of the Police Officers Safety Association (I have no association with nor financial interest in either today).  My Paladin Press books are still, I think, largely  relevant and now free downloads here.  A position as a writer afforded me the opportunity to meet, train with, and pick the brains of many of the top people in the field.
Hat tip for the link to this blog post is to Michael Bane's Down Range Radio podcast, which I've been listening to for a long time - maybe the first podcast I ever listened to.  I recall listening to it on my October 2010 trip to Salt Lake City and was a regular listener then.  I'm not sure which episode it was, but somewhere from 601 to 603 and I think it was 601.

Now an instructor telling you not to practice shooting is more than a little strange, and Mroz conditions that recommendation by saying he's assuming you can already shoot reasonably well, where "reasonably well" is not defined as being "being able to put a full magazine into a half-dollar at ten yards at .20 splits".   It's just that in his view, and that of others he calls up for backup, American shooters prefer to train in shooting because that's the easy and fun part of all the training someone carrying for self defense should prepare for.  He makes a couple of points I found to be very impressive.

In the last month or so we've had more than one story where the "Good guy with a gun" was killed by police responding to an incident.  Around Thanksgiving, Hoover, Alabama police shot and killed Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., who was in the mall and allegedly with a gun in his hand.  Mroz says part of his motivation for the thoughts that led to the post was the December 6th shooting of 73 year old Vietnam vet Richard Black.  Black very appropriately shot a bad guy who had broken into his home and was trying to drown his grandson.  When responding Aurora, Colorado officers ordered him to drop his gun and he didn't, officers killed him.

Mroz started discussing the Richard Black shooting with South African trainer Marcus Wynne
In discussing this story with Marcus Wynne* he said (among other things): Some of my previous students in South Africa observed that American tactical training is for the most part not taken seriously in South Africa because we [Americans] focus too much on one tiny piece of the total problem.  I should note here that they have real crime in SA: real, violent, regular crime. 
From here, Mroz goes into this paragraph, followed by a list of 25 things we need to know or at least thought of and prepared for if we should ever have to pull that gun.  I'm going to list a few to give you a flavor of it, but as always, RTWT.
So, instead of doing the easy thing and buying another gun, or doing the fun thing and blasting away to shave a tenth off your splits, lets see what falls out from considering the (chronological) elements involved in surviving a violent attack:

1. You have to be focused enough to avoid potentially bad places, events, etc.
2. You have to have a gun with you.
3. You have to be aware enough of your surroundings to notice that something isn’t right.
4. You have to assess what’s not right to determine if it’s a threat.
5. You have to – in real time – decide if it’s a deadly force threat.
6. You have to act on the threat.  Most people freeze or don’t believe what’s actually happening.  You have to employ appropriate tactics such as moving, sheltering a loved one, etc.  Of course you have to be aware of your environment to make the best  choice here (see 1. above).
13. If you have to shoot, you have to hit the BG, preferably COM.
15. You have to communicate effectively with the now-shocked/hysterical bystanders to keep them safe, let them know what just happened, and make it clear that you – the guy that just shot someone – is in fact a good guy.
16. You have to get yourself and loved ones to safety.
22. You have to call your lawyer. Do you know who’ll you’ll call? Bail will come later.
23. You have to call your spouse, partner, parents, whomever, if they aren’t with you to let them know you’re OK and won’t be home for dinner. Or maybe for a few days. And to let them know that the press will soon be pounding on their door. And how to handle that, if you haven’t already discussed it.
I think it's entirely appropriate to copy down this entire list of 25 things, print it out, and seriously contemplate them.  Engineering nerd talking:  maybe list in a spreadsheet so you can score how complete you think you are, list if there's something you need to do and figure out when you're going to do it.
And yet, almost all American training focuses only on element 13.  That is, one out of 25+ things you need to be competent at to truly survive a violent encounter.  This out-of-whackedness has only gotten worse over the last 20 years.  One of the pioneers of civilian deadly-force encounter training, Massad Ayoob, did (and still does) teach almost all of these elements in his flagship course.  But almost no one else does, certainly not the plethora of young “trainers” these days with no real-world experience at all.  They can shoot (in some cases), but they aren’t teaching you how to survive: they don’t know how to; they don’t even realize that they aren’t.
So why do we (Americans) focus almost exclusively on just shooting? I submit it’s because, unlike our South African friends, the high level of safety in most of our country allows us to get away with it.
It's an interesting read.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that Marcus Wynne commented on the post, adding more content to all 25 lines and telling some stories from his time in South Africa.  (If you follow the link to his blog, you'll find he's a writer now.)

I've copied the 25 items into a Word document and am going to do what I said above.  Print it out, keep it somewhere prominent, and give it some time.  Yeah, a spreadsheet will probably be involved.  I'm not saying to cancel your "Tactical handgun 12" class, or give that sort of practice up.  There's nothing wrong with training to shoot more accurately faster, and there's nothing wrong with working on the skills of a competition shooter, but these things Ralph Mroz outlines need to be addressed, too. 

Mrs. Graybeard's Sig P238 Equinox and my Springfield XD-s 3.3 in 45. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Good News That's Hardly Ever Reported

Medium Future Crunch, the folks who created last year's story about the 99 Reasons 2017 was a Good Year is at it again, reprising the story with 99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn't Hear About in 2018.  I think I'm going to borrow my introduction to the story I used last year, because every word rings true again.
Before I go much farther, I have to say that I don't think much of this.  There's too much odor of Hippy to it - celebrating some bad fortunes in the fossil fuel industry for one - and they seem to be completely in favor of big government interventions that always seem to bring more unintended consequences than actual improvement.  On the other hand, they point out some real contributions to making the world a better place, mostly brought to you as usual by doctors, research scientists, and, yes, engineers. 
Nevertheless, there is good news here and some things to bear in mind.  For example, last year's story led with news of the unveiling of a vaccine against cholera.  It has gone into the field.
1.  25 million doses of a new cholera vaccine were administered globally, and preparations began for the largest vaccination drive in history. UNICEF
2.  India registered a 22% decline in maternal deaths since 2013. That means on average, 30 more new mothers are now being saved every day compared to five years ago. The Wire
3.  Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate trachoma. In 2000, it threatened 2.8 million people (15% of the population) with blindness. Devex
4.  After five successful, annual rounds of large-scale, school-based deworming across Kenya, worm-related diseases have fallen from 33.4% in 2012 to 3% today. Evidence Action
5.  They report progress against malaria across the globe.  The WHO certified Paraguay as having eliminated malaria, and Tanzania revealed that in the last ten years, it has reduced the malaria death rate by 50% in adults and 53% in children. Borgen
Some of the stunning results have been in economic quality of life areas;
6.  Quietly and unannounced, humanity crossed a truly amazing threshold this year. For the first time since agriculture-based civilisation began 10,000 years ago, the majority of humankind is no longer poor or vulnerable to falling into poverty. Brookings
7.  The UNDP released a new report showing that 271 million people in India have moved out of poverty since 2005, nearly halving the country’s poverty rate in one decade. Times of India
8. The Economist revealed that global suicide rates have dropped by 38% since 1994, saving four million lives, four times the number killed in combat during the same time.
9.  The International Energy Agency said that in the last year, 120 million people gained access to electricity. That means that for the first time since electrical service was started (1882), less than a billion of the world’s population are left in darkness.
10.  Bangladesh revealed that it had reduced its child mortality rate by 78% since 1990, the largest reduction by any country in the world. Kinder-World
11.  Respiratory disease death rates in China have fallen by 70% since 1990, thanks to rising incomes, cleaner cooking fuels and better healthcare. Twitter
12.  The share of black men in poverty in the United States fell from 41% in 1960 to 18% today, and their share in the middle class rose from 38% to 57% in the same time. CNN
Good news was never common in newspapers or other media, but I had never heard more than one or two of these stories.  Today we live in a world where the media, desperate for attention and clicks, puts up every outrage story they can manufacture (occasionally, they're even real stories) and society seems to be one strange sound away from losing it.  The same author at Medium tells a story about an event in London on Black Friday of 2017 when there was a massive panic attack in the city.
Londoners’ worst fears had been confirmed. In a city primed for terror, it was a familiar feeling. Memories were fresh of attacks on Westminster Bridge, parliament, on London Bridge, at Borough Market, and on the tube at Parson’s Green. As one onlooker described afterward, “What went through my mind immediately was ‘It’s Black Friday in Oxford Circus in a city that’s had incidents,’ and as I ran, I was too terrified to look back because I thought I would see a car heading towards us.”

Except there was no car.

There was no incident.

No terrorist attack, no bomb.
It was all a misunderstanding.  The whole thing began as pushing/shoving match on an underground platform.  As people near the fight backed away, they pushed into others packed tightly into the space.   Nobody could see or hear what happened. Each person picked up on the fear of the person next to them, and it became scarier the farther it traveled from the epicenter.  I believe the conditions it takes for crowds to act this way, always expecting an attack, are the result of the previous attacks and the way they were responded to, including click-bait stories. 

At our cores, we're designed to keep an eye out for a predator looking to pick us off for a meal.  The people in London reacting with a panicked "run away!" was the reaction of a prey animal when a predator is sensed. 

There are lessons for all concealed weapon carriers here. 

(India also continued the largest sanitation building spree of all time. More than 80 million toilets are estimated to have been built since 2014.)