Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Profound Day in American History

April 19th is a deep day in American History.  Most days are known for one thing (December 7th, 9/11).  Today is known for three.

First, of course, is Patriot's Day, the day "the shot heard round the world" was fired, starting open war between the colonies and Great Britain.  I'm sure this audience knows the story, but in the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, King George decided a military rule was needed for those unruly colonists. In more direct words, it was a military dictatorship, under General Thomas Gage. Gage directed a house-to-house search for firearms, confiscating hundreds of guns.

When Gage's spies reported that the colonists were stockpiling weapons in Concord, he sent a group of regulars to confiscate the guns.  As all tyrants throughout history have understood, it is much easier to impose dictatorial rule if the general population has been disarmed.  This day, thanks to Paul Revere and other patriots, the rebels were better prepared and ready, meeting the redcoats at Old North Bridge, inflicting 73 casualties upon His Majesty’s forces.  Appleseed events give a great telling of the history of that day. 

Apparently, it was coincidence that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) staged a dawn raid on a religious compound belonging to an obscure religious group called the Branch Davidians outside of Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993.  There had been a standoff outside the compound since the end of February, when the ATF first raided the group, alleging that the Davidians were stockpiling illegal weapons, abusing children, and manufacturing illegal drugs - none of which were ever proven.
The surviving Davidians claim that it was a combination of the tanks pounding on the walls of their building, knocking over lanterns in a space filled with propane fuel (the government had cut off their electricity earlier) and CS gas that started the fires which killed most of those inside. The government, on the other hand, contends that it was Davidian leader David Koresh who ordered the fire started — either in self defense, to kill FBI agents, or in an act of mass suicide. President Bill Clinton even callously asserted, “A bunch of religious fanatics murdered themselves.”
It was not a coincidence however that Timothy McVeigh (and unknown others) chose April 19th, 1995 though; they acted in revenge for Waco and attacked on the second anniversary of the ATF's attack.   Their attack on the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, probably because it contained an ATF office, would be the worst act of terrorism on American soil until 9/11/2001. 
 


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

LLNL Lab Successfully 3D Prints Optical Glass - With Some Tricks

I remarked a few months ago that we don't go a week without a story about something new in 3D printing in the trade magazines.  While I've become a bit numb to those, perhaps because of my interest in optics, this one made me say "huh?"

A group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reports that they've successfully fabricated optical grade glass with a new printing technique.  Optical grade glass is tricky.  It's hard to convey just how clear and distortion-free optical grade glass is compared to other glasses you've seen in your life.  Eyeglasses, which are virtually always polycarbonate or a softer plastic, are nowhere near as  transparent as optical glass is.  The LLNL group isn't using a printer to produce a familiar eyeglass lens; the breakthrough here is the ability to print special mixes of optical glass with a different refractive index in each layer, which may allow more exotic shapes and performance.
Because the refractive index of glass is sensitive to its thermal history, it can be difficult to ensure that glass printed from the molten phase will result in the desired optical performance, researchers said. Depositing the LLNL-developed material in paste form and then heating the entire print to form the glass allows for a uniform refractive index, eliminating optical distortion that would degrade the optic's function.

“Components printed from molten glass often show texture from the 3D printing process, and even if you were to polish the surface, you would still see evidence of the printing process within the bulk material,” says LLNL chemical engineer Rebecca Dylla-Spears, the project’s principal investigator. “Using paste lets us obtain the uniform index needed for optics. Now we can take these components and do something interesting.”
Their goal is to improve the ability to manufacture difficult things, such as gradient index (GRIN) lenses.  The promise of the technique is to manufacture optical glass in novel shapes, reducing component count in some systems, and probably allowing new types of optical systems as well.  
For the study, researchers printed small, simple-shaped optics as proof of concept, but Dylla-Spears said the technique eventually could be applied to any device that uses glass optics and could result in optics made with geometric structures and with compositional changes that were previously unattainable by conventional manufacturing methods. For example, gradient refractive index lenses could be polished flat, replacing more expensive polishing techniques used for traditional curved lenses.

“Additive manufacturing gives us a new degree of freedom to combine optical materials in ways we could not do before,” Dylla-Spears said. “It opens up a new design space that hasn’t existed in the past, allowing for design of both the optic shape and the optical properties within the material.”

(Pictured: LLNL chemical engineer and project lead Rebecca Dylla-Spears and LLNL materials engineer Du Nguyen.)

As the article said, the lenses that they show in the picture are "small, simple-shaped" optics, and I'm not clear on how it's processed.  It sounds as if their paste will have to heated to the melting point of the glass, which means it will have to be held in a mold so that it doesn't flow away while it's liquid.  The treatment in the molten state is one of the things the distinguishes optical glass from regular slabs of glass.  Holding it at some temperature between molten and solid, annealing the glass until it's stress free and shows no swirl-like irregularities when looked through onto a flatly lit surface (or sky).  All those steps are still needed and still there.  I'm guessing the main interest here is the novel structures with different refractive indices in different stack-ups, or perhaps in rings or other shapes.



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

YouTube Part Deux - Narrowcasting

Thanks to commenter Ratus to yesterday's post about YouTube, a picture seems to emerge to me.  Ratus points out that Chris Bartocci, of the Small Arms Solutions Channel has been a victim of YouTube. Chris writes:
On March 23rd we received our first strike on YouTube for our Caracal CAR816 A2 video. Someone in the comments section said they were reporting the video for "promotion of terrorism" because Caracal's main hub is in the UAE. Obviously, it could not be deemed as any such promotion of terrorism and it has been appealed. However, more than 2 weeks later and we have not heard anything. Then on April 1st we received our 2nd strike for a video that was posted months ago on the Glock 19x for "violence". Again, that has been appealed. Because of the 2nd strike they will not allow us to post on YouTube for two weeks.
Chris goes on to say he's in the process of moving all of his video content to other platforms:  GunStreamer.com, DailyMotion.com, and BitChute.com

One of the obvious issues with what Chris says is that his videos were reported to YouTube.  Which tells me some anti-gun nut saw the video and complained.  I think that's how it's going to work.  For all the channels I mentioned yesterday that seem intact and seem to not have been affected, some SJW is going to see something and complain.  Maybe someone saw him before and was stalking his channel for something to complain about.  Maybe they're being paid to search YouTube like Soros' Media Matters pays people to watch Fox News to find something to complain about.  Maybe not.  Regardless, someone is going to see a Ruger video for the Precision Rifle and decide it's too scary because it's black.  Or they're going to see a trick shooter like 22 plinkster shoot through a string of marshmallow Peeps and complain about the violence against Peeps. There's always something to complain about. 

In the 1980s, I read a book called, The Media Lab (long out of print), about the institution at MIT by that name.  The book introduced me to the concept of narrowcasting, in direct (deliberate) contrast to the idea of broadcasting that everyone grew up with from the dawn of TV until the mid-90s or so.  Narrowcasting is just that: aiming your TV program (and the advertising that sponsors it) to a narrow audience, and not trying to reach the entire country. 

In the era of hundreds of TV channels, the idea is obvious; it was less obvious in the '80s.  Programming like that found on the Outdoor Channel or World Fishing Network, to name a couple, will never have an audience the size as the major networks get for their big shows.  Last week, for example, the top rated show on the networks was the rebooted Roseanne series with 13.8 million viewers, while the last of the top 25 drew 5.9 million viewers.  It's difficult to get these numbers for shows on the small networks because they're so small, but I think tens of thousands instead of millions.

That's what I see YouTube dissolving into.  The attraction of YouTube, the good part was (note the past tense) that it was a vast reservoir of information - like the biggest library ever imagined.  If you wanted to learn how to troubleshoot your laser printer, it was there.  If you wanted to learn how to play some song on your guitar (or piano, or ukelele or...) it was there.  It's where I learned most of what I know about how to fix my sprinkler system.  If you wanted to learn how to take apart your new gun to clean it, with better visuals than the line drawings in the owner's manuals, that was there, too. 

What made YouTube worth hanging out on was the variety of content.  I have 25 videos on YouTube; 16 are related to converting my milling machine to CNC, and of the other 9, two are gun related and the rest are videos from Cabin Fever Expo trip in '15.  Now, if I want to watch videos on a new machining tool or technique, I'll go there; to learn how to clean my new gun I'll have to go somewhere else.

Instead of being a place people will tend to aggregate, their audience will drop as people interested in (what I can only conclude will be) a continually diminishing content follow their favored content, YouTube will diminish in importance in people's lives. 

We have several alternatives to YouTube for gun related videos.  Narrowcasting.  What we don't have is several alternatives to what YouTube used to be, and that's what we need. 


My built up GB-22 (last year).  Mark Serbu's videos of his were still online last night.

Monday, April 16, 2018

YouTube

I've been watching YouTube since the start of the month, trying to see what their announced policies that went into effect on 4/1 actually mean in real life.

To begin with, let me quote their policies, pasted from this page:
YouTube prohibits certain kinds of content featuring firearms. Specifically, we don’t allow content that:
  • Intends to sell firearms or certain firearms accessories through direct sales (e.g., private sales by individuals) or links to sites that sell these items. These accessories include but may not be limited to accessories that enable a firearm to simulate automatic fire or convert a firearm to automatic fire (e.g., bump stocks, gatling triggers, drop-in auto sears, conversion kits), and high capacity magazines (i.e., magazines or belts carrying more than 30 rounds).
  • Provides instructions on manufacturing a firearm, ammunition, high capacity magazine, homemade silencers/suppressors, or certain firearms accessories such as those listed above. This also includes instructions on how to convert a firearm to automatic or simulated automatic firing capabilities.
  • Shows users how to install the above-mentioned accessories or modifications.
The way I read the first one, none of the manufacturers' sites should be allowed.  They don't offer direct sales of firearms, but they can't.  They're FFLs, after all, but what else are the gun manufacturers trying to do on YouTube except sell their firearms and accessories?  It's up to you to find the local shop to buy them from.  I find all of the channels I subscribe to (Mossberg, Ruger, Savage, Sig Sauer, and Springfield Armory) are all up and all look like they did last month.  Is that whole paragraph aimed at someone using a YouTube video with their Gun Broker listing, or their local classified ad?  I can't imagine that's a big number.

The second sentence in that paragraph sounds like it would ban Slide Fire (the company) completely.  They not only sell the suddenly-feared bump stocks, they sell a combination belt fed upper with one of their bump stocks that fires pretty darned fast. 

What about the last clause, about "high capacity magazines (i.e., magazines or belts carrying more than 30 rounds)"?  That should preclude the Slide Fire product I just linked to, and a good chunk of Magpul's product line.  Well, Magpul's channel is still up and their list of videos shows some of those Evil "High Capacity Magazine Clips".   No changes I'm aware of. 

Moving on to the second, I'd think that videos on machining an AR lower would be down.  Nope. There are "About 19,000 results" showing the completion of 80% lowers with everything from CNC to drill presses, and also many showing turning blocks of solid aluminum into complete lowers.  I'd call them "0% lowers" but that term has come to mean forgings that resemble an AR lower in shape, but that are otherwise solid metal.    None of the machinists or homemade gun videos I knew to look for are gone. 

Manufacturing ammunition shouldn't include reloading, and a quick check shows almost 3,000,000 videos that their search engine returns for "reloading".  Some of them certainly won't be ammunition but there were 19,000 for "RCBS reloading".

So what's the reality?   I have no idea.  I've been trying to find out just what is going on here and watched some videos from folks I've watched before.  Royal Nonesuch, in a video showing a shop built, single shot, 45 ACP "hand cannon", which certainly seems like it would fall under the second paragraph, says the only video he's had banned was one about selling home made guns at a gun buy back where he lives.  Then YouTube's Autoplay offered a video of his by called "Selling Homemade Guns at Gun Buyback!!" as the next one to watch - and it played. 

Trick shooters like 22 Plinkster or Kirsten Joy Weiss should be unaffected.  I see Hickok45 posted a fresh gun demo video yesterday with an old Winchester 92 lever action, and it's still there.  Going by the black letter of what those three simple paragraphs say, these things should be acceptable.  There should be tons of content still there. 

Have any of you noted videos going away?  Yeah, I know you can't link to something that isn't there anymore, but all of things I look for are still there. 


Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Little Shop Project Update

It has been almost two months since I mentioned starting on a new engine, a flame licker designed by Philip Duclos.  I haven't been motionless, but I haven't been spending every day in the shop either.

Life has a way of intervening and there have been plenty of unexpected side projects that took time.  I've written about some of the planting.  Another of those projects is that I've learned how to diagnose and repair a sprinkler system, and am in the process of getting ours back to full, normal operation.  Since these come on at 4AM twice a week, I don't know that they're working or not, unless I see dried out areas in the yard.   On Easter, when I was up to put the pork shoulder into the smoker at 5AM, the sprinklers were on and I could see one was simply not rotating properly.  Its replacement went in Friday.

What I've done until now is cut rough stock to decent starting sizes and order some other stock I didn't have.  That includes turning a 2-3/8"diameter x 3-1/4" long chunk of aluminum down to 2-1/16 diameter, cutting blocks of metal to overall dimensions needed, and that sort of mundane task.  This weekend, I made the (almost ceremonial) first cuts to one of those pieces of rough stock, thinning a piece of 3/4" thick stock to the profile of the cylinder support pedestal.  This is the midpoint of the process, yesterday.  It took 3/16" off each side, 3/8" above one end, leaving a wider base. 


The part of the support on the right is 3/8" thick now; you can see the base on the left is thicker - it's 3/4" thick.  The whole piece started as bar stock that was a little over 2"x 3" x 1" thick. That's a couple of cubic inches of aluminum turned into chips in the vacuum cleaner. 

Next up is to mount this to the rotary table - after I mount the rotary table.  It's eventually going to resemble this:


Note that I didn't say it will look exactly like this. 

Just a little shop distraction. 


Call For Nosmo King

Nosmo, if you see this, drop me an email when you get a round tuit.  I've tried the address you've used before and it bounces.  Here's one in case you need it:


Saturday, April 14, 2018

If We're Throwing TLAMS at Evil Places

If we're throwing TLAMs at evil places, I'm not sure we're even in the right zip code.  You can go read whatever speculation you prefer over whether or not that was a real chemical weapons attack on "innocent men women and children" last week in the Syrian city of Douma.  Even if it was, I'm not still not sure did the right thing.  Someone snarked, "you're killing Syrians to tell Assad that he should kill Syrians the way you're killing them and not the way that he's killing them".   I don't know that any Syrians were killed, based on reading the rapidly-produced Wikipedia page and a couple of news pages, but there's something to be said for the argument.   Yeah, I know, prevent the spread of chemical weapons.  I think that horse left the barn about a hundred years ago. 

Frankly, there's no shortage of evil in the world, and I'm not sure where this one ranks in the Top 40 of Evil.  Yeah, chemical attacks on an unarmed, unprepared, civilian population are evil.  It's just that if a nation could only address one evil in the world, what should they attack? 

I very rarely talk about this, but I support an organization called Operation Underground Railroad that was formed to free children from sex slavery and fight human trafficking.  It's a small organization, and they recently celebrated saving their 1000th child.   There are estimates that 40 million people are enslaved today; that means more people are in slavery now than the entire period we think of as the peak of the slave trade - the 1700s and early 1800s.  No, it's not all Islamic countries: Haiti, Thailand, countries in South America and even the US are in the mix.  

But the Mideast is a hotbed of slavery today.  ISIS has spent the last several years capturing Christian and Yazidi women and selling them into slavery - sex slaves for their Jihadis.  The Yazidi faith combines elements of Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion.  ISIS views the Yazidis or Christians as barely human - they are there for Islamic men to rape. 

Stopping this slavery is hard.  Throwing missiles or smart bombs at some buildings is comparatively very easy.  To stop sex slavery, you have to fight on dozens of fronts.  For one example, you have to fight from the bars in Bangkok, Thailand to the Americans that go there on vacation to use the children.  The very best thing we could have done for these ISIS slaves was destroy ISIS and Sec Def Mattis has done a good job at that, from what I can tell.  There are still pockets of ISIS over there, and in new countries they've moved to; those need to be hunted down and killed off, too. 

Because while slavery and sex slavery may be evil, that's just the warmup act for ISIS.  They've moved on to harvesting organs from slaves to sell on the black market.  OUR had partnered with the Nazarene fund; the two have run rescue operations and gotten children out literally minutes before they were going to be killed.  If the subject isn't human, they don't see any need to anesthetize the patient victim: they just cut them open and remove whatever they can sell, killing the slaves in the process.   

Hats off to the military planners and all the people spread around the world who made last night's mission work.  I just think this sort of evil is at least on a par with what the strike was all about, and I think it deserves the attention of world, too.
Tim Ballard on an operation in Haiti this February.  Tim is a former special operator who is founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad and recently made CEO of the Nazarene Fund. 


Friday, April 13, 2018

Ding Dong the CAFE Standard's Dead

I've been reporting on the EPA's proposed 54.5 MPG CAFE standard since it was proposed in 2012 (to take effect in 2025).  So it only seems appropriate that I should cover the demise of that mileage standard that has occurred this month.

So while I've been watching this subject whenever it pops up in the news, I don't expect readers to know the important things off the top of their heads.  Allow me to summarize for you. 
  • First and foremost is a rule that I think all engineers know: TANSTAAFL - as Robert A Heinlein put it.  There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.  You're going to spend money to redesign the cars to meet this average fuel economy number and car buyers are going to spend more money for the cars.  
  • The early estimate from the Obama NHTSA was that a car owner would save $8000 over the life of their car with the increased fuel mileage.  Naturally, most people with an engineer's or manager's perspective then wondered "how much do I have to spend to save $8000?"
  • Estimates of how much a typical car would increase in cost vary widely.  The according to the National Auto Dealers Association estimates $3,000 more.  The Center for Automotive Research (CAR, of course), says it could hit $11,000 to save that $8000.  Another research group, Scenaria, said the price would likely increase by $5000 to $8,000.  While spending $5000 to save $8000 doesn't sound like a good idea, spending $11,000 to save $8,000 sounds quite a bit worse.  Of course, as a buyer, your choice would likely be spend the money or don't have a car.  
  • A former CAR chairman pointed out that the savings on fuel costs turn into a diminishing returns curve. "When you reach 35, 40, and 50 miles per gallon, the cost to achieve it gets too high," chairman emeritus David Cole said in an interview. "And the value returned to the customer gets to be less and less. The risk is that people will say, 'Why should I buy a new car? I'll just keep the old one. It's a better business decision.' "  
The fundamental problem is that the world didn't comply with the 2012 EPA predictions.  Gas prices aren't over $5/gal and climbing.
The problem is that the projected fleet makeup for 2025 was based on the oil prices in 2010 to 2012, which were before fracking revolutionized US energy production and drove oil prices down.  Low gas prices have precipitated a strong consumer shift from cars to light-duty trucks and SUVs; American consumers love their larger, more capable vehicles. The shift to more trucks makes it more difficult for the industry to meet the government’s 2025 gas mileage target.
When the 54.5 mpg limit was proposed, the regulators assumed the public would buy 65% cars and 35% trucks.  In reality, the mix being sold is the exact opposite of that.  The math says that if they're selling 65% trucks to 35% cars, the fewer cars have to be very far above 54.5 MPG to bring the fleet average up to that number.  (The trucks need to be as good as they can be made, too).  I think most people are aware that the top three selling vehicles in the United States are all pickups: the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, and Dodge Ram. 

Of course, that's often a problem with these big government programs: the world doesn't unfold as they assumed, at least partly because they based their predictions on improper samples of the country.  Not everybody lives in a big city and drives a small car.  A pickup or SUV can simply do more than a sedan, and some people want that capacity.  Timothy Benson at the Daily Caller has a lot of choice observations on the insularity of the people forcing decisions like this on us.

The overwhelming problem with achieving the CAFE 54.5 mpg average, though, is that the real world doesn't take orders.  The only place the laws of physics can be broken is in TV commercials and cartoons.  A bureaucrat can't just say, "you must make every vehicle twice as fuel efficient" and have thermodynamics suddenly change - as much as they might think they can do that.  The internal combustion engine has been optimized as a system for a hundred years, and nobody is suddenly going to make it 70% more efficient (the difference in CAFE standards from now to 2025).  To deliver the power needed to move big things requires long piston strokes and large pistons, which means large engines.  Instead, to reach the new standard the small cars averaged in the car maker's fleet will get lighter, with more plastics and thinner metal structures. They'd be less safe. The new standard would cost more lives. 

A real half ton pickup, like the big three mentioned above, that got twice the current MPG for the same price would be snapped up so fast it would set every truck sales record imaginable.  Nobody's against that.  We're just against being forced to pay more for a flimsier, less safe vehicle than we save by buying it, and we're against getting stuck with a vehicle that doesn't do everything we need it to do.


Things you won't do with your Prius, courtesy Truck Trend Network.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Where (This) Man Has Never Gone Before

A cursory search shows that I've never mentioned on this blog that I used to make telescopes, including a few reflecting telescopes from grinding the mirror through building the mount and building a small refracting telescope from a copier lens (I have explained mirror making in one of my patented absurd analogies, though).  Telescope Making became a national hobby in the early part of the 20th century, led by a group of machinists at home in Springfield, Vermont.  The first telescope maker's conventions were (and still are) held in a place called Stellafane in Springfield.

While I haven't built one in a while (this place looks like a used telescope store), I'm still interested in astronomy, telescopes and the tech.  This week, I came across something I've never seen before.  Ultrascope from the Open Space Agency is an open source, small reflecting telescope, designed to be put together with a minimal amount of specialized knowledge, but assuming the builder has a 3D printer available and access to other "modern tech", like smart phones and a good internet connection.
Ultrascope is an open source robot telescope or ARO (Automated Robotic Observatory) controlled by a smartphone. It empowers citizen scientists with a low cost and open source robotic telescope to assist the work of professional astronomers.


If you're not from the astronomy world, I'm betting you've never seen a telescope mounted like this.  This is called a split ring equatorial mount and is a very stable design, originally designed by one of those Stellafane telescope makers for the 200 inch reflector on Mount Palomar in southern California: the largest telescope in the world for about half a century.  The way that this mount is oriented (in the left panel) we're looking at it from the southeast, so the plane of the ring the telescope sets in forms an angle to the horizontal equal to the latitude of the observing site. 

The scope is optically small: a 6" mirror with a focal length that looks to be about 36" (squinting while looking at various pieces, comparing sizes and guessing).  Therefore, it looks like an ambitious project for someone working on their own with no expert assistance, and who buys a professionally made mirror.  6" was the size of the first mirror I ground from flat glass and for a couple of generations, the standard beginner's telescope mirror to grind was a 6" mirror with a 48" focal length.  Like camera lenses, longer focal lengths lend themselves to higher power and shorter focal lengths toward wider angles.

The game here is a that this is a Robotic Observatory, to search for asteroids as a collaborative astronomy project.  The connectivity and programmability comes from an Arduino Mega processor, and the drive motors are controlled by a shield board that plugs into the Arduino Mega.  Because it's intended for robotic survey use, it's not designed for an eyepiece, but rather to use a smartphone camera as the eyepiece.  This video shows the scope in overview.


All in all, an interesting looking little project.  It's not strictly for astronomers, because they envision someone building it and then setting it up to work autonomously.  Builders aren't expected to sit out all night with it, but would need to do things like find how to focus the image, and operate the controls.  Final words to the Open Space Agency.
If you’re a maker, DIY Engineer, citizen scientist or just a long-time aspiring astronaut with stars in your eyes, then we’d love to hear from you.

Visit the Open Space Agency

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

We Interrupt the Continuous Stormy Daniels Coverage For This Syria Coverage

Just kidding.  CNN wouldn't do that.  If they interrupted their continuous Stormy Daniels story for anything, it's just that it's the latest shiny, whatever that may be.

As I'm sure you've noticed, we seem to be on the verge of doing something in Syria, again.  Trump is tweeting that we're going to launch missiles, Putin is saying his forces will destroy them and then destroy whatever platform launched them.  Meanwhile state television in Russia last night told people to have preps on hand for a few days in case there's a nuclear war, and know where to find the nearest fallout shelter
Which brings us to Russian state TV.  Last night on the nightly news broadcast, the coming conflict with the USA was the big news and officials in Russia repeatedly said “If the United States attacks Syria based on this phony chemical weapons fraud, then Russia will shoot down the incoming US missiles and fire upon the platforms which launched them – including Ships, planes and ground based locations.  This action by Russia would likely cause a war between the US and Russia and . . . . . Russian state TV gave citizens advise on what they should take to Bomb Shelters.
This was complete with a reporter standing in front of a wall of monitors showing a mushroom cloud.
(Full video - in Russian with subtitles)  Is this crazy brinksmanship rhetoric like we get from North Korea all the time?  I don't know.

The guy I trust for insightful thoughts on this sort of topic is LL over at Virtual Mirage.  He addressed the situation and thinks that it smells funny.  In response to a couple of comments, he said:
The LAST gas attack was likely an accidental release from rebel stores after an attack from Syrian Air Forces.

This time, I really don't know.
...
There was NO reason for the Syrians to launch a gas attack. It makes me very skeptical.
I don't honestly know what to make of this.  Is this a real threat of nuclear war (the closest we've come - perhaps - since the Cuban Missile Crisis), or is this some sort of belligerent posturing that Putin and Trump are going through?  In the last Tomahawk attack on an empty air base, we notified the Russians what was coming so they could evacuate their forces.  It's my understanding that was the normal way things worked in the first cold war: back channels talked to back channels so no big, ugly mistakes happened.  Is that happening again?   It apparently didn't happen in early February when Russian mercenaries attacked US forces in Syria, and lost 300 men (Peter had a really good summary here).  

Obviously, I don't have any access to the real intelligence on this, so it's pointless to comment on that.  

I'm old enough to remember duck and cover drills in elementary school, getting under our desks, and "put your hands behind your neck".  All of the talk of a "new cold war" has pretty much rolled off my back as "oh, that again".  I guess we'll find out in the next few days.  


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Another View of the Facebook Privacy Problems

In the early days of the 20th century when radio was being established, the inventors and early advocates of radio couldn't understand how to make their invention work.  Who's going to pay for music brought into their house, even if it's a world class orchestra instead of something they could hear locally? Not just that, how could they arrange the payments?  Somehow the idea was born that radio could be "free" to users, except for buying the radio itself, if they could arrange sponsors to pay for the broadcasting.  The sponsors, in turn, got minutes out of every hour to sell their products. 

The result was the birth of interruption-based marketing in radio and that has penetrated to all the successors to radio: TV, and the Internet.  Virtually all of the marketing you're exposed to is interruption-based: commercials on radio, television or in a movie theater; junk mail in your physical mailbox; SPAM in your email inbox; and phone solicitors are all interrupting you to try to sell you something.

Why would anyone think that a computer user, who has just been looking at various websites, or who just found a result with a search engine would want to suddenly sit there for 30 seconds and look at a popup ad?  For that matter, why would anyone think cold calling sales contacts during the people's scant evening free time would be likely to catch someone wanting to drop what they're doing and listen to the call?

Isn't interruption-based marketing fundamentally rude?

The big problem marketers have is that interruption is being limited by technology: ad blockers, script blockers, SPAM filters, video recording to fast forward through commercials, telephone answering machines, and more are making it harder for them to interrupt us.  Good!  I've never bought anything by clicking on an ad, just as I've never bought anything from a door to door solicitor or someone who shows up at my door offering to do some sort of work around my yard.  I don't like being interrupted!

The alternative is called permission-based marketing, and it's just what its name implies.  In principle, it's like the "contact me" forms you may fill out, or the "it's OK to email me" box you have to check off to enter a contest.  Perhaps you're shopping for a car or appliance and you visit several places online.  You click a box giving them permissions and suddenly it's not SPAM anymore.  In the case of Facebook, it's implicit permissions. 

An extension of that is attraction marketing, trying to draw you to their product by offering things of value to you; perhaps gun reviews, tool reviews, or perhaps give away content or other things you find useful.  The idea is to attract you to the product rather than push that product on you.  (The CNC website I find I visit the most is CNCCookbook - the owner of that company is very good at this)

The root cause isn't Facebook, it's interruption-based marketing.  They're trying to refine everything a seller might want to know about you into a package that can be sold to advertisers.  They do that by mining everything you do or say on their site, and apparently wherever their tentacles reach on the 'net.  In any case, it's purpose is to refine and limit the number of companies who interrupt you. 

I'm a free enterprise guy, and I don't begrudge the companies trying to figure out who might want their products or services, but I jealously guard my time and don't want to be interrupted.  In turn, I don't want to interrupt other people.  I can easily put myself into the position of the company.  I only want to be contacted by companies I allow the privilege of contacting me, but how do I know I've allowed everyone who I really might like to hear from.  A company might say, "you allowed those guys to contact you, and our product is better!" 

Don't think I'm defending Facebook: I briefly had an account, but dropped it five years ago because I think they're a despicable company for the way they do things, like tracking people who don't even have an account there and who couldn't have given approval. That's not even considering how they silence conservative voices.  The root cause, though, is interruption-based advertising. That, it seems, is going to be with us for a long time. 
(source)


Monday, April 9, 2018

ASME's Milestones in Mechanical Engineering

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers has put out a list of what it regards as nine of the most important milestones in American Manufacturing and Engineering.  Most date from 19th and early 20th centuries.  The list, at Machine Design, is interesting in the number of inventions related to firearms.

The first entry in the list defies that categorization of 19th and 20th centuries, dating to 1794 in the18th.  We're talking, of course, about Springfield Armory.
The National Historic Site
To supply his Continental Army with weapons, George Washington helped form the U.S.’s first national armory in Springfield, Mass. It supplied weapons for every war the U.S. fought when it was operational, which was until 1968. It also ushered in a host of machine tool innovations, including the Blanchard lathe, which could duplicate irregularly shaped parts such as wooden gun stocks. Rather than relying on a workshop full of carvers, it could reproduce a dozen exact copies simultaneously. Interchangeable parts were also partially developed there, as well as a set of precision gauges which contributed to manufacturing standards. One of the most famous of the many weapons designed and built there includes the Garand M-1. More than 5.5 million were built and used during WWII and the Korean conflict. And between 1939 and 1945, the time needed to make one was slashed by 75%
The innovations from the Springfield Armory fed number three on the list, Robbins & Lawrence Machine Shop (1846).  
Robbins and Lawrence took information developed and maintained at the Springfield Armory, and were the first to master the skills needed to design and make rifles which used interchangeable parts. Parts from any rifle could be used in another rifle of the same model and replacement parts could be made for it. This let the two machinists fulfill a contract for 25,000 U.S. Army rifles (Model 1841). They delivered a similar number of the same rifles to the British. This was made possible by improving and refining standard and special-purpose machine tools, letting them deliver the tolerances needed for repeatability and, therefore, interchangeability. The two also made such good use of milling machines and turret lathes that they are now common in manufacturing.
It's hard to overstate just how important the development of interchangeable, standardized parts is to manufacturing things - as well as later fixing them.  That it began with guns hints at the importance they play in life.  Standardized parts leads to something that the world just couldn't do without. 

U.S. Standard Screw Threads (1864) 

If every screw has to be handmade, that makes them little pieces of jewelry that you dare not misplace or put in the wrong place.  In Alexander Rose's "American Rifle: A Biography" he tells the story of an industrial show in Europe in the latter part of the 1800s, in which an American company brought rifles with interchangeable parts and shocked the European attendees to their core. 

Prior to 1870 or so, there were no standards for screws in the U.S., which made it difficult and expensive to find replacements. Inspired by Joseph Whitworth’s efforts to address the same problem in Britain, Philadelphia’s William Sellers decided to do the same in the U.S. So in 1864, he created a standard for screws and threads adapted for U.S. needs. For example, thread profiles were 60 deg., not 55, which simplified things for machinists and mechanics. He also thoughtfully defined pitch (threads per inch), form, and depth, as well as proportioning hex nuts for bolts from ¼ to 6 inches in diameter. By the 1880s, his standard was widespread in the U.S., letting manufacturers from coast to coast know the same fasteners would be available everywhere—a major step towards interchangeable parts for everything from typewriters to locomotives.
Well, I shouldn't excerpt the entire article, so just the three that mean the most to me.  Threading, in particular, is a fundamental machining operation that is deceptively simple.  For most uses, it is simple: a tap or a die is all you need.  There are families of threads (pdf), classes of threads, and getting the wrong thread someplace can be a major problem. 

To butcher the Isaac Newton quote, "If we have gotten farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants".

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Plants Know When They're Being Eaten and Fight Back

I started putting this post together last night and it just wouldn't work, but I wanted to try again.
Researchers at the University of Missouri have been conducting experiments that demonstrate plants are aware that they're being eaten and try to poison the attacker.  We're talking about living plants, in this case something called thale cress, popular for experimentation, and not something from a bag of harvested lettuce or salad greens.
To do that, the researchers had to first make a precise audio version of the vibrations that a caterpillar makes as it eats leaves. The theory is that it’s these vibrations that the plant can somehow feel or hear. In addition, the researchers also came up with vibrations to mimic other natural vibrations the plant might experience, like wind noise.

Turns out, the thale cress actually produces some mustard oils and sends them through the leaves to deter predators (the oils are mildly toxic when ingested). And the study showed that when the plants felt or heard the caterpillar-munching vibrations, they sent out extra mustard oils into the leaves. When they felt or heard other vibrations? Nothing. It’s a far more dynamic defense than scientists had realized: the plant is more aware of its surroundings and able to respond than expected.
I simply don't know if there's any experimentation that shows, for example, a head of lettuce you buy at the grocery store responds in the same way.  Could the lettuce harvested in a field somehow be aware that other lettuce heads were being harvested and put more toxins in their leaves?

Many of us poke fun at vegetarians and vegans for their insistence on converting the rest of the world to their views. They seem to feel it's somehow more ethical to not eat anything with a face.  Implicit in this belief is that the plants' have no reactions or "feelings" about being eaten at all.  I expect them to be aware of the 1973 book,“The Secret Life of Plants,” (TSLP) by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird (and this is the part that ended up tripping me up last night) .  Those of you who were old enough to be aware of popular books in 1973 (over about 10 or 13) probably remember hearing about TSLP

The science in TSLP has almost entirely been discredited by now, but it made outrageous claims about awareness in plants, including that a polygraph ("lie detector") hooked to the leaves of plant showed reactions to the thoughts of people (and, especially curiously, to the researchers that were around them most), or that they'd show stress if another plant was injured in front of them, or live shrimp were dropped into boiling water.

Despite the negative effects if TSLP, there is higher quality research going on into how plants react to stimulus.
Plants are able to sense and optimally respond to so many environmental variables—light, water, gravity, temperature, soil structure, nutrients, toxins, microbes, herbivores, chemical signals from other plants—that there may exist some brainlike information-processing system to integrate the data and coordinate a plant’s behavioral response. The authors pointed out that electrical and chemical signalling systems have been identified in plants which are homologous to those found in the nervous systems of animals. They also noted that neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate have been found in plants, though their role remains unclear.
Here's where I ran aground last night.  The article this quote comes from is long and not an easy read.  I got sidetracked trying to condense its high points into a blog post.  It is a rather interesting read if you have the time, though.

Vegetarians seem to have a poor grasp of a few very fundamental facts of biology.  We're in an extremely unusual time in history due to two enormous factors:  first, the average citizen in the first world doesn't have to hunt for survival, and second, the number of farms providing our food has declined enormously in the last 150 years with more people moving away from farms.  It seems that most have very little idea where their food comes from.   The vast majority of living things in this world don't live peaceful happy lives, and die peacefully in bed surrounded by their loved ones  - like the protestors at that Toronto restaurant, Antler, seemed to think.  The majority of living things are eaten; many are eaten alive and most of the rest are killed and eaten.

Why is killing things that aren't animals better?   When you pick the grains of wheat, grind them down, and make bread, you're using the plant's seeds; seeds that will grow to be new wheat plants.  In more direct words, we're taking the wheat babies, grinding them to dust and then eating the babies. 

(source)


Friday, April 6, 2018

Tiny, Injectable, Floating Robots for Monitoring

A team of researchers has developed a line of tiny monitoring machines that can be used for environmental monitoring, the Internet of Things That Don't Quite Work, or for medical monitoring.
“You can make electronic circuits that are a single atom thick,” [research leader, Dr. Michael] Strano says. “One creative use no one has thought of until now is taking these electronics and grafting them onto a colloidal particle.” Colloidal particles are microscopic solid particles suspended in a fluid. Colloids are small enough to use thermal energy Ve [voltage] and achieve equilibrium with the suspending fluid. They are also large enough that their positions and motions can be measured precisely using optical methods, such as light scattering and laser-scanning confocal fluorescence microscopy. The particle has simple computing functions that can be monitored for data collection and feedback.

The research team predicts that these micro-machines will be used to monitor large areas for bacteria or spores, or even smoke, dust, and toxic fumes. By introducing the concept of an aerosolizable electronic device, one can achieve a significant cost savings compared to other satellite or drone search alternatives. [Note: anything in square brackets has been added by me - SiG]


This illustration depicts a micrometer-sized polymer particle coated with a nano-electronic circuit. (Credit: Michael Strano)

This diagram shows something that goes beyond "microscopic" to "molecular-sized".  Those free-floating yellow/blue things on the right are molecules, as are the most of the features.  The tiny size has the problem that not much computing power can be put in that size; it detects what it's looking for and changes the state of something that can be detected.  Computers aren't going to be getting much smaller than they are now anytime soon, due to hitting quantum limits, and nobody really knowing if quantum computation can actually work. 

The researchers, led by Volodymyr Koman, Ph.D., a research fellow in Strano’s group, simulated objects this size floating in a natural gas pipeline (certainly anything this size can be suspended in a moving gas indefinitely).  They were able to detect the presence of carbon particulates or volatile organic compounds in the chamber, and successfully store that data within its memory.  This is only representing 1 bit of memory.  Found it Yes or found it No. 
The data is stored on retroreflectors placed on the particles. Through them, the researchers are able to download the information for further analysis. The particles have a designated metallic connection, like a socket, for readouts. One can read the information via the two probes on the particle. The memory can be wiped for reuse once the data has been downloaded.
But gas pipelines aren't the same as injecting into people, and that area is still speculation.  The team  developed a biocompatible set of electronic components for the particle’s coating to form an electronic circuit consisting of a power source, a detector, and a memory device.  They then aerosolized them and propelled them toward a target in an effort to see how far they could be sent. They found the particles were able to fly a couple of feet.
The next step is to develop particles for specific applications. This includes monitoring applications in the human digestive system. “This is the right idea and the right time,” says Strano. “Think of these as proto-robots.”
This idea has been floating out in the "idea universe" for a while now, and I see I've done a few pieces on it (such as this).  Lots of teams are working on it, but this MIT team doesn't appear to be leading or doing things that nobody has done.  Injectable robots are coming, but not this year. 



Thursday, April 5, 2018

We're In The Age of Mass Manipulation

That's not news.  After all, it was over 55 years ago that Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, "The medium is the message" (good story there about the misprint on the book's cover that reinforced its message).

This week we've seen another shining example of a coordinated attempt to shape public opinion and policy, the so-called "caravan" of some large number of "immigrants" coming north through Mexico planning to storm our border.  Coming through Mexico?  Isn't it common knowledge that Mexico is famously strict on its immigration laws, such that invaders from Guatemala or points south should be stopped before they get into the middle of Mexico? 

It's every bit as "grass roots" AstroTurf as the March for Our Lives, and some of the same international socialists are behind it as well. 

The organization taking the lead is “Pueblo Sin Fronteras”.  The name translates as "people without borders".  Far from a spontaneous thing, formed by people suddenly realizing, "it's so bad here I have to try to get into the US!", this is an annual occurrence.  Pueblo Sin Fronteras has been running these operations for 15 years.  There are stories that before that, they ran them under a different name.  After all, if this was a spontaneous uprising, how would they get a BuzzFeed reporter embedded in the march?  

If it was spontaneous, would they be flooding through the Chiapas, Mexico, southern border crossing with not one Mexican officer stopping them?  That green building visible in the distance is the immigration checkpoint. (BuzzFeed photo)


One of the principal Americans behind the caravan is Alex Mensing, whose LinkedIn profile says he specializes in "Immigration Justice".  As always, whenever an adjective is used in front of the word justice, like "social justice", it's not about actual justice.  It's about special treatment.   The profile says he's involved in the "CARA Pro Bono Family Detention Project".  Pro bono, of course, means "for free", but chances are someone is paying some expenses associated with all the logistics of moving this many people.  The saying that, "armies march on their stomachs" is true for any group, not just the military.  This sort of thing can't be done without a lot of logistics. 

CARA is part of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (headquartered in Maryland) and the American Immigration Council.  Both groups are big recipients of cash from George Soros.  "People without borders" can be a little more poetically translated as Open Society, the name of one of Soros' pet organizations.  "A World Without Borders".  Yeah... no.  No thanks. (Hat tip to Glenn Beck)

We're being played. This is a replay of techniques used in March for Our Lives.  Careful control of images, so that you see pictures featured of young women with children, not of the late teens through 30-year old men visible if you dig for other pictures.  We keep getting played over and over again, by the same organizations; the same people.  It's one reason trust in the media is at an all-time low

For a long time, it has been a pretty good idea to look at any story in the media and ask "why are they telling me this?"  Is it local news that's supposed to break your heart or make you watch that news show over their competitor?  "If it bleeds, it leads"?  In the case of something like the anti-gun March, it was obvious that we were being fed a story.  They showed lots of kids, but kids were 10% of the demonstrators and the biggest demographic was older women: the average protestor was a 48 year old woman.  The problem is we don't know that when they're showing it, because they don't attempt to find out the truth and put that in their broadcast.

I think it's a safe bet to always look at any hot news story, or big event like these, asking the questions, "what are they trying to sell me, and who's behind it?" 


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

This Changes Everything for Me

Back in February, I talked about some of my attempts to get started reloading for 6.5 Creedmoor.  I was really down to one, big, nasty problem: Hodgdon’s H4350 propellant.
I can verify that I've been looking for H4350 on every "Powder Sale" to cross my email since July and have yet to see it in stock anywhere.  To date, I've had my best results with 140 gn Hornady ELD-M rounds, and I think it was one that talked about reloading with H4350 (I swear I recall seeing that on one of the first boxes I bought).
Ten days ago, I got an email from Natchez Shooter's Supply telling me it was in stock.   I don't even recall when I signed up for notification when it was in stock, but I grabbed three pounds of it.   


Words I have never seen on any web site, circled in red.  Note the 8 pound jugs were not in stock.  I just checked right now and it still shows as being in stock.  The long shortage is finally being overcome.

About the time the powder was delivered, the April sales flyer from Midway USA came.  What to my wondering eyes should appear, but the very bullets used in the ammo I've had the best results with.  Hornaday 140 grn ELD-Match bullets were on sale this month.  300 of those are on the way and should be here Saturday.


So in the space of two weeks, I will have gone from not being able to reload the 6.5 Creedmoor to having everything, and even two different types of match grade bullets: these and the Berger Hybrid Bullets I got a couple of months ago.

I still have things to learn and lots to do, but it's good to be getting to this point.  The only drawback is that our shooting season is winding down.  The weather should be good until May and might even last through May.  Not that I don't go in the summer; I just make a point to be ready to shoot when it opens and be aware of the sun.  We usually just shoot from 8 until 11/11:30.  While today, it might not have made it to 80 degrees until noon, by late July that will be close to the overnight low.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Now That That's Done For Now

Another me me me me post.  

The emphasis for the last couple of days was the spring planting, but not veggies (except for one more tomato plant); it was our decorative bed in front of the house.  The old hibiscus bushes I mentioned in my last post were likely 37 years old and hardly alive.  We cut them down and pulled them out, after a trip to the Lowe's for some replacements.  I don't have any before pictures but they were scrawny sticks with a handful of leaves on them.  We got three replacements and a couple of others.


It was a lot of work, but we planted the first two last night after dinner to take advantage of the evening cool down, then were back out this morning at sunrise to do the rest.  We were done by 10 AM.

There are still two that are about the same age in a different flower bed, but they look better.  We'll give them a bit more water and food, and see how they do this summer. 



As I've been trying to troubleshoot my dead oscilloscope, I've gone back to a forum I'd never heard of over and over,  EEVBlog.   Those of you with similar interests might find it a worthwhile stop, too, or already have.  I decided to look around a bit and see if it would be worth my while to join the forum, and stumbled across a thread on leaking alkaline batteries, which we've talked about here before and got a lot of interest. 

The conclusion of the commenters is that both Duracells and Energizers leak far more than they used to, but after that it's speculation on reasons and different views on alternatives.  One of the comments that bears what research I can do (perhaps by buying some) is that the big two are competing on image and perhaps some specsmanship about capacity, while cheap batteries aren't trying to win on capacity but rather on cost.  In the fight for being able to claim better capacity, they may squeeze the room in battery too much and leave out critical elements, such as not leaving enough space for the compounds that remove excess hydrogen that the battery produces during discharge.  It leads to the conclusion that the cheaper batteries may be better. 

Consensus is that lower tier brands like Kodak, Sunbeam, Fuji, Panasonic and Sony make good alkalines that don't leak as often, and that Panasonic's Eneloop NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) rechargeable batteries are a good substitute.  I have eight  Eneloop batteries for a couple of radios I use regularly and they do seem to be better than the non-branded NiMH batteries I've used. 

I'm not in a position to start replacing all the alkalines in the house with Eneloops, I don't even know how many there would be to replace, but I think I've bought my last Duracells.




Monday, April 2, 2018

It's Back to Spring Planting

Yesterday's pulled pork right out of 14 hours in the smoker.  It's like an Easter ham except for being a pork shoulder and not a thigh.


February was pretty warm around here, I ran the air conditioner almost every day, even the separate A/C in the shop while I was out there.  March started out quite a bit cooler, and the air wouldn't cycle on at all, until about the calendar start of spring.  When it's cooler outside, that makes it easy to put off doing the spring planting.  I mentioned doing some back in February, and that new hibiscus is doing fine, but some of the older bushes need to be replaced.  These are hibiscus bushes that are as old as the house and they just seem to be dying of old age.  Everything else is growing except these two old bushes.

We had the first tomatoes out of the garden this weekend - and these from a plant that we put in last spring, made it through the winter, even lost some leaves during the only frost we had.  Time to add some more tomato plants, dig out those old hibiscus bushes, and replace them with something new.  Before it gets into being May.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Happy Easter!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, March 30, 2018

Keep An Eye on the Sky

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

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



Thursday, March 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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


My cluttered workbench with the new stock in place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, March 28, 2018

News Story of the Day

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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