Monday, September 18, 2017

Turning Aluminum Cans into an AR Lower

There are few 20 minutes videos that I've watched that haven't had me reaching to see if I could skip over some nonsense.  This one had my complete attention for all 19 minutes.  Farmcraft101 takes five pounds of saved aluminum cans and recycles them by melting and casting an AR-15 lower.  H/T to ENDO for the link.

I've got to say his PPE (personal protection equipment) made me cringe a little, but that's the only thing I can be critical of.  Upper arm-length, heavy, leather gloves combined with shorts and bare legs while pouring molten metal is enough to make me cringe.  The rest of it is great stuff to know.

That said, I have to wonder if the metal would be useful for most things.  When you see things saying they're made from "Aircraft Aluminum" or an alloy like 6061-T6 or 7075, that's a specific composition of alloying elements in specific proportions, and T6 is a specific heat treatment.  If I took a pound of 6061-T6 cutoffs and melted those down, instead of soda cans, I wouldn't end up with 6061-T6.  All metals are like this, really.  Steel, brass, aluminum, titanium or whatever, the properties you see depend on the ingredients (alloy) and how they're treated.  Anyone who has taken the mechanical engineering classes on materials has seen something like this iron/carbon phase diagram.  The different colors code for different microstructures in the steel, the temperatures and concentrations of carbon that lead to their formations.  There are similar curves for aluminum and its main alloying additions - silicon and magnesium in 6061 or zinc and magnesium in 7075, for example.

That said, an AR lower has got to be pretty non-critical.  It's not just that plastic lowers are a thing, and can be bought in any quantity from an handful of companies, there's that guy who made one from HDPE - the plastic used to make kitchen cutting boards.  If a cutting board works, it's probably not a high-stress application. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Something Completely Different

While I don't do it often, I keep seeing folks on my regular reading list posting a little music on weekends, especially Sundays.  I don't do that as a rule, and I'm not planning to, but I came across what I thought to be a remarkable performance by Glen Campbell in a link from Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Acoustic Guitar tells the story:
Glen Campbell first heard The Lone Ranger’s brisk theme song as a kid and vowed to learn it on guitar. Not only did he do just that, Campbell made the theme—an overture from the 1829 opera William Tell, by the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini—one of his signature numbers. He revisited it throughout his career, wowing audiences by playing it with casual ease, sometimes with the guitar on top of his head. [link added - SiG]
I would never describe myself as a Glen Campbell fan and never thought of him as a virtuoso guitarist.  In my mind, Glenn Campbell associates with his late '60s hits: Wichita Lineman, Galveston, By The Time I Get to Phoenix, and that's about all.  Maybe the stereotype of country music: "three chords and the truth".  That said, I find this an amazing performance.  Not just the blazing speed, but the casual, almost carelessness he plays with.  Virtually all guitarists, no matter how many years they've played, spend a lot of time watching their left hand on the neck. Glenn glances there, but looks around a lot, too.  He seems to be talking to people out of the view of the camera.

It brings to mind another cliche' I've heard about music in general.  Practice a thing perfectly a thousand times and you play it well.  Practice it a thousand times a thousand and it plays itself through you.  I think the William Tell overture is playing itself through Glen.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Farewell Cassini

NASA's probe orbiting Saturn, Cassini, ended its 13 year mission yesterday with a fiery entry into the gas giant's atmosphere.
NASA received its last data transmission from the Cassini spacecraft at 4:55:46 a.m. PDT (7:55:46 a.m. EDT, 1146 GMT) today (Sept. 15), before losing contact with the probe as it hurtled into Saturn's atmosphere. It was a fiery grand finale  for the probe, which spent 13 years orbiting the ringed planet. NASA officials expect that Cassini broke apart about 45 seconds after that final transmission, due to the intense friction and heat generated by the fall.
Properly called the Cassini-Huygens mission, the probe was a joint venture of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency.  It was launched in 1997 and arrived at the Saturn system in 2004. In 2005, the Huygens lander dropped onto the surface of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, revealing the hidden world beneath its opaque, orange atmosphere.  The Huygens lander detected lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons such as methane, ethane, propane and some heavier compounds on Titan.  Liquid methane boils to the more familiar (here!) gas at −161.49 °C or −258.68 °F. , so that gives you a perspective on just how cold it is there.  The temperature at the landing site was 93.8 K (−179.3 °C; −290.8 °F). 

The Cassini orbiter's initial mission was meant to last until 2008 but was extended twice, stretching the spacecraft's life to 2017.
Artist's image of Cassini as it burns and breaks up during entry into Saturn's atmosphere.

There are some "best of" pictures at MSN Look at those at full size. If you know the mission, many of them will be familiar. 

As an aside, a month ago, I did a piece on Voyagers 1 and 2, the first man-made objects to leave our solar system. I mentioned a PBS special that was going to air on September 23, The Farthest. That was the night we got home from our trip to see the eclipse, and I set the DVR to record it.  It's worth watching if you haven't seen it.  Was it everything I'd have liked them to cover?  No.  It was short of some of the important techie details and long on details about the album the Voyagers carry with recordings of music and voices from Earth.  Too artsy for me.  Like I always say, when the typical commentator talks about diversity, they mean people of different ethnicities or colors.  Real diversity is putting engineers and artists together.  I've met enough of all of them to know I have far more in common with black, Asian or Indian engineers than I do with any dancer I've ever met. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Nanny State Madness - Put Calories on Grocery Receipts

From the Nanny Madness of the UK, a proposal to put "food quality" scores on grocery receipts. 
Well, a new proposal says the “traffic lights” system – widely adopted on food and drink packaging since 2013 – should be migrated from individual items to entire receipts. Forget the problem of making it through checkout without impulse-buying three bags of bonbons and a copy of Heat! magazine; now it is about the half-price pizza catapulting your basket into “red” territory.  

“Instinctively, it seems like a good idea,” says Ed Morrow, campaigns manager at the Royal Society for Public Health. “If health information is just on the product, it’s easy to ignore, but if you get another reminder at the till you might start to compare receipts, see what you’ve scored each time, then try to do better. Doing things that gamify the experience of shopping can be a good motivator in terms of changing behaviour.” That is if you want your midweek trip to Tesco to be gamified: is this just 21st-century code for the nanny state? “It’s not telling people what to do,” Morrow says. “All it does is provide people with extra information.”
Sheer madness.  Let's start with the knowledge that there's no evidence that forcing restaurants to put calorie counts and nutrition summaries on menus does anything.  In fact, the evidence is that the requirement to post nutrition counts makes work for restaurants and raises prices but consumers don't care.  Now let's extrapolate to the grocery receipt.  This is based on the assumption that what the buyer bought is eaten between grocery store trips as it came from the store, and not prepared into meals combined with other things they already have or buy elsewhere.  The buyer could just as well be feeding friends, donating food, or storing it so that it's eaten over a longer length of time or at some time in the future.  All of the nutritional guidelines are based on consuming a mix of foods in meals and the quality of the meal is based on comparison to standard daily intakes of some amount of food.  There is simply no way to get that from a grocery list, unless everything that person buys is  precooked meals from that store and that's all they ever eat. 

Let's go with a simple example.  Someone buys some food that the food police code as red.  Then they go to another shop and buy other things coded green to make a meal that changes the nutritional data completely.  The article states it's likely to be accurate in the long run, but I don't see how.  Averaging bad data doesn't make it good data.  It just makes a bad average.
The proposed "traffic light" method.

Mrs. Graybeard and I have a running joke that the purpose of buying celery is to put it in the refrigerator until it gets limp and has to be thrown out.  That's an exaggeration, of course (exaggeration is the essence of humor), but we honestly think we've thrown away more celery than we've eaten.  That's a way to bias the data, too.

Nutrition codes on a grocery receipt are meaningless information that aren't going to affect anything, are based on several faulty premises, and will create costs that the poor customers are going to have to pay for - so that they can ignore it.

But remember the line in the first clip from the article where Ed Morrow said, “It’s not telling people what to do?”  Anna Taylor, executive director at the Food Foundation. removes any doubt that telling people what to do is exactly what this is about.  It just uses a Cass Sunstein "Nudge" approach.
“What would be really interesting is if the retailers link it to algorithms set up for loyalty cards for those who want it,” says Taylor. “So, if a till receipt shows lots of reds, you might get vouchers to buy more veg. That’s when it could start to get really powerful. But let’s be clear: the whole food system has to work harder to make the easiest choices the healthy choices. That’s what needs to change.” 
No, Ms. Taylor.  What needs to change is you.  You need to go away. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

One Last Irma Post

I promise.  It's just that the whole subject kind of has a built-in expiration date.  Denninger has a similar post with some similar data, so I thought I'd show some more. 

During the day Sunday as the storm was working its way north, I recalled watching the wind speeds reported back from NOAA buoys during Matthew and thought I'd watch Irma approach.  There's a webpage with a graphical front end,  that allows you to zoom in on an area, click on a buoy's location, and read the conditions its reporting.  Not every one reports everything, so you may have to experiment to find what you're looking for.  Here's the map you see when zoomed in around Florida.
You'll notice I have three of the yellow diamonds circled.  These are Key West, Vaca Key and Naples.  (Red diamonds are buoys that are offline).  If you'll recall, the storm crawled along the north coast of Cuba, then hung a right and went for the Keys.

By the time I remembered to look up this web site, it had already gone through and I didn't know where it went.  So I looked at both Key West and Vaca Key (on Marathon).  Neither of them had a wind measurement over 60 knots - 69 mph while the official winds were 150.  How could they miss it?  Were they both so far from the eyewall they missed the strong winds?  Now the distance from Key West to Vaca Key is about 50 miles, and Hurricanes 101 says the strongest winds exist only in eye wall, but it's still a puzzling result.  Did the hurricane thread the needle between them? Yes, it turns out it did, making landfall at Cudjoe Key, which is virtually the halfway point.  If the eye is 10 miles diameter (a wild-assed guess), that means about 20 miles from the innermost eyewall to either buoy.  I know the winds tend to drop off with distance, but that fast?

One of the reasons I thought to come to look at these buoys is that I noticed the same thing last year during the buildup to Matthew.  Official winds were in the neighborhood of 150 mph, but I never found a buoy that went above 100, even ones the storm had gone right over.  Unfortunately, I didn't write anything down. 

Still, I was puzzled.  So as the storm crept toward Naples, I picked that buoy to monitor.   Here's a screen capture.
I've highlighted in red the time, between 4:54 and 5:00 PM, that the eye went over the buoy.  The winds dropped to under 10 knots and the barometric pressure dropped to its minimum 27.75 inches.  But note the winds right before and right after the eye passage: 22 knots: 25mph.  Now look for the highest winds near those times.  The highest wind before the eye was 42.9 kts or 49.4 mph.  The strongest wind after the eye passed was 55.9 kts or 64.3 mph, an hour after the depth of the eye.  These are not a hurricane force winds, which start at 74 mph. Irma was not a hurricane when she hit Naples. 

I keep coming across little things that make it seem that they systematically overstate the winds.

For one example, on Saturday morning, one of the admins at Central Florida Hurricane posted that he was watching the wind speed coming in from the hurricane hunter aircraft, and they were showing the wind at 122 mph.  Minutes later, the Hurricane Center posted the official forecast and it said winds were 155. Why?  On the other hand, they dropped the winds to 125 on the next update, so maybe it was just too late for them to incorporate the new data.

For another example, I found this interesting comment on Watts Up With That by a guy calling himself FLengineer (no relation).  There's a lot of detail here on NOAA changing the way they report winds.   The quote is actually too long to post here, but let me grab a little bit of it:
After digging into the specs and extracting the measurements from the transmitted data it looks like the advisory intensity is purely based on a peak wind speed measurement over a 10 second interval at flight level between 2200-3000 m altitude. I found a decent paper on the measurement equipment aboard the aircraft from 2007 ( and thought some of their conclusions were interesting.

Prior to 2005 intensity was determined by a model that took the flight level winds and extrapolated 10m surface winds from those. In 2005 the planes were outfitted with an updated SFMR radar that measures the ocean surface emissivity which is correlated to surface wind speeds. Due to lots of tropical activity in 2005 the new radar was able to help derive a better physical model matching the readings with dropsonde data.

In their conclusions the earlier quadratic models consistently underestimated winds at speeds > 50 m/s (111 mph). They also found that earlier boundary layer models were underestimating winds in the eyewall by as much as 10% when compared to dropsonde readings.

So are the storms more intense because of increased SST or because of better models, higher frequency sampling, changes to peak measurements from 1 minute averages, and improvements in the sensor equipment?
If we look at the most recent Air Force data in Irma the peak flight level wind was 133 kts (153 mph) SFMR surface wind was 120 kts (138 mph) and same 88% linear adjustment would extrapolate 134 mph. NHC 11 pm advisory for Irma is 160 mph.
What does it all mean?  Beats the heck out of me!  Here we have several lines of data showing that when winds are measured in the monster hurricane, it's not what's being described. 

I know that measuring and quantifying these things isn't easy, but there seems to be a systematic tendency of the NHC to over hype every hurricane.  The NHC itself has not been friendly to the "global warming causes hurricanes" crowd, and one of the NHC's chief scientists, Dr. Chris Landsea, withdrew from the IPCC reports over their reports not being backed by science.  Maybe they're just covering their uncertainty about what to forecast by getting everyone in the state to leave.  We know the Weather Channel and virtually all of the news channels make their ratings and their advertising money on storms.  I know that I've seen TV weather folks whom I respect who will tell you to your face that "we have to make it as dramatic as possible to get people to leave".  But what if they don't have to leave?  What if leaving put them in more danger from other things.  How many stories did you hear of people who evacuated south Florida to the west coast and ended up going right into the worst possible place? 

I've seen this described as the biggest mass evacuation in history. 

Evacuating costs real money.  Did they negatively impact someone's life by having them take on the burden of running from the storm?  You've got to know that a lot of people can't really afford to drop whatever motels were asking for a few nights, and even more for meals.  What if they came home to a looted home? 

Let me leave you with a fun fact.  After looking around at various buoys from the keys up through Ft. Myers, and looking at some reports off that NOAA bouy page, I found one buoy with hurricane force winds: Fowey Rocks buoy, off the coast of Miami, pretty much 115 miles from both Cudjoe Key and Naples. 

$318 Billion in One Day

A few weeks ago, I said there's no debt ceiling.  Just ignore the hype coming out of DC and know that you can absolutely count on them not being grownups, not showing any fiscal restraint and eventually raising the debt ceiling.  There has been a legal debt ceiling since 1917 and they've never not raised it before, so why should we expect that with the fractured mess we have in DC now that they'd suddenly grow up now?

As predictably as the coming sunrise, a deal to increase the debt ceiling was reached; the only novelty being that this time the president dealt directly with the Evil Party instead of the traitorous members of his own party.  (As an aside, while we decry Mitch McConnell for being spineless and the Stupid Party for being unable or unwilling to do anything they ran on doing, you have to credit Chuckie Schumer for being, perhaps, the most effective senator on the hill, simply for the amount of time he gets his way).  As they've done before, the Treasury Department magically slowed the rate of debt increase by special means, the rest of us call that "lying", and then on last Friday the national debt suddenly and equally magically increased $318 Billion in One Freaking Day, so that now we're well over the $20 Trillion National Debt level.
“Yeah, we need to cut spending, but we can't do it now!  We need to provide relief for those Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas!  It's different this time, not a regular debt ceiling!”  Don't worry, though, there will be something else next time to prevent the discipline.  Don't we remember Pelosi saying there's nothing left to cut in the budget?  The fact is that they'll never cut the budget.  It just ain't happening.  There are far too many people and groups who depend on that flow of money - and those people and groups funnel money to the ruling class to perpetuate the system.

Over a dozen years ago, Dick Cheney famously said, “Deficits don’t matter.”  In the short term, that might be true.  Seed corn wouldn't matter if you knew there'd never be another tomorrow.  Hungry?  Eat the seed corn.  If there was no tomorrow, there'd be no reason not order a few extra desserts, no reason not to have a few more drinks, no reason not do just about anything.  But there is a tomorrow.  You need to plant the seed corn so you can eat next year.  You might find the extra drinks lead to a hell of a hangover.

Since there is a tomorrow, the debt will matter.  I can't tell you just when or just how it all comes crashing down, but it's fake.  There is no real wealth backing it up, just phony money.  It's the biggest pile of phony money in the history of the world, and it's going to make the biggest mess in the history of the world. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Surviving Irma - The Lessons Learned Post

Irma taught me a few lessons that I think might be useful to more people than just me.  Some things worked exceptionally well, others not so much.  Times like these where a total reliance on your SHTF plans is when weaknesses can be exposed.  This didn't happen in Matthew last year, but with Irma, a massive hole in our plans was exposed.

Let me lead with our biggest lesson.  I'll phrase it like most of us learned it as kids.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
There's a more modern, more up to date, more tactical version of that common wisdom, "two is one and one is none".  Same idea.

In our case, the "eggs in one basket" was that we weren't going to lose electricity long term because we have a LNG-powered whole-house backup generator.  That belief colored everything we did.  As the power went out on Sunday night while the storm was building, the generator fired up and came on as it has done a few times in the past.  All seemed normal.  Monday morning, while we were still under steady 25 mph winds with gusts to about 40, we had a knock on the door.  It was the fire department.  Someone had called to report a gas leak, and they found our generator.  They told us it was blowing raw fuel in the exhaust and to turn it off.   The SW winds were in position to blow the fumes away from the house and I would have never smelled it.

I called the company that had done the installation and the owner came out within a few hours.  He said it was blowing more fuel than it should, but said, "if it was me, I'd be running it", after telling me he really can't say that for liability reasons.  That left me in a quandary, though, of "should I run it or will my neighbor call out the fire department again?"  We opted not to run it, except for an hour a day to try to keep the food in the freezer frozen.

This is another issue.  I see people talking about running their small generator just a few hours a day to keep the refrigerator cold.  I have a remote reading thermometer that I can put in the refrigerators and none of them will cool off in a couple of hours a day.  Is the issue that the modern, high-energy efficiency refrigerators get their efficiency by sacrificing peak cooling capacity?  It seems possible to me.  Maybe if we had a generator on one hour, off one hour all day, or on one/off two, that would work.  A hidden drawback of "all the eggs in one basket" is that we have a big freezer and buy some frozen foods for months ahead of time because we're sure we're not going to lose electricity long term.  We stand to lose a lot more money's worth of food without that power. 

Important background info.  In July, we received a letter from Generac telling us that there was a potential problem in the generator, the fuel plenum that might have rust damage and it cause this exact failure mode - I've since learned the plenum is essentially a buffer that provides a surge of fuel when the generator gets a load surge.  The letter said to schedule an inspection for a typical cost of $80, and if the plenum is bad, they'll provide the replacement and reimburse the $80.  With the eclipse trip coming and a few other things in life, we said we'd schedule the inspection when we got home, and promptly forgot to get it done immediately.  The tech who installed the plenum just left a little while ago, but our power came on last night about an hour short of 48 hours being out.  Internet and cable came back after that.

The problem isn't really going without electricity.  Yeah, it sucks, but we had some ways around that.  We have several batteries (things like these or these are very useful) that can act as backups, a small solar panel to charge the big one, and keep some things charged, but nothing that would keep our freezer or refrigerators going because we had assumed the generator would be there.  In other words, I was blind to that weak spot.
I'll return to that concept.

Having a barely-working generator, we relied on batteries.  The next tweak we could do to our preps would be to have fans that run a quieter.  We have a camping fan but it was loud for trying to sleep next to.  I have a 500 Watt inverter for that large 12V battery on the solar cells.  It will power things on 120V with about a 20% energy penalty (I assume the inverter is 80% efficient; I haven't really measured it).  It also has a fan that's a bit loud.  These are relatively minor annoyances.  Getting a fan that won't deplete 8 D cells or one of the jump starter/cell phone charger batteries overnight is a really good idea.

There were positive lessons, too.  What worked well?

Until Hurricane Erin in 1995, we basically had no preps.  Not even plywood and concrete nails.  We put in a system based on the POMA components that can be bought at Home Depot.  These are corrugated aluminum panels that are very impact resistant, held to the wall with permanent anchors in the concrete and 1/4-20 stainless hardware.  It takes a few minutes per window to put them up and when taken down, the stack easily fits in one corner of the garage.  Each panel is 15" wide, but with varying heights, so they stack in that width, and front to back take up no more than a couple of feet.

We also added a "hurricane rated" garage door, although I think it's only rated to the bottom of Cat 3, 115mph.  I reinforce it from the inside to try to offset the forces of it pressing in. 

LED lights, in particular these, are great.  There might be a similar product from someone else, but they work as an area light or handheld.  Several levels of brightness and I never used the highest. 
The whole concept of having the solar panel to charge my 35 AH battery so that it can run things overnight or longer worked out.  If the sun is bright, we can charge the battery at close to a 2A rate, but using it for more than about 12 AH of energy means there's barely one charge/discharge cycle per day.  I think I need to scale the system up.

Cooking was trivial.  There was no need for a propane stove or to use the charcoal grills.  Our LNG range has a piezoelectric ignition so that when we turn on the gas, it lights without a pilot light.  When the electricity is out, all we need to do is hold a match or lighter near the burner and ease the gas on.  When we partitioned our energy to run some things on gas and others on electricity, we gained that.  Hot water for dishes or showers or other uses, unfortunately, needed electricity to control the tankless (LNG) water heater. 

At the risk of overstating the obvious, it became painfully obvious that the quality of life in the aftermath of the storm was determined by the available energy.  Electricity or gas, without some energy source, we're quickly returned to bare bones primitive life.  You can store that energy as big tanks of diesel, gasoline or propane, a liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipe (like we have for some of it) or electric energy in massive battery arrays.  Batteries have the specific energy disadvantage I've talked about before in the context of electric cars; basically, while an internal combustion engine uses a fuel tank and gets its oxidizer from the air, a battery has to provide its own oxidizer.  In the house, that turns into several square feet of some room to store the batteries.  In terms of the machinery to make life comfy, all machines break; all plans go sideways.  Spares are always good.  If not mandatory.

It's always reasonable to think of what can be improved, and my inclination is to get something that would power the most critical infrastructure: the freezer, the refrigerator, should the main generator not be available.  Perhaps add in a few lights and a small room unit air conditioner.  All of that could be accomplished in the metal shop, where I have a small Mini-Split air conditioner.  The question of how it's powered is up in the air.  Cover the south facing areas of my roof in solar cells or store some fuel with those attendant problems?  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Power is Back, Cable and Internet Shortly Later

Power came back tonight at 6:30, just about 47 hours after it went out Sunday.  Cable and internet were also out but came back by about 7:30. 

Stories will resume tomorrow, but the short summary is that we had more troubles with Irma than Matthew last year.  All of us are fine, if a little worn out.  Nothing that a good night's sleep can't fix. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

It's A Really Poopy Night

The day wasn't that bad, but as the evening approaches and Irma moves north over the inland west coast, it's getting pretty nasty out.  Winds are around 45 gusting 60-65 and we've had about 2" of rain in the last 24 hours.  There have been tornado warnings every half hour or so, and one tore up a mobile home park about 15 miles south of us. 

The major development for Beast Irma has been a continued weakening, and a continued tendency to track toward the right of the expected path.  This is good for McThag and lots of people in the central and western parts of the state.  The weakening has been from dry air from the NW wrapping into the core.  Nothing kills a hurricane faster than cool, dry air. This is a NOAA satellite water vapor image of the dry air intrusion wrapping into the center.  I think you can make an argument that Irma has started the process of going "extra-tropical" which will turn it into a stormy low pressure system over the Illinois/Indiana/Kentucky region by Tuesday. 
I've had to do battle with a fence gate that kept opening, and eventually drove a piece of angle aluminum into the ground to (hopefully) keep it from blowing off its hinges (we hired a fence company and they didn't do a good job with this gate).  Count three trips across the backyard in foul weather gear getting those 50 mph winds in the face.  This gate is a regular a source of problems.  I wouldn't be in the least surprised to come out at daybreak and find the fence down. 

Got this picture in the mail and it's a striking composite radar image. 
The cloud cover is bigger than the entire state, about 500 miles from Key West to the Georgia border just north of Jacksonville.  The southern half of the storm is drying out and the radar is not showing much rain in that area.  Compare that to this cloud cover composite that's making the rounds.
We're in the worst 12 hours of it for central Florida.

Edit to add the power just went out and our generator is on. 

Winnie the Pooh and the Poopy Day

Based on this.

Irma has done a few interesting things in the last 24 hours. If you're obsessively observing the radar updates, like about a few hundred thousand Floridians, you would have seen the storm stick on the northern coast of Cuba long past the expected right hand turn. After that turn the path has been farther to the east (right) of the predicted path.  You can read that as it taking a harder right hand turn and going closer to straight north rather than a sweeping turn with a more northwesterly path.
The faint red line is, of course, the predicted path and you can see the eye off to the east of it.  In the 11 AM advisory, the red line has been shifted east about 50 miles.  While everyone loves to play forecaster in these situations, it looks like it's going to whack Naples, Ft. Myers, and Port Charlotte, then travel up the coast into Tampa before briefly emerging into the Gulf near Crystal River.  Port Charlotte is where 2004's Charley came ashore with 150 mph winds.  

Florida's west coast is going to get the whacking that the east coast was expecting to get just a few days ago.

As for us, it's just a blustery poopy day.  These things tend to come in squalls, and they're now making it well into tropical storm strength.  Still, unless the track goes farther east, we're "officially" not forecast to get hurricane force winds.

Since I'm a bit reluctant to do too much in the shop, should we lose power, I'll probably sit here and do updates if anything interesting goes on.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Short Demo of my Logitech Rumblepad 2 Control for the G0704

I debated putting a long script together to narrate this, but didn't.  It ends up being kind of long.

Instead, a short demo.  The Rumblepad has a set of numbered buttons on the right.
I used the physical layout of the buttons to choose directions: 1 moves the X axis to negative numbers, while 3 moves the X axis to positive numbers.  Likewise, 2 Y axis to negative numbers , 4 is Y axis to positive numbers.  I use the 4-way rocker switch to control the rotary, A, axis.  Up is clockwise, down is counterclockwise.  The buttons visible in profile at the top, one over each of those controls are really two buttons vertically.  One is Z-axis up the other Z-axis down (both the left and right button pairs are the same).  (If you're easily confused, don't read the rest of this paragraph.  The mill operates backwards from that: the tool is stationary and the table moves opposite to what you think.  When I press the right arrow, the table moves to the left, but the relative motion of the cutter is to the right).

The game controller uses a wireless connection; I haven't looked for it on a spectrum analyzer, but I understand it uses the 900 MHz "Part 15" frequencies.  Since the Rumblepad has been around a long time, it has Windows drivers.  I was just able to plug the "base station" part into the USB port on my Win7 shop computer and have it recognize the hardware and load the drivers.  Mach 3 comes with a utility called Keygrabber that recognized it as a Human Interface Device (HID).  When I press a button, say the 1 key, Keygrabber highlights what I pressed and says it's not assigned.  Double click on that line and it offers you the option to either tap a key on the keyboard or pull up a menu and choose one of those selections.  In this case, I pressed the left cursor arrow key on my keyboard, and it assigned it to that action.

Making the video and playing with this today was just my way of dealing with the intractable boredom of waiting for the storm.  With all the preps in place, there's nothing else to do. 

Hope this is useful to someone!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Our Forecast Keeps Looking Better

24 hours after saying we needed to brace for Irma the forecasts keep getting better for us up here in the Silicon Swamp of central Florida.  Unfortunately, the forecasts have gotten worse for the west coast of the state.  Let me show you a forecast that the local National Weather Service Offices have been offering.  You have to look for it, but on the forecast page for a given city (clicking on the map) it's on bottom of the right side bar.  It's a graphic called the Hourly Weather Forecast.  If you click offshore, it gives a forecast of wave heights, swell period, and a handful of other things.  If you click over land, you'll get something like the graphic forecast for my area.
Wind forecasts are in the second panel down and the bottom panel.  The bottom panel is winds at 20 ft above the ground, the second panel is surface winds and gusts.

In both cases, the peak wind is about 11 AM on Sunday, and correspond to a tropical storm.  The second panel says winds 60 mph, gusting up to 75.  Gusts are specifically excluded in the definition of hurricane, which uses 1 minute wind speed.  According to this, we're not getting a category 1 hurricane, and nowhere near the Category 4 storm that looks to be coming ashore somewhere in the keys and then coming making landfall in the southern end of the state.  
Of course, all of this is subject to change.  If the storm comes up farther to the east, we'll get worse conditions, and likewise if it stays off the west coast it will be worse for the Tampa Bay area.  Peninsular Florida isn't very wide - it's around 140 miles at the widest point.  In a path like Irma's, the difference in the uncertainty of the path covers the entire state.  A small difference in path can mean a big difference in the winds a place gets.  The reason that forecast cone gets wider is the historical accuracy of the forecasts: essentially about 100 miles wider per day.  

Meanwhile, there's something about this graphic that strikes me funny; I laughed out loud when I noticed it.  The green line, third panel down, is relative humidity.  You'll notice that our relative humidity actually goes down in the hurricane compared to the night before (shaded gray).  At 82%, it's lower than any value after 9 PM the night before, and the same as 3 AM tomorrow morning. 

I suggest a new state motto:  Florida, where our weather gets better during a hurricane!  Or another possibility, Florida: where the hurricanes are only slightly more humid than a typical night! 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Looks Like It's My Turn This Time

Much like Miguel down at Gunfree Zone, it looks like Irma's going to pay us a visit.  The track really hasn't changed in a few days.  The various model runs drift left and right, but that's just the inherent inaccuracy of such things.
The projected path crossing the state near Cape Canaveral (the bump midway down Florida's east coast) has been there for at least a day.  I'm a little south of the Cape.  No, we're still not in the white zone (3 day forecast) but we started putting up shutters this morning.  We started a bit too late after too much time dawdling over coffee so we'll finish either later this afternoon, if we get some clouds, or tomorrow morning.  I'll get up and out earlier. 

There's a saying that goes "prepare for the worst;  hope for the best" and that's where we are.  In aftermath of the first two big storms of the '04 season, Charley and Frances, the state emergency management folks were saying, "if you don't need to evacuate, just hunker down in place" to ride out the storm.  We live in a well-built house.  For example, one of the most critical things is that the roof is held down with fasteners and not just be held on the house by its own weight.  Our house was built that way, embodied in the post-Andrew building codes, despite being built 15 years before it was required.  Our addition, built in '14, is built that way, and includes storm windows rated to cat 5. 

That said, if yesterday's Irma came onshore with 185 mph winds, I don't think anything in the county that would go unscathed.  Maybe the old blast proof blockhouses on the Cape, except they'd probably flood.  There's just no reason to think we'll get a storm that strong.

Aside from fewer options for getting out of the house, life as normal until Saturday evening.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

If Only They'd Promise to Shut Up

Courtesy of a link on Watts Up With That, we learn that experts at the World Economic Forum say we have three years left to save the planet from the worst damages of climate change.  Now why experts at an Economic forum should know anything about climate change is another question entirely.

If only they'd promise to shut up in three years, it would be worth whatever mythical disaster would happen from not doing anything.  The thing is, they'll never shut up.  After 3 years we'd get them saying, "see I told you so" for the next hundred years.
The rest of the article is bullshit, full of predictable demands that wealth be transferred to "Holy Green" industries, green causes, and other connected people making it hard not to think the three year number is bullshit, too. 
A planet devastated by climate change may seem like a distant future. But Earth is already experiencing effects today.

Globally, the mean rate of sea level rise increased 50% in the last two decades. In 2017, temperatures have already reached their highest levels in history in some areas, from California to Vietnam. And the past three years were the hottest on record.
The problem is that every single one of those points has been contradicted by other studies.  It's not the clear cut picture they portray.  The acceleration of sea level rise has been disputed or disproven, and the other points are covered by the most important contradiction: the study that showed when temperature adjustments are removed, nearly all warming goes away.  Actually, that's only one such study.  There have been others.  If the temperature record can't be trusted how do we know if California and Vietnam have really had their hottest temperatures?  Prince Charles updated his 2009 claim that “we have 100 months to save the world” after about 72 of those 100 months saying in 2015 that the deadline is 35 years out.  I'd say they should get their stories together, but inconsistency seems to be pretty common in the alarmist's world.

It can't get wetter and have a centuries long drought at the same time.  Pick one.  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"I Keep a Weather Eye on the Horizon"

To borrow a line from Mark Knopfler's "Cleaning My Gun".  Lots of my fellow Florida bloggers are keeping an eye on Irma and feeling a bit uncomfortable.  This morning, Irma has gone fully beast mode with sustained winds at 180 mph.  That said, it's not expected to stay Cat 5 for more than the next couple of days, and the models are having difficulty predicting what it does beyond three days. It's important to remember the area of the highest winds is actually pretty small, just the eyewall of the storm, but that lower winds can cover a large area over water.  McThag posts some computer runs from one of the good models (the GFS) for a couple of days that show how the wind fields can work out.

The current National Hurricane Center guys put up this 5-day forecast this morning:  
The way this is supposed to be read is that the storm can be anywhere in the stippled area at 8AM on Sunday.  The end location is about 500 miles in diameter, saying the center could be over the center of the state, or over southern Cuba which is the difference between hurricane winds over all of south Florida or not even having a nasty day.  

The morning spaghetti plot of all the models shows almost unanimous agreement that the storm is going to get picked up by an approaching low pressure system and turn north; the question is how soon it gets picked up and where it ends up hitting. 
Several of the models; the consensus if you will, have it turning right in the last 24 hours of that plot, and coming ashore somewhere on the southern tip of the state.  Some models have it turning much sooner, a few have it turning in the Gulf.  The largest difference is just where it tracks.  If it tracks along the center of the state it will weaken markedly.  If it tracks off either coast, it will be over some rather warm water and will weaken less.   

There's a difference between forecasting and reading computer models, but the NHC is pretty good.  Granted, they have a tendency to be melodramatic when a storm is close, they forecast a much, much worse scenario for Hurricane Matthew last October than we really got, but they still get pretty close.  I've read that they overstate the forecasts deliberately, saying that people won't evacuate unless they overstate it, but IMO that just feeds the cycle.  People see the overstated forecast (cat 4 hurricane onshore, death and destruction) vs. the reality (cat 3 storm well offshore, barely hurricane force winds onshore) and ignore the "official" forecasts. 

It takes two days to evacuate the keys, so folks down there should be getting out of town by Friday, maybe Thursday.  For us, midway up the East Coast, evacuation depends on what kind of storm we're getting and I don't see a way to know that for a few days.  I really doubt it could be a Cat 5 with any substantial land interfering with wind inflow, but if it stays off the East Coast, it could remain a Cat 4.  That would be exceedingly unpleasant, but I'm pretty sure the house would make it barring bad flying debris, a tornado, or something like that.  If it comes up the center of state, or rides the coast, I think it's cat 2 or cat 3.  I recall some storm in around '07 or '08, maybe Fay in '08, where the forecast called for it to intensify coming up the center of the state - I remember joking about that with co-workers wondering what planet something like that could happen on.  It did not intensify.

To steal a meme from Gunfree Zone
It looks like the next few days are going to be spent watching the path and how the big picture steering pattern develops.  Waiting to see when the storm turns right.  I think I've spent a couple of months of my life watching storms like this and trying to see when they turn right. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Bloody History of Organized Labor - A Repost

It's Labor day, or as we refer to it around here: August 35th.  While being retired means it's not even a long weekend, we'll be smoking some Atomic Buffalo Turds this afternoon.  We're keeping a wary eye on Irma, which is not behaving nicely but being more threatening.  For a few days, the spaghetti plots were tracking east and pushing it offshore the South Carolina/North Carolina area.  Yesterday, the models abruptly reversed to pushing it back over us.  It's still a week away, and I don't think those forecasts are worth anything over three days out, but all we can ever do is watch. 

So a repost of something I did for Labor Day in 2013, that I think is worth sharing again. 

I enjoy my extra day off this week as much as anyone, but the history of the American labor movement that led to this day off is a pretty bloody history. Most of us are probably aware of the recent incitements to violence and riot, such as the problems in Wisconsin in 2011, when legislation to attempt to get control of the state budget led to confrontation in the state offices.  Remember this email, sent to several State Senators by a union supporter because lawmakers were going to ask union members to simply contribute to their benefits plan, instead of it being 100% paid for by taxpayers?

Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your families will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks.

Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families, then it will save the rights of 300,000 people, and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. ...

We have also built several bombs that we have placed in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent. This includes: your house, your car, the state capitol, and well, I won’t tell you all of them because that’s just no fun…

Please make your peace with God as soon as possible and say goodbye to your loved ones. [W]e will not wait any longer. YOU WILL DIE!!!!
In what world is it acceptable to threaten killing someone and their family, and not expect any negative consequences for it?  Only in the upside down world of labor unions.  Daniel Sayani at the New American puts together a short history of union violence in this country.  The first blood spilled by union activists apparently goes back to the Haymarket Square massacre in 1886, in which:
... striking union workers threw a bomb at Chicago police, killing eight police officers and countless civilians, after being incited to their lethal rampage by socialist Samuel Fielden (not unlike how Marty Lamb was beaten after the crowd of unionists was inflamed to violence by “progressive” Rep. Capuano) [Note: explanation of Rep. Capuano reference in that article on the New American - SiG]
Because of their enormous influence in the Democratic Party, unions have specifically gotten themselves exempted from laws the rest of society must follow.  You probably know about the exemptions from the anti-trust laws, and extortion laws, and that they're trying to exempt themselves from Obamacare.  (just one example for each of those).  And, of course, you know when unions physically assault conservatives like Kenneth Gladney there never seems to be any consequences for the union thugs.

Unions are progressively more desperate because membership in non-government employee unions is down.  Only government workers' unions are growing, where no true negotiation takes place because there are no parties at the table risking anything.  Unions like the SEIU and the AFSCME are the beneficiaries of fat government contracts.  They get more union dues which they siphon off to contribute to getting Evil Party politicians elected who will negotiate new, fat contracts with them.

I didn't mention in last night's post [about the $15 minimum wage ] that the SEIU and other unions are the ones behind the minimum wage protests.  Despite the rhetoric, they're not trying to make anyone's lives better except for their own.  If members get some crumbs that make their life better, that's nice.  For non-unionized workers, who have to pay them their higher wages, too bad.  As the saying goes, FUJIGM.  

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Trio of Shop Improvements

As a side project, I've been working on a few improvements to the G0704 mill to improve usability and fix some deficiencies in the mill itself. 

The deficiencies were minor - chip guards to keep metal chips off of the ball screws and sliding surfaces.  It came with one between the back of the cross slide and the Z-column, but somewhere along the line that has been damaged (obviously, I must have done it, but I don't remember when); on the other hand, it never had one in the front, between the cross slide and where the handwheel used to be.  It never needed one, except for the fact that I cut away an inch or so of base on Hoss' recommendations (top picture here), and the ballscrew would get exposed when the slide was moving toward the Z-column. 

I ordered a sheet of 1/16" neoprene from an eBay vendor, cut it to size and replaced the back piece.  Then I cut a second and made a skirt for the front.  This required cutting a little piece of 1/8" thick aluminum to clamp the rubber to the front of the slide, drilling a couple of holes and making a cutout around the oil fixture, but it was an easy job. 
The rubber sheet in the back (on the right here) had split in the bottom of the trough on the right, and also split on the left where it was attaching to the cross slide.  While it wasn't gaping open, chips could get in through the openings and onto the ballscrews.  The hole in the front was a different story.  When the table was all the way to the back, there was a hole there with well over an inch of the ballscrew exposed.  You can see it in the video here.  Chips, dripping coolant, small families of illegal aliens; anything could get in there.  In one of my GB-22 posts I showed a zip loc bag taped to the fixture so that it covered the opening when the table was forward. 

This needs a little work because the sheet on the front pulls toward the column with no problems, but when the table pushes back, it doesn't get out of the way.  I need to figure out something to do about  that.  Maybe it just needs to be a rigid piece of plastic and not a long floppy piece like that sheet rubber? 

The other improvement was to add a pendant.   Sort of.  A pendant is an interface to your CNC controller program, Mach3 in my case, that is portable.  You can bring the pendant to the mill so that you can jog the position of the slide when you're working on the table or something and can't reach the computer keyboard.  Commercial pendants can be complex and do lots of things, but at least for now, I'd be happy with a small box with six switches: left - right, forward - backward, and up - down.  Some years ago, I bought a Logitech Rumblepad 2 game controller, also for something other than gaming (to control a telescope) and while looking at ways to make a pendant, I remembered I still had it.  It took some reading online to recall how to set it up, but once the computer recognized it I was able to get Mach3 to pair with the Rumblepad and program some buttons to move X, Y and Z.  
While the commercial pendants tend to hook up via cables to the computer (USB or other serial port), this one is wireless.  That means it's easy to set it down on the table, so that when I've got my head and shoulders stuck in the enclosure trying to line up something critical, I can just hit a button to move the slide.  It also works from farther away, like across the room.  I just haven't come up with a reason why I'd need it to.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Another "You Can't Make This Up" Story

The University of Mississippi is starting their new school term and like universities across the country, Ole Miss is flush with new freshman, junior college transfers and people changing colleges.   As part of the rituals of starting a new year, the college had planned a "Greek Life Retreat"; a weekend for the fraternity/sorority system.  And then horror struck and in response to terrified students the retreat had to be cancelled.

Someone threw a banana peel into a tree.  Seriously.  I'm not making this up.
The University of Mississippi cut short a fraternity retreat this weekend when a participant threw a banana peel into a tree, which was perceived by some students as a racist act, the Daily Mississippian reported.
A male student, Ryan Swanson, said that he tossed the peel into a tree near one of the cabins because he couldn't find a trash can.  It's just going to rot away and turn into plant fertilizer, right?  I don't know about you, but banana peels seem to me to be so recyclable that they're turning brown and decomposing almost before you've finished eating the banana.  How much harm could a banana peel cause?

But that's not thinking of the terrible psychological damage a banana peel can inflict.
Makala McNeil, president of Alpha Kappa Alpha and one of the students who happened upon the peel, told the student paper, "You see how much fear and how much anger you incite in black people just from an unintentional image."

In May, bananas were found hanging from noose-like ropes in three areas around the American University campus, some marked with AKA—for Alpha Kappa Alpha—and with the word "Harambe," the name of the gorilla who was shot in an Ohio zoo last year. In September 2016, a black student at American reported that white students put boxes of rotten bananas outside her dorm room.
The university is in full recovery mode, acting all melodramatic about the threat of one banana peel.
Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement, said her office was asked to put a plan together to handle the weekend’s incident on campus.

“Right now, we’re just talking to people on campus who have some experience working across diversity to help the students process what happened,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said she needs to talk with a couple more faculty members before deciding “what makes the most sense” for the campus.
I know I've said it to people in meatspace, but I'm not sure I've ever said it here so here goes: there isn't a week that goes by without some story that makes me say, "the world has gone totally, completely FN".  Week?  It's virtually every day.   

Let me get this straight.  The campus is virtually on lockdown because some frat boy put a banana peel in a tree and a couple of times in recorded history a banana peel was used in a possibly threatening way.   Then said frat boy publicly prostrated himself on the ground, debased himself begging for mercy and forgiveness, while three black frat girls went totally FN over said banana peel.  Then the entire retreat was cancelled, and now it’s going to be a campus-wide orgy of self-flagellation at Ole Miss.  All because of a banana peel ???
The alleged Banana Peel of Doom, from the Daily Mississippian.

Listen, there's a lot that could be said here; acres of text parodying the hypersensitive college kids, safe spaces, rooms to snuggle with puppies, all of it.  The thing is, the kids are self-parodying.  I don't have to say a thing other than to point out that a weekend of college life was totally upended and destroyed over One Single Banana peel.  Nothing real happened, just a banana peel was flipped into a tree.  Everything else is imaginary.  

God help us all.  And especially, God help anyone who has to hire recent college grads.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Post-Harvey and Post-Eclipse Problems - Another View

By now, pretty much everyone has read about the massive traffic jams between South Carolina and Atlanta like Denninger posted.  I've spoken with other people who went through that and had the same perspectives as he posted. 

My experience was rather different.  First, I didn't go to South Carolina, which was the "easy" trip from Atlanta and much of the southeast.  I expected that route to be crowded, with a high chance of being clouded out, so I ruled it out.  Never expect any trip to take the amount of time that mapping programs say and always be prepared for a worst case.  The most direct path for me went through Atlanta and in all the times I've taken through the Atlanta area on I-75 I've only had it go smoothly once, and that was about 9AM on a Saturday.  Not in the cards for this trip.  I think that the infrastructure around any big city is simply inadequate for the traffic. 

Because of that, I arranged my trip assuming it would take two days of driving.  As we've done in the past, we scheduled to stop once we got past Atlanta - going up and back.  On the way up, we stopped in Woodstock, GA, which is pretty much an Atlanta suburb but north of the bypass loop; we stopped that close because I have a friend there and we thought we could visit - but he ended up being out of town.  On the way south, we stopped at Valdosta, GA.  In both cases, the mapping programs indicate about 8 hours of driving and it took about 9 to 9-1/2 hours with most of the rest around Atlanta.  On the way south, we could have stopped a bit north of Valdosta, perhaps Macon, to make the days more equal in drive time, but that's a minor tweak.

For this trip, we "auditioned" a mapping app we haven't used before, Waze.  The feature they base themselves on is community edits, but the problem with that is there is usually isn't a way around the problems.  We still had a long delay on the way up (near Ocala, Florida, of all places) and on the way home, it routed us far west of Atlanta on country backroads, for no apparent reason.  In the first case, there was simply no exit off the interstate to run in the same direction and get around the mess.  By the time you could do that, you'd do better to just stay in the traffic crawl.  On the way home, we assumed it was to route us around something that had been present hours before when we set up the route. 

Yes, we had a bug out bag in the backseat, along with gallons of water for the cooling system, tools to make expedient repairs on the car, water to drink, and necessities for hoofing it. 

Post-Harvey, my dominant thought was the one I often have: I don't understand how people who live in a hurricane zone don't always have preparations in place to be without power or water or both for a few weeks.  Still, even if the house was surrounded with sandbags, in a flood this epic, you're getting forced out of the house.  DON'T GO IN YOUR ATTIC UNLESS YOU HAVE A WAY OUTIt's a death trap.  We could talk about not living on a flood plain but that's pointless if you're already there.  And while I'm on the topic, the statistics of something being "a thousand year flood" don't preclude that you could have two in a row, in a short time; it just means that if the statistics are correct, you can say the probability of that happening is low.  Saying the chance of it happening twice in a row is one in a million says it's not very likely, but as Powerball proves, very improbable things happen all the time. 

I have a feeling that the National Flood Insurance Program is going to experience some modifications in the light of Harvey.  They already say the program is "underwater" (with no apparent sense of irony), but when something this terrible is on TV 24 hours a day, it's the reflex of congress critters to throw money at it.  I would love to see the program shut down and let the insurance market work it out, but with only one political party in Washington, I'm afraid I don't see that happening. 

Gasoline production has been cut about 20%; the shortages we see now are the result of panic buying.  The industry is trying to get those refineries back online as we talk.  Might I suggest that when supply is reduced 20%, if demand went down 20% there's no problem?  While gasoline demand isn't extremely elastic, there is some.  Simply cut down your use of gas to the extent possible.  If everyone could cut their use by 20% there would be no problem.  I know that for many people, cutting their use by 20% isn't an option because their driving is commuting for work.  Those of us that can reduce our driving should do so.  The supply system is coming back online and this shortage could be over quickly, perhaps within a week.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Germans Investigate Drugging Population to Accept Immigrants

It's one of those "you can't make this stuff up" kinds of stories.  German and American researchers want to use the hormone oxytocin, a female hormone said to foster nurturing and bonding between mother and child - "turning mothers into moms", to make Germans less hostile to the Muslim immigrants invading their country and raping their wives and daughters. 
A group of researchers from Germany and the United States claims to have found at least a partial cure for xenophobia, a much heralded accomplishment in the wake of a historic migrant crisis that has swept more than 1.7 million Muslim refugees from the Middle East and Africa into Europe’s cities and led to fissures in social cohesion that some predict have sewn the seeds of civil war.
It's not exactly clear how this would be accomplished; whether everyone would have to be dosed with oxytocin on camera or in a monitored facility, but the study is more "proof of concept" than a plan of how to implement it.
According to the researchers, the hormone drug oxytocin administered in combination with peer influence caused people inclined to have “negative attitudes” toward migrants to actually want to reach out and help them.

“Researchers have shown in a new study that the bonding hormone oxytocin together with social norms significantly increases the willingness to donate money to refugees in need, even in people who tend to have a skeptical attitude towards migrants,” the study concluded.
The experiment was to give a group of 100 subjects 50 euros and have them donate to either other Germans in need or to the immigrants.  Those who were generous to the immigrants were given oxytocin and donated more.  Those who were less generous to the immigrants were then dosed with the oxytocin, but that didn't change the amount they donated.  Only when they were given oxytocin and allowed to see how much the pro-immigrant group donated did they increase their donations to the immigrants - hence the reference to "oxytocin together with social norms".  
People who had “negative attitudes towards migrants” were not affected — but, when they were shown how generous others had been towards migrants in combination with the drugs, they “donated up to 74 per cent more”.
In my mind, it's kind of reminiscent of Nazi medical research like that done by Josef Mengele, giving people drugs to see if they'll do what the state wants them to do.
James Simpson, a journalist who has also written extensively about the dark side of refugee resettlement, was taken aback by the study.

“This reveals a deeply entrenched official agenda to push refugee resettlement at all costs and thoroughly discredit any and all opposition to it,” Simpson told WND. “It reinforces my belief that official Germany is carrying out the Russian plan to take over Western Europe using the refugee crisis to create chaos. Chancellor Angela Merkel is the Russians’ agent-in-place – a member of the East German Communist Party before coming to the West who inserted herself into West German politics by pretending to be a pro-West moderate leader.”
Like I say, you just can't make this shit up. 
Maybe "A Clockwork Orange" was more prescient than we thought.  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Things to Keep an Eye On - Part 2

Two nights ago, when I wrote the first piece, I spent too much time looking for and not finding a chart I had seen which ranked the longest running bull markets in US history.  I found it tonight, and it's worth doing an addendum. 
Here it's easy to see that the present S&P 500 Bull Market is the second longest in duration, but the third highest in total % gains. 

Like the other charts I posted, this one is from Bonner and Partners, an independent publishing house that dispenses the "folksy wisdom" of founder Bill Bonner and his group of writers.   Since I read more of his views on the world economy than anyone else, I'm sure I'm more influenced by his take on things than anyone else.  I make no claims to special insights, I'm just "some dood with a blog". 

Look around at the out-of-business stores in your neighborhood; look at the empty houses.  Does this really seem like a bustling, growing economy?   There's 17 months difference between this bull market and the longest, the Dot-Com boom of the 1990s.  Does it really seem to you like this market could go up for another 17 months?  For as long as I can recall, I've been saying that the global economy is so distorted by the manipulations of the central banks that they've destroyed all the signalling and information that creates a working economy.  With interest rates below inflation, or below zero as they are in so much of the world, "free money" removes part of the incentive to be careful with cash and expenditures.  The world reeks of malinvestments.
There's a very obvious discontinuity around the crash of '08/early '09.  Not only did the combined assets jump $2 Trillion, but the slope increased; the rate at which central bank assets were growing.  In 2016, the slope jumped up again.  Notice, though, that this graph doesn't include the People’s Bank of China, the Bank of England, the Swiss National Bank, and the “other” central banks. When you include those, you find that the ten largest central bank balance sheets add up to over $20 trillion in assets.  $20 trillion is around 1/5 of the world's total GDP.  It’s 29% of the total value of the world’s sixty largest stock exchanges ($70 trillion).  It's virtually also the US National Debt.

Finally, you've all probably seen something like this:
Bitcoin was designed to be like digital gold.  Only a certain amount will ever exist, and the more that exists, the harder it is "mine" new Bitcoins.  Newer, faster computers are slowed by the algorithms so that technology doesn't give you an advantage in mining the "harder to mine deposits" - it's said that the amount of effort required to mine gold is the same as it was thousands of years ago.  We have much better technology but the deposits are much harder to mine.  So think of this chart as being gold and bear with me for a minute.  You can say "gold has gone up", but if your standard is gold, you're looking at it backwards: it really says the dollar has gone down.  Likewise, you can view this chart as not that Bitcoin has gone up, but that the dollar has gone down.  That simply means people have more faith and confidence in Bitcoin than the US dollar.

Let that sink in for a moment.

When the War on Cash picks up again (it has been relatively quiet for a while), it would be no harder for the to outlaw Bitcoin than it was for them to outlaw gold in the 1930s.  The dream state for the central planners is for cash to not exist any longer - I wrote about this two years ago.  That way they could change the value of your money by the day if they wanted to.  Your life would be completely in their control. 

I think it's Kevin at The Smallest Minority who has the phrase, "bad history is coming".  I think that's a good summary.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tech Breakthrough for Those Needing Bone Transplants

Here's a story I've never told in the 7 years of this blog.  To set the time, remember Y2K?  There was massively hyped fear that computer systems everywhere were going to shut down because of a problem in the way they handled the date?  Many people were on edge waiting to see what happened on New Years and some people thought a massive disaster was going to happen. 

Two days before New Year's Day of 2000, so December 30, 1999, Mrs. Graybeard and I left the house for a morning bike ride, as we did every morning over the Christmas break.  It was a beautiful, clear morning; I don't recall the temperatures, but I don't recall wearing much in the way of cold weather clothing either.  About 4 miles from home, so just far enough to be warmed up and settling in for a long ride, I looked in my rear view mirror.  I saw a small pickup truck drifting into the bike lane and approaching behind us.  As we usually rode, Mrs. Graybeard was behind me and I was in the lead to reduce the wind she'd get.  I think I screamed something back at her but the next sensation I had was flying and tumbling onto the shoulder of the road, rolling over and coming to rest in the sparse grass.  I looked toward the road and saw her lying in the street.  In minutes, people were pulling their cars over to get out and help us.

There's no point in getting into too much detail here about a bike accident well over 17 years ago.  I was lucky enough to walk out of the ER about four hours later, with a referral to see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as I could get in, because I had a broken vertebra in my back - L1.  Mrs. Graybeard was not so lucky and while she also broke L1, hers was shattered.  The problem was Y2K - the hospital wouldn't do anything except the most urgent of emergency procedures.  She had to wait until January 2nd for surgery, which involved rebuilding the front part of the vertebra with donor cadaver bone.  The massive surgery involved going in through her abdomen, repairing that bone and fastening it in place, then going in through her back and reinforcing her broken spine, adding (as we say) a pound of stainless steel in her back.  Donor bone was made into a paste and used to cover and reinforce hardware, a paste that surgeons said would grow into a solid bone. 

The point of this is to identify with the need for an improvement in how we do bone transplants. What if a compatible bone hadn't been available?  A researcher at the University of British Columbia Okanagan's School of Engineering, Hossein Montazerian, has discovered a way to model and create artificial bone grafts that can be custom 3D printed.
“We have shown how porous bone replacements can be designed with the nature-inspired geometries and structures so that we provide cells strong, spacious and safe enough support to let them grow efficiently,” Montazerian said. “This technology allows the doctors and surgeons to design the patient-specific replacements so that they fit very well into the damaged bone area, instead of doing a secondary surgery and harvesting bone from other sites of the body for taking that replacement.”
An interesting part of this story is that Montazerian analyzed the strength of 240 different ways of making these "biologically inspired" matrices to build bone out of.
In this study, numerical procedures were performed for a library of 240 TPMS-based unit cells (comprised of 10 volume fractions of 24 selected architectures) to explore the role of pore characteristics in determining normalized values stiffness, strength, and permeability. The associated design maps were developed based on which highly porous architectures with extreme properties were selected for experimental evaluations. Calcium sulfate scaffolds were designed based on the critical designs and 3D-printed (using a powder-based technique) in different cell sizes and size effects were addressed. The scaffolds were subjected to mechanical compression tests and the results were correlated with the computational data.  [Note: TPMS = triply periodic minimal surfaces]

Besides the possibility of making bone available that the body won't reject and not waiting for a compatible donor, the ability to print bones on demand can help reduce the number of painful surgeries that some patients have to endure.
"When designing artificial bone scaffolds it's a fine balance between something that is porous enough to mix with natural bone and connective tissue, but at the same time strong enough for patients to lead a normal life," he said. "We've identified a design that strikes that balance and can be custom built using a 3D printer."

Of those he printed, Montazerian tested them to determine how they would perform physically under real-world tension and weight loads.

"A few of the structures really stood out," he said. "The best designs were up to 10 times stronger than the others and since they have properties that are much more similar to natural bone, they're less likely to cause problems over the long term."
I can anticipate doctors and old patients telling stories in 20 years or so about back when we used to actually use bone from a cadaver, or take bone from elsewhere in a person's body.  What a bunch of savages!