Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hurricane Season 2014 Wrap Up

Folks who live away from the East or Gulf coasts may not care about this, but I keep track of the hurricane season activity.  Today is the last day of the season, and while I could have really written this at the end of October when Tropical Storm Hanna dissipated, it's best to get the whole season.  Although the predictions vary, NOAA's last prediction before the season (5/22) was eight to 13 tropical storms, including three to six hurricanes, only one or two of them major (with winds over 110 MPH).  There were eight tropical storms, six made it to hurricane status and two became major hurricanes.  One of those, Edouard, was Major for a few hours, while Gonzalo stayed a Major storm for days.  All things considered, their predictions were rather good. Those predictions have often tended to be good for a laugh after the season.
I've been a fan of Ryan Maue's Accumulated Cyclone Energy model since I ran across it a few years ago because I think by integrating both the intensity and the duration you get a better measure of a storm's impact, or potential impact.  Consider Edouard, which was a tropical storm for several days before becoming a hurricane and was a Major storm for one forecast period vs. Gonzalo which was a tropical storm for less time but a Major storm for a 3 1/2 days.  Both storms lasted about the same amount of time and both are counted as Major Hurricanes, but Edouard had an ACE of 15.35 while Gonzalo was the "worse" storm at an ACE of 25.365.  The ACE for the North Atlantic Basin for the year to date is 63% of climatological normal, another mild year.  (Last year was 30%).

One storm hit the US; Hurricane Arthur hit the outer banks of North Carolina on the July 4th weekend.  Florida has not had a hurricane since Wilma in 2005, a record for longest time since a hurricane made landfall in the state.

As I reported in October, it's beginning to look like the era of 'high spin cycle' tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic basin that started in 1995 has run its course.  If this is indeed the case, hurricanes in the North Atlantic will be less of a concern for next 20 years, allowing a lot more building along the coast, which will result in more damage in 30 years when the next Sandy hits and no one remembers what a hurricane was like. 

Hurricanes are good disasters for the lazy man, so I like them. There's no need to go get in line for plywood for your shutters, canned food or bottled water or any of that. All of it is stuff you can prepare for months or years in advance. Yeah, you have to go put up the shutters and do some stuff in advance of the storm, but you sure don't need to be in line at stores. Or in line at a FEMA tractor trailer afterwards.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What's Up With the Precious Metals?

Heck if I know!

Unless you don't pay any attention to precious metal prices at all (in which case you're kinda out of place around here) you know that prices have been in the tank lately.  Gold closed at $1168/oz Friday and has been struggling to clear $1200/oz since mid-October.  It hasn't seriously challenged $1400 in the last year.  What's significant about that?  Just that analysts conclude that the
"all-in costs of gold producers are now above $1,150/oz, even after big cost reductions and a focus on higher-grade mining. If the price drops to $1,000/oz, there will be many shutdowns. The industry needs a price of at least $1,400/oz to support sustainable production, and that number will rise, as early as 2015 or 2016."  It's progressively harder for gold miners to mine profitably at today's prices, and that gets worse as the world's central bankers create more and more inflationary pressures on the dollar. 
Silver is just as bad.  The number of ounces of silver it takes to buy an ounce of gold (or the number of silver ounces 1 oz of gold will buy) is 75.4.  Historically, that's on the high end of where it ranges, but not an all time high.  Here's your kicker: the average silver to gold ratio from 1687 until now was 27.28, just about a third of what it is now.  The ratio went above 40 in 1984 and has only rarely gone below 40 since then.  A high ratio represents either historically cheap silver or expensive gold - but the preceding paragraph explains that gold is almost selling too cheaply to mine.  To me that implies gold is cheap, and silver is full-tilt-bozo, ridiculously, crazy cheap. 
(Note this is from 11/27 - Thanksgiving - when all the other world markets were open.  My value of 75.4 is from 11/28's closing prices.)

Silver has been in a down trend since mid 2011, although a couple of those vertical price drops came from the commodity markets changing the their rules.  It was almost net zero movement since May of '13, but the last couple of months have been brutal.  With "above ground" supplies of almost a billion ounces (978 million), more than last year, and the economic forecast for slowing growth worldwide (if not outright global recession) the price of silver seems to be caught between the strangely resurgent dollar strength and the investors eying the white metal more as an alternative currency than as an industrial investment.  Silver's price correlation to gold is 0.82 (1.0 being perfect... and never seen); its correlation coefficient to industrial metals is 0.27. 

So if there's so much silver around that you can get all you want, spot prices are in downward spiral and the price of silver is prices last seen in 2009, you might think this is a good time to go buy some.  I know that a year or so ago, 90% junk silver coins (90% silver US coins from 1964 and before) sold for about a 6 or 7% premium over spot price.  Tonight, checking the cheapest junk silver coins, I find the premium is closer to 17%!  I thought supplies were so high we were tripping over silver. 

It's widely thought that the spot price is set by paper traders who have nothing to do with producing, or really buying actual metal.  Keith Neumeyer, the CEO of First Majestic Silver took the bold move of holding back 35% of his company's silver production rather than sell it at the paper trader's price. 
Now, Mr. Neumeyer has taken things a step further by suggesting that silver miners should form a semi-cartel and hold back sales of their production in order to break the backs of the paper manipulators. He encourages all miners to hold back silver, pick a month, get together and hold back silver for 30 days, putting out a news release collectively. The goal is to call the bluff of the paper markets, which trade over the entire year of global production in a day. First Majestic itself is a small fish, but imagine the impact if a few of the top producers joined in the effort and physical supplies tightened.
Attempts to manipulate market prices are widespread, and metals investors in particular are very loud about it.   The current extremely low price of oil (closed at $65.99 Friday) is said to be an attempt by the Saudis and the Russians to collapse the US shale oil resurgence.  Both Saudi Arabia and especially Russia need the price to be closer to $100, but the combination of the US energy production improvements and forecast for lower demand have helped pressure prices lower.  The point is, anyone who can try to influence commodity prices will.  Still, it's widely reported that despite the large number of above ground ounces, the important part is that demand for that above ground silver exceeds supply, which should imply the price can't be held down too much longer.

As always, the real question is what the future holds (and long time readers know my answer usually starts with Bohr's quote).  As I said before, 90% silver coins have jumped a lot in price compared to the spot metal price.  The US Mint regularly sells out of silver eagles.  Combine that with silver producers trying to raise prices.  My view is that the separation of price for physical metal vs. the paper price means that sellers are just plain refusing to sell at that paper price.  If you really want the silver, you'll pay more.  That tells me there's a fundamental stress in the market that will only be relieved by silver going up in price.  I expect next year to be better than this year for the metals. 

Standard disclaimers apply: I'm just some dood with a blog on the vast Sargasso sea of the net.  YMMV.  Under penalty of law, do not remove mattress tag.  Professional drivers on closed course.  No animals were harmed during the writing of this blog (although one white cat was annoyed that I wasn't paying enough attention to him). 

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Little Normalcy Bias Feels Pretty Good - But, EPA!

I've spent the last couple of days with family, enjoying the holiday together, eating together, joking together.  It has been a nice break.  But if you've been here before, you know that while I may occasionally look away or pretend things are normal, it's not a steady diet.  Even troops on guard duty "take five" now and then.

This being a holiday weekend, the administration announced choking new rules on ozone pollution.  They always announce (or pass) the most strangling, odious rules on a holiday weekend or a Friday before a long weekend because they think the fewest people will be watching.  Calling the ruling about "smog regulation", the EPA said
“It empowers the American people with updated air quality information to protect our loved ones – because whether we work or play outdoors – we deserve to know the air we breathe is safe.”
Implying, of course, that the air currently isn't safe and they have been struggling mightily to improve our lives in the face of awful opposition from ... I don't know... someone or other. 

Bull.  Crap.

Of course, no one mentions that they've been in charge since 2009, three complete election cycles, and didn't think this needed to be done.  Which obviously means they waited until they thought it would do the least damage to Evil party incumbents.  They were afraid if they announced these rules earlier, it would affect the elections.  Since it's hard to lose much worse than they did, this is a really good time to drop this turd in the punch bowl.  With any luck, the people will forget it by the next elections.

Two big problems come to mind.  The first is that reducing legal ozone levels because it's a component of pollution is like reducing legal oxygen levels because it's a component in seawater and we don't want to breathe seawater.  The second is that the current limit is already just about at the  natural background level of ozone.  In most of the country, it's physically impossible to measure the new limits because the natural background is higher than the level they're imposing!  

The reduction, from the current 75 ppb (parts per billion) to 70 or 60 is low numerically, but ozone limits now are already trace levels.  The new levels would put the ozone emissions from completely non-industrial areas out of range!
That's down from the 75 ppb limit set in 2008. While that might seem like a small drop, it would push vast numbers of sparsely populated areas of states like Idaho, South Dakota, Maine, New Hampshire, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Minnesota and West Virginia — where no counties violate today's standard — into the red zone.

Even Colorado's La Plata County — almost half of which is inside the San Juan National Forest — would violate the new standard.
EPA says it's doing this because "...we deserve to know the air we breathe is safe", right?  They claim they'll reduce asthma rates, but the data from the Centers for Disease Control say that as ozone levels have fallen over the decades, asthma rates have gone up.  Clearly, it's not directly linked to ozone.
To further muddy the EPA claims, asthma rates have risen even as ozone has steadily declined. From 2003 to 2010, EPA data show that ozone levels nationwide fell 11%. But the number of people suffering asthma attacks climbed 26%, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Furthermore, the rates they're going to mandate are below normal background levels in places like Yellowstone National Park.  Don't know if you've been there, but aside from the smell of sulfur in a few places, it has absolutely pristine air.  Howard Feldman of the American Petroleum Institute said last spring in a study of possible coming regulations:
“… we don’t know how to get to these levels. These levels are levels that are at or below peak background. Background levels at Yellowstone National Park are 66 parts per billion, background. … Background at pristine locations is 65, 66, 67 (ppb). It means we have very little ability for our society to operate the way it normally does. … Our society does have some emissions, but that is the cost and benefit of our modern society, where we’re able to have the amenities and the social life that we like. So there is some impact on the environment. We’re talking about reducing that (head)room to almost zero.”
Many industrial processes produce ozone, just as many natural processes do.  It's easy to think they're trying to shut down every power generation plant and every factory in the country.  They're just evil enough to think that's the thing to do.
The API provides this map of the impacts of the new regulation.  Areas in red will fail a 60 ppb standard now.  Areas in gold are anticipated to fail a 60 ppb standard based on interpolation of measurements made nearby.  I'm unable to find if the few areas in white are thought to be low enough in ozone to pass - or if there are simply no data from those areas.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Early Black Friday Special Edition

I burned a vacation day today, because why not??, and as I'm wandering around the house I'll stop and take a look at my emails.  All Day Long, ad after ad of Black Friday Specials. 

So in that spirit, I steal an article from Design News and pass on "12 Black Friday Gadgets for Someone You Hate". Number 1 is:
The Chicken Burger USB Hub.  The Chicken Burger USB Hub has been discontinued, but we had to include it in our slideshow because, well, it's a chicken burger USB hub!  Click here to go through the 12 of them. 

It's a collection of real WTF ideas made into a product (or at least a prototype).

Everyone have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.  Not "turkey day".  Thanks Giving.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Face of Ferguson

Hat tip to Sense of Events for this heartbreaking photograph from Ferguson.
Natalie DuBose, the single mom and single proprietor of "Natalie's Cakes and More" worked long and hard to open a store of her own, and a rioter broke in her front window, destroying other property as well.  If the profiles are any indication, probably someone who isn't from Ferguson.  Probably someone hired to be there by any number of rent a goon agencies there trying to implement the final Cloward-Piven push that destroys society.  Despite the setback, Natalie isn't giving up.
 "I'm baking today," Dubose told CNNMoney, as the sound of broken glass being swept up can be heard over the phone. "We have orders to go out for Thanksgiving. I can't tell the people -- I won't tell the people -- that I'm canceling."

The shop's main window is "busted out completely. They threw a chair in it to bust it out ... It's a big mess," said Dubose, who opened Natalie's Cakes as recently as June.

Despite the mess, however, Dubose says she will continue to bake. She can't afford to give up now, having invested all she had into a business that was funded through bake sales at flea markets.

"I am a single mom, a mother of two," she said. "This is everything that I own. I can't walk away from it. I just got to start up and start baking again."
Poverty doesn't cause crime just like poverty doesn't cause riots.  Crime causes poverty and riots.  Only the hardiest will stay in a place where they have to rebuild their business or recovery from robberies and other crimes.  New businesses will think long and hard before going into a neighborhood like that.  Over time that ensures the poverty of an area. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pocket Sized Automotive Jump Starter

(Yeah, I have a thing for batteries.  And a flashlight thing.  And a few more odd little fetishes.  What's it to ya?) :D

A few weeks ago, the lovely and has-as-bad-a-flashlight-and-battery-thing-as-I-do Mrs. Graybeard got an email ad for a remarkable thing: a packaged battery appliance that will not only charge your iPhone/iPad/Android/probably anything that uses a USB charger, it will also jump start your car.  It's an 11 Amp Hour battery in a package that will fit in my cargo pants pocket and maybe the jumper cable, too, which is short but has large clips.  It's 155x76x29 mm (LxWxH) or just about 6 1/8" x 3" x 1 1/8".   It comes in a zippered cloth case with elastic straps for the battery and some accessories.  It charges with an AC adapter, or a lighter plug in your car.  There are two USB ports on it to charge two devices at once.  One is marked 5V/1A while the other is marked 5V/2.1A. 
NewEgg sold out of these almost immediately, but I see the same thing on Amazon for a few bucks more.  A little looking around, and I find there are many similar things on the market (including a video demo) and I feel embarrassed to have not been on top of the tech.  But they're cool.  One reviewer we read somewhere said he jump started cars 11 times on one charge; others say they've jump started V8s and other big engines.  These batteries are rated to deliver a 400A peak in a jump start; if I read this right, it's a short peak of 400A and then a sustained 200A.  A little mind boggling. 

I find this a bit amazing, but I've had the little jump starters that include an air compressor, lights, and all stuff quite some time.  When you open one of those up, you'll find a sealed lead acid gel cell battery that's about 4x the size of these.  The reduced size is probably from the better battery chemistry.   


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Busy Day...

There's a wise old saying I encountered in test engineering back in the '80s: there is nothing more frustrating for a technician than to realize the problem he has been troubleshooting is in the equipment he's troubleshooting with and not what he's working on.  I have a drawer full of those Tee shirts, and I think I got another one today. 

That was a few hours out of the day. I have a 12V 35AH battery, a sealed AGM lead acid, that I keep around for general backup use.  My plan is to use it with my small solar panel to keep it charged, but mostly it just sits around.  Friday night I decided it was time to put it on a charger to keep it topped off.  To my surprise, it timed out the little charger I was using at 300 minutes (5 hours) without saying it was full.  That made me think it needed to be cycled down and back up, so on Saturday I hooked it up to a load: an AC inverter and 100W bulb.  100 W at 12V is about a 8 1/3 amps, so with inefficiencies and all, it should discharge for 3 to 4 hours.  The inverter cut off in no more than 2 hours.  This time the smart charger said it was done after putting in just a few hundred mA, which was way too little.  So today I thought I'd give it a load which I could measure current through and rigged up a combination of some stuff (including a spool of wire which drew an amp itself) and drew 2 amps for three hours.  6AH - should put a dent in the battery, but not deplete it.  To my surprise, it was measuring 11.3 V at that point, just about stone dead.  Again, back on the little charger and it put about 3 AH into the battery and said it was done - but a voltmeter read 11.88 V, which is about 30% charged.  This time I switched over to a better charger, and this one said 30% charged and started working on it.

So I've probably been troubleshooting the charger (one of these under a different brand name).  Most likely.  The behavior of the battery was still suspicious, but sometimes you need to discharge them deeply and recharge.  Since I was believing the little charger until the last bit of troubleshooting, maybe that's the only problem.  

While waiting for the battery to discharge or charge, I was working on another little project, a new spinning rod.  This was prompted by noticing the one I had been using was rusting in places (a saltwater rod should never rust).  I get the regular catalogs from Mudhole (no affiliation, just a customer, YMMV, best if used before...), and picked up an MHX graphite blank, along with the parts to make it to my taste.  I finished all the wrapping and trim (probably...) and now just have the epoxy finish to apply.
The blank is black, and I decided to finish it primarily in a bright neon green, like MHX's logo, but with a little light turquoise trim.  Here it is on my little rod winding setup.  The unusual thing about this rod (for me) is that I found this 3M sheet abalone to do some fancy looking trim work with.  So I got a couple of pieces of this stuff in a color called "angel wing teal" and tried it for the first time.  This is a rod with an EVA foam handle that leaves a few inches of bare blank between the grip and an end cap I'll probably stick in my gut to fight fish.  It got a piece of this, as did the area where I ordinarily put a decorative thread wrap.  It's nice looking stuff.  Fragile, and cracks easily, but I understand there are actually thin layers of abalone shell in there, and I don't think that's flexible.
Add in some time wasted looking at football on the tube and BAM! back to work in a few hours.  Thankfully, I get a short week this week. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Shock: Google Research Team Says "Renewable Energy Just Won't Work"

Most of you know that Google has a very left-leaning board, especially for a company founded by entrepreneurial engineers.  At least in their public pronouncements, they wholeheartedly accepted the idea of climate Thermogeddon, complete with swallowing the dire models produced by James Hanson of NASA.  Four years ago, they make a very big and public statement about going over to renewable energy sources.
Thanks to Watts Up With That, we get a link to IEEE Spectrum, the closest thing to a general interest publication that the IEEE has (IEEE is the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers).
“At the start of RE<C, we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope …
Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.”
The basic problem is that all known and predictable renewable energy technologies require more energy input in their implementation than can be paid back.
The key problem appears to be that the cost of manufacturing the components of the renewable power facilities is far too close to the total recoverable energy – the facilities never, or just barely, produce enough energy to balance the budget of what was consumed in their construction. This leads to a runaway cycle of constructing more and more renewable plants simply to produce the energy required to manufacture and maintain renewable energy plants – an obvious practical absurdity. [emphasis added: SiG]
A key paragraph in the IEEE article says:
“Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.”  [emphasis added: SiG]
I'm not surprised at the conclusion, I'm surprised they admitted it.  While I'm not dumb naive enough to think there's such a thing as Moore's law of batteries, I have been encouraged by the declining prices of solar cells and was thinking that since those are silicon, maybe some of the fabrications enhancements from the silicon microprocessors, memories and such would carry over to solar cells and reduce the price per watt like Moore's law; if not halving the price every two years, a 25 or 33% reduction.  But not only do solar cells have to become cheaper, batteries and the other infrastructure has to as well - you have to respect the duck curve.  

Unlike the people who earnestly believe those magic unicorn farts will someday power everything, a group of engineers tasked with finding a way to produce a billion watts of renewable power at a cheaper price point than a coal-fired plant has to face reality.  Reality is a tough taskmaster. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Taylor Swift and The Music Distribution Channel

Or, to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan, "The Times They Are A Changin' ".

I have to admit, I've never found Taylor Swift terribly interesting as a musician (but I haven't really listened in a while).  I first heard a few songs of hers back in '07 or '08 when she burst on the scene.  I think I recall her saying at the CMAs that the award would make her senior year of high school the best year of her life and got a smile out of such a kid's world view.   

Earlier this year, I happened to catch a news story where she seemed to go out of her way to help a sick young girl.  Then another.  And another.  And more.   Suffice it to say, she visits children's hospitals all the time, using her celebrity in the best possible way: to help bring a few moments of joy to people going through the horrible ordeals of a being treated for a deadly disease.  My opinion of Taylor as a person skyrocketed. 

Taylor made some news in the music industry lately by "breaking up" with Spotify and pulling her entire collection from the streaming service.  This move worked for her and her latest album, 1989, sold a million copies in its first week, making her the only artist ever to have three albums with million-selling first weeks.  To put this in context, a few weeks before 1989 was released, it was widely thought that no one would sell a platinum CD (million unit sales) in 2014, and some were saying the days of platinum sellers were ending.  

In an online article in the Wall Street Journal, Taylor said she considered Spotify along with piracy and file swapping.  But Spotify is a subscription service.  The tech-head newsletter MakeUseOf goes into a long discussion of Spotify, and her decision to get off the service. 
She said, “In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace. Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently.”
Spotify has a free membership service, sponsored by commercials like your local radio station, but a continually growing number of people go to the $10/month membership level.  Since they started in '08, they've grown to over 50 million subscribers around the world; that could be $500 million per month of income, but only about 20% of their subscribers pay the $10/month, choosing the commercials instead.  

Their business model is that they pay a royalty based on the number of plays a song gets.  They pay between 0.6 and 0.8 cents per listener per song. They get their revenue to pay the record companies from either subscribers or advertisers, and they do pay.  As Spotify's CEO shot back:
“Taylor Swift is absolutely right: music is art, art has real value, and artists deserve to be paid for it” writes Ek; he continues, “Piracy doesn’t pay artists a penny [while] Spotify has paid more than two billion dollars”.
From the record company's perspective, if a Spotify user listens to a song more than 150 times (at the lowest royalty price), they get more payment than if the user bought the song on iTunes. For a popular song, the record companies can make more with Spotify than from straight sales. 

There are two things going on here.  First: Taylor Swift is a megastar.  Again, she's the only act ever to have three albums sell over one million copies in their first week.  She can ignore Spotify and stay with the "old-fashioned" music industry model.  Spotify estimates that if she had stayed with them, she would have made more than $6 Million from them alone, and they estimate twice that amount next year.  But plays on Spotify don't count toward that platinum selling week, and making history like she did, and if she wants that fame, she needs to stay off Spotify.  Or the music industry needs to change to recognize streaming services.   

The second thing is more subtle: how about the acts that aren't megastars?  How does an indie (independent) group get noticed?  How do they build an income?  I think most people know that the music industry has some mega-rich stars like Taylor Swift, but the vast majority of the professional musicians are "working class" like the rest of us who get up and go to work every day.  I work with an engineer who is a great saxophonist, and who has been a studio musician on a few jazz albums.  One of his favorite jokes is, "what's the first thing the saxophonist does when gets up every day?  He goes to his day job".  MakeUseOf points to an article explaining that many of the "huge" bands in the UK have day jobs.  Spotify pays those small Indie albums, too, along with royalties on old 1960s albums.   
With a service like Spotify, you might hear groups you otherwise wouldn't know of and grow their royalties.  While I admit to not knowing enough about their service, I know with Pandora and I Heart Radio, you can create custom profiles and their software finds songs that it thinks you'll like based on your feedback to what you're hearing. 

I understand that streaming is growing rapidly and sales of conventional distribution methods, like buying a CD or buying a song from a service like iTunes, are decreasing.  In Europe, artists get an average of 13% more from Spotify payouts than they do from iTunes royalties. There are performers on the road who got started by putting up videos on YouTube and attracting a following (the case with Pomplamoose - as far as I can tell).  Things like that tend to take power away from the record companies.  I don't know if Spotify can or will pay "rights holders" who aren't record companies, but they should.   

De-centralizing power is one of the things the Internet does best.  Which explains net neutrality in one sentence. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Srsly, Obama?

So Organizing for America, the perpetual campaign organization, posted this picture about tonight's amnesty speech to the Twitter:
Srsly?  Strengthen our economy?  By bringing in a large supply of workers to compete for what few jobs there are and hold wages down? 

How large a supply?  Reporters at the Daily Caller say the number will equal all of the jobs created since 2009.  Which means those new immigrants will probably go directly on the public dole. 

Sense of Events posted a link to this IJR piece on who pays for everything in this country, and who will pay for the new immigrants being on the dole.  
I'm thinking this action will make the top quintile's bar go up and the lower quintiles' bars go down. 

To the extent our immigration system is "broken" as he always says, it's because they don't enforce the laws.  Our tax system is truly broken; it's a system Stalin would be proud of. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Me Me Me Me

No, not warming up for an opera.  Just some things I feel like writing about. 

From time to time, I've mentioned that I've been studying guitar since around the end of 2010.  I picked it up after a long hiatus from playing as a teen and 20-something.  Basically, it was longer since I played than I played and I started over with DVD based courses from Learn and Master.  I finished the second one around last March and since then have been playing around with various books of music trying to occasionally make inoffensive sounds.  I have not yet crossed the home recording studio threshold that Robb at Sharp As A Marble has, but I'm thinking of it.  Still, with more hobbies than I can keep track of, I wonder if it's worthwhile to even start down that road.  

Funny thing but it turns out that I don't find the goal of "trying to occasionally make inoffensive sounds" very rewarding in the long term.  Running the basic pentatonic scales in major and minor key variations gets rather boring, but on the other hand not playing those scales seems to lead to a decay in my ability to play things.  Playing some sort of chord based rhythm guitar produces a fuller sound around the house than just playing a melody one note at a time which can sound pretty thin.  Going down the recording road gets around that by allowing you to play multiple parts of a song yourself and play along with what you played before. Add a drum track and you're a one man band without walking around with a bass drum strapped on. 

Being of that certain age group who got their first transistor radio around the same time the Beatles crossed the Atlantic, I have a soft spot for their music.  One of the books I've been playing from is a Beatles songbook with written melody for voice and chords.  Last week, I got an ad from a music shop for a book with note by note transcriptions of every Beatles song.  It's an 1136 page hardback book.  Every part is transcribed in both standard notation (treble and bass clefs) and "tab" for guitar and bass.  Tablature, or tab, has the advantage for a guitar of showing the exact voicing the player used.  On a guitar, a given note from the staff is available in several places on the neck, and a given chord (arrangement of multiple notes on different strings) is usually available with different fingerings in three or more places on the neck.  A properly transcribed tab version makes you sound more like the original, if that's your goal.
I've been playing with a couple of songs from the White Album; Revolution 1 and the Savoy Truffle.  I'm getting more out of them, playing along to the recording which I listen to on the iPhone.  All in all, it's a bit more fun and interesting than what I've been doing.  One thing I've concluded, though, is that as a musician I make a pretty good engineer. 

On  the other hand, I played with that goofy personality , er, #Brainchild test Borepatch linked to a couple of days ago, and find that it fits.  I don't seem to be descended from anyone with a musical background. 
No... I don't particularly take that seriously like I didn't take the political leanings test seriously.  Sounds too much like a horoscope.  BTW, Mrs. Graybeard tested as Isaac of Arc.  Isaac Newton and Jean D'Arc. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Techy Tuesday - Printed Optics

Optics run the gamut from cheap plastic toys you get for kids to play with (and destroy), through eyeglass lenses and on to the most precise surfaces mankind knows how to make.  There's a world of difference in quality between small magnifiers and imaging optics from a camera or telescope.  In light of that range, you need to narrow down the range when someone tells you 3D printed optics are really here. 

Most eyeglasses and a large percentage of the low to mid-end optics on the market are injection molded.  Injection molding is process that forces heated plastic under pressure into a lens mold that forms the shape.  Molds are custom made and expensive, though, so it's really hard to tweak a mold if you need to improve your design.  This is a niche where quick-turnaround prototypes of printed optics might well grab some market. 

The Dutch manufacturing company LUXeXcel has announced a proprietary solution for 3D printing optics intended to compete with injection molding. They claim:
  • No investments in tooling or molds
  • Uncomparable manufacturing and delivery speed
  • Digital process, online ordering on demand
  • No inventory needed, so no obsolete's
  • Complete shape freedom
  • Customization for any specific optical solution
If you've seen anything that came off a 3D printer, you've probably noticed it's usually very easy to see the layers the printer laid down; that would destroy any image and probably any optical use.  So how does LUXeXcel get around that?  By printing a clear, UV-cured plastic.  Transparent droplets of the polymer are jetted and cured by powerful ultraviolet (UV) lamps integrated into the print head, according to a description on the company's blog. The 1,440 dpi print head is controlled by piezoelectricity.  Delaying the time elapsed between when the polymer droplets are jetted and when the UV light is applied gives the droplets enough time to lose their shape and flow together, resulting in a smooth surface.
You can see the smoothness in this sample of a total internal reflection lens.  It almost looks like polished glass in this picture. 

LUXeXceL has used their "Printopical" technology for making Fresnel lenses, window treatments and foils, digital art, and advertising graphics and even some eyeglasses. Its main focus has been making rapid prototypes, small batches, and some higher volumes of LED optical components, structures, and diffusers, mostly for the lighting industry.  All of these things are typically made by injection molding. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Washington's I-594: War on the Gun Culture?

Thanks to No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money, I get a link to a good discussion about Washington's I-594 initiative I wrote about the day after the midterm elections.
Thus, when I read this post from Hyperion 1144 on Reddit, a light went off. The goal of Bloomberg wasn't universal background checks. It was to kill the gun culture in America by strangling its ability to bring new adults into it. We always say that taking someone shooting is a great way to inoculate them from the claims of the gun prohibitionists. If that is made too hard by the restrictions on transfers in I-594, then we can't achieve this inoculation.
Over the top?  Commenters on the post go from agreement to a cheery optimist whose argument seems to reduce to "these bad things haven't happened yet, so stop being alarmist" - which might make sense if the law wasn't passed under two weeks ago and still isn't even in effect.

The original link John pointed to on Reddit thinks of I-594 in ways I've not seen anyone else express:
I-594 is a not a tactical move by gun confiscationists, it is a strategic move.

... Washington has passed Initiative 594, a law marketed as requiring background checks on all sales, but which in reality has criminalized the act of touching any gun you do not own. This means that if you don’t own a gun in Washington State, it is now illegal for you to touch a gun.

... I-594 is literally a legislative vaccine against the spread of gun culture.

How is someone curious about guns in Washington state supposed to learn about them about now? They won’t be able to go shooting with friends, they won’t be able to go to friends house to be shown how to field strip a 9mm. Gun classes have likely been outlawed. Gun rentals are likely gone now, too.

The only way to learn, now, is to buy a gun and learn by yourself, completely on your own. No one can help you, since they can’t touch your gun and you can’t touch any of theirs. This law is intended to isolate us, to prevent us from spreading ideas, knowledge, information, culture. This law, played out of over years and decades, means that gun owners are now likely limited to two pools of people in the future:

1) The children of gun owning families.
2) The rare, entirely self-motivated individual who is willing to trek into an unknown world completely alone.

Played over years and decades, this is how you slowly disarm a population without getting substantial complaints from that population.


Now, virtually all non-familial acts of teaching and culture-sharing are illegal. In the long-term cultural sense, I-594 is the single most dangerous piece of gun control legislation ever conceived.

It makes the NFA and the Clinton Assault Weapon Ban look childishly simplistic by comparison. This time, they didn’t ban certain mechanical or cosmetic features. They didn’t ban full-auto or select fire or short-barrel rifles.

This time, they banned a culture, our culture.

If this stands or spreads, we are done for.
Insidious is the description that comes to mind.  It may be an exaggeration to say it's illegal for a non-gun owner to touch a gun, or for an owner to touch another person's guns, but I'm frankly not sure.  Likewise, it may be an exaggeration to say gun classes and rentals have been outlawed, but I think there's more of a case for that than for the first.  You get into trying to parse exactly what the Lawmakers intended when they wrote it.  For example, the new laws on transfers don't apply to:
(f) The temporary transfer of a firearm (i) between spouses or domestic partners; (ii) if the temporary transfer occurs, and the firearm is kept at all times, at an established shooting range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range is located; (iii) if the temporary transfer occurs and the transferee's possession of the firearm is exclusively at a lawful organized competition involving the use of a firearm, or while participating in or practicing for a performance by an organized group that uses firearms as a part of the performance; (iv) to a person who is under eighteen years of age for lawful hunting, sporting, or educational purposes while under the direct supervision and control of a responsible adult who is not prohibited from possessing firearms; or (v) while hunting if the hunting is legal in all places where the person to whom the firearm is transferred possesses the firearm and the person to whom the firearm is transferred has completed all training and holds all licenses or permits required for such hunting, provided that any temporary transfer allowed by this subsection is permitted only if the person to whom the firearm is transferred is not prohibited from possessing firearms under state or federal law;
If you're putting on a pistol class, can your students fire your guns?  It seems they can if you're at "an established shooting range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range is located", but if you're in a class room that's not part of that shooting range for discussion before shooting, I don't think they can legally touch your guns.  Now look at that paragraph and tell me if it's legal to loan a gun to your 19 year old daughter for a few months, when you're not on an established, authorized range the whole time.  I'd say, no. 

I know there are lots of armchair internets lawyerz who say don't worry, it will be shot down by the courts but that raises two immediate and significant problems.  First: it's going to be expensive.  How would you like to spend $10 or $20,000 of your own money fighting the interpretation of some clause?  Do these people think going to state courts and state supreme courts is cheap and easy?  All you need is some zealous state prosecutor who thinks they can up their winning percentage by shafting you and you're going to be spending that kind of money, unless some national organization gets behind you.  Second, how did that whole "the courts will declare it unconstitutional" work out for you on Obamacare at the Supreme Court?  You can't count on judges to do the right thing.

John does a follow up piece on places likely to face something like I-594 in the next couple of years.  It's already happening in Nevada; who else is going to be in Bloomberg's crosshairs?  (Image thanks to Miguel)

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Mrs. Graybeard and I spent a couple of hours at the range yesterday; her shooting some guns she doesn't regularly shoot and me breaking in that little P238 I picked up last weekend (sweet...).  I put the first 225 rounds through it with nothing untoward happening.  I did manage to hit the mag release on one shot.  My "slap, rack, bang" subroutine started to auto-execute, but I caught myself and made myself look at it, confirming that the mag was actually out about a quarter inch, and would have dropped out if the small grip didn't allow my hand to stop it.  This is my first Sig and I really like the feel of it.

Before heading out, we made note of the times that Interstellar would be showing at the local cineplex, the one with an Imax theater inside.  It was about 2:30 in regular and 3:30 at the Imax and we figured the showing we caught would depend on how the day at the range went.  We found ourselves in the regular theater for the earlier show.

I find it interesting that we both had the same reaction as Tam did - that it's the 2001 of the current day.  The ending seemed quite reminiscent of 2001 and my wife and I were both commenting over dinner last night that at least it didn't end with Cooper (the astronaut, not his daughter Murph) visiting himself.  Although it got close... which is probably about all I should say. 

In many ways, the story is about the love between a father and his daughter.  It's based on what appears to be a near future earth: the tech is all recognizable early 21st century, but some sort of broad apocalypse, which isn't really explained in depth, has happened. Crops failed, first wheat, then others, due to "the blight".  There are references to the population being a small fraction of the prior six billion people, and they evoke something similar to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  A line that grabbed me was in the scene showing a parent teacher conference between Cooper and two teachers from his kids' school.  It's not in this clip, which is getting some play among conservatives who grab on to the "corrected" school texts, but is in this scene. 

The male counselor tells Cooper that "the world doesn't need engineers any more.  We don't need video gadgets or airplanes; we need food".  I fought back the urge to yell, "You don't have any problems any more?  You don't need problem solvers?"  This scene and some other vibe you get from trailers and the way it's being talked about make it seem like Interstellar has a strong greenie message about evil humans messing up the world.  Thankfully, they didn't really go there. 

The astrophysics and the depictions of relativity are widely commended as being the most accurate ones ever shown.  In this video, Kip Thorne, talks about working out equations for the computer graphics modelers and possibly discovering things that were never known before out of this collaboration.   Kip Thorne is one of the greatest living experts in gravitation and relativistic astrophysics.  On the other hand, some of the other aspects of the movie seemed like they didn't get quite that much attention.  How does a wave the size of a mountain exist in water that's not even knee deep? That's what they find on the first planet they visit.  Any wave theory I know of would have the waves break long before they get that big.  And the blight that kills the crops breathes nitrogen, instead of oxygen.  Maybe it's me, but I just don't see how that chemistry could work. All movies require the suspension of disbelief, though; it's just a question of how much. 

Regardless, I'd still say to go see it.  It's visually stunning and at least the relativity parts are right.  It is somewhat refreshing to see interstellar flights treated with some accuracy, and not just firing up warp engines, diving through hyperspace, hopping in a transporter beam to go down to the planet and all the other standard sci-fi movie tricks. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Table Saw Update

A couple of times in the life of this blog, like here, I've mentioned that the woodworking tool industry is in crisis due to a liability suit over table saws.  For a summary: (slightly edited)
In 2010, a lawsuit was won against Ryobi tools' parent company, for producing a "defective" table saw.  The plaintiff was awarded $1.5 million when he sued for $250,000.  The defect?  It didn't include an expensive safety option that was invented around year 2000 and only on the market a couple of years at the time of his accident; (the modern tilt-arbor table saw was invented in 1939; the basic idea goes back to 1813).  In 2000, inventor Steve Gass produced a technology called a SawStop that senses when flesh touches the blade and stops the blade in milliseconds.  In the process of stopping the saw as fast as it does, it destroys the saw stopping block, sometimes the blade and possibly other parts of the saw.  The user still gets cut, but typically only a minor cut that might require stitches instead of having a body part cut off.  The inventor shopped this safety to the major tool makers and none of them agreed to license his invention.  Their major concern was that the idea was untested; they had no idea how durable it would be (contractors' tools live a rough life); they had no idea if it could be added to existing products, or how to roll it out across their product lines.  The inventor started his own company in 2004 selling tablesaws with this feature.
Got that?  Ryobi (well, the company that owns them) was punished for not including a safety device that didn't exist when the saw was designed.   As I concluded in that 2010 article, "This suit will end the production of low-priced and bench top table saws, seriously impacting hobbyist woodworkers as well as the tool industry.  Professionals will buy the more expensive saws and raise their prices to you and me." 

Fine Woodworking magazine reported last month (October 6th):
The $1.5 million in damages awarded in the Carlos Osorio tablesaw case seemed destined to be overturned, considering the facts of the case. Not only was it upheld yesterday, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to propose a tablesaw safety standard that would mandate that saws all sense fingers and retract their blades instantly. The implications for the industry are massive.
There's quite a long story behind this at the Fine Woodworking link; the suit has been in process since '06, and has long turned into insurance company vs. insurance company (subrogation).  On October 5th, the CPSC voted 5-0 to look into requiring tablesaw manufacturers to include a device like the SawStop on all of their saws, and since SawStop owns about 70 patents, if they rule this way they're essentially requiring every manufacturer buy from SawStop.  The Power Tool Institute estimates this could quadruple the cost of an entry level table saw.  Further, as the Fine Woodworking article says, no one even knows if the SawStop can be fit to smaller, bench top saws. 

As I said a couple of years ago, this isn't about safety and "the right to cut my finger off" as Steven Colbert puts it.  Tablesaws are dangerous machines, made worse because many users defeat the safeties on the saw (as Carlos Osorio did - he started this long chain of lawsuits).  It's about how a manufacturer can be found to be producing a "dangerous and defective" product for not including a feature that didn't exist when the product was designed. Lawyers to the contrary, we can't go back in time and take the invention with us.

It's widely reported that around 4000 people every year are sent to the ER with a traumatic amputation from a tablesaw.  Nobody wants that.  The question is the best way to prevent injuries.  Should the government step in and mandate all saws have this technology?  No one knows how durable these are going to be, how long they'll last and how well they'll hold up to the rough life of a workman's saw.  Part of the reason there are so many injuries now is that the safeties currently mandated for these saws are routinely removed or defeated.  Will this one sit there quietly for 25 years waiting for the time its needed and then snap into action, or will some circuit element open, rendering it the worst kind of safety: a false sense of security?   
There are tons of pictures of the SawStop hot dog test online.  This one is from NPR, who (predictably) want the government to mandate it. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cleanliness is Next To...

Everyone alive before political correctness strangled our society can complete that phrase: cleanliness is next to Godliness.  Certainly not a true scriptural statement, it's an aphorism I grew up hearing. 

Today the "ping pong ball in a clothes dryer" (my way of surfing the web) ended up at a place I'm not sure I've ever been, Had Enough Therapy?, the blog of life coach Stuart Schneiderman, where I encountered the link to an interesting study from Rice University's Graduate School of Business which shows that "Disgusting Environments Lead to Unethical Behavior" . 
In a series of experiments, lead author Vikas Mittal and colleagues showed some of the study volunteers images intended to invoke disgust: cat litter, diapers, the bathroom scene from Trainspotters. Afterwards, the participants did a series of tasks that were designed to tempt them into cheating and lying for their own personal gain, and the people who’d seen the gross stuff were more likely to behave badly.
 Going to the Rice press release:
“As an emotion, disgust is designed as a protection,” said Vikas Mittal, the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. “When people feel disgusted, they tend to remove themselves from a situation. The instinct is to protect oneself. People become focused on ‘self’ and they’re less likely to think about other people. Small cheating starts to occur: If I’m disgusted and more focused on myself and I need to lie a little bit to gain a small advantage, I’ll do that. That’s the underlying mechanism.”

In turn, the researchers found that cleansing behaviors actually mitigate the self-serving effects of disgust. “If you can create conditions where people’s disgust is mitigated, you should not see this (unethical) effect,” Mittal said. “One way to mitigate disgust is to make people think about something clean. If you can make people think of cleaning products – for example, Kleenex or Windex – the emotion of disgust is mitigated, so the likelihood of cheating also goes away. People don’t know it, but these small emotions are constantly affecting them.”
That last part is stuck in my brain.  In this experiment, after they completely disgusted their experimental group, they had the group evaluate cleaning products like hand sanitizers, body washes, and cleaning solutions like Windex.  After being exposed to the cleaning products, actually just the thought of the cleaning products, they were less likely to engage in cheating and other less ethical behaviors than the group that didn't evaluate the cleaning products.

It seems possible that people within the last few hundred years could have noticed that cheating and other antisocial - dare I say, immoral? - behaviors tended to come from people with less than stellar hygiene.  Or perhaps they noticed that people who made the effort to stay clean and wear clean clothes were less likely to cheat them.  It doesn't seem like a long stretch from there to saying "Cleanliness is next to Godliness".   
It's common among the Philosopher Kings, like that MIT professor Gruber, to make fun of people without their "elite" education.  It's common for self-described intellectuals to make fun of "old wives' tales" and the wisdom of common people.  Things like this make me respect older societies all the more.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I Have No Idea What This Means

But it's Borepatch's fault. 

I went and took the little political test he linked to yesterday, and it said:

You are a: Objectivist Libertarian Non-Interventionist Nationalist Reactionary

Collectivism score: -83%
Authoritarianism score: -67%
Internationalism score: -17%
Tribalism score: 33%
Liberalism score: -67%
I don't know what it means, but I think it means, "my ideal candidates never, ever win".

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Techy Tuesday - Breakthrough Rifle Scope From Your Taxes

Sandia National Laboratory is one of the major scientific "think tanks" of the US  This invention is a completely new way of creating zoom optics*, and in turn simplifying the job of the guy behind the scope.  They've come up with a way of changing magnification of a rifle scope without moving the optics and without having the user take the scope down from their eye to adjust it. 

First, a little optics jargon for those not familiar.  We refer to zoom lenses, but then we end up assigning three or four definitions to the word "lens".  A lens is an single optical piece; usually glass, sometimes plastic, with curves on one or both of its surfaces which combine with the optical characteristics of that piece to change the path of light through the lens.   A conventional, single power (that is, not adjustable magnification) rifle scope has a front objective lens, usually a sandwich of more than one lens called an achromatic lens, and a combination of lenses at the back which magnify the image produced by the objective, and some piece of optics to make the image upright (simple telescopes invert the image).  A zoom rifle scope, like this Nikon 3-12x42, is a telescope with with a great deal of features built in; lots of glass and lots of moving, very precise parts.

Conventional zoom telescopes like that Nikon work by mechanically moving pieces of the system.  As anyone who has used a rifle scope will know, you usually do this by rotating or moving part of the scope (usually the eyepiece end on the ones I've seen).  Photographic zooms change their overall physical length.  Since rifle scopes tend to be filled with Nitrogen to keep moisture out and prevent fogging, the seals make changing overall length is much more difficult.

Sandia's new rifle scope is called the RAZAR: Rapid Adaptive Zoom for Assault Rifles. The RAZAR uses a totally new system; it changes the shape of the lens instead of moving it, adjusting its focal length and magnification that way.   The lenses that are changed are filled with a fluid and the polymer package is compressed or released with an electronic adjustment, changing the focal length to zoom in or out at the push of a button.  Instead of needing to remove the scope from their eye and turn the adjustment, the operator pushes one of two buttons.  The RAZAR is based on:
  • A polymer lens core has two flexible, hermetically sealed membranes, which encapsulate a polymer fluid. The three-quarter-inch lenses are aligned with glass lenses to complete the optical design.
  • A piezoelectric actuator electro-mechanically changes the flex of the lenses, achieving the correct position within 250 milliseconds to an accuracy of 100 nanometers, about 1/100th the thickness of a human hair. These actuators operate the way the muscles of the human eye change the curvature of the eye’s lens to focus far away or up close.
  • Variable-focal length system design tools had to be developed from scratch, including analytical expressions and computer models that trace rays of light through optical systems.
Check out the video and notice the targets they test resolution on at around 2:50.

Dr. Brett Bagwell was the leader behind this effort, but it relied on others going back over the years.  The project started in '05/'06, and involved both Sandia and private contractors.  Dr. Bagwell got to show the scope to USOC in 2012.
“The guys picked it up and when they pushed the button and it zoomed, and then instantly it zoomed back out, they were like kids at Christmas. There was this look of astonishment and pleasure,” he said. “That’s very gratifying. Here’s this grizzled veteran looking at me like I’ve just created magic.”
The expected battery life is 10,000 focus actuations on a pair of AA batteries.  This technology looks like it could be a game changer in the rifle scope world.  There isn't a hint in that piece of what this costs, but keep an eye out for it in the coming years.

*When I said, "This invention is a completely new way of creating zoom optics...", that isn't exactly true.  Adaptive deformable optics like this have been around for a while, but they haven't been this good and they tended to be more useful for infrared optics, due to the longer wavelength. This is a big improvement. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Inside The Mind of The Spokespuppets

Maybe a little more in keeping with current events a week or so ago, but...
From Chip Bok at Townhall.  I like the imagery of the hair on fire.

Happy Birthday Marine Corps!

There were US Marines before there was a US.  What did you guys call yourselves back then?
I know that all sorts of kids from all sorts of backgrounds go into the Marines, but I've never met an ex-Marine who wasn't an honorable man.  Considering Chesty is also quoted as having said, “Take me to the Brig. I want to see the “real Marines”. ”, maybe I've only been meeting fakes.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thinking Out Loud - Where I'm Going

There has been a lot of talk in a lot of places that focuses on the fact that we're in a country where people have forgotten the value of Liberty.  I trust most of you have seen things like this piece on Western Rifle Shooters, for example.  To drag a money quote out of it:
I see those “salt life” decals everywhere. I see “Costa” stickers on trucks and Calvin pissing on various objects. What if we gave the young folks a real idea to rally around? What if we gave them the education that the schools wont? I used to work with middle school age kids and in my years of that I never met one who was not liberty minded. They are all about independence and rally around the introduced idea of Liberty. All we need to start affecting the real war, the culture war, is to create a brand and an idea for them to rally around. Remember the 60s and all that “peace” and “love” stuff? How about the idea of LIBERTY sweeping the nation and kids all over wearing a symbol of it? What about kids actually understanding and rallying around the idea that “I own me” and “F the state”?
I completely agree that the battle is for the hearts and minds of the people under 35 or so.  This is where I've been going, but following Alinsky's rules, I think we need to isolate and ridicule the aging hippies running everything.  Take this (really rough) idea with Obama's communist:buddy, Bill Ayers:
Maybe I'm missing the bet, but does anyone under 40 take these people seriously?  How about pointing out to the yutes that these people are the source of the ideas being handed out in schools everywhere?  (I sell eye bleach by the gallon, BTW)
It's been said over and over that the progressives took almost a century to get where we are today.  It's well documented as the Gramscian March through the institutions; Gramsci, an Italian Communist, thought it better to push progressively by demonizing everything about American culture until we lost the will to survive.  They've achieved that.  The progressives took over education, for example, long before Bill Ayers starting bombing "the Man" and continue to this day.  We need to take the culture back, and maybe another long march is the way it has to be done.  Maybe we need to put in the years to grow a counterculture.  The old counterculture - those old hippies - aren't counter anymore; they're the dominant culture.  They need to be overthrown. 

I'm aligning myself with the large group saying that the battleground is the culture.  As much as I'd vote for someone who said they wanted to go through the Code of Federal Regulations and throw most out, or someone who said their highest priority is Sunset Laws to ensure Federal Laws don't stay on the books forever, I have to admit I don't have a very popular viewpoint.  The culture has to change from people saying, "the government ought to do something" to "we can fix that without them".  I can see spending a lot of time trying to start new memes.
  • What part of your life do you think is so unregulated you need new laws to tie you down?  You already commit three felonies a day.   
  • Don't say, "somebody ought to do something about that",  figure out how to do it yourself!
  • You say "grid lock" like it's a bad thing!  What's so bad about no new laws?
  • The government can't give someone anything until they take it from you and me.
The folks pushing this argument say that politics is downstream from culture.  We all know politicians are reluctant to do anything that might make them look stupid or make them seem out of place.  (Although they make themselves look stupid pretty regularly).  Just like they won't put a bill up for vote unless the group putting it up is sure they can win, they won't rule on cultural ideas until there's no risk in it. 

Unfortunately, as an artist, I make a pretty good engineer.  As those two examples show, I have just about zero skills.  Someone with mad Photoshop skills, or any of those meme generating software tools, is called for here.  I can see putting memes and pictures on Pinterest, Instagram, and the Book of Faces.  YouTube still attracts millions of eyeballs - of all ages.  Here, we need someone like comic Steve Crowder, and libertarian Julie Borowski, both of whom put up liberty-oriented videos all the time. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Belated BAG Day

On Tuesday, election day, adopted as Buy A Gun day in the gunnie blogosphere, I wrote a little piece on the 2013 sales bubble, concluding with, "We have a new gun show within a half hour drive this weekend.  Maybe we'll  have a belated BAG day." 

And we did.  Meet the new occupant in the safe:
This, of course is a Sig Sauer P238, a mini (micro?) 1911 in 380ACP.  Sig Sauer calls the finish and model Rosewood Tribal.  The safety, slide latch and a couple of other pieces have an anodized titanium look.  The stainless slide has purple graphics on the side and top.  The grips are rosewood, or perhaps cocobolo, also called rosewood.

For no particular reason, other than that the P238 has been calling me since before I bought my Taurus TCP  2 1/2 years ago.  And a guy who calls himself SiG ought to at least try one Sig. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Getting Started With An 80% Lower Just Got Easier

I'll bet that a lot of you probably get the Sportsman's Guide ads all the time like I do.  They're undeniably a big player in surplus sporting goods sales, and when you combine that with their Truck Monkey truck accessory business, and 365 Outer Wear clothing business, they seem to be a pretty big retailer.  I've been one of their club members off and on a few times, but I just don't buy more than a thing or two from them yearly. 

I noticed something in today's email that I've never seen before.  An 80% lower for a 1911.  It's aluminum rather than steel, so consider that, but 80% pistol lowers are hard to find.  I know of only one source, KT Ordnance of Montana.  
A little farther down the page, they have a listing for a lower receiver jig kit, and you need to read its page closely to see that it includes the lower receiver as well.  To complete either, you need to drill a couple of holes and cut the frame where the slide rides.  It seems a little harder than an AR lower, but that just may be because I don't quite know how to do it yet. 

AR Lowers?  Yeah, they have those, too.  Including a kit with the jig and even the necessary drill bits.  I think this could be done completely on a drill press. 

I've been thinking of doing a 1911 just to get the experience of building one from a pile of parts.  Could be a fun project for the summer when you don't really want to be outside around here.  (For my friends in Hoosieropolis and points north, think winter project). 

I don't want to take away from the guys at Colfax Tactical (aka Redmond Black Rifles), where I bought my one 80% lower.  I think they're great guys to work with.  Likewise the guys at Ares Armor,  or Advanced Rifles.   All of them are The Good Guys who have put up their own money to create businesses producing these parts.  On the other hand, I'd bet just about anything that Sportsman's Guide isn't manufacturing these lowers.  They just bought some and they're trying to sell them.  Somebody else made them, maybe one of the above.   Sportsman's Guide just has the means to get these parts in front of more people than the manufacturer, thanks to their fat retail channel. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Info Bleg - Rapid Transition Sights

A couple of years ago, I did a short-lived experiment with a cheap set of "Rapid Transition Sights" from eBay on my AR.  Briefly, I bought a cheap imitation of the Dueck Defense Sights and I never got them to line up well enough to use.  A problem I've never had with iron sights that aren't offset 45 degrees.  (Yeah... could it be the $30 Chicom sights aren't as good as the $250 Dueck sights?  Ya think?) 

An email ad today got me thinking about them again.  I've got to say that I still like the idea, though, and was wondering if anyone who drops by here has experience with any of them. 

The Dueck Rapid transition sights.  I understand they're popular in 3-Gun world.  Any alternatives?  I see several and have no idea if any of them are good. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My $.02 - The Good and the Ugly

The election is over.  Control of the Legislative Branch of this Broken Republic goes completely to the Stupid Party, leaving the Evil Party in control of just the Executive Branch, and it's hydra-like network of regulatory branches.  Cut off one head, kill one branch (as if...), and two more spring up to take its place.

One of the themes of this blog is the Over Regulated State.  All I'm hearing from the newly elected "Leaders" is talk about the big things they're going to do; in my mind, it would be better if they spent the next two years throwing out every piece of legislation the administration passed. For each page of federal law passed, it has been generalized that 10 regulations are created.  The Code of Federal Regulations is so complex that lawyer Harvey Silvergate points out that every adult in the country probably commits three felonies a day.  The Heritage Foundation estimates that compliance with the increasing number of regulations sucks billions of dollars out of the US economy, with Obama's administration the most regulatory in history.
For the last five years, the president has aggressively exploited regulation to get his way. In fact, the Obama administration is very likely the most regulatory in history, issuing 157 new major rules at a cost to Americans approaching $73 billion annually.
On the good side, a favorite of mine, Mia Love from Utah, was elected to the US Congress.  A black American woman of Haitian descent with an inspiring life story (and one who will show you her citizenship papers), she is a well spoken advocate for free enterprise and self-reliance.  I first wrote about her when she became widely known after a great speech at the 2012 RNC - and the hypocritical leftists slandered her insanely.   We all know that conservatives and Tea Party voters are not the misogynistic racists that the left has been painting forever; these are the people who elected Mia, Tim Scott from South Carolina, Elise Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives.  Maybe this will start to be recognized by the Media? Not a chance.  But it's being noticed where it counts, among the people.

On the other hand, that disgusting pile of corruption in Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper got re-elected.  So he takes Bloomberg's money, tramples on the rights of law abiding Coloradans, and pays nothing.  The people of Washington approved I-594, the law that redefines transfers in terribly oppressive ways, creating a statewide gun registry in the process.  And not 24 hours after winning, announced they were going after more anti-gun regulations.  Most of my readers are also gunnies, but for those that aren't, "transfer" is a very specific legal term in firearms: the transfer of ownership and responsibility for the firearm.  Until this law, a transfer was thought to be permanent; essentially just a sale.  Sold under the usual lie that criminals use "gun show loophole" and private sales to get their guns, 594 makes every personal sale need to go through a background check and registration.  That's bad enough, but 594 goes even further and makes a transfer out of something as trivial as loaning a gun to friend for a class or even at the range to shoot a magazine to see if they like it.  Every simple act like that becomes a transfer under 594, requiring a trip to a gun store to fill out paperwork (it's unclear to me whether or not this is the ATF form 4173, and a NICS check), and I'm sure paying the gun shop to do so - there is a use tax that goes to the state, too.  The Vote No on 594 group that sprang up to oppose this writes:
  • There is NO general loan exemption for family members or friends, even in the presence of the owner!
  • You couldn’t loan your sister-in-law a firearm for self protection!
  • You couldn’t loan your adult sons shotguns to go hunting!
  • A person could “gift” a firearm to a family member but could NOT loan or sell it to her!
I've read that if you were to go on a business trip and leave your guns at home with your family, it can be argued you need to do a transfer for every gun, complete with trip to the gun shop.  When you come back from your business trip, you'll need to transfer them back to yourself!

There were other good things and bad.  At best, we are still a Broken Republic.  Guys like Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and the new crop including Mia Love, Tim Scott, and Tom Cotton, are all saying the right things and (at least in the case of the first three) trying to do the right things.    Going through the thousands of pages of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and the other major turds passed in the last six years to repeal them, including going through the places where tendrils of these laws extend is not glamorous or sexy (part of Obamacare was written into the TARP law, a full year before the real Obamacare passed).  But it needs to be done.