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!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Things to Keep An Eye On

It's that time of year again.  September 1st is this Friday, and September brings some things to keep a wary eye on.  The significance of September is that it's the last month of the government fiscal year, and because of that, stock market corrections tend to come on September 30th, plus or minus one month.

Before the end of the fiscal year, we're going to go through the debt ceiling theatrics we have to go through periodically.  New readers: let me tell you something all my long term readers know: it's a show.  There is no debt ceiling.  I mean, there's technically, legally a debt ceiling, but since it has never once in history been lowered, not even held as fixed cap, but always gets raised, you can ignore the "sound and fury signifying nothing", you can ignore the government shutdown kabuki theater, and know it's just a show so they can appear important.

If you look at market indicators of all sorts, red lights are flashing that something bad is coming.  The CAPE ratio, the Cyclically Adjusted PE Ratio, is the third highest it has been in history.  The highest was just before the Dot Com bubble popped in late 1999, and the second highest was right before the 1929 crash that led into the Great Depression (which would have just been a milder, plain depression without Roosevelt's and the still-new Federal Reserve's meddling).  It's in very bad territory. 

Another metric, the price of a share of stock compared to the sales generated by that share of the company is higher than it was before the 2008 crash, but not quite as bad as it was before the 1999 crash.

Small company's stocks (smallcap stocks) are more expensive than before the 1999 and 2008 crashes.

In short, stocks are at their highest prices since the dot-com bubble burst.  Yet the underlying economy that creates the sales that keep those companies going is weak.  It's all pumped up by the phony money created by the Federal Reserve.  

Railcar traffic, a sign of goods moving around the country to customers, went through a flurry of activity after the election but has been declining since March.  We're entering the fall, when the retail stock pipes should be filling with merchandise for the holiday sales. 
Phil, over at the Vulgar Curmudgeon, posted a link to a story on BloombergMarkets that major banks are warning that the current market highs and the "post 2008 recovery" may be getting ready to reverse.
HSBC Holdings Plc, Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley see mounting evidence that global markets are in the last stage of their rallies before a downturn in the business cycle.
Bonner and Partners developed a "Doom Index"  to assign actionable values to a handful of things as a warning to coming market crashes and corrections.  It's flashing a "soft warning", that trouble is possible.  That was a month ago, before the subprime auto loan crisis was fully recognized and talked about.  I don't have an updated value.

So is the market going to crash in the next few months?  Here I'll quote Bill Bonner, since his words could almost exactly be mine.
We’re no better than anyone else – and perhaps worse – at telling you when the next crash will come. Or even how. But that it will happen… we have no doubt.

And when it does, the loss – judging by similar events in the past – is likely to be more than 50%.

Worse, the loss could be almost permanent – as it has been in Japan.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Time to Recycle the GB-22?

I was just going back through the blog looking for anything I've written on the GB-22 and it doesn't look like I posted anything since I finished it - for the first time - at the end of May

According to the in-process pictures I've got on my drive here, I played with it until mid-July when I gave up and thought I'd let it sit until I could figure out what to do next. 

The GB has one overriding problem.  It just doesn't work reliably.  It doesn't really work at all - the cheapest, crummiest firearm you can find works better.  If I had to blame it on something, it looks as though the slide doesn't slide forward fast enough or hard enough to fire a .22 round.

All of my tests have been with the same box of ammo, a box of Winchester White Box 555 that I've had since before the Great 22 Scare a few years ago.  I drilled a hole in a piece of 3/4" thick oak that's smaller than the rim, but that fits the brass snugly.  Push a round into the oak, pull the bullet with pliers and dump the powder into a plastic bowl so that all that's left is the primer.  What I'm doing in the shop is dropping the slide on the primer.  It's frequently not as loud as a hammer blow on a nail or piece of metal.  I've had rounds go off that I haven't even heard, and only when I pull the brass do I realize it's black inside and smells of the primer having been ignited.

I've had the occasional round that fired on the first drop of the slide, but I've had others that I can drop the slide on as many as 10 times without them going off.  I then test those in a .22 revolver.  Of the 50 or so rounds I've tested this way, maybe two that didn't fire in the GB also wouldn't fire in the revolver and in one of those the primer had broken into chunks that fell out in my hand. 

Work for the last few months has focused on getting the slide to move faster.  Concerned that the firing pin wasn't leaving as deep an impression as it should, I spent some time trying to remove the original firing pin and replace it with one that is shaped more like the pin in a 10/22 (by the imprint it leaves in the brass).  The pin was bonded into its piece of the slide with red LocTite and nothing that I did would break that free, including putting it in my gas oven at 550 for an hour.  I eventually drilled a hole on the opposite side of the chamber and put in a second firing pin. 

The prints I bought say that the frame should be ".003 to .010" under thickness" of the part of the slide that holds that firing pin.  Both of those pieces are nominally 3/16 thick, which means 0.1875".  The mill tolerances, though are such that (I suspect) Serbu's sheet came in thinner than his slide piece, while mine came in thicker.  My slide is .188"; the frame was .191 or .192.  That meant I needed to reduce the thickness of my frame piece down as much as .014. Short of using a surface grinder, how can one do that?

The accepted answer is to put the metal frame on a sheet of rough sandpaper and sand it down.  My first attempt was using a Dremel-like tool with a grinding wheel.  It ended up being impossible to keep the area flat, so on to the sand paper.  First, I wrapped a 1-2-3 block with 150 grit sandpaper and worked on it for several hours.  I successfully thinned the frame.  Somewhat.
All measured values with a B are before the hours of sanding and A values are after.  You can see that there is improvement, but not everything is ".003-.010 under" the 0.188 slide.  At this point, I was running out of sandpaper, but tried taping some to a work bench and just sanding that area.  The problem is that it takes a long, long time to remove a little metal and I was just getting nowhere.

There was a pause here to try to troubleshoot how fast the slide moves, but I was unable to find a camera with fast enough exposures to make meaningful measurements.  This was the end of June.  Tests at this point showed the same problems.  Some rounds would fire with one or two drops of the slide, others would never fire, for no obvious reason.  So I said , "*&!% it" and I'll get to it later. 

With the eclipse trip over and no other distractions, I decided it was time to address this again.  My plan was to resurrect my fixture, put the frame on the big mill and thin the frame out with a large cutter.  I would zero the mill's Z (vertical) axis where the frame is the thickest (I chose the red circle on that drawing), then take off .001 at a time until it was uniform thickness or at least being cut the whole way around.  If you look at those numbers, you'll see the most important places to cut are both ends of the travel.

I did a careful setup on my tooling plate, added a couple of threaded holes for 10-32 screws so that I could use some of the Sherline hold down clamps I have.  This picture is after I did the cutting, but shows the clamps.  If you look closely, you can see machining marks over most of the path of the slide, except for a little spot in the skinny beam that holds the trigger; the area visible just above the bottom clamp. 
I started in the upper right of this picture, and used a 1/2" diameter end mill that I had zeroed on the handle where no sanding or anything had been done.  I lowered the cutter until it just touched the surface there, then dropped it .001 and made a cut counterclockwise around the rectangle.  On the first pass, it cut in that corner and only a little of the top; it didn't cut over much of the path.  I lowered it .001 at a time until the cut was continuous - everywhere but the trigger seer.  I know that's too thin as it is.  You can see the cut marks show that the long, thin, spring beam wasn't touched over about half its length.

The total depth of cut was .007.  Originally, the tool path didn't cut the leftmost portion of the frame so it had a .007" step there.  I cut the left end of the frame to the same thickness as the rest of the area where the slide goes. 

After puzzling over what to do to confirm it, I thought the most reasonable thing to do would be the acid test: put it together and try to shoot some primers.

Not even the slightest bit better.  The first primer popped on the third slide drop.  Out of six rounds not one more primer would pop.  All of them popped in the revolver.  Midway through the test, I added some oil to the frame to see if that helped, but nope.

 So I took it apart again and got the micrometer to remeasure it.
You can see the thickness go down in each set of measurements Before, After and today's Thinned.  Furthermore, while the frame isn't the same thickness everywhere, (1) with one or two exceptions (on the bottom set), you can see that the measurements are pretty much really .007 thinner and (2) there's less variation in the measurements. The top is .1758 to .1787, so just under .003 variation (vs. 007 to start).  The bottom is .1833 to .1796, or almost .004 variation.  To be honest, those measurements on the really thin portion of the trigger spring beam are really rough.  The beam is a little rolled over and the exact thickness I get depends on exactly where the micrometer sits.  Consequently, I don't trust the middle measurement on the bottom or the one to its left. 

If a "good" frame is ".003 to .010 under" the thickness of the center section of the slide, it should be between .185 and .178.  It's virtually all there; but a little too thin in the middle three measurements on the top. 

So with the frame the right thickness and the GB-22 still a steaming turd, what's next?  Is it time to disassemble everything and put it my scrap box?  I found and bought some stronger springs, but that didn't work back in June when I tried them.  I could try one again.   Otherwise, it seems like a total redesign might be in order.  If that's even remotely worth it.  Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

I Think It's Offensive and I Want it Taken Down

In keeping with the apparent mood of the day.
(Lisa Benson)  The sudden fascination with tearing down statues that were there for a decades is just today's version of this old standard, used by fascists or communists (like Antifa and Black Lives Matter) for centuries.   
There's a common misquote of George Santayana that goes, "Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it".  To be honest, I like the misquote better than the original.  We can twist this to say, "those who prevent people from learning from the past are condemning themselves to repeat it."

Friday, August 25, 2017

America's 11+ Year Major Hurrican Drought Ends

It's not like it's a good thing it's ending, just that it's remarkable that we've gone this long - almost 12 full years since the last Category 3 or stronger hurricane hit land in the US.  The 2PM EDT forecast shows that Harvey is still offshore, but winds are 120 MPH, making it a Cat 3 storm. 
Hurricane Harvey Tropical Cyclone Update
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL AL092017
200 PM CDT Fri Aug 25 2017


Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate
that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 120 mph
(195 km/h) with higher gusts. Harvey is a category 3 hurricane on
the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The latest minimum central
pressure reported by the aircraft is 943 mb (27.85 inches).
The National Weather Service office at Corpus Christi radar shows this image at 3:15 EDT:
They're reporting winds at 53 mph already.  I would guess landfall will be around 10 PM local time; about 8 hours from now, but that's a WAG.

While Category 3 hurricanes are nasty storms, the unusual thing about Harvey is that it's the first in almost 12 years - 11 years and 10 months.   Hurricane Wilma came ashore at Cape Romano, Florida at 6AM on the 24th of October 2005, and that was the last time a major hurricane made landfall in the US.  Hurricanes in general and Category 3 storms in particular are not really unusual in the Gulf in August.  They're just part of the normal global weather patterns over the last century or so. 

Unfortunately, you know where this is going.  Hurricanes used to be naturally occurring weather events and totally nonpolitical until Al "release my 2nd chakra" Gore put a hurricane emerging from a smokestack on the cover of his Inconvenient Book - emphasizing that hurricanes were a product of global warmening.  The basic ideas are what I call elementary school meteorology - hurricanes need warm water, global warming will warm the oceans, presto: more hurricanes.  That wasn't a common view among people who actually study hurricanes for a living at the college level or at the National Hurricane Center.  There are other factors that affect hurricanes: the El Niño Southern Oscillation is the best known, but there are also cycles and multi-decade long cycles affecting them that aren't well predicted. 

That means it's inescapable that Harvey is going to get blamed on Global warmening, or climate chaos, or whatever they're saying these days.  I think the moment of peak supidity of blaming storms on that was Hurricane Sandy.  Like Harvey, Sandy wasn't an unusual storm in any sense other than being the first one in a while.  Sandy was a Cat 1 storm, so much, much weaker than Harvey (the damage from wind scales as wind speed squared).  Sandy just happened to hit at a bad tide, in a bad place, and was the first hurricane in memory for the people affected by it.  
In general, people don't like too many details and they especially don't like to do any math, so it's great when some "philosopher/priest scientist", preferably with a white lab coat, tells them what to think.  Caleb Shaw, over at Watts Up With That, posts a wonderful "Reply to Hurricane Sandy Alarmists" just full of snark.  Of real interest is how he compares Sandy's record storm surge to the storm of 1821. The difference between them is that Sandy hit at peak high tide, on a full moon, while the "Great Gale of 1821" hit at low tide under a very different moon.  It can be calculated that the 11.2 feet of surge from the 1821 storm, if moved to the same tide and moon phase, would have been 19.2 feet.  Sandy was 13.82 feet.
Unfortunately, the forecast is looking really awful for the Texas Gulf coast.  The 5 day predictions have the storm barely moving.  It goes ashore, weakens to a tropical storm, then retraces its path inland for 24 hours before heading up the coast into the Houston and Louisiana areas.   Note the 5 day uncertainty zone, that really huge speckled area that shows the uncertainty of its position.  The uncertainty even puts it potentially farther offshore than it is right now! 
It's a fact of life that there's going to be tons of people in the target zone who are unprepared.  Shoddy construction will come down.  People will get hurt and it's highly likely some will die.  There is going to be genuine human suffering on a large scale.  But as I said about Sandy, using that suffering for political gain by blaming everything on "global warming" so that you can extort more money out of people is just plain wrong. Worse, it's just plain evil.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Few Photos

We arrived back home at the Silicon Swamp a bit after 1:30 this afternoon, and while it was a busy day even only being here six hours so far, I thought I'd post a few pictures. 

Let me start with one of my favorite phenomena.  Back in March, in a post about preparations, I posted pictures showing how pinholes don't have to be formal thing.  There's a pair of photos in that post, one showing seven little images of the crescent sun using a Ritz cracker as the pinholes; the other photo shows dozens of images from using a colander.  In the field, you find that every place light shines through (most commonly) leaves, those little openings behave like pinholes, and you get dozens of images of the crescent sun, like this photo of the shadow from an ornamental plant.
There are so many, it's literally hard to see them.  Look right around the center of the picture and you'll see a crescent sun.  Then as you look, you'll see plenty more.

And it doesn't have to be leaves.  You can hold out your hand in an "OK" sign and gradually shrink the size of the hole until you see the shadow surrounds an image of the eclipse.  It's not hard.  We taught Precious Grand Daughter how to do it and she's 5.  

As I said, as we went into the last moments before totality, all the city lights turned on.
This isn't a bad depiction of what the light was like.  In the center of the pic is an elevated roadway, and below that the yellow lights of a Shell gas station.  You can see a row of all sorts of signs turned on as well as a few streetlights.  At a sunset, the sky is lighter in the direction of the just-set sun, darker in other directions.  The horizon was sort of light in every direction.  Considering the width of the shadow and our proximity to the center, that light couldn't be from physically seeing the edges of the sun's shadow, it had to be an optical effect.  The light on the clouds looked like the light from a full moon.
The highlight, though was the corona.  At this point, it would have been nice to be in a lawn chair so we could lie down and just stare at it.  It was 1:28 local time, which with Daylight time translates to almost solar noon - the sun almost directly overhead that was a bit rough.  My photos didn't turn out as well as many I've seen online, but I was deliberately following the advice of a photographer I read saying, "watch your first solar eclipse; photograph your second".  Go look at McThag's and Denninger's
This is deliberately over processed to try to tease out some details in the corona. 

As many have said, totality itself tugs at something deep and fundamental in us.  Perhaps because it's both familiar in resembling an approaching night yet jarringly unfamiliar as that night turns into something quite alien.  Words simply do not do it justice.  I can see why primitive peoples would be completely freaked out by it.  Likewise, I can see how photographers would start following these as a long term hobby/obsession.

Son, Dear Daughter-in-Law and Precious Grand Daughter met us there.  While we drove about 13 hours over two days, they live about five hours north.  DDIL made essentially all the arrangements for our June vacation in South Dakota; this time I did.  I found the viewing place, made the initial room reservations, bought solar glasses and filter material, and assembled the filter for the telescope.  It was a bonus for us to share this with them. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017 - First Impressions

Over the weekend, Mrs. Graybeard and I drove the 800 miles to just north of Nashville, Tennessee to try to see the eclipse.  We're in a little city called Goodlettsville, a few miles from the centerline, but close enough to give only 10 seconds less of totality.  It worked out perfectly for us, with the few passing clouds not interfering with the crucial minutes of totality.

Commenter punzdeleon to my post on coming to see the eclipse had a great observation:
The sight of a black disc surrounded by glory plucks primal nerves. If you have the chance to see one do so. 
It truly is an incredible sight.  The last few minutes as totality approaches are almost other-worldly; the brightness of the 1PM sun drops slowly in the first hour of the eclipse, but as the last minutes tick off, the light drops so fast that successive pictures from my DSLR were different exposures.  Finally, in the last minute every surrounding streetlight, gas station sign; everything that runs on a light detector, turned on, as if it was anticipating a coming night.  When the sun finally vanished, a deep twilight remained.  Not fully night, but Venus was bright and a few bright stars stood out.  The corona, only visible during totality, was vividly beautiful.

I can't get pictures out of my DSLR here, so pictures will hopefully follow in a couple of days.  If they're actually good.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Note From The Road

If all goes as planned, by the time you see this, I should be around the gleaming, concrete and glass sphincter of the Southeast - Atlanta - when this posts. 

A rare XKCD worth posting, though.

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Little Backyard Science

Take one sheet of Thousand Oaks Solar Film, 6" square.  Add one empty box from Hefty Zip Loc bags.  Mix in appropriate use of scissors, tape and rubber bands... 
and the C90 spotting scope I use at the rifle range becomes a solar scope.  (This is before final assembly, and the final version looks a little better.)  Also, the picture is framed wrong because you can't see that I put another square of the solar filter over the finder with rubber bands so that's eye safe.  

Finally, use that photographic tripod and point at the sun.  Focus the Craptastic Point and Shoot Ricoh camera at the eyepiece, and let it autofocus. 
As the French say, "easy peasey"  (no, wait... that's not the French...) 

It shouldn't be a surprise that the guy who wrote about the coming eclipse a year ago is going to try to see it.  If money is no object, well, I probably wouldn't do half the things I do, but in this case I'd be going to eastern Oregon or possibly somewhere from east of the Cascades through easternmost Wyoming.  It looks like we have about 60% chance of good enough weather to see it in our budget trip.   

Posting will be erratic or non-existent, but I'll have internet access.  So if the weather turns on us and everything sucks, we'll try to find someone streaming it online. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Meet The Crew Retiring Along with Voyagers 1 and 2

In my History of the World, a strong candidate for the title of "Greatest Achievement of Mankind" is the two Grand Tour satellites of Voyager 1 and 2.  As we're coming up on the 40th anniversary of the launch of the two probes, there has been some celebration, some retrospection, a PBS Special "The Farthest" on August 23rd and some recognition of the handful of people who have supported the program over the years.  Remarkably, some of those people have spent the entire 40 years supporting the missions.

The mission almost didn't happen.  In the late 1960s, a doctoral student named Gary Flandro was working at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena.  He was given the assignment to consider missions beyond the planned Mars missions.  Plotting the positions of the planets of all of the outer planets for the coming 20 years, (with pencil and paper) he realized that a trajectory was possible where a probe could use each planet in series as a gravitational slingshot to the next, and complete a tour of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune in 10 or 12 years rather than the three decades such a venture would require otherwise. The mission launch window would open for a matter of months in the late 1970s, and then the geometry would be gone - not appearing for another 175 years.
It was an ambitious idea at a time when the apex of interplanetary exploration was Mariner 4 shooting 21 grainy photos as it flew past Mars. No probe had ever functioned for anything close to a decade in space. None had the intelligence to manage complex planetary encounters at vast distances without constant human hand-holding. Playing crack-the-whip past multiple planets might work in theory but had never been attempted in practice. "I was told, 'This is impossible; stop wasting my time,'" Flandro recalled.

NASA swallowed hard and proposed a grand tour mission anyway, but Congress rejected it, instead approving a cheaper, stripped-down version that would venture out no farther than Saturn.

The JPL spacefarers responded in the tradition of the hardiest explorers of earlier epochs. They cheerfully agreed to the plan, assured one another that Congress didn't really understand the situation, and quietly went to work designing and building two tough, smart spacecraft capable of going all the way to Neptune.
The Voyagers reached Jupiter in March of 1979,  capturing images of lightning in its cloud tops and astounding scientists — who had assumed all moons were as barren as our own — with pictures of eight active volcanoes on its satellite Io.  Europa, another Jovian moon, was encased in a shell of water ice, cracked in places by what appeared to be the tides of an ocean below. The photographs revealed themselves on control-room monitors pixel by pixel, row by row.  Similarly, Voyager 1 arrived at Saturn in November of 1980 with Voyager 2 arriving  nine months later in August of 1981.   The program would have been over after the second Saturn encounter, but by that time President Reagan had granted them an extension for the Grand Tour that had been planned all along.
The final flyby, of Neptune’s moon Triton, took place on a hot August night. Afterward, everyone celebrated with Champagne, cold cuts and drunken singing; on the JPL lawn, Chuck Berry performed ‘‘Johnny B. Goode,’’ one of the tracks included on gold-plated records of human sights and sounds attached to the spacecraft for any intelligent life that might find them. Then, gradually, the hallways grew quiet. [Project Scientist Dr. Ed] Stone and his colleagues moved on to new projects while analyzing Voyager data part time; the flight team laid off 150 engineers (many of whom went on to staff subsequent missions). The probes’ new goal was to reach interstellar space. But though scientists had measured the speed of the solar wind that forms the heliosphere, the properties of the matter beyond it had never been analyzed. How much pressure it exerted on the bubble, and thus the size of the bubble, were a mystery. So, too, was how long — years? decades? — it might take a craft to escape it.
Ed Stone, closest to the camera, was the Voyager Project Scientist from 1972 through the end of the Neptune flyby.  This was at a press conference for the PBS special.  Rahoul Ghose, PBS photo.

The New York Times, of all places, puts together a wholly nice article about the mission and the team, with virtually none of the lefty overtones I expect from the Times; possibly because there's nothing to milk here.  It had nothing to do with global warming (in the late 70s the cause was global cooling) or any other liberal cause celebre, and if nothing else, was a government program.

Meet Larry Zottarelli.
In the early spring of 1977, Larry was a 40 year old engineer at the JPL.  The Los Angeles native, who had never driven as far as Tijuana, climbed in his Toyota Corolla and set out for Cape Canaveral, 2600 miles away.  His mission: to support the launch of Voyager 1.  A fleet of trucks and cars carried the spacecraft and the "key contributors" (like Larry) along to the Cape (it's JPL policy not to put everyone in one vehicle, as insurance against the remote possibility of disastrous crash).

It took six months, working in shifts around the clock, for the NASA crew to reassemble and test the two spacecraft.  Voyager 2 actually launched first, on August 20, with Voyager 1 launching 16 days later on September 5, 1977.  Voyager 1 was given a faster trajectory, so that it had overtaken Voyager 2 within the first two years, arriving at Jupiter four months ahead of its sibling.
Voyager 1.
For the foreseeable future, Voyager seems destined to remain in the running for the title of Mankind’s Greatest Journey, which might just make its nine flight-team engineers — most of whom have been with the mission since the Reagan administration — our greatest living explorers. They also may be the last people left on the planet who can operate the spacecraft’s onboard computers, which have 235,000 times less memory and 175,000 times less speed than a 16-gigabyte smartphone. And while it’s true that these pioneers haven’t gone anywhere themselves, they are arguably every bit as dauntless as more celebrated predecessors. Magellan never had to steer a vessel from the confines of a dun-colored rental office, let alone stay at the helm long enough to qualify for a senior discount at the McDonald’s next door.
The Times introduces us to the crew.  Enrique Medina, an attitude and articulation control system engineer, he joined the team in 1986.  Roger Ludwig,  a telecom engineer has been with the Voyager team since 1989.  Tom Weeks, hardware engineer, who joined in 1983.  Sun Kang Matsumoto, an engineer who started in 1985.  Jefferson Hall, mission flight director, who began working on the Voyager team in 1978, before the Jupiter encounters.  Finally, Suzanne Dodd, flight-team project manager; Voyager was her first job.
At the mission’s outset, the flight-team members were mischievous kids. They relieved stress with games and pranks: bowling in the hallway, using soda cans as pins; filling desk drawers with plastic bags of live goldfish; making scientists compete in disco-pose contests. Now, by 1990, they were older, with kids of their own. They had experienced the deaths of colleagues and watched others’ marriages falter as a result of long hours at the lab. With no planets to explore, they spent the decade doing routine spacecraft maintenance with a fraction of their bygone manpower. Six of the current nine engineers were on the team then. Sun Kang Matsumoto, who joined the mission in ’85, studied so diligently to master the new roles pressed upon her that her sons learned the spacecraft contours by osmosis. When her eldest was 8, he surprised her with a perfect Lego model; now in college, ‘‘he calls and asks, ‘How is Voyager?’ Like, ‘How is Grandma?’ ’’ Matsumoto says.

The mission originally occupied three floors of Building 264 on the JPL campus, home to many of the lab’s highest-profile projects. But soon after Neptune, says Jefferson Hall, who joined the project in 1978, ‘‘we were booted out.’’ Their first move was into the former offices of a mainframe-computer company in Sierra Madre.
Larry Zottarelli retired in 2016, the year he turned 80.  He gave six months notice so that he could train a successor.  The Times author, Kim Tingley, writes:
I had stopped by his office to say goodbye and ask him what he planned to do with his newfound freedom. I pictured him in the Doretti, flying down the Pacific Coast Highway, wind in his hair. But he seemed to be in no mood for talking. I wished him well and turned to go. Then he spoke. ‘‘I expect my second stroke will be on the 17th of November,’’ he said ruefully, gesturing toward his empty wall calendar. ‘‘Life expectancy is five to seven years at my age on retiring, so —’’ He paused. ‘‘That was humor, I guess. I’m not looking forward to being even older. Got no choice in the matter.’’

I asked if he ever found himself thinking about the billions of years that the Voyagers will circle the center of the galaxy, long after our sun has exploded, scattering more stardust throughout the universe. ‘‘Of course,’’ he said. ‘‘I was raised in the Roman Rite. I’m pretty much an atheist. But what is the meaning of life? It’s not Monty Python, O.K.?’’

Had he reached any conclusions about what it is? ‘‘Well, on Earth, yeah,’’ he said. ‘‘One species always prepares the way for the next generation — that’s all.’’
The Voyagers keep coasting along, with some sensors on and still sending back new data.  The power is so low and the pair so far away that only three antennas on earth are big enough to receive the Voyagers' data.  The JPL still has a page dedicated to the latest updates from the pair.  Their power, which comes from Radioisotope Thermal Generators (radioactive decay) is dwindling.  There is really now way to know that the probes will survive until there's not enough power to transmit, no way to know if they'll make it to the 50 year, "golden anniversary". Considering the vast emptiness of space, they're expected to travel long after they've gone cold.  Perhaps coasting for billions of years in the nearly absolute zero deep freeze of space. 

The Times article is long, but if you're a space geek, you'll want to read the whole thing.  I couldn't tell you the last time I watched PBS, but I think "The Farthest" is getting scheduled on the DVR. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

From David P. Goldman at PJ Media in his article, "The Triumph of Inequality" (hat tip to Sense of Events):
The great divide is not between black and white, or male and female. We are turning into two races: Eloi who play video games and Morlocks who program them. The July 3 New York Times reported, "By 2015, American men 31 to 55 were working about 163 fewer hours a year than that same age group did in 2000. Men 21 to 30 were working 203 fewer hours a games have been responsible for reducing the amount of work that young men do by 15 to 30 hours over the course of a year. Between 2004 and 2015, young men’s leisure time grew by 2.3 hours a week. A majority of that increase — 60 percent — was spent playing video games."
If you enlarge the definition of Morlocks from the people who program video games to the people who design the computers those games run on, and all the other engineers and technicians of all kinds: electrical, mechanical, aerospace, and more, I'm there with him.  I have as much respect for a mechanic who can keep a modern jet engine running optimally as the team who designed it.

Goldman goes on to draw a few contrasts.
Three hundred years ago, pretty much everyone knew how their technology worked. Europe had lived for a millennium on the innovations of the Carolingian Renaissance: the water wheel, the horse collar, and three-field crop rotation. Everyone knew how a water wheel worked. Water pushed the paddles and gears turned the millstones. Not everyone knew how a steam engine worked, but a lot of people did. The same applied to internal combustion engines.

Not only were those technologies easy to understand: They were easy to make. Any competent carpenter could build a water wheel. The Wright brothers built their first airplane in a bicycle shop. Henry Ford made his first internal combustion engine out of spare parts in a backroom at the Edison Illuminating Company of Detroit.

How many people know how a computer works? Solid-state electronics depends on quantum theory, which is understood by one in 10,000 Americans at best. To build a competitive integrated circuit now requires a multi-billion-dollar plant. A numerically minuscule elite invents the technologies we use every day, and a handful of large corporations access the capital required to manufacture them.
He argues that today's technology is too complex.  It's true that as recently as the early 1960s, only a couple of guys were required to design a state of the art radio, (I've met some of them) while today's equivalent radios require a team of hardware and software engineers, with each of those broad categories having several specializations.  It's the rare engineer who can understand all of those domains and design every piece.  To do so is discouraged in the industry for the simple reason that the product gets on the market faster when a team works in parallel than if one guy does everything one subsection at a time.

To dwell on this is to miss the big point: it's that "numerically minuscule elite" that leads all progress in our world and for a nation to have real influence, they need to ruthlessly select for them in a free market of education and ideas.  To deny the opportunity to compete for that education to some portion of its citizens is likely self-defeating, but only the best should advance. Meritocracy, not equality.
Today there are two billion Asians whose parents were immured in utter backwardness who now have a chance at the brass ring. China graduates four times as many STEM bachelors as the United States and twice as many PhDs; a generation ago the Chinese university system had just begun to pick itself up out of the ruins of the Cultural Revolution
Part of the glue that held the Chinese imperial system together these past three thousand years is the chance that every Chinese has to get rich by passing what used to be the Mandarin examination.
The byword in American education is "No child left behind." In Singapore, it's "You must be exceptional to survive."
America is at a distinct disadvantage to Asia.  We are numerically quite a bit smaller than China or India.  That means fewer to choose from to find that minuscule fraction.  

While the idiots on the left are consumed with equality of outcomes for everyone, rather than the equality of opportunities, Goldman gives the simple, inescapably true message that we should ruthlessly search for excellence instead. 
If we focus on equality rather than excellence, we will be overwhelmed by the rest of the world.  A generation from now there will be a word for an American who works for an Asian: "Employed." Our future lies in the talented few, not the mediocre masses -- and if we repudiate them, the future will repudiate us.
Are we headed for another dark ages?  Cloistered in the future equivalents of monasteries may be the people who know how to do things: the Morlocks.

A commenter there retold a story that I know I've seen before, and I'll bet most of you have, too.
I remember a story about how some archeologists excavated a Roman villa in East Anglia and found that while it was occupied by Romans soon after the conquest of Brittania it had all the comforts of civilization including central heating. As they continued to excavate they found strange burn marks in what was the great room which were accurately dated to a time three or four generations after the Romans left. Why the burn marks? Campfires. Within 100 years the people living there had forgotten how to make central heating work. They had probably forgotten that it existed at all.

Similarly, records kept by the Romans showed agricultural productivity for the same area three times what it would be when the Domesday Book started keeping records again. The farmers after the fall of Rome not only COULDN'T achieve that productivity, they didn't know it existed in the first place.
A modern generation Digital Signal Processor chip.  It takes the industrial might of billion dollar companies along with teams of engineers to design and make these.  If society collapses, I can easily see us losing the knowledge of how to make these.  I can see after a generation without them, people not being able to imagine they existed at all. 

More Joys of Home Ownership

Yesterday evening, as I was gathering thoughts to put together a post, I got to hear one of those things that every homeowner knows and dreads, "there's water coming out of the air conditioner in the garage". 

Thankfully it was fairly routine, but it did suck up the few hours of evening. 

By nature, central air conditioners suck in air that's warmer and damper than the air they condition and exhaust.  The humidity condenses on the cooling coils, then drains down to a trough where it's routed to a PVC pipe and outside.  If you've ever had or seen a window-mounted air conditioner, you know they just dripped the water outside.  A central system is usually located somewhere more like a living space, garage or attic or something else like that, so they pipe the water out of the house.  Since those pipes are carrying water, it's common for them to fill up with algae and cleaning them out is routine maintenance.  We pour some bleach into that pipe and clean it out about every 90 days.  Less frequently, the water trough below the coils needs to be cleaned out, and that's what was overflowing and dripping on the floor.  Some disassembly, some time with the wet/dry shop vac, and it's cleaned out. 

I found this picture online - it looks like a brand new set of evaporator coils, but it shows the design of the water collection.  Put that in a metal box the size of the bottom tray and that's the space to work in.
The air flow is from the bottom up, through the inclined evaporator coils that look like car radiators, and the water that condenses on the radiator fins drips down into that tray at the bottom. 

And by the way, there may be exceptions but I say don't buy a house with the air conditioner indoor unit in the attic, because someday it will drip water, and having that water coming through your ceiling is a worse thing than having it drip onto an unsealed concrete floor, where it absorbs into the floor and drains through it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Resurrecting an Old Technology

A friend sent me this interesting video of a guy from the Czech Republic recreating the process to build Nixie Tubes.  Nixie tubes are vacuum tubes that were used most often in the late 60s to early 70s as a numeric display.  They used separate elements shaped like the numbers 0-9, each element switched on when desired.  They were largely replaced by seven-segment LED displays by the mid-70s; seven segment LEDs only needed seven control wires vs. the nine wires for a Nixie. 

I recommend watching in full screen, but it's  almost 40 minutes long and I know that's "TL:DW" for many.

I find the story fascinating.  Dalibor Farny, ran across a Nixie tube in 2011.  He became enchanted by the technology and decided he needed to learn how to make them.  He built a garden shed and started adding machines.  Eventually he had to rent space in a nearby castle.  Along the way, he found that most of the secrets to successfully making Nixie tubes had been lost to time, having passed away with the engineers and technicians that built them.  That knowledge had to be recreated.

Today, his business is expanding and a success story.  The story of his road from interest to production is at his website.

Edit at 1922 EDT: the old Typo monster

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Manufacturing in the US

Long time readers may have noticed that I've often said that I worked in electronics manufacturing in Florida for my entire career - since the mid '70s - and the only constant has been people telling me that we don't manufacture anything in the US.  In the 70s, most of the TV stereo and other consumer electronics pretty much vanished in the US, with Japan being the place everyone talked about.

What happened, though, wasn't that manufacturing shut down; it shifted to higher margin products.  TVs and mass-production stereos are low margin products.  Amateur gear, for example, was higher end.  It came under intense price competition from the Japanese companies, the so-called Big Three of Icom, Kenwood, and Yaesu, but high end ham gear from RL Drake, Rockwell Collins, and others continued to be made in the US long after most consumer electronics was overseas.  There are still a host of smaller companies in America making and selling ham radio gear  - along with high end audio gear, commercial radios, and all sorts of products that aren't amenable to turning on a production line and shipping millions of units.  

I started my career at a company that made measurement and control peripherals for other manufacturing companies.  They eventually sold these peripherals into the nuclear power industry.  As such, they stressed ultimate reliability, and high-end, high-reliability electronics is the backbone of American manufacturing.  I worked there six years.  After that, I worked in DOD aerospace systems for a contractor for 13 years, followed with 20 at Major Avionics Corporation.

The point of this isn't to show off my 40 years in electronics; it's to point out how, despite the constant claims of the death of manufacturing America, there's a healthy electronics manufacturing sector in the US that's doing fine.  There always has been and always will be a constant struggle to increase productivity - to always do more with less - but the sector is fine.  Taken by itself, US manufacturing is the 9th largest economy in the world.  That is, the manufacturing sector in the US produces more than the GDP of all but eight countries in the world (one of which is the rest of the US). 

We're hearing a lot about this on the news these days, as an undercurrent to the chatter about North Korea.  We can't put a pressure on China, the pundits say, what if they start a trade war?  We'll have nothing in the stores!  There would be a period of adaptation, but the profit motive is strong and I have no doubt things could start flowing. 

The National Association of Manufacturers is the trade organization that gathers data on the manufacturing sector.  Let me share a few bullet points.  There are more on the NAM website - and I've edited these to try for a little brevity.
  • In the most recent data, manufacturers contributed $2.18 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2016. This figure has risen since the second quarter of 2009, when manufacturers contributed $1.70 trillion.
  • The vast majority of manufacturing firms in the United States are quite small. In 2014, there were 251,901 firms in the manufacturing sector, with all but 3,749 firms considered to be small (i.e., having fewer than 500 employees). In fact, three-quarters of these firms have fewer than 20 employees.
  • There are 12.3 million manufacturing workers in the United States, accounting for 9 percent of the workforce. Since the end of the Great Recession, manufacturers have hired more than 800,000 workers.
  • In 2015, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $81,289 annually, including pay and benefits.  The ... average manufacturing worker earned nearly $26.00 per hour, according to the latest figures, not including benefits.
  • Over the past 25 years, U.S.-manufactured goods exports have quadrupled.
  • Manufacturers have experienced tremendous growth over the past couple decades, making them more “lean” and helping them become more competitive globally.  Output per hour for all workers in the manufacturing sector has increased by more than 2.5 times since 1987. ... Note that durable goods manufacturers have seen even greater growth, almost tripling its labor productivity over that time frame.
  • Over the next decade, nearly 3½ million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed, and 2 million are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap.  Moreover, according to a recent report, 80 percent of manufacturers report a moderate or serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled and highly-skilled production positions.
  • Manufactured goods exports have grown substantially to our largest trading partners since 1990, including to Canada, Mexico and even China.  .. The United States enjoyed a $12.7 billion manufacturing trade surplus with its trade agreement partners in 2015, compared with a $639.6 billion deficit with other countries.  
  • World trade in manufactured goods has more than doubled between 2000 and 2014—from $4.8 trillion to $12.2 trillion.  ... U.S. consumption of manufactured goods (domestic shipments and imports) equaled $4.1 trillion in 2014, equaling about 34 percent of global trade in manufactured goods.
  • The cost of federal regulations fall disproportionately on manufacturers, particularly those that are smaller. Manufacturers pay $19,564 per employee on average to comply with federal regulations, or nearly double the $9,991 per employee costs borne by all firms as a whole. In addition, small manufacturers with less than 50 employees spend 2.5 times the amount of large manufacturers. Environmental regulations account for 90 percent of the difference in compliance costs between manufacturers and the average firm.
  • Manufacturers in the United States perform more than three-quarters of all private-sector research and development (R&D) in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector. R&D in the manufacturing sector has risen from $126.2 billion in 2000 to $229.9 billion in 2014. In the most recent data, pharmaceuticals accounted for nearly one-third of all manufacturing R&D, spending $74.9 billion in 2014. Aerospace, chemicals, computers, electronics and motor vehicles and parts were also significant contributors to R&D spending in that year. 
I think that the revolution in small scale manufacturing that I've talked about many times is going to play a part in the growth of manufacturing over the coming years.  It's the new industrial revolution.  Interpreting the second bullet point that, "The vast majority of manufacturing firms are quite small," works out to almost 189,000 manufacturing firms with fewer than 20 employees.  That number of firms is going to skyrocket as people who might never think of having a product find ways to develop and make things that others want.   

I think that the most common manufacturing facility is going to look a lot less like a big car assembly line and a lot more like a Makerspace.  Or hobby machine shop.
(Rockford Makerspace).

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I Got Nothing

I got friends in sandy places
from Pinterest.

WWII training graphic, from the emails this week.
Just one of those days that it gets to be 9 and I can't figure out where the day went, so I'm channeling my inner Art Metrano

Friday, August 11, 2017

It's Time to Rename the Grail Gun

It's time to rename the Grail Gun (references and stuff) and do an official Christening.  I'm thinking its name should be "The Precious".  I suppose I'm open to better ideas.

We had planned on getting up a little before 6AM, which gets us to our club range with enough time before it opens to let us get some targets placed and be ready at the appointed hour.  When we got out of bed it was overcast and had been raining off and on all night.  The forecast was for the rain to be ending and stay offshore all day.  So we went anyway and it stayed (blessedly, gloriously) cloudy all morning.  The sun didn't come out and it didn't even get above 90 until after we left around 10:30.

In the intervening two weeks since my last report, I had decided to re-zero the scope at 100 yards instead of 25 so I started at 100 yards.  Everything went exactly the same as last time.  With the cross hairs at the very bottom of the target, the POI was about 8" above that.  My Nikon says "1 click = 1/8" at 100 yds" so with 8 clicks to the inch, I counted 48 clicks and lowered my point of impact by 6".  As a long-former coworker used to say, "prediction is the essence of science".  Then I put the crosshairs on the center of the target and watched the shot come in about an inch high.  No mysteries.  Clicked it down another eight or 10 clicks and again, it moved as expected.  I was finishing a box of Hornady Precision Hunter, and grabbed two shots carefully placed.  My SubMOA phone app tells me they were 0.31 MOA; just barely touching holes.

Precision Hunter uses a 143 Grain Hornady ELD-X bullet, but it's not "match grade" ammo.  I had half a box of 140 gr Hornady ELD Match and switched to it for this
That's a three shot group.  Marginally better than the Precision Hunter.  I expected it to be better, but "more better" than that.  (Strangely, I don't see the exact box I have to show you; it's a white box while this one isn't - but it has the same description)

I decided to stretch it to 200 yards.  With the rifle zeroed at 100 yards, the Ballistics App says that 100 is the peak of the parabola and the round will drop 2.77" by 200 yards.  Reality agrees.  This is a real series of three shots at 200 yards, after a couple of rounds to get a feel for the distance.
The target is kind of messy.  That group at the bottom is a set of three shots in sequence.  The hole just above those three at about 1:00 was before that string and the one a diameter farther above at 11:00 was a few minutes later, after helping Mrs. Graybeard with something.  If I include those two separated shots, I get this
It opens up to half an MOA.  The hole to the left of the 11:00 round, crossing the yellow ring around the 2" red center, and the other hole down on the bottom of the picture are a totally different ammo with a totally different point of aim: Hornady American Whitetail 129 grain soft point, a while later.

Truly awful, isn't it?  ;-)

The American Whitetail 129 grain soft point was very disappointing.  I shot a box of it.  It fell more than the heavier bullets and didn't pattern anywhere near as well.  I don't have a good picture (switched to the iPhone through the spotting scope), but it filled 1-1/2 to 2 MOA.   Also used a handful of rounds to ring a steel plate at 200 yards. 

All in all, a fun couple of hours with The Precious.  Learning new skills is always fun, and I'm sure I have more learning ahead. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Look at How Bad Hurricane Forecasting Is

Six days ago, Watts Up With That had post with a fascinating title:  "Hurricane drought to end? Models show Hurricane on track for East Coast".  Naturally, I had to look.  To my surprise, the intro to the post was a Tweet from Dr. Ryan Maue, a hurricane researcher I respect and have been following on these pages, since he was a student at Florida State University (earliest post?).  Naturally, I had to read it.
Hurricane season may ramp up a bit over the next 7-10 days w/action in southern Gulf of Mexico and in the far Atlantic w/Cape Verde system.

A 10-12 day forecast of a developing tropical storm off the coast of Africa is the next frontier of tropical weather forecasting in 2020s.

Both mesoscale hurricane models HMON and HWRF develop wave off Africa (Invest 99L) into a powerful hurricane in 5-days in open Atlantic.
The 8/5 WUWT post includes impressive simulated pictures of this tropical wave as a monster hurricane.  That peaked my interest, so I've been keeping on eye on it.   Here's the 2:00 PM update of the National Hurricane Center's Tropical Weather Outlook.  This storm is the yellow X on the right - the notation "1 (20%)" refers to this storm. 
What I find interesting here is just how spectacularly wrong the model was.  Dr. Maue’s August 4th tweet said that two of the leading edge models, "HMON and HWRF develop wave off Africa (Invest 99L) into a powerful hurricane in 5-days in open Atlantic."  How well did they predict?  It’s six days later and 99L never became a powerful hurricane; it never even became a tropical storm.  It’s still a disorganized tropical wave with the NHC giving it a 20% chance of development in the next 48 hours, up to 40% chance within 5 days. The spaghetti runs show it re-curving out to the North Atlantic, staying a few hundred miles offshore.

It's hard to imagine how the models could be more wrong.  I suppose it could have dissipated, but that’s not much worse. 

Remember Dr. Maue said A 10-12 day forecast of a developing tropical storm off the coast of Africa is the next frontier of tropical weather forecasting in 2020s.  I suppose this means we have to wait for the 2020s – maybe the late 2020s – because these results sure aren’t there, yet.  This is not to imply the models are hopeless, only that they're not done.  The only way they'll get better is if the model writers keep relentlessly looking at why they got things wrong and trying to improve them. 
Long time readers may recall that last October, within 24 hours of closest approach, the NHC forecast Hurricane Matthew to be over my head as a Cat IV storm. Actual closest approach was about 50 miles away and a much weaker cat II. We didn’t get hurricane force winds. That’s an enormous difference in the risk from the storm, since wind damage scales as velocity squared.  I'd like to see them more accurate at 24 hours, let alone at 10 days. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Are We Going to War With North Korea?

That's a trick question.  We're already at war with North Korea and have been since the early '50s.  The 1953 Korean War was ended with a ceasefire, the 1953 armistice, not a surrender and declaration of the end of the war.

A lot of good ink has been spilled over this in the last few weeks (well, good bits on your screen).  Some of the best are LL's at Virtual Mirage today, especially related to the Norks' recent threat to Guam.  Within the last hour, the DPRK state press dismissed President Trump's remarks yesterday as a "load of nonsense".
The communist nation also said it would complete its strategy to attack the waters near the U.S. territory of Guam by mid-August.

North Korea would then wait for its leader Kim Jong Un's order to strike, with its military stating that “only absolute force” would work on Trump.
This strikes me as a bad sign because it's continuing the continuous escalation we've been watching for months now, but I don't have a scale that reads how bad it is.  Considering what appears to be their cultural predilection to bombastic hyperbole, I don't know how worked up we should get.  As LL says, though, threatening Guam "... takes the situation to another level - where it didn't need to go. But it's what the Norks want to do, and they've been wanting it for a long time. The mouse will get one last roar off."

Nuclear weapons are an odd thing.  It seems that with the exception of the two times that we used them (including 72 years ago today) the principle use for having nuclear weapons is as a deterrent.  Essentially, the lesson I see in the 20th century is that if you have nuclear weapons, nobody messes with you.  It's a Mutual Assured Destruction club that everyone with enough nuclear weapons joins.  No one without nukes would start a war with the superpowers that would justify a nuclear response because they'd be utterly destroyed.  But the doctrine of MAD essentially said countries wouldn't protect their citizens so that the other guys' missiles were still a deterrent.  After all, if you can swat away their warheads with no damage, and they have to absorb your hits, there's nothing "mutual" about that.  Many found MAD to be morally abhorrent, but there has never been a nuclear exchange or use of nuclear weapons since Nagasaki, 72 years ago. 

Virtual Mirage quotes a statement from the DPRK saying that the moment they see something that looks like we're planning a preemptive strike, they'll pre-preemptively strike us first.
“The US should remember, however, that once there is observed a sign of action for ‘preventive war’ from the US, the army of the DPRK will turn the US mainland into the theatre of a nuclear war before the inviolable land of the DPRK turns into the one.”
Do they honestly think they can defeat the US?  (By the way, that paragraph includes some impossible physics as a bonus) 
“The DPRK is an invincible ideological power in which all the service personnel and people are united around their leader in single mind and a country of an impregnable fortress in which all the people are armed and the whole country has been fortified.”
An invincible ideological power?  A country of an impregnable fortress?  See my previous references to "what appears to be their cultural predilection to bombastic hyperbole".  The first paragraph, though, is fraught with problems.  The Norks aren't an experienced military.  It's entirely possible fighting could break out by their simple misinterpretation of something innocent our forces are doing. 

LL says he personally thinks, "the Norks themselves are past the point of no-return" and active fighting is on the way.  It looks like it.  If this 60 year armistice breaks and goes kinetic, it's going to be very, very bad.  It's going to make bad days in the Sandbox look good (and the anniversary of the worst was a couple of days ago, too).  There are over 20 million people in Seoul, South Korea, and it has long been said the North has enough conventional artillery aimed at the city to level it.  Millions dead?  Could be.

The hurricane warnings from the National Hurricane Center have a pretty good phrase they use.  The warnings are the final notice that the storm is expected to hit, and they include the advice, "all preparations should be rushed to completion".  It looks like a storm is coming.  Pay heed.