Saturday, November 30, 2013

Banana Republic Stuff

Here in the Banana Republic of America (formerly the United States - before the '08 bankruptcy and re-organization), it's common for the administration to use tools of the state to punish subjects who speak out against the Glorious Fatherland.  Even though it's common, this one might be new low.

Picking up a story from Angry White Dude, Bill Elliot is fighting cancer.  Unfortunately, like many other people are finding as the country lurches into the abyss of Obamacare, his insurance is getting some of that wonderful "Change" we heard so much about.  For a while, it appeared he was going to "lose his plan" (un-possible!), and he appeared with Megyn Kelly on her Fox News prime time show to tell his story.  When the show aired, a guy who handles insurance problems like this, C. Steven Tucker, heard the story, got involved and got the insurance company to maintain his policy. 
“Steve, the company decided to keep me active. Since it is a chronic illness. Until this illness kills me. Battle #1 is won. Now the hard part. You literally saved me. Thank you so much.”

Those are the greatest words I have ever heard in my 20 year career as a licensed health insurance broker. I couldn’t be a happier man today! – C. Steven Tucker
But one of the administration's minions (probably Media Matters, a group paid to watch Fox News and try to dig up trash on them) saw Elliot during his TV appearance.  Within days, the IRS launched audits against both Bill Elliot and C. Steven Tucker!  As reported over at iOwnTheWorld in his post The Vindictive Totalitarian Hand of the Obama Regime,
That’s the good news. Now the bad-

Bill is now being audited by the IRS.

And now for the 2nd punch line-

C. Steven is being audited back to 2003.

THAT’S what happens when you do the right thing, and in the process embarrass that bastard in the white house.
Making the administration look bad will not be tolerated and they will strike down anyone who does so.  Friday morning, Buck Sexton of the Blaze put forth an explanation for why CBS has punished Lara Logan so severely for an admitted mistake in the handling of a story on Benghazi (background).  His view was largely the same one: that's what happens when you embarrass that bastard in the white house.  Since being sexually assaulted while reporting from Egypt's Tahrir square, she has been vocal that the administration simply doesn't understand jihad.  They are dangerously incompetent and don't understand what's going on in the Mideast.  You don't embarrass the administration without being struck down.  Someone in the WH contacted CBS and had her suspended - if they didn't set up the entire falsified report that she used from the start.  

But as they say on the infomercials, Wait! That's not all!, Angry White Dude reports
An aside. AWD just got back from vacation two weeks ago. I got a letter from the IRS instructing my employer to make my W-4 exemptions zero! I always try to break even with the IRS every year as I don’t like giving interest free loans to the government! I am fighting this but it has crossed my mind if this BS has anything to do with this website and my support of the Tea Party movement? Why does the IRS care how many withholdings I have as long as I settle up with them at year-end? I’ve never heard of anything like this in my life! 
Did you ever think you'd see this sort of stuff in your country?  To paraphrase CA over at WRSA, "This is where we are now.  Imagine where we'll be."

Playing Supid Games - Ammoman Edition

Someone, somewhere, must have gotten some stuff on the Ammoman "Ammo by the pound sale" fiasco early Friday morning.  Not me.  Must have been someone very close, or with a fiber optic link or something.  Borrowing some comments from Kevin:
UPDATE:  12:00AM EST and the website was obviously made by the same people who did!  Somehow I don't think I'm going to get to order any 9mm tonight.

UPDATE: 12:22AM EST Aaaand it's gone!
I started to reload the pages right at midnight and got either "Service not available" or "404".  The server was crashing.  After trying to get to a few pages over and over and over and over and over ... suddenly all of what I wanted was in my cart.  By the time I could get the check out page to load it all showed up as out of stock.   I know that technically speaking they can't know if someone that has it in their cart is going to buy it, but they can know it's in someone's cart - notice how the can tell you how many health plans people have in their carts but haven't paid for them?  Once it's in your cart, you should be able to pay for it.  This is like someone in the store taking things out of your cart and walking off with them.

While I think the website was set up poorly, and they probably had a much higher response than they thought, I don't mind saying playing the stupid game was my decision.
(picture of sorted ammo from Ammoman's website - it's the only thing I got from them)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgivukah!

Since this year features a rare coinciding of a late Thanksgiving and an early beginning to Chanukah, some enterprising groups have decided to call the day Thanksgivukah - web site by kosher food producer Manishevitz.  We've had our small family Thanksgiving Dinner already.  I put a small turkey (10 pounds) and a duckling into the smoker at 8:30, and they were done by 2:30. Just in time for an early dinner but with no sweet potato latkes (come to think of it, that sounds like it could be good!).  Mrs. Graybeard's wonderful scratch-made pumpkin pie and coffee will follow in an hour or so.  The big dinner will be tomorrow, when we go down to South Florida to visit Mom and the rest of our family.  Mom is under hospice care at home now, so there aren't many chances left for a good get together.

Enjoy your day as best as you can.  It's worth pondering the questions in WSRA's piece The Auxiliary.  The time I've spent lolling around has been reading blogs and watching the coverage of Comet Ison's dive to solar perihelion.  At this point, it sure looks like Ison has disintegrated and we will not be getting the spectacular comet show we've been hoping for.

("Whadda you lookin' at?  What's that long stick in your hands?")  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

High Altitude Ice and Unintended Consequences

I swear that the most important natural law that never gets taught in school is the Law of Unintended Consequences.  Without exception, I see that law rear its head in response to every law, every regulation and even every desire.  It's a topic I've written about many times.

You may have heard this past weekend that Boeing has issued warnings to airline customers with the new 747-8 and the 787 about troubles from high altitude ice crystals.  Over the life of these aircraft, several flights have been aborted due to loss of engine performance caused by ice crystals causing loss of engine thrust.  Both of these aircraft use the new General Electric GEnx ("Genix") engines, among the highest fuel-efficiency engines made. Aviation Week reports:
The advisory, which warns operators of GEnx-1B powered 787-8s and GEnx-2B powered 747-8s to stay at least 50 naut. mi. away from large convective thunderstorms which can generate high altitude ice particles, is expected to be followed shortly by an FAA airworthiness directive. Although five of the six events that have been reported so far involve 747-8 freighters, one recent incident occurred on a 787.
So why the reference to the law of intended consequences?  Engineering is all about trades, and it's almost always the case that designs good at one characteristic are bad at another.  For an example that many people have experienced, have you ever ridden in a flat-bottom Jon boat?  Compared to a boat with a more V-shaped hull, it's more stable in the water, and tips less when passengers move around, but the flat bottom rides extremely rough in a chop compared to the V hull.  Crossing a few miles of windy open lake or bay in a Jon boat will pound you until you think your teeth are coming out.   In the jet engine case, two of the main design trades that give the GEnx higher fuel efficiency make them more susceptible to ice problems. 

There are two problems directly caused by being more fuel efficient.  The biggest is that the engine is larger in diameter than the one it replaces; that helps the bypass ratio, the ratio of intake air that doesn't go into the combustion core area to the air that does, and ultra fuel efficient engines are ultra high bypass ration engines, but being larger exposes more engine frontal area to the icing environment.  Second, more efficiency comes from minimizing wasted heat.  Jet fuel burns at temperatures higher than the melting point of even the most advanced aviation alloys.  As a result, the jet engine designers had to come up with elaborate ways to prevent melting and cool off the hot section of the engine by “bleeding” in air through tiny ducts and pinholes inside the turbine blades.  This makes the engine cooler, but also less efficient; still, they have to do this in order for the engine to survive.  But optimizing the engine to keep the heat in the one area where fuel burns keeps heat out of the big fan blades in front, making them easier to ice. 

The design factors that led to higher efficiency led to more issues with ice getting into the combustion area and interfering with operation. 

Fuel efficiency is probably the biggest issue for the air travel industry.  Fuel prices have risen substantially in the last decade and are not likely to go down substantially, if at all.  Modern aircraft design is all about cutting fuel costs.  The industry sees the problem with icing and is organizing both private and public sector groups to study the problems and find ways around it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Techy Tuesday - Still Learning From Apollo?

The Apollo program ended with the conclusion of the flight of Apollo 17 in December of 1972.  Some wrap up and clean up activities took place after that, but the flight portion of Apollo ended almost 41 years ago.  Strange, then, that in the last few years, an experiment that the 17 mission left on the moon and which operated for a mere 620 hours, has emerged that seems poised to change our view of the moon.

There are storms on the moon.
The next time you see the moon, trace your finger along the terminator, the dividing line between lunar night and day. That's where the storm is. It's a long and skinny dust storm, stretching all the way from the north pole to the south pole, swirling across the surface, following the terminator as sunrise ceaselessly sweeps around the moon.

Never heard of it? Few have. But scientists are increasingly confident that the storm is real.
The final mission to the moon carried an experiment package called LEAM, the Lunar Ejecta And Meteorite experiment.  Apollo-era scientists wanted to know, how much dust is ejected by daily meteorite impacts? And what are the properties of that dust? LEAM was to answer these questions using three sensors that could record the speed, energy, and direction of tiny particles: one each pointing up, east, and west.
(LEAM Package)

LEAM's four-decade-old data appear to show a "large number of particles every morning, mostly coming from the east or west--rather than above or below--and mostly slower than speeds expected for lunar ejecta."  The results are now being reexamined by several independent groups of NASA and university scientists, who are tentatively concluding the particles were from electrostatically-driven dust storms.  Interestingly, Apollo astronauts may have seen the storms, too. While orbiting the Moon, the crews of Apollo 8, 10, 12, and 17 sketched "bands" or "twilight rays" where sunlight was apparently filtering through dust above the moon's surface. This happened before each lunar sunrise and just after each lunar sunset. NASA's Surveyor spacecraft also photographed twilight "horizon glows," much like what the astronauts saw.  There's even speculation that Transient Lunar Phenomena, which both professional and backyard astronomers have been reporting since the 1500s, could be these dust storms. 

There's new importance in this 40 year old data because several nations (Russia, China, and India for example) have announced plans for manned moon flights.  Some have talked about staying for long periods, and building habitats rather than just coming back after a few days.  NASA has talked about such a mission in 2018.  It may turn out that mining the Helium 3 on the moon for energy production could be the first, big economic incentive for space flight there has ever been.  The wall of dust, if it exists, might be diaphanous, invisible, harmless. Or it could be a real problem, clogging spacesuits, coating surfaces and causing hardware to overheat.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's Complicated

If you haven't read it, Fred Reed (Fred on Everything) ventures afield from his usual topics into trying to make sense of evolution vs. intelligent design in an essay he calls The Bugs in Darwin (h/t to DumpDC).  It's long, for which Fred apologizes, but strikes me as the highlight of the weekend on the various blogs.  As usual, I give you a teaser.  Go read the whole thing:
Impossibility Theory

If you look at evolution from other than the perspective of an ideological warrior who believes that he is saving the world from the claws of snake-handling primitive Christians in North Carolina, difficulties arise. Chief among these is the sheer complexity of things. Living organisms are just too complicated to have come about by accident. This, it seems to me, is apparent to, though not provable by, anyone with an open mind.

Everywhere in the living world one sees intricacy wrapped in intricacy wrapped in intricacy. At some point the sane have to say, “This can´t be. Something is going on that I don´t understand.”

Read a textbook of embryology. You start with a barely-visible zygote which, (we are told) guided by nothing but the laws of chemistry, unerringly reacts with ambient chemicals to build, over nine months, an incomprehensibly complex thing we call “a baby.” Cells migrate here, migrate there, modify themselves or are modified to form multitudinous organs, each of them phenomenally complex, all of this happening chemically and flawlessly. We are accustomed to this, and so think it makes sense. The usual always seems reasonable. I don´t think it is. It simply isn´t possible, being a wild frontal assault on Murphy´s Law.

Therefore babies do not exist. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Unless Something Else is involved. I do not know what.
As a Bible reading believer, I think I can answer the "what" question, but I'm happy to see Fred questioning everything.  Questioning is the beginning of wisdom.  Fred links to a book called "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution", on National Review's list of the 100 most important nonfiction books of the twentieth century, and includes some great things to ponder the complexity of.  

I've written about this topic before, because I believe the complexity of life precludes a Darwinian explanation of how we got here.  I'm not saying Intelligent Design is a provable scientific principle, I'm saying Darwinian evolution is not a provable scientific principle either.  Neither one is what I consider to be hard science.  What experiment could you conduct that would start with pure, inanimate chemicals and end up with Venus flytraps and penguins (flightless waterfowl)?  When a look at any one of literally thousands of known biological systems shows a system that simply could not have evolved through competition of millions of single point mutations, or one that had to spring up at its full level of complexity, the gradualism of Darwinian evolution breaks down.   (Punctuated equilibrium theories don't get you out of the mess, either because they depend on gradual evolution as well)

Go read. 
The bacterial flagellum, simplified view.  The similarity to an electric motor is so strong, some writers even call it a motor, complete with rotor and stator.  And apparently a clutch.  Can you imagine this system working with a hodgepodge of assembly methods and parts in a hundred different orientations?  Would a non-working flagellum provide survival advantage so that the right one could evolve?  National Science Foundation picture.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Obamacare Is An Economic Cancer

Remember the big fuss with Ted Cruz "filibuster" about not funding Obamacare?  I didn't care about that game and I didn't do anything to support them because the amount of influence that could be exerted would amount to a couple of percent.  Obamacare, like a cancer, has tendrils that reach into the entire economy, with taxes and fees spread throughout many laws, not just the ACA act itself.  It wouldn't even be sufficient to completely nullify the ACA law; we would have to nullify every law that feeds money into it. 

For example, if you are one of those "Evil Rich" people with a house that can get you over $500,000 profit, there's a special tax just for you:
If you are single with an adjusted gross income of $200,000 or file jointly with an income of $250,000 or more, you may be impacted. Once you sell your home, any profits over the first $500,000 are already subject to a capital gains tax. And now those profits will have an additional 3.8% tax to fund Obamacare.
In that "My9NJ" video, one staffer is heard to say, "on that $500,000 profit, that 3.8% is only $19,000 tax, so it's not like anyone is having their nest egg stolen" - a perfect Socialist Stooge viewpoint.  Dude, You Have No Right to that money.  It isn't the state's or the federal government's money to take.  That money belongs to the people who were smart enough or lucky enough to buy a house that made them money.  Plus, those people are not just paying $19k, it's $19k plus $119,000 (23.8%) capital gains tax, plus every other penny the socialists think they can justify taking. 

This is barely even scratching the surface.  Newsmax lists 20 hidden taxes, including special taxes on charitable hospitals, taxing innovative drug companies (which ought to help stifle the creation of new drugs), removing the ability to use pre-tax FSA or HSA money to pay for non-prescription drugs, raising the limit on taxpayers' ability to deduct medical expenses from 7.5% of AGI to 10% and the ability of the IRS to decide to not allow perfectly legitimate deductions simply because they decide to:
Codification of the “economic substance doctrine” (Tax hike of $4.5 billion). This provision allows the IRS to disallow completely-legal tax deductions and other legal tax-minimizing plans just because the IRS deems that the action lacks “substance” and is merely intended to reduce taxes owed. Bill: Reconciliation Act; Page: 108-113.

The costs are showing up everywhere.  Do you have a dog or cat you love and take to the vet?  Expect veterinarian fees to go up.  Like all small businesses, when your costs go up, you can only either pass that on or absorb it.  

Of course, the whole reason for the law isn't to provide for the uninsured.  It's to increase the amount of money and power in the center of the empire, and increasing the ruling class' opportunities for job jumping or moving into the private sector.  The New York Times is all conflicted about this:
“The health care industry now spends more money on lobbying in Washington than any sector of the economy, according to the Center for Responsive Politics here. … Critics say these former officials are cashing in, trading on the relationships and expertise they acquired while working for the taxpayers, and cite such career moves as proof that Mr. Obama has not lived up to his promise to change the culture of influence peddling in the capital.”
There are those who say the best response to the law is to let it fail and collapse under its own weight.  Sorry, but I can't agree.  Washington never cancels failed or obsolete programs, and this one won't be canceled.  With all these former DC insiders forming an industry to keep the law alive, they'll effectively lobby and keep it in place.  "We'll fix it" will be the rallying cry until they ride it down into the economic collapse.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Taking Things at Face Value

I spent the week in Toronto, again, only with even less free time.  A few thoughts and things.

The morning news on CBC had features on Toronto Mayor Ford every day of the week.  On Tuesday morning, I had a bit more "adventure" than I had planned when my rental car wouldn't start.  Long story shortened, Hertz eventually sent out a real tow truck, and I find myself riding with this guy in the truck cab to the airport to get my replacement.  Random small talk follows: "where you from?", "Florida", "bet it must be really cold for you" and so on.  I tell him I don't know much about the city, but the news has been dominated by stories about the mayor.  Somewhat to my surprise, he claims to know someone for whom the mayor helped fix a city hall problem.  He says the mayor is a decent guy, but anyone who would go into that line of work probably has ego problems.  I say it's suspicious when, all of a sudden/out of nowhere, some city's mayor is major international news and I'm suspicious of the media.  We agree.

Despite spending a weekend packing, preparing, and double checking, I still managed to forget some important stuff and needed to make an "emergency" trip to the land of the Walmartians.  Canukistanian Walmartians are well dressed and classy compared to their American counterparts, although having to brave a subzero (Celsius) parking lot might affect that.  My packing is apparently every bit as good as my copy editing, though, which is frightening.

The folks at have a rule up for comment to remove the Gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.  If you want to comment, that link takes you right to the page.  You know something like this will get flooded with comments from people who know nothing about the real world, like the woman that jumped into the polar bear exhibit at a zoo to experience her animal friends up close and personal.  Having some people comment who have more experience and knowledge would be good. 

Speaking of the flood of regulations (another nearly 6000 in the last 90 days) Veronique de Rugy writes in National Review about the Over-Regulated state.  We have clearly gone from a place where things were generally legal unless specifically outlawed to one where everything is illegal unless specifically permitted.  Why would the feds need to issue a special regulation into the CFR allowing importing of lamb from Uruguay, unless the default was it's illegal to do so?  It seems to me it's getting pretty bad if the New York Times runs an article on the loss of freedom from over regulation.
The total number of federal regulatory restrictions is now more than one million. And they’re not all necessarily good ideas. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration has banned some useful asthma treatments because they have a slight negative impact on the ozone layer. The nation has medical-device regulations that take longer to satisfy than those of the European Union.

Many regulations, when initially presented, can sound desirable.  The problem is that, taken in their entirety, excess rules divert attention from pressing issues like the need for innovation and new jobs.
Finally, many of fellow bloggers are commenting on the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination.  It's one of a handful of events I'll always remember clearly; aside from a few personal things, there's the assassination and the day the Shuttle Challenger blew up after launch.  I was a kid and, like most, had no knowledge of or interest in the president.  As I've gotten older, though, I've come to have respect for him.  Miquel at Gun Free Zone ran a column that featured this illustration (from an ad in American Rifleman) saying he was an NRA life member. 

By today's standards, he seems Republican, and maybe even a conservative to the right of McCain. It just doesn't seem he could possibly survive in today's Obama/Pelosi/Clinton leftist Democrat party.  Check out this quote:
"A tax cut means higher family income and higher business profits and a balanced federal budget.... As the national income grows, the federal government will ultimately end up with more revenues. Prosperity is the real way to balance our budget. By lowering tax rates, by increasing jobs and income, we can expand tax revenues and finally bring our budget into balance."  Sept. 18, 1963.
Or this quote, which would sound right at home at a Tea Party rally:
"Every time that we try to lift a problem from our own shoulders, and shift that problem to the hands of the government, to the same extent we are sacrificing the liberties of our people."
Naturally, this is just taken out of context and there's debate about all of it.  It's probably not fair to make this sort of comparison across 50 years.

While I Was Gone

Today, on the way back to work after lunch, Mrs. Graybeard says:
Mrs.G:  "Sebelius was in town while you were gone"
Me: "In town? Here?"
Mrs.G: "Yeah, she was at the college"
Me: [pause] "Laying eggs?"
[EDIT 11/22 2038 to note that we got the city wrong.  She was in Orlando at Florida Technical College, not here in town at Florida Tech]

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pardon Me, I'm A Bit Thor

Not really, just couldn't resist the joke. 

We went to see Thor, the Dark World yesterday, and while I like these escapist comic book movies, this one had surprisingly witty aspects to it.  Far too often, these movies tend to have stilted dialog that sounds like it was written by 15 year old nerd boys (after all, the comic books are written for 15 year old nerd boys!).  This one was a bit more adult, with a lot of tongue in cheek humor, especially about the relationships between Jane Foster and Thor, and Jane's Intern and the Intern's Intern. We found ourselves laughing a lot more than I would have expected.

Someone I came across somewhere said there were too many story details and it slowed the movie down - it didn't seem that way to me.  They had to set up what the movie was about and that's all the distraction there was. 

One of the traps of writing superhero stories is that there needs to be suspense about whether or not the superhero is genuinely at risk.  You need a super villain.  I have to say Tom Hiddleston, the actor who plays Thor's nemesis (and half brother) Loki really gets the super villain role down.  A great villain, a great foil for Thor. 
In a scene from the trailer that has been on TV, Loki absorbs a hard slap to the face from Jane, while Thor and Sif look on. 

And in less-related news, blogging will slow again the next few days.  On the road until Thursday night and while I should have better access than in early October, I have no idea how long the days will be.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Wrath of the "Tolerant" Left*

They're at it again; the "it" this time is attacking someone who posted pictures from a hunting trip online, with the same death threats and other evidence of tolerance we hear about all the time.

I think the first story I posted about this was about Olympic shotgunner Corey Cogdell and the death threats she got for daring to speak about hunting.  A few months ago, Michael Bane relayed the story of one of his friends, NBC Sports host Michael Baker, who had just returned from a trip to Africa and posted about taking an elephant on his trip.  The lefty-verse erupted in outrage, showering abuse on Baker, too.  I consider this a "PG13" blog, and I won't print much of it here, but a relatively polite comment was:
Worthless Cunt Kills Elephant In NRA-Sponsored TV Show
(also marking the first time I've seen the "c"-word applied to a guy)

The Blaze brings today's story that Melissa Bachman, who hosts "Winchester's Deadly Passion" posted a picture of herself with an African Lion she took recently.  She was proud she had tracked and stalked the big cat to within 60 yards.
“An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60-yards on this beautiful male lion…what a hunt!” she tweeted from her now deleted account, attaching a picture of her kneeling over the dead adult lion.

The lefties went into their predictable outrage.
“I hope someone smiles like her, when someone kills slowly and painfully,” said a user going by “WolverHampton.”
What these folks know about African safari hunting or wildlife management wouldn't fill a thimble.  One just doesn't waltz into the bush in Africa and go shoot something.  The governments have set up programs to manage their resources and make a good chunk of income from tourists.  The population of predators and prey both need to be managed, and there are special considerations for animals that are potentially destructive to their environment, like elephants.  The utopian dream of never being involved and just letting nature be nature is just that: a dream.  African game competes with the people for food (and, in some cases, considers the people as food).  Wildlife needs to be managed, so why shouldn't the government make money from it, and why shouldn't those who pay big money get to go hunting?  

And it's not just an African problem.  I've read many times (here, for example) that mountain lions are moving into the suburbs in the US, and that there are more of them in the suburbs than in the more rural areas for the simple reason that there's more food in the suburbs.  Coyotes are being spotted in urban areas, like Long Island and New York City.  Know any missing dogs or cats, anyone? 

I've said before that I've never hunted, and while I say I'd like to try turkey hunting, the mere fact that something else always seems to take priority says it's not my top priority.  I would have a tough time killing any large cat, except in the case of self defense.  All that said, I don't have a single problem with what Bachman, Baker or Cogdell have been gutted in the media for doing. 

* - I know they're lefty anti-gun and not conservative for two reasons.  The first reason, to borrow a saying, is "If a conservative doesn't like hunting, she doesn't go hunting.  If a liberal doesn't like hunting, she tries to ban hunting worldwide".  Second, more pragmatically, I never met a conservative that objected to hunting.  There must be one or two out there, but they're not sending death threats: see point 1.   

I Was Thinking More Like Replacing the Timing Belt

In case you haven't seen it, Tam has the post of the week If Schadenfreude had calories I'd weigh 300 pounds.  Go read it and the comments.

A highlight to me was where she said,
"How could this be going so spectacularly wrong?" goes the hand-wringing lament.

How could it not? Seriously! You think a bunch of people can sit down and... Lux Fiat! the rules for how 15% of the economy works in one fell swoop, in what amounts to a giant bong-fueled bull session, and have nothing go wrong? You might as well try to change the spark plugs on your car while the engine's running.
and that's where I thought "spark plugs?  More like changing the timing belt."  On the majority of the cars I've had you actually could pull plugs while it was running with some pain and suffering.  But it's physically impossible to get to the belt, and economically impossible to write a command economy for health care.  But I over think analogies like this.
Tam needs a link from me, even without this one on Facebook, like Donald Trump needs another dollar, but that piece is pure gold.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Changing the Language - Welcome to Socialized Medicine

One of the things that the Obamacare website debacle has shown me is that the progressives are doing what they always do and making words mean things that they've never meant before.  By mixing the words insurance coverage and healthcare, along with clever manipulation of legalese, they're implementing socialized medicine right now.

I also have to call your attention to something else I've said here before: watch the other hand.  They're making a big public mess about this website, so the news media isn't covering the EPA's attemp to grab control of the entire country at all.  In a nutshell (and go read), the EPA has had powers to regulate waters since the "Clean Water Act", but an early Supreme Court ruling limited them to "navigable waterways" which are only the larger rivers and some lakes.  The power grab is to assert control over every drop of water in the country, this time by expanding it to even small lakes and ponds.  There was some bogus study that concluded every single body of water is connected underground and they're using that for justification (seriously: how do they measure that?  What sort of sensors do you use to establish connections between a farm in, say, Nebraska and the Atlantic Ocean?)   They are virtually claiming the power to regulate puddles on your property.

But back to the ObamaScare mess, have you noticed how choice in your plans is being eliminated?  Every plan must cover maternity, even for single men, even gays - single or married.  You can't refuse that.  (Is it fair or "=" for gays to pay for maternity they'll never need?)  Everyone must buy substance abuse, even teetotaler Mormons.  Catholic hospitals will be required to provide birth control and abortions to employees.  The reason everyone's policies are skyrocketing in cost is the expansion of the risk for the insurance companies.  (see here and here).

Until now, insurance was a form of risk management in which groups of buyers put money into a pool to cover the cost of certain risks, and only the small percentage of buyers who realize that risk take money out.  The insurance companies, of course, make money off this (and contrary to Kathryn Sibelius' claims, they are highly regulated) so all companies that can afford it are self-insured; they pay the benefits themselves, simply using the companies they contract to administer claims and hiring them for their insider knowledge of how the industry works. 

Again, this is highly regulated: for years now, every health plan had to cover risks that I'm willing to accept.  I'm willing to accept the risk that my wife or I will suddenly decide we need gender reassignment, or that we'll suddenly become addicted to gambling.  I don't want to pay for insurance for that, but I don't have that choice.

So by mandating these coverages, the Obamanoids are already instituting socialized medicine, but since it's still managed by corporations, I'll call it fascistic medicine.  They're creating a big pool of money taken from people who are legally required to pay for risks they'd never buy coverage for, and using that money to pay for unrelated problems for other people.  To try and personalize the point, they might take money you'd put up for the risk of a heart attack or something you consider possible, and use your money to pay for medical care for that exact condition for someone else.  They're even using some of your money to subsidize lower income people's insurance - direct wealth transfer.  It's not "single payer", managed by a massive federal bureaucracy (yet!), but it's still "from each according to his ability to each according to his needs". 

Even Evil Party mouthpiece Kirsten Powers has openly split from the strict party line by reporting how her own premiums are doubling for worse coverage and she seems to know she's simply paying for other people's care.  She's just more OK with it than most.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Instead of Techy Tuesday - Something Different

Head over to Bill Whittle's place and read Thoughts on the Common Sense Resistance.  When you're done, read the next piece on the First CSR Iconography.  Bill is up to something big here.  (H/T WRSA)
You just gotta know that if it involves the resistance and fixing things, I'm all in.  Putting together a series of stories, or videos, or role-playing games to get the message across to the millennials makes sense to me.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Somehow, I Think This Might Not End Well

So PETA (no, not the People Eating Tasty Animals - the real PETA) has decided to introduce drones to:
...collect and publicize footage of hunters shooting animals and allowing them to escape, only to die slowly and in agony, among other common violations.
They also want them used to fly over factory farms and "...other areas that are hotbeds of abuse."

You know what?  I'm not going to focus on those lies.  Everyone who has read the first thing about hunting, let alone known actual hunters, knows that hunters are committed to ethical hunting, "one shot, one kill", and committed to not seeing animals suffer.  It's just that accidents happen and an animal gets away from time to time, not that hunters are being deliberately cruel.  Deliberately cruel is the description for PETA, who killed over 92 % of "adoptable pets" between 1998 and 2012 in Virginia. 

For some unknown reason, Electronic Component News, a trade magazine for engineers of all types, is all over this story.  PETA claims they'll be flying a specially marked version of the AR.Drone 2.0 from Parrot.  The control is via WiFi, and Parrot has apps to run on your iPhone or Android to control these guys.

Hunting in some form or other, of course, is legal in all 50 states.  Some of them - even the Peoples' Republic of Massachusetts - have coded into law that it's illegal to harass hunters:
In Massachusetts, for example, it is illegal to “obstruct, interfere with or otherwise prevent the lawful taking of fish or wildlife by another at the locale where such activity is taking place.” If you fly a drone above a hunter, you not only present a tempting (and slow-moving) target, but you could go to jail or pay a hefty fine.
The first comment is indicative of where I think this is going:
Well... I could use a slow moving practice target. You fly that thing above my property and I have every right to bring it down... and no... I'm not giving you the wreckage back. I'm mounting that puppy.
It's a little nastier than that, though.  WiFi links in wooded areas, where you might be hunting deer, ducks, or whatever,  aren't going to be very long range. The chances of PETA kids meeting Elmer Fudd up close and personal might be a bit higher than they'd like. While I'm comfortable that the vast majority of hunters wouldn't fire on a PETA kid, accidental shootings happen in the woods, especially with people who don't know what they're doing out there.  There might even be some who would invoke the 3 S mantra.  Ya never know.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

One Down, One to Go

I finished Mrs. Graybeard's light spinning rod, a project that has taken too long with the other "life" that's been going on.  Did a somewhat subdued diamond wrap above the handle.  Definitely low-key,  not "in your face", just like the owner.  Got two coats of epoxy on it this week, and it's ready to fish.
It's a two piece, currently set with 6 lb. test and a Shimano Stradic reel. 
Now for some good weather and we'll go learn how to fish this!  In the mean time, I have my plug rod to finish.  I put it aside to do this one, since it's basically a spare rod.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

So Why Should I Believe You Now?

This week the FDA announced that trans-fats are to be removed from the American food supply, by taking them off the GRAS list - Generally Recognized As Safe.  Interestingly, some of the most "heart-safe" recommended foods, like margarine and artificial coffee creamer, at the ones to be banned. 

So last Saturday they were safe and this Saturday they're poison?  You were wrong last week?  So why should I believe you're right now? 

In the case of Trans fats, I've been convinced they're something to be avoided since about 1997, but that's not the point.  I could be wrong in choosing what I decide to eat, and hurt nobody but myself.  They decide and hurt hundreds of millions.  I started leaning this way after reading "The Oiling of America" back then combined with data coming out of the Harvard Nurse's and Physician's Studies around the same time.  (BTW, I'm not sure of the web site and I'm a bit skeptical of the coconut oil industry, but they feature this piece and came up high in Bing. )  

So where does the GRAS list come from?  Same place "My Plate" or food pyramid comes from.  They tell you it's Science!! but it's more like politics and influence peddling. 

The FDA needs to be cut back in size by about 2/3 to 3/4.  Considering how badly their vaunted protection of the food and supply has screwed up and killed Americans (one example), it's not like they're doing much protection anyway. 

General rule in life: if the recommends anything, they're probably wrong. 
(This wretched stuff goes away, and good riddance.  I prefer heavy cream.)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan and the Very Quiet Atlantic Season

Keep the people of the Philippines in your thoughts and prayers as they try to recover from super typhoon Haiyan.  A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report from moments ago says the preliminary death toll is already 100 and expected to climb.  The good news is that the storm lost some intensity before making landfall.  According to that report:
Weather officials said Haiyan had sustained winds of 235 km/h (146 mph) with gusts of 275 km/h (170 mph) when it made landfall. By those measurements, Haiyan would be comparable to a strong Category 4 hurricane in the U.S., knocking on the door of the top category, a 5.
A borderline cat four/five storm is nothing to take lightly; I've seen pictures of sheet metal flapping like towels on a clothesline, but four/five is almost infinitely better than what it was yesterday!  Before it hit, I was hearing reports of sustained winds around 180 mph with gusts over 230!  Those numbers surely put it up with the strongest cyclones ever measured.  More like an extremely long-lasting and huge tornado.
NASA photo from yesterday, when winds were measured at 170 mph.

In contrast the Atlantic Hurricane season was amazingly mild.  Ryan Maue's Accumulated Cyclone Energy measurements show this season was less than 30% of normal!   This result despite the NOAA predictions for an active season.  Globally, even including the last few days of Haiyan, the ACE for the planet is still below average for the year (74%), with only the northern Indian Ocean showing a very active season at almost twice the average. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Stunt, But Still: A 3D-Printed, All Metal Gun

A contract manufacturing company from Austin, Texas, Solid Concepts, has 3D printed the first real metal 1911.  An almost completely stainless steel printed gun.
Before we go any further, they don't say how much this cost, but this is not a low cost home printer.  The technology they used is called "Direct Metal Laser Sintering", and, yes, a laser is used in the machine.  A video on that web page shows how the technology works, but in overview, the machine contains a tub of a specially formulated powdered metal, and the laser heat is used to fuse particles of the powder into solid metal. The tub is lowered a small increment (.001"?) and the powder re-leveled, allowing the laser to sinter the next layer.  Layer by layer the part is built up until the final shape is there.  Post-processing - clean up, heat treating, and finishing - is required.

Again, don't think of this as a home printer technique, think of it more as an alternative manufacturing technology.  Sintered metal parts aren't a new thing, but printing them as DMLS is.  I know sintered metal has a bad reputation among many in the firearms communities, undoubtedly due to premature introductions of the parts in many companies.  The tech gets continually better, though. 
Solid Concepts is a world leader of 3D Printing services, and our ability to 3D Print the world’s first metal gun solidifies our standing. The gun is a classic 1911, a model that is at once timeless and public domain. It functions beautifully: Our resident gun expert has fired 50 successful rounds and hit a few bull’s eyes at over 30 yards. The gun is composed of 30+ 3D Printed components with 17-4 Stainless Steel and Inconel 625 materials. We completed it with a Selective Laser Sintered (SLS) 3D Printed hand grip, because we’re kind of crazy about 3D Printing.
The gun doesn't come off the machine ready to use (neither did the Liberator), but the parts are made and then assembled.  The barrel was rifled but the rifling was grown into the barrel as it was made, layer by layer, in the machine.  As they say,
This gun has NOT BEEN MACHINED. We used hand tools for some post processing (our finishers are wonderful), but we did not machine this gun. It’s born this way.
H/T to commenter bogbeagle at WRSA.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

North Koreans Working on EMP Weapons, ICBMs

From the emails tonight, two stories and a little quiz:  what does 1 + 1 = ?

1 - South Korean intelligence reports that the North Koreans are developing EMP technology to attack them.  As carried in Agence France-Presse:
South Korea’s spy agency said Monday that North Korea was using Russian technology to develop electromagnetic pulse weapons aimed at paralyzing military electronic equipment south of the border.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) said in a report to parliament that the North had purchased Russian electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weaponry to develop its own versions.
1 - Think Tank Science and Global Security reports that the North Koreans appear to be progressing nicely on their development of ICBMs capable of reaching the US mainland. 
The closely followed 38 North website of the Johns Hopkins University’s US-Korea Institute argued that ICBM mock-ups seen at recent military parades in Pyongyang were “less fake” than originally believed. [Note:  Gotta love "less fake" as an explanation - SiG]
“Elegant or not,” the mockups suggest an ability to assemble components and technologies to produce missiles with theoretical ranges of 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles) to more than 11,000 km.
“Almost all of the configurations examined would be able to deliver a light, first-generation nuclear warhead at least as far as Seattle,” it said.
The worst case scenarios for an EMP attack on the US require going a bit farther than Seattle, all the way to the center of the US, at the right altitude.  This may get them closer but they're probably not what they need.  That's probably a year or two away.  
North Korean Taepodong-class ICBM, "Now, 1/3 less fake than the original!"

The idea of the North using an EMP bomb against the south isn't a new story.  Asia Times carried this story in '09.  The troubling thing is that some mission profiles we laugh at as failures are perfectly successful profiles for an EMP attack.  That goes for the North Koreans and the Iranians, as well.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Techy Tuesday - Running the Adafruit SDR

Last week, I wrote about a budget Software Defined Radio you can get for $22.50 from Adafruit.  While I was writing that, I thought I'd pick one up for that kind of price.  Got it running with very little effort tonight, and I'm currently listening to a local FM broadcaster on it.  I followed the software installation instructions on the rtlsdr wiki, running SDR# (SDR Sharp) for Windoze. 
A desktop screen capture off this PC.  The PC is a two or three year old Dell, running Win7 64bit.  It's not extremely fast, but it's a Pretty Good PC. 

So it's running.  How's it work?  The software is pretty straightforward to run, but I assume that's because I've worked with amateur software defined radios.  The radio itself is smaller than even I thought it would be from the picture, about one square inch and not much thicker than a USB connector.  The RF gain adjustment control is hidden in the "Configure" button at the top, and the default was zero.  Pretty numb without cranking it up to 30 dB or so.  Better yet, engage the AGC and let the system handle it for you.  If that isn't a good enough warning for you, I'll put it this way: be careful with the software.  It does very little automagically, and leaves you enough rope to hang yourself and still rig a nice sized schooner!

What I expect from this is to be able to demodulate most of what I'll come across in the 24 to 1850 MHz range it covers.  With essentially no RF filtering I expect it to be subject to images and aliases out the wazoo: that is, it will hear strong signals on frequencies they really aren't on.  In the old days, scanner hobbyists used the image responses of their cheap scanners to hear frequencies they couldn't otherwise tune to. Tonight, I'm just learning how to use it a little.  I think I'll install the software on the PC in the ham shack, where I can get connected to an outside "real" antenna instead of the 6" piece of wire it comes with.  That's not always a good idea. Sometimes, a good antenna just makes the radio easier to overload.

Monday, November 4, 2013

New York's Communist Mayor

Regular readers might recall that about a month ago, I said that the next mayor of New York City was probably going to be an actual communist, Bill de Blasio.  Today, Reuters confirms that it appears it will be a landslide. They then follow up with this complete non sequitur:
... pollster Lee Miringoff said there is every reason to expect a lopsided de Blasio victory as voters look to turn the page after Bloomberg's three terms in office.

"There was a fatigue after 12 years, and de Blasio represented that both in style and substance," said Miringoff.
Excuse me?  New York is tired of that awful, fascist prick Bloomberg so they're going to elect the communist de Blazio?  Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe; it doesn't matter what you call the exact flavor of centralized dictatorship you have,  if you have any ability to get out of New York, GTFO!!  Confiscation is coming. The problem is that the whole nation will be taxed to bail out New York as he drives it into the ground, just as the Obamanoids are trying to get us to bail out Detroit and everyplace else. 
(de Blasio in his Sandanista days, courtesy the NYT

If you need any background on de Blasio, that NYT post is a good one, as is my original post on the guy.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Like Minded Folks

Mrs. Graybeard and I did something new yesterday and headed across the state to Lakeland for a Prepardness Expo.  It's about a two hour drive, and we had no real expectations for what we'd find there.  Worst case, we burn a few gallons of gas and pay for admission.

The expo wasn't large; just a one room in a large convention center.  Our local gun show is probably three times the area with many more vendors, but there was a mixed bag of stuff you might think would be associated with prepping.  There was a display of BOB water storage bags alongside fishing kayaks, canned food alongside several home gardening systems (one), some coin dealers selling junk silver bags, and things that seemed more "quality of life" than strictly prepping oriented, like scented oils and various herbal treatments.  There was only one gun dealer, and one archery booth, but three or four dealers selling solar power systems ranging from slightly more complex than my home project to full house, grid-tied systems.

The most important end result of walking around it for a few hours wasn't much in the way of stuff we bought.  I did pick up one of these UVPaqlites, which I've been very interested in since first seeing them within the last couple of years.  I've never seen them in person, and the demo these folks did was enough to sell me on them.  After a brief period of "I'll take one of each!", I settled on just one of the mats to play experiment with.  If nothing else, they'd be good to take on a night fishing or camping trip. 

I expected to end the day feeling unprepared; in reality, it made me feel better about where we are.  We absolutely don't have everything that was for sale there, but if you think of it as classes of stuff - from water storage, to medical preps, to self defense preps, to pantry preps - we're in pretty darned good shape.  Much like our preparations for hurricanes, shutters and other hardware, the best test is to get a storm and make sure everything holds up.  I'd rather not test it with a complete societal collapse - but I'm really sure I don't get my preferences!

The important part was the people.  I always get a kick out of seeing people who are completely out of the stereotype; like the fairly elegantly dressed young woman playing with spring assisted knives, or the middle aged couple learning how to butcher small animals. Most of the people seemed to be newbies, with beginner questions.  (After all, if you're set in your bug out location and prepared for everything, why go to something like this?)  As we all know, there are millions of suburbanites who never grew up on farms and never had to learn the difference between livestock and pets, who are suddenly facing the fact that they may have to learn lots more about their food supplies and how to prepare things than they've ever faced before.  I honestly have to consider myself one of them; I grew up fishing, not hunting.   

We heard one of the talks, where the speaker's story was so similar to mine that she could have been a sister.  She started out as an engineer and ended up in project management (it's usually quite difficult to not take that path, and stay in design).  After that, she moved to the financial world, and while her motivation was different than mine, started asking the same questions I did: "how does this financial system really work" and kept getting answers that didn't make sense.  Unsatisfied with what she could learn, she kept digging for better answers and kept getting answers that led her to realize the US is headed for economic collapse, like so many countries before us.   

I know that most, if not all, of my readers have had that realization already.  Those who won't believe it's possible won't be convinced by anything I say, but let me leave you with two perspectives.  The first is the way the companies I've worked for formally manage risk.  First assess how likely the risk is. Second assess how big the impact would be, and then multiply them to figure out how much to spend preparing for the risk. 

Let me stress these are rough numbers and hard to actually quantify.   

For example, consider an EMP - which everyone talks about now and then.  It's very difficult to put a hard number on the chances that a rogue nation or group would inflict an EMP on us, but the impact would be very large.  For argument, I'll say a 1% chance of it happening in our planning period (perhaps the next few years?), but it would cost 100% of our annual income.  The method says we multiply those numbers and concludes we should prepare for it by spending 1% of our income.  A hurricane?  More likely: the odds in this period have been about 5%, but the cost has been low, only 1%.  That says we spend just .05%.  In reality, though, preparing for EMP prepares for the hurricane, and vice versa.  So if you think there's only a 5% chance of economic collapse, and preparing for that prepares you for everything, wouldn't you spend 5% of your resources preparing for it?

Finally, an MD I was speaking with once about wellness and disease prevention made an argument that I think is very relevant here.  His argument was that even if a lowfat diet was good treatment for heart disease (which it certainly doesn't appear to be), it doesn't mean it was a good preventative for heart disease.  A good treatment isn't a good preventative.  Let me twist that into prepping by saying that if the reality of surviving a grid down collapse is that you'll have to be 100% self-sufficient, raising chickens, goats or rabbits to butcher and live on, it doesn't mean you need to be doing that now.  If you want to, that's a different story.  Certainly, going through the mental preparations of thinking and planning how you'd do that, and maybe even some practice, is worthwhile.  But actually giving up your current life to prepare for something isn't necessarily the best way to approach things. 

It's like saying if you knew there was a chance you'd get cancer someday, you wouldn't start getting chemotherapy now.     
(not mine.  Image from Preparedness Pro)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bringing Your Electronics on the Plane

To say the aviation industry is heavily regulated is an understatement.  It's much like the pharmaceutical or medical devices industries in the government entanglements with the FAA and FCC regulating most of it, with those agencies deferring to quasi-governmental agencies to develop the specifications for the equipment on the plane.  Just to give you an idea, we typically spend more time just certifying the boxes we put on airplanes than the life of some commercial products.

So it was with some interest this week that I read the FAA has allowed expansion of the use of personal electronic devices on aircraft to (potentially) all times.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta made the announcement based on recommendations from the PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), which included representatives from airlines, aircraft manufacturers and in-flight connectivity providers that determined aircraft takeoff and landing systems can tolerate Wi-Fi signals emitted by PEDs.

Cell phone calls will still be banned and rules determining cell phone use are set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Huerta said he expects airlines will allow the use of tablets, smartphones and MP3 players in "airplane mode" which switches cell network communications off.
It's important to note that the prohibition on cell phones doesn't come from the airlines, it comes from the cellphone providers.  A cell phone in an aircraft can hit many cell towers at once, and causes several problems for the call handling equipment.  First, cell systems are designed based on the idea that the signal hits at most a couple of towers close to the phone, and they use a "voting" system that hands control of the call to the tower receiver with the strongest signal.  For people walking around, or in one location, or even driving at highway speeds, that works well.  For a signal hitting towers spread across a wide area, and from a source moving much faster than a car, it doesn't work very well.  Since cell providers are all about who gets the fee for the network access, you could possibly be hitting several providers at once and then they fight to see who gets your money. 

A friend served on the PEDs committee and we spoke about it from time to time.  Everyone is extremely safety conscious and has long been concerned not only about the obvious stuff - your electronic box puts an unintended signal into a critical system on the aircraft - but on the really complex problem: could several devices on the airplane interact and impair a safety-critical system.  Maybe they don't even put a signal into the antenna (which is outside, after all), but on internal wiring and that causes the problem.  Or that hundreds of devices would "raise the noise floor" in the aircraft and affect various radio-based systems.  After years of searching through test data and other evidence, they were unable to find any concrete evidence of those sorts of problem. It turned into two groups, one saying, "prove to me that it can't interfere" and another saying, "we can't find evidence it ever has but can't prove it never will".  Eventually, they decided there was no evidence to say you shouldn't be able to use other systems.
Implementation of the new rules will vary among airlines due to differences on their fleets and operations, however the FAA expects most carriers will allow passengers to use their devices "gate-to-gate" by the end of the year. Airlines will be required to submit plans to the FAA proving that their Wi-Fi equipped aircraft have the ability to withstand signal interference from PEDs throughout all phases of flight. 
Hams will still not be able to use our VHF/UHF HTs on  commercial aircraft!
By the way - one of the more intriguing areas of research involves using WiFi on planes while over the mid-ocean.  There's some mathematical modeling that says the density of aircraft is high enough that a plane over the middle of an oceanic route is always close enough to other planes for a WiFi signal to bounce plane to plane to plane until it reaches the ground, in a self-organizing network. To be fair, that's probably several years in the future.