Saturday, March 31, 2018

Happy Easter!

I thought it was time to re-dress my annual Easter post and drop some of the links that are five years old.  Part of that is hard to drop, because it's part of my personal conversion story, but parts of that will still be here.  Even though I read Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ and I thought it was well researched and well written, it was released three years after I went forward.

Coming from my background, it was a large change.  I had studied biochemistry and microbiology in college through my third year before some life detours, eventually getting my degree and starting to ply my trade as an engineer.  I had been an amateur astronomer, so between them I was deeply marinated in the standard model of Cosmology as well as conventional biological evolutionary theory.  Frankly, I wasn't giving it much thought any longer, but my wife had re-affirmed her faith (she had first accepted Christ as child) and I was having all of my mental models disrupted.  She had started a subscription to Bibical Archaeology Review and the constant refrain from archaeologists, not religiously motivated, along the lines of "we thought this was old Jewish folklore, but here it is" got me thinking "if that's true, maybe there's more that's true."  Strobel's book, played a role in filling in the gaps in my historical knowledge. 

Easter is the most important day in Christianity and far more important than Christmas because of the resurrection.  Everyone has a birthday, but only one man in history has been resurrected.  So since virtually everyone, including honest atheists, agrees Jesus was a real man in history and died on the cross, the question becomes whether or not it can be verified that Christ was seen after the resurrection by someone other than the closest circle of disciples. Strobel says:
Did anyone see Jesus alive again? I have identified at least eight ancient sources, both inside and outside the New Testament, that in my view confirm the apostles’ conviction that they encountered the resurrected Christ. Repeatedly, these sources stood strong when I tried to discredit them.

Could these encounters have been hallucinations? No way, experts told me. Hallucinations occur in individual brains, like dreams, yet, according to the Bible, Jesus appeared to groups of people on three different occasions – including 500 at once!

In the end, after I had thoroughly investigated the matter, I reached an unexpected conclusion: it would actually take more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a follower of Jesus.
For a great examination of this, see the 2016 post "Five Confounding Facts About Jesus' Resurrection" at Sense of Events. Donald Sensing put together an excellent piece; simply put, it's preposterous to reconcile the events of that time without saying Jesus rose from the dead that Sunday.

The other religions of the world are about ritual and ultimately about self, about proving yourself worthy; Christianity is about grace.  You're not worthy on your best day; you're saved by Grace.  No other religion teaches Grace.  Islam teaches that Allah is unknowable.  Christianity teaches that not only is God knowable, he wants us to know him.  Islam doesn't teach salvation, it teaches servitude to a fickle, arbitrary, distant Allah.  Christianity teaches forgiveness by Grace; that you're given a gift you don't deserve by a God who wants a close personal relationship with us.  I like the way the Message translation talks about being saved by Grace (Ephesians 2: 8)
It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. 
Evolution vs. creation? I believe people pay way too much attention to this.  There's no mention of evolution in the bible, but there's no mention of the laws of thermodynamics, Avogadro's number, or relativity.  The bible isn't a science book.  Look at it this way: the creation story, how we got here, takes up a page.  The next thousand pages (or more, depending on font size, paper size, and so on) are concerned with how we treat each other while we're here; how we create and maintain a civil society.  Creation is clearly not the emphasis of the book, the other 99.999% is. 

Saying a fluctuation in the quantum vacuum exploded creating everything sounds remarkably like "Let there be light", especially if someone were trying to explain the standard model of cosmology to people who were mathematically at the level of today's preschoolers.  You got a better way to explain modern physics to kindergartners? 

Enjoy your day.  Enjoy your families. As always, I'm up early with a pork butt in the smoker.  Pulled pork tonight.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Keep An Eye on the Sky

The Chinese Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace") Space Station is going to reenter the atmosphere sometime between tomorrow night and Monday morning (here on the east coast).  The best current predictions from Aerospace Corporation are saying
Tiangong-1 is currently predicted to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere around April 1st, 2018 15:15 UTC ± 14 hours.
For references, minus 14 hours is 0115 UTC, or Saturday night at 9:15PM EDT, midpoint is 5:15 PM EDT Sunday and the plus 14 hours time is Monday morning at 7:15 EDT.  And, no, stating the time to the minute when the uncertainty is 14 hours doesn't make sense to me.  With 28 hours of uncertainty, it should be plain to everyone that the buzz earlier in the month about the debris landing in Michigan was impossibly precise, and apparently just an attempt to gather some headlines.  It won't be possible to predict where the debris lands until it's known when the orbit breaks down.  I'll guess they won't know where the debris will be come down until about 30 minutes before impact.

That Aerospace Corporation webpage includes a video explaining the re-entry and breakup process of the 34 x 11' space station, commonly said to be the size of a "school bus" (as if they're all a standard size everywhere in the world).  As atmospheric drag picks up, I'd expect the solar panels to rip off first, which they depict.  After that, it's anybody's guess how much burns up and how much makes it to the surface, but some will.   It should go without saying that with a total of 374 square feet of profile, some small amount of that which will make it through the atmosphere and that could hit anywhere on the 197 million square miles of the earth, including the ocean, anyone's chances of getting hit are infinitesimally small.  The odds make hitting the Powerball look like a sure thing.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

So I Had A Little Run-in With eBay...

It was a while ago, but I think I'll tell the story now because it goes with the current pogrom going on with YouTube and the other so-called progressive tech sites.

It starts out with my DPMS LR-308B, an AR-10 clone/knockoff, which I've had since early 2010.  I know I've posted about some of my experiences on occasion over the years.  I was never really happy with the ergonomics of the rifle; it came with a standard A2-style fixed stock and it was never quite right.  Here's the DPMS website's photo.

Before I ran across the sale on The Precious, I was considering taking the LR-308 out as my long-range, precision rifle, so I spent some more time with it about a year ago.  The ergonomics of the stock became apparent and I decided to do something about that.  Then my focus shifted to the Ruger and fixing this issue went to the back of my mind.

Last November, with good sales on AR parts (and complete rifles) going on at a blistering pace, I found a sale on a Magpul MOE adjustable stock and with some help from them, figured out all the parts I needed to get to swap out stocks.  A video from DPMS helped.

My cluttered workbench with the new stock in place.

After a few weeks of occasionally thinking, "what do I do with this old stock?", I decided to check eBay.  There were a bunch of A2 stocks on there, as there are tonight, so I assumed it was OK to put it up there for auction; I put up the listing on January 21st.  The next morning, I had an email from eBay with the ominous wording:

Your eBay listing has been removed: Assault Weapons Parts and Accessories

The email went on:
Some of your listings haven’t followed our Assault Weapons Parts and Accessories policy. In this email, we're including some policy information to help you with your future listings. We also had to take the following actions:
- Listings that didn't follow eBay guidelines have been removed. A list of removed item(s) is available further down in this email.
- We have credited all associated fees except for the final value fee for your listing(s).

Due to numerous laws and regulations regarding the sale of assault weapons (including parts and accessories for assault weapons), these items aren't allowed on eBay.

You may list accessories that would fit a variety of different weapons, such as scopes and sites. However, if you sell these items, you can't mention assault weapons in your listing. 
There was a convoluted process for appeal, and I tried, but those people are put there to keep you from getting what you want.  When I complained that there were several of those stocks on their site right at that minute, the 'droid gave me an ominous, "we'll get them, too".  I let it drop. 

Although I'm not sure and the text of the listing is long since deleted, I think my faux pas was to say I took it off my LR-308, and the last paragraph specifically says "you can't mention assault weapons in your listing."  I took a look at one such listing for an A2 stock tonight, and that page says:
Fits a wide variety of non assault makes & models.  When in doubt please use "ask a question" button to find out if this will fit your gun.
If I had been a bit more of a weasel, I bet they wouldn't have kicked the listing off the site.  I've been telling myself that I should open a gun broker account, though.  This is a bit of an incentive.

The lesson here for surviving YouTube in the future might be to never honestly say what the videos are about in the title and maybe not even the description.  Maybe refer to an AR-15 as an Armalite-inspired small diameter and an AR-10 as a large diameter?  That hurts the ability to search for them, so maybe not.   

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

News Story of the Day

My favorite news story appears in a few places today, about the restaurant in Toronto that was being protested by militant animal rights activists.  The restaurant is called Antler, and advertises as "local seasonal and wild foods such as bison, boar, rabbit, duck and deer."

Although they don't serve game animals that they've hunted themselves, the practice is illegal according to the Toronto-centric blog, they make an effort to provide food with all the buzz words that are going around these days: locally sourced, free-range, ethically farmed and foraged*.  When the protesting began, co-owner Michael Hunter was nice to them, even changing one featured menu item from a goose dish to a vegetarian dish.

As you might expect, a concession didn't appease the protesters, it made them feel as if they won a battle against the restaurant, so they arranged to come back.  When the protesters returned for the fourth time with signs bearing messages like "animals are not ours to use,"  "killing and eating animals is horrifying" and "MURDER," Hunter decided to conduct a little protest of his own.
About an hour into their demonstration, protesters say that the restaurant's co-owner and chef, Michael Hunter, "brought out an entire animal leg and started cutting it up right in the window on a table reserved for diners."

Event organizer Marni Jill Ugar wrote later that night on Facebook that she felt Hunter had been "taunting" the group by cutting up a deer leg right in front of them.

"Once the deer was cooked Michael Hunter, owner of Antler, sat back down at the window to eat the dead deer," she wrote.  [Facebook warning: SiG]

"Look in the window. Look at Michael Hunter. That deer was treated like a joke. That deer was an innocent animal who did not want to die."
During the time when Hunter was cutting up the venison leg in the window, Toronto police showed up, although no source says why.  The police and Hunter are seen talking in the window, and then walking away with each other, all apparently smiling and getting along well. We don't know what they talked about or why they left the window area, but one the protesters was quoted as saying, "I'm not sure if the police were telling the owner to stop for trying to anger the protesters, or for ethical or health & safety violations,"  It's also possible the preparation was done and it was time for him to go to the cooking area. 
Asked for comment, Hunter told BlogTO by email that "our identity as a restaurant is well known throughout the city as is our ethical farming and foraging initiatives." He added: "While we would much rather not be the focus of these protests, we are not at all surprised. We simply want to carry on running a restaurant and have a peaceful environment where our guests can enjoy their food."

Antler doesn't seem to be hurt by the attention.

In fact, one commenter on the protesters' Facebook page wrote: "Antler is now the hottest restaurant in Toronto thanks to you guys. Congrats." Most -- if not all --of the other commenters on the animal rights activists' forum expressed similar sentiments.
Headline photo from BlogTO, showing the Toronto police officer and Michael Hunter while he was preparing the leg for cooking. 

*Author's note:  I don't know what they mean by "foraged" food; like the food critic article talks about a dish with "foraged ingredients".  Does that mean they found them in the dumpster? 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

NFL's New England Patriots - One of the Unnamed Behind "March For Our Lives"

A lot of people have been finding and exposing those that are behind the Parkland students and the supposedly-grass roots protests this past weekend.  Sultan Knish, Daniel Greenfield, probably has the largest column on it.  Naturally, I've been watching as well.

The NSSF's Ammoland Shooting Sports News joined the fray with an article yesterday.  They point to this NBC Sports story revealing that Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, donated use of the team's private airplane to give the kids rides to the protests.  In explanation, they say that Kraft responded to a personal phone call from Gabby Giffords.

Further, Delta Air Lines donated three around trip charter flights to the protest, although we don't know if Gabby Giffords called Delta's CEO.  John Richardson at No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money blogged about this Saturday as well.

Sultan Knish adds an important bit of context:
The March for Our Lives permit application was filed by Deena Katz, a co-executive director of the Women's March Los Angeles Foundation. This wasn’t just a little bit of professional activist assistance.

The application lists Katz as the “Person in Charge of Event”.
Katz apparently incorporated March for Our Lives as a 501(c)(4) organization instead of the more common 501(c)(3).  Why?  Secrecy.  Donations to c4 groups aren't tax-deductible, but in exchange the organization doesn't have to identify the donors. That makes c4 organizations a great dark money conduit.

There's a tangled web of dark money flowing here among these students useful idiots and a ton of backers.   Glenn Beck had his crew research as much as they could find in a few days, much more than a part time "citizen journalist" like me could find, and they found several ties to (three guesses...) George Soros.  It's an interesting 5 minute video.  (If you're not familiar with Beck, he regularly refers to Soros as "Spooky Dude", dating back to when Beck first got threatened by Soros' staff when he was on Fox)
On today’s show, Glenn chalked up a list of at least ten far-left donors known to be behind the March for Our Lives movement, including:
“Their list of donors reads like a who’s who of radical leftist organizations,” said Glenn. He later added, “The last thing that they want is for names like ‘Soros’ or ‘Farrakhan’ … to show up on their tax sheet. But we’ll never know the full extent because big progressive donors don’t want you to know who’s really in charge here.”
If you listen closely, you'll find Glenn found a different name than Sultan Knish found for filing the paperwork on the march.  Instead of Deena Katz, Beck's team found it to be Jeri Rhodes, former Greenpeace CFO.  Chalk it up to the difficulties of doing this detective work when all these organizations in the background are trying to stay hidden.  

So why the secrecy?  Especially why if everything is so "grass roots"; it's all just honest, hardworking but traumatized teens looking for reform?   As if anyone capable of a moment of thought would believe that crap.  I think Sultan Knish has a good summary.
None of this has much to do with Parkland. The mass shooting by a mentally ill man who should have been committed and arrested long before he carried out his massacre was a political opportunity.

Now that opportunity is being exploited to the hilt by a professional class of political activists.

Gun control activists wring their hands over the NRA. They claim that a special interest lobby is illegitimately thwarting the “will of the people”. Yet it’s the anti-gun groups that are invariably false fronts. It’s very clear who runs the NRA. But the latest fake anti-NRA group is a nebulous shadow. Out front are the high school students and out back are the professional activists.

And who is really behind the whole thing? Hollywood celebs, Bloomberg, a network of organizations?

We know who supports the NRA. You can see NRA stickers on car windows even in the bluest cities in the country. But who really supports the anti-gun political network? You’ll need to spend hours sorting through paperwork, following the trail, comparing addresses and researching names, to even get a hint.

That’s what an illegitimate lobby thwarting the will of the people really looks like.

Instead of March for Our Lives, maybe it’s time to March for the Truth?

(From 90 Miles from Tyranny)

There's a deep reality here that I've said once or twice but hate saying.  The pro-freedom side needs a billionaire, and we need one for at least two reasons. 

First, here we see Michael Bloomberg (worth $50 Billion) and George Soros (worth $8 B - both per the Forbes list) throwing around millions like it's spare pennies found in their sofa.  While I think the role of money in elections is overstated, there's no denying that billions of dollars can give the appearance of a lot of grass roots.  I recall Harry Reid being so upset about the billionaire Koch brothers' candidate donations that he dedicated time to attack them from the senate floor 134 times, but I find no evidence of anything like Soros' Tides Foundation, Open Societies or any of his other monetary shell games, and I can find no evidence of anything like Bloomberg's Everytown or the Demanding Mommies. 

Second, and this just piles onto the previous advantage, the anti-freedom side has an inherent advantage in organization.  The anti-freedom side wants central control in everything and that means an almost military organization/hierarchy.  The reason they sprang into motion so fast after Parkland was that they were ready to spring.  They've been hiring community organizers, planning and putting every piece in place to act since Sandy Hook.  I don't know who and I don't know where, but the reaction was just too fast to have happened on the fly.  A decentralized bunch of gun rights advocates that are suspicious of central control going up against the organized anti-gun side is starting from way behind.  

If it seems we're being outflanked on every side, it's because they hired troops to look for ways around us, putting pressure everywhere.  While we thought we had an upper hand because of the swelling gun sales year after year, they were working to squash any advantage we had. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

New Database for Gel Terminal Ballistics Tests

The folks at AmmoToGo sent me some links to a pretty massive database of gel test results that they posted on March 14th.  For what are arguably four of the most popular carry calibers (if not the four most popular): 9mm, .380, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, they list five shot average results of every brand of self-defense loads they tested.  It can be sorted by name, recovered diameter, penetration depth, or muzzle velocity.  For instance, here's the top few entries (out of 32) for 9mm self-defense ammo.

This is the default sorting, which you can get back by clicking the top of the "AMMO" column.  You can see the first offering, Magtech First Defense, 124gr bonded JHP, clearly didn't expand.  The 5 shot average diameter is 0.35, which is almost textbook 9mm (.356"), and the average depth into gel was 31.5"!  Clearly over-penetrating - unless maybe if you're being attacked by Sumo wrestlers.  By contrast, the next listing,  Black Hills 115gr +P expanded to 0.69" and penetrated a much more reasonable 13.76".

The test results are on these four web pages, which also feature the ability to look up each round and buy some:
I imagine this took a pretty large amount of work - you can add that up to 90 entries with at least 5 rounds of each, so a lot of shooting, setup, tear down, data reduction and I'm sure there's stuff I'm not even thinking about.  That's got to be expensive for a small business.  The details on the test setups are not on the results page, so it took a bit of digging to find this:
We fired each round included in our testing from a distance of ten feet, following the FBI standard, measuring from the muzzle to the front of the block.
For our condensed version of the FBI test we opted to simulate shooting through typical heavy cold weather clothing as our intermediate barrier. We placed the barrier in front of the gel, which consisted of one layer of Denim (14.4 ounces/yard), one layer of Polartec 200 fleece, one layer of cotton dress shirt (3.5 ounces/yard) and one layer of cotton T-shirt material (5.25 ounces/yard).
The data set is hours of entertainment for the "numerically inclined" and you can bet any amount you'd care to bet that people will bitch about it because it didn't test their favorite ammo, or their favorite gun, or something.  It may have me picking out a new carry round for my Sig P238, though.  The Speer Gold Dots I've been carrying apparently didn't expand in their test.  Some more research is in order. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Day 2 Was A Bust

I'm not sure what was up with the show, but we never saw or heard the B-17 today, or the B-25 that was supposed to show up (Panchito).  The T-birds were the only thing we saw and no shot that I took today is better than others I've taken before, so they're all going in the bit bucket.  Here's the best of the "almost" shots - this is the bottom edge of the sensor in the camera.  The rest of the frame was blue sky:

"Missed it by that much". 

Since it was somewhat of a waste today, here's a little shop humor:

I think every mechanic, everybody who has worked on stuff understands this fundamentally. 

I have a couple of good leads on hosting companies to look into.  There's a couple of names that keep showing up in the top few in the ratings I see online.  I'll go look into that some more.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Air Show Weekend!

The annual air show is in town this weekend, so I'm spending some time out in the yard watching for whatever flies my way. 

The big feature is the Thunderbirds, but there are some other things worth watching.  Early this afternoon, I heard a bit of a rumble outside and said "that's not a regular prop driven plane".  I hopped outside, looked up over the house and grabbed this snap in the two or three seconds I had. 

That's the B-17 named Memphis Belle, from the movie by that name.  I've never seen one in real life. 

The other headlined airplane that was going to be here was to be a today-only flyby of a B2 Spirit bomber.  Unfortunately, here's where my location about 3 miles north of the runway was an issue.  The bomber did a low flyby heading east over the strip, continued out east (probably offshore) then turned around and flew west over the strip again.  It never really presented anything remotely "photogenic" to me. 

Only one or two passable shots of the T-birds. 

I'll probably try again tomorrow because challenge.  There's a few P-51s flying, Memphis Belle again and the 45 minutes or so of the T-birds. 

For the photographers, my lens is a 300mm Sigma budget zoom, and I generally leave it focused at infinity on aperture priority autoexposure in my Canon T6i DSLR.  With the APS-C sensor, that's equivalent to a 480mm lens on a "full frame" 35mm sensor.  I use IS800 allowing me to shoot at roughly f11 and 1/2000 second.   Of course that varies a bit, but I try to push for depth of focus and fast shutter speeds. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Trying To Figure Out The Post-Google/YouTube World

I spent a bit of time today trying to figure out what the post Google/YouTube world is going to look like for me.  It's not really clear, yet, but here are some ramblings.

YouTube:  I have one real gun video up there,  cutting the fire control pocket on my 80% AR.  The name of the file isn't likely to attract attention, but the description specifically says that's what it is: "A short segment of milling the fire control pocket on an AR-15 lower receiver. The mill is a CNC Sherline/A2Z CNC mill under control of Mach3."  I suspect that they're going to delete it. 

This isn't about "monetization" that drove guys like Hickok45 over to Full30.  Taken at the literal word of what they're saying, any or all of the firearm companies will be gone on April 1st, or soon thereafter.  I subscribe to Springfield Armory, Sig Sauer, and Savage;  the "black letter" text of YouTube's policy says those company sites will be gone.  My AR-15 video has 9567 views in seven years, so it's not exactly viral (but it's not exactly exciting, either).  I think it's safe to say nobody involved, from me to YouTube to anyone in the universe, made a fraction of a penny off that video. 

What bothers me the most about YouTube is that they're going to stop being a source of information on how to take down new guns, reloading, or anything related to the vast majority of things to learn about guns.  It's not just that they're removing all references to hobbies or interests they disapprove of, it's that they're definitely "othering" us.

What YouTube is doing is nothing new for YouTube or media in general.  No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money links to a good column by Jim Scoutten on The Shooting Wire with some good perspectives on this.  Take my video with a dinky 9500 views.  He points out some stats on the very high quality "Night of the SAINT" video series Springfield Armory produced for the product release of their SAINT AR-15.
One major firearms company commissioned a reality series of episodes, with a group of selected women competing in physical and firearms challenges.  It was nicely, and expensively, produced and might well have made a successful TV show.

But in one full year of promotion of the series through Internet advertising placement, the viewership of the seven episodes has averaged a hair over 6,900 interested watchers.  Not 69,000 that might be the household reach of an outdoor category television show in a single airing, and definitely not Internet viral, matching the millions of views of the latest cat video on YouTube.

What happened?  The unseen “algorithms” apparently detected “Guns" and suppressed viewership.
His most relevant point might be this:
The major broadcast and cable channels have prohibited any form of firearm advertising for years.  25 years ago we struggled with ESPN in the first year of our gun show series when Colt was a sponsor, but couldn’t advertise their guns.  Since then we’ve moved three times to new networks as each was taken over by anti-gun New York City-based owners. We’re pleased to make our television home now on the pro-second amendment Outdoor Channel.
So do I take down my 25 videos and tell YouTube to take a hike?  That will break every embedded link I have here.  Then where do I put those videos?  Only one fits on a gun video site; the other 24 are machine tool related.  I have no particular reason to take down those 24 videos except that I dislike YouTube as a company for how they're punishing us for the actions of a psycho.  Who's the number two video site: Vimeo?  Which then flows to the bigger point: where do I go for videos on things like fixing a printer, or replacing a window.  YouTube has done both of those for me over the years. Vimeo appears more interested in art than that. 

What about Blogger?  I just had my 8th anniversary, so there's a lot to move.  I need to look into finding a hosting service.  I don't care about a lot of features that a business might want to have because I'm not a business.  I need a blog with an email address and a place to host a couple of gigs of old postings.  

Without Blogger and YouTube, I'll have virtually zero interaction with Google. 

The rest of the companies to avoid or encourage is still too unsettled for me to know if it's all done.  Dick's is out, but I haven't been there since the last time they got stupid about ARs; I don't have a Citi card; I think Visa was good, Bank of America was stupid; don't rent a car from the major chains, but I have trouble keeping them straight.  It's getting hard to figure out which businesses are opposed to freedom and which ones are OK. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Wakanda Place Is This?

Mrs. Graybeard and I decided to go catch Black Panther and it looks like it's probably the last week it will be at the theater we typically go to.  We walked into the theater almost at the starting time and there were two other people in there, out of at least 200 seats.  There was another couple that came in after us, and I think the six of us were the total audience.

While the movie was enjoyable, it was probably the least enjoyable of the Marvel movies I've seen.  I really liked a few of the actors/characters: the guy who plays Black Panther/King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and the girl who plays his kid sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), but the story bothered me on a few levels.  First and foremost, it was too predictable.  Ordinarily these movies are fairly predictable; after all, they're comic books.  The good guys win.  The bad guys have to be exceptionally evil.  But this one was too predictable.  I think there was only one scene in the movie that was even moderately surprising and the Marvel guys usually do better.  There were few genuinely funny quips in the dialog, maybe two, and that's another thing Marvel tends to be very good at.

At it's core, (I don't think this is a spoiler), the back story is that a solid vibranium meteor hits east central Africa.  Vibranium is the fictional "strongest metal in the universe" that is in the entire Marvel Avengers story arc - Captain America's shield is made of it.  The metal becomes discovered by a group of tribes there, and they become the most technologically advanced civilization on Earth - Wakanda.  They become isolationist and hide themselves from the outside world by pretending to be a backwards, third world country, but behind perfect cloaking technology it's a place with high speed monorails, towering buildings, and miraculous technologies - juxtaposed with an attempt to look authentically African.  So you see characters in aircraft that look something like a cross between stealth fighters and UFOs approaching dense forest and then plunging into it, suddenly revealing this "city of the future" (as Disney would have called it).  More extreme than that, they have a hollowed out mountain extending some enormous distance underground, with all sorts of hovering VSTOL aircraft, including some that resemble grasshoppers, flying around in it.

I'll freely admit to being too much of an analytical guy, but I couldn't help thinking, "Where do they process the vibranium?  How do they melt it?  How do they work it into sheets and all these other forms?  Where are the factories?  Don't they need steel, aluminum and other resources from the outside?  I mean, they can't make everything out of vibranium; it would be stupidly wasteful to use the "world's strongest metal" where a buck's worth of aluminum would work.  How many people does it take to have this kind of industry? Where do they get the labor?" and more thoughts like that.  They don't show much of the city, but what they do show has the look of "bustling open marketplace" like you'd see in the stereotype Mideast film, and that seems out of place in this high-tech city.  Nothing that looks like the industry it would take to make a city like that.

You might conclude that I'm not fun to be around in movies or things; and I won't dispute that. I find it easier to "suspend disbelief" in other movies than this, and haven't had too much of these thoughts in Star Wars, or Star Trek, or the other comic book movies.  Maybe because Star Wars is a totally new universe, not just something going on here on Earth that nobody knows about.  I couldn't not think of "how could Wakanda not be detected?"

Take the latest reincarnation of Star Wars from a few years ago, "The Force Awakens".  I see the kid, Rey, making a living in a society full of droids by scavenging old wrecked star ships.  On the face of it that doesn't make sense: don't we think of robots as doing the low end, manual labor tasks?  That means it's a universe where human time and labor was worth less than a robot's time and labor, because if those shipwrecks were considered a resource, robots would be climbing on them to salvage the stuff that Rey was getting paid for.  Bu here on Earth, Wakanda is a self-isolated country hiding the fact that they're sitting on the most valuable strategic metal in the world (in so many words).  Where do they get clothes?  What about trade for toilet paper, food and all the things needed to keep an advanced civilization alive? 

Well, that's a bit of a rant.  By far the best movie I've seen in the last year was Thor: Ragnarok, and this falls quite a bit short of that.  Great special effects, cool action, and good acting, just weak writing and a premise that I had a hard time with "voluntary suspension of disbelief".  A 3 on my 1-5 scale.
Black Panther/King T'Challa and his sister Shuri.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Killing Goats and Fighting Fishermen In the Galapagos Islands

It all started innocently enough.  In 1959, fishermen released three goats on the island of Pinta, one of the isolated, rocky islands in the Galapagos Archipelago about 800 miles off the coast of Ecuador.  The idea would be to hunt the goats if need be, presumably as a backup if they couldn't catch fish - no one would confuse goat for fish.  The goats did what goats do, so that by the 1970s those three goats had turned into 40,000 and the island's vegetation was being destroyed.

The story is from Modern Farmer, not one of my regular reads, so hat tip to the newsletter.

Goats have a well-known reputation for their voracious appetite, so much that they're bought for clearing brush and destroying invasive weeds.  That's OK if it's managed, but a herd of goats in a delicate place like the Galapagos turns into more change than ecologists can bear (really, preservationists, not ecologists, but that's another rant for another day).

By 1997, the Galapagos goat population had reached six figures. To fight back, an NGO called the Galapagos Conservancy convinced the Ecuadoran government to wage an extermination campaign against the goats.  A massive, multi-agency project called Project Isabela was launched.  Platoons of goat-hunters scoured three islands, on foot and in helicopters. The method of killing? A clean shot to the head or the heart. 
“It can be hard to see so many goats lying dead out there,” says Dr. Linda Cayot, science advisor for the Galapagos Conservancy. “But those goats were destroying the habitat of the tortoises. In my heart and mind are the tortoises.”
“ many goats lying dead out there”?  Yes.  The groups involved decided that the goats were the embodiment of all the nutrients the ecosystem produced.  If the goats were harvested and the meat shipped back to the mainland, those nutrients would be taken away from the Galapagos.  They decided the only right thing to do was to "recycle" those nutrients by leaving the goat carcasses to rot away.  (They say a handful of goats were consumed by the eradication team, but not many).

Since the whole problem started with three goats, there was only one possible outcome.  Only one way to be sure.  The eradication had to be total; every single goat had to be killed.
For Project Isabela to be a success, it required total eradication. “It took the same effort to get rid of the last 5 percent as it did for the first 95 percent,” says Cayot. To get rid of the stragglers, the team employed something called a “Judas goat.”

Judas goats were sterilized and injected with hormones to make them permanently in estrus (heat). These unwitting traitors were then set free around the islands, irresistible bait for the fugitives. By 2006, Project Isabela had eliminated all goats from the target areas.
There are still small problems here and there.  Some of the few locals like to hunt the goats and want some around.   More oddly the goats have become a political football.  When local fishermen are displeased with government fishing regulation, scientists say they retaliate by releasing new goats on the islands. “It’s reintroduction as a malicious act; a way to spite the park service.” 

The conservationists are aware they might have a PR problem with their fans and monetary donors.  Goats are cute and furry and every honest preservationist will tell you it's easier to fund raise for cute, fuzzy little animals than ugly ones.  Ever seen a "Save the Blobfish" fundraiser?  If their average supporter knew they were funding a goat genocide, well that might not go over well.  Last words to Dr. Karl Campbell, the field manager who ran Project Isabela’s operations.
“We don’t want to put a cute face to an invasive species.We focus on the outcomes, letting people see how good the islands look once the goats are gone.”
Galapagos goats being goats.  Photograph by Josh Donlan

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Update to Early March Post

On March 2nd, I posted about having issues with the tech magazines I rely on for interesting tidbits to share.  All of these links returned blank pages.
  • Microwaves and RF Magazine - 
  • Electronic Design -
  • Machine Design - 
  • EETimes -
  • Design News -
Something unusual has been going on since then: they've gradually been coming back and I've done nothing to my system.  At first, they just started giving a "reader view" and I could see those.  Then the sites themselves started loading properly again.  Whatever they were doing appears to have been reversed, and I can visit all of them again.

So given a choice of news on all those websites, I could talk about something kind of neat or something in the just plain fun category.  I'll go with the just plain fun.

The article is an Electronics Design interview with Limor Fried, better known as Ladyada in the maker community; founder and CEO of Adafruit Industries.
Limor, also known as Ladyada, is an MIT graduate, engineer, hacker, and maker. Her Adafruit is a leading supplier of electronics kits, projects, components, software, and tools for beginning and experienced electronic experimenters, hobbyists, and makers.  Limor’s front-line experience makes her well-qualified to comment on the state of the maker space.

Give us a little background on the company and your impetus for starting it.

Back when I was still in school, around 2005, I was having a lot of fun building electronics. I had just been learning as part of my undergraduate internship about microcontrollers and it was tons of fun! Once I built some projects, I would publish them on my website. People loved the projects like my mint-tin MP3 player and emailed asking if I would sell them a kit of parts. Eventually I got so annoyed by all these emails, I started kitting up some simpler projects for sale and they were so popular, it became my life!
Sounds like a classic entrepreneur story: she discovered a need and started a business to fill that need.  The company has grown to $45M in sales last year, and seems to me to be positioned to keep growing.  The interview talks at length about her views of the Maker movement, and market.  
Is the maker movement growing, shrinking, or staying about the same these days?

It’s definitely growing, and spreading out to a wider audience. There are hundreds of maker spaces around the globe; each one is part of its own community that may hold workshop classes, run mini-maker-faires, or large-scale group projects. We, as humans, have always been makers; now we just have a word for it!

Describe the typical maker, if that’s possible. Any examples would be good.

The typical maker is a person who likes to make things with their hands, and uses technology to empower their creations. Maybe it’s 3D modeling on a computer, and then printing it out with a 3D printer, or making animations. They could be an artist who likes to screen-print fabric, or a knitter who uses the internet to share patterns. They could be a person who makes assistive technologies for friend or someone who welds ginormous sculptures.
(Limor Fried in front of a soldering machine - in the back left of the photo are parts placement machines - photo from the article)

Let me grab two more questions from the interview because they cover some things I'm interested in:
What are some of your most successful products? Do you have any new products you want to mention?

Our newest products tend to be our most popular. We like to revise and update our best sellers so they’re always fresh and up-to-date. Right now our most popular products are our CircuitPython board. These are microcontroller boards with a processor that runs a Python 3 runtime interpreter right on the chip, which is pretty amazing! No compiler or toolchain is required, you can just edit a python script on the microcontroller and it runs it. We think it’s very “disruptive” for how traditional engineers view programming. The “code, compile, link, program, run” turns it into “code, run”!

Do you have any products that serve the amateur radio market or those interested in wireless? Hams are makers, big time.

Yes! We have lots of kits for hams, from software-defined radios, to programming oscillators, to DMR, to LoRa and FSK modules that are easy to program. There’s never been a more fun time to do radio experimentations, with digital radio and the “no-code” license available. [Note: Edited from original to add links - SiG]  [Note^2: Both Limor Fried and interviewer Lou Frenzel also have ham licenses - SiG]
I bought my RTL-SDR from Adafruit, and most of what they sell is cheap and fun projects like that, and various Raspberry Pi or Arduino Single Board Computers (SBCs).  If you want a better SDR, there are many options: this is nearly a four year old article and it has a comparison of over 50 Software Defined Radios at a wide range of price and performance points.  If you want a better single board computer, there are more options for those, too, but the point is that Adafruit has the parts to get a hobbyist started and find out if they're interested enough in an area to go to a more specialized store.

I've written about the "Maker Movement" several times.  Despite my engineering career, I consider myself a maker: in the last few months I've worked on changes to a big software package I first started writing back in 1985, done our TV cable cutting, built the PVC-framed receive-only antenna, been troubleshooting electronics and working on some engines in the machine shop.  So the ideas behind the Maker Movement are appealing, and I'd like to see it keep moving and growing. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Periodic "Abolish the Electoral College" Noise

Ever since Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016, the left has been in one of their predictable snits about the electoral college system being outdated and needing to be eliminated.  There's currently a petition up on with over 715,000 signatures.  I'm fairly sure those 715,000 must be the "Resistance" members who took a break from trying to determine their gender long enough to find something else to complain about.  Not to mention that Babs Feinstein says she's going to propose legislation to do away with it (sorry, Babs, it would have to be a constitutional amendment).

My friend Bob, N4RFC, and I talked a little about this by email about this, and he followed that up with a good blog post about why we shouldn't restructure our system to a simple one person/one vote system. It's a good look at just what's at stake.  It's worth your time to look at if you have any doubts about the wisdom of this feature of how the founders structured our country.  He starts out with a fact that a different friend dropped on him.
More people live in New York City than in 40 of the 50 states.
Much like I would, his first response was to think, "is that right?" and begin looking into it.  He found this map.  The states with less population than New York City are in red. It turns out the statement was wrong, just not by much.  If you count the gray states, you'll find 12 of them, not 10.  That means more people live in New York City than in 38 of the 50 states.

There are 3,141 counties in the United States.
Trump won 3,084 of them.
Clinton won 57.
There are 62 counties in New York State.
Trump won 46 of them.
Clinton won 16.
Clinton won the popular vote by approx. 2. million + votes.
In the 5 counties that encompass NYC, (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Richmond and Queens) Clinton received well over 2 million more votes than Trump. (Clinton only won 4 of these counties, Trump won Richmond) Therefore, these 5 counties alone more than accounted for Clinton winning the popular vote of the entire country. These 5 counties comprise 319 square miles. The United States is comprised of 3,797,000 square miles.
Whether they know it or not (and I assume they do know it), the desire to get rid of the electoral college is a desire to avoid those icky flyover-country people (with their bibles and their guns!) and have candidates just campaign in a few big cities.  Forget having a candidate come to any state that's red in this map, and chances are any Evil party candidate would only campaign in the few largest cities, because those are the most reliably blue places.  I know I've written before that the real division in the country isn't the so-called "left/right", it's big city/small city

What are the alternatives to having to win the big cities?  Perhaps it could be done by winning sizable majorities in all of those gray states on the map, and a few of the red states that might have larger populations.  That's a question for a study group/think tank; or a pollster/consultant like Kellyanne Conway or Scott Rasmussen.  While candidate D could virtually get an apartment in New York and campaign there for months with short one or two day trips to Chicago or El Lay, Candidate R would still require a mobile base of operations and a campaign aircraft to crisscross those gray states. 

The disadvantage to us "dirt people" is that your concerns would never come up in a presidential campaign again.  It would strictly be a matter of how much you can transfer to the occupants of a few big cities. 

The arguments that Feinstein makes against the electoral college are all based on the way it actually works.  Of course, she's incapable of seeing them as design features and not bugs.  She sees it as wrong that a tie in the electoral college goes to the house of Representatives and that would "unfairly grant California’s 36 million residents equal status with Wyoming’s 500,000 residents."   But the country is designed from the bottom up for balance of power.  If your idea is that having more citizens in your state means other states have no voice and get nothing, eliminating these balances seems like a good idea. 

If you're a resident of one of those cities, I can see you being in favor of it.  It's a really bad idea for the country as a whole, though.  Thankfully, I don't see much chance of the change happening.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Two Words to Ensure School Safety

Home.  School. 

Get out of the public school system until it can be shown it behaves reasonably.  You'll be your own security, but you won't need security because no psycho like the school shooters will be there.

Ben Shapiro at the Daily Wire has the story of emails he's received from students being forced to walk out last week.
Advocates for this new march say that there is an agenda: gun control. But that’s not the real heart of the march. Students feel compelled to walk out by peer pressure, lest they be labeled uncaring about their fellow students. I’ve received dozens of letters from students expressing exactly this concern, and wondering why only one side of the political agenda is being handed credibility by the media.
You may have heard of Rocklin, California history teacher Julianne Benzel who was suspended with pay for asking students to think about whether it’s appropriate for a school to support a protest against gun violence if they’re not willing to support all protests.
“And so I just kind of used the example which I know it’s really controversial, but I know it was the best example I thought of at the time—a group of students nationwide, or even locally, decided ‘I want to walk out of school for 17 minutes’ and go in the quad area and protest abortion, would that be allowed by our administration?” she said.
In suspending her for two days, although with pay, I suppose the school is answering her question very clearly as well as answering the students writing Ben Shapiro about "why only one side of the political agenda is being handed credibility by the media"; only one side is considered valid by the schools.

Ben Shapiro uses the analogy of the Women's March - many of the organizers of which were involved in organizing the Student Walk Out last Wednesday and are involved in organizing the wider student protest being set up in  DC.
This walkout is all about posturing. It’s not about change any more than the Women’s March was about change. Attendees at the Women’s March had a bevy of clashing agendas, none of which materialized into a program for change; the only point of the Women’s March was to label those who didn’t support the march enemies of women. Now it’s the Children’s March, designed toward the same end.
Furthermore, Ben says he has received dozens of emails like this:
  • From a 17-year-old high school student: “tomorrow my school is having a walkout at 10:00 ‘for the 17 students who were killed in the Parkland, Fl shooting.’ The walkout, however, here at my school, is not really about that. It is being promoted by an anti-gun/leftist political agenda that I just don’t and can’t support, especially using the 17 kids that were MY AGE as a platform. I was wondering what you would say to people who want to call me ‘insensitive’ and ‘a terrible person.’”
  • From another 17-year-old high school student: “The reason I am emailing is because my school is having a walkout on March 14th. They say in an email that this walkout is to advocate for gun reform but they also say that we are walking to honor the victims of the parkland massacre. I am in favor of walking to honor the victims, but not in favor of promoting gun reform. I feel like I have to choose between going against my political values or looking like a bad person. I need help. What do I do?”
  • From another high schooler: “My high school is participating in the walkout on Wednesday, and I am unsure what to do. I am very against gun control and don't want to protest congress for something they are doing right, if that makes sense. However, I don't want to be singled out by students as someone who ‘doesn't care about the students who died.’ Should I participate and conform to avoid humiliation and honor the students or should I remain in class alone? I don’t know if the walkout is more about gun control or honoring the students.”
  • From a 16-year-old high schooler today: “It is ignoring the fact that most gun violence is against blacks with handguns. Ignoring that fact is by definition racist. A nation-wide walk out for a majority white 1 percent is real white privilege and ignorant of the real problem, most gun violence is against blacks with handguns, not assault weapons, and ignoring that would from its core be racist and ignorant."
  • From a high school senior: “Please let me start by saying that I respect the Left's position on the walkout tomorrow, but I do not agree with their solution. I have decided to organize my own walk out to push Right wing beliefs on how to stop school violence…Respect other's opinions and others will respect yours. ‘Here to save lives. Pro-Second amendment.’”
It's bad enough that children are indoctrinated more than educated; taught what to think instead of how to think.  It's bad enough that they increasingly shoved onto a path into (student) debt with little prospect for work (with few exceptions) because everyone has to go to college.  They're increasingly being used as pawns; useful idiots to causes and organizers they likely know nothing about. 

(Getty Images photo from the White House on Walk Out Day, from the Daily Wire)

Final words to Ben Shapiro about the letters quoted above:
These students will not be featured by the media. I’ve recommended that they walk out alongside their classmates, but carry signs reading, “Protect My Life — Arm Law-Abiding Citizens!” Presumably, they’d be ignored even if they did. But like the Women’s March, this walkout is a form of social pressure designed for a photo-op. And that’s too bad. If its advocates want gun control, they ought to call it a gun control march. To suggest that anyone who doesn’t support gun control doesn’t support children — even pro-Second Amendment children themselves, who choose not to support the agenda — is vile bullying.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Almost Definitely Not Due to Trump, Nope Nope

I see this week that a company called Nucor has announced it's going to open a steel processing plant in Frostproof, FloridaFrostproof is a small town in the middle of the state, south of Orlando and closer to "old Florida" places like Cypress Gardens and Lake Wales, which was famous for "The Singing Tower".
The Nucor “micro mill” will make steel rebar from scrap metal, according to the company, which expects construction to take two years after obtaining required regulatory approvals.
Making rebar from scrap metal is going to require melting the stock and turning it into new bar, which is going to need lots of power, which says a reliable link to a nearby electric plant.
Nucor officials were looking for a site of more than 300 acres with railroad access near a major electricity substation that could provide enough power to operate the facility, Malott said. The Frostproof site fit the bill.
This is not due to Trump's tariffs, as the county (Polk County) has been trying to lure Nucor to build in their city since last summer.
[Sean Malott, executive director of the Central Florida Development Council, which helped recruit the company] said he had worked to recruit Nucor since June but the breakthrough didn’t happen until last month, when the Polk County Commission approved property-tax and impact-fee breaks worth about $1.5 million.

The 25 percent tariff on imported steel announced last week by President Donald Trump might have helped seal the deal on the Frostproof plant, Malott said. Although he couldn’t say how much of a factor it played in Nucor’s decision, “I think it helped, and it’s one of the reasons the company is looking at expansion opportunities,” he said. “This would be a good thing for U.S. steel.”

Florida isn't known for much in the way of industry, except for the tourist industry and theme parks.  In reality, we have quite a bit; I've worked in the electronics industry here in central Florida and in south Florida, and I know of electronics manufacturers scattered in other parts of the state, too.  Major defense contractors are spread around the state.  There's mining primarily for phosphate used in fertilizers,  but also other minerals.   I don't know of another steel manufacturing or recycling plant, though. There are steel fabrication companies but I don't see another doing this sort of work.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Story of the Week So Far

Circa News reports that over in Siberia, an airplane's cargo door became unlatched causing it to drop $368 Million worth gold, platinum and gems on the airfield.
An An-12 plane operated by the airline Nimbus took off for Krasnoyarsk carrying 9.3 tons of gold and other precious metals, according to a statement from the state Investigative Committee quoted by Tass. Damage to a door handle caused it to fly open and spill some of the metal.

Authorities recovered 172 gold bars weighing 3.4 tons, Tass quoted Interior Ministry officials as saying.
Other photos and info at the Circa article seem to show that the entire 9.3 tons didn't fall out of the aircraft, so we have no way of knowing if everything that was dumped has been recovered.  It's odd that they specify they recovered 3.4 tons of gold and don't mention recovering anything else, though.  If you go to the original articles, there are pictures of bars of a white metal on the ground, and the article does mention platinum being among the "droppings", so gold clearly isn't all that fell out of the plane.  
(From The Siberian Times Twitter feed)

-21C is about -6 F, which I suspect is pretty balmy in Siberia, depending on lots of things.  It's probably not the worst weather the search and recovery teams have worked in. 

An important story?  No.  But after a week like this, we could use some humor in our worlds; at least, I can!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Oleg Volk and Our New Florida Law

VolkStudio, the home of photographer Oleg Volk in the blogosphere these days has several great pictures created to haunt our Florida legislators.  I'm going to post small versions that link to bigger versions on his web page.  If you believe in the meme war concept, it might be good for us Florida gun bloggers to spread these around.

 Full sized version.
Full sized version.
Full sized version.
Full sized version.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Sublime and the Ridiculous

"Life", friends and I used to say in about 1980; when we were late twenty-somethings full of ourselves approaching the peaks of our lives, "is a game that should be called 'Gems and Turds'; Every day we reach into the bag and see what we pull out". 

The news today is gems and turds.  On one hand we have the simply horrific, disgusting speech the Hildebeest made - in a foreign country no less - depicting everyone who didn't vote for her as the most vile, despicable, racist, misogynistic, disgusting people she could imagine.  She has gone so far beyond calling us deplorable she can't see it in the rear view mirror.  So I will give the decrepit old hag and her speech every bit of recognition they deserve and not waste another pixel on them.

The gem, though is the life of Stephen Hawking, who passed away this morning on a doubly significant day.  First, today is Albert Einstein's birthday, and nobody in the current generation of scientists has been compared to Einstein as much as Hawking was.  Secondly, it's pi day: 3.14.  There's hardly a symbol more recognizable as math to the general population.

When Stephen was diagnosed with ALS - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease - in 1963, he was given a few years to live.  I don't think anyone would have him expected to live another 55 years to 76.  His biography is worthy of a good story.  He married, had children, divorced, remarried, and divorced again, all the while sliding further into his isolation from the rest of world. 

Yes, I read his most famous book, "A Brief History of Time" along with most of the rest of the planet, but his book was so successful that it had an unexpected side effect: it made him wealthy enough to be sure he'd be able to provide for his children after his disease took him. 

His fame and life story earned him guest spots on Star Trek The Next Generation, The Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons.  He celebrated his 60th birthday by taking a ride in a hot-air balloon. The same week, he also crashed his electric-powered wheelchair while speeding around a corner in Cambridge, breaking his leg.  Five years later, he took a ride with Go Zero G, riding in a specially modified Boeing 727 that flies a roller coaster course allowing short periods of weightlessness.  It was a prelude to a hoped-for trip to space with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company aboard SpaceShipTwo.  He said he does these things partly as a message: “I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.”

A fairly well done obituary is in the NY Times

Credit Zero Gravity Corp., via Associated Press 

In his later years, Hawking became more anti-faith, changing from talking about “knowing the mind of God” to “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the ... ”, firecracker of the Big Bang. 

Rest well, Dr. Hawking.  For your sake, I truly hope you're right in your beliefs that “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”  I think Blaise Pascal would have liked to talk with you about that. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

On Tariffs

Since Trump's announcement intending to institute tariffs on steel and aluminum hit the news last week, the media has been full of bloviating on the subject.  Whatever you believe you'll be sure to find someone to advance that idea.  As a "live and let live" kind of guy, my default is that there shouldn't be tariffs, that trade should be fair and open.  At this point in time, that's so far away from the reality we live in that making the world's markets fair and open makes returning to a liberty-oriented, self-determining society with a tiny Federal government seem like a trivially easy task.

The reality of the world in 2018 is that every nation drives everything they can possibly drive to favor themselves: they manipulate currency, they protect their industries, and they tax to try to create advantage.  Not that it's a particularly new condition in 2018.

The Woodpile Report (yes, I skim it, though usually over my wife's shoulder) had a link to an interesting blog I've never been to, Don Surber with the provocatively named post, "We Already Have 12,000 Tariffs".  It's a good start.
To hear Never Trumpers (and a few Trumpkins) tell the story, Donald Trump is the first president since Hoover to impose a tariff on imported products.

But Gus Lubin of Business Insider in 2010 reported, "The International Trade Commission lists over 12,000 specific tariffs on imports to America. Hundreds of agricultural, textile, and manufacturing items are highly protected. So are obscure items like live foxes."
From a 4.8% tariff on live foxes to a 350% tariff on tobacco, America protected its industries in 2010. ... We slap a 131.8% tariff on unshelled peanuts. With shells, the tariff is 163.8%. Imported French jam, chocolate, ham, European meats, truffles, and Roquefort cheese ...come with a 100% tariff. [Note:  I played a little loose with his quotes here.  When it doubt, RTWT - SiG]
Whenever I look at the New York Times, and especially economics writers like Thomas L. Friedman, I refuse to automatically grant them any credibility that I wouldn't grant anyone else just because it's the Times.  It's like reverse Gell-Mann amnesia; I remember all the crap they've spread before and automatically consider them less credible.  But from the "if it happens less than 5% of the time it's probably a random event" category, Friedman seems to be right in this piece from today, "Some Things Are True Even if Trump Believes Them".  Friedman reluctantly, even backhandedly, opens with this paragraph:
One of the hardest things to accept for all of us who want Donald Trump to be a one-term president is the fact that some things are true even if Donald Trump believes them! And one of those things is that we have a real trade problem with China. Imports of Chinese goods alone equal two-thirds of the global U.S. trade deficit today.
You can sense it's painful for him to admit Trump might be right about anything, but it's true.  In the game of international trade and tariffs, the US has been a patsy.  For instance, an American car imported into the EU pays a 29% tax (19% VAT + 10%) ; the same American car going to China pays 25% import duty, but a car from the EU or China coming to the US only pays 2.5%, a minimum of a tenfold difference.  Is that fair trade/free trade?  It certainly favors the other countries.  Add to that this tweet from Elon Musk, who also points out,
Also, no US auto company is allowed to own even 50% of their own factory in China, but there are five 100% China-owned EV auto companies in the US.
Friedman talks about a conversation with David Autor, an M.I.T. economist who’s done some of the most compelling research on the impacts of China trade.
Autor and his colleagues David Dorn and Gordon Hanson found in a 2016 study that roughly 40 percent of the decline in U.S. manufacturing between 2000 and 2007 was due to a surge in imports from China primarily after it joined the W.T.O. And it led to the sudden loss of about one million factory jobs in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Trump won all of those states.

This “China shock,” said Autor, led not only to mass unemployment but also to social disintegration, less marriage, more opioid abuse and more people dropping out of the labor market and requiring government aid. “International trade creates diffuse benefits and concentrated costs,” he added. “China’s rapid rise, while enormously positive for world welfare, has created identifiable losers in trade-impacted industries and the labor markets in which they are located.”
While I respect National Review, their headline screamed "600 Non-Steel Jobs at Risk for Every Steel Job"last week.  That means for the 90,300 jobs in the steel industry, tariffs put 54.18 Million people at risk.  Along with Don Surber, I question their algorithm.  They don't seem to give any thought to people whose employment status is dependent on a nearby steel production facility.  There is a multiplier effect.
Steel jobs bring more jobs in other businesses. The Wall Street Journal had an old school story about Granite City, Illinois, where the U.S. Steel plant is re-opening.

"Not only were hundreds of steelworkers left jobless when United States Steel Corp. scaled down its operations in Granite City, Ill., in 2015, but lunch deliveries to the plant vanished for a local diner while a shoe store’s work-boot sales plummeted. At least 26 businesses closed within a year, according to an area chamber of commerce," the Journal reported.  [Note: Paywall]
It's important to underline that this isn't all about cars, because steel and aluminum are used in so many things besides them, from furniture to houses to beer cans and disposable cooking pans.  Are tariffs on aluminum and steel a good thing?  In a perfect world, no.  But this is far, far from a perfect world.  Trump campaigned on how badly current trade conditions (and formal agreements like NAFTA) have put us at tremendous disadvantages.  I'm under no belief that trade wars are "easy to win", but I don't think it's Armageddon, either.  There will be bad impacts and there will be people who lose jobs, but the question is really if it's a net positive for the country and how big a positive it is.  The final results will be known by doing it and measuring the results afterward. 

(Generic manly-men working with steel picture from the El Lay Times credited to Natalie Behring / Getty Images)

Monday, March 12, 2018


At the last minute, something broke and I spent time trying to figure out what it was/how to fix it, so no content tonight.  Instead, a funny which may or may not have been used elsewhere.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Florida's "Other Weird Law"

Getting nowhere near enough attention from the media in the aftermath of the Democrats getting the Republicans to enact their gun control proposals for them, is that the State passed a law making Daylight Savings Time permanent, all year round.
By overwhelming, bipartisan majorities, the normally fractious Senate and House agreed this week to make Florida the first in the nation to adopt year-round daylight saving time statewide. It would mean later sunrises and sunsets from November to March, peak tourist season for many beach cities.
I've searched for news of whether or not Governor Voldemort has signed this into law, but haven't found any indication.   All reports say that after his signing, we would require permission from the to enact it.  Assuming the Fed level at this time is inclined toward letting states do what they want in such minor things, the bill is supposed to take effect this summer, meaning this morning's clock resetting will be the last of those.

Not really.  Staying on DST forever makes me wonder if I'm going to have to go around the house un-setting all the things that automatically set themselves.

Most of the clocks in the house are self-adjusting.  The PCs, phones and tablets get the correct time from a server.  Just three or four clocks require manual intervention.  Several clocks, including the watches Mrs. Graybeard and I both wear, are so-called "atomic clocks": they synchronize to the NIST radio station WWVB between midnight and dawn (when conditions are the best for radio propagation for them).  Those all auto-update for the daylight/standard time transitions.   

We have one clock, now banished to the bathroom, that's sort of a "short bus"/"special needs" clock.  It routinely thinks it got its radio sync from WWVB and is within milliseconds of the right time, yet it's anywhere from minutes to months from the correct time and/or date.  We have a couple of things that used to "automatically" set to DST by using a perpetual calendar, but since the extended  the start and stop dates, we have to change them manually four times a year: once to start DST early, once when it adds another "spring forward", and a similar two times when DST ends late.

I actually wrote a piece about this idea last October when DST ended - although it was about some New England states and not Florida. 
It's unavoidable that we'll face longer days in the summer and shorter in the winter.  That change in sunlight hours is part of the change of seasons  caused by the 23.5 degree inclination of Earth's orbit.  I'd guess that most of us have traveled enough to notice that day and night length vary with latitude at any time of year, and it gets more extreme the farther toward the poles you go.  Here in the southernmost reaches of the US, (I'm not in the tropics - none of Florida is) we have less variation.  On the summer solstice, our day is just short of 14 hours long - 13:55:30.  On the winter solstice, our daylight is 3 hours 34 minutes shorter, 10:21:43. (source)  In Minneapolis, MN, the longest day lengthens to 15:36:48, and the shortest day shortens down to 8:46:12, virtually seven hours shorter than their longest day.  Nothing can be done about that.  All DST does is change what we call those hours.
 (Day length vs. Latitude for the year.  Source)

I've got to say that if I wrote such ninny legislation, I would have made Standard Time the standard time.  Solar noon is when the sun is on the meridian, that line that goes from north to south passing directly overhead.  With DST, solar noon occurs at 1PM, not 12.  Maybe I'm anal-retentive, but having solar noon at 1PM forever is just wrong.