Saturday, June 30, 2018

Small Parts

No, not bit parts in a movie.  Small parts for my flame eater.  Also known as the fiddly bits.

I spent a couple of days making the piston rod.  It's small in every dimension except length, but could be done comfortably on my micro milling machine.  Since the drawings are copyrighted and in a book I bought, I probably shouldn't give all the dimensions here, so this drawing doesn't give you enough info to make the part, but will show you the critical sizes. 

At it's thickest, it's 0.187, which is 3/16", but that's only on the right end.  Everywhere else it's 1/8" thick.  It started out as 1/4" thick aluminum, about a quarter inch wide and got progressively smaller.  Every cut required a different setup and I spent a lot of time trying to ensure the part was parallel to the table so that I'd cut off the same thickness on both ends.  I went back to the OEM jaws on the vise which are about 7/8 tall, and had to put the work piece on a shim on top of my 3/4" tall parallels.  The next size parallel in the set is too tall.  I wasn't holding on to much more than I was cutting off, which is precarious and high pucker factor. 

I thought I was done Thursday and then realized that I also left the little square tab on the left end 5/16" square - which meant that long central part of the rod was too wide.  I finished it yesterday, and made one tiny, minor, glaring, huge mistake.  I cut off the bottom of that quarter inch wide tab on the left.

I know I've said that if your motto in life is "close enough", machining might not be the hobby for you, but in this case, "close enough" is probably true. 

Today I started concentrating on parts that attach to this.  On that small end, it gets a yoke that rotates around a pin in that hole.  The part was that pin, which ends up as a piece of 1/8" diameter steel rod, with a 3/32 hole down its axis.  That leaves a tube that has walls about 1/64" - about .015 thick.  That took a couple of minutes on my Sherline manual lathe, and I moved onto the yoke.  It's also small, 5/16" diameter aluminum round bar, finished length is 21/32.  It has one end that's turned down and threaded 6-32 by 3/16" long.  Didn't quite get that finished today, so more pictures in a day or three or whatever. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Searching Hard for the Daily Outrage

False outrage, that is.  According to the Daily Caller,
Multiple journalists circulated a conspiracy theory on Twitter that a document from the Department of Homeland Security contained a Nazi code Thursday.
The outrage?  A February publication from the DHS with the title "We Must Secure The Border And Build The Wall To Make America Safe Again".  Doesn't sound terribly scary to me.  I've only heard about a million people say that.  Here's the shocking conclusion.  Because that title has 14 words in it, it's a code for Nazis.  Or something.  Because reasons.  I swear I'm not making this up.

Most of what the DC shows are tweets from one twit named Laurie Voss.  It's hard to determine where she works, but I'll grant the DC's summary that she's a journalist.  Her profile picture makes her look old enough to not be writing for a junior high school paper, although it's intellectually at that level.

Good lord!  Call out the shock troops!  It's worse than we thought!  No  ...  not really.

Given what looks to be a survey they quote that has the numbers 13 of 88, they actually used the number 88!! It's Nazi Dog-Whistle for Heil Hitler.  (Listen, Miss Voss, two things: first, when they quote statistics like that, they're not using the numbers for 'no good reason', and second, if you're the only one who hears the Nazi Dog-Whistle, you're the Nazi).  So what is the rest of the world supposed to do with a survey that publishes its results in that format?  Edit the data?  Never publish the number 88 if it ever comes up? 

You know, in ham radio, 88 is code for "love and kisses".  Bet she'd never use that alternative.

Not that she has the monopoly on idiocy.  Someone replying to her tweets later named Ishaan Tharoor said "14 Words" itself is neo-Nazi code.  Except the phrase "14 Words" never appears on that DHS webpage.  Laurie Voss says there are 14 points in the article.  Except there are only 13 bullet points.  If she's counting paragraphs, there are 15.   

This is pure derangement.  These alleged journalists are so desperate to to find something to be scared about that they make up things.  There really is such a thing as too much.  Anybody who equates anything going on in the DHS with Nazi Germany doesn't know anything about Nazi Germany.  It's like we're living in some bizarro universe where Godwin's law comes true every second of every day.   Only if we were living in the real universe, by invoking Hitler arguments Voss would be admitting defeat.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

About That Other Supreme Court Story

You know, that minor, nothing story about Anthony Kennedy resigning.  It's not like the press has gone unhinged over it

This is going to be a bit of a ramble, and pull together some disparate ideas.  I don't do these regularly. 

One of the first things I heard was anguish that this means they're going to loose their sacred right to abortion.  First off, I'm of the opinion that this would be a good thing, but I think saying this is just trying to provoke outrage among the leftist base - I hear they're already fund raising based on this. Aided by a lack of understanding of how the court works.  The justices don't just sit down and say, "which old rulings do we overturn today?"  They rule on cases brought to them through the multiple levels of the federal court system, and they generally abide by old supreme court decisions; the legal doctrine of stare decisis (let the decision stand).  They wouldn't just throw out an old ruling unless a case was brought to them that addressed the same issues, and of course they do overturn old rulings, as in the union dues case.  This will probably take a year or two.  

Back in 2015, I did a post that posited there really was no post WWII baby boom.  If you look at the post war birth rate from the right - back in time from after the 1960 introduction of "the pill" and then after Roe vs. Wade in 1973 - the post war birth rate does indeed stand out as higher.  If you look at that birth rate from the left, the post war birth rate is hardly noticeable, and never reaches the birth rate from 1900 to 1919.  People living in 1900 would think that at the peak of it, the birth rate never returned to normal levels.  I'll reproduce the graph here - it's from the Wikipedia article on the subject. 

The birth rate fell below replacement levels (20 on their scale) during the Great Depression - which makes sense; people worried about the future and surviving probably aren't going to be inclined to add family.  I was, and still am, puzzled by the decrease in birth rate during the roaring 20s, when things were supposed to be better.  The birth rate has been below replacement levels since about '65. 

An inconvenient conclusion I could make here is that while I can't make an estimate of how different the demographic picture would be without legal abortion, I'm sure we would be a very different nation.  And I don't mean to focus on just this one aspect: in the time period the birth rate tanked, environmentalists were pushing "zero population growth" and trying to convince people to have smaller families.  There was a broad cultural push from the usual sources to slow population growth that continues to this day.

Viewed from another angle, the main reason we have a bubble of baby boomers heading toward retirement that everyone is alarmed about (or "the Boomer pig in the demographic python is well and truly hitting the cloaca of retirement," as Tam unforgettably said) is that the children who could have been in succeeding generations were either prevented or aborted.  Like Europe, we're attempting to get around that demographic shortfall by immigration.  Like Europe, I think we're going to have lots more trouble coming because of that. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Other Big News From The Supreme Court Today

Of course, the really big news is the retirement of Justice Kennedy, giving President Trump his second chance to put his choice of a justice on the Supreme Court.  Although not a slam dunk, the Republicans do have a slight majority in the Senate which should lead to confirmation for whomever he picks, unless someone who hates Trump, like John McCain, or a liberal Republican like Susan Collins gets in the way.

I want to point out the other news out of the court today that I think is a really big change and could potentially lead to big changes in the way things are done.

In the case of Janus vs. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the court ruled in favor of Mr. Janus.  The suit was over his being forced to pay dues to a union that he had no desire to join.  The court essentially ruled that no one should be compelled to fund political speech with which they disagree.  Justice Kagan's dissenting opinion said this was "weaponizing the first amendment" (excerpt here) - which I have a difficult time understanding.  I don't see how strengthening the freedom of people to decide what political causes they support is somehow an expansion of some sort of government or judicial tyranny.

Letting the Townhall piece pick up the meat of the story:
The decision overturns the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case that upheld agency fees for a union’s core activities, such as collective bargaining, but also said nonmembers could not be forced to support the union’s direct lobbying and electioneering activities.  In practice, this distinction became blurred.  For example, unions routinely used agency fees to fund their national conventions, which in many cases were overtly political.

Janus, a child support specialist for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, argued that when public unions bargain collectively with the government, they are engaging in inherently political activity because it influences countless matters of public policy: taxes, spending, pension liabilities, debt and others.  As a result, the agency fees that unions demand amount to forced political speech and violate the First Amendment.
For long time readers, you'll know that I have a tendency to be rather disapproving of civil employee unions like AFSCME and the SEIU.  Even America's worst president (or one of the top few worst) FDR was against government employee unions.  There's simply no honest negotiation going on.  This isn't a group of stoic but kindly old Bob Cratchits negotiating with grizzled, mean old Ebeneezer Scrooges; it's one group of unelected Democrats (the union bosses) that donated money to get the other Democrats whom they'll negotiate with elected.  Money flows back and forth between the unions and politicians, and it's money fleeced from the taxpayers.  It's the closest thing to a perpetual motion machine you'll see.  In a real negotiation, Ebeneezer Scrooge has real money at stake, money that's arguably his to do with as he chooses; with government employee unions, both parties are arguing over OPM - Other People's Money (the most addictive drug known).

Getting back to the main story, the court included a major change in their ruling.  They said that union membership needs to be "Opt-In" not "Opt-Out"; employees have to join the union willingly.  In doing so, they recognized the union dues were essentially a mandatory fee to get their job.  

There are indications the unions are running scared over having this little scam broken down.  There are also indications that these unions are facing tough financial times even without the loss of this income from mandatory dues.  The AFL-CIO launched a national advertising campaign in advance of today's decisions, trying to sell the idea of union membership - maybe they should have been doing that for years.  I'm not sure this ruling affects all people getting union dues taken out of their pay against their wills, but I hope it does. 


Eric Allie, from in 2011.  I used this in an article on union thugs and this incest. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Big Wheel Keeps On Turning

I mentioned my redesign of the flywheel support bracket for the flame eater engine.  I turned a solid, one piece bracket with quarter inch thick pieces into a three piece assembly.  I did this mostly to add ball bearings for the flywheel shaft, but also to avoid a long operation of turning about 2/3 of the metal into chips.  The new design and the old side by side look like this.  The colors were chosen to highlight the three separate pieces.  (The blue block is a duplicate of the middle piece copied over to the right so I could get dimensions).

In real life, it came out looking like this, posed holding the flywheel as it's supposed to. If you look closely around the shaft, you can see the ball bearings; 1/4" shaft and 3/8" OD. 

When I was a larval engineer, an old graybeard told me that "engineering is the art of compromise".   There are rarely ever perfect choices that everyone agrees are the best way to do anything and this design is like that.  It does what I wanted.  All the parts worked out just as modeled.  The drawback is that it's three parts and they need to be aligned properly during assembly.  When I first put it together, the flywheel spun, bit also made the characteristic scuffing sound of something rubbing.  The parts aren't perfectly aligned, but I improved that by loosening the four screws on the bottom and putting a shim between the side bracket and the flywheel hub (I used one of my old business cards - still useful after retirement!).  When I retightened the screws and pulled out the shims, the scuffing was gone.  The flywheel still wobbles which argues that the two sides aren't exactly the same height.

These facts together make me think I need an alignment fixture when I build it.

I took a video of the flywheel running, but let me be honest: I built every part in here and I can't stand to watch it at real time speeds for a minute and a half.  So I switched the recording for YouTube to run at 2x real life speed.  The only thing you can see in the video that you can't see in the picture, besides motion, is I spin the setup 180 degrees so you can see both sides of it.

I need to come up with a fixture to hold everything in the right positions for assembly, or else I go back to the author's design.  I have a piece of 1" thick aluminum that I could turn into the original design.

Monday, June 25, 2018

A Less Hazardous Replacement For TNT?

From the I Did Not Know That file, I didn't know that TNT, a rather commonly used explosive, is considered a carcinogen.  Apparently not just in California where it seem that everything causes cancer according to the labels on things I buy. 

TNT is a well known explosive; I'd swear I first heard of it on Looney Tunes as a kid.  It's also one of the first modern explosives: first made in 1863. 
TNT (aka trinitrotoluene) was first prepared in 1863 by German chemist Julius Wilbrand, but its full potential as an explosive wasn’t discovered until 1891. It has been in use as a munitions explosive since 1902. But the Environmental Protection Agency lists TNT as a possible carcinogen, and exposure to it has been linked to disorders of the liver and blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control. So, the Army and the Dept. of Energy have been looking for a replacement that is less toxic than TNT, packs a bigger explosive punch, and has a low melting point, which will let it be safely heated and cast in different shapes and sizes.
TNT is a preferred explosive because of its relative stability.  It's less sensitive to shock and friction, with lower risk of accidental explosion compared to more sensitive explosives such as nitroglycerin.  TNT is usually combined with other substances in blends of varying percentages.  

It's easy to make fun of this, with the idea that something that blows you to bits might give you cancer in 20 years, but the people being blown up by the TNT aren't the people this is concerned with.  The people who make and handle TNT, along with people who live near factories that produce TNT are the ones they're trying to protect.  The researchers have found a molecule, too, it just doesn't have as easy and catchy a name as TNT or C4.  It's called bis-oxadiazole, and similar to how TNT is a nitrogen-containing compound, this 24-atom molecule is packed with nitrogen.  The article claims it has 1.5 times the explosive power of TNT.

TNT has a simple structure.  In the center, there's a six carbon benzene ring with nitrite groups (NO2) in three places and one methyl group CH3 between two of the nitrite groups.  In this view, carbon atoms are black, hydrogen atoms are gray, nitrogen is blue and oxygen red.  There's a total of 21 atoms in it:
 The bis-oxadiazole, top view shows a single atom.  Notice that each molecule has six nitrogen atoms, twice as many as TNT has (same color code).  Bis-oxadizaole forms into crystals as shown in the bottom view:

The challenge since its discovery has been getting a high enough yield of the explosive out of the synthesis process.  Early attempts at making it had only a 4% yield, far too low to be practical and affordable.  After continuous refinement of the process, they got the yield up to 44%.  There will be additional studies and efforts to reduce the cost per pound before there's a shift to the new explosive.  Along with studies of toxicity and health effects.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

This Protesting Officials in Public is Getting Out of Hand

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was harassed at a Tampa movie theater, where she and a companion had gone to watch the Mr. Rogers movie.  She eventually left with police protection.

Much like the stories with DHS Secretary Nielsen and Sarah Sanders, protesters screamed "shame" at her, and harassed her over policies she didn't necessarily create.
"What would Mister Rogers think about you and your legacy in Florida? Taking away health insurance from people with pre-existing conditions, Pam Bondi!" Maria José Chapa, a labor organizer, can be heard yelling to Bondi in the video. "Shame on you!"

"You're a horrible person!" another protester shouts.
For the record, should anybody care, I've been against protesting officials when they're not at their jobs as long as this blog has been here.  It came up in my first year blogging, back in 2010, when SEIU rent-a-goons went to a banker's house to protest,  terrifying one of his children in a totally unwarranted, over-the-line protest.  Note that the protestor quoted above is a labor organizer.  Same tactics, different day. 

In my book, this sort of thing is over the line.  Protesting is fine, but people who work in any job, banker or government, are entitled to have down time when they're not at work.  Following them home to protest, as has been done with Secretary Nielsen, harassing them at a restaurant or movie, or refusing to serve them in a restaurant is too far.  It's clear these protesters aren't there for a conversation; it's obvious in the way they respond.  None of these people are open to intelligent discussion about complex issues.  They just want to yell or direct hate at someone, so what's the point, besides bullying? 

I tell myself that our "cold civil war", as so many folks have called it, is likely to go hot in the next year, but then I think it went hot when that asshole, Bernie Sanders-supporting Democrat shot up the Republican congressional baseball practice.  If it weren't for the fact that Steve Scalise being there brought a security force to fight back, it could have been very different and much worse.

The Wiki article says 24 Republican congressmen were at the baseball practice; what if he had managed to kill all of them.  Do you think that would have changed the country?  I do.  I could see an epidemic of killings all over the country.

This weekend we get a news report that some bozo on MSNBC is saying (in so many words), "if you voted for Trump, you're the one separating kids from their parents, you're the Nazi". 

To put it more succinctly: if you voted for Trump, you're the one we want dead.

Maybe we should do a poll about when folks think the shooting will start - or start in earnest.  The world around us seems to be moving toward a crescendo, and sooner or later push will turn to shove will turn to sticks and batons will turn to shooting.  I've never seen it like this.  History buffs I know say the US hasn't been this divided since before the War Between the States. 

(Pam Bondi, AP Photo, captioned: In this March 29, 2017 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks at the Women's Empowerment Panel, at the White House in Washington.)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Trama Lama Lama Ding Dong


No, that has nothing to do with this post.  This has to do with a procedure we need to do to a milling machine called tramming (which had me singing that title to myself all afternoon while wandering around the house). 

Maybe it'll make more sense if I back up and start at the beginning. 

This week, I moved onto the next part in my flame eater engine: a support for the flywheel.  For a couple of reasons, I didn't like the original author's approach and this seemed like a good part to redesign.  Why didn't I like it?  Two main reasons.  First: he lets the flywheel shaft, 1/4" steel rod, just rotate on aluminum and one thing I've learned about these engines is it's worth it to remove as much friction as you can.  I wanted to use ball bearings, which causes the uprights of the part to be bigger than Duclos used.  Second: he makes this part from a solid 2-1/2x1x3/4 chuck of aluminum and turns most of it (about 65-70% by my calculations) into waste chips.  So I decided to make it out of three pieces of 1/4" aluminum (all you're left with in his design).  Two uprights and a bottom piece to hold them in place.  Some time with CAD resulted in this drawing for the uprights:
I then created a drawing with two of these side by side, spaced far enough apart to put a 3/8" cutter between them.  A little time spent with a couple of pieces of software and porting it all to the mill ended up with this:
The problem concerns those holes.  Here it gets a little tricky to understand so I'm going to slow down. 

After cutting out most of the shapes, I marked the center of all six holes with the center drill I created last weekend.  I have the exact X/Y coordinates for the center of all the holes from the drawing, and since everything in the file is made using the same reference point, they should be perfectly positioned.  Then, because neither of the holes fit one of collets I have (like the center drill does), it was time to put the drill chuck in the mill's spindle. 

When I put the 9/32" bit in the chuck, it was visibly not centered over the hole it was supposed to enlarge.  I've seen this problem before and thought it was due to a prior mistake in finding the edge of the part, and I just re-assigned the X-coordinates.  I can't change them, though, because everything needs to use the same coordinates.  Troubleshooting, I put the drill bit (too small for the small holes) back in a collet in the spindle and it was exactly over the center of the mark.  Put a drill bit in the drill chuck and it moves a visually noticeable amount.  Since the big (9/32) hole was kind of an arbitrarily chosen size, and I have a 5/16"collet so I figured that instead I'll drill that with a 5/16 drill bit in the collet. 

When I went to drill the small holes, I had to use the small drill bit that wouldn't fit any collet, so back to using the chuck.  I ended up centering the holes visually by moving the drill bit around .020" to the left. 

So why should the coordinates for the part differ if I'm using the drill chuck instead of a collet?  Both of them are supposed to centered in the spindle, and since whatever is in the spindle is rotating, if they're far off center, it's very noticeable.   Time to ask the collected wisdom of the internet to which I was told "check your tram". 

Tramming is a process that's done to verify that the Z-axis motion is perpendicular to the table.  A common way of doing it is with a dial indicator and the way the angle is verified is that the indicator is moved from one side of the center (spindle) to the other side and the head adjusted until the indicator reads the same (ideally).  Fixtures like this are used, but the farther apart the dial indicators are the more sensitive it is.  My fixture puts the two spots I'm checking over 10" apart.  Here's the way I checked mine.
This is an optical spherometer I made for grinding telescope mirrors back around 2005.  The indicator's dial shows .0001 per minor division and each of the large print numbers represent .001".  I measure one side, rotate the fixture 180 degrees and check the other side.  I need that mirror on the right edge of the picture for that. 

I checked the tram with this tool and found that the two readings were within about .0005 - call it perfect.  Now what? 

What this is really checking is that the center of spindle is perpendicular to the table, "pointing straight down" if you will, but what if the Z-column is not really vertical?  The head will drift to whichever side the column is tilted but the center of the spindle will still point vertically at the table.  The drift in inches will be (height * sin(error))  Wait... I have an angle indicator, what if I stuck that on the column?
That says my Z column is 0.4 degrees off.  That's a lot!  What would that look like?  Let's say I used the centering drill and then raised the head 3" to fit the chuck and a drill bit in there?  3* sin(0.4) = .021" - eerily close to how far I had to move the drill to put the drill bit in the center of the hole (and saying the vertical difference was 3" is approximate).  Sounds like we could be in the right ball park.

The Z-column is held in place by four large socket headed cap screws (M12).  Getting them out was an ordeal when I took it apart for the CNC conversion, but easier now that I have the right tools.  Once all four bolts were loosened, it was trivially easy to get that indicator to read 90.00 degrees - it actually almost fell into place. 

But doesn't that knock the spindle away from pointing straight down?  Yes!  When the column was inclined 0.4 degree to the right, I adjusted the headstock to compensate for that; now that the column was vertical, I had to loosen the headstock and readjust that.  For a final check, I rigged up a way to hold a dial indicator (.001 minor division) and ran it vertically up the edge of a 5" machinist's square. 
The needle didn't budge.  Is it perfect?  I can't say.  If I assumed the needle did move and the error was .0005 (since I'm using a .001" reading indicator, I'm sure I would have seen that) and solve for the angle needed to give that, I find it would have to be .0057 degrees. I'm pretty confident the error is less than that.  

A check with the center drill and then using the chuck to recreate the parts used to drill the small holes in the parts shown at the top resulted in the drill bit being visually centered and the drilling the hole without the bit appearing to wander or bend at all.   I think everything I can do agrees that it's fixed.

Friday, June 22, 2018

More Stuff for Your Shocked Face

If I may remind you of a daily outrage from earlier in the week; remember the one in which DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was out at a restaurant having dinner and got harassed by self-described socialists?  It was an ugly scene, entirely in keeping with the way the Deranged Resistance is behaving itself.

It turns out one of those deranged socialists is employed by the Department of Justice.
Allison Hrabar, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America who attended the protest against Nielsen over the controversial border law enforcement, was revealed to be a paralegal specialist at the DOJ, the Washington Examiner reported.

“It feels really good to confront people who are actually responsible, which is what we have a unique opportunity to do in D.C.,” the DOJ worker told the outlet.
Hrabar wasn’t bothered by her association with the DOJ, citing her protected First Amendment rights to protest anyone outside her work hours. She went on to encourage people to confront officials in public places.

“If you see these people in public, you should remind them that they shouldn’t have peace,” she said. “We aren’t the only ones who can do this. Anyone who sees Kirstjen Nielsen at dinner, anyone who sees anyone who works at DHS and ICE at dinner can confront them like this, and that’s what we hope this will inspire people to do.”
According to today's news, they've decided it's not enough to protest Nielsen and her family when they're in public; the protesters have chosen to follow her to her home and harass the entire family by playing loud recordings of babies crying.  Undoubtedly disturbing not only the Nielsens and their children, but also neighbors and their children.  

Hrabar has a point about her not being required to give up her rights to her stupid opinions to get a job.  She does have a right to be stupid, but exactly how she's allowed to express those opinions are not beyond the purview of her employer.  It's not uncommon in the private sector to be required to put a disclaimer on things posted in public that you're not speaking for your employer.  Besides, the Daily Caller reports that Hrabar has made a habit of using social media to send political messages during her work hours,
Despite Hrabar’s claims of keeping her personal politics outside of her time as an employee of the federal government, a look at her Twitter account, @allisongeroi, features tweets during the workday openly celebrating her behavior Tuesday night.
Let's play the game that a tweet that's time tagged at 1:56 PM was during work hours and not on a break or even lunch time (how do we know what hours she works?)  Chances of a government employee being disciplined on the job?  Sure seems to be just about zero.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Putting RFID Into Guns - an Inside Look

RFID - Radio Frequency IDentification - is a well established technology that uses radio frequency technology to retrieve information from something without being close enough to touch it.  Ordinarily, the part of the RFID system in the object (the tag) is passive; it gets the power to respond to the interrogation transmitter from the radio signal being used to talk to the tag.  Common uses for RFID include electronic toll collection systems used on pay roads, shoplifting control tags in the retail world, and those ID tags implanted subdermally in millions of pets.

One of the trade magazines for the Radio Frequency industry, Microwaves and RF, prints a story from a company in the RFID business called The RF in RFID about their work to develop RFID for tracking guns.  The emphasis of the story is on an AR-15 with a metal lower receiver, because running radio transmitters in metal boxes is usually not successful.
Since each RFID tag incorporates an integrated circuit (IC) with an unalterable unique identification number (UID), it provides tracking by association with the federally regulated serial number of the component. The unalterable functionality is a requirement of currently proposed new legislation (NJ Bill A1016, which also mentions the use of RFID).

By means of RFID, the receiver is well-suited to act as the “custodian” of a firearm’s history by recording within an RFIC tag’s IC any pertinent information of any components that are part of the assembly. Information can be stored within any RFID IC that also contains programmable memory in addition to its UID. The storage of information occurs within the RFID tag, whose IC also has a programmable memory in addition to its UID.

Furthermore, the UID has the functionality to track/identify the original serial number of the receiver, making it possible to identify firearms when the serial numbers are removed. The RFID IC’s programmable functionality can also be locked, making it unalterable if required.
Without a power source in the tag, the tag is only going to have minuscule amounts of power and the range is going to be limited.  These things are not going to be read from tens of feet away, and not through the metal walls of a safe.  These tags are designed to be “vicinity devices” and have a read range of a few feet, perhaps a yard, depending on their size and the size and power output from the interrogator antenna (IA).

A 4-mm-diameter hole [in the lower receiver] is required to seat the RFID tag. The addition of a 0.8-mm slot provides an improvement in read range, but the RFID tag will also function adequately without it. Further testing is being undertaken to determine if the addition of a 4-mm-diameter hole will degrade the mechanical integrity of the mechanism when subjected to shock, vibration, and variations in temperature.

The tags used with these AR-15 receivers conform to the ISO15693/ISO18000-3 (mode 1) standard for operation in the 13.56-MHz frequency band. The standard specifies passive tags that may only become active if placed in an RF field.

The author's modification to an AR Lower Receiver to accommodate the RFID tag, where the pistol grip is attached. 

From this starting point, the company dives into the old New Jersey law demanding smart guns.
In the United States, New Jersey passed the Childproof Handgun Bill into state law on December 23, 2002. This proposed legislation will eventually require that all firearms sold in New Jersey will have some form of mechanism to prevent unauthorized use of a firearm. The law will take effect three years after this type of smart gun is approved by the state.
From this point through the end of the article, the author writes almost exclusively on what appear to be marketing ideas that clearly don't exist.   For example, he talks of adding sensors to the RFID that would react to shock with the intent of keeping track of how many rounds the gun has fired.  Without power, obtained from the interrogator, the RFID chip isn't doing anything, so this immediately adds the requirement for batteries.
As discussed earlier, the receiver is commonly the only federally regulated component of the firearm and will remain with the assembly throughout its life span. Since other components can be replaced, it’s logical for the receiver to store the history of the firearm. Records such as rounds fired, disassembly, cleaning, and inspection criteria are most common data that would be stored in such a location. The bore, firing pin, bolt face, gas ring, and gas key must routinely be inspected and data from reports could be recorded into the tag.

For those law-enforcement officers who are handed an anonymous firearm from storage, it’s prudent to know its most recent history or to update its usage prior to returning the firearm to storage. Performing a 10-second scan of the weapon’s history prior to engagement into an emergency situation could possibly screen out defective or questionable weapons. Cellphone applications with a simple checklist and red-flag indicator are currently being developed that provide a government officer with practical real-time feedback and a reporting mechanism that’s designed to require less than one minute to complete.
Keeping track of the number of rounds fired,  how often the guns is disassembled, cleaned and inspected, without a battery?  Perhaps that's possible in a true armory, perhaps a police department,  otherwise, he's asking for gun owners to want to buy the interrogator.  Archiving inspection reports on the bore, bolt, firing pin and all the rest, also with no power source?  Pure fantasy. 

Of course, anyone who knows where the RFID parts are can just as easily pull them out of the gun.  People take their guns apart to do the maintenance he wants to log, and while he proudly talks about the tag being "sealed into the receiver using black epoxy. Such attachment makes it difficult to locate on the firearm, and would require the use of tools to destroy the RFID tag."  I don't think he knows quite who he's dealing with.  

I recommend reading the piece to see where the tech industry is on this subject.  They see these things as a challenge to respond to.  Some of the things he talks about aren't that offensive to me and could offer convenience; others are more offensive.  It should be obvious that when the governments talk like they're talking, some people see the gravy train; this is one opinion from one such system architect. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Improving Treatments for Brain Cancer Patients

As a radio designer, I was interested to see an improvement in monitoring a treatment for brain tumors.  Unfortunately, the article doesn't have a very clear explanation of how the system operates.

One of the first folks I met when I moved here to the Silicon Swamp in 1982 was another ham who was a very outgoing, friendly guy.  We became good friends, and since he was a single guy living here with no family, he spent a lot of holidays with us.  He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the mid '00s.  From the first symptom, suddenly being unable to lift his foot onto a raised sidewalk at a weekend radio licensing class, until his death was less than two weeks.  The article quotes the American Brain Tumor Association saying that this year 80,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Of those, 16,000 will die.

One of the treatments for a brain tumor that is becoming more widely used is radio frequency ablation (RFA), a way of heating the tumor to a temperature that helps kill it.  It's used as an adjunct (additional treatment) to the more conventional "slash and poison" 1-2 punch of surgery and chemotherapy. 
RFA is a minimally invasive procedure that uses electrical energy to destroy cancer cells with heat. A thin needle is inserted into the brain and delivers radio frequency waves directly to the tumor. This in turn heats the tumor to 140℉ until the tumor is destroyed. While this method is less invasive and becoming more popular, doctors are still lacking a method for monitoring the procedure in real-time.
In other words, like the popup timer in a Thanksgiving turkey breast, how do they know the brain tumor has been hot enough long enough?  Research Assistant Professor John Stang in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California points out that there's no commonly used way to monitor the temperature inside the tumor, often buried deep inside the brain.
“Although ablation is becoming increasingly popular, there is still no thermal imaging technology in regular clinical use to monitor these procedures in real time and ensure that the correct thermal dose is delivered the first time,” said Stang.

Stang co-authored the study published in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, along with Mahta Moghaddam, director of the Microwave Systems, Sensors, and Imaging Lab (MiXIL); Guanbo Chen, from the University of Southern California; Mark Haynes, from the NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Eric Leuthardt, from Washington University in St. Louis. Stang and Moghaddam have developed a real-time thermal imaging method and device that will aid in the accurate delivery of RFA treatments.
The article doesn't say much about the method they developed, just that they beam a microwave transmitter into the patient's head and by monitoring the reflections from the brain tissue, calculate changes to the dielectric properties of the brain tissue.  Apparently, they discovered a relationship between the increasing temperature and the dielectric properties and can determine when the tumor has reached the proper temperature.  The reflections are heavily processed to give a color-coded visual representation of the tumor temperature. 

At this point in the research, they're not working on human patients, just in vitro (in glass); experiments on things such as tissue cultures.  They hope to be a few years from clinical trials. 
“In in vitro experimental validation studies, our system was able to achieve 1°C accuracy at a refresh rate of one frame per second,” Stang said. ...  “Assuming we get good results, we may be three to five years away from clinical trials,” said Moghaddam.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tired of Outrage

Long before I stared hearing talking heads pontificating on America's addiction to outrage (early example), I started referring to news stories as The Outrage of the Day.  Actually, I think the first place I read the concept was Michael Crichton's book, "State of Fear" - a thriller that I literally couldn't put down.  How bad was I hooked by that book?  I brought an eBook version on a company trip (on a Palm Pilot - this was before Kindles or iPhones) and my batteries ran down mid-trip, so I bought the paperback in the airport bookstore to keep reading.

Today's Outrage of the Day is, of course, about the policy of separating children from their parents if the parents are bringing them across the border illegally.  This was apparently passed as a law in the the late 1990s, but the politicians told the Border Patrol not to enforce it.  We're fed images by the 24/7 news cycle that are supposed to stoke our outrage, and get us to keep watching.  When I start to sense, even remotely, that I'm being played with intent to foster outrage, I tune it out.  Change the channel or leave the room.  Much as I couldn't stomach watching Reichsmarshall Hogg and the Parkland version of Our Gang, I can't stomach watching coverage of this outrage. 

The outrage is the product of our broken, dysfunctional political system (bet you thought I was going to say immigration system, didn't you?).  Simple question: why is the immigration system "broken"?  If the Evil Party cared about it, they could have rammed laws through to change it to their liking in 2010 and '11 when they had unbreakable majorities in both halves of the legislature and the White House.  The Stupid Party couldn't have done it since last year because they haven't had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.  I believe the reason we have this mess is because both parties use the brokenness to their advantage.

There's a handful of issues like this that the parties use to play "normies" like us, including normie Evil Party members, against each other, and to fund raise.  They will never let those issues be resolved.  The other side of "why is the system broken" explains how Trump has reversed the majority of the Obama "legacy".  Obama did most of that with his famous "I have a pen and a phone" approach, by Executive Order, and while "stroke of the pen, law of the land" might be cool, it won't last.  When the other side takes power - and with a two party system they inevitably will - all of your agenda gets wiped out with a stroke of the pen.

For an administration that is going to follow the actual process for passing laws, real change of passed laws is hard.  It's why we still have Obamacare.  Here we have a law that was passed without one vote from the opposition, a law that the opposition-controlled house voted to repeal about 47 times when they knew it meant nothing but couldn't bring themselves to repeal when their votes actually mattered.  Real laws passed by the constitutional process are harder to get rid of than executive orders and executive branch agency regulations, like "net neutrality". 

Note that "they will never let those issues be resolved" goes for the most austere gun control.  The left feeds off the anti-gun zealots and their money much more than the right feeds off the NRA.  If they did get enough idiots to pass a law to do a Feinstein and say "turn them all in", they'd never get another penny and lose their psychological leverage.  This is totally ignoring the civil war that would start and the ugliness that would follow. 

The psychopaths' game is to find something that really matters to their supporters and get those people so outraged that they'd do anything to vote against the other guys.  From the psychopaths' standpoint, outrage is a good thing.   People don't think critically when they're that outraged.  They won't ask tough questions and will accept pablum from the media. 

While the book "State of Fear" was about climate change and eco-terrorism to scare people into voting their way, the title was from a chapter late in the book where characters are discussing the 24/7 news cycle and how much it feeds on fear and speculation, in attempt to keep viewers tuned in.  The book was released in 2004 and it's more true now than it was then. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

DC Has Highest Concentration of Psychopaths in the US

This is my surprised face.

Townhall has the story that researcher Ryan Murphy of Southern Methodist University has researched the prevalence of psychopathic behaviors (the paper - pdf) .
Murphy analyzed "levels of big five personality traits (extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience) in each state," to carry out his research.

"Boldness corresponds to low neuroticism and high extraversion, meanness corresponds to low agreeableness, and disinhibition corresponds to low conscientiousness," Murphy wrote.
There's a hypothesis that says psychopaths are likely to gravitate to positions of power (still my surprised face).  It turns out DC tends to draw psychopaths.
"The District of Columbia is measured to be far more psychopathic than any individual state in the country, a fact that can be readily explained either by its very high population density or by the type of person who may be drawn a literal seat of power (as in Murphy 2016)," 
 The reference to "Murphy 2016" appears to be Ryan Murphy, the author of this paper, who also said:
"The presence of psychopaths in District of Columbia is consistent with the conjecture found in Murphy [2016] that psychopaths are likely to be effective in the political sphere,"
The Northeast states contained the most psychopaths of any region, with three of the top five coming from that region. The most psychopathic state was Connecticut (here I was a bit surprised), followed by California, then New Jersey and New York.  In what was perhaps the most surprising conclusion, New York tied with Wyoming.  Speculation to explain that tends to be sampling errors due to the smaller population in Wyoming.  (I probably would have guessed CA or NY as #1, followed in third by NJ, but probably wouldn't have guessed CT and certainly not WY.  For whatever that's worth.)

So the most psychopaths are in DC (government), California and New York (entertainment).  Gosh, what else do these places have in common?  Love for each other?  I may be surprised for a whole femtosecond. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Followup on Flywheels and Drilling and Tapping

Reference here, and comments on how to drill and tap the 8-32 holes that are 10 degrees from vertical.  To begin with, the easy part was getting the angle.  I have an adjustable angle plate from my Sherline tools that I could incline at the 10 degree angle and then clamp the flywheel to the table with the Sherline clamps.  This is where having been playing with the Sherlines since 2003 is really helpful. 

Actually drilling and tapping at the 10 degree angle turned into a job where none of the tools I have would work.  I wanted to use the big mill as a precision drill press (it's really good at that), but its drill chuck is so wide in diameter that it can't get close enough to the hub to use a center drill to give the bit a good start, and since the the surface is both inclined and round, the drill bit won't start by itself.  Time to use my tools to make tools - a recurring theme. 

I ended up trying two approaches that didn't really work, before settling on one that worked fine.  This picture shows the first two.  The very first is the bottom one.

The bottom piece is a quarter inch diameter brass rod, drilled out with the drill bit recommended for 8-32 threads (#29 - conveniently shown in the right end of the top rod), then drilled perpendicular to its axis (near the right end) with that bit and tapped for one of those 8-32 setscrews.  The problem was that there wasn't enough meat in that brass for more than about 2 threads, and they stripped out when I tightened the setscrew.

Onto rev 2, the top one.  The top holder is 3/8" aluminum, drilled with same drill bit.  Now that there's more metal, it grabs the bit securely and doesn't rip out.  This is when I realized I had to use the center drill, and repeated the drill along the bore (3/16") and drill/tap for the setscrew.  Which is when I realized this approach was screwed.  The tool holder holding the drill bit cleared the flywheel, but the center drill is much shorter and the setscrew wouldn't clear it. 

Time for rev 3 of the holders.  Go back to quarter inch brass and soft solder (tin-lead electronics solder) the bits into the holder. 

Back when I was in the biz, if someone showed me that soldering job (top) I would have told them, "it looks like a solder-eating bird took a shit on it", but holding a file against it while it was rotating in the spindle cleaned it up and made it look pretty.  To me, the important part was that I could do it with my Metcal soldering iron rather than a torch.  I doubt the Metcal got it hot enough to damage the temper, while a torch might have.  

You'll notice the drill bit is not soldered in.  I pressed that in by using my drill chuck in the lathe tailstock as a ram and putting a piece of scrap between the bit and and the lathe chuck.  Then I tried to remove it, even using big pliers on both the brass rod and the drill bit.  No luck.  I test drilled a piece of scrap aluminum with it and the bit didn't move.  Then I sharpened the bit to add whatever advantage I can get. 

All of the tool holder work was done on my manual Sherline lathe.  They're all small work pieces, and I don't need horsepower, I need precision.

Now it was time to set up for the drilling, which I did on the big mill using my Rumblepad hand controller to position everything properly before drilling.  I let the brass rod holding the center drill clear the most protruding edge of the flywheel by 0.020".  I found I didn't get a good picture of the angle plate, but grabbed a couple after the main work was done.  I stopped during tapping to grab this shot which kinda shows the overall setup. 

In this picture, the metal bit hanging down at top center is countersink cutter; it's held in the same 1/4" collet that held the tools and is just there to match a divot in the top of the tap wrench.  It helps ensure that the tap stays vertical (although it doesn't look that way in the picture).   As I advance the tap, one half rotation of the wrench at a time, I lower the countersink. 

Yet another example of how a task that should be a simple operation turns into something quite a bit more involved.  I should have realized that a quarter inch long set screw would interfere with things and not bothered with the first attempts, but I rushed in rather than spending more time visualizing what was going to happen.  This is straightforward geometry/trigonometry and I could have anticipated all these issues better.  

Now it's on to the next part, the bracket that holds this flywheel.  I'm going to redesign that to use ball bearings, rather than use Duclos' approach of letting a steel shaft rotate on aluminum. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

RIP Matt "Guitar" Murphy

I was saddened to get an email from a friend saying that Matt "Guitar" Murphy passed away Friday.  He was 88.  Most people will probably know Matt from the 1980 comedy "The Blues Brothers".
Murphy's death was first announced in by his nephew Floyd Murphy Jr, who performed alongside his uncle. "He was a strong man that lived a long long fruitful life that poured his heart out in every guitar solo he took," Floyd Jr. wrote of Matt Murphy in a Facebook post (via Deadline). No cause of death was provided. In 2002, Murphy suffered a stroke that forced the guitarist into semi-retirement.
There are no details on the effects of that stroke, but I presume it hindered his ability to play, which would have been sixteen years of living in hell for a musician like Matt Murphy.   Murphy was probably hired for the Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi movie as a well known musician they had heard.  Rolling Stone says he was a product of the legendary Chicago blues scene of the Forties and Fifties, and had worked alongside artists ranging from Ike Turner (as members of Junior Parker's Blue Flames) and Etta James to blues musicians like James Cotton, Willie Dixon and Sonny Boy Williamson. 

One of the most popular scenes in the movie depicts Matt as husband to Aretha Franklin in small restaurant in Chicago.

Blues music has brought me tons of joy over the years.  RIP Matt, we loved your work. Some good old videos at the Rolling Stone link.

Friday, June 15, 2018

If You've Worked for a Big Company You'll Understand This

Given the FBI Inspector General's report detailing the horrific ethical issues at the top of the agency in DC, Director Christopher Wray said all the lower level employees will be sent for training
The FBI will make its employees undergo bias training, Director Christopher A. Wray promised Thursday, after a devastating report found the bureau made bad decisions, has a culture of leaking sensitive information, and may have skewed campaign-season decisions because of bias.
If you've worked for a Fortune 500 company, or probably any company with more than something like 100 employees this is a familiar script.  Business as usual.  One of the executives on Mahogany Row does something wrong, so for the rest of time the rank and file workers get penalized.  Like when company officials from some place were accused of "insider trading" and as a result, every employee in the big companies has to take a mandatory insider training class every year.  In perpetuity.  Or when someone decided that a CEO being optimistic about the company wasn't to encourage the group to but was a dishonest ploy to swindle investors, so Congress passed the Sarbanes Oxley act, and now every employee at a publicly traded company has to take an annual SOX class. 

Here, the top layer of officers in the FBI were as biased as a skunk's spray is stenchy, so the rank and file agents will get training in being objective while - from all we can see now - none of the actual offenders will suffer any consequence whatsoever. 

Buck Sexton, talk radio guy and expert on the talking head circuit due to being an ex-Three Letter Agency guy, sums it up nicely on Twitter (via Twitchy): 

The IG report itself reminds me of the Comey press conference on Hillary from July of '16.  That time out of 15 minutes of air time, he spent 13 of them listing every federal felony and other crime that Hillary committed.  Then he spent the last 90 seconds explaining he was going to do nothing, turned and walked off stage without taking questions or interacting at all.  In this case, the IG points out example after example of all the wrong things the FBI did that were biased and/or illegal, but then said there was no evidence of bias.  Again, these were the headquarters staffers, including the Weasel Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

People have been saying for a while that this might well be the biggest political scandal in our country's history.  To have what's supposed to be the premier law enforcement agency in the country apparently trying to take out the lawfully elected president is just so wrong it's hard to wrap my head around it. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Family Portrait -- Sort Of

I spent the last couple of afternoons making the next part for my flame eater engine, the flywheel.  Here I pose big brother flywheel along with the smaller version that you've seen before, if you're a long time reader. 

The big brother is 3-3/8" diameter and the holes are 3/4" diameter.  Little brother is 2-1/2" diameter and the holes are 1/2".   Little brother is actually a bit more complex because the hub is threaded 1/4-28 for about a third of its length and reamed to 1/4" on the rest while big brother is reamed 1/4" the whole way.

Actually, this is my "done with the flywheel picture", but I realized I'm not really done.  I realized that I haven't drilled and tapped the set screw holes in the hub.  That will involve a setup that'll be a new technique for me, clamping the wheel to vertical surface with a spacer at the bottom to introduce that ~10 degree angle.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Improving the Performance, Reliability and Cost of Fuel Cells

I was mildly surprised to find the most recent thing I'd written on fuel cell cars was back at the very end of 2015.  That piece was based on a Design News post that said for fuel cell vehicles to be successful, fuel cell costs have to come down.  I'm interested in the technology, and I think someone should be researching them, I just don't think it's the federal governments place to use tax money for this research.

This is the province of fundamental engineering research in universities, probably funded by companies with interest in commercializing the technology.  Power Electronics magazine runs a piece on some of the work this week.
To meet this need, R&D at several U.S. universities and national laboratories is focused on making fuel cells a more widely used energy source. Some of this R&D is in the basic research phase, some is more advanced. This R&D is complex because it combines chemical and electrical disciplines, so it needs scientists with an understanding of both. And, sometimes it is hard to find people with this inter-disciplinary background.
First stop is the University of Delaware’s Center for Fuel Cell Research (CFCR), a resource for innovative energy technologies under the umbrella of the University of Delaware Energy Institute (UDEI).
Ajay Prasad, director of the CFCR, says, “Hydrogen-powered polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells have already demonstrated the potential to replace internal combustion engines in vehicles and to provide power in stationary and portable applications.” He notes that a major challenge to commercialization of this technology is the durability of the membrane, which is typically made from a polymer called Nafion. During fuel-cell operation, the membrane undergoes chemical and mechanical degradation, leading to cracks and pinholes that shorten its life.
Prasad and two colleagues from the UD Department of Mechanical Engineering, Liang Wang and Suresh Advani, have developed a self-healing membrane incorporating microcapsules prefilled with a Nafion solution. A patent application has also been filed. “The microcapsules are designed to rupture when they encounter defects in the membrane and then release the prefilled Nafion solution to heal the defects in place,” Liang Wang explains.
Lian Wang with a sample of their enhanced polymer.  Power Electronics photo. 

Test results have shown the newly invented membrane with the self-healing property could greatly extend its useful life.  A prototype fuel cell system using this technology is currently being tested in an all electric bus, run by the University of Delaware.  It's not a typical fuel use, as far as I know: the bus runs on a 300V NiCd battery pack, and the fuel cell provides recharging for those batteries, making the fuel cell system a range extender.  The fuel cell, by the way, runs on 16kg (7.3 lbs.) of hydrogen stored at 5000 psi.  That piece I linked to on fuel cell cars talked about 11 lbs. of Hydrogen in 10,000 psi tanks in a Toyota electric car. 10,000 PSI anything sounds scary to me.

Next stop is Georgia Tech Research Institute’s (GTRI) Center for Innovative Fuel Cell and Battery Technologies, where researchers believe that understanding how and why fuel cells fail is the key to both reducing cost and improving durability.
Center director Tom Fuller has been trying to solve what he deems the top three durability problems since he joined GTRI from United Technologies in 2004. “My philosophy is that if we can really understand the fundamentals of these failure mechanisms, then we can use that information to guide the development of new materials or we can develop system approaches to mitigate these failures,” said Fuller, who is also a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE).

One of the problems Fuller is addressing includes the chemical attack of the membrane. In a typical fuel cell, hydrogen is delivered to the anode side of the cell that contains a catalyst, such as platinum. The platinum splits the hydrogen molecules (H2) into hydrogen ions and electrons. On the cathode side of the fuel cell, an oxidant such as a stream of oxygen or air is delivered.

With a proton exchange membrane in the middle, only hydrogen ions can travel through the membrane to the cathode. Electrons travel on a different path through the electrical circuit to the cathode, creating an electrical current. At the cathode, the hydrogen ions combine with oxygen and the electrons that took the longer path to form water, which flows out of the cell.
In an interesting comparison to the University of Delaware research, GTRI researchers also find that damage to the membrane in the fuel cell is a root cause problem they're fighting. 
Fuller’s research shows that the membrane, commonly made of a synthetic polymer, is prone to attack by free radicals that create holes in the barrier. The free radicals are formed by the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a strong oxidizing chemical that can form near the membrane. Perhaps the work done at the University of Delaware can solve this problem.
There's more in the article at Power Electronics, but I think I've hit the most interesting parts. They write about involvement of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Labs (ORNL) in Tennessee and tests at the The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 

It sounds to me like basic research, with small scale testing going on, and therefore a couple of years before fuel cell makers can tell if this is progress or not.  There's nothing in the article about the costs of these cells, which seems to go with the immaturity of the technology. 

At this point, there's nothing to lead to a solid prediction of costs reaching "commodity level", not the current astronomical costs that lead to the automakers being unable to profit on a fuel cell electric vehicle even including the Federal subsidies they get. 
Honda Clarity, fuel cell powered EV.  It appears these can be bought now in limited areas, but there isn't much hydrogen infrastructure around, either. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Some Trump/Kim Comments - Because Why Not?

The 24 hour news cycle was predictably all abuzz about the summit between President Trump and First Secretary of the Party Kim Jong-Un.  Last night, I watched Fox's Chris Wallace talking about how nothing has been achieved yet and Kim hasn't given up anything.  I almost yelled at the TV that he was a waste of valuable air time: the meeting hadn't even started yet, of course nothing had been accomplished.  What are you gonna say next, Chris, "water is wet"?

I don't want to talk about what they're saying.  This is just an "as I see it" hodgepodge of thoughts.

To begin with, it's widely known that Kim Jong-Un attended school in Europe.  It's widely reported that one of the ways the people are repressed is by ensuring they don't know how badly they have it.  The people are told they live in a near paradise.  Unlike the vast majority of his subjects, he knows that's a lie; he knows the kingdom is a wreck and he knows he presides over a human rights disaster.  It's also widely reported he really likes much about the US and western cultures.  He loves NBA basketball - hence the peculiar role of Dennis Rodman in the story.  He loves American action movies. 

Someone in the White House, or somewhere else along the line of involved people, got the idea to make a movie trailer to show Kim as the summit opened.  It's an unabashed attempt to show Kim that if he plays nice, he can have personal longevity, wealth, and be recognized as world leader.  It's full of scenes that seem to have been chosen because someone thought he'd like them.  Perhaps you've seen a clip.  That's all I had seen until doing some research here online.  Here is the full, HD version of the video.

Blogger LL over at Virtual Mirage (you are reading him, right?) had some important insights into the chances of getting something through even with a signed document from the summit.  The North Korean economy, such as it is, is largely involved in their military and weapons research.
The North Korean economy is a dependent of the armed forces and the arms industry. North Korea has a mostly closed society and economy that supports and sustains a million able-bodied men in uniform from a population that the CIA World Factbook estimates is 25 million. Four percent of the population is on active duty in uniform. In the US and China, people in uniform account for less than a percent of the total population.
The military reserves and red guards represent at least 20 percent of the population. Adding in family dependents and connections, we estimate that at least a third, and probably closer to half, of all North Koreans depend on the armed forces and the arms export industry as consumers. 
The economic ripple effects of supporting the army, the reserves and the red guards affect every sector of economic activity and almost every household. Without the Korean People’s Army, the North Korean economy would collapse. Without an identifiable enemy (the USA), there is scant need for 50% of a nation to be TOTALLY dependent on the military for sustenance.
As I said in a comment there, I had never considered the terms "military industrial complex" and "North Korea" in the same sentence, but having 50% of the economy dependent on the military could conceivably be a big problem.  It's important to note, as LL does, that South Korea also spends a large part of its budget on the military.
Millions of livelihoods on both sides of the Military Demarcation Line are tied to maintaining the existing conditions of no war and no peace for the past 65 years. Those conditions are so deeply rooted that change itself has become a threat and a huge challenge.
Of the two Koreas, I think the South Koreans could handle workers coming out of the defense sector much easier and an order of magnitude or two faster than the North Koreans.  

In the history of the world, as far as I can tell, one constant of societies has been palace intrigue; someone plotting to off the guy in the throne to take it themselves.  Isn't there a favorite fantasy TV series about this?  Stories are starting to circulate that Kim has replaced "hard liners" in his government with others more open to, if I can reuse the old term from the Reagan era, détente.  Depending on how many "hard liners" there are and how well they are hidden in the palace, it's worth asking if Kim can survive.  We know he has no reluctance to kill those he considers a threat, extending to their entire family, so his ruthless brutality may work out to be something that raises his chance of survival. 

Another "information-free" sound bite (in the sense that you already know it) is that "this is just a first step; step one of hundreds to follow".  Among the most important steps are (1) keeping Kim alive - if he's really committed to this, (2) figuring out ways to get the North Korean economy to survive the economic shock.  The real problem here is the double burden of not just having an 18th century economy, but having it organized as a communist economy. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Confidential to the SAF: Fire Your Ad Agency!!

Let me start here:  I really respect the Second Amendment Foundation.  I know I've donated to them in the past.

Since the crap of the last months, the abandonment of Florida gun owners by the GOP establishment (the Truly Stupid Party) and the rest, I've been thinking about new groups to support.  On the face of it, the SAF has a good pedigree.  The SAF, after all, is the organization that took McDonald v. City of Chicago to the Supreme Court and won (pdf warning).  All together, the SAF has been involved in more important progress and legal victories for the pre-freedom side than any other group I know of.  More here.  It's important to know, the SAF isn't perfect either. 

The thing that bothers me is that every time I'm ready to push the button or write the check, I get some horrible click-bait style, snail mail solicitation from them.

They write like they're trying to attract the absolute lowest IQ voters.  Today I get one that is made up to look like it's some sort of jury-duty related thing.  Seriously.  In big bold letters it says, "Official Jury Ballot Enclosed"; then it's emblazoned with something similar to crap you get on the junkiest of junk mail; it reads like a warning to the postal service.  Rather than describe it, let me show it to you.

Does anybody associate anything but low-budget, bulk-rate junk mail with that?

The inside is just as bad, with single sheet made up to look like a legal draft except for the large bold font at the top declaring it a "Juror Ballot".   It's a "survey" set up to get you mad at the Brady Bunch, Bloomberg, Schumer, Feinstein, Pelosi, and the usual cast of villains so that you'll send in a check.

Again: does anybody take this kind of stuff seriously? 

I can't tell you how many times I put aside an envelope with some low-brow marketing scam in it from the SAF and thought that maybe I'd be less annoyed with them later, but never got past it.  After all, when we respond to this crap, we're rewarding them for it.

Yo, Counselor Gottlieb: talk to us like we didn't just crawl out from under a rock.  Your ads come across as thinking less of gun owners than Bloomberg, Brady, or any of those parties that you list think of us. 

Maybe it's worse than I thought.  According to the Wikipedia, Allan Gottlieb might be the owner of the company that's doing this atrocious advertising.
Gottlieb owns Merril Mail Marketing, Inc., a for-profit corporation, that is his direct response mail fund-raising business.
Gosh, if he owns a "direct response mail fund-raising business" I'll bet chances are pretty good that's the business that's the ad agency I'm asking him to fire.  Yeah, I know enough about business that it's easy to think a guy who owns all the businesses he does isn't familiar with this level of detail of the various operations.