Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Huge New Helium Gas Find in Tanzania

Various news sources are reporting that a field containing about six years' worth of the world's annual usage of helium gas has been found.  The interesting line in this article is that nobody apparently searches for Helium.  When they need some, they know some areas to look and that's about it:
The discovery in Tanzania is the result of a new exploration approach for the precious gas that is essential to spacecraft, MRI scanners, nuclear energy, according to the Oxford University statement. Helium also fills party balloons.

This is the first time helium has been found intentionally, said the statement. Until now, the gas has been found in small amounts accidentally during oil and gas drilling.

Independent experts have estimated the helium discovery is about 54 billion cubic feet, Oxford professor Chris Ballentine said.
The intense Tanzanian heat appears to have broken down helium bearing rocks deeper in the crust, allowing the gas to escape.  Helium is hard to mine for a couple of reasons: first is that it's essentially inert and nothing can be used to react with it and capture it; second, it's a tiny molecule that can escape very well-sealed containers.  What's left in the earth's crust is from atomic decay of heavier elements giving off alpha particles.  The helium is probably left over from the formation of the solar system.  
(Tanzanian field).

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Just So Much to Write About and So Little Caring

It's probably from the pain pills, but my motivation is really at low levels.  It works out that this chair is the one causes the most pain in all of my various incisions and while I can sit here, I'm less motivated to write than from other places around the house.

We have the Brexit vote to comment on. I think Mark Steyn once said that while the US' founding documents, are wonderful overview or "big picture" documents, the European Charter was more like a 5000 page refrigerator manual, written by someone who really, really loved refrigerator manuals.  The US documents were tiny, and if they had anything real to say, it was actually along the lines of "stay true to yourselves and your human nature, don't let the temptation for power out strip your ability to control it and you'll be fine".  The EU Charter would delight in directing you to the thousands of pages of forms you needed to do most anything.  (The Daily Mail lists some examples of the sorts of micro-regulations the EU charter is known for)

Likewise, I could put up a typical photo of an abdomen like my five cuts, I don't see much advantage.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The AA Class Electric Car

Hat Tip to WUWT.

A little classic humor from JLD and some SNL alumni.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Fascinating New Developments in Urban Farming

Getting farm fresh food into dense cities has always been a serious of trade offs between things that help food quality and things that help food durability.  This is really the essence of getting foods produced and shipped anywhere and I suppose has always been the essence, but a couple of articles I've stumbled upon lately really have a couple of eye-opening facts.

To begin with, in The Attack of the Tomato Engineers, talks about a team of process engineers from Analog Devices and some of the tremendous economic advantages they can take advantage of,
For years, farmers and restaurateurs in New England knew that their tomatoes didn’t stand up to those grown in other states, such as Florida and California. “It’s a known fact that a lot of the local farmers sell zero percent of their tomatoes to local restaurants and supermarkets,” O’Reilly said. “The majority of it becomes ketchup.”

Indeed, it becomes ketchup, which means that New England farmers make about $0.40 a pound for their tomatoes, as opposed to the $4 per pound they’d get by selling them into restaurants and supermarkets.
With a 10x increase in sales price if they can produce a better tomato, it's a really a tremendous opportunity.  So Analog engineers attacked like any other process optimization. How do we optimize what he spend to earn 10x as much on a batch of tomatoes? 
“When the ADI guys came into the kitchen, it was like the Rolling Stones had arrived,” recalled Francis Gouillart, author of the blog, The Co-Creation Effect and founder of the Experience Co-Creation Partnership. “The tattooed chefs, looking at the engineers in their ADI outfits, were saying, ‘Who are these guys with their instruments?’”

The “guys with the instruments,” however, left their mark. In part thanks to their work, a growing number of chefs and farmers in Massachusetts now talk about the “scientification of taste” as if it were an established branch of engineering. And as a result of ADI’s destructive analysis and its subsequent role in Massachusetts’ 31st Annual Tomato Contest in 2015, a select group of chefs and farmers now have a better understanding of the role chemistry plays in producing a tasty tomato. Moreover, ADI’s engineering team has since topped off its analysis with the creation of an electronic reference design aimed at helping farmers grow the kinds of tomatoes that end up on dinner tables.
But farming isn't all about producing trendy tomatoes for urban hipster restaurants filled with austere young men in beards and flannel.  It's also about using a very valuable resource (real estate) to produce locally-grown vegetables and fruits, too.  In the last couple of months I've seen articles like this one on new indoor farming techniques that use "spare" building space inside big cities.  It doesn't seem feasible right of top of my head that they could pay to run indoor lights that grow the food and still sell for a profit. 
If you're going to grow food indoors—especially in a windowless warehouse like the 30,000-square foot Green Sense Farms, one of Philips' customers—you'll need light. The LEDs provide a substitute for the sun, but they also go further; Philips designs "light recipes" that can make particular crops grow faster or produce more nutrients.

"We can tailor these recipes to the photosynthesis response of the plant," says van der Feltz. "By being able to tweak the spectrum—the color the plants see—and put the lights exactly where they need it, we can dramatically increase yields and improve fruit density and quality."
Quartz reports this month the cost of quality LED lighting has fallen low enough to make it profitable to farm in a New Jersey night club
LED Lighting doesn't have to be white or red anything else.  Let's say their study on ideal taste shows the leaves get their best texture on one color while the tasters love the "nutty overtones" they get with another color.  Not having production workers to worry about it makes it that much easier.  Just setup the colors to provide the hours at each color.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Home Tonight

We got home close to 9:30 tonight.  There have been several people asking about how I've been recovering, so this is to provide that information feedback loop.

This really has been about the worse thing I been through, though

The obvious closing the feedback loop,  is the gall bladder so let me go down that road.  The  surgeon told me my gall bladder was seriously messed up.  Showing serious damage and tissue death.  It looked like the gallbladder might have died off on its own (gone necrotic).  Before doing removal of bladder they did a radioactive imaging test.  That test may have showed it to be the worst one he's seen.  There was no pancreatitis, though, , just a bad gall bladder.

The week was somewhat of an ordeal with that

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Makes 'Bout As Much Sense as Anything

From the emails today, although I have seen it around:
We know that the 9/11 Mooslims went to topless bars and did other things forbidden under their religion, and we know this guy in Orlando was apparently conflicted about being gay (you've seen the "self-loathing Muslim" meme going around).  Are they allowed to eat bacon to lie to non-muslims (taqiya)? 

But it makes as much sense as anything the President or his minions have proposed.

Sorry for dropping off the radar.  I've been rather sick, in a totally new and different way.  Still haven't gone to the doc, but I might need to go to the urgent care place tomorrow if it doesn't get better.  Bad abdominal pain in the area right behind the bottom of my rib cage, below the sternum.  Just none of extreme symptoms they say to watch for. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

CNC Project Update

Work continues on my G0704 CNC conversion project.  I finished the triangular stepper mounts (well, irregular pentagonal), boring the main hole to proper diameter (which probably isn't critical) and tapped the holes that are supposed to be 8-32.  Then I assembled the stepper mount and the angle piece, which is a standoff for the NEMA 23 stepper motors I'll be using (yes, the motors mount with three screws instead of four).  When assembled, the angle section is positioned as a shield to keep debris from above from hitting the motors. 
Those all lined up and went together easily.  Next, I watched one of the videos from the Hoss DVD showing how to assemble the spacers and bearings for the Y axis, then built that. 
The big block on the left is the Y axis spacer that I talked about finishing last week.  It's hard to see in this picture, but there's a thin metal washer (shim) across the right most ball bearing.  Between the leftmost nut on the shaft and the ball bearing housing.  The motor mount is sized to press onto that shim and the bearing, causing some compression of the bearing races and reducing backlash.  That shim is why I think the exact size of the bore on the motor mount isn't critical. 

Finally, I assembled the complete stack up.  
And that's where I ran into a small holdup.  See the pan head screw with the slotted drive?  That's supposed to be a socket head cap screw, only I don't have any of those in 8-32.  Whut?  Why not?  Went through all the files of what I needed to buy from the DVD and don't seem to see 8-32 x 3/4" SHCS screws anywhere.  After a bit of a search, I ordered a box of 100 from Bolt Depot (FTC - I have no affiliation except for having spent money there for various pieces of hardware - they're a good outfit).  It kinda annoys me to spend more for shipping than the screws I need, but the three local stores I checked were more expensive, even including the shipping, and didn't have any in stock! I'll have my order from Bolt Depot faster. 

So now I have only one piece left to cut: the big one.  This part is just under 7.1" long and 2.1" tall.  The thick section is 1" thick and the thinner section is 1/2" thick.  That's a pretty large amount of aluminum to remove, probably the largest amount I've ever done in my time with machine tools. 
This will take several hours of machine time to do, since I don't have cooling fluid.  That means I can't cut as fast as the system could because I need to keep the cutting edges cool.  For the unfamiliar, aluminum has a nasty habit of welding itself to your cutting tools so that they suddenly don't work very well.  For the hole drilling and light machining I've been doing, a smear or single drop of cutting fluid works fine.  For something this big, I think I'll need to rig up some sort of mist cooler, or something.

Wish me luck! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Techy Tuesday - NSF Funds "Wearable Doctor" Device

EE Times points out an interesting little research story at the University of North Carolina, a wearable health-monitoring device powered by energy scavenged from the person wearing it.
The wearable Health and Environmental Tracker (HET) aims to anticipate, for instance, an oncoming asthma attack and recommend immediate action to thwart the event. Researchers hope that, eventually, most any chronic malady can be similarly addressed by such sensor studded wearables powered by energy harvested from the patients own body. To address this issue, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding the Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (Assist) project with up to $40 million.
Wearable electronics, things like a FitBit are near the peak of the hype cycle, with all the market cheerleaders saying they're the Next Big Thing, so it's an idea at the right time.  FitBits and Smartwatches are powered by batteries, but to be really useful, devices like this HET need to be ultra low power, so that they can be powered by energy harvested from the wearer.  My first thought would be to harvest tiny amounts of the power used in each leg stroke while walking - taking so little that it doesn't perceptibly increase the difficulty of walking.  This one takes a different approach because their target is to warn people of oncoming asthma attacks.
"We are targeting asthma attacks first, in cooperation with partners at the University of North Carolina (UNC, Chappel Hill)," (principal investigator) Bozlurt said. "The Environmental Protection Agency told us the correct wellness and environmental-parameters we needed to monitor in order to anticipate asthma attacks."

Consequently, Bozlurt, (research assistant) Dieffenderfer and associates split the functionality between a wrist worn sensor hub, a chest-adhering patch and a handheld breathalyzer. The wristband focuses largely on environmental factors, monitoring volatile organic compounds and ozone in the air, as well as ambient humidity and temperature (the wristband also includes additional sensors to monitor motion, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels), then transmits collected data wirelessly to medical professionals. The patch includes sensors that track a patient’s movement, heart rate, respiratory rate, the amount of oxygen in the blood, skin impedance and wheezing in the lungs. And the handheld breathalyzer -- called a spirometer -- measures lung function.
It was graduate student James Dieffenderfer who came up with the idea of harvesting energy from the person's breathing to power the HET by using a tiny windmill. 
In fact, the project has already won one award for its energy harvesting spirometer which contains a tiny electricity generator that is driven by the user blowing their breath into it, thus powering the device. Dieffenderfer won a Center for Integration of Medicine & Innovative Technology award for his energy harvesting spirometer. The $150,000 award will be used by Dieffenderfer to develop and market his innovative energy-harvesting health devices to consumers.
Asthma is still a killer, even in developed nations.  Statistics say that in the US, it kills around 3400 people a year, out of 24.6 million people with the disease.  Globally, a quarter million people die from it every year.  The idea that a device can monitor air quality parameters and the way the user breathes and detect a serious asthma attack is an interesting project.  Since no one has ever done tried to monitor continuously in real time like this, no one really knows if they know how to predict such an attack.  (One of my standard sayings to the young engineers, "when you look at something no one has ever looked at before, you see things that no one has ever seen before"!)  That means they'll be running clinical trials to make sure they really have the subject covered. 
(Early prototype of the HET wristband)
Once the conditions for an imminent asthma attack are determined during clinical trials, a specialized cost reduced version can be produced. In the event that different things stimulate asthma attacks in different people, personalized versions will be created.  Initial experiments will be done in controlled environments with industrial partners who want to use the technology in future products.
They expect to be ready to go to production in around four years - in 2020. It's quite a reach to call such a limited use device a "wearable doctor", but it could mark the beginning of a very interesting trend.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tales From the Over Regulated State #20 - Who Will Be the Gibson of Ivory?

In 2011, the Gibson guitars factory in Nashville was raided by Federal government agents for alleged violations of the Lacey Act and importation of Indian rosewood fret boards.  In reality, the situation was much more complex.  It first appeared to entail violations of the Indian laws as interpreted by the US DOJ, but in the end appears to have been totally political: a union-powered shakedown of a successful non-unionized company in a heavily unionized industry.
Thus began a five-year saga, extensively covered by the press, with reputation-destroying leaks and shady allegations that Gibson was illegally importing wood from endangered tree species. In the end, formal charges were never filed, but the disruption to Gibson’s business and the mounting legal fees and threat of imprisonment induced Juszkiewicz to settle for $250,000—with an additional $50,000 “donation” piled on to pay off an environmental activist group.
(The more common word for that $50,000 “donation” which prosecutors demanded is “extortion”).

Today, Knife Rights tells us of the sweeping new ban on ivory importation which recently passed congress.  You may know that the sale of new elephant ivory has been banned since 1989 and subject to all sorts of legislation since then intended to stop the slaughter of African elephants.  That means this law is based on the handling of ivory that's already in the US and has been for varying amounts of time.  If you're interested in all the details, go RTWT:
The new rule covers "interstate commerce" in only elephant ivory and not fossil ivory (see below an explanation of why interstate commerce covers much more than you might expect).  It includes two exceptions to the near-total ban, both of which will have an adverse effect on trade in ivory handled and decorated knives.
1. The antique exception covers ivory that's 100 years old or older and was never repaired or modified since 1973

2. The de minimis exception covers ivory that is less than 100 years old and is further narrowed by six other criteria, all of which must be met.
The rules for these exceptions appear to be a minefield.  For example, since any ivory sold 100 years ago didn't have today's documentation on it, someone will need to determine that it's an antique.  (I don't know if you have a receipt for that ivory from a sale in 1910 that anyone would believe it).  The problem is that while the Fish and Wildlife Service (who enforce this law) respects the experts who appraise ivory, there's no guarantee they're going to take the word of any expert.   Expert opinions are simply potentially useful and not determinative.  A well worded justification for why your expert says a piece is antique will go farther than just saying it is one.

The second clause might be more problematic.  Let's assume you have an ivory handled knife made in 1860.  According to that "never repaired of modified" clause, if you had that knife repaired after 1973, it magically became new ivory and not antique!  It's hard figure out a rational reason for that.

The de minimis exceptions are even worse.  It consists of six criteria and every word of all six must be met for it to be legal to sell a piece of ivory.
FWS refused to create any "safe harbors" or binding criteria that a seller could rely upon to be certain an item qualifies as an antique or under the de minimis exception. Instead, it is totally up to the discretion of enforcement personnel whether proof or documentation in any given case is sufficient to prove whether an item is an antique or meets the de minimis exception. FWS said that more guidance would be forthcoming, which typically means that after enough issues arise in seizures and prosecutions, they will use their dispositions to provide further clarification of what they can get away with.

FWS also maintained their position that the entire onus is on the ivory seller to prove themselves innocent. If they seize your ivory-handled knife, it is up to you to prove that it is legal. They have no obligation to prove it is illegal. So, yes, this means you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent, the opposite of how justice is supposed to work in America.  [Bold added - SiG]
Welcome to the new police state of America, where most of us commit Three Felonies a Day without ever knowing it and everything is forbidden unless there's a specific law allowing it.  And we could go on with examples for that all week.

Knife Rights goes on to say that the law is like most of the laws the enviro-nuts and flakes get passed: well intentioned but stupid, and divorced from reality, ending up as just a way to feel smug.  Not once since the first ban in 1989 have ban advocates been able to provide any rational connection between these bans on ivory that's been legally here in the U.S. for decades and the poaching in Africa.
The FWS and proponents of the bans have lied since day one about the size of the illegal elephant ivory market in the U.S. which is utterly insignificant compared to China, estimated at 95% or more, and insignificant compared to almost all other countries as well. The U.S. trade in illegal ivory was already essentially the lowest in the world before this ivory ban campaign began.

The FWS has continued to lie about the current situation in Africa which has actually seen a significant DECLINE in poaching of elephants since 2011, prior to when this rule was first proposed in 2012. This decline has been the result of a combination of enhanced law enforcement in Africa and Asia along with a drop in demand for commodities like ivory in China. These efforts were already achieving the desired reduction in illegal elephant poaching. The ban does nothing to further efforts to reduce poaching in Africa.
So you just know that someone who makes pianos with ivory veneers on their keys, or someone who makes ornamental pieces (scrimshaw), or a knife maker is going to fall into the same trap over ivory that Gibson got snared by.  A prosecutor with a union buddy, or some other agenda, will go after a business that's the same as every other business in terms of what they use, but they won't have crossed the right palms somewhere so they'll be extorted like Gibson was.  I just have to wonder who it's going to be.
(source - fairly far down this page)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Agendas Hit Before the Blood is Dry

It's really disgusting, you know?  Here we are, reeling from another terrorism attack, and every agenda-driven group or even person sees it as an opportunity to pimp their cause.

Some random headlines from the Daily Caller:

Reddit Bans Users, Deletes Comments That Say Orlando Terrorist Was Muslim
(Silly people - just re-posting comments from the police on the scene as if they know something)

It Didn’t Take Long For WaPo To Spin Orlando Terror Attack As A Gun Control Issue
(Of course you knew they were going to come dance in the blood - that's 100% predictable)
(Not sure if they were before or after Hillary to demand more gun control.)

ACLU Blames Christians for Orlando Terror Attack
(for not baking ISIS a cake?)

Dem. Senator Declares Orlando Terrorist Attack A ‘Public Health Crisis’
(because Gun Control)

Democratic Senator Blames GOP for Orlando Terror Attack 
(It wasn't a lone wolf ISIS-inspired terrorist!  It was a group of small businessmen!)

Orlando Shooter’s Father Claims Attack Had ‘Nothing To Do With Religion’
(Just like how when someone says "it's not about the money", it's really always about the money, when someone says, "it's not about Islam", it's always about Islam.)  (said the father who supports the Taliban)

Perhaps the most disgusting headline:
Islamic Attacks Have Now Killed Twice As Many Americans As Right-Wing Terror Since 9/11   
(First, it's not a game and we're not keeping score.  Second - wait - what Right Wing Terror attacks?  I looked at the list the quoted website is referring to and I call bullshit)

I typically don't go looking for information on the terrorists because these things are always tentative early in a story.  First reports are always wrong.  I never use their names because I never want to give them even the tiniest amount of the fame they're looking for.  But this one is complicated.  There are reports that the guy is an American citizen by birth, and was currently working as a security guard.  He had a valid concealed carry license (in Florida, they're called a CWFL).  To get one, applicants need to pass a Florida Department of Law Enforcement background check, submit fingerprints to trace and "demonstrate competency with a firearm" (a bit controversial because some gun show courses literally have the applicants fire a single shot).  It's reported he legally bought his two guns, which appear to be a Glock and generic AR-15, last week.  He passed the background checks they say we need.

In short, any gun control measure that would have stopped him would prevent any American with the most pristine background from buying a gun.  Only the total ban and elimination of every type of firearm in every country on earth would prevent him from getting a gun.  That's physically impossible. 

The only thing that can stop an attack like this is the department of Pre-crime from Minority Report - and that was science fiction.
My heart goes out to all the victims and families in this most-horrible of times imaginable.  I'm sorry you have to see these ass clown politicians behaving like they do.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Gaming the System

Since the advent of populist politicians advocating for "free college" (not Bernie), the focus of most of the commentary has been on the fact that it will be far from free.  It will, in fact, be horrifically expensive (Bill Whittle video).

I'd like to take the a different tack - that not only will it be expensive, the degree will be worthless.  Talking about "free college" reflects the special economic idiocy of Bernie Sanders and the other idiots pushing the program.  

A college degree is valuable - to the extent that it still is valuable - because not everyone has one. Not everyone can master the work. If everyone has an Associates or Bachelor's degree (depending on who's making the speech), it will become equivalent to today's High School diploma. You actually see this already happening in that the only degrees that help graduates in getting hired are the ones with strong skills imparted. There simply aren't many jobs for holders of degrees in Offended Minority Studies.

If college becomes "14th grade", the perks and higher pay will go to the Master's Degree holders, the Ph.D.s or some degree that doesn't exist yet.  Or, as the case in an article Borepatch linked to, in South Korea where college is already free
A 2013 McKinsey study found that lifetime earnings for graduates of Korean private colleges were less than for workers with just a high-school diploma. The unemployment rate for new graduates has topped 30 percent.
I'm fond of saying that the only "law" you'll find in a non-science classroom that almost rises to the rigidity of physical law is the law of supply and demand.  In Korea, you see that when the supply of college graduates (weighted, I'm sure, by the fact that only a couple of percent of them can be in software or other engineering) is far more than the market demand, the price goes down. 

There's also the matter of students gaming the system.  After all, if they're being required to take "filler" classes that are really intended to spread the tuition money around, not "make them more well-rounded" as it's always claimed, they're going to do whatever they can to beat the system.  Like hire an unemployed college professor to write their meaningless term papers for them.  Students have been gaming the system for as long as there have been students.  Likewise, companies like Unemployed Professors (.com!) have been around for a long time.  You could always buy a term paper; and it's not that different from buying Cliff's Notes and copying it manually at your typewriter while adding bits of your own verbiage. 
I recommend you go the Unemployed Professors website to look around.  My first thought was it was the Onion, but the fact that it's real makes it just that much more appalling. 

So just what is that degree really worth?  The degree that everyone has, that didn't impart any real skills, and was filled with busy work?  We see in Korea.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Cartoon of the Day

(Nate Beeler at Townhall)

The whole thing just made me laugh - messy pile of clothes on the floor, living at the bottom of the stairs (in mom and dad's basement?), hammer and sickle on the wall, and the rainbow unicorn head.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Dramatic Foreshadowing

Dramatic foreshadowing is when an author mentions an important plot point early in a script that will be returned to later.  That's what I think today's endorsement of Hillary by Obama actually is.

Obama actually said,
“Look, I know how hard this job can be,” Obama said. “That’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.”
There's never been someone as qualified as Hillary?  Personally, I can think of a few more qualified people right off the top of my head, starting with at least half of the field of 17 Republicans who ran in the primaries.  Remember when they called her "the smartest woman in the world"?  I used to say that on an average day I worked with a half dozen smarter women before lunch. If you pick up a phone book in your town, odds are at least one person in there is as qualified as her to be president, assuming your town's white pages are longer than one page.

Hillary does have one historic first going for her.  She's the first subject of an active FBI felony investigation (mishandling of classified data) ever to become her party's nominee.  (Well, still technically their presumptive nominee, I suppose).  

The foreshadowing?  The investigation of Hildebeest is entirely run by the executive branch.  The FBI is running the investigation.  The FBI will hand over their recommendation to indict (or not) to Attorney General Loretta LynchFBI Director James Comey, and AG Lynch both work for Barack Obama.  After the president endorses her, do you think Director Comey can come forward with an indictment against Hillary?  Without him having his career trashed and run out the door?  Or being Vince Fostered?  With his endorsement, Obama has all but promised that if the FBI says to indict, it just ain't happening.

In fact, I think we're overdue for some sort of trumped up nonsense charges to start appearing in the press to discredit Comey in advance of anything out of the FBI.  Either that or the Obamanoids think they already have some sort of intolerable dirt on him now, and they have him in their pocket.   As famous Democrat darling LBJ used to say, "I never trust a man unless I've got his pecker in my pocket".

Let's get one thing straight: if the stories we're hearing are true, and there's no reason to doubt they are, she has committed several felonies.  For starters, Hillary did the same exact thing she fired the US Ambassador to Kenya for: use of private email for state department business.  For another:
Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia, knows the laws regarding classified information firsthand. In his private practice, Cuccinelli defended a Marine lieutenant colonel court martialed on charges of possessing such information outside a secure facility. He says Clinton’s actions in the e-mail scandal clearly satisfy all five requirements necessary to sustain charges of mishandling classified material, and constitute a breach perhaps even more glaring than the one for which General David Petraeus was convicted.
Here's another thing: if she has done these things, she is forbidden to work for the Federal government ever again.  18 U.S. Code § 2071 — concealment, removal or mutilation generally of classified information says a guilty person “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.” [Emphasis added - SiG] Kinda difficult for a president. 

As I've said before in various places, I've had those clearances (over 20 years ago).  If I had done what she did, I'd be in federal prison waiting for the investigation to complete, not frolicking  around the country on private jets. 

There's speculation around the Interwebs that if AG Lynch or the DOJ drag their feet or act like they're going to do nothing, that Comey will resign and take a lot of people with him.  There's also speculation that the FBI/DOJ/AG letting Hillary slide will reverberate like a magnitude 10 earthquake through the agencies and companies full of workers that have to live under those rules.   Whether any of those people would walk off their jobs is harder to predict.  For one, folks gotta eat; for another, it just reinforces the widespread idea that justice works different for the ruling class.  Which is what has propelled Donald Trump to the position he's in now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I've Got The Angles Down

No, wait... I spelled that wrong.  I've got the angles done.  As in two pieces of 2 1/2 inch angle aluminum that just get cut to length and then some holes drilled and tapped on both ends.  One end gets 8-32 and the other gets 10-32; they're both 3/4" deep.
My scrawled writing of "8" in broad tipped marker and "10" in fine tipped marker was to remind myself not to space out and drill the wrong-sized holes.  Yeah, BTDT a couple of times.

This, as you can see, was pretty simple work.  I cut the pieces to length a few weeks ago and was puzzling over the best way to hold them for the drilling, finally deciding to use the G0704 as a precise drill press.  I found that if I clamped one edge in my vise, and left the perpendicular edge just hanging there in space, that the angle wasn't close enough to 90 degrees to dial in a position to drill.  Over the 2 1/2", the angle diverged from 90 enough to put the far end (far from the vise) about .012" out of place.  So I was able to hold the pieces in the vise with the two edges on one jaw and the corner on the other jaw.   I marked them "old school": I colored the areas where I needed to work with the black marker, then scratched out the location of the hole centers.  Setup was a bit more manual, but no big deal.

The bigger, more important piece is the Y-axis extension.  This is a replacement for the one I wrote back in March; that one got obsoleted by my change over to ballscrews.  Which negates all my concern about the other one being made slightly wrong.  This time, instead of cutting a big hole which gets a diameter step (counterbore) using my ultra light duty CNC mill, I bored this one out on the G0704 itself.
There's somewhat of a jigsaw puzzle of how all this goes together, which I probably shouldn't get into too much, but this part goes on the end of the Y-axis, and those two, big, counterbored holes on the ends get hardware to press it onto the cast iron body of the mill.  A motor mount that I'll make next goes on top of this, compressing a set of bearings that get mounted in the big counterbore; the bearing mounting helps take out backlash.   I'm down to three pieces of aluminum to cut: two identical pieces (motor mounts) which are fairly simple and small, and the big X-axis end cap I wrote about back in April which will take some time to machine.  Then it will be time to take apart the mill, which obviously means I won't be able to do any more work with it.  So I'd like to be pretty sure everything is in good shape and working before then.

All of the parts in this post will be visible when the upgrade is done (unlike the ballnut mounts I did previously) so I think I'm going to paint them.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Techy Tuesday - Liquid Batteries

I gotta say this is a new one on me; I had not heard of liquid flow batteries.  Design News links this week to a research paper from MIT on a new method of using creating batteries.  MIT says liquid batteries have been around since the 1970s.  The only ones I've read about are molten salt and one or two other "exotic" batteries (read "will kill you in an ohnosecond if things go wrong" batteries).

A typical solid battery, as you know, has two electrodes; an easy example is a Nickle Metal Hydride battery, where one electrode is a compound of nickle and the other electrode is a compound of another metal, often a titanium-nickle alloy, that has hydrogen adsorbed onto its surface.  In a liquid flow battery, both electrodes can be liquids. 
Liquid flow batteries — in which the positive and negative electrodes are each in liquid form and separated by a membrane — are not a new concept, and some members of this research team unveiled an earlier concept three years ago. The basic technology can use a variety of chemical formulations, including the same chemical compounds found in today’s lithium-ion batteries. In this case, key components are not solid slabs that remain in place for the life of the battery, but rather tiny particles that can be carried along in a liquid slurry. Increasing storage capacity simply requires bigger tanks to hold the slurry.
These batteries require pumps and the energy that runs them, which decreases the amount of energy available.   Because of the pumps, tanks and that structure, liquid batteries are aimed at permanently fixed energy storage installations, such as storage for solar energy facilities to provide power when the sun's not out, or storage for wind power when the wind isn't blowing.  They're not mentioned as under considerations for electric cars or other, more portable, uses. 

When we think of water, one of the things that word association gives us is "flows downhill", and these MIT researchers envisioned a cell that could use that ability to flow under gravity assist.  The result is a new concept that functions like an old hourglass or egg timer, with particles -- in this case carried as a slurry -- flowing through a narrow opening from one tank to another, according to researchers. The flow then can be reversed by turning the device over.
In the proof-of-concept version the team built, only one of the two sides of the battery is composed of flowing liquid, while the other side — a sheet of lithium — is in solid form. The team decided to try out the concept in a simpler form before making their ultimate goal, a version where both sides (the positive and negative electrodes) are liquid and flow side by side through an opening while separated by a membrane.
The principle investigator, Dr. Yet-Ming Chiang (MIT's Kyocera Professor of Ceramics), says to think of this like a concept car.  It's not intended to go into production but to demonstrate that the concepts are viable.  Chiang said,
“We were seeking battery designs that could be manufactured simply and with a minimum of unit operations,” he said. The team also was motivated to break the limits of the two primary types of battery design -- stationary batteries with no moving parts, and flow batteries with actively pumped fluids, he added.
As an interesting side note, they say the trickiest part of the design was getting the viscosity of the slurry right.  It's like a familiar problem we all know.
The thick liquids behave a bit like ketchup in a bottle — it’s hard to get it flowing in the first place, but then once it starts, the flow can be too sudden. Getting the flow just right required a long process of fine-tuning both the liquid mixture and the design of the mechanical structures.
Why do I hear Carly Simon singing "Anticipation"?   (If you don't get that joke, you're probably under 40.  The explanation is here, but dire warning for the really bad ear worm.  If I didn't give it to you already.)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Keep An Eye On This Economatrix Number

Although you'll have a hard time finding this information without deliberately searching for it, US economic productivity dropped for the second quarter in a row, the biggest drop in over 20 years.
The measure of employee output per hour decreased at a 1.9 percent annualized rate after a revised 2.1 percent drop in the prior three months, a Labor Department report showed Wednesday in Washington. The decline on average over the past two quarters was the biggest since the first six months of 1993. Expenses per worker increased more than projected at the start of the year.
Why should you care?  Long before I retired, even thick-headed old engineer me realized that the only absolute imperative in industry is to always Get More Done With Less.  Again, why care?  The only way that advanced economies, like ours and most of the western world, can compete against the much lower labor costs in the rest of the world is by being more productive.  As Bill Bonner puts it:
The thing that separates rich societies from poor societies is productivity. It measures how much output you can get from each unit of input – mainly labor and capital.

In the richer societies, a workman’s time is more valuable because he can produce more from each hour of labor. Since time is limited, the only hope of making material progress is to increase productivity.

So, it is no small matter when productivity growth comes to an end. Not to be alarmist about it, but if this trend persists, as we pointed out on Friday, it means the end of our civilization as we know it. And maybe even before the Fed completes its rate hikes!
As proponents of the Information Theory of Money say, all our lives we've been told "time is money" but that's backwards: money is time.  Time is strictly limited, the most valuable "possession" each of us ever has is our time here.  The only way to build more wealth is to get more done in less time.

At the very best, this is yet another sign of another recession getting started.  Janet Yellen gave another of her tepid, 100% content-free speeches today.  The economy is improving, but no rate hikes.  We're keeping an eye on it.  We're data driven.  Yada yada yada.  The economy has been improving for so long it ought it be freakin' perfection by now, right?

Back to Bill for the closeout.
Most economists (and politicians) have blamed world trade for stagnant U.S. wages. The median wage in China is only $8 a day. No wonder U.S. factory hands can’t catch a break; who can compete with that? 

But Germans compete with the Chinese, too. And their wages have gone up! In real terms, after adjusting for inflation, wages in France and Germany have been going up at a 0.7% rate for the past 15-20 years.

Throughout most of the emerging market economies, wages went up… even though they all had to compete with the Chinese.
So what gives?  It's the free money coming from Fed - nothing else distorts the economy as badly.  There's nothing more expensive than free money.  The Germans don't have to put up with our Fed, so their wages actually go up.  So keep an eye on the quarterly productivity numbers.  This would be a really bad trend to have continue.

(I was going to put a stock photo here of some sort of factory, or office workers, but when I started looking at them, I started having bad flashbacks to when I was still working.  I had to quit.  Too many pictures of Mandatorily Interracial groups of workers, just like every stupid training class I had to take for the last 40 years.)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Birth of Many Projects to Come

Last April,  I told the story of how I completed my kit guitar with the help of a friend who has worked as a luthier.  There's almost no limit to the number of tools one could get if they wanted to handle any work on their own guitars; the big guys seem to have a tool for everything and my friend has a lot of them.  I enjoyed the experience of learning how to do these things, and have made and acquired some tools that seemed useful, although I have a long way to go to having even a poorly equipped guitar shop. 

I've thought about learning how to do more, but the idea of breaking one of my guitars to learn how to fix it is, somehow, not very appealing.  I started to search eBay for a good deal on a broken guitar, just so I could learn how to make some repairs.  Even broken guitars seem to sell for over 50% of what a new one ought to sell for, and I find that the idea of dropping 2 or $300 on a broken guitar that - maybe - I could resell at what I paid isn't any more appealing.  So how do I learn?  I've chatted with this friend about this; he said he thought it was a good idea.  He got his experience in a couple of classes, and then fixing guitars for income. 

While we were out of town a couple of weeks ago, he emailed me to tell me he's got a guitar that he picked up from a store that was going out of business.  He said the guitar was in the way asked if I'd like to take it.  He said it was a Breedlove acoustic guitar and that it was some sort of a sales demo that had a chunk of side taken out of it so that customers could see how it was made.  The idea is that it's about as broken as broken can be, so I can mess with it with complete impunity.  Pull frets to learn how to replace them?  Why not?  Crack the sound board to see if I can fix said crack?  I probably can't make it sound any worse.  Steam the neck off?  Sure, why not.  Naturally, I said, "sure I'll take it".

I picked it up last night.  This morning, I started looking over the guitar in some detail.  It's actually a fairly nice guitar!  The top is solid Sitka spruce, which isn't that uncommon once you get past the very cheapest guitars; the back, though, is solid rosewood and that's something I expect to find only in fairly high end guitars.  The sides are rosewood laminate (plywood), but a guitar's sides are largely structural and don't affect sound very much.  I've heard the tone wood golden rule is first the top, then the back, then the sides.  When new, they look like this:
Now this one doesn't have any of the tuners (the gold-finish pieces on the head stock at top in this pic), and it doesn't have a nut or saddle (the white horizontal-ish pieces at the top of the neck, and in the dark piece (the bridge) on the lower part of the body).  It doesn't have the electronics that these came with.  Most importantly, the top and bottom pieces of the top edge (left side in this picture) have been cut away and the side is missing.  In a word, it's unplayable, but that's the point of getting it.  
My mental gears are turning.  I'm curious about how it sounds now.  I could get a set of tuners, nut and saddle and have it able to make sounds for under $100 - maybe half that if I use no-name parts. That's probably necessary, too.  I mean, I can't tell if I ruined a setup, or added a fret that buzzes unless I can get sounds out of it.  The foot long hole in the side will be a problem, but I can live with that.  Actually, several custom luthiers make guitars with a solid body and the sound hole moved up to the top edge, making this example an extreme version of this approach.  As I work up to it, I might try to restore that cutaway section.  There's a lot of projects there.  But first projects first: work continues on the G0704 CNC conversion tomorrow.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Long Story of Z

When we last talked about the Z axis for my G0704 CNC Conversion, I had just completed boring the big hole to clear the ballnut housing.  Then I got a virus, took a week off to visit the granddaughter, and, well, next thing you know, it was June.

As I said in that piece, the next task was to drill and tap six 1/4-20 holes to match the ballnut. I barfed it up. The holes were far enough off that I could get only one screw in the ballnut at a time.
Now what? I've never relocated holes before, but it really is a fundamental skill we should all have. I know in commercial shops they may drill it out larger and put in a Heli-Coil, or use a welder to fill it, but I don't have a TIG welder and wouldn't know how to use it if I could borrow one.  So acting on the advice of a frequent visitor here, I got a quarter-inch diameter aluminum rod, turned it down enough to thread and made 1/4-20 aluminum screws to plug the holes with.  Used red Loctite to hold them in place, sawed them off with a slitting saw on my Sherline, then milled them just a little proud of the surface (like .002" high) with the G0704. This picture is with it still on the Sherline, before I milled them down.
I think my error was in setting my zero on the Sherline before I drilled, because after flipping the part, finding zeroes again, and putting a small peck at each hole with a center drill, the marks all appeared to be in the right place.

My adviser also suggested that since I have the master pattern (the ballnut that it has to mount), why not make a tool to fit in the holes that will better center a drill and mark the mount that way? So I turned down some 1/2" aluminum rod to fit the holes in the ballnut, then drilled them on the lathe for a 1/16" drill bit. I made four and put them in the four corner screw holes in the ballnut, and clamped the ballnut to the mount with C clamps. Drilled the holes with a 1/16 bit. Broke the first bit and while muttering obscenities and looking for the next size up to continue, found that "someone" had bought and stashed three 1/16 bits. No more excitement because I remembered to use just a tiny dab of tapping fluid. Once the four were drilled, I moved two of my tools to the center holes, re-clamped, and drilled them.

Moved it to the G0704 and mounted my drill chuck. Carefully centered the bit six times, using a 7/64 bit, then six more times using the bit that came in my old Craftsman drill and tap set for 1/4-20. While drilling the larger holes, I could feel that sometimes the drill advanced way too easily. Turned out that two of the threaded aluminum filler screws had backed out. So I put them back with more Locktite. The result: perfect fit.
The little tools are in the lower right.  These have a half inch head to grab with a turned down section that fits in the ballnut with a tight fit, and are center-drilled 1/16".

This part also has two holes in its base, perpendicular to these screws.  Those are drilled and tapped 5/16-18.  I won't be able to tell how well they're done until I have the mill apart to modify. 

So that's where I am now.  X, Y and Z ballnut mounts are complete.  I'm down to four parts to make: the X and Y motor mounts, the Y axis spacer and the X-axis end cap. The end cap has a lot of machining that needs to be done, and I think I'll do that last. I spent a lot of time making this part, though, so I hope I pick up some speed.  My first mention of it was May 1.  Even subtracting the week vacation, nine or ten days out of the shop, I spent close to four weeks working on this part.  I don't think any machine shop would hire me with time like that.  Not that I care.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Immigration, Legal and Otherwise

A rambling summary of thoughts on immigration. 

It always seemed to me that one of the most common things you'd ever hear conservative commentators say about immigration is, "I'm not opposed to legal immigration, I just think we need to control who comes in".  Common variants are "... I just think we should know who's coming in", and "how do we know people with horrible diseases aren't coming in?", but the "I'm not opposed to legal immigration" phrase was pretty constant.

I'm not sure I'm still OK with that.  I've been drifting lately.  Let's start with the second clause, which absolutely still fits.  That one's easy.  I'm still completely opposed to people sneaking across the border, whether Mexican, Canadian or OTMDREAMers?  By all accounts, they're a small percentage of the problem.  Fix the big problems and the little ones can be handled as exceptions if needed.  (Basing your entire policy on the little exceptions is like saying we're going to allow unrestricted abortion up to the moment of delivery because of the 0.01% from "teenage girls raped by their uncles"; it's statistical idiocy). 

I was always willing to say legal immigration is fine, but I'm beginning to have second thoughts about that.  For years, Ann Coulter has been pointing out that Teddy Kennedy's 1965 Immigration Act dramatically changed the population entering America.  Before this law, the US let in fewer immigrants in general, and the ethnic makeup of those immigrants was more like the population that came into the US at Ellis Island in the beginning of the 20th century.  My own grandparents, on both sides, came into the US there.  The Ellis Island immigrants were mostly European.  It's simply undeniable that from our nation's founding through the mid 20th century, Americans were primarily from European stock and from a religious and philosophical view America had much in common with Europe.  Since the 1965 act, European immigration has gone down while immigration from the rest of the world, and particularly from Latin America has surged.  It has changed American culture and is one reason for the slide to more dependence on the state we see.
Specific influx predictions that were made seem tragicomic today. Senator Robert Kennedy predicted a total of 5,000 immigrants from India; his successor as Attorney General, Nicholas Katzenbach, foresaw a meager 8,000. Actual immigration from India has exceeded by 1,000-times Robert Kennedy's prediction.

Senator Hiram Fong, R-Hawaii, calculated that "the people from [Asia] will never reach 1 percent of the population." Even in 1965, people were willing to admit that we have a reasonable interest in not being inundated by culturally alien foreigners, and it was considered acceptable to say so on the floor of the Senate. Try that today, even as a supposed conservative! (Asians currently account for three percent of the population, and will swell to near 10 percent by 2050 if present trends continue.)

The only remaining Congressman who had voted on the 1920s quotas, Representative Emanuel Celler, D-New York, insisted, "There will not be, comparatively speaking, many Asians or Africans entering this country." Today, the number of Asians and Africans entering this country each year exceeds the annual average total number of immigrants [from all countries] during the 1960s. [Square brackets added - SiG]

Yet the largest ethnic shift has occurred within the ranks of Hispanics. Despite Robert Kennedy's promise that, "Immigration from any single country would be limited to 10 percent of the total," Mexico sent 20 percent of last year's immigrants. Hispanics have made up nearly half of all immigrants since 1968. After a 30-year experiment with open borders, whites no longer constitute a majority of Californians or residents of New York City.
Then there's the not so small matter of qualifications to immigrate into the country.  If you want to emigrate to Australia, or Canada, or pretty much anyplace, you need to show that you'd be a valuable addition to that society.  That's fine.  Why shouldn't a country's immigration laws be established to favor people who will add to the country's talent and contribute to improving the country, instead of being a drain on it?  Why would a country willingly take in people it would need to support on public assistance?  Besides recruiting new voters, that is.

Being an engineer, I've been aware of H1B visas since the mid-80s.  They were just a fact of life and didn't really stand out as something to be alarmed about until I started hearing stories like last fall's, that Disney was bringing in H1B visa holders to replace their American citizen workers, and require the Americans to train their replacements.  That was outrageous, but as I started looking around, I was disappointed to hear that kind of behavior isn't uncommonNot at all uncommon.  As you might expect, whenever there are big piles of money, usually being sat upon by the corpulent, the situation turns into an enormous orgy of cronyism
Cognizant, Wipro, Infosys, and Tata all profit by supplying foreign workers to American companies via the H-1B visa program and almost all the workers are Indian. Wipro, Tata, and Infosys are Indian companies and even though Cognizant is in New Jersey, over half their workers are Indian and 64% of all H-1B Visas go to Indians.

Cognizant alone spends millions of dollars lobbying politicians on immigration policy; nearly $3,000,000 in the last two years. A look at Cognizant’s lobbying and contribution numbers show the bipartisan nature of the push for comprehensive immigration reform. They cover the table, supporting both Democrats and Republicans. On one hand, one of their lobbyists is Heather Podesta, the powerful Democrat known as the “It Girl” of Washington. On the other hand, they were big donors to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Why are companies like Cognizant spending so much on lobbying? It’s simple business: they make a lot more on the H-1B Visa program than they spend on lobbying.
On one side, we have national programs to convince US kids to major in STEM programs to produce the "next generation of scientists and engineers" while on the other hand we import these H1B visa holders to fill the very jobs we're trying to get American kids to prepare for.  Don't forget the workers who were in those jobs, were replaced by H1B visa holders, and are now either unemployed or underemployed.  The is creating unemployment and misery for generations to come.  It's easy to understand Gates, Zuckerburg and those CEOs: the more of these H1B visas the allows, the more they can suppress wages and the more candidates they can choose from.  It's, unfortunately, also easy to understand the; they get money from Cognizant, Wipro and the like.  In the case of our administration, already concerned that Americans have too much of the world's wealth, it's even easier to see a motivation to send that wealth overseas. 
So while it's true that the illegal immigrants hold down wages for low end jobs (how could they not?), and conservatives rightfully try to change that, we also have the wages of hardware and software engineers, as well as IT workers and other STEM careers being held down by the H1B visa industry (again, how could they not?).  The law of supply and demand is the only thing you'll find outside of hard science class that rises closest to the character of physical law. 
Indian IT exporters.  HCL was a contractor to Major Avionics Corporation before I retired, so I've worked with a handful of those guys.  They're probably still there.

So where does this leave everything?  I'm still opposed to illegal immigration; no change there.  But I'm also increasingly unhappy with legal immigration.  That process needs to be reformed.  Well, at least the H1B visa program needs some serious reformation to get rid of the cronyism.  There might be aspects of immigration that work properly, but considering who's running it, I doubt that. I have no problem with shutting down both until we fix them. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016


Courtesy of Edward Snowden
Someone ask Hillary if that left a mark, OK?

(Note:  I don't Twitter, but if you do, his real link is here).

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Link of the Day

I had a serious post in mind, haven't done one of those in several days, but I got a link of pure coolness combined with a healthy dose of playfulness in today's email and it proved irresistible.  I can be serious any day.

The company is called Mechanicards and the link was from a CNC mailing list I subscribe to.  The mailing list is at the CNC Cookbook, and it has occasional things that are interesting, but is mostly a "meh" - mostly sales oriented.

The video calls them mechanical greeting cards, but that's not quite right.  The first model, the radial engine,  can be had for $50 and it's one of my two favorites in the video.  My other favorite is the last one, and that goes $125.  If you think of them as a gift and not just a card, it's not that bad.  The video description on YouTube says they're primarily paperboard, with few bits of wood, metal, and plastic.  They have the look of CNC laser cut cardboard or thin plywood just based on the appearance of the radial engine.   

Cool idea for a business.