Wednesday, July 31, 2019

I Bow in Your General Direction, LL

Larry over at Virtual Mirage put up a picture that made me LOL.  Linky here but I have to re-blog this.
When Joe Biden was Vice President under Barack, he visited Area 51 to see the space aliens for himself. This is what the meeting look liked.

The expression on the Alien's face just makes me laugh.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Milton Friedman

July 31st is the birthday of Milton Friedman (1912-2006), one of the giants of American Economists and called, "the Godfather of Conservative Libertarianism" - hat tip to who regularly sends me ideas for posts.
Milton Friedman is the Godfather of American conservative libertarianism.  He was, at a time when it was deeply unfashionable in official circles, a fierce critic of Keynesian economics. He was a leader of the second generation of libertarian economists to come out of the University of Chicago. Among the people recruited or mentored by him at the university include Thomas Sowell, Gary Becker, Robert Fogel and Robert Lucas, Jr. Friedman often used the jargon and methodology of Keynesians while rejecting their basic premises, coming to very different conclusions than his Keynesian counterparts.
I know that over the years I've devoted hundreds of articles to bashing Keynesian economics as opposed to the older ideas of money being tied to a physical standard, whether the silver or gold standards that go back the hundreds of years of paper money (before that money often was only silver or gold coins), or to something more late-20th-century like a combination of commodities.  Almost anything except for money created created out of thin air.  I just know of no historical examples where fiat money has survived long term - the world has been off even the most perfunctory gold standard for not even 50 years and the signs of economic "mess" are everywhere.  Fifty years isn't "long term."  John Maynard Keynes himself once famously said, "The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead", as a counter to the argument that his policies would lead to destruction in the long run. 

For those unfamiliar with the term, a fiat means "a command or act of will that creates something without ... further effort" and when used in the term "fiat money" means money declared to exist, not something that is inherently valuable to people.  We can buy things with paper dollars because people believe them to be usable for exchange, but in the future those dollars are generally worth less.  I can see why that's the case in one of the few things I disagree with Friedman about.  
One of his groundbreaking theoretical innovations is the notion of a natural rate of unemployment. Friedman believed that when the unemployment rate was too low, inflation was the result. Using this and his unique interpretation of the Phillips Curve, Friedman predicted “stagflation” long before there was even a word for such things. Friedman likewise broke with Austrian orthodoxy in advocating for small, controlled expansions of the money supply as the proper monetary policy. This became known as “monetarism” – the theory leveraged by the Federal Reserve during the 2008 financial crisis.
To be more specific, Friedman showed the Phillips Curve (which states that low unemployment tends to push wages higher, a simple example of supply and demand) was only true in the short term.  I'd argue that the appearance that it's not true in the long run can be because of Friedman's belief in “small, controlled expansions of the money supply”.  Simply, over long terms, that expansion of the money supply itself causes the number of dollars required for everything to go up masking any rise in wages.  Also known as monetary inflation.  (And anyone who thinks the Federal Reserve's expansion of the money supply after the 2008 collapse was “small and controlled” really needs some lessons in perspective).

Still, I'm being stupid as an engineer and some dood with a blog on the Interwebs to disagree with a Nobel Prize winning economist and one of the greats of American History.  It just means I'm a little more like a “classic Austrian” than Friedman was.

(from Deviant Art)

Monday, July 29, 2019

Branching Out in Barbecue

I've blogged lots of content about barbecue over the years, and specifically about "low temperature, slow cooked, with hardwood smoke".  Most people associate the word "barbecue" with grilling; cooking over high temperature fire.  With the exception of some wood smoke it's the complete opposite of barbecue - and some gas grills don't allow a way to get smoke flavor (from what I hear - never had one).

The truth is, I enjoy grilling, too.  My last grills, though, rusted out and needed to be hauled to the curb well over a year ago.  One was a large combination grill/smoker with a side box for the wood fire, sort of like this model but I'm sure an older version.  I could never get that to keep a good low temperature for smoking, and it consumed mind-boggling amounts of wood, but it was a decent grill.  My grill was a Weber kettle grill, their bottom end model like this

This summer, we treated ourselves to an upgraded Weber 22" Premium grill, which has some convenience features I'm learning to like.  I spent all of last summer waiting for them to go on sale, only to find out they pretty much don't.  At least, not usually.  If you want one, you pay what they're asking (or find one used).  I did our first grilling on it a couple of weekends ago. 

Why the kettle grill?  Because it's capable of being a smoker and a grill - which could thin the herd in the garage.  To grill or sear, you pile coals up in the center of the grill and cook in direct heat; to smoke, you put the charcoal around the perimeter of the grill and cook by indirect heat.  A popular version is called the "snake method".  Coals are arranged to be lightly touching each other along the seam between the grate your briquettes sit on and the walls of the kettle.  You light a few pieces of charcoal and then place them at one end of the "snake" of carefully stacked charcoal.

Like this.

You can see four ashed-over pieces of charcoal on the left that came out of a charcoal starter.   The snake is about 1/4 of the perimeter of the kettle with two coals in touching rows on the bottom and one row down the middle of those and on top of them.  In between are some chunks of hickory to add those flavors.  

This shot is from this afternoon, the first time I've ever attempted to smoke something this way.  I thought it would be good to get a feel for how the temperature regulates, and how long it takes to use up a quarter of the circumference of the bowl.  So what to make?  What to make?...  Something easy to whip up, tastes good, and is pretty darn easy to cook.  A fatty

This one is a one pound package of pork sausage, filled with provolone cheese, Genoa salami and a spinach/kale blend.  Rolled up and wrapped in bacon weave - as they have to be.

I forgot to take a "before" picture but this one is before adding the salami and rolling it up, so half-stuffed.  And here's the "after" pic.

The 1/4 perimeter of the grill lasted three hours.  I think I can get more than 3/4 of the circumference but it's not possible to get the full thing.  You can only light one end, so there has to be some amount of gap.  If the coals don't need to be fussed with, that's 9 or 10 hours of smoking.  By limiting the number of coals that will burn at once, the kettle doesn't get very hot.  It stayed in the range of 220 to 240 for the three hours as measured by the built-in thermometer in the lid.  I experimented with adjusting air flow to lower and raise temperature and that worked as it should.

There are alternatives to doing a snake method smoking session, although a search of YouTube shows many videos.  There's a very popular commercial product, the Slow 'N Sear  and people have made their own versions of this idea.  I can see the advantages of doing this.  Those coals seen in the top picture get a grate over them where the food sits; that means that if you need to do something to the coals, you have to take off the lid, the food and the grate. 

More research and more cooking experiments will certainly follow. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Practical Value of Impractical Hobbies

About a week after our discussion about casting an AR lower from discarded aluminum cans three weeks ago, I ran into an article with just about the title of this post on GAT Daily (Guns Ammo and Tactical) Getting Your Hands Dirty: The Practical Value of Impractical Hobbies that has stuck with me.

In a way, it spoke to me.  The author, unnamed from the Loadout Room, talks about knife making, but it can certainly go with casting an AR lower or lots of things I do.  He opens this way:
You take a rusty piece of scrap metal, a hack saw, a file, and you get to work. After hours of cutting, grinding, and sanding spread out of a week’s worth of days, you’re left with a knife that’s probably not quite as good as one you might buy at Walmart for just less than you’d spend on a six-pack of beer. Somehow, you don’t see this is a waste of your time. Instead, you sit back and stare at your accomplishment with a sense of wonder — imagining how much better you’ll be able to do on the next one-armed with the stuff you were able to work out in your head by screwing up on this one.

And you’re proud of how you screwed up less this time than you did the time before.

Then the guy waxes poetic about the joys of shaping the world the old-fashioned way - with your hands.
Here’s to our impractical endeavors. Whether you collect kids toys from the 1960s, tie your own flies for fishing, hunt deer, tinker with cars, or bake cookies, these things are more than an opportunity for us to busy our hands along with our minds, they represent a deeper connection to the world we live in.
Worth a read.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

About Those Unfunded Municipal Pensions

Congress boldly, courageously and in a fully bipartisan move decided to do something about those $6 Trillion dollars in unfunded pensions - and increase your taxes.  The Sovereign Man kept track of the goings on in Congress and reports for us. 

There's an unwritten law about Congress: when they come up with cutesy names for some legislation, like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare), the end result never does any of the things in the name.  The cuter the name, the more hideous the legislation.  The USA Patriot Act of 2001 which ravaged personal freedoms and ensured we all get colonoscopies and genital exams before we board a plane is one example.  The USA Freedom act of 2015, which renewed the worst aspects of the Patriot act, and the HIRE Act from 2010, which created some of the most heinous tax rules of the last fifty years are two more.

This month they added another.  The SECURE act is aimed at fixing those pension problems you've read about. 
SECURE stands for “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement”, which is pretty clever when you think about it.

People want to associate their retirement with a word like ‘secure’. So even without knowing anything about the law, most people will probably have good feelings about it based solely on the name.
That deception is entirely the point.  In reality, SECURE is predictably terrible - it's a massive tax bailout for another poorly funded institution Congress setup.
Pension plans in the United States are currently guaranteed by a quasi-government agency called the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.

The PBGC is sort of like an FDIC for pension funds… so that if a pension plan goes bust, the PBGC will step in with a bailout.

Problem is, the PBGC itself is nearly insolvent and will run out of money in 2025. And its balance sheet is trivial compared to the multi-trillion dollar pension problem.

So Congress came up with a solution: go into DEBT!
Debt is the answer to EVERYTHING!  According to the SECURE act, whenever a pension plan runs out of funds, Congress wants them to borrow money in order to keep making payments to beneficiaries.  This raises an obvious question: who would be insane enough to loan money to an insolvent pension fund?  You are!  Well, your exalted members of Congress have courageously volunteered you for the task, putting the American taxpayer on the hook for this potential $6 trillion liability. 

Hasn't everyone always told you the American public in conservative red states would pay for the idiotic promises of Illinois, New York, and the other states largely responsible for the pension crisis?  Looks like the pessimists were right.

That's not all the SECURE act does.  Did you plan for your retirement and put aside a good 401k plan?  Under current law, you could leave your IRA to your children in a fairly tax efficient way - they can take the rest of their lives to withdraw it all. That’s actually one of the nice things about an IRA.  The SECURE act shortens that to ten years.  Of course, this hits the middle class the hardest because it's a bigger percentage of their total assets than it is for wealthy taxpayers.  

The Ways and Means Committee provides a helpful summary of the bill.  (Or, read the full text of the bill.)   Forbes contributor Elizabeth Bauer takes a good look at the bill here

The SECURE act passed the House with bipartisan support and is now in the Senate, where it will likely be combined with/modified by a bill with similar intentions, the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act (RESA), S. 972.  Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has said that passage of RESA “remains a top priority,” so I have to think the chances are pretty good something like the Secure act will pass. 

The bill has positives that I haven't gotten into, like raising the age at which mandatory withdrawals from a 401k have to begin, making it easier for small companies to create 401k plans, and more.  Fundamentally, it's a  mix of incremental improvements in 401(k) plans plus miscellaneous special interest provisions. 

Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., left, and Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. - House Ways and Means Committee  (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Bloomberg)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Webster Update #4 - Saying Uncle

In my last update, two weeks ago, I mentioned I'd start on the flywheel next.  To refresh everyone's mind, this is a piece of D2 tool steel which I found on eBay and bought, well, basically because it was cheap.  After trying to reduce the length of the piece, I said "uncle" and bought a cold rolled steel disk. 
The flywheel finished dimensions are 3.750" diameter, and 1.125 thick at the hub.  Like this:

Note that it says the material is either cast iron or cold rolled steel (CRS).  So off I went to the metals dealers to find a piece of CRS that could yield this.  Some shopping around, first at Online Metals and then on eBay, resulted in me finding that a 4" diameter by 2" long piece was going to cost about $55 with shipping.  Then I stumbled across an eBay seller selling a slightly smaller piece, 3-3/4 by 1-3/4, but saying it was D2 Tool Steel.  His price was $18.75, including shipping.  I figured that the important part was that flywheel has a density more like steel or iron than aluminum and the alloy doesn't really matter.  I took what's probably a better piece of steel for many uses at almost a third of the price as the 1018 CRS.
It came in slightly over the claimed 3-3/4", more like 3.8", so I cut it slightly oversized in diameter at 3.77, leaving some for future work.  The raw piece was now just about 1.78" thick and as you can see from the drawing, the thickest portion at the hub is 1.125 or 1-1/8".  I could part it off down to around 1.15 or 1.20 inch and save hours of facing off .010" thickness at a time.  

Parting on the lathe is one of those operations that is simple in concept but has lots of art embedded in the technique.  The cutoff tools are narrow strips of either tool steel (so-called High Speed Steel, HSS) or a tool holding a carbide metal cutter.  Left and right in this picture from that link. 

The main advantage of the HSS tools is that they're easily sharpened in the shop so if one should break, it can be ground back to shape and then sharpened.  I have HSS cutters in a couple of thicknesses and use a tool holder, as shown in both views above.  The tool in its holder is advanced into the slowly rotating work under lots of cutting oil and cuts a groove.  The tool wanders a little bit, so the groove is a couple of thousandths bigger than the tool, but there's a lot of drag. 

To keep the setup rigid, it's recommended to only leave as much cutter protruding from the tool holder to take off a small amount, so you stop every quarter of an inch or so in radius and extend the tool a quarter inch farther.  To cut to the center of a piece that's 3.770 in diameter, at some point I need to extend the tool 1.89".  That gets scary.

The first 1/4 to 1/2" in radius went fairly quickly but that D2 steel hardens as you work on it.  I'd switch to a hacksaw and extend the cut down a bit, then use the parting tool to make it the right thickness slot.  My technique was to spin the work at 100 RPM (minimum for the lathe) and hold the hack saw onto it.  After that first 1/2", I noticed the saw didn't seem to be cutting; metal dust wasn't piling up  when I used the hacksaw.  Inspection revealed the teeth were now worn down - completely gone in the middle.  The D2 ruined my blade, but blades are disposable and I have a backup hacksaw.  On the other hand, it's a backup because the other blade used to cut better.  Now what?  Time for my Ryobi reciprocating saw.  Unlike the hacksaw, I can't run the lathe while cutting, but I can move the chuck by hand.  I have a blade with carbide teeth for the Ryobi, so I tried that.  It sorta worked except it inadvertently (and probably inescapably) turns the disk into a lumpy thing like a cam lobe (or a four leaf clover), not a smooth cylinder as gets cut on a lathe.  Which means interrupted cuts and banging onto the cutting tool.  Which leads to the blade binding in the cut and causing the motor to either slow down until it breaks free and suddenly races very fast, or else stalls and makes me reset its overload sensor.

I got the cut quite a bit farther in, but was left with about a 3/4" stem holding the two chunks together.  My rate of cutting went from .050" (one rotation of the cross feed dial) in a few minutes to maybe .05" in half an hour.  The parting tool was then so far extended that it didn't fit on the cross slide.  I couldn't back it all the way out of the work.  
At this point I figured I need to finish this with the saw.  Sometime in the middle of the night, the background processor in my brain (which never stops working on problems) said, "why not a carbide hacksaw blade"?  "Do they even make them".  Yes!  They're on Amazon, and on Home Depot's website, so off I go to Home Depot.  None in stock.  Neither were there any in stock at True Value.

I bought plain hacksaw blades, and a carbide reciprocating saw blade.  My lathe is rigid enough to cut on, but the thing shakes from the saw.  That's about 250 lbs of lathe?  I tried to take the disk out of the chuck and cut it in a vise on my woodworking bench.  It literally almost fell apart.  Drawer bottoms starting sliding out of place and stuff started falling out of drawers.  Everything on the bench started sliding off.  Back to the lathe.

With the lathe off, I cut it, used the flashlight to see progress and could see it was working.  Rotated and cut, rotated and cut, until it fell off.  Couldn't say exactly how long it took because of fooling around with the hacksaw blades and trying them.  Once I figured the tricks, it went within five minutes.  All told I spent nearly eight hours of work cutting off that thin chunk you see in my hand, below.  I broke one parting tool (but had a spare). 

Shakespeare said, "Parting is such sweet sorrow".  I'll just take out the word "sweet".  Better yet, I'll make that "parting is such a royal pain in the a**." 

Now I had a problem.  I had just spent about eight hours making a single cut.  To turn that 1.2" thick disk into the flywheel is going to involve removing about 4-1/2 cubic inches of that steel in very thin layers.  When I add in the cost of the new carbide blade for the Ryobi and a replacement parting blade, even ignoring the hacksaw blades (the one I ruined was old and they are consumables),  my savings on the D2 steel is gone.  One more ruined tool and I would have been better off getting the material they called for.  I thought it was time to say uncle and get the 1018 steel I should have gotten in the first place.  I found I could get a custom cut piece that was even cheaper, by having them cut it to 1-1/2" thick.  Then I got a 20% off coupon from Online Metals in the email. 

The new flywheel is in the lathe now.  Completely untouched.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

This Is Interesting

This week, a week when Democrats and Republicans united to ignore that pesky ol' budget ceiling and continue to spend us into oblivion, I read a distinctly different story.

Do you recall the name of Dr. Judy Shelton?  Back during the earliest days of the transition team, and even months before his election, Dr. Shelton was one of Trump's team of economic advisors.  As far as I know (from public records and articles) she was the sole advocate of sound money.  Dr. Shelton advocated we provide something like the Treasury Inflation Protected Security (TIPS) bonds which would be redeemable in either dollars or gold, effectively tying the two together without a formal gold standard.  A video of her describing this is here.  Note the date on that video is 2012. 

Last week Trump nominated Dr. Shelton to the Federal Reserve Board.  Of course, the liberal media is aghast.
That triggered a flurry of superficial and derisive references in the controlled media to Shelton’s past support of a gold standard.

For example, CBS News described her as “a believer in the return to the gold standard, a money policy abandoned by the U.S. in 1971.” According to the story, “mainstream economists believe it's a fringe view.”

As the “mainstream” media portrays sound money advocates, we apparently are nostalgic for the monetary system that existed all the way up until 1971.
CBS spreads the fear, uncertainty and doubt:
As President Donald Trump named his picks to fill two influential seats on the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, the price of gold surged. That may be because one of the them, Judy Shelton, is a believer in the return to the gold standard, a money policy abandoned by the U.S. in 1971.

Shelton is raising eyebrows among mainstream economists for her views, which include slashing the Fed's benchmark rate to zero and pegging the value of the dollar to gold prices. She's not the first Trump pick for the Fed to advocate a return to the gold standard, with his two previous failed Fed choices -- Stephen Moore and Herman Cain -- also advocating for a revival of the policy.
They repeat the phrase that "mainstream economists" disagree several times, but never give any numbers or figures to back their argument.  Just the old saw that "the US Economy is too complex to tie it to a gold standard".  (I think what they're really saying is the US Economy is too fucked up to link to a standard.)  Those mainstream economists didn't see the 2008 collapse coming, but they'll see the next one, by golly!  Half a dozen (or more) sound money economists I was reading predicted 2008 a couple of years in advance. 

Article 1 section 10 of the US Constitution says:
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.  [Bold added: SiG]
and, of course, the Federal Government violates that by the bushel every second.   Sound money can be, as the document says, gold or silver or a mix of the two, and although the constitution doesn't say it, other commodities that can't be printed in practically infinite amounts could do.
The Coinage Act of 1792 defined a dollar in terms of silver. Specifically, a dollar was to be 371.25 grains (equivalent to about three-fourths of an ounce) of silver, in harmony with the Spanish milled dollar.

Even before the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, certain banking and political interests had worked to de-monetize silver.

In 1873, Congress moved to sideline the silver dollar. That sparked the so-called Free Silver Movement, which stood for allowing the supply of silver coins to be increased in accord with demand.
At the end of the 19th century, there was a bit of a gold vs. silver argument, with some advocates saying gold was the money of the elites; while silver was the money of the masses. 

But, hey, that's old-fashioned stuff.  Now we have Modern Monetary Theory, which says the government can no more run out of money than a football game can run out of points.  Want more than all the money in the world?  We just have to run the computers a little longer to add all those zeroes.  

Good luck, Dr. Shelton.  I sure hope your nomination goes through.  More importantly, I hope your ideas get listened to. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

An Irrelevant Economic Factoid

Quite possibly the most irrelevant factoid is about American billionaires.  I think I first heard a version of this around the time that Occasional Cortex was saying there should be no billionaires; that the existence of billionaires is somehow immoral - as if by amassing their fortunes they somehow took food out of someone's mouth.  The factoid is that:
Three US billionaires are now collectively worth more than the 160 million Americans in the bottom half of the wealth distribution. ... few of the bottom 160 million hold any stocks or bonds.
It's not that the factoid isn't true; I'll accept it at face value.  It's just that it's totally meaningless.  To borrow an observation from Daniel C. Jensen, writing for FEE (the Foundation for Economic Education): 
If you know a couple of basic facts about the United States population, you know it's not worth quoting. It might be a fact, but it's so meaningless that it’s actually deceitful.
First off, the bottom half of the US population is about 160 million, but that includes children who legally have few assets, and young adults in the starting years of their careers (as well as their starting years of adulthood).  Few young adults and even fewer children have much of a stock portfolio.

That 50% also includes young adults who are in prolonged college; people going for medical doctor, lawyer or Ph.D. degrees.  It includes prisoners, the disabled and other groups dealing with challenges (whether the consequences of their decisions, or the misfortunes and vicissitudes of life. 

Like most hate and envy directed at "the rich", or "income inequality", this is just intended to rile up the masses to revolt, or more specifically, vote for more Democrats.  According to the data here, if we took the combined net worth of the 20 richest billionaires in America - not their income, their entire net worth, reducing them to living on food stamps - we get $1.04 Trillion.  That would run the federal budget for about three months.  Or they could give every man, woman and child in the US about $3250.  And when that's gone, there's no more.  According to Forbes, the net worth of all the billionaires in the world is $8.7 Trillion.  Of course, American Democrats have no claim at all on any of this money, whether they're US citizens or not, but even if they somehow took that, again reducing every billionaire in the world to living on food stamps, they have enough to run the country for two years.  But that $8.7 T pales in comparison to the $22.5 T debt and $125 T unfunded liabilities.  And that pales in comparison with what they want to spend in "free tuition", "medicare for all", and all the other crazy campaign promises they keep spreading. 

All the money in the world isn't enough to pay for what they want.

The three billionaires they talk about: Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Where To in Space?

Apollo 11's 50th anniversary was a one day celebration of the media, although the mission goes on for another few days (and can be followed in real time here) and then it has gone back to being a history book story.  On to the next outrage of the day or whatever political story is grabbing headlines.  So what now?

Slight detour first.  One of the things I don't understand at all is the lunar landing deniers; it's such a stupid thing to wrap one's belief system up in.  I understand that with big conspiracy theories like this, there's simply no way to disprove them.  There's no piece of evidence we could show a true believer that would have them say, "Gosh! You're right!  We did go!" For the last 30 years, I believe it has polled consistently that 6% of the population believes we never went.  There's another group who just claims they're not sure. 

When I worked for Major Southeast Defense Contractor, there was a graybeard Mechanical Engineer whom I became friends with.  His first job out of college was with Grumman Aerospace doing support for the Lunar Modules.  He talked about being called into a Tiger Team to solve an issue on Apollo 14 because one of the astronauts had tripped over a cable, pulling it out of one of the science packages.  For some of you, if I say Mil-38999 connectors, you'll get a visceral nausea at the thought of rewiring and crimping the pins on one of them.  In 1/6 G wearing gloves with fingers as wide as small Caribbean islands.  They told the crew to abandon it.  This week, sources have been saying over 400,000 in 20,000 companies worked on the Apollo program.  He was one.

There's so much evidence that a landing denier has to make it a life goal to not see it and truly examine it.  Fast Company magazine (of all places) ran a story back on July 13 with just a few of the reasons why it's such a silly idea.  He starts out philosophically, by asking how do we know anything?  To borrow a few sentences:
It’s a little like asking how we know there was a Revolutionary War. Where’s the evidence? Maybe it’s just made up by the current government to force us to think about America in a particular way.

How do we know there was a Titanic that sank?

And by the way, when I go to the battlefields at Gettysburg—or at Normandy, for that matter—they don’t look much like battlefields to me. Can you prove we fought a Civil War? World War II?
The thing to remember about the space race was that it was a race.  Remember there was a Soviet Union, who entered the 60s well in front of the US space efforts, and who had the capability to monitor things on the moon as well as we could.  If they had any indications that the missions to the moon were faked, don't they think the Soviets would have made it known?  They would have pounced on and revealed any fraud in the blink of an eye, and not just without hesitation, but with great joy and satisfaction. 
In fact, the Russians did just the opposite. The Soviet Union was one of the few places on Earth (along with China and North Korea) where ordinary people couldn’t watch the landing of Apollo 11 and the Moon walk in real time. It was real enough for the Russians that they didn’t let their own people see it.
Books could be written on why the Soviets didn't make it to the moon; the story I think has the most weight (and I haven't been able to find it lately) is that some of the brightest minds in their space program were killed in a pad disaster that took out the launch structures and those scientists/engineers.  They never recovered from that loss, but they continued the race.  Not everyone recalls that at the time 11's LM landed on the moon, there was a Soviet probe on the surface (Luna 15) - a mission that was supposed to show the world "we can return moon rocks to earth for study without sending humans".  The mission failed.

With the latest generation of satellites prospecting the moon, we can see the landers and marks on the surface.  These are from later missions, but can we assume that if they faked 11 they would have faked them all?
Apollo 14's landing site.  The dark lines between the descent stage  and the ALSEP are footprints.  (ALSEP = Apollo Lunar Science Exploration Package)
Apollo 17's site.

Of all the arguments that we regularly read from lunar landing deniers, one has an element of truth to it.  They say the Van Allen radiation belts would have fried the astronauts.  That's wrong by orders of magnitude, but there is a measurable effect.  It turns out the astronauts who went through the belts to the moon had a significantly higher rate of cardiovascular disease than astronauts who never went to orbit or those who only went to low earth orbit.   
The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, accidents and all other causes of death differ in (1) astronauts who never flew orbital missions in space, (2) astronauts who flew only in low Earth orbit (LEO), and (3) Apollo lunar astronauts, the only humans to have traveled beyond Earth’s magnetosphere. Results show there were no differences in CVD mortality rate between non-flight (9%) and LEO (11%) astronauts. However, the CVD mortality rate among Apollo lunar astronauts (43%) was 4–5 times higher than in non-flight and LEO astronauts.
The looming issue here is that they can't conclusively say it was the Van Allen belts, just that it was something to do with leaving Earth's protective magnetosphere, but they only left the magnetosphere briefly; Apollo 11 was four to five days (I'm guessing here) but other missions were longer.   That brings more concern to a Mars mission, as well as doing work on the moon. 

With current technology mission plans, called "boost and coast", a Martian trip is a long undertaking.  Mars and Earth reach opposition (closest point) roughly every two years (it varies).  Launched around then a trip to mars then takes about seven months.  After that, as Earth continues to advance ahead of Mars, the return trip takes longer.  A quick stay on Mars turns into seven months there and ten months to a year coming back.  If one is going to travel for 18 months, a year and a half, it makes a reasonable argument to stay longer.  Seven months to Mars, then explore 16 months until Earth is approaching for the return trip to get shorter? 

A potential solution is nuclear powered spacecraft.  I've been talking about this for years, but a nuclear powered engine can accelerate half the way there and decelerate half the way.  There are designs for engines that "burn" low yield atomic explosions - impulse power - for thrust.  Some designs that have been investigated would allow 60 day trips to Mars instead of seven months.  By now everyone has heard of bone loss, edema and other problems astronauts on the ISS face.  Those can be solved by artificial gravity on the spacecraft, like the science fiction books used to say.  Yes, it will make the spacecraft heavier and the mission more expensive.   Nobody ever suggested there was anything remotely easy about it.  Are you in Elon?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

50 Years Ago This Afternoon, It Was Ending

After all the hype and excitement, Apollo 11 spent less than 24 hours on the moon.  They landed at 4:18 PM yesterday and fired the LM ascent engine to leave the moon 1:54 PM today (all times EDT, as has been the convention for these few posts).  Other missions would stay longer, and bring increasing sophistication, including color video cameras and electric vehicles to get the crews around on the surface.

I posted this picture back in 2018, and it's good but incomplete:

After "living or dead", I would add the modifier "in human history" for emphasis.  At 9:44 AM, when Mission Control sent their wake up call to Collins, someone in Mission Control noted,"Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he's behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia."

The return flight depended on the performance of a system never tested in its intended use: the Lunar Module ascent engine.  The prime contractor on the engine was Grumman Aerospace; the contractor for the engine was Bell Aerosystems.  They delivered an engine that relied on hypergolic propellants - a system which doesn't require an igniter because the fuel and oxidizer explode on contact.  It worked flawlessly on every Apollo mission that landed on the moon.  It is said that the ascent stage was the one system that Neil Armstrong expressed concern about failing, because there was no backup.  If it failed, they were going to die on the moon.

It wasn't the only such single point failure.  If the engine fired but a set of explosives called the guillotine failed - a system that blew apart all of the connections between the two halves of the lunar module - there was no way to fix or recover from that, either.  I'd be surprised if there weren't more possible single point failures.

The liftoff was at 1:54 PM EDT and the LM docked with the CM at 5:35 PM.  The lunar module was jettisoned at 7:42 PM.   Apollo 11 didn't have the ability to record its departure from the moon, but later missions did.  This is a 30 second video of the LM launch during Apollo 17 - the last men to ever visit the moon.

The crew will start their engine burn for the three day return flight to Earth in the early hours of tomorrow morning, July 22nd; 12:56 AM.  Reentry, splashdown in the Pacific, and transfer of the crew to an isolation unit as a precaution against possible, unknown, lunar microorganisms will occur on July 24th.  Over the course of the last few days, I've read things I haven't read in years, if ever.  One the things that's noteworthy is this sentence from the NASA Apollo 11 log.
It is recognized as the most trouble-free mission to date, almost completely on schedule and successful in every respect.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

50 Years Ago Today - "The Eagle Has Landed"

This morning at 9:27 EDT, Buzz Aldrin crawled into the Lunar Module Eagle and began the lengthy process of powering things up for the short mission life of the module.  An hour later, Neil Armstrong joined Buzz in the LM.

A little over three hours after that, 1:47 PM, they released the latches and separated from the Command Module.  At 2:12, Michael Collins fired thrusters on the CM moving it two miles away from the LM.  Except for that small altitude difference, both vehicles remained in their initial orbit from yesterday's lunar orbit insertion until 3:08 PM when Armstrong fired the descent engine to lower the Eagle's orbit. 

What follows in a 20 minute video depicting the landing which is easily the best modern reconstruction of the landing that I've seen.  It combines video from the window as Armstrong would have seen it with the audio traffic from Mission Control.  The first three minutes gives a modern simulation and animation of how it all worked; after that, it goes to the view recorded on the LM with spacecraft communication on the left speaker and mission control intercom on the right.  Yes, I think it's worth the time.

The LM touches down at 4:18PM EDT.

At 6:00 PM, Armstrong radios down to mission control that he recommends they start the EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) sooner than planned; at 9 PM.  Although they don't make the 9PM goal, the 10:39 beginning of the EVA is still five hours earlier than the mission plans.

Like millions of people around the world, I hung by the front of the black and white TV; this one in my uncle's house in New York City.  We watched intently but I don't recall exactly how much we saw or if we watched until 1:11 tomorrow morning when the EVA officially concluded.

EDIT: 7/20/19 1350 & 1457 EDT to add this meme from Raconteur Report:

as condemned in the New York Times.

Friday, July 19, 2019

On This Afternoon 50 Years Ago

At 17:21:50 Universal Time (or Greenwich Mean Time as it was more often called in 1969) the Service Module's 20,500-pound-thrust engine started firing to slow Apollo 11's velocity enough to go into lunar orbit.  In Eastern Daylight Time that's 1:21:50 PM.  The burn lasted just under six minutes (5:57).  The burn placed the the three modules into an elliptical-lunar orbit of 69 by 190 miles.  That was made more circular by a second, much shorter burn of 17 seconds.  This placed the docked vehicles into a lunar orbit of 62 by 70.5 miles.

The burn necessarily took place with the spacecraft on the far side of the moon, so ground controllers - and the millions of us hanging on every word - didn't know if the burn was successful until the spacecraft came over the horizon and could re-establish radio contact with Earth.  Not that they or we could have done anything for the crew if there was constant communications.  It's a quarter million miles away; nobody could have done a thing for them.   

An artist's concept from the Apollo days:

It's just over 24 hours until the landing.  The crew is busy scouting their landing site, checking out the Lunar Module and preparing for tomorrow as they orbit the moon every two hours.  They do a couple of video transmissions for those keeping track of the mission.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

British Physicist and Radio Amateur Revolutionizes How We See the Ionosphere

The American Radio Relay League relayed the news this week that British Physicist Cathryn Mitchell, whom the ARRL says is known to fellow hams as M0IBG, was awarded the 2019 Edward Appleton Medal and Prize.  Her work sounds fascinating to me and I had to dig a little further.
Mitchell innovated a completely new Earth observation technique by adapting medical tomography to image the Earth's ionosphere, thus revealing the dynamics of the near-Earth space environment. Her use of Global Positioning System satellite signals as a source for space weather tomography, through a new time-dependent mathematical inversion algorithm, has given us the first global-scale view of the ionosphere in response to space weather storms.

Mitchell's research has fundamentally changed our understanding of the Earth's ionosphere, revealing dynamic processes driven by magnetospheric electric fields causing enormous plasma enhancements and uplifts and has led on to ionospheric data assimilation and forecasting.
The method is referred to as CIT, Computerized Ionospheric Tomography.  Perhaps you've had a CAT scan, now more commonly called a CT scan.  In the first case Computerized Axial Tomography, and in the second, Computerized Tomography.  

Naturally, I went in search of some images based on this new technique; which isn't that new, but that I hadn't heard of.  Nature had an article re-evaluating the ionospheric electron density during an ionospheric storm on August 5 and 6, 2011 using the technique and existing data. This is a reconstruction of the data by time (left to right then top to bottom), altitude and geographic coordinates. 

I'd love to see animated 3D graphics of the ionosphere showing these electron densities, varying over time and reconstructed into continuous vertical clouds. 

I've been interested in the ionosphere since I first learned about it back when I was 12 or 13, so naturally this got my attention.  I thought some of you might it interesting, too.  Note at the end of writing this piece, I thought it would be a good idea to check the callsign.  While she isn't listed on or any of the call lookups I can find, there is a reference to her on the Radio Society of Great Britain's Propagation Studies Committee with that call and a article by her.  The QRZ omission is probably an error in the license database.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

50 Years Ago This Morning at 9:32 AM

Apollo 11 lifted off from KSC pad 39A.  Lots of people are talking about it.  Zendo Deb at 357 Magnum has a couple of videos of the launch - one of which I'm embedding here.  It's magnificent and despite having seen it happen, hard to remember that America. 

50 years ago, I was 15 - it was the summer of my 9th grade year; the summer after leaving junior high and before starting high school (in those days).  I was on what would be the last vacation I ever took with my parents, to the city of their birth and youth, New York City.  They had moved to Miami when I was three.  On this morning we had spent the night in a motel somewhere in Virginia (IIRC) and were preparing for the final leg into the city.  I convinced them to wait for the launch.  It's good it wasn't delayed.  My brother (older brother, only sibling) had turned 18 and had started working, so he couldn't come with us. Or, perhaps, it was his developing relationship with his girlfriend whom he married within a couple of years. 

I was the space geek.  In elementary school, four years before, a NASA educational outreach program had come to my school and hooked me.  Borrowing mom's typewriter, I had typed letters to the educational outreach and public relations offices for NASA in DC and the KSC eventually filling a large box with NASA publications.  After years of studying the details of the trip and how it would all unfold, I'd patiently explain all the acronyms and details as they came up.

For the rest of the Apollo 11 mission, we were on that trip.  Some memories are clear and vivid; others less so.  Like so many people, I believed that by now we'd have colonies on the moon and have visited Mars.  Perhaps outposts on Mars as well.  Pardon me if I get a little wistful during these posts about 11. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Revolving Door Between Core Democrat Officials and Social Media

With the widespread de-platforming of conservatives and alternate voices from Alex Jones to Steven Crowder to YouTube gun channels, a lot attention has been focused on how Facebook, Google/YouTube, Twitter and the rest of the Big Social are eliminating conservative viewpoints.

A remarkable piece of investigative journalism appeared today on the website Spinquark - which I'd never heard of and only learned of by coverage on Glenn Beck's radio program today.  The article investigates the revolving door between the power players in the Democratic Party inner circles and the top levels of the social media platforms and is called "Welcome to Social Government".  The most common former employer was the Obama administration or campaign.  The second most common former employer was the Hillary Clinton campaign. 

It's long and it's important.  As usual, let me snip some pieces to whet your appetite.
How is it that Facebook, who refuses to dox any of the violent Antifa terrorists that use its platform, are happy to give up the personal details of the Facebook user who anonymously uploaded a slowed video of Nancy Pelosi, within minutes, to some rando journalist on the phone? (How do you even call Facebook?)

Well what if I told you a Policy Director at Facebook was Nancy Pelosi's Chief of Staff before taking said job directing policy at Facebook? What if I told you the head of algorithm policy at Facebook worked for Hillary at The State Department? Or that the Head of Content Policy worked for the Hillary presidential campaign? What if I told you the person in charge of privacy policy at Facebook used to work for Al Franken, before he worked for Senator Bonoff, before he worked for Congressman Oberstar? Or that the Director in charge of "countering hate and extremism" at Facebook came from the Clinton Foundation? ...
There's more in that paragraph - and that's just one example.
How about YouTube? How does Laura Southern's documentary about the border get removed from YouTube within 24 hours of posting without any reason or explanation? What if I told you a Policy Manager at YouTube, before becoming a Policy Manager at YouTube, was employed by Hillary for America and was a manager in Obama's campaign before that? What if I told you YouTube's Global Content Policy Lead previously worked at the DNC? Did you know the person responsible for "growing the next generation of stars" on YouTube worked in the Office of Digital Strategy at the White House under Obama? Or that the person in charge of developing the careers of YouTube creators was the Director of Video for Obama? Speaking of helping the careers of creators, did you know Vox, the company that got Steven Crowder demonetized, was one of the companies that YouTube doled out $20 million dollars to, for 'educational videos'?

Ten people, directly connected to the progressive Democrat political machine who are now controlling our conversations online. Sounds like an important alarm, no?

What if I told you there were nearly a hundred more?
 From there, he goes to Twitter and finds the same sorts of links.
What about Twitter? The "primary spokesperson and communications lead for the 2016 U.S. Presidential election" at Twitter was previously Kamala Harris' Press Secretary. A Trust & Safety manager who "developed operations and policies related to privacy and free expression" previously worked at the Clinton Global Initiative and at the State Department under Hillary Clinton. A Twitter Director of Public Policy was originally a Press Secretary for John Edwards (D), and Erskine Bowles (D), and Senator Salazar (D), and Senator Barack Obama (D), he was a Policy Director for Obama's Presidential campaign, a Policy Advisor at the White House, Special Assistant to the President, and then he spent three short months on the Clinton-Kaine Presidential Transition Team before deciding to take a job directing public policy at Twitter.
You probably realize that this is no coincidence.  After the 2016 election, one of the lessons that Democrats thought they learned was that Trump's campaign used social media better than Hillary's team did.  The obvious conclusion was they needed to get better at social media! 

Just kidding.  Work at getting better?  Don't be silly!  That's too rational and even has the wretched odor of free markets.  The obvious conclusion is to bar anyone with conservative sounding ideas from social media!  The government can't do that, but these private companies can remove whomever they want from their platforms, so all these Democratic insiders rushed to be executives in social media companies. 

They need to control thoughts to keep another upset like the Trumpening from happening.  After all, they're better than you, smarter than you, and know what's best for the country better than you! 

 (from Big League Politics)

In the beginning of the conclusion, Spinquark talks about the big picture.
Progressive Democrats using social media companies to stifle our free speech online should be the most important discussion of this generation. Who has the power to silence Americans at YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook? Who are the people setting up the guardrails to our free speech?...
Does their monopoly status require they undergo more Federal regulation to ensure access?  Is access a "civil right"?  (This guy at Human Events thinks so)  It really is the big argument of our day. 

For those who are regular readers, or who are but haven't picked this up from me: these are private companies invented and developed by individual citizens.  They have every right to kick anyone and everyone off their platform.  Further, the leftist leaning politics of Silicon Valley companies should be apparent to anyone - which means they'll attract these Democrats.  My solution is to not use Facebook or Twitter and just use YouTube and Google for the few ways I want.  While I don't particularly think YouTube access is a civil right, reframing that question by asking what if YouTube banned all blacks or all gays or all of any other group instead of conservatives seems to lead to a different conclusion.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Long Day - So Some Pictures

Remember my mention of the flywheel I started on yesterday?  When I have to take off cubic inches of metal .010" at a time it's going to take a while.  I faced it and turned it down to (almost) final diameter: 3.77" instead of 3.75, in case I need some more metal (much easier to take off than add).  Then it was time to part off to thickness.  The center hub is going to end up 1-1/8 so the parting off has to leave more than that.  I was going to part the 1-3/4" thick down to 1-1/4".  I think I've spent a real four hours of work on that and I'm still not there.  The first half inch of radius went pretty quickly.  From there on it has been a fight.

So... things I've saved up for just such occasion.

Florida Man gets it right.  A good sized tarpon from a pool float - I'd guess less than 100 pounds, more than 50.  From the weekly Florida Man feature on PJ Media.

Cross section of a cargo container ship during construction.  You can see a guy standing on the top left.  The scale of these vessels always blow my mind.   From a daily email from HomemadeTools.

Finally, I think this is real; it's a member of the US Women's National Soccer Team who isn't full of Trump Derangement Syndrome and hatred of the USA.

You can see the bottom right frame says it's from Trump's campaign team.  I got it from Pinterest.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Webster Update #3, Fumbles, Recoveries, Fumbles and Learning

It has been a couple of weeks since I did my last update on the engine, so I thought I'd do one of those.  The two side plates that hold the various parts of the engine in place are completed. 

The two side plates are the shinier pieces in the foreground - the larger piece in the background is the base plate they screw down onto with the two tapped holes visible on the bottom edges facing the camera.

I've been making things out of wood for much longer than I've been machining metal, and one of the prime lessons that sunk into my brain 40 years ago was, "the secret to a good project is how you recover from a screw up".  (I think it could be extended to life in general - the secret to life is how gracefully you recover from a screw-up.)  I want to draw your attention to the large hole that's closest to the camera on the lower left, this is where the camshaft that opens the exhaust valve goes.  The hole is dark and has a wide rim so it looks different from every other hole.

It looks different from the other holes because it's a ball bearing and it's a ball bearing because I was recovering from the way I screwed up that hole.  The drawings call out the hole should reamed to 0.250".  Everyone is familiar with drill bits for making a hole but I'll wager only people who work in metal are familiar with reamers (in-depth article - pdf warning).  The rule of thumb is that a drill bit will tend to make a hole that is neither perfectly circular nor perfectly perpendicular to the work.  For a hole with a requirement for an exact size, a slightly undersized hole is drilled and that's followed by a reamer which removes a small amount of metal but helps make it more highly circular and straight through the work. 

The problem is that I grabbed the wrong reamer out of my set and ruined the hole.  The way out was to make it bigger and put something in the hole to sleeve it (or make another side plate - which I'd really rather not).  Since the hole carries a .250 diameter cam shaft, I used a ball bearing I had from my Duclos engine.  That required a 0.375" hole, which was easy.  I paid more attention to grabbing the right reamer. 

While putting the ball bearings into this assembly, I started thinking about ball bearings for the other holes, which are reamed 0.500".  I took a quick look at the drawings to see what part goes there and it's the "other" big shaft in an internal combustion engine, the crankshaft.  A quick look told me that it's a 0.500 cold rolled steel piece (which I've already bought and is in the pile 'o parts).  It was easy to find 0.500 inside diameter ball bearings that look just like this set.  Unfortunately, I'm not prepared to mount it.  It requires a 0.750 hole, which means I need a 0.750 reamer and a slightly smaller drill bit.  Ordered everything. 

Which was another screw-up, although only a waste of money (to the extent ordering some tools is ever a waste of money, which is only if you never need them).  I bought the drill bit, reamer and four ball bearings that I don't need.  Maybe I need to design a bigger engine.

A closer look at the drawings while trying to figure out how this all goes together showed me a suggested set of ball bearings for those half inch holes.  It turns out the crankshaft is really 5/16" diameter - 0.3125" - I read the diameter of a collar it goes in.  Those bearings are on order today. 

I started a conversation with a guy who has built one of these on a forum I hang out on and he said I can't use the ball bearings in the second picture.  My concept is wrong: the shaft doesn't rotate.  It's fixed in the side plate and the parts that go on the shaft rotate on the shaft.  This makes fixing that hole easier.  I'll turn a sleeve and hold it in the side plate with red LocTite.  I could use the cam shaft as the drawings say or turn it onto the 3/8" piece that goes in the screwed up hole.

I've already started on the next part, the flywheel, while I wait on parts for the sides.  The flywheel blank is that piece of tool steel I de-rusted in vinegar a few weeks ago.  That stuff is interesting to turn, by the way.  If I cut off a tiny cut, like .005", the chips go from the bright silver of the metal to gold or amber colored.  If I take off .010", they come out deep cobalt blue.  Rather interesting stuff.  At .005 or .010" at a pass with cubic inches to take off, it will be a while.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Standing Up To Facebook

I missed this story when it came out in the last week of May, but the corporation behind Crossfit, the extremely popular exercise and nutrition enterprise, withdrew their pages from Facebook after Facebook deplatformed another fitness-related site.  Hat Tip to via the weekly newsletter.  According to an official statement published at the time:
Facebook deleted without warning or explanation the Banting7DayMealPlan user group. The group has 1.65 million users who post testimonials and other information regarding the efficacy of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. While the site has subsequently been reinstated (also without warning or explanation), Facebook's action should give any serious person reason to pause, especially those of us engaged in activities contrary to prevailing opinion….

Facebook…serves as a de facto authority over the public square, arbitrating a worldwide exchange of information as well as overseeing the security of the individuals and communities who entrust their ideas, work, and private data to this platform. This mandates a certain responsibility and assurance of good faith, transparency, and due process.

CrossFit, Inc., as a voluntary user of and contributor to this marketplace, can and must remove itself from this particular manifestation of the public square when it becomes clear that such responsibilities are betrayed or reneged upon to the detriment of our community.
In a typical week, we hear of people being deplatformed by Facebook or Google several times.  What we don't hear about is corporations that are paying these companies for their advertising striking back by moving off the platform to other services.  If for no other reason than for the point in the famous Martin Niemöller quote:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Crossfit is clearly concerned that being a health and wellness corporation based on contrarian ideas that they might well face the same bans as the Banting7DayMealPlan user group.  They opened the statement quoted above essentially saying so with this "mission statement":
CrossFit is a contrarian physiological and nutrition prescription for improving fitness and health. It is contrarian because prevailing views of fitness, health, and nutrition are wrong and have unleashed a tsunami of chronic disease upon our friends, family, and communities. The voluntary CrossFit community of 15,000 affiliates and millions of individual adherents stands steadfastly and often alone against an unholy alliance of academia, government, and multinational food, beverage, and pharmaceutical companies.
Nick Gillespie writing for Reason says:
Instead of taking it upon themselves to police more than true threats and instead of calling for government regulation of expression, Facebook and other social media services would treat their platforms as free-speech zones and focus instead on providing users with tools to personalize their experiences.
Unfortunately, that's not the world we live in.  Facebook (and Google/YouTube and The Rest) seem to have staked their future on being regulated utilities and using the high cost of entry as a bar to future competitors.  They seem to have decided if they piss off enough conservatives, they'll join the movement to get the Big Gov to regulate them.

Reason calls it a "Bonus Video" to hear CrossFit founder Greg Glassman say he's a "rabid libertarian". 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Please Bee Seated

One of those pictures that's just filled with Nope, Nope, Nope...

The saddle on the left says, so I'm guessing this was taken there in the Netherlands.  One of those places where bikes are left in public so anyone who needs one can just borrow it for a while and then turn it back in later.  There or elsewhere.  

From the vast Sargasso sea of the Internet, Pinterest.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

I Feel Sorry for the Women's Soccer Team

Probably not the way you think.

I feel sorry for them because they come across as horrible whiners.  The kind of people I don't want to be around.  Nothing is ever good enough for them.

They've just won what should be the ultimate victory of their careers (and I gather some of them did it four years ago, too).  They're the world champions, having gone through the tournament without a loss.  They should feel on top of the world.  They should be sky high with happiness; perpetual giddiness for days.

Instead, all we hear out of them is about victimhood; about how they earn less than the men and it's unfair.  In the case of apparent team spokesperson Megan Rapinoe, we hear how much she projects hate onto President Trump.  Their parade in NYFC seemed to be about grievances and not joy.

It has been widely reported that the pool of money for men's soccer is much bigger than the pool of money for women's, but as percentage of that pool, the women get a much larger percentage. 
According to Mike Oznian, a writer for Forbes, the 2015 Women's World Cup “brought in almost $73 million, of which the players got 13%. The 2010 men's World Cup in South Africa made almost $4 billion, of which 9% went to the players.”
The women got 13% of the pool, while the men got 9%; that is, the women got 44% more than the men.  Because the men's pool was over 50 times bigger than the women's pool, the men's smaller percentage turned into a bigger number of dollars.

I don't follow soccer - men's or women's.  Much like I don't care what any male athlete earns, I don't care what any of them earn.  The root cause of the disparity in the money between the sexes is that the men's sports are more entertaining, because the men play a more dynamic game.  Even Serena Williams, one of the greatest women's tennis players of the last 20 years, said the men's game is better.
Despite having won 23 Grand Slam titles, Williams, in a 2013 appearance on “Late Night With David Letterman,” said, “For me, men’s’ tennis and women’s’ tennis are completely, almost, two separate sports. If I was to play Andy Murray (then one of the best players in the world), I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes.”
(To be honest, I always thought that with her musculature, Serena could play Free Safety in the NFL.  Except for almost certainly not having a clue how to play football.)

If they're trying to woo everyone in the country to support knee-jerk legislation ideas like Chuckie Schumer came up with to pander to them, count me out.  What the women need is for a generation of kids growing up now to become paying fans of women's soccer.  Attracting more ticket sales is the only answer.  Nobody playing today will benefit from that. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

More Common Wisdom That's Not Really True

If you're old enough to remember 1964, the big story in March and April '64 was the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City.  The part of the story most people talked about was the late March report by The New York Times that 37 witnesses watched the attack but didn't intervene or even call the police (Ms. Genovese had been murdered two weeks before that article).  Almost instantly, the phenomenon of "The Bystander Effect" winked into existence and has been considered a psychological effect ever since. 

But is it a real, common, psychological effect? 

Economist Tyler Curtis at the Foundation for Economic Education, FEE, looks into the details surrounding the effect.  It's probably not what you think it is.  Let's start here:
The story was widely circulated in the media, but later research revealed that it was mostly false. Far fewer people witnessed the attack than was first reported, at least one of the witnesses did contact the police, and some of the witnesses only heard screams but could not actually see the murderer or his victim.
The New York Times publishing fake news in 1964?  This is my shocked face, right?  The reality was that there were far fewer than 38 witnesses; the article only talks of two, mentions them by name, and the second one called the police. 

Research published this month, "Would I Be Helped" puts the concept of the Bystander Effect on very shaky ground. 
After reviewing more than 200 videos of real-life altercations in which bystanders were present, a recent study revealed that at least one bystander intervened 91 percent of the time. Far from discouraging individuals from helping, the researchers concluded, the presence of bystanders actually increased the probability that someone would intervene, precisely the opposite of what the theory of the bystander effect would predict.

A multitude of previous studies has yielded similar results. As Brit Garner notes in a video for SciShow Psych,
A 2011 meta-analysis of more than 50 studies also showed that if the situation is dangerous, like if the perpetrator is still there, people are more likely to help if there are bystanders.
In other words, having an audience encourages heroism.
We can add nuance to this.  With a group of bystanders, there seems to a time lag while everyone waits for someone to do something first.  I suspect most people are going through the reality lag that gets so many killed in a disaster or other emergency; their brain is stuck on, "what's going on?  why is this happening?"  Simply the events are so far out of day to day experience that their brain stalls while trying to understand.  In first aid classes, (I assume some of you have taken these), a common instruction is to point at someone and single them out, saying, "you - call 911" instead of just saying "someone call 911" to help bring them back to reality. 

I view this as another example of bad science being cleaned up.  To the extent psychology can be considered a real science.  In reality, when faced with an emergency situation, most people will attempt to help those in need.  The finer point of helping when you're armed and a conflict happens in front of you is "beyond the scope of this lesson".

Today's Bystander Effect.

Monday, July 8, 2019

A Repost - Making an AR-15 Lower From Aluminum Cans

I originally posted this article back in September of '17.  It attracted a little attention, but in the stats I can access from Google, it's not particularly popular.  Nowhere near as popular as my AR from an 80% lower series.  Recently, I went to look up the post and found the video was gone.  It didn't take long for me to find that it had been replaced by a newer, better (and slightly longer) version.  I'm redoing this post to point that out and get him more views.  The difference: YouTube Demonetized him.

There are few 20+ minute videos that I've watched that haven't had me reaching to see if I could skip over some fluff. This one had my complete attention for all 23 minutes. Guncraft101 takes five pounds of saved aluminum cans and recycles them by melting and casting an AR-15 lower.

I've got to say his PPE (personal protection equipment) made me cringe a little, but that's the only thing I can be critical of.  Upper arm-length, heavy, leather gloves combined with shorts and bare legs while pouring molten metal is enough to make me cringe.  The rest of it is great stuff to know.

That said, I have to wonder if the metal would be useful for most things.  When you see things saying they're made from "Aircraft Aluminum" or an alloy like 6061-T6 or 7075, that's a specific recipe for alloying elements in specific proportions, and T6 is a specific heat treatment.  If I took a pound of 6061-T6 cutoffs and melted those down, instead of soda cans, I wouldn't end up with 6061-T6.  All metals are like this, really.  Steel, brass, aluminum, titanium or whatever, the properties you see depend on the ingredients (alloy) and how they're treated.  Anyone who has taken the mechanical engineering classes on materials has seen something like this iron/carbon phase diagram.  The different colors code for different microstructures in the steel, the temperatures and concentrations of carbon that lead to their formations.  There are similar curves for aluminum and its main alloying additions - silicon and magnesium in 6061 or zinc and magnesium in 7075, for example.

That said, an AR-15 lower has got to be pretty non-critical.  It's not just that plastic lowers are a thing, and can be bought in any quantity from an handful of companies, there's that guy who made one at home from HDPE - the plastic used to make kitchen cutting boards (and stopped by to visit here and comment once).  If HDPE works, it's probably not a high-stress application.

I've never done casting, but I've been collecting aluminum scraps for a few years now, and have a couple of large buckets full of them (they're from 34 pound buckets of kitty litter), and I could start putting soda cans in the mix at any time.  This is climbing my list slowly.