Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I'm Starting to Have a Bad Feeling About This

I'm starting to have a bad feeling about the Trump administration, that is.

What started out as "drain the swamp" is looking more and more like a crew of alligators.  I see more political veterans than political outsiders. 

Yesterday, Trump chose Steve Mnuchin, a Goldman guy, as his Treasury secretary.  He will be the third U.S. Treasury secretary from Goldman, following Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson. But Mnuchin is probably more Goldman than any of them. His father worked there. So did his brother.  Mnuchin is as close to pure blood Goldman Sachs as you get. 

Can he even see the problems in our monetary system?  Can he even see that there's something fundamentally wrong with leaving interest rates unnaturally low, so perversely low that the lack of interest on savings is hurting people, or is he so tightly bound to the Goldman world that it's normal and natural for he and his friends to take free money and make profits while ordinary Americans suffer?

Can he see that decoupling the dollar from gold and turning it into a debt instrument is the root cause of so many of our problems; not the least of which is the 40 year stagnation of American wages?  

It's not that long ago, just the end of August, when the media was all pearl clutching because a Trump advisor, Dr. Judy Shelton, had implied a return to a gold standard has merit.  She advocated for issuing bonds that are convertible to gold.  We had hopes this sort of view might spread in the Trump administration. 

Instead, it looks like we're getting someone as far from that viewpoint as, well, as the ruling class are now.  You might want to go long on defense stocks or on real estate in the DC corridor.  It might be a good time to open a bar outside Alexandria, say, or some other sort of service business in the beltway area. 
Obligatory Steven Mnuchin photo (CNN). 

Although I'm obviously a little bummed by the apparent conventionality of this appointment, but I'll give the guy some slack to see what he wants to do.  Maybe he's been disgruntled with the failed monetary and fiscal policy all these years and really isn't that bad himself.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

After last Sunday's post, I spent some time considering how to drill the 4" long hole and finally bought a special drill bit.  Not content to go with a simple, cheapo drill bit with a long flute length, I went and researched the proper angle for the cutting point on the bit, found that "bigger numbers are better", and then found an exotic, 6" long, cobalt steel bit with a 135 degree angle.  I had to order that because it's not a big box store kind of bit.  Standard drill bits tend to have 118 degree angles, which is a good compromise, but I figured I wanted every possible advantage I could get.

Still, how do you drill a 4" long, 1/8" diameter hole without snapping the drill bit, or having it wander into the next county?  I think a proper fixture and then doing my best to not exert any sideways forces onto the bit are the ticket.  No handheld drill; use the Grizzly mill, taken apart as it is, as a drill press.  Like this:
The cross slide is clamped to a fixture that holds it at 90 degrees to vertical.  Use a center drill to spot a hole where the 1/8" hole goes.  Perhaps (I'm not decided) drill a preliminary hole with a smaller bit, like 1/16".  Then drill the long hole without moving anything except the mill's head stock. 

The fixture is a piece of scrap aluminum Mrs. Graybeard gifted me back in '04 or so, when I first started metalworking as a hobby.  It's actually a waveguide switch and probably a military or space program surplus switch at that since it's (get this, cognoscenti) an S-band waveguide switch.  It's built the way you'd expect Milspec hardware to be built: seems to have redundant switches in it to let "the system" know if it switched or not; all of the hardware is stainless on aluminum, and it's just built like a tank.  I'm sure the angles on this are going to be pretty close to the accuracy I'd get from an angle plate because the dimensional accuracy required out of a waveguide system is pretty high.  

With that step forward finished, I thought it was time to cut the oil grooves.  I drew a set of curves I'd like the groove to look like and wrote a CNC file to cut the grooves on my Sherline-based system, then moved the cross slide over to the table on it.  While setting up the cross slide to be worked on, I noticed that the X-axis had changed from the place I initially set it.  Having that happen while working on the cross slide would be disastrous, so I started double checking to make sure I could see what was going on.  Sure enough, I found that my X-axis was losing motion.  The motor kept turning and seemed normal, but the leadscrew would stop turning.  At one point, I wrote a little "torture test" file that just moved the table back and forth 8 inches.  After about half an hour, the left end of the motion had drifted right half an inch.  That would have made a mess out of the oiling grooves. 

Then the troubleshooting began.  I don't want to get into too much detail here, but Sherline uses a funky system in their motor mounts.  Still, it may be odd, but the Y and Z axes use the same system and are both fine.  The leadscrew for the X-axis ends in a small (half inch long?) portion that's threaded 1/4-20 and ends in a small, conical taper that engages the matching taper on a coupler that couples the motor to the leadscrew.   The coupler is attached to the lead screw with a 5-40 screw down the axis of the leadscrew, and a 1/4-20 nut pulls the coupler tight against ball bearings on one side and pulls itself tight against the ball bearings on the other side. 

When I first started troubleshooting this problem, I could stick a hex key into that hole on the bottom near the right end (in this picture) to immobilize the coupler, but keep turning the lead screw (and moving the table) by turning another hex key in the 5-40 screw.   The two systems that are supposed to snug everything together were working separately. 

Both the 5-40 and 1/4-20 screw threads looked a little damaged.   I ran a die over the 1/4-20 threads on the leadscrew and returned them to normal-looking threads.  Both the preload nut and one out of my hardware box ran much better on the leadscrew 1/4-20 threads.  The small screw, #5-40, is an odd size and while I had some spares, putting one into the end of the leadscrew made the new one look as damaged as the old one.  I bought a tap to clean up those threads, too.  Along with several pieces of spare hardware. 

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the parts I ordered and working on other things that need to get done. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Kasich On Ohio State Attack, "We May Never Know..."

As details started coming in, I was leaving a comment at No Lawyers Guns and Money saying I thought it could be a coordinated terror attack. At that time, the Columbus Dispatch was still calling it a shooting.  The reason I said "terror attack" was there was an report that someone called in a report of a fluorine leak and students evacuated to a patio where they were then attacked by someone in a car.  Could it be the report was called in by the Sudden Jihadi or an accomplice to get the students into a place where he knew he could attack? 
Peter Anderson, chairman of the department of materials science and engineering, said he arrived at Watts Hall after the attack was over.

He said students told him that someone called in a fluorine leak in the building, which has lab facilities. As required during emergencies, the students congregated in the courtyard outside the building.

He said the attacker drove a car into the courtyard. “It’s where we hold our ice cream socials and when something like this happens,”Anderson said.
By the time I was reading this, 12:30-ish, there were reports of people being slashed and taken to the hospital for injuries from being hit by a car, but no reports of anyone being shot.  As the events started to be reported more accurately, it sounded more and more like the sort of "open source terror" that Isis was encouraging just last month.  Since we know he was interviewed in the campus newspaper complaining about a lack of prayer rooms on campus, I'm going with "Sudden Jihadi Syndrome" for $500, John Kasich. 

After June's Pulse night club shooting in Orlando, officials were quick to say "we may never know why the killer did this", all the time sitting on 911 audio of the killer saying he was doing it for Isis and their leader. 

In the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the leadership of a couple of Florida Sheriff's Departments got together about the message that has been preached about mass shootings: Run, Hide, Fight.  Like so many of these glib solutions, it became something that was easily memorized and so became the default response of many in the Pulse nightclub.  What they did was hide in places of light concealment, like in bathroom stalls, and not cover.  The killer reloaded time after time and not once did anyone attack him.  He took his time methodically killing the victims hiding, as they were told.  Those poor folks ended up simply waiting to die and were executed for their trouble.  In its place the department came up with the "Four As":  Awareness, Avoidance, Arm, Attack. 
  • Awareness means situational awareness, as pretty much all self-defense training emphasizes
  • Avoidance means that if something is starting to go down and you can avoid it by running away, run away! 
  • Arm means that if you can carry one, carry your gun all the time, everywhere it's permitted
  • Attack means that if you must attack, attack like crazy.  If you're armed, make the shot; if you're not armed and you have to resort to impromptu weapons like a fire extinguisher, do all you can do.  
I find it hard to find fault with any of this.  If students were allowed to carry on campus, it might have gone better, but to be honest, it went pretty well.  If the jihadi really did call in a false report on a fluorine leak to get people out where he could kill them, he screwed up by not realizing there would be OSU police at the scene.  One of those officers, Alan Horujko, put down the attacker within a minute. 

OSU officer Horujko, top center, and jihadi, prone.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Whaddya Know? Twitter Has A Good Side

I never signed up for Twitter, but I don't subscribe to any social media sites (well, technically I think blogging is considered social media), so no Twitter or Gab for me yet.  Even though I'm not a Twitter user, I've heard of Twitter treating users with conservative viewpoints as second class citizens.

Today I see in the news that the dependably pompous liberal a**hole Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, released a statement expressing "deepest condolences" at the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, calling him a "remarkable leader".  Elsewhere, he called Castro "a legendary revolutionary and orator" who "made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation."

Twitter then erupted in #TrudeauEulogy, making fun of it.
Being somewhat fond of puns, I enjoyed this:

and nerd points for this one...

There are more at the Blaze and the Week.   I'm sure there's more elsewhere, especially if you're on Twitter and look for the #TrudeauEulogy hashtag.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Another Tesla Autopilot Crash

Taking a look back at my archives, it seems I didn't mention the first Tesla autopilot crash on May 7 of this year, which claimed the life of the car's ... driver? no, ...  supervisor? , not that's not right either... the car's controller?  What do you call the guy in the driver's seat of a self-driving car?  The accident focused a lot attention, necessarily IMO, on the self-driving car hype that seems to me to be causing companies like Tesla and Google to rush very immature software and systems to market.  In that collision, which occurred at about 4:30 in the afternoon on a clear day, a truck turned left in front of the Tesla which didn't brake or attempt to slow down.  This is the kind of thing that happens every day to most drivers, right?  Should be a priority to program cars to not kill people in this sort of scenario.  The Tesla's optical sensors didn't detect the white truck against the bright sky, and its radar didn't react to it either.
Vision Systems Intelligence’s Magney made it clear, “The radar did recognize the truck as a threat. Radar generally does not know what the object is but radar does have the ability to distinguish certain profiles as a threat or not, and filter other objects out.”

If so, what was radar thinking?

Tesla’s blog post followed by Elon Musk’s tweet give us a few clues as to what Tesla believes the radar saw. Tesla understands that vision system was blinded (the CMOS image sensor was seeing “the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky”). Although the radar shouldn’t have had any problems detecting the trailer, Musk tweeted, “Radar tunes out what looks like an overhead road sign to avoid false braking events.'"
Here's a diagram of the accident from the Florida Highway Patrol's report.  The accident occurred a few miles northeast of Williston, Florida, and about 25 miles SW of Gainesville, Florida:
The truck, vehicle 1 (V01), turned in front of the Tesla which did not slow down.  Instead, V02 went (mostly) under the truck, decapitating the driver, 45-year-old Joshua Brown, and then traveling off the road into a nearby field.  It eventually came to rest in a field.  Looking at that area on the Bing maps, it could have well run over someone in that field; there are houses there. 

This is a worst case accident.  The driver should have been paying attention and taken control back from the car.  The car was clearly not slowing down so it chose not to react to the threat.  The car impacted at a very weak spot on most cars; the windshield and roof over the driver's head.  Most of the typical accident mitigation schemes that deploy airbags and so on focus on front end or rear end collisions, even door collisions, and it's arguable that if the car had smashed into the truck's rear end or front end that the normal collision safety features would have helped the driver survive. 

In light of that collision and the attention that it received from Federal regulators, a reasonable person might think that Tesla had removed the autopilot option or made it require constant input from the driver (a control movement or something to indicate "I'm here and awake").  Apparently not.  EE Times reports on this story from the Tesla owner's forums about a collision of a Tesla Model S running the latest software early this month.
I was on the last day of my 7-day deposit period. I was really excited about the car. So I took my friend to a local Tesla store and we went for a drive. AP was engaged. As we went up a hill, the car was NOT slowing down approaching a red light at 50 mph. The salesperson suggested that my friend not brake, letting the system do the work. It didn't. The car in front of us had come to a complete stop. The salesperson then said, "brake!". Full braking didn't stop the car in time and we rear-ended the car in front of us HARD. All airbags deployed. The car was totaled. I have heard from a number of AP owners that there are limitations to the system (of course) but, wow! The purpose of this post isn't to assign blame, but I mention this for the obvious reason that AP isn't autonomous and it makes sense to have new drivers use this system in very restricted circumstances before activating it in a busy urban area.

Last, but not least. I cancelled my order until I know more about what happened.
I'd be inclined to blame this on the car salesman, since he's the one who suggested they not brake in order to demo the autopilot system, but that belies the fact that it's ultimately the autopilot that failed to do its job.  Yes, again, the driver should have intervened, but the Tesla autopilot is looking less and less "ready for prime time". 
For their part, Tesla said their autopilot should not have been used in this "city traffic" scenario.  They maintain that even under this misuse of their car, the system did what it was supposed to and the problem that caused the accident was poor communications among the occupants in the car. 
The company told us that the AutoPilot operated exactly as designed in this situation by alerting the driver to brake and asking him to take control. Tesla says the driver failed to do so because of a miscommunication inside the car.
The EE Times article shows some of the software screens that Tesla drivers are prompted with, and it seems to this old guy that the approach Tesla is taking is the Silicon Valley Software Startup approach: they present the users with a screen that tells them specific things they're responsible for knowing - much like the EULA you get on a software package.   Hopefully it's not 9000 pages long like a software EULA.  You know, you're just itching to open that new software package you just shelled out for, but they want you to read the massive EULA that tells you if you complain you'll be Bill Gates' towel boy.

There's a clash of cultures going on here.  The big automakers are used to long development cycles and a burning need to prove high levels of reliability and performance before they put something on the market.  Tesla and Google are more like Silicon Valley Startups: let's get something on the market and we'll keep tweaking it.  Reading the comments on that Tesla owner's blog, it's clear that the Model S fanboys have the same mindset.  It's a cliche among electronics hardware engineers that if we did the same sorts of things that software companies do we'd be doing hard time in prison.  Release a box that doesn't really meet its promises, then sell an upgrade to it that makes it do what it was supposed to in the first place?  That's the standard approach to software.  I find it hard to imagine that Tesla fanboys would be making excuses for Tesla if the hardware engineers delivered a car that traveled half as far on a charge as it was sold as capable of going, or that didn't run at all under some circumstances.  That's essentially what the autopilot software/systems engineers are doing.  

Adios, Fidel

How's hell treating you?  You've got all of eternity to spend there.  And it wouldn't be hell if you got used to it, so it's going to hurt like the first time forever.

The worst mass murderer in the western hemisphere is gone.  At long last.  Good riddance. 

The Cuban friends I grew up with down in Carol City are probably doing a little celebration now.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Our New American Holiday

When did "black Friday" become a national holiday?  When did it go from a semi-official start of the Serious Christmas Shopping Season and turn into a Competitive Shopping Event? 

Black Friday was supposed to be called that because it was the day where businesses turned their annual ledgers from red ink to black ink, but in the last few years, and especially this year, it seems to have morphed into something else.  I think I started getting email ads touting black Friday back in July.  Amazon did some sort of promotion like that, for sure.  (Prime Days?)  The term Black Friday started getting saturated toward the end of last month and since the start of November, just about every ad has been headlined that way.  It has been reported for years that the big deals aren't necessarily really deals at all, or that some companies raise their prices in the weeks (months?) before the day so that what would have been a normal, small discount from MSRP suddenly seems like a deal.  It's being reported that more and more people are carrying their smartphone into the stores to price check things, check for price and availability at other stores, or get coupons. 

But shoppers like to think they're getting big deals, and there are stores that put one or two items on a massive discount to get some people to line up the night before.  Maybe they can get some buzz on the news.  Of course, now that stores are opening on Thanksgiving itself, that loses some drawing power.  Still, every year there's some incident where people get violent over something stupid.

It always pays to know what going prices are.  I've heard that generally speaking, the best time for deals is closer to Christmas, especially right before Christmas.  You're betting that the stores will be stuck with some of an item you want and would rather discount it than not sell it.  If they sell out you lose.  If they don't sell out and don't cut the price you lose.  It has worked out for me in the past. 

Retail is rough.  Do you ever find yourself looking at the milk or eggs or something and reaching for the back to see if you can find one with an expiration date that's farther out?  What if stores could, in real time, lower the prices on the ones with the closer expiration date?  Would you buy it despite the closer expiration date if it was cheaper?  What if they could adjust prices on the fly based on demand?  Nobody's buying the chicken pieces with tomorrow as the expiration date, so drop the price in half?  Conversely, more people are buying the Kerry Gold butter than expected, so raise the price a little?   That's risky behavior for stores, and (AFAIK) they're simply not set up to do such things, but it seems like a possible future direction.

As for me, I've never gotten up early to go do a black Friday shopping expedition, and it's doubtful I ever will. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the first time in I-can't-recall years, we're having Thanksgiving at home this year, instead of with my brother who's about a 300 mile round trip from here.  My sister-in-law wasn't feeling up to having their usual big get together, (which, unfortunately, has tended to get smaller over the years).  Instead, we're smoking a turkey with a recipe I've never tried before

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends, readers, and folks who just stopped by!  And a picture I shamelessly stole from Miguel at Gun Free Zone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hamilton on Hamilton

(Michael P. Ramirez cartoons, but you knew that.)  Years ago, I heard that there's a saying in show business that goes, "make 'em love you or make 'em hate you, but make sure they never forget your name".  I suppose I don't know whether that's true or not, but it affected how I think of the business. 

That's why I won't use the names of the cast member from Hamilton who came out and lectured the vice-president-elect.  I don't want to increase their fame by the tiniest amount.  If this was done as a publicity stunt, it certainly has gotten them tons of publicity.  By that quote, it doesn't matter to them that there might be negative publicity.  I'm sure that to them the right people were pleased and the right people were angered.  What's next?  Do we get lectured at grocery stores?  Car washes?  A guy had the crap beaten out of him, was carjacked and dragged a mile because they thought he voted improperly.  (I'll note that these attackers were not charged with a hate crime).

No one doubts that these actors have the right to express themselves; it's the situation.  A guy takes a break after a grueling several months of nonstop work and goes to take in a play, only to get lectured to by a group of Speshul Snowflakez (tm) who are upset because the candidate they wanted (but apparently couldn't be bothered to vote for) didn't win. 

It's just plain rude.  You're the stars: send Mr. Pence a note saying you'd love to see him backstage after the show.  It's called manners, actors.  You should look it up.  Show some class for once. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Clever Second Use for A Radar

In May of 2015, Google introduced a miniature radar chip called Soli to it's developer's conference.  Soli is a specially designed system that's intended to allow gesture controlled interfaces to the computer.  There are a few of these ideas being pushed to enable this technology.  We talked about one in this space back in July, a wearable armband called Myo that embodied accelerometers to sense the user's movement.  Other approaches appear to be based on cameras.

Soli departs from those approaches and goes to radar.  Conventional radars don't have the time/space resolution to detect subtle movements, but Soli does. 
Imagining gesture interfaces on everyday objects is particularly intriguing: ATAP used the example of an analog radio where gestures control the volume and station. But it could be applied to any number of use cases. Soli's sensors can detect motion at a range of about two to three feet, Schwesig says, so any device you use within that range stands to benefit. Imagine dismissing smartphone notification with the wave of a hand or pressing your fingers together to play music from a bluetooth speaker.
Soli isn't real hardware yet, but Infineon, the semiconductor manufacturer that partnered with Google to build the chip, has said that it expects samples to be available in the first half of 2017 and production devices to go on sale in the second half.

This, as they say, is just about the end of the beginning.  Prototype hardware has been available for a while, and goup of experimenters at St. Andrews University in Scotland have almost stumbled into some interesting and unanticipated uses for Soli. They've found ways to use it to instantly recognize objects like metals or peoples' body parts and distinguish between them, according to a paper presented last month at the Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology.
The system, also known as Radar Categorization for Input & Interaction or RadarCat, trains itself with machine learning algorithms to read those signatures and assign them to an object. It has been shown to instantly identify things like sponges and smartphones, differentiate between copper and steel, and tell if a glass of water is empty.
What's going on here?  I have no details, but just based on what I know about radars, here's a couple of guesses.  There are two ways to get finer position resolution with a radar: use of higher frequencies for their shorter wavelengths and use of shorter pulses.   Higher frequencies have only gotten easier every year since just about forever.  There's a WiFi protocol called WiGig or 802.11ad that uses frequencies around 60 GHz for ultrabroadband WiFi.  Conventional WiFi is at either 2.4 or 5 GHz.  You might get bit rates around 100 Megabits/second with your WiFi network.  WiGig offers a couple of channels available at 6-8 Gigabits/second. 

Back in 2014, my mind was blown by finding that over a million WiGig modems had shipped (mostly in Dell laptops) in their first year of production.  Today, projections are for a billion WiGig chipsets to ship in 2021, not by 2021, just five years from now.  I had worked on a 60 GHz modem at Major Southeastern Defense Contractor before I left in '96; probably in the '94 time frame, and it was exotic, excruciatingly expensive technology (although kind of fun to work with!).

WiGig chipsets, if flexible in how they work, could fit into the range where the wavelength is small enough to see individual fingertips with adequate resolution.  A quarter wavelength at 60.0 GHz is .047", so it's very easy to get many wavelengths over a finger's width.  The other way of increasing resolution is by using shorter pulses, or pulse compression in the radar.  Shorter pulses are probably accommodated by WiGig frequency range hardware, too.  They offer just short of 10 GBPS data, so let's say a pulse is just one-ten billionth of a second long. That's 100 picoseconds and 6 full cycles of the 60GHz RF.  In 100 picseconds, the radar pulse travels 3 mm, 0.118". 

This is not to say they're using the WiGig band, I don't even know if they'd be allowed, but the point is that the hardware isn't that excruciatingly expensive and exotic technology any more.

As they say in the video, the reflection from various objects is different, and they let the system self-program to learn things (machine learning).  The more objects it's exposed to, the more it will be able to identify.   A really interesting side application of something never intended for that use.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Little Reloading 101

I know some number of my readers will see a post about the CNC conversion and say, "never mind... I'll see what's here tomorrow".  I hope this is interesting. 

I got an email today from the fine folks at Widener's today; if you don't know them, you should.  Reloading and shooting supplies and accessories; powders, primers, bullets, and some more.  They're a good supplier to keep in your "check these guys" file. 

Widener's wrote to let me know they posted a Guide to Smokeless Powders.  I know a lot of you black powder guys think that smokeless powder is a passing fad and the world will return to the sanity of large clouds of smoke, but it's the mainstay of reloading and worth learning about. 

Those who reload probably have their favorite powders for their applications, but beginners may think "powder is powder".  There are many, many kinds of powder available.  The main sources in the US are Hodgdon, probably the number 1 supplier in the US; Alliant Powder, which may be the oldest company, dating back to 1872 as Laflin & Rand, then later as Hercules Powders; and Western Powders, makers of the Accurate and Ramshot brands of powders.  Chemically, some of a manufacturers product line may be identical, but physically, they will vary. 

Powders are broadly divided by application: pistol, rifle and shotgun.  Pistol powders need to burn fast because of the short barrels, which means a short time in the barrel while the bullet is being accelerated.  Rifle powders can have a more gradual buildup of pressure due to the longer time under pressure; they also can be formulated to deliver more power.  Shotguns can vary more than either pistols or centerfire rifles.  Depending on the load; heavier shot loads will require a slower burn rate, as it takes longer to sufficiently accelerate a heavy shot. At the other end of the spectrum, a slow burning powder behind a light load, such as a bird shot, may not give enough power for sufficient energy and velocity.

You will see some powders listed as for both pistol and shotgun. 

I hinted that different powders may be chemically the same but behave differently.  One of the main ways the powders are varied is by the shapes and sizes of the particles.  You'll need a microscope, or good magnifiers to see this detail, but this photo shows a stripe of spherical ball-powder flanked on the left by flattened ball powder and on the right by flake powder.  
Ball powder consists of tiny spheres that can generally be manufactured more rapidly, often reducing the cost of the final product. It meters better, resulting in more accurate loads and can have a greater shelf life compared to other powders. 

Flattened ball powder is known to deliver similar results to spherical ball powder. To create this shape, ball powder is run through rollers, resulting in the flattened ball product. Flattened powder is generally preferred in shotgun shells.

Flake powder is essentially powder that is extended into a tube shape and cut into tiny sections, almost like cutting a very tiny summer sausage.  Flakes are used mostly in handgun and shotgun cartridges. Because of their shape, they can stack up when measuring, making it difficult to meter with precision.

Not shown in the picture is stick powder.  Shaped like small cylinders, this is the type of powder that is most popular for rifle cartridges. While highly-effective in rifle ammunition, stick powder is difficult to meter accurately and can lead to inconsistencies in the measurements. While stick powder is often considered the most difficult to meter, reducing the length of the “sticks” can make for more consistent loading. 

My experience reloading has been for a few rifle calibers, .223, .308 and .30-06, and while I'm set to reload .45ACP, I sill have enough commercial ammo available that I haven't gotten around to it.  My preferred powder for those rifle rounds is Hodgdon Varget.  How did I decide to use that one brand out of all the powders on the market?  Reading online.  It might have even been a commenter here years ago.  RegT? 

Obviously there's lots more to know than this.  How do you even start learning?  All of the powder companies produce loading books with tables of different loads for their powders.  Much of their data is online for free, too, along with reloaders' forums.  Here's Hodgdon's web version.   Hornady produces a manual based on their bullets, as do Speer and Barnes Bullets; perhaps others that I don't think of. 

In addition to the information, you'll need a supply of primers for the calibers you're reloading (the required primers will be specified in those manuals), and bullets.  The only reusable thing about a cartridge is the brass.   Of course, you'll also need a reloading press and the hardware to get started. In the description of the various powders, reference was made to being easy or difficult to meter.  That refers to the powder dispensers most reloaders use; these dispense powder based on volume rather than weight, and this is the calibration that the refer to as being difficult. 

Aside from the hardware, it doesn't hurt to be very meticulous and detail oriented; anal-retentiveness is probably a survival skill.  I have my own name for that condition, the complete opposite of Attention Deficit Disorder.   

Sunday, November 20, 2016

How I Spent My Sunday

I've been saying throughout my big project of converting my Grizzly G0704 milling machine to computer control that "every part is a puzzle".  That has taken on whole new meanings as I try to figure out how to add the powered oiling system that Hoss uses on the DVD I bought.  Now it's not a part I'm making that's the puzzle, it's the modification itself.  Hoss chose to put the oiling system on his publicly readable webpage, under the projects tab - conveniently here

I wrote about some of the work I was doing and what was coming soon behind it just a few days ago, and said, "It looks like the biggest task is to cut some channels on the surface of the cross slide that holds the table for the oil to flow between them.".   Since I successfully milled out the area where the ballnut for the X-axis goes on my micro mill, the channels aren't looking so scary right now. 
The cross slide in place on my Sherline mill for a test fit of the ballnut.  Milling the cast iron was tedious and the chips it produces are nasty, but it wasn't really difficult and I never heard the motors bogging down or anything.  (On the other hand, I have a better appreciation for where the saying "a cast iron bitch" comes from!)

This makes the long oil channels seem less scary, and the scary part becomes something that only shows up briefly in the top left video, "Oiling system passages".  Hoss marks off a spot to drill, looking freehand, and then drills a 1/8" diameter hole 4" deep into the cross slide from the one end.  Take a look at this picture I posted a few days ago:
While the hole doesn't go in the end closest to the camera in this picture, look at the marked lines on the right dovetail.  Looks like crosshairs or a target indicator.  Hoss drills the hole 4" into that piece, parallel to the table. 

One of the things I learned very early in my hobby machining is that drill bits can wander and not produce straight holes.  This is why standard drill bit sets have shorter bits for smaller diameters and longer bits for larger diameters.  The ratio of length to diameter is set to reduce the chance of wandering.  Most 1/8" bits have a fluted length of around an inch to 1 1/2.  This one needs over 4" fluted length.  I needed to order a 1/4" ball end cutter for the channels (coulda sworn I had one), so I ordered an exotic drill bit to drill the long hole, too.

As a result, I spent a lot of today trying to figure how to drill this with the best chance of success; going through the shop trying to find something I could rig up to hold the cross slide perfectly vertical for the drill press - or use the G0704 itself.  I could try to do it like Hoss does and just chuck up a long drill bit in my cordless drill and start drilling, or I could try to set the cross slide up with some sort of fixture that improves my chances.  And I swapped messages with Hoss.  He said, "you're over engineering this.  Just drill the hole".  Yeah, I can tend to do that. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Calvin and Hobbes

The day kinda got away from me, with a few hours out in the afternoon and another couple in the evening, so one of my all time favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons.
Maybe the only time in the life of the strip where dad isn't being sarcastic or otherwise not being serious with him, and it blows Calvin's mind so badly he can't sleep.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Is It By Fire or Ice? (Cont'd)

(continued from a piece three years ago)  The question is whether the coming economic crisis is inflationary or deflationary.  Does the economy go out in a raging fire or freeze to death?  I've been reading everything I can access on this for about 15 years, and have written on it here many times in the six + years I've been blogging.

I still don't know for sure.

Today, we get input from David Stockman, host of Contra Corner, Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, and economic iconoclast.

David doesn't give a "take-it-to-the-bank" prediction either although he is clear in what he thinks is going to happen.  He outlines two possible paths and what he predicts in an interview with Bill Bonner.  To set the stage a little, let me give a couple of reminders for regular readers and pieces of information for newbies.

In 1971, when Nixon closed the gold window, he didn't simply make the currency in circulation not redeemable in gold (if you're old enough, you'll remember money marked "silver certificate" or "gold certificate"; the currency actually said you could redeem the bill for silver or gold as appropriate).  Nixon's move made our currency worth simply what traders agree it's worth.  If I offer you a dollar for some fruit from your tree and you agree, that's what a dollar is worth.

In the place of the precious metal backing, the dollar came to be defined as a debt obligation.  Banks loan new money into the world ex nihilo – they create it out of thin air to lend out. Without those new loans, the money supply falls as old debts are settled, so lending more becomes the only way to keep the economy appearing to grow.  It has been estimated that debt must increase by at least 2% a year or the economy will fall into recession.  For the last 35 years, the trend in interest rates has been to come down… in order to make borrowing easier.  Now, there is plenty of debt in the system – $85 trillion in the U.S. alone when we combine personal debt with government debt – but not much room left for interest rates to go down.  In some countries, interest rates have gone negative, essentially a fee for not spending money.  In the US, rates are negative in real terms (the interest rate is lower than inflation) but they haven't taken the extra step of showing a negative sign on the federal funds rate. 

The central banks have responded with massive monetary policy; quantitative easing rounds QE1 through QE4 and all sorts of other tricks (QE "to infinity and beyond!").  Now it's time to give David Stockman's observation:
“Monetary policy is exhausted,” says David. “Everybody knows that. What they don’t know is that fiscal policy is exhausted too.” 

[Note: Monetary policy attempts to stimulate the economy by setting the price of credit. Fiscal policy attempts to stimulate growth by increasing government spending.]
You may have noticed that since Trump's win that 10 year bond yields have suddenly shot up:
Since bond yields (the interest they pay) are inversely related to the price, that means bond prices are falling.  They're falling because demand is falling: buyers are putting money into equities - the stock market and not bonds.  Why?  They're betting on inflation.  Bond yields have to go up to try to tempt those buyers back. 
The “reflation trade” – betting on rising stock and commodities prices and falling bond prices – is a gamble on inflation; it is a bet that Mr. Trump will rotate from monetary stimulus to fiscal stimulus.  Long term, we think it’s a good bet.
Stockman seems to think it's going to end in deflationary death spiral.  Instead of "draining the swamp", Trump's going to get eaten by the gators in that swamp. 
Either Congress goes along with Mr. Trump and the credit bubble ends in an inflationary blow-up…

…or it holds the line – refusing further fiscal stimulus – and the result will be a deflationary disaster. 

There are, of course, more twists, turns, and nuances in this plot. But that is the basic storyline.

Stockman believes the swamp will swallow up Mr. Trump, his army, and his big budget plans.

“I’ve seen it happen. There are alligators in that swamp,” says David, showing his scars.
In more succinct terms, Stockman believes the establishment will beat Trump back and we'll fall into deflationary collapse.  Remember, he recalls, “Ronald Reagan’s program didn’t survive. Neither will Mr. Trump’s.”  I'm not as pessimistic.  Trump has routinely beaten all prognosticators in the last year or 18 months.  I'm not willing to bet everything the system will beat him.  He might just eat those alligators! 
For those who never saw one, a US $50 gold certificate from 1928, "Fifty Dollars in gold coin payable to the bearer on demand" along the bottom.  

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Florida Legalizes "Medicinal Marijuana" But Don't Go There

In the election two weeks ago, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved the constitutional amendment to legalize so-called medical marijuana.  A few people have written about this, and I want to add my voice.  Using your medical marijuana will end your second amendment rights.  Period.  (Hat tip to Gun Free Zone). 

Simply, there appears to be ample legal precedent that states being able to legalize drugs is not a settled matter.  To the Feds, it doesn't matter what your state does: marijuana is a schedule 1 narcotic, and they preempt the state.  If the feds decide not to prosecute most users, no matter how temporarily, that's prosecutorial discretion, not agreeing it's legal.  If you're a going to buy that new gun and fill out a 4473 form, it specifically asks about marijuana use.
To the Federales, any use of marijuana is unlawful.  There is precedent that if you answer 4473 with "yes", your purchase will be denied even in a state that allows recreational use of marijuana.  You may choose to lie here, and like all lies on a form 4473, if that's found out, it's a federal felony, which will bar you from buying guns.  You can argue the semantics that "are you an unlawful user" is present tense, and since you don't currently have a joint in your mouth "no" is the truth.  You can argue that federal drug laws have no legal sway in the states.  Have really deep pockets if you want to try this.  The feds have the Infinite Checkbook (tm) and can outspend anything you have if they want to put you away.  In the first case, they'll argue that "user" means "someone who uses" and doesn't imply a time limit.  In the second, you're bucking about a hundred years of "settled case law".

I voted against the amendment for several reasons, and this was one.  The way our law is written, the marijuana may be obtained by a "caregiver", who doesn't need to be an RN, LPN or any of the recognized medical titles.  The way it was explained to me, a caregiver can apply for medical marijuana for a patient and make that patient into a liar if they answer "no" on a 4473.  Say you have some emergency surgery and require an aide to help you for six weeks or so: that aide could get the marijuana in your name, use it themselves or sell it, and jeopardize your rights.  It has been estimated there will be over 2000 pot shops in Florida soon, turning into a nearly $1.6 Billion/year industry, so someone anticipates lots of business and lots of money being made of it.

The big money behind the passing this amendment was a lawyer named John Morgan (known for his smarmy TV and radio commercials) who seems to have pushed it so he can be the lawyer to go to when someone wants to establish their pot shop.  As I say, lots of money to be made in the business.  This is the second time they've tried to pass it.  I note it's easy to find that the biggest funders for the 2014 campaign were John Morgan and George Soros.  Yeah, that George Soros.

I voted against it for a variety of reasons: I don't like the way Florida handles constitutional amendments, again, for a variety of reasons (nice discussion here).  I don't like the way the amendment was written.  And I don't like that whole "make it legal and tax it" thing.  Why should we want to hand that money over to the state?  Why should pot get a higher rate than any other sales tax?  If it's legal, sell it in the wine aisle in Publix, or in the local liquor store.  The state will make enough money taking down their drug enforcement squads.  Alcohol taxes make no sense to me anyway, but I know that's bucking well over a hundred years of "settled case law".  Consider this:  alcohol created by a chemical reaction in a chemical plant sells by the 55 gallon drum and is exempt from taxes.  Alcohol created by yeast fermenting something (grapes, barley, potatoes, whatever) is taxed.  Same exact chemical; one is taxed, one isn't.   

Do the federal drug laws need fixing?  Absolutely.  As does about 75% of the Code of Federal Regulations.  The haphazard way marijuana is being regulated across the country, where obeying your state's laws still violates federal laws, has got to go.  As it stands today, Federal prosecutors are in the position of being able to bring drug charges against anyone using medical marijuana whenever they feel like it.  Any prosecutor who wants to can charge any American with "three felonies a day" (that should probably be updated to four by now; that book is five years old).  It ends up  being at the discretion of the prosecutor, who may prosecute or not depending on whether the Attorney General is working for the drug cartels (cough, cough, Eric Holder) or just another crime family (Loretta Lynch).

EDITED 11/19/16 at 10:30 AM EST:  The BATFE just released a new version of the form 4473 that specifically addresses this issue.  It adds a sentence in bold font just below the question 11E cited above.  It states:  Warning:  The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.  

That's about as clear as they can make it. If you use marijuana, regardless of what your state says, they maintain their laws take precedence and you will be denied the sale.  If you use pot, no guns for you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Things They Are A-Changin'

With apologies to Bob Dylan.  ("For the times they are a-changin’")

I spent an hour or so watching videos on how to start taking my G0704 apart today, and then plunged in.  After a little while, the table was off and the base ready for work to start. 
The main X/Y table is removed.  The table itself, which aligns with the X-axis, is standing to the left just outside this frame, what you see in the top center is the cross slide which actually holds both the X and Y axes' ballscrews and mounts.  The table slides left/right across its top.  The mod for the X-axis calls for it to have a bit of relief cut into it, as shown in this picture (this picture is rotated about 90 degrees clockwise). 
That relieved area doesn't have to match the radius of the ballnuts, it just has to allow some clearance for the ballscrew when it's in the right position, which gets set when everything is reassembled.  Hoss made his flat bottomed because he had another big milling machine available.  The Y-axis ballnut mount goes in that elongated slot on the right.  It will come up from the bottom in this view, and X-axis will go on the top side as seen. There's also a lot of machining to add the oil injection system that I need to start working on.  It looks like the biggest task is to cut some channels on the surface of the cross slide that holds the table for the oil to flow between them. 
So my first task is to do some cutting of this heavy, cast iron piece on my Sherline micro mill.  This will be a test for us both.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Little Shop Update

It's time to do my more-or-less weekly update to the shop mods I've been doing.  I'm surprised to see it's two weeks since my last real update, I mean with pictures of what I've been working on and all.

Most of this week has been taken up with shuffling computers around.  That always seems to take much more time than I think it would.  I spent a lot of Friday and Saturday trying to convince the Linux installer software to not commandeer the entire drive on the shop computer, but to leave me a partition for Windows 7, just in case.  The Linux distribution that comes with LinuxCNC is from Debian and it's called Wheezy.  This isn't exactly what Debian distributed as Wheezy, which was replaced about 18 months ago (in the same sense Windows 8 replaced 7 and 10 replaced 8).  Driving the parallel port properly is no simple trick and requires a separate low level hardware control called the RTAI kernel, so this Wheezy contains the RTAI kernel.  Confused yet? 

After several unsuccessful attempts to be sure Wheezy was going to allow me to keep the Windows partition, I declared defeat.  While Wheezy wasn't cooperative, I know that I've done this with Ubuntu several times, and I found a possible way to do this with an old version of Ubuntu called Precise.  Getting Precise to install dual boot was easy, and within a half hour I was back trying to get LinuxCNC installed.  I thought I could get it to support the RTAI kernel so it could run LinuxCNC but it kept telling me I couldn't do what I wanted.  Trips to the LinuxCNC Wiki and forums were fruitless.  After a few hours of that, I declared defeat and thought I'd try to get Wheezy to install itself over Precise.  When I did that, it promptly commandeered the entire hard drive for itself, destroying not only my bare installation of Ubuntu, but the Windows 7 OS I wanted to keep "just in case". 

I know of no way to recover that, so I said "Uncle", and committed to getting LinuxCNC running.  That was Saturday night.  Since then, I got the system to run my Sherline/A2ZCNC mill properly, and today got backlash compensation set properly on all four axes. Four axes may surprise some of you, so I grabbed a photo of the rotary or A axis. 
I came up with this way of checking backlash and it seemed to work, although I'd like a better way.  The square lathe cutting bit is held in a four jaw chuck and the rotary table initially set to zero degrees.  The magnetic holder for the indicator isn't doing anything (the table is aluminum), so I can slide the indicator across the half inch wide bit and ensure it doesn't move (it did at first, and I tweaked the angle until the bit was level and the indicator not moving - I made that my new zero).  Then I rotate to 90 degrees, which brings up another square face which should be level, and it is.  Finally, I go back to zero and make sure it's level, which it is.  Backlash would show up as 0 degrees not being level when I go from 90 back to 0.  A wider bit would be more sensitive, but I didn't have one lying around. 

None of this is a big deal, but my mill is usable again and I expect to be using it as I go forward with the work on the Grizzly conversion.  I spent entirely too much time with trying to install the system the way I wanted, though.  It would have been far easier to buy a second drive and keep Windows on that.  Instead, I just have my installation CD. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

TODD - Trump Opposition Defiance Disorder

I was ready to trot out this acronym today.  It's not really to describe the protestors destroying properties in the cities around the US, but to describe the "NotMyPresident" people who are just upset Trump won.  Maybe they're moping around their house, crying, or planning to move to Canada (funny how they never want to move to Mexico, isn't it?). 

Oppositional Defiant Disorder, of course, is what the left accused the Tea Party and all conservatives of having because we disagreed with Obama's policies.  Rather than having thoroughly reasoned and researched opinions, we were told we're just like toddlers who reflexively say "no".  And racist, of course.

Under the circumstances of the riots in major Democratic cities, it seemed that TODD was a good description.  I also thought it was a pretty snappy acronym, too. 

Then I found that Angel beat me.  Angel came up with Trump Acceptance Resistance Disorder, TARD.  TARD is a better word than TODD. 
From Allan West's site.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Ruminations

The biggest thing I want out of President-elect Trump is to return to the real rule of law.  Real constitutional limits.  The rule of "I've got a pen and a phone, so in your face muthaf**ka" has got to go!  Strangely, there's a positive side to Obama's disregard of the law.  As the Conservative Treehouse points out, (Hat tip to commenter Let'sPlay) since most of the appalling, extra-legal things Obama did were by executive order, those orders can be rescinded by Trump almost on day one.  Congress has abdicated their duty to prepare a budget since Obama came into office, first under the Evil Party, but also under the Stupid Party since they took majorities.  Budgets have been by continuing resolutions, debt ceiling agreements (we don't have a debt ceiling - they have never once stopped raising the ceiling every time it comes due).  Ever hear Sean Hannity drone on about the congress not using their "power of the purse"?  This is it. 

The only thing that really is going to require legislative action is getting rid of Obamacare.  Unfortunately, my position of " Burn Obamacare to the ground.  Vitrify the ashes and bury them with nuclear waste.  Salt the earth so nothing can grow in it's place." doesn't look like it's remotely in the cards.  Obamacare is the only major entitlement passed in the history of the country along a strict party line vote and if it goes down, it will have to go that way, too.  As Denninger really summarized well, there are vast differences between what candidate Trump and President-elect Trump say, and it's all in the direction of bad. We need free market reforms and Denninger is saying they're just not there.  Now, Dr. Carson has been saying the right things about this on the news shows, but the official papers are what I expect to be the official positions. 

The anti-Trump protests are ... you know this already and the media knows this already ... rent-a-mob protests paid for by the usual suspects: Soros and the left wing groups like that he's behind.  The Gateway Pundit even has pictures of the buses they used to bus protestors into Austin, Texas.  Why isn't the media, especially what most of the protesters would call that hard-right-wing outlet FoxNews; why aren't they telling the truth?  Because media!

Speaking of the media, remember the New York Times "apology" letter?
Believing that the Times is going to suddenly be objective would be another example of the same Gell-mann Amnesia one goes through whenever they think the NY Times is right about anything.  Don't believe it for a picosecond.  To enlarge a little on what I said over at Miquel's place
I think what this story is all about is that with the election of a Republican, they think it’s time to turn into government watchdogs again.

Remember the homeless population and the millions of folks who gave up looking for a job?  Haven't heard any sob stories about the homeless or those people working three jobs to support their families in about, oh, eight years, have you?  They’re about to be front page news again. Any sort of government corruption story will be on the front page from  January 20th on.  We're going to go from having an under-appreciated recovering economy to the worst economy since the great depression, like they said while Obama was running the first time.  

All that will change back to a docile, lapdog press when another democrat is eventually elected.

In other words, same sh*t, different day.  Don't believe a word in the New York Times. 
It's unfortunate that the best reporting on what's going on in America these days come from foreign news sources like the Daily Mail in the UK, or Wikileaks.  

 And this one, just for fun.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Through a Window Darkly

One of the things most of us said about the coming election was that we were dead sure that Hilldebeest would have been a disaster, but how Trump would govern was a virtually complete unknown.  As we're getting a glimpse of the coming policies, in the same way you might start to see an outline of an approaching car through dense fog, more details are starting to emerge.

On the positive side, hat tip to No Laywers - Only Guns and Money, we're getting a better picture of his first priorities on the second amendment and it's mostly good.  While he makes no mention of removing silencers from the NFA or eliminating the BATFE, two of my favorites, he does say (editing for brevity):
GUN AND MAGAZINE BANS. Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. That’s been proven every time it’s been tried. ...The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own.

BACKGROUND CHECKS. There has been a national background check system in place since 1998. ... What we need to do is fix the system we have and make it work as intended. What we don’t need to do is expand a broken system.

NATIONAL RIGHT TO CARRY. The right of self-defense doesn’t stop at the end of your driveway. That’s why I have a concealed carry permit and why tens of millions of Americans do too. That permit should be valid in all 50 states.

MILITARY BASES AND RECRUITING CENTERS. Banning our military from carrying firearms on bases and at recruiting centers is ridiculous.
The whole position paper is here (pdf warning).  I can find fault with parts of this, especially the priorities chosen, but is good overall. 

Economically, unfortunately, the picture is more bleak.  On the positive side,  I like the idea of reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15% for the same reason that linked Irish news site is writing about this plan: the idea is to prompt American companies who moved to Ireland and other places for lower taxes to come back to America.  For those of you new to this blog, one of my first principles in thinking of these things is to ask "and then what happens?".  In this case, you can be sure other countries will drop corporate taxes to reduce our advantage and sway those companies. That will even help businesses in places where they don't believe in it.

Zerohedge posts this graphic comparing Trump's announced tax plans in the right column to current law, Obama's budget, and the current Republican proposal.
You can see portions of Trump's proposals are not well defined or not addressed at all, which I assume means they're negotiable.  In general, of course, lower tax rates don't lead to lower tax revenues because the economic activity shifts to individuals.  Lower rates can lead to higher tax revenues.  Money spent by individuals has a multiplier effect: spending a dollar at the local pizza shop increases their business, which can lead to them expanding the shop - or at the very least, the owner taking home some more money which they spend.  It has been shown in a handful of recent studies that the growth multiplier of government spending, always assumed by Keynesians to be positive, is actually less than one (called negative): it causes economic contraction, not growth.  It's better to let people spend their own money than take it as taxes. 

On the negative side, there's talk of $1 Trillion in infrastructure spending and fiscal stimulus.The plan is presented as "privately financed but encouraged by tax credits".  More specifically, it calls for $1 trillion of spending over 10 years to be funded largely by private sources which would be repaid with tax credits and usage taxes (i.e. toll roads).  Which brings to my mind the usual question of where we get that money.  With the total national debt at $19.8 Trillion, and the demand for bonds driving the yields down into negative territories, one has to wonder how big the appetite for US bonds is (demand for bonds raises prices and lowers interest paid - their yield). 

To put a short summary on this, while some of Trump's proposals are fine, I see nothing to change the opinion I know I've talked about many times: that our economy is due for a real bad turn.  Severe recession again, or outright collapse, I can't say.  I don't think the chance of recession is 100%, like Bill Bonner's firm is saying, but that's just because I never assign either 0% or 100%.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran's Day Tribute

Remembering all veterans on Veteran's Day 2016.  My deepest respects to those who served.
There's a million good images to use, but this one speaks to me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The First 100 Days - God Save Us From Efficient Medicine

Now that we've had a few hours to digest the political history we've seen made, I think it's not off base to start talking about things that should be done.  Among the things we've heard the most often in the campaign was Trump saying he's going to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. 

I have a better idea.  Burn Obamacare to the ground.  Vitrify the ashes and bury them with nuclear waste.  Salt the earth so nothing can grow in it's place.  It's going to be difficult because Obamacare is economic cancer: it has tendrils everywhere.  Part of the plan was to weave the laws into obscure places.  And, yes, it was designed to collapse and force everyone into single payer.  If that wasn't transparently obvious to you at the start, about a thousand commentators and another million bloggers (including me) told you. After that, get the Federal government out of health care.  Yes, I'm fully aware of Medicare and the promises under it, but Find A Better Way.  Block grant it, privatize it, do something else.  Find A Better Way.  Medicare is on the verge of collapsing now; I know of few doctors locally who will accept new medicare patients because the requirements are odious and the reimbursement rates are low.  Medicare is rife with fraud, as you'd expect when the government has the biggest pile of money.  Stories are easy to find: "hundreds in Miami"; "73 People Charged"; "The $272 Billion Swindle"... for starters. 

You know that you're going to hear that the medical industry needs to get more efficient, but efficiency is close to the last thing you want in medicine.  When you're hurting, or when you get a scary diagnosis, you want responsiveness.  If  you're putting an organization together, efficiency and responsiveness are opposites of each other.  For example, think of your local post office, or perhaps your driver's license office; these are efficient organizations.  You walk in and get into a line of people waiting.  There's a small number of clerks that just works through the line.  They work all the time while you're being 100% unproductive.  Think of calling for technical support.  Those systems manage their call wait time, putting more operators in place when they expect more callers and sending them home if call volume is low.  For contrast, a responsive system is one where you walk in and the workers are sitting around waiting for you.  Ambulance services are often designed to be responsive rather than efficient.   Some of them drive around places in the city where car accidents are common, expecting to be closer to the next call.  If you find a lump where one shouldn't be and your doctor says to get a biopsy, you want responsiveness, not efficiency.  Get it out now, not six months from now when the surgeon has a spot in their schedule. 

Our system costs too much for several reasons, but a big one is that the free market is not allowed to work.  Karl Denninger routinely writes that our system is corrupt because our costs are way out of line with the rest of the world (one example).  I see that as a symptom, not the illness.  The illness is the free market not being allowed to work.  There is no price discovery, the balancing of supply and demand, because the people who pay aren't paying their own money in the same sense as when you buy a TV or a car or something.  In healthcare, there's essentially a handful of buyers: the insurance companies that sell the majority of policies to employers and the  On the other side are tens of thousands of doctors, hospitals, clinics and so on.  That's not a free market of willing buyers and sellers. 

A sign of the market not working is that you're not allowed to choose what features you want in your insurance and this has only gotten worse under Obamacare.  As a couple we're both decidedly past 60, yet we're required to pay for maternity coverage.  Neither of us is much of a drinker, yet we're required to pay for addictions treatment.  The only reason I can't leave those coverages out is that the Obamacare authors want my money in the pool to pay for that.  When I buy car insurance, I can choose to leave out some coverages, although my state requires some amount of insurance.  Health insurance has gone from protecting you from risk to paying for everything.  Millions of people get their insurance provided entirely or partially by their employer and have come to think some mystical process pays for things, not that their paycheck is reduced by what insurance costs (both their and their employer's contributions). 

It has been said that there are only about three basic different ways of paying for health care: a fully free market, a single payer system like the British NHS or Canadian system where care is rationed by bureaucrats, and a third party system where someone other than the patient pays the provider, so market forces don't really work well and rationing is hardly imposed.  In my mind the fix is more free market and less regulation. Liberals are scared senseless by that possibility because, somehow, the same free market that benefits everything else won't work for health care.  Even though we know for those things that insurance doesn't tend to cover; things like purely cosmetic surgery and LASIK vision surgery, the market has been shown to be reducing costs and improving quality.

From a cost viewpoint, the third system is worst - it's the one we have.  It leads to higher costs which likely means fewer people covered.  A single payer, nationalized system seems to inevitably lead to shortages of care, budgetary problems for the government and (frankly immoral) intricate systems of bribes and kickbacks.  If you want the lowest costs and the most people covered, more freedom is needed.
One of those excellent Cuban hospitals Michael Moore thinks we should strive for. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Machining Puzzle

I like to say that every part is a puzzle, and one of the puzzles that interests me the most is rifling a barrel.  Especially a rifle barrel.  I'll be the first to say that creating a match grade rifle barrel is a work of art on a par with any sculpture or high art you can imagine and I don't see any way that's in my future.  But what about applications where the demands aren't quite as severe, like a pistol used out to a few yards or a battle rifle used to a hundred or two? 

This is one of those "how would you cope if the system collapsed" questions: barrels wear out.  What can we do?  Stockpile barrels?  Hat tip to Weapons Man today for getting me thinking about this, after posting a couple of interesting videos of rifle barrel manufacture, although thinking of how I might rifle the barrel of the GB-22 started this thought process days ago.   

A few days ago, I ran across this interesting video of a guy who's making a .380 pocket pistol, sort of based on a Colt Mustang (I gather) that he calls the Kolt380. Take a look at this:

Now think about this: how is rifling different from an cutting an internal screw thread?  The main thing I see is that instead of "turns per inch" you're interested in "inches per turn".  Rifle twist rates are described as "1 turn in 16 inches" or 16 IPT.  Cutting threads on the lathe is a fundamental operation, with the thread TPI set by changing gear sets to fix the ratio of turns of the work to the advance of the cutting bit.  In this video, the barrel is clamped motionless and the cutter is spun into the work.  In internal threading, the cutter wouldn't rotate, the barrel would.  As a practical consideration, the number of TPI that can be cut with the typical lathe's set of gears is going to be much larger than you'd want for a gun barrel; say a minimum of 4.  A .223 barrel might be 1 turn in 7 inches, or .1429 TPI, while 1 in 10 inches, 0.1 TPI, is common for .308.  A typical .22LR is 1 in 16" or .0625 TPI.  Handguns run in the same general ranges. 

How do we get those very small TPI values?  Extremely wide range gears?  I'm guessing the gear ranges are limited by what fits in the machine.  What if we didn't use gears? What if we drove the chuck holding the barrel with a stepper motor and advanced the cutting tool with another stepper?  There could still be gears or something to slow down either rotation, if necessary.  The most common stepper motors have 200 steps per turn.  That could be geared to 400 or more, if necessary.  The ratio of speeds would be set with CNC controller.  It would need feedback so it knows the motors are in the position they're supposed to be, but rotational encoders are pretty common in CNC threading. 

Saying "let the CNC do it" doesn't let one off the hook!  There are still going to be ratios of speeds that have to be considered.  I haven't looked into this, so I can't say for sure, but I can imagine needing to run a range of speeds that might be impractical.  I might have enough numbers to start looking at potential solutions, though.

Well, this is kind of rambling, "what if?" pondering.  Something to think about as we wait to find if our long national nightmare is ending or just beginning.  Just kidding. The Deep State always wins.