Friday, November 30, 2018

Some Problems With That New Climate Change Report

Last Friday, as in Black Friday, the released the latest version - 1700 pages - of the National Climate Assessment (NCA). Typical of media reaction is The Atlantic, wondering "why would they release this on Black Friday?  To keep people from reading it?" and then going on to highlight that the report "contradicts nearly every position taken on the issue by President Donald Trump."  Funny how they never criticized Obama for all his Friday and holiday weekend document dumps. 

The fact of the matter is that the report is required by law, was scheduled for "late in the year" all along, and is a product of government agencies and employees that have nothing to do with President Trump.  It's not like the report was put together by a team President Trump picked by hand.  If anything it's the opposite: it's a report put together by a team Barack Obama picked.

Which means it's based on all the bad data we see all the time: temperature series that have been adjusted to make the past look colder and the present hotter (long term temperature records from around the world always disagree with the adjusted version the Feds use); wild exaggerations about the effects on hurricanes, fires and every aspect of our lives.  

Nicolas Loras at the Daily Signal reports on four points you might find useful should you need to point out the errors of the "the world is going to end before I grow up" crowd at a holiday get together.
  1. It wildly exaggerates economic costs.
    One statistic that media outlets have seized upon is that the worst climate scenario could cost the U.S. 10 percent of its gross domestic product by 2100.  The 10 percent loss projection is more than twice the percentage that was lost during the Great Recession.

    The study, funded in part by climate warrior Tom Steyer’s organization, calculates these costs on the assumption that the world will be 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. That temperature projection is even higher than the worst-case scenario predicted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In other words, it is completely unrealistic. 

  2. It assumes the most extreme (and least likely)climate scenario.
    Here we have to go down a rabbit hole. The NCA is based on a model called Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. In estimating impacts on climate change, climatologists use four representative trajectories to project different greenhouse gas concentrations.  The NCA chose the most severe and least likely of the four different trajectories.

    It assumes “the fastest population growth (a doubling of Earth’s population to 12 billion), the lowest rate of technology development, slow GDP growth, a massive increase in world poverty, plus high energy use and emissions.”... It estimates nearly impossible levels of coal consumption, fails to take into account the massive increase in natural gas production from the shale revolution, and ignores technological innovations that continue to occur in nuclear and renewable technologies.

    When taking a more realistic view of the future of conventional fuel use and increased greenhouse gas emissions, the doomsday scenarios vanish. Climatologist Judith Curry recently wrote, “Many ‘catastrophic’ impacts of climate change don’t really kick at the lower CO2 concentrations, and [Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5] then becomes useful as a ‘scare’ tactic.”

  3. It cherry-picks science on extreme weather and misrepresents timelines and causality.  
    This seems to happen all the time.

    A central feature of the National Climate Assessment is that the costs of climate are here now, and they are only going to get worse. We’re going to see more hurricanes and floods. Global warming has worsened heat waves and wildfires.

    But last year’s National Climate Assessment on extreme weather tells a different story. As University of Colorado Boulder professor Roger Pielke Jr. pointed out in a Twitter thread in August 2017, there were no increases in drought, no increases in frequency or magnitude of floods, no trends in frequency or intensity of hurricanes, and “low confidence for a detectable human climate change contribution in the Western United States based on existing studies.”

  4. It relies on energy taxes which are a costly non-solution.  

    Through the use of the wildly pessimistic "Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5" and the wildly exaggerated costs, the authors of the report are clearly trying to drive readers to the conclusion that the costs of inaction (10 percent of America’s GDP) dwarf the costs of any climate policy.

    The reality, however, is that policies endorsed to combat climate change would carry significant costs and would do nothing to mitigate warming, even if there were a looming catastrophe like the National Climate Association says. Which there is precious little evidence to support. 

Two articles in the New York Mullet Wrapper Times: Last January, it was OK to say the forest management practices that left 100 million dead trees on the ground could cause a horrifying wildfire season.  In November, after the worst of those wildfires it suddenly was no longer acceptable to say forest management might be a problem, but it was thought critically important to quibble over the wording of the president's tweets.

In the land of uncomfortable truths is this fact: virtually no country on Earth is meeting its Paris Accord obligations.  Here's another one:  the US is now the global leader at reducing its emissions even though we didn't sign the accords.   Possibly the most uncomfortable truth of all:  if all of the dire assumptions and models in the Climate Change camp are applied, the Paris accords result in a net temperature change of 0.05C by 2100.  The current NOAA procedure rounds the high and low temperature to the nearest whole degree Fahrenheit (0.55°C, a value eleven times greater than the .05°C savings Paris offers).  That means the effect of Paris would be undetectable.  There are no words for how preposterous I find this. 

From The One Graph Every Discussion About the Paris Climate Treaty Needs to Include: here.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Media Criticizes Melania Over WH Christmas Decorations

Acting as if there isn't a staff responsible for the White House, and Melania personally chooses every aspect of every decoration, the media criticized her for the choice of red decorations this year.   Some twit on Twitter said it was reminiscent of the outfits from A Handmaid's Tale, which is apparently something they see everywhere this year.  (Project much?)  You might recall that they criticized her last year for her choice of white decorations.  No, there isn't a color theme she could have chosen that wouldn't draw criticism.
Mainstream media outlets such as The Washington Post, USA Today, Time, HuffPost, San Francisco Chronicle and Vice all mocked the decorations, often masking their disdain by focusing on the backlash of trolls on social media.
The Babylon Bee points out that she was criticized for decorating the White House with the skulls of their enemies.
While past first ladies have decorated the White House with traditional Christmas wreaths, trees, holly, and lights, Trump opted to mount the heads of her slain foes throughout the executive residence "as a warning."

"Did she go too far?" one pundit on CNN pondered. "I gotta say, these heads don't exactly say 'peace' and 'love' like a good, old-fashioned wreath would, you know?"

Pressed about whether skulls presented enough holiday cheer and festive spirit, the First Lady commented, "The skulls bring out the festive joy of the holiday season in our decor. We're reminded to treasure what we have when we see the skulls of our conquered foes every time we walk through these sacred halls."  She paused and added, "It's all to point us to the reason for the season."

And what's the reason for the season?
"To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women," she stated.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Offered Without (Much) Comment

Because there isn't much to add.  The article pretty much says it all.  Hat tip to the Blaze PM newsletter:
Yale study: White liberals use ‘less competent’ language with blacks — but conservatives don’t
Cue the tape of Hillary saying "I don't feel no ways tired", pandering to a black church in 2007.

The study is published psychology research by Cydney H. Dupree, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management and summarized in Yale Insights.
According to new research by Cydney Dupree, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Yale SOM, white liberals tend to downplay their own verbal competence in exchanges with racial minorities, compared to how other white Americans act in such exchanges. The study is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

While many previous studies have examined how people who hold racial bias behave in multi-racial settings, few have studied how whites who are more well-intentioned interact with people of other races. “There’s less work that explores how well-intentioned whites try to get along with racial minorities,” Dupree says. “We wanted to know their strategies for increasing connections between members of different social groups—and how effective these strategies are.”

The team found that Democratic candidates used fewer competence-related words in speeches delivered to mostly minority audiences than they did in speeches delivered to mostly white audiences. The difference wasn’t statistically significant in speeches by Republican candidates, though “it was harder to find speeches from Republicans delivered to minority audiences,” Dupree notes. There was no difference in Democrats’ or Republicans’ usage of words related to warmth. “It was really surprising to see that for nearly three decades, Democratic presidential candidates have been engaging in this predicted behavior.”
Could it be that until very recently Republicans didn't speak to minority audiences because they weren't invited and didn't expect to be able to get more than 1% of those voters to even consider listening to them, anyway?

In another experiment, they tried to test how white participants would speak to a hypothetical or presumed-real interaction partner. They were assigned someone to compose an email to:
For half of these participants, their partner was given a stereotypically white name (such as “Emily”); for the other half, their partner was given a stereotypically black name (such as “Lakisha”). Participants were asked to select from a list of words for an email to their partner. For some studies, this email was for a work-related task; for others, this email was simply to introduce themselves. Each word had been previously scored on how warm or competent it appears.

The researchers found that liberal individuals were less likely to use words that would make them appear highly competent when the person they were addressing was presumed to be black rather than white. No significant differences were seen in the word selection of conservatives based on the presumed race of their partner. “It was kind of an unpleasant surprise to see this subtle but persistent effect,” Dupree says. “Even if it’s ultimately well-intentioned, it could be seen as patronizing.”
Down here in the south, when we're faced with a patronizing person, we tend to say, "bless her heart" (or his or their).

So the article's takeaway is that liberals tended to talk down to minorities when addressing them, while conservatives didn't.  Which is to say the liberals attribute less intelligence and less accomplishment to minorities, so they crank back their obviously superior intellect to talk to the inferior minorities.  Conservatives tended to talk to minorities as if they're simply other people and should be treated as equals. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Old School NASA vs. New Woke NASA

The contrast is giving me whiplash.  Nausea.

This afternoon, I watched the live feed of the Insight probe landing on Mars.  It was classic JPL - on one of their great days.  Every milestone clicking off on schedule, everything going right.  Every minor milestone caused the controllers at their terminals to applaud for a few seconds.  Finally the call that landing was verified, and there was quite a bit more celebration.

That was followed a few minutes later by the first photo from the lander. When the live video coverage shut down, everything had happened on schedule and it looked great.  NASA has successfully soft-landed a vehicle on the Red Planet eight times.  It has always been difficult, but JPL makes it look like they know what they're doing - because they do.  Even though they've done it more than any other group, JPL has lost craft on the way to Mars and a landing.

The contrast, though, comes from a set of articles linked by the Blaze this morning.  It seems the New Woke NASA scientists think ‘exploration’ is ‘problematic’ and oppose Mars missions like this one:
Adler astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz is the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, not to mention a guest star (as herself) on National Geographic’s Mars TV series. Cosmologist Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is with Department of Physics at the University of Washington, and fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. And together they are, counter-intuitively, not so keen on the exploration or colonization of Mars.

In fact, the very word “exploration” is inherently “problematic”, they would have us believe, as detailed in a panel discussion published at Gizmodo last week. It was highlighted Sunday by Powerline, with the observation that “if these folks had been with NASA in the 1960s, we’d have never made it to the moon.” That may seem like a snarky insult on the part of Powerline, but in fact it’s precisely the point that the scientists made.
It seems that they feel we have no right to explore Mars, and any such thoughts should focus on social justice for Martian inhabitants.  Inhabitants?  What inhabitants?  Personally, I think that missions from the first Viking landers in 1976 through the most recent missions show that Mars is a sterile planet; or perhaps we could say the probability that microbes exist on the planet is vanishingly small (1 in 10^-10 to PFA a number). 

(Astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz of National Geographic's 'Mars' at The Beacon Theater on November 14, 2018 in New York City. - Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for National Geographic)

The two were also featured in Gizmodo in a piece called "Decolonizing Mars" (is the publicity the two are getting what it's all about?)   I find the phrase puzzling: there are no colonies on Mars to "decolonize".  There are several probes, thoroughly sterilized before launch, on the surface, but no colonies to "decolonize" and bring the settlers home from.  Still the rhetoric we get from these two talks about indigenous peoples rights and other things that just don't seem to fit the situation at all.
Walkowicz: In my work, I’ve been thinking about issues around how we talk about going to Mars, and plans that people make for what they want to do when they get there—whether it’s living on Mars, doing scientific research and trying to figure out its history, or corporate interest in mining or resource extraction of any kind.

There are a variety of scientific reasons why human presence might make certain investigations easier on Mars. But I’m disturbed by the way people talk about going to Mars as if the planet is ours... When we talk about terraforming, that’s a planetary-scale strip mining operation. If you transform a planetary environment, even if you think you know how to do it, that represents a total alteration of the chemistry and physics of the planet, which means you may erase the history of life that might be there.
I can’t give you an example of what a decolonized Mars looks like, but it starts by having multidisciplinary conversations about the things that happen here on Earth. I often give examples of Standing Rock as an Earth-based example of interests colliding, where you have indigenous people opposing a large-scale project that, much like space exploration, features cooperation between private industry and the government...

Prescod-Weinstein: I’m trying to think carefully about what our relationship to Mars should be, and whether we can avoid reproducing deeply entrenched colonial behaviors as we seek to better understand our Solar System. This includes thinking about why our language for developing understandings of environments that are new to us tends to still be colonial: “colonizing Mars” and “exploring” and “developing,” for example. These are deeply fraught terms that have traditionally referred to problematic behaviors by imperialists with those that we would call “indigenous” and “people of color” often on the receiving end of violent activities.
When I first read that piece in the Blaze this morning, my reaction was to say we need to just shut down NASA entirely.  If that's what became of the agency that was so good in the 1960s, they've outlived their usefulness.  Shut them down and sell the assets to the highest bidders.  DOD or private industry.  Other countries - if there's no security risk.  Then I watched the landing and it brought back memories of the good old days.  They do know what they're doing!  They're not all about Muslim outreach!  Now I don't know what to do.  Does NASA stay or get zeroed out? 

Wait!  I found an image of an indigenous Martian on a rare trip to Earth!  This must be what the woke NASA scientists were thinking of!  I have to reexamine all my thoughts about this.

Original Chuck Jones artwork from.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

I See Market Distortions and Dysfunctions - Part 2

The emphasis of part 1 centered on how the government money ends up influencing the costs of virtually everything in the healthcare sector.  In having an infinite checkbook, because government spending isn't constrained by anything real, they can pay whatever they want toward healthcare.  The graphs shown and linked to tell the story that the US government spending on healthcare per capita is the fourth highest in the world, but the government's spending as a percentage of total spending on healthcare, the US ranks near the bottom.  That just means private sector spending in the US, mostly the insurance plans most Americans get through their jobs, is higher than in the countries with very large government healthcare systems.

Still, the government requirements for what insurance must cover and how much Medicare pays for specific expenses impose some of the cost inflation in the medical system.

The infinite checkbook distortion applies to education, too.  The data I have is 10 years old, and while I've used it before, searches for an update have yet to yield something newer.  At that time, college tuition rose at about 3 times the regularly cited cost of living.

From John Uebersax on Creative Commons (Wikimedia).

The explanation for how government money causes this is straightforward "supply and demand".  There are only so many seats in the colleges, and the demand exceeds the supply.  In a normal market, that means price rises until demand falls; some number of people would say that's overpriced and find another way around the problem.  If the majority of people decide to go around college, tuition will start to come down.  Colleges find they can charge whatever they want because government guaranteed financial aid pays for it.  Right now, there's a limited supply of seats compared to the demand, and the public demands those government loans.  Politically, we can't ration or cut money for college loans and grants because that be mean, if not hateful.  It would deprive some poor underprivileged student of their chance - their chance to take out an enormous loan on a bet they'll be able to pay it back.

There's a tremendous push for free college, or at least free community college. That will make the situation worse. Those calling for free community college assert that since current community college graduates appear to have an increased value in the job market, we should create more of them.  This shows complete ignorance of the law of supply and demand.  If people coming out of community college make more than high school graduates it's because they're thought to be worth the cost to employers.  To create more CC graduates is to reduce their differential value and drive the wages down. 

Simply stated, if everyone goes to community college, there's nothing to distinguish the community college graduates and an Associates degree becomes functionally the same as a high school diploma.  It's already regularly referred to as 13th and 14th grade, "free college" will formalize that.

Extra credit question: will "free college through a bachelor's degree increase or decrease the differential pay of bachelor's degree holders?"  Same principle: more graduates would drive the pay differential down.  It will have less effect on Masters degree holders, and a graduate degree will functionally take over the role of the bachelor's degree in society.  

In all cases the government's fiat currency and infinite checkbook combine to distort the costs and benefits. It's as predictable as the sunrise.

As some wise guy said, if you think it's expensive now, wait til it's free.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

I See Market Distortions and Dysfunctions

Almost everywhere I look, I see non functional markets: education, health care; the financial sides of almost everything.  The cause is always the same: big government.  In particular, the financial distortions that come from our constantly inflating monetary supply and the policies around it.

This was initially prompted by the coincidental combination of an article on Bayou Renaissance Man "Putting health-care costs under the microscope" and one from FEE (the Foundation for Economic Education), "The Idea That the US Has a "Free Market" Health Care System Is Pure Fantasy".

In the latest campaign season, I don't think we went two days without hearing someone advocating "Medicare for All", or "Single payer healthcare".  In a stunning departure from normal political discourse, CEO of the Democratic National Committee Seema Nanda was surprisingly honest.  Nanda admitted she had no idea how to pay for it.
Nanda was asked at a Yahoo Finance summit how Democrats plan to pay for the “very expensive … $3 trillion a year” Medicare-for-all plan that Democratic candidates ran on in the 2018 midterm elections.
“Your answer is I don’t know how we’re going to get there but these are all big conversations we need to be engaged in,” Nanda said.
The impression we get is that we're in a wolves' den of terrible free market forces where providers charge whatever they want and kill off their patients (the two don't seem to go together).  The problem is we aren't in a free market for medical care, with very few exceptions.  We have a bastardized system where the people who pay for the product aren't the ones most affected by it.   Healthcare is paid for by brokers (insurance companies) who skim off a percentage for themselves.  People paying for that insurance pay not just for coverages they want and need, but they pay for many others because lobbyists get congress to mandate all insurance plans cover their favorite expenses; everything from sex change treatments to addiction treatments to other psychological treatments.  Devoted teetotalers are required to pay for addiction treatment coverage.  Families beyond the child bearing years or with no desire or interest in having children pay for maternity coverage. 

Medical costs are scary.  One of the reasons they're so scary are the market distortions we see throughout the medical world.  Almost regardless of what you can save in your life (assuming you're not in the billionaire class), you can be wiped out at the end of your life by the costs of treating your final problems.  This makes people sensitive to the idea of a "safety net" and this is where the interest in things like Medicare for All comes from.  
But let's face it.  A great many voters, whether Republican or Democrat, want to hear the magic words "safety net" when it comes to health care. This is why even voters in Idaho, voted to—as they saw it — expand the health care safety net.
As far as public spending as portion of total healthcare spending, the US is pretty low on the list, however the per capita US government healthcare spending is fourth highest in the world, behind only Norway, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. With the government having a practically infinite checkbook (they just create more debt out of thin air), it essentially doesn't matter how much it costs, because the supply of money rises to meet the demand.

If you want to see a graphical representation of "things that can't go on won't go on", look at this plot of the growth of healthcare spending vs. GDP growth.  Healthcare spending is going up about 4x the GDP.  Where can the money to pay for even continuing the current expense rates come from?  Aside from that, how can anyone argue the practically infinite checkbook of the doesn't add price pressure upwards? 

The point of the article (from Mises Institute and excerpted at FEE) is that the idea that claims we have some sort of free market health care nightmare are false.  We haven't had a market in health care in a really long time, if ever.  With insurance structured as it is, patient and provider never negotiate or agree on prices.  With very few exceptions, providers don't post prices, so you can't shop around for the best value in a doctor, hospital, or whatever.  In general, if you tried to find out what a procedure would cost at a hospital, you'd never find someone who could tell you the cost because nobody knows.  Most patients don't care what it costs as long as the insurance pays for it. They never seem to equate the cost of their insurance premiums with part of the cost of the medical procedures.

I have to believe free market reforms would help immensely, mainly because there's a handful of places where free market principles are already working.  In his usual, bombastic style, Denninger talks about some of this at Market Ticker
When it comes to surgeries (Hospital Part "A" stuff) may I point to The Surgery Center of Oklahoma which routinely, even when it has to buy supplies and drugs at monopolist prices which are 100-500% or more of a market price, manages to undercut the local hospital in your town by that very same 80% I cited as necessary?  Were they able to buy supplies and drugs at market prices it would likely be 90%.  Oh, and you're one twentieth as likely to acquire an infection in said surgery center as your local hospital because they can't bill you for the cost of fixing their own mistakes and as a result they're far more-careful than your local hospital is.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Science Story of the Year So Far

I was reading other people's blogs today, and both Bayou Renaissance Man and Borepatch had stories that made me want to do a serious blog post about important things.

And then I got an email today about a scientific fact and exploration of how it works that are without a doubt the biggest science story of the year.

Wombats poop little cubes, about 3/4" on a side.  I did not know that.  You Aussies can laugh at me now, but I've never seen a wombat in person before, and certainly never seen their poop.  The story is about a group that researched and discovered exactly how cubical poop is formed.  As the friend who sent me the email said, "when you read this, you'll shit a brick".  Well, the wombats will.

Derek the wombat at 8 months old.  Derek was rescued from his mother's pouch after she was hit by a car in December 2015.  It doesn't say if Derek is still alive, or what the life expectancy of a wombat is.
The wombat, native to Australia, produces about 80 to 100 cubes of poop each night. It is known to deposit piles of dung outside burrows and on top of rocks and logs, most likely to communicate with other wombats, researchers believe.

"Wombats have really strong sense of smell that they use probably for communication," said University of Tasmania wildlife ecologist Scott Carver, who co-authored the study. "We don't know what that information they're sharing is, but it might be something about mating, it might be something about general advertising about who's in the area."

It is thought that the cubed shape of the poop means it is less likely that it will roll away, and is prominent for other individuals to notice and smell, Carver added.
Less likely to roll away?  Do wombats only poop on steep inclines or hills?  I suppose it's a plausible explanation, but exactly how they could extrude cubical poop when every other species ever observed extrudes more or less cylindrical poop was never understood.  Then the article runs what I think is my favorite sentence of the last year, or more:
Researchers, led by the Georgia Institute of Technology's Patricia Yang, said they have uncovered the digestive processes behind the mystery and presented their findings at the 71st Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics in Atlanta on Sunday.
The American Physical Society is about as prestigious an academic society as there is.  I bet nobody there had another APS paper on poop formation, though. 
To solve the puzzle, the team examined the digestive tracts of wombats that had to be euthanized following vehicle collisions in Tasmania, Australia.

The wombat takes about two weeks to digest its food and researchers found that as faeces move into the final 8% of the intestine, it changes from a liquid-like state into solid matter. At that stage the dung takes on the shape of separated cubes measuring about two centimeters in length.

"The weird thing is that if you open up a wombat you actually find that the cubes become formed in the lower part of the intestine, before they exit the body," Carver said.

By inflating the intestine with a long balloon, the researchers found that the wombats' intestine walls stretch unevenly, allowing for the formation of the cube shapes.

"The local strain varies from 20% at the cube's corners to 75% at its edges," the team said.

"Basically around the circumference [of the intestine], there are some parts that are more stretchy and some parts that are more stiff," Carver said. "And that is what creates the edges and the cubing."
There ya go, if you'll pardon the expression.  The wombats' intestinal walls are stretchier in some place and stiffer and others; exactly what you'd need if you were trying to design a system to extrude cubes. 

As I understand natural selection and evolutionary theory, a trait survives to become dominant in a species if it offers survival advantage - or comes along with other genes that do offer survival advantage.  That means the cubical poop must be important to the wombat - not in the sense of wildlife bar bets like saying "I bet you can't poop a cube like I can"; it has to increase the chance of surviving and mating.  Perhaps, at some point, some proto-wombat ancestor dude got to mate more because the proto-wombat ancestor babes were impressed with their cubical poop.  "I was going to pair up with Jeffy, but Todd poops these beautiful little cubes!"  Maybe cubical poop was thought to be so cute that the wombats who could produce it got all the girls and the ability spread through the wombat population like wildfire.  Or you could say God has a sense of humor.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving! It's a Convenient Breaking Point

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  As is virtually always the case, no blogging tomorrow as I take the day to go down to visit my brother in South Florida.  He always does up a big Thanksgiving spread and it's good to get together.

What do I mean by "convenient breaking point"?  Do you recall me mentioning adding a different optical sensor to my CNC lathe, with the ultimate goal of having that do all my little threading jobs?  I've spent the time since then modeling and then making the parts to make it happen.  I changed the approach I was planning to use; instead of mounting the sensor on a metal bracket attached to the lathe headstock, I've moved the mounting to the plywood base the lathe sits on.  Today, I completed all the parts and test mounted them.  The real mounting, wiring, and getting it all working starts after the break, possibly Saturday.  (A description of the disk, the sensor (in turquoise) and how this all works was back in late October.  Third paragraph up from the end.)

The lathe and all the parts on it were a CAD model I got from somewhere long ago (like 2004 or '05).  Every dimension I've checked is accurate, and now I need to double check dimensions on a piece or two of mine because it ends up being too short and interfering with something.

This is a test fit.  I'll use it to mark up the bottom of the flat-bottomed U-shaped piece and the plywood to mount this to the plywood base.  Then starts the wiring and the process of convincing the controller software to do what I want.

All five of the pieces together.  The large U bracket was done on the big mill while the two rotationally symmetric parts were done on the micro mill rotary table.  To hold the hub and disk (left) on the small rotary table, required a special tool that I had to make yesterday

Ignore the two short cylinders at the top of this frame.  Those are a graphite and a cold rolled steel version of the pistons for my Duclos flame eater engine.  Just extra pars (junk) now.

However you spend your Thanksgiving, I wish you the best.  Take some time to be deliberately thankful - even for the troubles of life.  Yeah, being grateful for troubles sounds odd, but it sure seems in retrospect that growth occurs in response to trouble, not in response to idyllic wonderfulness.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Arriving at Mars Monday the 26th

The US' Insight Martian lander is set to land on the red planet this coming Monday at around 12 noon Pacific time (3PM Eastern).  The mission was planned so that with a launch on any day of a window stretching from last May 5 through June 8, the landing would be on Monday the 26th.  That means that every path would be slightly different, but in broad strokes, the mission would launch while Earth is closing on Mars in our inner orbit and then pass Mars by the time the probe lands.

The probe itself is the first mission of its kind.  While previous probes were primarily aimed at determining the presence or possibility of life, this one has a totally different sort of mission: to investigate the geology of Mars.
The mission of NASA’s newest space probe lives up to its acronym of a name, Insight: Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat. Overall, its goals are to 1) understand the formation and evolution of terrestrial planets by investigating the interior structures and processes of Mars; and 2) determine the current levels of tectonic and meteorite impact activity on Mars.

To get to these goals, Insight will determine or measure:
  • The thickness and structure of Mar’s crust.
  • The composition and structure of its mantle.
  • The size, composition, and physical state of its core.
  • The thermal state of its interior.
  • The rate and geographic distribution of any seismic activity.
  • The rate of meteorite impacts on the surface.
The lander is equipped with appropriate probes for this work, which (of course) are things that have never been flown before: a seismometer  and a probe that's deployed 10 feet into the soil to sense heat flow and other physical properties.  Heat sensors on the probe can measure temperature differences as small as 0.02°F. A spring-loaded tungsten block will hammer the probe down into the ground, taking an estimated 5,000 to 20,000 strokes at one stroke every 3.6 sec (5 to 20 hours worth of hammering).  Data from the probe will give astronomers a way to assess the planet’s interior energy and its dissipation.

(The Insight spacecraft was built at Lockheed Martin Space's facility in Denver, Colorado)  

The surface of the probe is studded with other sensors as well.  More details a both Machine Design and the Mission home page

A very novel aspect of this mission is that there are actually three probes on the way to Mars: insight and two smaller Mars Cube Ones (MarCO) spacecraft, each measuring 14.4 × 9.5 × 4.6 in.  The satellites are now a few thousand miles or so behind Insight on their own trajectories under their own propulsion and steering.  They each carry high-gain antennas and a compact radio, enabling them to communicate with Earth from up to 93 million miles away. The Cube Ones will be relaying data from Insight to Earth during probe’s the descent and landing phases. They also have cameras and have taken and sent images back to Earth during the flight. 

NASA will provide coverage of the Insight landing, streamed live on YouTube here.  

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Long Florida Nightmare is Over

The long recount nightmare is over, and it's not quite two weeks since it started. 

Today, Matt Caldwell (R) conceded the election for Agriculture Commissioner to Nikki Fried (D) - I honestly don't know if that's pronounced "Freed", like set free, or "Fried" like fried chicken.  The Orlando Sentinel says in that linked article that Caldwell was the only statewide GOP candidate to lose. 

All I really had against her could be summed up in a description that's easy to put together out of her campaign website: "she's a liberal, activist, big city lawyer".  In her campaign, Fried promised to make the focus of her administration pushing medical marijuana and opposing the NRA.  I don't think her office has anything in particular to do with the state's medical marijuana law that was passed two years ago, and as close as she can get to the mythical NRA liberals complain about is that her office manages the concealed carry licenses for the state.  I'm not sure how badly she can screw it up, but I have confidence she can find a way.  

I assume you heard that over the weekend, the recount of the state's governor's race changed the margin between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum by one vote.  Gillum conceded for the second time on Saturday. 

And in what was probably the most talked about race, Governor Rick Scott maintained enough lead over incumbent Senator Bill Nelson that Nelson conceded for the second time on Sunday.  Bill Nelson was a lifer in elected office, starting his career as a state representative in 1972.

While I view the governor's race as the one with the largest impact on my day to day life as "a Florida man", the Agriculture Commissioner's office has a lot of responsibilities beyond agriculture and those aspects could impact daily life.  They're officially called the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  In addition to the concealed weapons license, they're responsible for checks on weights and measures, including grocery store scales and gasoline pumps, and they support agriculture, forestry, water quality and more. 

The sense of dread emanating from Broward and Palm Beach counties is starting to fade away, and I'm starting to feel as comfortable as on election night, before the Wednesday when it all went sideways.  Sigh of relief. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

50 Years Ago, The Population Bomb Dropped

The book by Paul Ehrlich, that is.  First published in May of 1968, I was 14, I recall it being talked about widely and seriously.  It was by a scientist after all.  The Stanford University biology professor famously claimed that population growth would result in resource depletion and the starvation of hundreds of millions of people.  I recall conversations about "hamburger wars" as people fought to the death for dwindling supplies of food.
Ehrlich prophesied that hundreds of millions would starve to death in the 1970s (and that 65 million of them would be Americans), that already-overpopulated India was doomed, and that most probably “England will not exist in the year 2000.”

In conclusion, Ehrlich warned that “sometime in the next 15 years, the end will come,” meaning “an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity.”
Doomsday prophesy sells, and doomsday from someone with a handful of letters after their name (MS, PhD etc.) sells even better.  The future didn't turn out quite as dismally as Ehrlich suggested; he famously lost a bet where he picked a "basket of commodities" and bet that these five metals would go up in price in 10 years (1980 to 1990) - they declined in price an average of 57.6% while the  population increased.  Nevertheless, he influenced a generation or two of policy makers.

I've written about these predictions many times, but the one that I always think of first was from June, 2013.  It starts with a simple idea.  First off, I recall hearing around 25 or 30 years ago that the entire population of the world would fit in Jacksonville, Florida, without resorting to high rise apartments: just the square feet of Jacksonville divided by the number of people.  It would be highly impractical, each person only gets about a 2' by 2' square, but did you ever think the entire population of the world would fit in a single American city?  As I said at that time:
According to the Wiki, the area of the state of Florida is 65,755 square miles.  Given the 7 billion people in the world, if you spread them evenly across the state, every person in the world would get 261.9 square feet.  That's not a big room (unless you're in NYC), and small by US standards, but generous compared to much of the world.
Certainly the population of the world would fit in the southeast states.  The graphic I used in 2013 takes the population of the world and puts them into a living area that matches the population density of six example cities.

If we housed every single person on earth with the population density of Paris, they would fit into the area of three states: Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.  If we used the population density of New York City, the entire population of Earth could fit into the area of Texas.  Likewise if we used the more generous suburban spread of Houston, the whole population of the planet would fit in the middle states of America shown in that dark orange, bottom right.

Yes this is a mental exercise, but for city dwellers who have never been in places where you can go hours without seeing another person (or drive without seeing another car), it has to be shocking.  

Paul Ehrlich wasn't the first to advance this sort of idea.  I immediately thought of Thomas Malthus in the early 1800s but have read the idea goes back much farther.  According to Marian Tupy being quoted at FEE (the Foundation for Economic Education).
Depletionism has a long pedigree that goes back to the Atra-Hasis, an 18th-century BC epic in which the Babylonian gods deemed the world too crowded and unleashed a famine to fix the “problem.” Confucius, Plato, Tertullian, Saint Jerome, and Giovanni Botero revisited the issue over the succeeding centuries.
Ehrlich's credentials caused him to influence policy makers around the world.  Ehrlich advocated for mass sterilization, sex-selective abortion, and infanticide - tell me he didn't get his wish - and in his drive for radical population control, Ehrlich said he would prefer “voluntary methods” but if people were unwilling to cooperate, he was ready to endorse “various forms of coercion.” Look at China, where their “one child” policy has led to massive amounts of abortions and abandonment of girls; today 12 boys are born for every 10 girls.  How many Chinese girls have been adopted into the West? 
To allow women to have as many children as they want, Ehrlich said, is like letting people “throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor’s backyard as they want.”
It's hard to get through the block heads of the modern socialists (cough - Occasional Cortex) just how much better life is today than even a hundred years ago.  The average person has things in their house that the richest royalty in the world couldn't have had in 1900; and I'm not just talking about the computer or whatever you're reading this on.  Clean running water, public sanitation and antibiotics are miracles, brought about by the intellect of man, and, yes, to some degree by the free and open markets.  Pneumonia?  The killer scourge in past centuries?  The antibiotics are free at Publix.

Yes we live on a finite planet.  Yes, we can't pave it over like Coruscant in the Star Wars movies.  The thing that the anti-progress people like Ehrlich or that 1800 BC Babylonian author never seem to grasp is that human ingenuity is the most powerful resource on Earth.  Time after time, humanity has faced environmental problems or shortages and figured out ways around them.  

The history of the human race is a history of using that ingenuity to improvise, adapt, and overcome.  It's not a smooth continuum but things get better.  In the long term, that's always true.  Last words to Marian Tupy at FEE:
To quote the British historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, “On what principle is it that with nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?”


Saturday, November 17, 2018

3D Printing Metal Parts Without A Metal Printer

There's no doubt that 3D printing as an industry continues to grow, and the technology is pushing into all sorts of new areas.  Solid Concepts printed the first full metal 1911 in 2013, using a process called Direct Laser Sintering in which a laser heats a metal-bearing powder causing the metal to melt and flow in a layer.
[see video ] [I]in overview, the machine contains a tub of a specially formulated powdered metal, and the laser heat is used to fuse particles of the powder into solid metal. The tub is lowered a small increment (.001"?) and the powder re-leveled, allowing the laser to sinter the next layer.  Layer by layer the part is built up until the final shape is there.  Post-processing - clean up, heat treating, and finishing - is required.
It's cool, but it shouldn't be the only way to get metal gun parts using a 3D printer.

Do you have a class ring from school?  How about other commercial jewelry?  The vast majority of commercial jewelry is made through a process called lost wax casting (overview here), in which a wax model of the jewelry piece is embedded in a ceramic mix which is fired to harden the ceramic (called investment) and then further heated until the wax melts and runs or burns out of the mold - where the wax is "lost" in lost wax casting.  Finally, the metal is cast into the cavity in the ceramic which is identical size and shape to the initial wax model.  The technique is also widely used in manufacturing of many things. 

There are thousands of home hobbyists who cast silver or gold jewelry at home (or in a club or Makerspace environment), and these metals melt at high temperatures.  Sterling melts at 1640 F, while pure silver melts at 1761 F.  Pure gold melts at 1945F, and different karat gold mixes melt at lower temperatures.  By contrast, aluminum melts at 1220 F but iron melts much hotter: 2802.  For any engineering use, you should check the melting point of the alloy, but the point is that the process is certainly compatible with aluminum alloys, and with the right torch (to get that higher melting point), casting steels seems to be within reach.

But what about the mold?  A few minutes of searching found three different videos showing plastics designed for 3d Printing molds that will be cast in metal.

Moldlay filament is used in this video, which features a home made printer designed to be easy to put together.

MachinableWax's Print2Cast printing filament specifically made for metal casting 3d printed models is introduced in this video.

Wrapping up these there is PolyCast™, another filament designed specifically for the metal casting industry; and the video demonstrates what the industrial process looks like.  

I'm deliberately avoiding the subject of green sand casting molds made from wood or other things in the shop; this sort of casting is part of a lot of home shops.  This is just concentrating on  3D printing.  Because of the flail about 3D printed guns.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Is A New Grand Solar Minimum Upon Us?

That's the prediction Dr. Valentina Zharkova advances in a presentation of her "Climate and the Solar Magnetic Field Hypothesis" presentation at the Global Warming Policy Foundation in October, 2018.

Dr. Zharkova's work has appeared here before, with the first time in 2015 predicting a decline in solar activity to Maunder minimum levels last seen in the Little Ice Age.
Their predictions using the model suggest an interesting longer-term trend beyond the 11-year cycle. It shows that solar activity will fall by 60 percent during the 2030s, to conditions last seen during the Maunder Minimum of 1645-1715. 
Some link somewhere led me to a summary of Dr. Zharkova's talk over at Signs of the Times (SOTT) which says:
The information she unveiled should shake/wake you up.

Zharkova was one of the few that correctly predicted solar cycle 24 would be weaker than cycle 23 - only 2 out of 150 models predicted this.

Her models have run at a 93% accuracy and her findings suggest a Super Grand Solar Minimum is on the cards beginning 2020 and running for 350-400 years.
There are two videos of her presentation; the short "highlight" video is 20 minutes long and the long one is an over an hour and a half (93 minutes - the last 33 are a rambling Q&A that's not worth much).  Watch the long one; the 20 minute video is very low content density - almost content free.  Having watched her talk, I think the last sentence in that quote from SOTT misinterprets something she said.  She didn't say the next minimum would be starting in 2020 and running 350-400 years, she said there's a cycle of grand minima that occur on roughly 350-400 year intervals (time mark 53:40 in the video shows it).  The solar minimum that we appear to be going into is expected to last from "2020 to 2053". 

Dr. Zharkova's work is on the solar dynamo, the magnetic fields that create virtually everything we see on the sun.  It began by observing the sun and attempting to come up with a model to explain the patterns we see.  Reviewing this work and trying to see the differences between this and some of her publications which I've talked about in the past, it's very similar to the research published in Nature.  That 2015 prediction was based on two Principal Components measured over perhaps three cycles (~33 years). 

In the current work, she includes more terms of the Principle Components, four terms instead of two.  Adding more terms should produce a better model fit.  (A familiar example might be using more terms in a construction of a square wave by adding Fourier series components.  If you use two sine wave harmonics, it doesn't look square at all, but as more terms are added, the wave you're constructing gets more square.)

While we've all heard on stock market service commercials the disclaimer that, "past results do not guarantee future performance", I'm inclined to weight Dr. Zharkova's team's predictions favorably based on her predictions about this cycle.  The strong part of her predictions is this track record.  The weak part is that while it's a smart, modern technique from Digital Signal Processing, it still depends on observations from a short period of time.  While it matches these observations well,  I still don't know how well it can be extrapolated over thousands of years.  She makes comparisons to ancient sunspot observations, and the predictions and observations are in agreement, but the data to compare predictions to is very sparse.  One observation every couple of solar cycles isn't much of a test.

My usual way of looking at predictions like this has always been that I'm wary of predictions for another Maunder minimum on general principles.  It was both severe and at the dawn of solar observation.  We simply don't have detailed data of anything before the Maunder that we can compare current conditions to.

Dr. Zharkova does predict that weather is likely to become colder due to the solar minimum, and then adds in the motion of the sun in the solar system, the Milankovich cycles. She says emphatically and repeatedly that she's not a climate scientist, she's a solar physicist, which sounds to me like, "I'm not a climate scientist; I'm a real scientist".  That's worth a few points, itself.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Time to Start Paying Attention to DC Again

Better worded as "time to start paying attention to the attention whores".  At least keep an eye on them.

Hat tip to Miguel at Gun Free Zone for an article on, and link to the text of, the first of what will certainly be many attempts at gun control bills, HR1175 introduced by New Joisey Democrat Frank Pallone.  My gut feeling is that this might pass the house on a straight party line vote and then will be shuffled under a desk in the senate and never see the light of day - if the Senate has any sense and the President doesn't try to push it like he did banning bump stocks.  However, as someone said, "never underestimate the ability of Republicans in groups to do stupid things".

The bill is going after the ability to build a gun from parts by banning basically everything. The bill is called: the “3–D Firearms Prohibitions Act” but that's a lie.  The only place 3D Firearms are ever mentioned is in the title.  It's about outlawing the ability to build or repair your own guns.  

The first section is titled:  Do-it-yourself assault weapon ban,” and it takes the approach of declaring gun parts as banned hazardous products under section 8 of the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2057). They include any "firearm receiver casting or firearm receiver blank or unfinished handgun frame", which they specify is not actually a gun, but that "after purchase by a consumer, can be completed by the consumer to the point at which such casting or blank functions as a firearm frame or receiver for a semiautomatic assault weapon or machinegun or the frame of a handgun."  Note this wipes out not only the entire 80% AR lower market, and the newborn 80% handgun market, but it also wipes out the much smaller market for "0% lowers". 

 Then they go into destroying the sales of parts for guns by adding that "An assault weapon parts kit. or  a machinegun parts kit," are hazardous products and are to be banned as well, when they add the definition:
the term “assault weapon parts kit” means any part or combination of parts designed and intended to enable a consumer who possesses all such necessary parts to assemble a semiautomatic assault weapon;
Any part means any part, from a replacement sight to replacement stock or barrel, or anything they so deem.  This would make it illegal to sell replacement triggers, or replacements for each and every spring, pin and metal piece in a fire control group.  Anything. 

The issue with regulating buying parts is that it also makes it impossible to repair your guns, which will make them the only piece of private property you own that you're not allowed to repair.  If every single component has to be serialized and tracked from "cradle to grave", parts get more expensive, probably get harder to find and the industry is probably decimated.   Of course to the guys behind this bill, everything we consider negative is part of their goals.

Oh, when they use the term "semiautomatic assault weapons", they are also specifically talking about pistols and shotguns.  This isn't about ARs and AR pistols, this about anything other than revolvers - or anything beyond single shot black powder.  Anything semiautomatic is lumped into this bill.
(4) the term “semiautomatic assault weapon” means
(A) a semiautomatic rifle or semiautomatic shotgun that has the capacity to accept a detachable ammunition feeding device; or
(B) a semiautomatic pistol that has—
(i) the capacity to accept a detachable ammunition feeding device; and
(ii) any one of the features described in subsection (b);
(6) the term “semiautomatic pistol” means any repeating pistol that utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fixed cartridge case and chamber the next round and requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge;
(8) the term “semiautomatic shotgun” means any repeating shotgun that utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fixed cartridge case and chamber the next round and requires a separate pull of a trigger to fire each cartridge.
There's a lot of space in the bill dedicated to everything getting serialized, and creating agencies of the Federal government that will administer serializing.  As Miguel points out, serial numbers never solve crimes, but they provide traceability and make it easier for the government to know who owns what and that is all they care about come Confiscation day.

This seems largely put together from other old failed laws, unless they've been feverishly working on the bill for the last couple of weeks - but it doesn't look like it was "worked on".  According to the header, it was introduced on November 2nd.  Judging by news reports, it seems the lame duck session has just started, and they're already involved in identity politics wars over Comrade Peloski's bid to be Speaker again.  Seriously, do you guys have any arguments that aren't identity politics or assigning free will and intent to inanimate objects?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

It Looks Like That Indonesian Boeing 737 That Went Down Was Boeing's Fault

Word is breaking today on Ars Technica that the Indonesian Lion Airways Boeing 737 Max that went down two weeks ago was due to failure of a system on which Boeing had released almost no training information.
On November 6, Boeing issued an update to Boeing 737 MAX aircrews. The change, directed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), came because Boeing had never provided guidance to pilots on what to do when part of an updated safety system malfunctioned—the very scenario that the pilots of Indonesia's Lion Air Flight 610 faced on October 29. Not knowing how to correct for the malfunction, the aircrew and their passengers were doomed. All aboard were lost as the aircraft crashed into the Java Sea.

First approved for commercial operation by the FAA on March 8, 2017, the MAX is just beginning to be delivered in large volumes. Lion Air was one of Boeing's primary foreign customers for the MAX, which is also flown by Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and Air Canada. The Lion Air aircraft lost in the accident was virtually brand new, delivered by Boeing in August; this was the first accident involving an aircraft touted for its safety.
In what I can only describe as incredibly shocking, Boeing never told pilots about one key new safety feature—an automated anti-stall system—or how to troubleshoot its failure.

In aviation, the word "stall" doesn't mean what it does in a car.  The engines are running, it's that the aircraft's wings can no longer achieve lift.  An aircraft's wing can only generate lift over a relatively narrow range of angles to the oncoming air, called the angle of attack (AOA).  This graphic, from Ars, illustrates an example.

From the top down, the nose is angled at 6 degrees to the horizontal for cruising.  More lift can be achieved by increasing that angle, which is done by raising the nose, and maximum lift (for this wing) occurs with the aircraft at a 15 degree angle.  The aircraft can go beyond that while maintaining lift but as it does, the lift goes down as the region of separated air gets larger, eventually destroying the ability to lift.  In the right conditions, passengers can see the air separating on the top side of the wing, usually during takeoff, and it appears as fog forming in the area shown as the "separation point" in the middle figure.

The way the original piece said, "Boeing issued an update to Boeing 737 MAX aircrews. The change, directed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)" sounds like an airworthiness directive (AD);  ADs are generally considered serious in the business because they mean the aircraft isn't considered safe to fly unless the subject of the AD is fixed.  The November 6th update raised an outcry from pilots in the US.
Allied Pilots Association spokesperson and 737 captain Dennis Tajer told Reuters that his union members were only informed of a new anti-stall system that had been installed by Boeing on 737 MAX aircraft after the Lion Air crash. “It is information that we were not privy to in training or in any other manuals or materials,” Tajer told Reuters.

Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told Bloomberg, “We don’t like that we weren’t notified.” Southwest has ordered 257 737 MAX aircraft; American has orders for 85 still pending.
In the past, aircraft had manual ways of notifying the pilot that it was going into a stall, by sensing the AOA and when it got into regimes likely to stall, turning on motors that shook the control stick or yoke in the pilot's hands.
But the new system in the 737 uses data from the aircraft's AOA and airspeed sensors to proactively counter pilot error, adjusting the aircraft's controls to push the nose down if the sensors indicate the aircraft could stall.

Initial data from the investigation of the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 indicates that the AOA sensor was providing "erroneous input," according to a Boeing statement. The aircraft had recently had an AOA sensor replaced, and had experienced additional unidentified issues; a maintenance technician was aboard at the time of the crash, but not because of the AOA sensor.

The faulty AOA sensor data may have caused the aircraft's trim system to lower the nose down in order to avoid a stall. This would only occur during manual flight; when in autopilot, the AOA sensor data would not have affected flight controls.
It's worth emphasizing here that the issue is that Boeing never mentioned this system in training materials with the new Max deliveries and nobody in the air crew knew what to do with erroneous AOA data because they were never trained in what to do.  A system the pilot didn't know was on the aircraft failed and caused the aircraft to behave unexpectedly.  

Boeing has apparently released new training materials; materials that should have preceded delivery of the first 737 Max.  The text of the Service Bulletin for the newly delivered Maxes is in the Ars link. 

This one strikes close to home.  I've met a few people in that program at Boeing.  When I retired from Major Avionics Corporation, some of the radios (and radar) for the Max were things I'd designed in the past.  It's hard for me to wrap my head around a screw-up like this. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Farewell to Stan Lee

Stan Lee, probably America's most prolific story teller of the 20th and early 21st century left us today at age 95.  The last I heard, within the last couple of months, he was working on the coming Marvel Cinematic Universe movies currently in the production process.  That tells me it was probably not a long lingering illness.  That's A Good Thing.

To those kind of peripherally familiar with Stan, he was the creator of Spider Man, but he was more than that.  He gave life to a host of story lines in the Marvel comics, many of which have been turned into move franchises.
As the guiding force behind the spectacular rise of Marvel Comics in the 1960s, Lee — and his artistic collaborators — devised characters that broke the mold of conventional comic-book superheroes: No longer were they one-dimensional costumed crusaders who were all good, struggling against villains who were all bad.

Marvel's superheroes, which Lee developed with Marvel artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, battled not only complex villains but also their own personal demons in stories that have been praised for their “wit and subtleties” — ingredients that greatly expanded the appeal and readership of comic books.
But the character that Marvel had the most success with was Spider-Man, which Lee and Ditko introduced in August 1962.

Spider-Man's alter ego, Peter Parker, was a bookish and alienated teenager who gained his superpowers after being bitten by a radioactive spider.

Although the web-slinging crime fighter clashed with various villains, he was still the same geeky Parker: a bookworm who is bullied by football players, ignored by girls and lives with his motherly aunt, who reminds him to wear his galoshes in the rain.

“You ask the audience to suspend disbelief and accept that some idiot can climb on walls,” Lee said in a 1992 Washington Post interview, “but once that’s accepted, you ask: What would life be like in the real world if there were such a character? Would he still have to worry about dandruff, about acne, about getting girlfriends, about keeping a job?”
Among fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe a part of every new movie is watching for Stan Lee's cameo appearance.  This thread on Reddit has the canonical capture of them all; reproduced here at lower resolution.  Unfortunately, it stops about a year ago, before the last few movies. 

This shows almost the complete Marvel phase 1 through phase 3 movies except for the last few: Black Panther, Infinity War, Deadpool 2, and Ant Man and the Wasp - in that order. Coming in 2019 will be Captain Marvel, with the introduction of Brie Larson as the eponymous lead (I just don't get enough chances to use the word 'eponymous'), and then Avengers 4, which settles the majority of damage done in Infinity War.  To some degree.  Probably.
Avengers 4 is the end of Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3. Sony will technically kick off Marvel’s Phase 4 with Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel on July 5, 2019. Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man, but his story takes place in the MCU, proved by Captain America: Civil War.

That’s it for Marvel's confirmed Phase 4 release dates, though we do know Marvel has greenlighted a Black Panther sequel, a Doctor Strange sequel, and another Guardians of the Galaxy movie to complete the trilogy. Expect to see those characters back after Avengers 4.
There I go getting all ramped up over the coming movies.  This is supposed to be a sober, quiet, "so long, Stan Lee.  You've brought me hours upon hours of fun, escapism, and lighthearted entertainment.  I'm going to miss you."

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Battle of Quotes

Mike Miles at 90 Miles From Tyranny posted this Twitter exchange a couple of hours ago:

Nice reply, but I was thinking more of something like, "Not like a souffle at all.  Millions of people have made souffles, but not once in recorded history has anyone made socialism work".  I try to underline this if socialism ever comes up in conversation.  Everyone's heard the argument, "it failed because the wrong people were in charge"; the argument is "since it's been tried since thousands of years before it had a name, and nobody has ever been the 'Right People' that made it work.  What makes you think you're so special?"  

But I don't have a Twitter account or a time machine to go back and answer it. 

Then I thought of this one that says it better than I can. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Happy Birthday Devil Dogs

Not in the Drakes Cakes sense, but to the US Marine Corps.  November 10th is the day traditionally celebrated as the founding of the Marines in 1775 at Tun Tavern, making this the 243rd anniversary.  Which means there were "US Marines" before there was a US.  What did they call themselves in 1775?

As I've said before, everyone knows there's a constant din of the different services poking fun at each other, but I don't have a dog in these fights.  Never was in any branch.  The systems I've worked on tended to be for the Navy with some split between the Air Force and the Navy.  All I can say is that I've worked on some of their toys. 

I know that all sorts of kids from all sorts of backgrounds go into the Marines, but I've never met an ex-Marine who wasn't an honorable man.  Considering that perhaps the most famous marine, Chesty Puller, is quoted as having said, “Take me to the Brig. I want to see the 'real Marines' ”, maybe I've only been meeting fakes.

Friday, November 9, 2018

On Account of I'm Sick of Politics Again

Some more fun stuff. 

A couple of weeks ago, a friend called me up about a puzzle he had.  He's a disabled Navy Vet who has a hard time getting around but his only daughter lives far away so he has no family in town to rely on.  I've taken him to the VA hospital in Orlando a couple of times.  That aside, his puzzle is that he has taken up sign making in wood with a router and templates.  I think he's using something similar to this kit from Rockler.  His problem concerned the back side of the sign and how to hang it on the wall.  Turns out Rockler sells a handy template kit for that problem and he bought that one, too. 

His problem was that of the three places to rout a hanging slot, he used only a short one and the setup time was lots longer than cutting the router pass.  He said five minutes to make the setup and a few seconds to make the cut.  He wanted to know if I could see a better way. 

I gathered that how he located the slot was by lining the top edge of the template with the top edge of his board and the long edge (on the right in that photo) over the edge of the board.  Then, while holding the template down on the board, he taped it down to keep it from moving.  I suggested I make something like the Rockler template but which had vertical straight edges on the sides and he could pull it into place in the corner.  I'd make a pair of templates, one for the left and right corners.  As a guide, I sketched up the left corner template in CAD and sent it over to him. 

I could hear the answer without the phone and he lives about a mile away.  So into the shop.  All the measurements came from taking his Rockler template for the slot and the slot's position with respect to the edges. I made two identical pieces of quarter inch thick aluminum for the templates and identical pieces of 1/8" aluminum for the edges.  The two quarter inch pieces were clamped together for all the operations so that the sizes came out the same and the position of the slot in the center were cut in one pass.  Top and side vertical pieces are held by two 6-32 machine screws each.  

To use, they're slapped down onto the board, the right angle edges find and hold the board's corner in a second.  He says he holds them down with painters tape to make the cut.  Dropped the time to make his slot to small fraction of what it was.  

My friend is apparently getting a little business going making wooden signs.  He's asked me for fixture ideas a couple of times since then.  While none of it was in mechanical manufacturing, 40 years in the manufacturing industry has left its mark on me and I've passed on ideas about fixturing to make jobs less fussy. 

Meanwhile, I continue down the road of making my CNC lathe ready to thread.  My optical sensor board is here.  I found the part number and looked up the data sheet to get the part dimensions.  Modeled the part and a way of using it on the Sherline.  (I didn't do the model of the Sherline lathe itself. Just the parts in green and turquoise)

Work never goes as quickly as I'd like, but it's moving along.