Sunday, October 18, 2020

What's the Deal With The Honey Badger AR Pistol?

Back in August, the story got out that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE - motto, "Making It Up on the Fly Since, Well, Forever") had notified a company called Q, LLC that their AR Pistol, called Honey Badger, was a short-barreled rifle and therefore regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) subject to the $500 tax and absurd waiting period.  BATFE sent a "cease and desist" letter to Q that included warnings for their customers. 

To get into what all those terms mean would take a thousand words, but to many readers who drop by here, they're familiar words and concepts.  I'd take a bet that a lot of people are saying something like, "it looks like any other AR pistol.  WTF??"  To make things even less clear, the BATFE has put their "cease and desist" order on hold, allegedly to get some sort of backing from someone higher.

Here's the short version. The NFA in 1934 created an arbitrary definition of a rifle and a pistol that depended on size and how you hold it. Suddenly, rifles with 12 or 14" barrels that used to cost $50 or less, required a $500 tax stamp. The difference was that a rifle was braced against the shoulder while a pistol was handheld.  A rifle (or shotgun) was required to have a barrel longer than 16".  A pistol wasn't.  When AR caliber pistols started to become available, they weren't allowed to have a foregrip, as you'll see on tons of ARs, but people found the recoil of the pistol uncomfortable to manage.  After the brace was invented, the BATFE essentially said if the brace is held against the shoulder, the pistol is magically transformed into a short barreled rifle.  Then they said, no, never mind. 

I'd highly recommend that if you have questions about how we got where we are, or you just want to hear some solid commentary from Alex Bosco at SB Tactical who actually invented the Pistol Stabilizing Brace ® and Michael Bane, listen to Michael Bane's podcast .  It's about an hour but worth it. 

Bane starts with the observation that this could be an attack on Donald Trump by insiders at the BATFE.  Holdovers put in place by Eric Holder.  It's no secret that there are anti-gun forces in the ranks of the BATFE.  This could be their attempt to drive a wedge between gun owners and Trump to help get Biden elected, so they can start to enact the destruction of the second amendment.  From what both of them say, the wedge appears to be working. 

According to Alex Bosco, the BATFE is telling him they're defining weapons according to the old line about pornography: "We'll know it when we see it." They're making the law as obscure and impossible to understand as can be.  They're implying that if you make any modification to a gun that crosses some imaginary line that they won't tell you about, they'll subject you to the $10,000 fine and years in prison.  Maybe you put a red dot on you AR pistol, or a scope; never mind that you can put those on any handgun, you've made your AR pistol into a rifle so you're going to federal prison.

Tyrants love that sort of power.  Having some familiarity with the 80% lower concept and happenings, it seems to me the BATFE has always tried to make every ruling as muddy and unclear as possible.  The better to entrap you with.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Small Shop Update

Where "small" modifies update, not shop.  

Not much has happened with my little Webster ICE (internal combustion engine) since my last update two weeks ago, not because of lack of trying, just lack of success.  One part I made has been giving me fits.  This one; a counterweight design I copied from the web without details and apparently didn't make properly.  

The sizes aren't very obvious - you can see by the out of focus Q-Tip on the left that it's not an enormous part.  From the center of the radiused curve at the top to the bottom of the bottom radius, it's 1.82".  
There are two shafts visible.  Both of them are 5/16" drill rod;  0.3215".  The problem is with that lower shaft protruding behind the part, there's too much of a gap between the shaft and plate it goes through.  That's a quarter inch thick aluminum plate.  It's too loose a fit (meaning I made the hole too big) and Red LocTite has broken twice - the latest time today.  I need that part to fit where it goes to determine the thickness of some spacers I need to make that will go on the shaft (it's the crankshaft - that short one facing you at the top drives the piston).  

With the shaft out of there, I compared the hole to a reamer I have that's .001 oversized.  The oversized reamer drops through the hole without touching it, and calipers (which are not the way one really measures a hole) say it's closer to 0.317 which is insanely out of spec.  I have to think I just used a drill bit.  That's just plain not good thinking on my part.  One of the things that has slowed me down is waiting for LocTite to cure on this part. 

I should probably just remake the part.  It was cut on the CNC mill and I'm sure I have the file somewhere, or can re-create one.  Since I've tried LocTite twice, I don't think that's going to work for me.  I've read many places that a good alternative is to knurl the part, which forces some metal up around the cuts it makes.  I don't know if that's going to be enough to get it to fit, but it's going to be better than what I have.  

My only success has been making an adapter from the RC engine carburetor to the intake port on the engine.  This part works acceptably well. 

The adapter is on the left, from the odd-sized port on the carburetor to the odd-sized port on the engine. 
I still need to order a fuel tank (or make one, which frankly seems like too much work) and make a few odd little parts that will take minutes to make.  

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Great Barrington Declaration

The Great Barrington Declaration is statement from a group of infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists who have come together to protest the Covid-19 lockdowns and try to reduce the unwanted deaths and personal tragedies the lockdowns are causing.  Of course, last week, the WHO essentially kick started several stories about lockdowns and particularly about how countries with strong lockdowns fared no better - and some times worse - than countries without lockdowns.

I didn't start out going this direction.  I was reading a FEE article on a thing the Federal Reserve is doing (incompetently, of course) but stumbled across some interesting things down this side road. 

To begin with, FEE itself has a week-old article, “5 Charts That Show Sweden’s Strategy Worked. The Lockdowns Failed."  Then they linked to an article invoking Elon Musk's bravado about opening the Almeda Tesla factory despite California lockdown rules  ("Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else.  If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.")  Elsewhere in the article Musk said, "Sweden Was Right" and tweeted this plot:

It's pretty clear that the pandemic was over in Sweden by about mid to late June.  According to other public records, the reason for the large number of deaths they had in the exponential growth phase around the start of April and through the first couple of months of decline was due to making the Cuomo mistake and putting active Covid cases into nursing homes.   

Musk said this in a reply to Toby Young's Tweet about the Great Barrington Declaration. 

Note that Young says that both Google and Reddit have shadow banned the declaration, which is severe censorship.  It's banning any mention by a group of qualified scientists of ideas that disagree with the candidate they're propping up.  

Because I don't use Google or the Big Tech media (present blog excluded, of course), I had no problems finding the Declaration.  I use Duck Duck Go and it was the first return in the search results.  I tested Bing and it was the first return in those results, too. 

Listen, if you're an adult with an IQ above room temperature, and haven't stopped using Google yet, you haven't been paying attention.  You really shouldn't be using Google as your search engine; and you shouldn't be using Twitter or Facebook for your news feed.  Instagram or Pinterest are for looking at pretty things or collecting pictures, not news or current events.  Actually, scratch the limit about having an "IQ above room temperature."  Nobody should be using Google or those others.  These tech companies are too dishonest to reward with your eyeballs (which is what they're charging advertisers for).  

Thursday, October 15, 2020

More Space Action Ketchup

After a couple of weeks with very little going on, a lot has come up in the last couple of days.  In no particular order:

Firefly Aerospace said its Alpha rocket first stage completed its final acceptance test on Friday, Oct. 9, at its test facility in Briggs, Texas. In a (rather impressive) video posted online, the test appeared to last for a bit less than 20 seconds.  Back in March , we did a piece that said they hoped for an operational launch by this past summer.  Clearly, we're well past summer, and while the Alpha rocket is headed for Vandenburg AFB to prepare for flight, they have a lot to do in the remaining ~76 days of 2020.  The video is 1 minute long and shows three different views of the roughly 20 second burn.

Remember the "self-eating" autophage rocket reported on back in 2018?  This week's Rocket Report from Ars Technica reports that the United Kingdom's Defense and Security Accelerator has pledged nearly $120,000 to further development of a novel "autophage" rocket. The project, under development at the University of Glasgow, burns its own structure as propellant during its ascent to orbit.
Autophage engines have already been test-fired by the Glasgow team using all-solid propellant. The new funding will underwrite the research required to use a more energetic hybrid propellant: a solid tube of fuel containing a liquid oxidiser. The engine will be test-fired at Kingston University in London’s new rocket laboratory in London next year.
One of the most interesting things that's happened to me in the 10 years of this blog is that the principal investigator on the engines, Dr. Patrick Harkness of the University of Glasgow, stumbled across the posting I put up and contributed to the discussion. 

Yesterday, NASA awarded contracts to four companies for studies related to in-space refueling.  In an August 2019 post, we covered the beginning of work between NASA and SpaceX on refueling.  This extends that and adds other companies to the program.  What follows is an excerpt from that NASA web page, and doesn't include another family of awards for Lunar Surface Technology Demonstrations.  The total announced yesterday was $370 million.
  • Eta Space of Merritt Island, Florida, $27 million
    Small-scale flight demonstration of a complete cryogenic oxygen fluid management system. As proposed, the system will be the primary payload on a Rocket Lab Photon satellite and collect critical cryogenic fluid management data in orbit for nine months. The small business will collaborate with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, $89.7 million
    In-space demonstration mission using liquid hydrogen – the most challenging of the cryogenic propellants – to test more than a dozen cryogenic fluid management technologies, positioning them for infusion into future space systems. Lockheed Martin will collaborate with Marshall and Glenn.
  • SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, $53.2 million
    Large-scale flight demonstration to transfer 10 metric tons of cryogenic propellant, specifically liquid oxygen, between tanks on a Starship vehicle. SpaceX will collaborate with Glenn and Marshall.
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Centennial, Colorado, $86.2 million
    Demonstration of a smart propulsion cryogenic system, using liquid oxygen and hydrogen, on a Vulcan Centaur upper stage. The system will test precise tank pressure control, tank-to-tank transfer, and multi-week propellant storage. ULA will collaborate with Marshall, Kennedy, and Glenn.
It has been reported that this might represent the first funding NASA has ever given to SpaceX for the Starship vehicles.

Speaking of SpaceX and the Starship development, as anticipated on Sunday, all three raptor engines have been mounted on prototype SN8, and testing began during the overnight hours last night.  Testing will resume with a road closure at 9:00 PM CDT until 6:00 AM tomorrow, followed immediately by closure tomorrow, the 16th, from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM CDT. Anticipation is running high that a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) will be conducted tonight followed by a static firing test tomorrow.  

A WDR is a test in which the fuel is loaded, turbopumps are spun up, preburners may be lit, but the raptor engine is NOT ignited.  A road closure & FAA TFR (overflight restriction) are required, and the fuel load is reported to the FAA.  The same requirements apply to the static engine firing.  As we learned with the previous prototypes (SN5 and 6), a static firing will last for around 4 to 5 seconds.  It still doesn't seem too optimistic to believe the 50,000 foot hop might happen by Halloween.

An "up the skirt" photo of SN8 and the three raptor engines.  SpaceX photo tweeted by Elon Musk. 
Locally - and noteworthy - the next Starlink launch is scheduled for Sunday morning at 8:27 EDT, and a second Starlink mission is scheduled for Wednesday at 12:36 PM.  Teslarati notes this will bring some milestones with it.  
Regardless of the schedule uncertainty and potential for delays, if SpaceX manages to successful launch Starlink-13 and Starlink-14 within the next two or so weeks, October will mark the first time the company has launched three Starlink missions in one month. If the missions weren’t for Starlink, SpaceX would effectively be creating the second largest commercial satellite constellation in the world in less than 30 days.

Additionally, reports that SpaceX has assigned Falcon 9 booster B1060 to Starlink-14. If Starlink-14 lifts off on schedule on October 21st, B1060 will beat out B1058 for the crown of fastest booster turnaround, launching twice in just 48 days. Falcon 9 B1058 set the current world record when it beat NASA’s Space Shuttle (54 days) with a 51-day turnaround earlier this year.
The reference to "potential for delays" relates back the Delta IV Heavy launch for NROL, which has been scrubbed numerous times since its initial launch date back last June.  It's currently scheduled for October 23rd  (next Friday) at 10:00 PM. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Looking A Month Into the Future - The Transition Integrity Project's Plans

To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, “If you complain the US isn’t democratic enough, you just might be living in a country designed by geniuses and run by idiots.”

This is an exploration of the document from the Transition Integrity Project, “Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition.”  The 22 page .pdf is currently available at:

As I don't know that site, I assume it could go down at any time.  I can't emphasize enough that everyone should read and understand this.  I mentioned the TIP a month ago in my post about the Color Revolution against the US, as one of the groups organizing the revolution. 

The TIP pretends to be unbiased but is rabidly anti-Trump, anti-constitution, and anti-America as founded.  An easy example is in a footnote on page 3 (the start of the actual text of their study).   “TIP recognizes and shares the view that the Electoral College is profoundly anti-democratic, and that numerous long-standing practices also function to create structural biases in our voting system. For present purposes, however, these constraints are treated as givens.”  

The electoral college, like all of the constitutional government, is designed to balance the rights of less populated states with the higher population states.  Our legislative branch has a House of  Representatives, with the number of representatives proportional to the population of the state, and a Senate where every state gets the same number of senators.  In the electoral college, each state has a number of electors equal to the number of its representatives and senators; there are an additional three electors appointed to Washington D.C.; as if they were the least populous state.  Currently, there are 538 electors; with the mass flight out of New York and California, perhaps their numbers of electors go down and destination states get more.

As best as could be agreed upon, every aspect of the constitution is written to protect the rights of the minority while having majority rule.  Every gunnie I’ve ever talked with about it knows the axiom, “Democracy is two wolves and sheep voting on what’s for dinner.”  A simple majority-rule system with none of the constitutional protections offers just that much protection of minority opinions on policies.   Calling for the country to abolish the electoral college for being anti-democratic is simply saying they want all the power for themselves. 

But that's not what TIP is about.  TIP did a classic DC thing and had politicians role play four scenarios for the election.  It should go without saying that with people pretending to be other people, the results are not likely to be exactly what the people being modeled would really do in the scenarios, but simply illustrates how the players viewed the situations.  

The document describes the scenarios this way:
The four scenarios were developed after a consultative process involving outreach to experts on elections and transitions, political violence and instability, governance, and scenario planning and game design.  Each of the four scenarios developed was different. (See Appendix B for a summary of the scenarios and key actions.)  In one scenario, the exercise posited that the winner of the election was not known as of the morning after the election and the outcome of the race was too close to predict with certainty; in another, the exercise began with the premise that Democratic party candidate Joe Biden won the popular vote and the Electoral College by a healthy margin; and in a third, the exercise assumed that President Trump won the Electoral College vote but again lost the popular vote by a healthy margin. The fourth exercise began with the premise that Biden won both the popular vote and the Electoral College by a narrow margin.
What strikes me about this is that in no scenario do they consider president Trump would win the electoral college and the popular vote.  Joe Biden won both by a wide margin in scenario two and won both by a narrow margin in four.  In scenario one, it was too close to call the morning after the election and they prepare for a long period of actively finding votes to count.  
Note that in case three, where Trump wins the electoral college but loses the popular vote by “a healthy margin” that the constitutional term for that is “elected president.”  Even in that case, the role-players go all out to take power back from the president.  This scenario played through three turns; by the end of the first turn:
...the country was in the midst of a full-blown constitutional crisis characterized by: 1) Political chaos; 2) Widespread threats of violence, and sporadic actual violence in the streets; and 4) A hostile, dangerous, highly-partisan, and frequently unconstrained information and media environment.
Throughout the document, the TIP players pretend that violence in the streets is right wing phenomenon and not the "peaceful protests" of antifa and BLM.  They talk about right wing agents provocateur going into democrat party protests to ensure violence happens.  There is no limit to projection.  

Turns two and three deteriorate farther.  This is the scenario I mentioned last month in which Washington Oregon and California secede from the country, but Obama convinced them to declare a bunch of other conditions. Among them was to divide California into five states to increase the number of senators they have, make Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico states, so they can get even more blue senators and representatives.  Think of it as stacking the legislature instead of (or in addition to) stacking the court.  
One of the most consequential moves was that Team Biden on January 6 provoked a breakdown in the joint session of Congress by getting the House of Representatives to agree to award the presidency to Biden (based on the alternative pro-Biden submissions sent by pro-Biden governors).  Pence and the GOP refused to accept this, declaring instead that Trump was reelected under the Constitution because of his Electoral College victory. This partisan division remained unresolved because neither side backed down, and January 20 arrived without a single president-elect entitled to be Commander-in-Chief after noon that day. It was unclear what the military would do in this situation.
The degree to which the TIP role-playing games will affect what happens to the country is hard to put number on.  The mere fact that they've been planning for conflict over this election since 2016 is itself a sign of bad things coming.  As we've seen vividly lately, in Portland and most recently Denver, antifa is resorting to murder more often these days.  The election will be contested first, and at no time that I can remember has the need to win by more than the fraud margin been more vivid.  Every option involved violence, started by Trump or “Alt Right / Boogaloo supporters.”   Naturally, the left-wingers wouldn't do such a thing - or so they imply. 

The TIP study is full of TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome) but I still think everyone should at least skim it.  When you read of the thousand and one bad things they say Trump will do, just substitute the left wing mob to get a more accurate picture.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Blue Origin Completes First Test Launch in 10 Months

Blue Origin has been working toward this mission for some time, and today successfully completed the 13th suborbital flight of one of their New Shepard rockets in West Texas.  

The complete mission video is 52 minutes; this video should be starting with about 60 seconds left in the countdown.  

The story is carried by Teslarati, the “unofficial but affiliated” SpaceX site I follow, and they naturally compare the New Shepard to the Falcon 9, but we'll let Blue Origin take their bows first by quoting their statement on YouTube.
Blue Origin successfully completed the 13th New Shepard mission on October 13, 2020. New Shepard flew 12 commercial payloads to space on this mission, including the Deorbit, Descent, and Landing Sensor Demonstration with NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate under a Tipping Point partnership. This was the first payload to fly mounted on the exterior of a New Shepard booster rather than inside the capsule, opening the door to a wide range of future high-altitude sensing, sampling, and exposure payloads.

Also on board were tens of thousands of postcards from students around the world from Blue Origin’s nonprofit, Club for the Future, some of which will include a special NASA Artemis stamp.
and by quoting their Tweet about the mission:
NS-13 was a total success. 7th consecutive successful trip to space and back for this particular vehicle, 12 customer payloads including @NASA's lunar landing demo, and tens of thousands postcards from @ClubforFuture. Replay the #NewShepard mission:
Teslarati points out the while the New Shepard is essentially the same diameter as the Falcon 9, it is about half the height.  It carries one engine, a  liquid hydrogen and oxygen (hydrolox) BE-3 engine capable of producing 110,000 lbs. of thrust.  (For comparison, each of the nine Merlin-1D engines on a Falcon 9 has 190,000 lbs. of thrust.)  In practice, Blue Origin has only built four New Shepards in about 6 years and has never flown the same booster twice in less than 60 days.  
Blue Origin is working on a massive orbital class vehicle, larger than the Falcon Heavy, as seen here:

Picture by Everyday Astronaut.  Each of the side boosters on the Falcon Heavy in the middle is a slightly modified Falcon 9.  The little stub on the left is the New Shepard.  There will be a three stage version of the New Glenn, and while larger than the two stage version shown, it's still smaller than a Saturn V at 365' tall.  The Starship on its Super Heavy booster will be bigger than a Saturn V. 

The New Glenn is meant to be reusable (they claim 100 times) and it will feature the methane-oxygen version of the BE-4 engine, which will also power ULA’s new Vulcan rocket.  The two stage version is a large-diameter, 82-meter (270 feet) tall rocket with the capacity to lift 45 metric tons (100,000 lbs) to low Earth orbit and an impressive 13 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit.  Teslarati reports both the engine and the New Glenn appear to be in the throes of technical difficulties and delays.  During Blue Origin’s 52 minute New Shepard Flight 13 (NS-13) webcast, the company didn’t mention either New Glenn or the new BE-4 engine once.

Monday, October 12, 2020

This Has Been One Weird Hurricane Season

It's hard to avoid the talk about how active this hurricane season has been, and yet there's an undercurrent of weirdness I'm not picking up anywhere.  I'm approaching this from my viewpoint as an interested observer because we get storms here and I'm used to following them (I've called following the weather in the tropics my summertime hobby).  Let me start with a couple of obvious oddities.  If you watch much TV, like the Weather Channel, you'll see something like this graphic (dated yesterday, which means you may have seen something slightly different): 

Yes, we've had a lot of storms: over twice normal.  But the majority of those have been weaker, milder storms.  While we have over twice a normal season's number of named storms, we've only had 33% more hurricanes than normal.  That, in turns, means the others have all been tropical or subtropical storms.  Subtropical storms never used to get named.  To finish the chart, we've had 1/3 fewer Major hurricanes (Category III or higher) than normal, too.

Perhaps you're familiar with the metric used for evaluating storm seasons called Accumulated Cyclone Energy or ACE.  The ACE agrees with the statement that it's an above average season, but not extreme.  

You can see that the North Atlantic season is running 143% of average but nowhere near where the 200% number of named storms implies, so the ACE also says most of the storms haven't been hurricanes.  There was one landfalling, category IV storm, Laura, which struck in almost exactly the same place as the Category II storm Delta hit last week.   Delta briefly attained Category IV, for a few hours between crossing the Yucatan, and hitting Louisiana as a Cat II.  Worldwide, the ACE level is at 2/3 of normal Year To Date, with the lowest ACE in the Western North Pacific at 39% of normal. 

The area referred to as Hurricane Alley has been the weirdest this year.  This is where low pressure systems come off the coast of Africa, then move west across the Atlantic toward the Caribbean, Central America, or the CONUS.  There have been several that resembled a Hurricane Alley storm that just never developed; others developed and went northwest far earlier than typical.  There hasn't been one storm that fit the pattern.  If you look at the NHC five day forecast right now, there's an area currently rated at a 30% chance of developing.  It's currently west of the Windward Islands and has crossed most of the Atlantic with a 10 to 30% chance of developing.  

If you follow these forecasts, areas the forecasters are concerned about are first called an invest (area of investigation), then go through the sequence of being a depression, a tropical storm (which gets named), then a hurricane.  One of things that may be adding to our number of named storms is that the standards for naming storms have changed.  According to one source, 
When comparing the number of named storms, historically, the criteria for receiving a name was loosened in 2002. … Tropical storms and hurricanes were named, lesser subtropical storms and depressions were numbered. 2002 and beyond, the lesser tropical depressions and tropical storms use up names from the list.  Gustav, in 2002, was the first subtropical storm to be named.  Those that peter out and never become hurricane-magnitude or storm-strength artificially elevate the count of storms that year, when compared to 1950-2001 historical records. 
A vivid example of the impact of naming is this year's Subtropical Storm Alpha.  Thanks to the satellites watching 24/7, an area of low pressure and storms was noted well north of the Azores - which are well off the coast of Portugal.  They kept an eye on the system for a couple of days, and finally gave it the name Alpha at 1630 UTC on September 18th.  Within two hours Alpha went onshore onto Portugal crossed over the Iberian peninsula and dissipated by the 20th.  Since it never was a tropical storm, it wouldn't have been named under the old system.  Neither naming convention tells me why the US National Hurricane Center should have anything to do with naming a subtropical storm that develops offshore Europe and only affects Europe.  I think they have their own weather service. 

All in all, it has been an active season, but not extremely so.  Dr. Maue has a graphic of his ACE chart that marks off prior years that were more active than this record year.  

Do I need to put in a disclaimer that I don't mean to disparage people who went through Laura, or Delta or any other system?  I feel their pain because I've been through more tropical storms than I can recall and about a dozen hurricanes up through Category III.  I'm just always inclined to look farther when I find things that make me say, “that's funny.”  Of course, you've noticed the climate alarmists are blaming all of this on global warmening (or whatever they're calling it these days).  The overall downward trend of the ACE doesn't support that at all.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

A Good Day to Keep an Eye on SpaceX Boca Chica

Since I subscribed to the Lab Padre YouTube channel, I keep an eye on it.  Can't say I join the chat much or just sit watching for hours, but I check in and see what's going on.  If they're on the verge of doing something important, I'll watch more, but I mostly just check in to see if anything interesting is going on.
Today was interesting. Today the engines for SN8 started showing up.
Starship prototype SN8 has completed all its tests to date: static pressure, cryogenic loading, cryogenic pressure and everything that can be done without engines.  All tests were done on the overnight shift, with the roads closed from 9PM to 6AM (Central).  On one night's testing, a leak was detected and the test aborted.  The leak was fixed on the day shift the next day and the test completed that following night.  I'm not sure it was within 24 hours, but it was close.  

Elon Musk has always said that once the vehicle is fully tested, it will have three raptor engines installed, and testing will resume until they complete two static firings of the three engines.  After the engines have been static fired, the nose cone and forward control surfaces will be added.  
According to Elon Musk, SpaceX will static fire SN8 twice before attempting its 15 km (~50,000 ft) launch debut. More likely than not, SpaceX will attempt a triple-engine static fire with the Starship as-is, install SN8’s nosecone and forward flaps, and attempt a second static fire while only drawing propellant from the rocket’s smaller header tanks (one of which is located in the tip of its nose). Only time (or Elon tweets) will tell.” — October 1st, 2020

Photo credits in the picture, of course.  
This might be an appropriate time to mention that three raptors have never been fired together at the same time.  The raptors can be fully throttle controlled, but have been measured at half a million pounds of thrust on the test stand.  While modelling software to make sure nothing bad happens is continually improving, there is nothing like testing to help convince you that your design works. 

Teslarati reports that two of the three raptors were installed today.  By blind luck, I loaded the Lab Padre Nerdle cam and saw a platform like the one pictured above lifting an engine into place.  Later, I saw the second engine off to the right of the test stand, before it was lifted into place.  It's expected that the third raptor is in one of the buildings in the area they call the shipyard and it will be installed tomorrow.  

I believe it's possible that testing could resume quickly and a static firing could be as soon as next weekend.  I still remain optimistic we could see the hop to ~50,000 feet by the end of the month. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Not Exactly Ham Radio, Just Amazing Radio Monitoring

Although this isn't the kind of radio hobby stuff that requires a ham license, at least here in the US, reported perhaps the most remarkable radio monitoring story I've ever heard.   
On Oct. 4th, amateur radio operator Scott Tilley picked up a carrier wave from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) circling the Red Planet.  
Earth and Mars are pretty much at opposition now, and the closest approach since 2003, so he had that working for him.  Still, at the point of closest approach on October 6, the red planet was 38.6 million miles away.  How much signal is lost over that distance?  
The free space path loss is computed with the expression:

dB = 37 dB + 20log(f) + 20log(d)

Here, f is the frequency in MHz and d is the distance in miles. 

That says the path loss is 37+ 20log(10,000) + 20log(38.6x106) or 266 dB
Off the top of my head, that implies a lot of antenna gain on both ends.  We don't know about the details on the MRO orbiter, but we know the hardware Scott used.  This dish measures a mere 60 cm aperture - 23.6 inches.  Using a standard formula I get about 33 dBi gain from an antenna this size.  Very high gain compared to a typical ham's Yagi beam but since gain is a function of diameter, it pales compared to the gain NASA gets on much bigger antennas.  
Still, let's say that NASA put the same gain antenna on the MRO.  That's 66 dB gain between them and that turns the path loss into 200 dB.  Start with about 1 Watt at the transmitter and the signal comes out around the thermal noise floor in a receiver.  I'm sure this BOTE (Back Of The Envelope) arithmetic must be overlooking something, but it seems close. 

Scott Tilley's hobby is looking for satellites.  Sometimes presumed dead, sometimes kept hidden.  Spaceweather puts it this way:

Tilley is a leader in the field of satellite radio. Dead satellites, zombie satellites, spy satellites: He routinely finds and tracks them. "But this was a first for me," he says. "A satellite around Mars!"

It's not easy picking up radio signals from distant planets. NASA does it using the giant antennas of the Deep Space Network. Tilley uses a modest 60 cm dish in his backyard in Roberts Creek, BC. This week's close encounter with Mars set the stage for his detection.

"MRO's signal is weak, but it is one of the louder signals in Mars orbit," says Tilley. "The spacecraft has a large dish antenna it uses as a relay for other Mars missions. With the proximity of Mars these days, it was the perfect time to try." 

That link is to his personal web page, Riddles in the Sky.  Not updated very often, his Twitter feed seems to be his emphasis, but both are full of nerdy goodness.  I've stumbled across web references to guys who search for satellites before and never paid it much attention.  This is pretty cool.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Rated M - For Mature Audiences

It's time to address another one of those topics that requires us all to be adults.  It concerns the US debt.  

The US Federal debt has crossed the $27 trillion dollar mark.  On May 12, just five months ago, the debt had just crossed $25.1 trillion.  That was right after the $3 trillion "stimulus and rescue" package in response to the Covid-19 lock downs was passed, so in April of this year, that was $22 trillion.  

I don't need to point out that we're a matter of weeks before the election.  We've seen some of the expenses that Biden/Harris/Hillary/whoever will put forward.  While the Biden/Harris team is drastically different from the Trump/Pence team, and it seems support for Trump/Pence is essential for a variety of reasons, perhaps even critical, I've been saying since '17 that deficit spending is Trump's weakest area.  The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) released a study earlier this week, called “The Cost of the Trump and Biden Campaign Plans.”  Yes, Biden's plan is worse, but the differences aren't that great - on the order of 10 to 20%.  CRFB analyzed three different approaches for each candidate based on things the campaigns published, breaking them into three cost brackets. 

Note that the capture of the US Debt Clock says we are currently at debt of nearly 138% of GDP, nearly $217,000 per taxpayer, and things will get worse from here.  

The report included this summary:
Under current law, trillion-dollar annual budget deficits will become the new normal, even after the current public health emergency subsides. Meanwhile, the national debt is projected to exceed the post-World War II record high over the next four-year term and reach twice the size of the economy within 30 years. Four major trust funds are also headed for insolvency, including the Highway and Medicare Hospital Insurance trust funds, within the next presidential term.
A debt to GDP ratio of over 200% is an exotic territory, and very few countries have survived long enough to get there; notably Japan.  They predict we'll be there by 2050.  Typically, countries economically collapse before they get that far in debt.  Like before they get to 150%.

As the report points out, 
The national debt was growing rapidly before the necessary borrowing to combat the COVID-19 crisis, and this trajectory will continue after the crisis ends. Fiscal irresponsibility prior to the pandemic worsened structural deficits that were already growing due to rising health and retirement costs and insufficient revenue.
As someone who gravitates to the Information Theory of Money, I prefer a limited, commodity-based money that can't be created in infinite supply.  Nevertheless, I have to say that even John Maynard Keynes himself didn't say to deficit spend all the time.  He thought printing money was for bad times when relief was needed, and in good times nations would pay the deficits down.  

As always, the election is a choice of the less bad candidate.  Either way we're facing long term debt problems that get worse.  Fed Chairman Powell this week said something to the effect that yes, we have long term debt problems, but this is not the time to attack them.  He's arguing essentially Keynes' point that he'll do more damage to more people by not trying to stimulate the economy than by trying to address the debt.  What he doesn't talk about is that the long term debt problem limits what he can do, because of the marginal utility of the dollar.  After dumping trillions of created dollars into the economy, how can doing less matter? 

A year ago, the economy was strong; that would have been a time to start addressing deficits and trying to reduce the deficit's growth. Today we have the economy in shambles, cities in flames, and crisis after crisis. As a coach of mine once said, "you can only play the hand you've been dealt."  No matter what we do, the debt is going up along with the dangers that come with that; inflation is here, hyperinflation and collapse are possible.  Despite the CRFB report, the choice between the two teams isn't that close. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Misguided Movement For The $15 Minimum Wage Hits Florida

As the election season switches into high gear, the number of commercials has been going up.  One that caught my ears is that here in Florida there is a proposed constitutional amendment that will raise the state's minimum wage, which is already higher than the Federal min wage, to $15/hr over the next several years.  This will be Amendment 2 on your Florida ballots, and my sample ballot reads like this:
Raises minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective September 30th, 2021. Each September 30th thereafter, minimum wage shall increase by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30th, 2026. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases shall revert to being adjusted annually for inflation starting September 30th, 2027.
This was submitted by a lobbying organization called Florida For A Fair Wage, run by Florida's favorite best known ambulance chaser, John Morgan, the guy who raised the money to push through medical marijuana and whose commercials and billboards blanket the Southeast US (I've seen them as far as Tennessee during our eclipse trip in 2017).  Morgan has been rumored to be planning a run for Governor for years.  For those who don't know, Florida's minimum wage is $8.56, already $1.31/hr more than the Federal min wage of $7.25.

John Morgan has been outdone.  According to FEE, the Swiss city of Geneva has just voted to enact a minimum wage of $25/hr.  Morgan should cancel his amendment and start the process over again.  

I know I've said before that I'm really sick and tired of this subject.  I always say the law is going to hurt the very people it's supposed to help, but the stupid laws pass and the predicted bad things happen.  A few years later, they say the fix is to repeat it with a different number for min wage.  It's like watching an imbecile sticking a metal fork in the wall outlet over and over.  You tell them, "don't do that - you'll get hurt."  You watch them do it, get knocked over by the power, then they wobble back to stick the fork in the outlet again. 
Examples are everywhere because cities have been passing much higher minimum wages for much of the last decade and in every case, workers suffered.  Many had their hours cut, other lost their jobs.  Restaurants went out of business.  I've written about it so many times, it's hard to pick out stories.  Here's one, how 'bout one from 2016More?
So, it’s no surprise that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that enacting a $15 minimum wage nationwide would destroy up to 3.7 million jobs and decrease total income for Americans below the poverty line by roughly $16 billion. The Washington Examiner’s Tiana Lowe wrote that the research “disproves the idea that a $15 federal minimum wage creates any net benefit” and shows how the policy “simply reshuffles the problems plaguing our economy, on the whole creating more new problems than it solves.”


“The main finding of economic theory and empirical research over the past 70 years is that minimum wage increases tend to reduce employment,” the Cato Institute concluded in a research review. “While minimum wages ostensibly aim to improve the economic well-being of the working poor, the disemployment effects of minimum wages have been found to fall disproportionately on the least skilled and on the most disadvantaged individuals, including the disabled, youth, lower-skilled workers, immigrants, and ethnic minorities.”

There's a saying that if you took all the economists on Earth and laid them end to end they wouldn't reach a conclusion.  It may be true all the economists wouldn't agree but a substantial majority of them agreed that raising the minimum wage is a bad thing to do. 
A 2019 survey by the Employment Policies Institute found that 75 percent of professional economists oppose increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This wasn’t political: In an interesting twist, almost all the responding economists identified as Democrats or Independents, with just 12 percent identifying as registered Republicans.
An even larger percentage, 84 percent, believed a $15 minimum wage would have negative effects on youth employment.  The younger workers, looking for that first job, or a summer job during school just aren't worth that $15. 
Given all this, you can be sure how I'm voting on this proposal. On a more anal-retentive, practical note, while the bill says future wage increases beyond $15/hr will be based on inflation, they fail to mention which of the dozens of ways to measure inflation is to be used. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Imitation ... blah... blah... Flattery... blah

According to Ars Technica, the Russian state space corporation, Roscosmos, unveiled plans (link is in Russian) to develop a new rocket, called "Amur."  Readers may notice a certain resemblance to another well known rocket.  

It looks like a smaller version of the Falcon 9, capable of lifting about half the payload of the established booster.  Those of you reading for a couple of years might possibly remember that I posted a story about how the rest of the world is unable to keep up with the US Space Companies, but the American company that was getting all the traffic in that article was SpaceX, and still is.  Simply they were eating the competition's lunches.  Within a year of that piece, Ariane had changed from saying "why make a rocket reusable and cut down on jobs?" to announcing development of something based on the F9, and China started to follow.

This might be an apropos time to mention that "Scrubtober" ended this morning with an on time launch of the Starlink 12 mission, and a perfectly nominal mission. That includes sticking the booster landing in the center of the 10-ring on the drone, and recovering both halves of the fairings; catching one and fishing the other half out of the Atlantic.  Most importantly, the mission successfully deployed their 60 satellites. 

Getting back to the Amur, you'll note the grid fins at the top of the booster stage and the deployable landing legs that both resemble SpaceX's working solutions.  
Whereas the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage is designed to either return to its launch site or land downrange on a drone ship, the Amur booster will launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in eastern Russia and land downrange, possibly at a site to be constructed along the Sea of Okhotsk. For now, Russia is not planning to land the booster at sea, due to often rough conditions in the Sea of Okhotsk.
I see two warning flags in the Ars article.  First, the booster will use an engine that has not begun development yet.  I assume they know how to develop engines, but I don't think that's trivial art, especially if they have a target of 10 booster reuses without a major rebuild, something no one has successfully done yet.  We can be sure they don't have any particular advantage there.  (SpaceX will probably reach the 10th flight of one of their more experienced boosters in early '21).   
The second hangup is as Ars notes: 
It is important to note that Russia's space leader, Dmitry Rogozin, has announced a number of ambitious space projects in recent years and then taken no actions to see that they're carried through.

Roscosmos says the rocket will be developed by 2026 and development costs will not exceed $900 million.

Since they released this information publicly, it was ripe for comment by SpaceX founder Elon Musk. 

Commenting on the Amur rocket on Twitter, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said, "It’s a step in the right direction, but they should really aim for full reusability by 2026. Larger rocket would also make sense for literal economies of scale. Goal should be to minimize cost per useful ton to orbit or it will at best serve a niche market."


Monday, October 5, 2020

They're Calling It Scrubtober

Well, some of the nerds on the Lab Padre Nerdle Cam are using that word.  Because there has not been a successful launch from Cape Canaveral so far in October.  Not that we're a long way into the month, but the string goes back into September.

This morning, SpaceX was scheduled to make the fourth attempt to launch the mission called Starlink 12, the next batch of 60 satellites.  Liftoff was scheduled for 0751 EST or 1151 UTC.  About 20 minutes before that, launch directors gave up waiting for signs of good weather and scrubbed.  Launch is set for 0729 tomorrow and weather has a 70% chance of being acceptable.  This is the mission that was originally set for September 17th and was aborted because the recovery ships could not stay stationary in the currents off South Carolina

The range has given priority to the United Launch Alliance NROL mission on their Delta IV Heavy because of its national security implications and bumped SpaceX later whenever resource requirements conflicted.  After the ULA mission was scrubbed for the seventh time, 1154 PM EST on Wednesday, September 30th, they gave SpaceX a go to retry this mission on Thursday morning, October 1st.  That mission was aborted by the Falcon 9's software which detected an "out of family" sensor error in the ground support equipment 7 seconds before liftoff (you can sing the "one of these things is not like the others" ditty now).  This F9 was on Pad 39A and is the mission that was scrubbed due to weather this morning.
While analyzing the sensors, there was a second Falcon 9 over on Pad 40 with a GPS III satellite for the Space Force on top.  This one was scheduled for October 2nd, and was aborted with 2 seconds left in the count.  I was out on the side yard hoping to see this one, but the weather was pretty bad here that day. 
The GPS III launch has not been rescheduled, and I find no word on the ULA launch.  Spaceflight Now says there is no set time for the Delta IV launch and adds:
Delayed from June and Aug. 26. Scrubbed on Aug. 27 by pneumatics issue. Aborted at T-minus 3 seconds on Aug. 29. Delayed from Sept. 26 by swing arm issue. Scrubbed on Sept. 28 due to weather. Scrubbed on Sept. 29 due to hydraulic leak on Mobile Service Tower retract system. Aborted on Sept. 30 at T-minus 7 seconds.
I don't mean to pick on ULA for the Delta IV; I'm guessing that except for the one weather issue, they were all ground support equipment (GSE) and that just might be because with their low launch cadence, the GSE gets affected by the environment.  "Rust never sleeps" isn't just a catchy name for an album

Nevertheless, the Falcon 9 launches with their higher cadence had gotten to be very smooth and the few aborts with seconds left in the count have caught the CEO's attention, meaning Elon Musk is coming to the Cape this week.  
Musk also says that SpaceX is “doing a broad review of launch site, propulsion, structures, avionics, range, & regulatory constraints” to determine if an apparent goal of “48 launches” in 2021 is feasible.

“We will need to make a lot of improvements to have a chance of completing 48 launches next year!”  Elon Musk, October 3.

48 launches a year is obviously four short of one per week, and I don't know of any company, any government, or any entity launching orbital class vehicles that can do that.  It's ambitious, but the company is nothing if not ambitious, as seen both here and over in Texas, where Starship SN8 has completed it's first pressurization test and is scheduled for its first cryogenic tests tonight.  Still moving toward its static firings and its 50,000 foot test hop.  Behind it are more Starships built to the same level. 

The Starlink 12 Falcon 9 on pad 39A as sunrise paints the sky in vivid reds.  SpaceX photo. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

A Ham Radio Series 15 – Control Loops and Radio Design - 1

Control loops, sometimes called Feedback and Control Loops, are very commonly used in radio design.  Receivers have Automatic Gain Control (AGC) loops; transmitters call the equivalent circuit Automatic Level Control (ALC), and both receivers and transmitters might have Phase Locked Loop (PLL) Frequency Synthesizers.  For many years, I was the PLL specialist where I worked, but I’ve designed all those and other control circuits.   I know that some of you are already really familiar with these things, in great and gory details.  Take the night off (unless you care to look for mistakes to correct).

I started writing this post this afternoon, went looking for one of the terms I use and found a post from 2017.  I'd written four paragraphs and they were substantially the same as the previous post.  Most of this is reused from that post. 

As a topic in the EE curriculum, control loops are a vast subject with a great deal of analytical models for their behavior.  This helps us design them so they work as intended from the start.  I won’t get into that sort of detail here.  I'm going to skip the math and try to explain things in words.  I'll also be the first to say that when you design your 10th or 15th PLL or AGC, there's not much theory involved.  It's pretty much you just solve a few equations (which you've probably stuck in a spreadsheet or other software) and you're done. 

For starters, let's define a feedback system.  It's a system that corrects itself by feeding back information on its state ("what we got") and comparing this to its desired state ("what we want it to be").  This diagram is a simple type of feedback system. 

For some folks, this is probably more confusing than helpful, so let's do a simple example of something that everyone knows: a thermostat in an air conditioner.  The thing we're controlling is the temperature at the thermostat, which we use as a proxy for the temperature everywhere under that air conditioning.  The feedback sampler is a thermocouple or something that measures the temperature – essentially a thermometer.  The heart of the loop is that circle with an X in it, which acts to compare the "what we want it to be" (the input; the temperature we set) to "what we actually got" (from the thermocouple).  It compares the two electrical signals and generates an error signal ("what we got" minus "what we wanted") which goes to something called the feedback controller here which makes the feedback correction.  In a thermostat, this is usually an on/off switch.    

It's important to notice that if the temperature is higher than we wanted, the control system turns it down, and if it's lower the system turns it up.  Since the correction is in the opposite direction of the measurement, this is called negative feedback.  If you think of the audio screams and howls that happen when a microphone is in front of a loudspeaker, there is no correction and the output gets louder until it can't go up any more.  This is a type of positive feedback, not a control system.  Perhaps you've heard of the term vicious cycle, where something happens and its result is to contribute to causing it again: that's a positive feedback situation.

As an example, I'm going to describe how my central air conditioner works.  I don't know how universal this is, but I've watched my thermostat and know that if I set some temperature, say to cool the house to 75 degrees, it won't turn the air conditioner on to reduce temperature until it measures 2 degrees above the desired temperature, 77.  The error has to be that big before it will turn on.  The air conditioner then comes on at full power until the temperature at the thermostat reaches the desired temperature.  There has to be some sort of difference (called hysteresis) in the temperature between when it turns on as the room is getting warmer and when turns off as it's cooling the room.  There's no way the system could know to both turn on and turn off when it's 75.

This is what's called a Bang-Bang controller.  It either turns on the cooling 100% or it turns it off (0%).  That's a pretty crude system, and lots of control systems you're familiar with don't work that way.  Consider cruise control in a car: if you had a Bang-Bang controller your accelerator would go full throttle or to idle.  A Bang-Bang controller works for a simple thermostat, but in a cruise control the demands for accuracy are higher, and we want something that doesn't continually speed you up and slow you down by a couple of MPH.  Your cruise control measures your speed, compares it to the setting and either increases or decreases the throttle.

There are much more elegant control systems available, and the smoothest response is generally the Proportional-Integral-Derivative or PIDcontroller.   A PID controller calculates three quantities and then combines them to create the error correction needed.  The three signals can be prioritized in this combining subcircuit.  Hopefully, this graphic will help explain it while I add some words.

Proportional to error means that the bigger the error, the harder it tries to correct.  Integration of errors over time is an averaging process - it means that the result is incorporating both how big the error is and how long it lasted; its output gets bigger if some error has lasted longer, not just if the error is larger.  Finally, Proportional to the rate of change term is determining if the error has gotten larger quickly or slowly.

The drawback of PID systems is that they're complex and can be hard to get running well; in many cases, an error signal that's proportional to the error is all that's needed.  I don't recall ever seeing an AGC, PLL, ALC or any other electronic control system that used a PID controller.  The vast majority are simply the middle box, proportional to an integration (summation) of the errors over time.  On the other hand, this is something that the continuing advancement of electronics has vastly improved, and for some control tasks, like the temperature of furnace, kiln or for some operation, you can buy a preprogrammed, ready-to-use PID controller for well under $100, and sometimes under $20.  

Proportional systems are starting to make their way into air conditioners.  We have a Mini Split system in the workshop and it behaves that way.  It cools the air it blows more when the temperature in the room is a couple of degrees higher than the set point - or proportional to the difference in temperature.  Instead of the unit turning off when it reaches temperature, it sets the cool air output warmer than it was when it was dropping the room temperature, saving energy.  The air coming out can be just a couple of degrees cooler than the air going in, so essentially no cooling goes on.  

A Fun Fact is that PID controllers were first developed for automatic steering systems of ships at sea in the 1920s.   

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Shop Update

I haven't done one of these for a while, but I've been working a little bit at a time at figuring out how to put this engine together. 

Let me lead with my chin and show the only mistake I've found so far.  I'm sure there will be more.

The top aluminum piece on right, holding the cylinder with its fins, is the cylinder head.  Its bottom edge is supposed to be flush with the front edge of bottom piece facing us with the two big countersunk holes.  The valve assembly that mounts over those three holes on the head won't fit. 

The head is held in place with one #10-32 screw coming up through the bottom of the plate both parts are mounted to, so I checked the distance of the mounting hole to the edge of the plate.  That was fine, so I checked the distance of the bottom piece's mounting holes to the edge and those are fine.  The only thing left to be wrong is the hole in the bottom of the head and sure enough, I put it in the wrong place.  This is a view of the bottom of the cylinder head.

When I put the real part next to the drawing, it was obvious that I measured that 0.688" from the right edge and not the left.  It didn't take too long to fix, and I'm getting off easy.  The wrong hole is just to the left of the one that I added as shown, they almost touch.  It's a blind hole on the bottom of a piece that will never see the light of day again once it's permanently assembled. 

So I built it up more with the parts that go in that area.  The valve block mounts with no problems now.

The plastic bag behind the metal to the right has the carburetor.  The Webster plans include a page of parts to make a DIY carburetor, but Webster himself says, "do yourself a favor and get an RC model carburetor."  You don't have to tell me twice.  I'll probably build one of these simple carburetors one of these days, but not now.  I need to come up with a gas tank, and I figure that since I have an RC model carb, why not an RC model gas tank?  I've done some preliminary searches, but I'd like a small gas tank, like an ounce or two, and the ones I've seen are bigger.
Finally, here's a shot of my bench with all the parts I've got.  The small parts are in a little plastic cup, lower left front.  There are others like the piston rings and the CDI ignition I bought, that are not pictured, plus some I haven't bought yet, like the gas tank and ignition points.  I expect to have to make a few custom little spacers (washers). 

The Webster is said to be just about an ideal beginner's engine and easy to get running.  There's a lot of really neat model engines, and I find it understandable that people who go to the effort to draw up everything in CAD would charge for their plans.  Joe Webster released these plans to the public domain to help other beginners.  I hope to have mine running within a few weeks.  That's only going to happen if there are no major parts that need to be re-made. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

About the Remington Dissolution

I can't claim to be a Remington collector per se, but I have a couple of Remington rifles.  My Nylon 66, the “plastic fantastic” .22LR that was my family's gun when I was 14 and became mine a decade later.  And I have a Remington 700 in .30-06, that I bought during the life of this blog.  Remington bought DPMS after I bought my DPMS LR-308, and ended up buying Marlin after Mrs. Graybeard bought her Marlin 336.  I've written about all of these many times.
But that's not really why I'm here. 
Because I have few Rugers around here, our "his and hers" 10/22s and my Ruger Precision Rifle, I'm on the Ruger mailing list.  I got the email in which they described their portion of the Remington sale, buying the Marlin brand, physical inventory and intellectual property.  DPMS has been sold to JJE Capital, reported to be the parent of Palmetto State Armory.   

 But that's not really why I'm here, either.  

There has been a lot column space devoted to attacking Cerberus and that sort of private equity firm as well.  First I saw was J.Kb down at Gun Free Zone about the immorality and destructiveness of that sort of business.  Today, Peter Grant at Bayou Renaissance Man ran the same basic subject.  

I'm not here to defend them, because I also think the private equity firms that do the things they do are scumbags.  More politely, they're sharks let loose in a pod of bait fish.  However (you knew that was coming!) I'm not here to say private equity firms need to be shut down and never allowed to operate.  Remington management themselves are not without blame.  Remington management, and I mean their management back before 2007 when they were attacked, chummed up the shark by bleeding money in the water.  

I don't know the complete history that led to Cerberus buying Remington, but like sharks and most predators, private equity companies don't chase down the healthiest and most nimble prey.  They prey on the weak.  It's the first duty of a CEO to protect the company.  The balance is that the healthy and excellent companies will get merger and acquisition offers all the time.  It's up to the board of directors and the stockholders (if any) to accept or decline those offers.  Predators like Cerberus prey on companies that need money and don't have anywhere else to get it.  Companies need money urgently, like most of us, when something completely unexpected happens or when a bunch of things we thought we could get by with don't get by.   

If the alternative is to have big government decide which companies can merge, and thereby which companies can exist, that's a much worse scenario than private equity companies taking down the weak.  Managers should know the private equity companies are a threat to their existence and manage their companies to not be targets for them. 

But, hey, what do I know?  I'm just some dood with a blog.  And I observe the world around me.  I've seen companies start, companies fail, and companies last long times.  Just as not everyone can graduate on top of their class, not every manager is above average.  Companies run by better managers do better.