Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Warped Idea

One of the issues with trying to roll my own fiberglass rube to replace the metal in the lower cage to get improved stiffness without a lot more weight is the need to get 20" diameter molds.  Car wheels would be expensive, but assuming that I did not get anything on them (since you wrap a plastic sheet around them before you start glopping on the epoxy), they would be resellable afterwards.  And there are plenty of used, cosmetically challenged but still round 20" wheels out there, I think.

What happens if you take an existing aluminum tube, and add a layer of fiberglass and resin?  The resin alone would dramatically stiffen it, and the fiberglass would make it strong as well.  Or will thermal expansion coefficient differences between the aluminum and fiberglass cause it to crack the fiberglass layer?

What is attractive about this warped idea:

1. No need for 20" molds.

2. It covers over all the existing holes, although the one that are still needed could be recreated by drilling from the inside, or by putting something in them to prevent them from being covered over by the fiberglass.

3. Minimal materials costs, since I don't need to make an entire 20" ID fiberglass tube -- just improve an existing piece of aluminum with what would likely be one layer of fiberglass cloth and resin.  The result would be far stiffer than the current aluminum, and would not add enormous weight.

If this seems strange, there is a long practice in amateur telescope making of epoxying cardboard concrete forms tubing to get the cheapness of Sonotube with the improved moisture resistance and improved looks of fiberglass.  Any thoughts?

If you are wondering about lack of interest in politics and current affairs at the moment: I can only focus like a laser beam on one intense project at a time.  And the overwhelming lack of interest by magazines on this topic that should be interested in my research on the ineffectiveness of background checks for reducing murder rates has left me feeling like the effort in that area is a bit wasted.

UPDATE: I meant to look this up this morning, but a reader's comment pushed me to do so.  Aluminum has a thermal coefficient of expansion of 22.2 x 10-6 m/m/K; unfilled epoxy is 55, or more than twice as much expansion.  If I understand the units correctly, this means that a meter of aluminum will expand .00000222 meters for every degree Kelvin (or Celsius) of temperature increase.  The normal range of temperatures that this part will be exposed to is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 40 degrees Celsius; a part that is .0023 meters thick will therefore expand by billionths of a meter, or 0.0000080409288 inches.  Even with repeated cycles -- I am having a hard time imagining this alone would play any significant role in delamination.  There are doubtless other problems behind the delamination problem that commenter below describes.

I am going to experiment with some Coke cans this evening to see how what a layer of fiberglass does to the stiffness of what is universally recognized as a very flexible piece of aluminum.  This is also a remarkably smooth aluminum surface, much less likely to accept epoxy than the tube that I would need to actually turn into an aluminum fiberglass composite.  If it doesn't just turn into a mold for the tube, the combination will give me confidence that my strategy can work.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Done With Big Bertha

Maybe in more ways than one.  I ended up using the steel rods epoxied to the tube to create a flat base for the Moonlite truss connector blocks -- and this worked out well.  Minimal material, minimal weight, and once the screws were tightened down, there is no risk of those rods working loose.

After wrestling with getting the truss tubes in place (rather like wrestling a very large insect, I suspect, without the horror film aspects), this is what we have:






My objectives for the rebuild were:

1. Reduce weight.

2. Improve stiffness of the structure.

3. Make it a bit easier to transport.

To my shock, #1 was a complete failure.  It was 61 pounds before, and it is 61 pounds after--in spite of cutting away more than half of the aluminum C-channel that was the base.

The truss tube structure is, I think, considerably stiffer than what I had before.  But it appears that now the flex isn't in the structure between the upper and lower cages, but between the lower cage and the saddle.  Remember that I no longer have a 72" C-channel between the two cages.  The flex is increased because of that, to no great surprise.  In addition, to save a pound, I replaced the 19" Losmandy dovetail plate with a 13.5" plate.  This means that there is less stiffness between the lower cage and the saddle.  Overall, I think I have turned a barely tolerable amount of flex which varied by angle into an intolerable amount of flex in wind of any sort -- although I won't know for sure until I roll it out under a dark sky.  But I managed to spend more than $300 and much of two days doing so.

The only way to salvage this disaster might be to replace the existing aluminum C-channel with carbon fiber composite C-channel like this.  But that will be almost $200 with shipping, and before I do that, I want some serious confidence that it is going to have deflection measured in thousandths of an inch from a 55 pound load.

The temptation is very strong to just give up on trying to have a serious 17.5" reflector on an equatorial mount.  The choices seem to be:

1. A solid tube, which makes it heavy enough that I need a $6000 mount for it.

2. Dobsonian mount, which greatly complicates astrophotography.  (There are ways, but they don't impress me.)

UPDATE: A little playing with it leads me to believe that I moved the flexibility from the structure to the lower cage.  The half-Suerrier truss appears to be completely rigid, nor does it appear where the lower cage meets the saddle of the mount is flexing.  It looks like the lower cage is flexing!  I'll take some video of it, and then play it back frame by frame tomorrow night.  If so, I might just need to have a thicker aluminum tube made -- perhaps .125" or .1875" wall instead of the current .090" wall.  Or perhaps even make a fiberglass tube.  (Carbon fiber composite?  Like $1600.)  I have made small fiberglass tubes before; I would certainly make a 4" ID then an 8" ID tube first as a experiment.  The big problem is appropriate molds.  I had thought of using 20" pizza pans for this, but what about 20" car wheels?  They have the advantage of being very wide, and perhaps I could borrow a couple from someone for this purpose.

Here's the video.  I haven't gone through it frame by frame, but it looks to me like the tube is flexing.

video
 
UPDATE 2: Definitely: the lower tube is flexing, not the truss tube structure or the support.

The Rebuild Has Begun

Remember the scene near the end of Animal House, where the rough, biker sort puts on his welding goggles, lights up the torch, and starts the transformation of the brother's Lincoln Continental into...something wondrous?  That's about how it felt to start disassembling Big Bertha for her bariatric surgery.

Here's the Losmandy DUP dovetail plate -- where "U" stands for universal, and the collection of different locations sizes, and types of holes really shows you what is intended to handle -- including attaching your Klingon Death Ray projector:



Here's the other side, which is both relieved so that you can put various nuts on it, and I suspect to reduce weight.


Here are the anodized tubes for the trusses from Moonlite:


Here are the blocks that hold everything together:







The balls go into the blocks, and you bolt the cylinder end into the poles, after you have cut them to the correct length for your particular telescope.

I was able to buy black oxide 6-32 screws to hold the blocks into the lower and upper cages, but I could not seem to find black oxide coated washers or nuts, so my wife did them in flat black spray paint:



Here's Big Bertha removed from her mount.  She weighs just under 62 pounds.


Since I had to remove the turnbolts, guy wires, and the aluminum tubing and channels, my wife suggested that we repaint the exteriors of the lower and upper cages:


This was a surprisingly strenuous four hours of work.  I also made a bunch of 1", 1/8" diameter steel pins that will be used to provide a flat base on the tube for the truss connector blocks.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Need A Suggestion on a Mechanical Problem

The truss connector blocks are flat on the base, because they are normally attached to a flat surface.  In this case, I am attaching to a 20" OD round tube.  That is close to flat, but not quite.  Where the blocks screw to a surface, there is going to be about 1/16" gap on either side.  I need some spacer in there that will prevent rocking, and is about 1.25" long and perhaps .375" wide.  This is a bit small to be cutting from steel or aluminum (at least with what I can find sitting around on a weekend).  Any suggestions for something that I might find in a hardware store that is stiff enough that it won't bend much, but can be cut with tin snips?

UPDATE: A conversation with my wife about the subject suggests a solution to try tomorrow: take some of the pieces of aluminum that are too thick (.125") and sand them to a wedge on the sander.  This will produce wedges that can be milled to the required dimensions.  Once to size, I can tape them to the back of the blocks, then drill them through the existing holes in the blocks.

UPDATE 2: Sanding aluminum to a wedge is surprisingly slow.  Does anyone have an idea of some common thin wedge shaped aluminum or steel that I might find in a hardware store?  Are there shims that are wedge shaped?

This might do the trick: they are plastic wedges intended for construction, and self-adhering.  What the various dimensions are describing isn't terribly clear, but I suspect that I might be able to run these through the band saw to cut them into the wedges that I need, and then mill them to the precise dimensions that I need.  Then use the adhesive to stick them on the bottom of the blocks before drilling through the existing hole in the block through the wedge.

UPDATE 3: One reader suggested the wedges used for repairing axe handles.  These usually come as a tiny piece of steel (for exerting force) and wood.  I was hoping to use metal or plastic to reduce the problem of rot.

One possibility is to use a piece of aluminum C-channel; cut down the legs to 1/16" of an inch, and that provides something that prevents wobble, and provides a flat base.  I tried to mill a C-channel from an existing 1/8" sheet of aluminum, and while it looked great, it was very slow.  It probably makes more sense to start with a piece of aluminum C-channel, cut it to the needed length (1.25"), cut the legs down to 1/8" inch on the band saw, then mill them to 1/16" inch on the vertical mill with a fly cutter.  The problem is that I don't have any 3" wide C-channel lying around, so I will probably have to wait until Monday to get it, which means waiting on this rebuild until next weekend.  I wish someone made acetal C-channel-- lighter, and it doesn't need to be spectacularly stiff or strong.

UPDATE 4: Final solution, I think.  Using x2 + y2 = r2, I compute that for a 20.5" OD tube, the drop over a distance of 1.45" in the x-direction means a .103" drop in the y-direction. What I will look for is some1/10" or 1/8" round rod, and I will then epoxy 1.25" lengths of this on to the tube where the two sides of where the block will go.  This will give a flat surface upon which it will mate.

The Headline Isn't The Worst Part of This Story

Four female prison guards impregnated by same inmate

Then there is the smuggling of drugs and cell phones that they were doing for him, along with two of them getting his name tattooed on their bodies.  Not too bright?

Long Article In the New York Times About Corrupt Redistribution of Wealth Based on Race

In the April 25, 2013 issue, it details how a class action lawsuit by black farmers alleging discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in its loan programs led to a massive fraud in which kids as young as 4 and 5 received $50,000 payments, in which people who had never farmed received payments, in which women, Hispanics, and Native Americans farmers who had no evidence of discrimination received payments:
On the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling, interviews and records show, the Obama administration’s political appointees at the Justice and Agriculture Departments engineered a stunning turnabout: they committed $1.33 billion to compensate not just the 91 plaintiffs but thousands of Hispanic and female farmers who had never claimed bias in court. 

The deal, several current and former government officials said, was fashioned in White House meetings despite the vehement objections — until now undisclosed — of career lawyers and agency officials who had argued that there was no credible evidence of widespread discrimination. What is more, some protested, the template for the deal — the $50,000 payouts to black farmers — had proved a magnet for fraud. 

“I think a lot of people were disappointed,” said J. Michael Kelly, who retired last year as the Agriculture Department’s associate general counsel. “You can’t spend a lot of years trying to defend those cases honestly, then have the tables turned on you and not question the wisdom of settling them in a broad sweep.”

The compensation effort sprang from a desire to redress what the government and a federal judge agreed was a painful legacy of bias against African-Americans by the Agriculture Department. But an examination by The New York Times shows that it became a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees. In the past five years, it has grown to encompass a second group of African-Americans as well as Hispanic, female and Native American farmers. In all, more than 90,000 people have filed claims. The total cost could top $4.4 billion.
This is worth reading in full.  It is a depressing reminder of how corrupt not just the Obama Administration is, but the federal government in general.

Anti-NRA March: As Many Groups As People

This April 26, 2013 Fox News opinion piece describes a massive anti-NRA march organized by a bunch of different groups:
Participating organizations include Public Campaign, Occupy the NRA, CREDO, Every Child Matters, Moveon, United For Change, USA, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, The Other 98%, and We Act Radio.
The article has pictures showing what is says is generously 100 people, including reporters.  There is supposedly a vast majority of Americans who support gun control, but much of that support is for laws that are already on the books,* and much of the rest is very mild support.  Even among liberals (other than mainstream media employees) this support isn't spectacularly strong.

*Some years ago, one of the respected polling organizations in California asked Californians what sort of laws they would support.  They found a strong majority supported a ban on mail order sales of guns. At that point, it was more than 25 years too late to pass such a law, because the Gun Control Act of 1968 had already done that.

All The Parts Arrived Yersterday For Big Bertha's Bariatric Procedure

The Losmandy DUP arrived; like everything Losmandy does, it is both functional and beautiful.  I'll take some pictures tonight.

The Moonlite Accessories package of black anodized aluminum tubes and the truss connectors also arrived.  Shipping was pretty high, mostly because the tubes are six feet long -- never a recipe for cheap shipping.  (I could have bought the tubes locally and reduced the costs substantially, but finding such tubes black anodized locally would have been difficult, and having them black anodized would have exceeded shipping costs.)  The tubes are beautiful; the truss connectors are even more spectacular.  The blocks are machined from black acetal.  I'll put up some pictures of these tonight as well.

I am finishing up a machining job for a friend this evening, and tomorrow I will start the grand procedure.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Brass Mining Apparently Already In Process

I went to a piece of BLM land near my house that has historically been rich in brass deposits, but to my surprise, there was surprisingly little -- perhaps a few dozen .22 rimfire shells, half a dozen 7.62x39mm (almost certain Berdan primed), and some steel .45 ACP shells over a couple of acres of land -- so little that it is hardly worth the effort.  The efficiency of a free market in conjunction with increasingly desperate economic times.

On the way there we noticed some mattresses stacked up--and next to it, blue jeans, panties, and a bra, of the sort that I expect are popular in the junior high or high school set.  Sort of a redneck formal party, I guess.

You Thought Ammo Was Expensive And Scarce Before?

From the April 25, 2013 Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The chief executive of a major U.S. copper mine hopes to recover quickly from a landslide that piled waste rock inside the pit near Salt Lake City.
Kennecott Utah Copper chief Kelly Sanders says the company might be able to resume limited ore digging within days, but the cleanup will take months.

The company says it will run out of copper for customers in the months ahead.
Copper, of course, is used in making brass for ammunition casings.

Man With Gun; Madman on Rampage in Public Place; Why The Mainstream Media Won't Cover It

From April 27, 2013 Salt Lake City, channel 4:
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - A citizen with a gun stopped a knife wielding man as he began stabbing people Thursday evening at the downtown Salt Lake City Smith's store.

Police say the suspect purchased a knife inside the store and then turned it into a weapon. Smith's employee Dorothy Espinoza says, "He pulled it out and stood outside the Smiths in the foyer. And just started stabbing people and yelling you killed my people. You killed my people."

Espinoza says, the knife wielding man seriously injured two people. "There is blood all over. One got stabbed in the stomach and got stabbed in the head and held his hands and got stabbed all over the arms."

Then, before the suspect could find another victim - a citizen with a gun stopped the madness. "A guy pulled gun on him and told him to drop his weapon or he would shoot him. So, he dropped his weapon and the people from Smith's grabbed him."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Digital Setting Circles

Yes, as I guessed a couple of days ago, I wasn't using the digital setting circles correctly.  I dragged Big Bertha out this evening, started out with the telescope at 90 degrees declination, turned it to 0 degrees, hit enter, positioning on a star east of the meridian (Mizar), then one west of the meridian (Procyon), then to improve accuracy a bit more, Sirius.  Then I told it to point me to M42, and even though the mount wasn't really very well aligned on true north, it put M42 on the edge of a low power eyepiece field.  Unfortunately, the combination of a bit of high moisture a very full Moon meant that nothing else would show up.  I am pretty sure that the digital setting circles were pointing me at the right places -- but the glare washed out anything but the very brightest objects, none of which were available.

No Wonder HP Was In Such Sorry State When They Were Laying Off So Many Of Us...

We weren't being inspired by a modern dance troupe in the cubicle farm:

Most dance companies make money by selling tickets to their performances. Boise-based troupe Trey McIntyre Project has a more expansive business model: "We've decided that we have a real asset, which is the creative process itself. We're selling that," says John Michael Schert, the company's co-founder and executive director.

Companies are buying the pitch. Corporate giants such as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500) and Aetna (AET, Fortune 500) have signed on, and The University of Chicago Booth Business School recently hired Schert for advice on getting inspired....

Lumbering tech giant Hewlett-Packard is a company that desperately needs new ideas. Von Hansen, the company's general manager of future technologies, has been working with TMP almost quarterly since 2008. He says working with the dancers "pulls our staff out of the same way we do things so that we can better design solutions and solve problems."

TMP's dancers show up at HP's headquarters -- sometimes unannounced -- and break into a performance right by employee cubicles. Afterward, the dancers lead employees through a discussion of the creative process and how a dance is created and refined.
 Hansen admits that he can't point to any specific problem solved by this.  Duh.

When you can't figure out what you are doing wrong, distract attention with something else.  Like a Dilbert strip, except real people lost real jobs while HP took itself down the rathole.

UPDATE: See this May 8, 2013 Boise Weekly article about how this was complete fabrication by CNN.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wake Up: Gun Control Vote Failed: There Are Other Problems

Instapundit points to this April 22, 2013 Chicago Sun-Times article about a mentally ill woman who has been arrested 396 times on numerous charges, some of them for violent crimes, but she is still out on the street:
Since 1978, Chicago Police alone have arrested Miles 396 times, mostly on the North Side — under at least 83 different aliases. Those arrests include 92 for theft, 65 for disorderly conduct, 59 for prostitution-related crimes and five for robbery or attempted robbery. 

The frustrating truth: The system — strapped by overcrowded prisons and cuts to mental health funding — hasn’t been able to save Miles from herself or to help the communities she menaces. Nothing has worked. Not jail. Not prison. Not countless psychological exams for the woman described as being “acutely psychotic.”
And thanks to Instapundit for linking to my book about this problem -- the one that the mainstream media would prefer to ignore.  And Dave Kopel is banging the drum over at April 18, 2013 National Review:
Today is a good day to begin what should have begun on December 15, 2012: the search for genuine reforms that could help prevent another Newtown...

Because only a very small percentage of people who are mentally ill are dangerously violent, it is essential that dialogue about reforms not stigmatize the mentally ill as a general class. As with the deprivation of any constitutional right, there must be strong protections for due process, including fair hearings where both sides can present evidence, and a neutral decision-maker. Especially with regard to America’s veterans, such reforms are long overdue, and Senator Richard Burr’s reform amendment on this issue got 56 votes yesterday.

But mental-health reforms must go far beyond the issue of gun possession. Some of the violent mentally ill, like the Aurora murderer, can build sophisticated bombs. Anyone who is severely mentally ill and violent can run over a crowd of people with a car.

The murderers in Tucson, Aurora, and Newtown were all people who should have been civilly committed for treatment. Half a century ago, they could have been. State-level reforms should strengthen civil-commitment laws while fully respecting due process. States’ funding for mental -health treatment needs to be greatly increased. Over the past months, I have received many e-mails from people who know someone who is mentally ill and violent; again and again, they are told that the state or local government has no resources to help the individual — until the individual is caught perpetrating a violent felony, and then the individual will be imprisoned. In fact, more spending on mental health now would pay for itself in the long run with reduced prison costs.

Today's Mass Murders

From April 22, 2013 USA Today:
Five people were killed in a shooting late Sunday at an apartment complex in Federal Way, Wash., about 20 miles south of Seattle, the Associated Press reported Monday, citing local police.

Police officers arriving on the scene shot a suspect, who has died.

According to the AP, the officers responded to an emergency call around 9:30 p.m. PT Sunday where they found two injured men on the ground in the parking lot of the apartment complex.
From April 22, 2013 BBC:
A gunman has killed six people - including a 14-year-old girl - in the western Russian city of Belgorod, local officials say.

The man shot dead three people inside a hunting shop and two passers-by. Another woman later died in hospital.

The attacker - said to be an ex-convict - then fled in a car, and the abandoned vehicle, a BMW, was found
later.

The motive is believed to be robbery. Unconfirmed reports say a suspect has been arrested.
Russia, fortunately, has very strict gun control laws.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Big Bertha Diet

The semester almost being over, it is time to implement the rebuilding of Big Bertha using a half-Suerrier truss, using Moonlite Optical's truss components.  While doing all the measurements yet again, I noticed some more opportunities to remove weight.

Right now, there is a 72" long C-channel that mounts the mirror assembly and the eyepiece/diagonal mirror assembly to the dovetail plate that goes into the telescope mount.  The plan was to cut this down to 24" long because the half-Suerrier truss does all the holding of optical components in place; the C-channel will only connect the mirror assembly to the mount, which saves 4.8 pounds.

It turns out, however, that this C-channel has 2" "legs" and is 4" wide.  The legs are so that the tube is supported by the legs, and screws in the middle of the C-channel to the tube keep it from moving.  But really, there is only a need for 1/2" or less legs.  Trimming this down will reduce stiffness a bit, but stiffness isn't really an issue here -- and it will knock off another pound of weight.  I don't know if the bandsaw will do this well or not -- but if worst comes to worst, I will put it in the vertical mill on its side, and use a fine end mill to slice the legs down to size, then turn the C-channel on its back, and use an end mill to trim everything to a consistent length.

Then I noticed that the dovetail plate (which looks like this, although longer)
that connects the C-channel to the mount saddle is quite long -- about 21" long, far longer than needed to properly support the telescope on the mount.  What if I found a shorter dovetail plate?  If I found one that was 12" long, it would save 2.5 pounds.  What I dispensed with the dovetail plate completely, and cut the dovetails into the bottom of the C-channel?  (I have a dovetail cutter, although I have yet to use it.)  That's six pounds saved.

I am thinking that I can knock this down about eleven pounds -- down to perhaps 48 pounds total or less for a 17.5" reflector.  That is light enough that the CI-700 mount should be able to handle it -- and the half-Suerrier truss will be stiffer than what I have now.  It also lets me remove about 11 pounds of counterweights as well.

UPDATE: My mistake: I have a slot cutter, but not a dovetail cutter.  This might be the thing to buy next.

UPDATE 2: What I have now is a 19" long dovetail plate: the DP19, which is 3/4" thick.  It turns out that the existing C-channel that I have is only .16" thick in the base, and I would need to cut a dovetail that is .25" deep.  Yes, that is not going to work.  I may use the Losmandy DUP dovetail plate instead. It is only 1/2" thick, weighs only 2.4 lbs. (partly because it has holes everywhere -- rather Swiss cheese like), and is 14" long.  This is still a savings of 2.6 lbs. from the current dovetail plate.  It looks like I am going to save at lest 7.4 lbs. from a shorter, thinner dovetail, shorter and lower C-channel.  I may also save fractions of a pound from being able to use shorter bolts to connect the lower cage to the C-channel, and dispensing with the connections of the upper cage to the C-channel.  To my surprise, the Moonlite Optical truss connectors and tubes are roughly a wash with the existing square tubes and guy wire scheme.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

One entertaining aspect of travel is the unique signs that you run into -- even, sometimes, official road signs.  While I have some experience with what this sign in Jordan Valley, Oregon describes, such experiences are usually not positive:






And this sign in Reno, made me imagine a big syringe injecting automobiles (or perhaps drivers):


Here is what is after this sign -- a couple of traffic islands poured to slow and restrict traffic entering a school zone:


Trip To Reno

In northern Nevada, on the road to Winnemucca, sandhill cranes:



And pronghorn antelope:



Far away, and trying to get even farther away.

American Goldfinches Outside Our Kitchen Window

There are two pairs of them, actually.





What an intense yellow!

Guns & Intoxicants Do Not Go Together Well

From the April 21, 2013 Detroit Free Press:
DENVER — Gunfire erupted at an annual U.S. marijuana celebration, injuring two people and scattering a crowd of thousands after they had just marked the first 4/20 counterculture holiday since Colorado legalized marijuana.

The man and woman who were shot were expected to survive, and police were looking for one or two suspects, said Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson. Police asked festival attendees for possible photo or video of the shootings, and they had no immediate motive.
For the same reason that guns and alcohol don't go together, power tools and intoxicants don't go together, cars and intoxicants don't go together, ladders and intoxicants don't go together, etc.  I fear that significant segments of America are prepared to accept the unfortunate consequences of adding another legal intoxicant to what is already a serious problem with alcohol.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Things We Forget

I pulled Big Bertha out this evening to do some observing, since we had a pretty clear sky.  To my disappointment, putting four more casters under it did not solve the problem of smooth motion across the chip seal.  Perhaps the wider wheels are going to be necessary -- or just store it in the main garage, where it can roll on concrete.

I also decided to use the digital setting circles -- and to show you how long it has been since I used it, the Celestron Advanced AstroMaster would not turn on.  The 9V battery that powers it was completely dead.  When I opened the case, I found that the battery was leaking, but fortunately, the battery compartment is well isolated from the rest of the components.

Then I powered it up and tried to use it.  The way the Celestron AAM works (and I suspect many of the similar products) is that when you power it up, it asks you to set the declination of the scope to 0 degrees, hit enter, then select two or more bright stars, point the telescope to each of them, then hit enter.  And it produces nonsensical results tonight.  Huh?  This used to work.

So I started Google-ing for instructions.  I may have found the answer -- a really thorough review of the Celestron CI-700 and the Celestron AAM written by...me, in 2007.  The important quote that may explain why this wasn't working:
The operating instructions that came with the Advanced AstroMaster also leave a bit to be desired. At the beginning of the manual (what might be considered the quick start section), it tells you to hit the ENTER button when you see the “SET DEC=0” prompt. Later, in a more detailed section, it tells you that you need to move the declination axis to the zero degree setting. It also appears that you need to start out with the declination axis at 90 degrees, then move it to 0.
Of course, the mount was never at 90 degrees when I started the AAM.  It was usually pretty close to 0.  This may explain the problem, especially because I suspect that the AAM uses rotation through 90 degrees to calibrate the encoders.

And here, in a copy of the Celestron AAM manual, on page 7, is a warning that for a German equatorial mount (like the CI-700):
[T]he first alignment star must be east of the meridian.
 And of course, every alignment star I used was west of the meridian. 

Things The Internet Makes Possible

Instead of a flash mob, it's a worship mob: a bunch of musicians getting together to perform Keith Green's There Is A Redeemer simultaneously over the Internet:


Friday, April 19, 2013

Bomber #2 In Custody

Here at CBS Boston.  I am not generally impressed with the quality of Twitter, because 140 characters limits you to stuff that is only slightly more thoughtful than a bumper sticker, but Instapundit pointed to a great one:
“This week is so bad that an Elvis-impersonating conspiracy theorist sent poison to Obama and THAT'S LIKE THE TENTH BIGGEST STORY.”

Found a Roofer, Just In Time

Son of someone I go to church with has done roofing, and came up last night -- just in time, because it rained over night.  He was able to find all the shingles that the last big windstorm had pulled loose (fortunately, they had stayed pretty much together and did not fly far) and reinstall them.  I was listening to him explain to his son the theory of overlapping shingles and how they continue to protect the roof even if one shingle is damaged -- it was gratifying to hear that he really understood how this works, and was teaching his son how to do this sort of repair.

You can see why the elites hold people like this in contempt -- they actually know how to do something.

Freedom of Conscience. Gay Marriage. Pick One.

From the April 19, 2013 Daily Mail:
A Washington state florist who refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union, in the second legal action accusing the vendor of discrimination.

Florist Barronelle Stutzman maintained in court papers that her Christian beliefs prevented her from selling the flowers for the same-sex wedding.

Ms Stutzman, who owns Arlene's Flowers in Richmond, already faced a consumer protection lawsuit over the incident filed against her last week by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2311713/Florist-refused-sell-flowers-gay-couples-wedding-sued-SECOND-time-discrimination-claims.html#ixzz2QviOLl3g
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What Sort Of Person Names His Son Tamerlan?

Tamerlan is the first name of the older terrorist, now dead.  He is named for Tamerlane, remembered today for this, from Michael Prawdin's The Mongol Empire: Its Rise and Legacy (1961), pp. 442-3:
For the first time he commanded cruelty and devastation such as made people shudder even in those cruel days, and surrounded for all time the name of Tamerlane with the gloomy aureole of the butcher and exterminator.  When he stormed the rebellious city of Sabzevar, the capital of Khorassan, he had 2,000 persons walled up alive, as a tower of horror "for a warning to all who should dare to revolt and as an indication of Tamerlane's vengeance"--this being the first time that he had commanded such an act...

The mountain cities, which defended themselves valiantly, were crownded with pyramids of skulls; and in the capital city of Sistan, which also made a strenuous resistance, after the prince had surrendered to Tamerlane, the inhabitants were put to the sword by the conqueror, "even to the centenarians, and the baby in the cradle."

I Am Sure Progressives Everywhere Are Disappointed: Chechnyans, Not Tea Partiers

From April 19, 2013 NDTV:

Watertown: The two suspects in Monday's Boston Marathon bombing have been identified as men from Chechnya.

Earlier today they killed a police officer at the MIT campus, injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during their getaway attempt in a long night of violence that left one of them dead and another still at large Friday, authorities said.

A law enforcement intelligence bulletin obtained by the AP identified the surviving bomb suspect as 19-year-old Dzhokhar A Tsarnaev of Cambridge, Massachussets.
I know that some of my readers are sympathetic to the Chechnyans because of the brutality with which the Russians have suppressed the Chechnyan independence movement.  But this bomb wasn't set off in Russia, or aimed at Russians.

Reading this account from the April 19, 2013 Wall Street Journal sounds like an episode of 24:
The hunt for the younger Mr. Tsarnayev prompted a broad shutdown of public facilities in the Boston area. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asked people throughout Boston to take shelter and stay indoors.

The Federal Aviation Administration closed the low-level airspace above roughly four miles in northwest Greater Boston as the search goes on. Logan International Airport in Boston tweeted that it "is open and operating under heightened security." It urged fliers to check their flight status before heading to the airport.
 This account from the April 20, 2013 The Australian indicates that the dead one may have used a suicide vest:
They lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and their family had fled the Chechen civil war for Kazakhstan and appeared to have been granted asylum in the US.

Tamerlan was reported to have been killed by explosives on his body, suggesting he may have detonated a suicide vest.
If there was any question about his motivations:
"I don't have a single American friend, I don't understand them," he recently posted on his website.

On his YouTube page he posted religious videos, including a video of Feiz Mohammad, a fundamentalist Australian Muslim preacher who rails against the evils of Harry Potter.
 But apparently not against the evils of murdering complete strangers.  Priorities.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Weird Noises From The TrailBlazer

After Wal-Mart put new tires on the TrailBlazer, it was really loud.  Tire noise was severe, and after a recent tire rotation, the noise became more noticeable when turning.

Out of balance tires?  Just loud tires?

No.  It turns out that one of the front hubs was loose, and needed to be replaced (about $700).  Considering that we have 118,000 miles on it, I guess a repair like this isn't too startling or disappointing.

Talk Radio in Boise: Aiming Low

I have made repeated attempts to get into Kevin Miller's show as a guest -- no luck.  Yesterday, I called into Nate Shelman's show after the defeat of the background check bill in the Senate.  I managed to get about 20 seconds on the air discussing this new study of mine of background check laws and murder rates -- and that was it.  He apparently prefers people long on opinion and short on data.

I know that talk radio in other parts of the country doesn't pander to raging emotion and ignorance.  What is it about Boise?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Protecting Camera Lenses

I cannot remember who first told me to do this, but I'm glad that he did: screw a UV filter onto the front lens of any SLR camera to protect the lens from scratches, dust, and other injuries. I have always done it with all of my SLR lenses, and today I had the proof of its utility. The other day, I dropped the camera case a short distance onto concrete. Today, my wife noticed that the front UV filter is cracked. We took a whole bunch of pictures while on our recent trip to Reno that were not impaired by this crack, but it is nice that the UV filter to the damage, not the Tamron 70 – 300 X zoom lens.

I just ordered two replacement Tiffen UV filters. At about $13 with shipping each, this is far cheaper than replacing the zoom lens.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Don't Be Stupid

It is amazing how often someone tries to make a bomb, and the intended target never even hears about it.  From April 16, 2013 KTVB:
MALHEUR COUNTY -- Authorities have released the names of two men critically injured after they allegedly triggered several homemade bombs in an isolated stretch of Oregon rangeland Sunday.

Sixty-year-old Drex Brooks and 59-year-old Mark Brinton from Ontario are the men responsible for the blasts, according to Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe.

Brooks is listed in serious condition at a Portland hospital. At last word, Brinton was in critical condition at a Boise hospital.
I am reminded of the Weather Underground bomb maker who experienced a sudden career end.  According to the version that I heard from an acquaintance who was part of the New Left back then, one of these fools was making bombs in a New York City brownstone, while smoking.

NPR Speculating About Right-Winger Behind Boston Marathon Bomb

My wife called to tell me that NPR is busily speculating that this was done by right-wing extremists, not al-Qaeda.  At this point, there is not enough to know, other than the initial reports (and somewhat contradicted by other reports) that a Saudi student was being held.

Default assumptions should be based on likelihoods, derived from recent history.  If most recent terrorist attacks were domestic extremist groups, there might be a basis for such speculation, but multiple explosions, a short time apart?  Not aimed at a government building or abortion clinic?  If there is an appropriate default assumption, it is al-Qaeda or other Islamist groups -- not a domestic right-wing group.

But that's why it is called National Palestinian Radio.

UPDATE: Hardly conclusive, but this April 16, 2013 Telegraph report indicates that pressure cooker bombs (now believed to be what was used in Boston) were described in the first issue of al-Qaeda's English-language publication for aspiring jihadis:
The recipe – along with a rationale for post-9/11 terror – was printed three years ago in al-Qaeda’s English-language promotional online magazine, Inspire.
In an article, it instructed readers on how, as its headline writers put it, to “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom”.
It gave the types of explosive, timers and other ingredients needed – along with, it said, a pressure cooker.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Other Bomber

The April 15, 2013 Idaho Statesman reports on the man who apparently killed himself (perhaps by accident) with a homemade bomb in California a few days ago:

 — A man who was killed when a homemade explosive blew up at his home was an eccentric who bicycled around his neighborhood dispensing anti-government conspiracy pamphlets, neighbors said Monday.
"He definitely seemed paranoid about things and people," Donna Swift said. "It was getting more extreme."
Some of what his pamphlets had to say caused him to be held for a 72 hour mental health evaluation some years ago, and he was apparently widely recognized as having serious mental illness problems, but as these things usually go, nothing was done about it:
A long, rambling article called "The Pricker" posted on the Internet mentions the man's address and is subtitled: "A True Story of Assassination, Terrorism And High Treason."
The article, dated 2002 and updated in 2005, says the pricker is a concealable weapon that can inject diseases into victims without their knowledge and contends that U.S. government assassins had infected people with AIDS and other diseases.
A variety of other plots are mentioned and the writer adds: "There are more plots coming, more subtle and powerful motivational implants, robot weapons, biological weapons, and colossal deceptions. We all need to realize that if we do not get this situation under control (or out from under control), that our entire species will perish."
This is very sad.  He was pretty clearly mentally ill -- but he was not an imminent threat to self or others.  Fortunately, whatever he was fiddling with, he never had a chance to use it against others.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/04/15/2535435/explosion-kills-calif-man-neighbors.html#storylink=cpy



R
ead more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/04/15/2535435/explosion-kills-calif-man-neighbors.html#storylink=cpy

Just A Reminder: We Are Still At War

Bombs go off at Boston Marathon, at least 12 dead; a Saudi national with shrapnel wounds is being held.

UPDATE: Count of the dead is still being widely reported as 2, not 12.  I wonder if someone saw how horribly injured some of the victims were, and assumed that they were dead.

Manchin-Toomey As Gun Control Bonanza

Dave Kopel at Volokh Conspiracy argues that the Manchin-Toomey proposal is actually a serious problem, and presents a number of reasons to think it was poorly drafted.  It is too long to summarize, but the evidence suggests that it was either incompetently drafted, or that the other side did a better job of negotiating than we first thought.

Time To Find My Spent Brass

I have a bit of spent brass lying around; it appears that it is time to dig it out and see about having a friend reload some of it.  Remember when you could buy a box of 50 9mm FMJs for $9.95?  Cheaper Than Dirt wants $69.59.  Over at LuckyGunner, they have it for $40.25 a box of 50.

I am tempted to go out to the nearby shooting area on BLM land, and start mining reloadable brass.

UPDATE: It turns out that my reloading friend discovered that there are no primers or bullets available.  Everything is hideously priced, but it doesn't matter, because everything is out of stock. Used brass is now expensive and scarce.  Maybe the mining idea isn't so silly.

Rented a Mazda 5 For The Trip to Reno

A curious vehicle: Mazda calls its a "Sport Van."  It is sort of a compact utility vehicle -- a total of six seats, 2, 2, and then 2 in the far back.  It was plenty gutsy for its purpose, rode well, and handled well, probably because it was pretty low center of gravity.  It took a while to get used to some of the operating controls, and I confess that I have become spoiled by automatic headlights, which this did not have.  Gas mileage was not spectacular -- generally we saw about 24-25 mpg on the trip to Reno, which is all highway driving, although admittedly, very high speed highway driving. (You don't want to know, but most if it was empty parts of Nevada.)

The real bummer was the really bad stereo -- very tinny.  Perhaps I have just been spoiled by GM and Jaguar stereos.

The only really irritating part of this experience was not the fault of the car.  When we rented the car from Budget, I could not find a cigarette lighter plug to connect the Garmin and other electronics.  What should have been the lighter plug was more like a USB power port.  We ran back to Budget; it appears that a previous renter had plugged in an adapter to convert cigarette lighter plug to USB power port, and either forgot the adapter, or could not get it out.  With enough force, Budget managed to remove it.

This came to about $86 for three days -- an absolute bargain, compared to what it would have cost to drive my own car from Boise to Reno and back.

Just Returned From the Big Reno Gun Show

The first line of my next Shotgun News article wrote itself while I was there: "The question is what will happen first: will DHS stop buying vast quantities of ammunition?  Or will floor joists across America start collapsing under the strain of civilian stockpiles of ammo?"

Bus Ticket Therapy

This happens a lot, but this the first time that I have seen evidence of it being official state mental hospital policy.  From the April 15, 2013 Sacramento Bee:
Over the past five years, Nevada's primary state psychiatric hospital has put hundreds of mentally ill patients on Greyhound buses and sent them to cities and towns across America.

Since July 2008, Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas has transported more than 1,500 patients to other cities via Greyhound bus, sending at least one person to every state in the continental United States, according to a Bee review of bus receipts kept by Nevada's mental health division.
Nevada's mental health agency claims that they are simply returning mentally ill tourists back home -- but some of the examples that the Bee's investigation found were clearly not in this category.  One example involved a man that they shipped to Sacramento, who had never been to California:
Nevada's approach to dispatching mentally ill patients has come under scrutiny since one of its clients turned up suicidal and confused at a Sacramento homeless services complex. James Flavy Coy Brown, who is 48 and suffers from a variety of mood disorders including schizophrenia, was discharged in February from Rawson-Neal to a Greyhound bus for Sacramento, a place he had never visited and where he knew no one.

The hospital sent him on the 15-hour bus ride without making arrangements for his treatment or housing in California; he arrived in Sacramento out of medication and without identification or access to his Social Security payments. He wound up in the UC Davis Medical Center's emergency room, where he lingered for three days until social workers were able to find him temporary housing.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/14/5340078/nevada-buses-hundreds-of-mentally.html#storylink=cpy
 Some years back, one of the towns in Oregon gave a one-way bus ticket to a homeless mentally person to send him to a small town near Santa Rosa.  Their problem became California's problem, as he opened up a tank car of ammonia into the Russian River, polluting Santa Rosa's water supply for several days. 

These tragedies happen all the time in the U.S.  Why fix problems when you can just buy someone a bus ticket, and make it someone else's problem?

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/14/5340078/nevada-buses-hundreds-of-mentally.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, April 12, 2013

Background Checks and Murder Rates

The first draft of a law review article examining the evidence of what effect state mandatory firearms background check laws have on murder rates has been submitted to SSRN; if you don't know what SSRN is, see this article about it.  It may be a day or two before SSRN makes it visible.  I will be intermittently off the network over the next day or so, but as soon as I see it visible, I will let everyone know.  In the meantime, feel free to go here and search for articles by me.  If you see "Background Checks and Murder Rates" visible, comment here.

Thanks to all!  Here it is.

What Does The Toomey/Manchin Amendment Mean?

Shall Not Be Questioned tries to make sense of the language.  As the analysis makes clear, some of the more outlandish claims for it are wrong...but other parts are less than clear as to what they do.  Overall, it is apparent that this is a face-saving measure for the gun control crowd, giving them a tiny fraction of what they wanted, which will take away some of their talking points about the "gun show loophole," but giving us some  improvements on current law.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Yes, I Guess There Were Some Mental Problems

The young man being held for the mass stabbing seems to have some serious problems, alright.  From April 11, 2013 Fox News:
Officials say a man accused of stabbing more than a dozen people at a Houston-area college told investigators that he had fantasized about cannibalism and about cutting off people's faces and wearing them as masks.


According to a search warrant affidavit made public Thursday, Quick told an investigator that about week before the attack at Lone Star Community College in Cypress he had researched mass stabbings on his home computer.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"A Significant Thorn"

From the April 10, 2013 Idaho Statesman:
— Alberta's premier says if the Obama administration rejects the Keystone XL pipeline it be would be a significant thorn in Canadian-U.S. relations.
It would be a significant thorn in Obama-U.S. relations, too.  Assuming many Americans find out about it.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/04/10/2528576/alberta-premier-rejection-would.html#storylink=cpy

The Manchin/Toomey Compromise On Background Checks

Shall Not Be Questioned pointed me to Sen. Toomey (R-PA)'s press release, and shares my reaction: if the bill is as advertised, they get relatively little (a requirement for background checks at gun shows and "online sales" which really means...what?); we get substantial advantages:

1. Does not affect private party sales other than at gun shows and online.

2. Does not affect intrafamily and temporary transfers.

3. Requires background checks at gun shows to be completed or allowed within 48 yhours, cutting back to 24 hours several years from now, as NICS improves.

4. Cuts off funding to states that do not provide criminal conviction and mental hospital commitment records to NICS.

5. Provides protection for veterans who are put on the NICS list based on disabilities.

6. Appears to extend the Firearms Owners Protection Act so that if you are driving through New York State with a gun unloaded and secured in the trunk, you can stop the night for lodging, or for a meal.  Some states currently only allow you to stop for "biological necessity" (by which they don't mean eating a meal) to avoid being sent to prison.

7. Permits interstate purchases of handguns from dealers -- which may be a big deal if you live on the edge of a state with many gun dealers, but you are a resident across that state line.

8. Criminalizes creating a gun registry: 15 years in prison.

Again: we'll have to read the bill to be sure that it does what they claim.  If so, this is a largely symbolic gain for them (few gun show sales are not by dealers), and real gains for us.  It would appear that Democrats have figured out that they need to throw a bone to the gun control crowd, but not do anything too serious that would endanger Democrats running in pro-gun states next year.

It Rather Sounds Like the Punchline to a Joke About Lawyers and Billing

From the April 9, 2013 Utah Valley Daily Herald:
SALT LAKE CITY — An Ogden man who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from falsely claiming diplomatic immunity during a traffic stop and then billing police and other government agencies $53 trillion in damages is headed to prison for three years.
And I thought that my time was valuable.

Never Underestimate Human Ingenuity

Deafening Silence points to a remarkable quote from a gun control advocate, 1999, after Columbine:
"Access to guns is a critical variable in this situation. You can't kill or wound 14 people with a knife."
--Kevin Dwyer, president-elect of the National Assn. of School Psychologists
And it turns out that the mass stabbing yesterday was first reported as 14, then 15 victims.  Of course, being on a campus that prohibits self-defense weapons certainly makes it easier.

Health Insurance Exchange Costs

During a discussion with a doctor recently, he mentioned that one of the reasons that his medical group was considering dropping health insurance for all their employees (along with fattening the bonus checks of the doctors who own it) is that because all of their employees (except the doctors) made less than $93,000 a year, the out of pocket expense under the health insurance exchange would be a maximum of $2250 per year per person.  

I don't see how this is possible, except with massive subsidies from state and federal government.  But if this is true, it might make it possible for me to retire from my day job, and do something that really matters.  (Obviously, no one is going to pay me to work on gun rights issues.)  Has anyone seen any hard numbers on actual costs under the exchanges?  I would expect that some states will have lower costs than others -- and that might be an incentive for people who might be able to afford early retirement to move.

Udi's Gluten-Free Baguettes

We saw these in the store the other night -- and wow!  I could not immediately distinguish them from a decent French bread.  Yum.

Mass Stabber in Texas Undergoing Psychological Evaluation

From April 10, 2013 CNN:
Quick told investigators he had fantasies of killing people and had been planning the attack for some time, sheriff's officials said late Tuesday. Quick used "a razor-type knife" to stab his victims, they added.
What a surprise.  And how will a gun control law prevent a tragedy like this?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bad Wind Storm Last Night

It took a couple pieces of roof shingles off.  I'll have to try and find someone who knows how to do that sort of thing, and isn't already independently wealthy. I sure hope that it isn't as difficult a situation as asphalt.

Like A Really Bad X Files Episode -- But Not Fiction

From the March 9, 2013 Philadelphia Inquirer's coverage of the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell:

Still, West testified, she hated working in the room where Gosnell performed abortions - never more than the night a staffer asked for help with a problem at Gosnell's Women's Medical Society clinic in West Philadelphia.
"There was this clear glass pan, and I saw it, and I thought, 'What do you expect me to do?' " West testified Monday at Gosnell's murder trial.
"It wasn't fully developed," West told the Common Pleas Court jury, referring to the 18- to 24-inch-long newborn in the pan. It didn't have eyes or a mouth but it was like screeching, making this noise. It was weird. It sounded like a little alien."
Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, West, 53, said she did not know what happened to the "specimen" - the term she said she used because "it was easier to deal with mentally."
Yes, like learning to regard Jews as untermenschen, or rationalizing that blacks weren't capable of caring for themselves as free men.  It is amazing what human beings can do to justify evil. Unfortunately, as one of the commenters on the article pointed out, if Gosnell had been a bit cleaner (sterilizing equipment for his black patients, not just his white ones), and had not insisted on performing abortions so late, this would not be a news story at all.

Potassium Nitrate In Boise?

My boss' son has been given a high school chemistry assignment involving fireworks, and one of the items that the teacher wants them to get is potassium nitrate.  But where do you find that in Boise?

UPDATE: A reader points out that Home Depot sells it as stump remover.  Apparently, Home Depot stores here don't have it in stock, but Lowe's does.

Mass Murders In Europe Again

From the April 9, 2013 Canadian National Post:
VELIKA IVANCA, Serbia — A 60-year-old veteran gunned down 13 people in Serbia, including his mother, his son and a two-year-old cousin, in a pre-dawn house-to-house rampage Tuesday before shooting himself and his wife, police and hospital officials said.

The man, identified as Ljubisa Bogdanovic, used a handgun in the shooting spree at five houses in Velika Ivanca, a village 50 kilometres southeast of Belgrade, emergency hospital spokeswoman Nada Macura said.

Twelve people were killed immediately between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. and one person died in a Belgrade hospital, Serbian police chief Milorad Veljovic said. The man and his wife were both severely injured by the shootings and another person was also injured, Macura said.
Ordinarily, there is a history of mental illness in these cases.  This is a bit more complicated:
Macura, the hospital spokeswoman, said the shooter had no known history of mental illness. Stanica Kostadinovic, another neighbor, said the man’s father had hanged himself when he was a young boy and his uncle had a history of mental illness.
Because mental illness runs in families, I find myself wondering if it was not recognized, or developed suddenly.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ammunition Shortages: More Capital?

I can somewhat understand the inability of firearms manufacturers to ramp up production of guns.  There is a fair amount of skilled labor that goes into making guns, which means that you can't just put an ad in the paper and hire the first ten guys that show up.  My guess is that a lot of CNC machine tools probably have substantial lead times.  Believe me, I have briefly considered what would be required to buy a CNC milling center (one of the big expensive ones) and do my part to satisfy the demand.  I don't have the experience required for this, so I am sure that by the time I had everything working well, the business would have saturated.

But ammunition?  This is not quite the same situation.  Big ammunition making is highly automated.  I would think that reloaders (of which the U.S. is full) would be cranking away at both reloading and making new ammo in the garage to satisfy demand.  Is powder and primers really in such short supply?

It is hard to imagine that this isn't one of those areas where the application of capital would not produce pretty healthy returns right now.

Gun-Free Zones App

There's a good side and a bad side to this:
LARGEST DATABASE OF GUN FREE ZONES ANNOUNCED
Cell Phone App Marks Which Stores Are Firearm Friendly and Which Are Gun Free
April 8, 2013 – GunFreeZoneApp.com, a mobile phone app company, today announced that over 250,000 locations in all 50 states are now marked as either firearm friendly or gun free zones.  Stores, churches, schools, theaters, malls, and other public places have been tagged by users of the app throughout the United States in the largest effort in history to mark the location of gun free zones.  The GunFreeZone phone app has collected its enormous crowd-sourced database in less than 8 weeks into the largest listing of gun free zones and firearm friendly areas ever assembled.
“I am really impressed with how quickly this has taken off.  To reach a quarter million locations marked in less than 2 months shows how strongly people feel about the gun issue,” said John Peden, founder of the company.  “People are obviously very passionate on both sides of the issue and this app helps them express that passion in a useful way,” Peden added.
The good side is that if you are in a place where businesses have the "rob me" signs out, this app lets you figure out who really wants your business, and who doesn't.  That's cool.  Some years ago I was traveling through Pennsylvania on a research trip, and one restaurant had a "no guns" sign, so I went across the street a pizza place that did not.  Why would I give business to someone who is advertising that he only wants people to come in who are either criminals, victims, or illiterates?

But I can also see this app perhaps being used by a mass murderer who is looking for targets.

More bad news from that press release:
Presently, there are over 27,000 locations marked as firearm friendly and over 225,000 marked as gun free.
I would not have guessed that this many businesses cater to sheep.

Something More Useless Than Spam...

Spam in a language that 99% of the world's population does not understand:
Kính gửi: -
Email: clayton@claytoncramer.com

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Feminism Has Been So Effective In Raising The Status of Women

From April 8, 2013 E Online:
James Deen officially has a new partner in porn: Teen Mom star Farrah Abraham.

The adult film star exclusively tells E! News his most recent project is a sex tape with the MTV reality star.

"We definitely shot a scene, and in my opinion it was very amazingly awesome,"  Lindsay Lohan's Canyons costar tells E! News, insisting he had a great experience working with the mother of one.
Remember when this would have been shameful?

Don't Be Stupid

There are some basic rules of firearms safety, of which one of the more obvious is: don't put a loaded firearm somewhere where a toddler can get hold of it. From April 8, 2013 USA Today:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Authorities say a 4-year-old boy got ahold of a loaded gun at a family cookout and shot and killed the wife of a Tennessee sheriff's deputy.

Investigators say Wilson County Deputy Daniel Fanning on Saturday was showing his weapons to a relative in a bedroom of his Lebanon home when the toddler came in and picked up a gun off the bed. Sheriff Robert Bryan says the weapon discharged, hitting 48-year-old Josephine Fanning.

She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Fortunately, unlike civilians, law enforcement officers can always be trusted not to be stupid with guns -- or at least, that is what the gun control crowd likes to believe.
 

A Public Service Announcement In Cooperation With This Blog

Senate Action on Gun Bills this Week 
 
Dear NRA Member:

The U.S. Senate is set to act on anti-gun legislation as early as this week. These proposals are the latest attempt by anti-gun Senators to erode our Second Amendment rights by making it illegal for law-abiding gun owners to transfer firearms without the federal government’s approval; and by banning commonly owned semi-automatic rifles and magazines, to name a few. Unfortunately, none of these proposals address the critical issues of fixing our broken mental health system; securing our schools; or prosecuting violent criminals.

However, there is a proposal worthy of gun owners' support. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mark Begich (D-AK) have introduced S. 480, the "NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013", which will provide accurate definitions of persons who pose serious threats to themselves or others and therefore should be prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, while protecting the rights of those who should not be included in NICS. Further, this legislation will protect the rights of America's veterans, by no longer allowing their Second Amendment freedoms to be denied based on an administrative finding that a person requires appointment of a representative to mange his financial affairs.

The NRA fully supports Senators Graham and Begich's important legislation.

The time is now. Please contact your U.S. Senators today, let them know you are a NRA member and encourage them to support S. 480 and to oppose all anti-gun legislation.

You can contact your U.S. Senators at 202-224-3121.

- National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action
I am not familiar with S. 480; I can tell you that based on the research that I am finishing up right now on the effects of state mandatory firearms background checks on murder rates, the evidence suggests that they are at least ineffective.  There is a stronger statistical argument that they increase murder rates than decrease them, although the most that I can say with any certainty is that they don't do much at all.

Quick, What Are The Three Biggest Oil Producers In The World?

You are going to guess Saudi Arabia is one of them, that's easy.  But I will bet that many of you will guess Iraq, or Libya, or some other countries that have populations with turbans wound too tight.  According to this 2011 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, number 2 is Russia, and number 3 is the United States:
Russia (10.24) Saudi Arabia (11.15) United States (10.15) 

Yes, the U.S. produced very slightly less than Russia and only slightly less than Saudi Arabia.  This March 5,. 2013 Investors Business Daily report says that EIA is now reporting that as of November 2012, the U.S. has now passed Saudi Arabia:
In spite of the Obama Administration's hostility to carbon-rich energy, private actors with private capital deployed on private (and state) land have launched a game-changing revolution in domestic oil and natural gas production.

A scarcely reported milestone conveys the magnitude of this turnaround in the global energy landscape.

The U.S. passed Saudi Arabia as the world's largest petroleum producer in November 2012, according to recently released data of the federal Energy Information Administration.

Over the last five years, domestic oil output has risen 40% and continually outpaces projections. Last year, domestic output increased by 800,000 barrels per day. This is the largest increase in annual production since the first oil well was drilled in 1859 in Pennsylvania.
The report is here.  We are indeed now number 1 in petroleum production.  U.S. imports of petroleum are now down to about where they were in the mid-1990s.  In spite of the best efforts of the Obama Administration, more than one-third of that importation is coming from Canada, a country that, for all its differences from the U.S., is most unlikely to unleash terrorist attacks on our cities.  (I'm trying to imagine homegrown Canadian terrorism: excessive use of "eh" in conversation, followed by attempts to feed us poutine?)

Not Straining Their Necks

Instapundit's column today in the April 7, 2013 New York Post argues that an IQ test for politicians might be a good idea -- although there are some risks:
While politicians talk about expanding background checks for gun owners, I’m starting to think that what we really need are IQ tests for political officeholders. The only problem is, that might leave us with a lot of vacancies in Congress and America’s statehouses.
He points to Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) who is leading the Democrats' campaign for a ban on high capacity magazines.  She violates a famous aphorism attributed to nineteenth century journalist Artemus Ward: "It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us into trouble. It's the things we know that ain't so."  DeGette apparently thinks that high capacity magazines are one-time use devices; banning new production and sales will make them quickly disappear.

Instapundit also links to this column by Professor Michael S. Greve of George Mason University about "Not-So-Expert Government":
For starters, it’s obvious that the experts don’t have a clue. The Fed’s pronouncements anno 2007, to the effect that everything was firmly in hand, are the stuff of legend, and its models have proven lamentably inaccurate in predicting even short-term economic performance. As for the experts’ climate change models about the planet’s behavior a century hence, right.

Even so, expert government proceeds on an implied premise of omniscience. The intergovernmental committee that decides, under and pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, whether the One-Eyed Toad shall live or die is called, only semi-ironically, the “God Squad.” (That would have been a terrific title for IPAB, but it’s already taken.) The squad’s reasoned decision-making is one step up from shooting dice. We can live with that, even if the toad cannot. However, expert ignorance increases with the scale, scope, and complexity of the experts’ mandate; and when we’re taking about the U.S. economy or the planet, that’s biggish. Still, we’re supposed to believe that there’s nothing wrong with the attempt to predict and manage these systems—nothing, that is, that can’t be fixed by an econometrician in the Fed’s basement or perhaps the Mann Brothers’ Earth Band (Michael with the hockey stick and Manfred with the keyboards).
My favorite is Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA), worried that deploying too many sailors to Guam for a building project will cause the island to capsize:


The admiral having to put up with this shows enormous restraint in not yelling, "Congressman, you are too stupid to sit in Congress.  You are too stupid to sit on a city council.  You are perhaps smart enough to manage a McDonald's, but only until a person of normal intelligence applies for the job."

The fact is that most people like to look up to their elected officials, but not so much as to strain their necks. There are some pretty smart people who get elected, but they are definitely the exceptions.

UPDATE: The Wikipedia article on Hank Johnson indicates that he was having health problems caused by Hepatitis C:
In February 2010, Johnson successfully completed an experimental treatment for Hepatitis C, which resulted in restored mental acuity, weight gain and increased energy.
 That's the month before the remarks above about Guam capsizing.  I shudder to think what might have happened if these hearings had happened a few months earlier.