The Big Think

November 26, 2014

Admission Against Interest

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:31 pm

Self Grubering:

“Barack Obama has spent the past several days insisting that his changes in enforcement of immigration law and regulation is entirely constitutional, since it doesn’t actually change or conflict with statute. It only took a heckler in a crowd last night to get Obama to brag that he ‘changed the law’ — a process which the supposed Constitutional law scholar would know is impossible without Congress:

‘Don’t just start yelling, young ladies,’ Obama said as multiple women stood up to demand that Obama stop deporting people.

‘I let you holler,’ he said as they continued shouting. ‘You’ve got to listen to me too.’

Obama said that the protesters were right about a lot of illegal immigrants getting deported but that he was acting to change it.

‘What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,’ Obama said.

Just to be clear, executive action — whether through formal EOs or other kinds of directives — cannot ‘change the law.’ They can only act as guidelines on how to act within the law. Any change to statute has to originate in Congress through passage of a bill, and then signed by the President to take effect. This, in fact, is exactly what Republicans have accused Obama of attempting — a change in statute by executive edict, a move that would be unconstitutional and illegitimate.

If he admitted it in public, and then confirmed his admission with further emphasis (thereby denying the “I was misinterpreted/I misspoke” defense, then I don’t see how anyone can insist that the President’s actions were legal.

If Bush had done this Progressives would have shred the sky and torn down the sun. Now?

The silence of his supporters is deafening.

November 25, 2014


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:54 am

I, Barack: Immigration Order a Sorry Day for America’s Republic | “The President’s rationale is ‘prosecutorial discretion,’ but he is stretching that legal concept beyond normal understanding. The executive branch does have discretion about whom to prosecute. But this typically extends to individual cases, or to setting priorities due to limited resources such as prosecuting cocaine but not marijuana use.

Mr. Obama claims he is using his discretion to focus on such high deportation priorities as criminals, but he is going much further and is issuing an order exempting from deportation entire classes of people—as many as five million. Justice’s OLC memo claims there is no such categorical exemption, and that immigration officials can still deport someone if they want to, but the memo offers no measures by which to make that ‘complex judgment.’ In practice it will almost never happen.”

A “line item veto” is a process by which the Chief Executive can selectively cross out specific provisions of a law before signing it, thereby passing a gutted or diminished version of what Congress intended. The 1998 Clinton v. City of New York Supreme Court case struck down this practice:

the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the line-item veto as granted in the Line Item Veto Act of 1996 violated the Presentment Clause of the United States Constitution because it impermissibly gave the President of the United States the power to unilaterally amend or repeal parts of statutes that had been duly passed by the United States Congress. The decision of the Court, in a six-to-three majority, was delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens.

One wonders just how the White House legal council maneuvered around this legal ruling. If it’s unconstitutional for a President to unilaterally amend or repeal parts of a statute via a line item veto, it’s reasonable to assume that the Court will find it similarly illegal to do so using executive orders. Otherwise (as has been commonly stated) there is effectively no limit to Executive powers, and Congress can go home.

November 24, 2014

You Spin Me Right Round

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 2:59 pm

Rockler bearing for R2 dome ordered! The bearing is basically a big heavy duty lazy susan. I won’t need the part until year 2 (Dome/Skin year), but this critical part just went on sale at Rockler for almost 1/2 price! Grabbed it while I could.

I’m going to have the most random assortment of parts lying around as I buy them not when I need them but as they go on sale. Hmm… maybe I should start a database of parts needed/obtained?

You Don’t Say?

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:39 am

Attkisson: Faith In Government Has Declined: “Having participated in politics and journalism from the front lines of our nation’s capital for many years, Sharyl Attkisson, the veteran former CBS correspondent, worries that when our government can get away with lies, a ‘climate of distrust in America’ spreads.

Speaking about the Benghazi terrorist attack that happened on Sept. 11, 2012, Attkisson discusses the pattern the Obama administration has followed. ‘The story that we got after [Benghazi] first happened is so drastically different in almost every aspect from the truth that came out in subsequent months, slowly over time.’

Attkisson believes, based on her experience from the inside of the mainstream media, that this was designed as ‘part of a strategy.’

‘The public hears bits of truth dribbled out in little bits where they couldn’t quite put it together in one outrageous ball,’ she said. ‘Had they known what had happened and what had gone wrong, it could have affected the election, and they really didn’t want that to happen.’…

…When mainstream journalists stop providing a critical check and balance on the White House — either due to ideology or pressure — the victim, according to Attkisson is ‘the public.’

‘They are getting a really skewed picture of what is happening in government and the news,’ she claims. ‘They are getting narrow slices of propaganda,’ she added, admitting that America is starting to resemble regimes who manage the news for their citizens.”

Fix the media and you fix the country.

November 22, 2014

You’ve Been Grubered!

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:32 am

If You Like Your Obamacare Health Plan, You Can Keep It, If HHS Doesn’t Pick a New One For You:

“Department of Health and Human Services announced that it is considering changing Obamacare’s auto-renewal rules so that, within the health law’s exchanges, instead of being automatically renewed into your current health plan, you’d be moved into the lowest cost plan from the same service tier.

From the attached fact sheet: 

Under current rules, consumers who do not take action during the openenrollment window are re-enrolled in the same plan they were in the previous year, even if that plan experienced significant premium increases. We are considering alternative options for re-enrollment, under which consumers who take no action might be defaulted into a lower cost plan rather than their current plan.”

It’s not just auto-reenrollment. It’s auto-reassignment, at least for those who pick that option. Basically, if you like your plan, but don’t go out of your way to intentionally re-enroll, the kind and wise folks at HHS or state health exchanges might just pick a new plan—perhaps with different doctors, clinics, cost structures, and benefit options—for you. And if you want to switch back? Good luck once open enrollment is closed. There’s always next year.

A hassle? Maybe. But have faith: They know what’s best.

At this point it’s clear the people Gruber was talking about were the folks who kept insisting that this whole house of cards would work. The smartest among them are slowly coming around. Unfortunately, most of them have taken to the hip new belief that the President can make laws on his own. Because BushReagan!

Let’s hope they get educated before too much damage is done.


Filed under: Politics,Quoth — jasony @ 7:42 am

“With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order — that’s just not the case.

“The problem is [interesting phrasing, that, btw], is that I’m the President of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”

“…essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that’s not an option.”

“[I]f, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws.

“…I never have a green light [to push the limits of executive power]. I’m bound by the Constitution; I’m bound by separation of powers. There are some things we can’t do.

“And what I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve. … It is not simply a matter of us just saying we’re going to violate the law. That’s not our tradition [correction: that’s not our law. Subtle difference there. Laws are iron, traditions are smoke]. The great thing about this country is we have this wonderful process of democracy, and sometimes it is messy, and sometimes it is hard, but ultimately, justice and truth win out.”

The “Constitutional Scholar” Barack Obama.

Update: Bonus quote from 2008!

“The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president of the United States of America.”

November 21, 2014

Blast from the Past

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:06 am

Howie Carr: :

“Pop quiz time. Who said the following?

Number one: ‘There’s no denying that many blacks share the same anxieties as many whites about the wave of illegal immigration flooding our Southern border — a sense that what’s happening now is fundamentally different from what has gone on before. Not all of these fears are irrational.’

Number two: ‘Taxpayers simply cannot continue to sustain new populations the size of San Diego or the state of Nevada every year.’

Number three: ‘If this huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefits to the economy … it also threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and put strains on an already over-burdened safety net.’

Number four: ‘Americans have sat freely around a bountiful dinner table. The table is becoming overcrowded. People are squeezing in and elbowing each other to get what they want. Unless changes are made, our dinner table eventually will collapse, and no one will have security and opportunity.’

Number five: ‘Native-born Americans suspect that it is they, and not the immigrant, who are being forced to adapt.’

The answers are: Barack Obama, numbers 1, 3 and 5. Harry Reid, 2 and 4.

But that was then (in Barack’s case 2006, in Reid’s 1994) and this is now. And these illegal aliens are willing to do the work that Americans will no longer do — namely, vote Democrat. Even in Oregon, voters on Nov. 4 approved a ballot question nixing drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens, 2-1.

So a new electorate must be imported. And damn the consequences, which are already disastrous, if you believe the Democrats’ own public statements.

It doesn’t matter. The Constitution doesn’t give Obama the right to unilaterally enact legislation he can’t get through Congress. It specifically forbids it. He’s said as much himself, publicly, more than 20 times.”

“The New York Times gleefully endorsed this calamity yesterday, with this caveat: “Details have not been announced, but it seems …”

I guess Obama will have to issue the executive order to see what’s in it. What could possibly go wrong — right, Nancy Pelosi?”


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:48 am

Instapundit: “‘The growing impression that politicians don’t play straight with their constituents is completely toxic, particularly to Democrats, who actually want to use government to improve people’s lives. It’s one thing to downplay unpalatable choices made in the law; it’s another to never disclose the consequences of legislation until it’s too late for anyone to react. Combine that with the moustache-twirling of a Jonathan Gruber, saying that the idiots should be happy for what they got, and you have basically every conservative stereotype about liberal elites confirmed.’”

I have a hard time mustering up any pity: they did it to themselves.

November 20, 2014

I Have Cool Friends

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 4:26 pm

Erin and I were watching Top Gear last night, which led to a YouTube special on the making of the Bugatti Veyron hypercar (a personal favorite of both of us). The special mentioned that the top speed was 250mph. They then said that the car could reach it in 17 seconds. SEVENTEEN.

What’s more, the unbelievably powerful braking system enabled the car to decelerate from top speed in TEN seconds. Holy g-forces, Batman.

So, I wondered how much space the car would cover if it went from zero to top speed and then immediately did a full force braking. Not having the math skills to answer this (musician, alas), I posed the question to Big Brained friend Matt (that’s “Dr. PHD in Physics/String Theory Matt to you, buster”) Robinson. He graciously answered my question, showing his work (at my request).

The math is great and easy to follow (and not as tough as I’d assumed). The answer to the question? Well, you’ll have to read it to see but, wow— that’s fast…

(linked below is a clickable PDF of his work because the blog won’t post his work with formatting):

Thanks, Matt!

Veyron Go Fast.pdf

November 18, 2014

Forseeable Consequences

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 8:27 am


“Perhaps most concerning about the $15 proposal is that some businesses anticipated going beyond an increase in prices or a reduction in staffing levels. More than 43 percent of respondents said it was ‘very likely’ they would limit future expansion in Seattle in response to the law. One in seven respondents is even ‘very likely’ to close a current location in the city limits.

Yes, it it always sounds good to give people more free stuff, but once again, everything has a price. I asked a group of sixth graders what they would do. It only took them a few minutes to determine that their only choices were to; fire some employees, raise prices, or go out of business. They also concluded that people won’t come to your store if you charge too much. If sixth graders grasp this, what is wrong with our politicians?

Seattle is the first city in the country to pass a $15 minimum wage. Survey results suggested it will be the first city to find out why it was such a bad idea.”

The policy was voted in unanimously and fully supported by the Socialist city council member Kshama Sawant. Remember what Margaret Thatcher said about Socialism?

Filing this under “education” in the hopes that, well, you know…

November 17, 2014

This Sounds like

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 11:46 am

This sounds like a trope from Science Fiction novels:

“However, social media is anything but unfettered. It can be leveraged to spread rumors, undercut the opposition or create a false sense of public pressure, computer analysts and public relations representatives say.

‘There have been smear campaigns since Adams and Jefferson in the early 1800s and we’re seeing the same thing here, with just a new set of tools,’ said Richard Levick, chairman and chief executive officer of Levick, a public relations and strategic communications firm in Washington.

‘Where do undecided voters, journalists go to get their information? Google. So controlling the search engine is hugely important. We need to know who is our audience, how do we reach them, how do we engage them, and then, how do we control the territory?’ he said.

Many digital public relations shops are deploying social media robots, or ‘socialbots,’ built by software programmers and deployed by political campaigns to block Twitter feeds, build support for otherwise unpopular opinions and create a flood of content for their own agendas that hopefully will end up in someone’s Facebook or Twitter feed and then be liked or reposted by a real individual.”

(Italics mine) Sheesh. Battling twitter-bots meant to shape public opinion? Don’t believe everything you read or see reposted on FB (on either side).

November 14, 2014

Rose Window Craftsmanship

Filed under: Audio,Business,Disclosure,Education,Music — jasony @ 1:56 pm

Okay, listen up, performers in all venues. Sing, Theater, public speaking. Anybody with an audience, really. This is a bit long but it communicates something I’ve always wanted to say. If you don’t have an “audience” then you can skip this. But in one way or another most of us do. I think this can help.

When I talk about the level of planning and execution that it takes to work at a really high level, this is the kind of thing I’m talking about. Take four minutes and watch this amazing performance (h/t Matt for the link). Pay attention to his execution, misdirection (watch what he wants you to watch, then rewind and watch what he _doesn’t_ want you to watch). Then keep reading.

This performance represents hours and hours and hours of patient, slow, methodical practice. Every movement is thought out and carefully crafted. What you’re seeing looks spontaneous and natural, but every twitch, gesture, and facial expression is being executed purely on muscle memory. He’s probably done this sequence of actions five thousand times. And no, that’s likely not an exaggeration.

THIS is the kind of thing I always have in mind while planning a show. You have to think on several levels. What levels? I’m glad you asked:

1. Emotional/Entertainment (highest level): what is your purpose? Not just moment-to-moment, but overall. What do you want to leave the audience with? A feeling of awe? Of sadness? Of quiet reflection? Of anger? Of joy? Each of these is a legitimate goal depending on your purpose. But you will never be able to communicate what you’re trying to say unless you _define_ what you’re trying to say. And saying “we want it to be good/awesome/amazing” isn’t enough. You have to define exactly where the target is or you’ll never know if you hit it. There’s a difference between the emotion you feel during the last scene of Schindler’s List (Liam Neeson standing by Schindler’s grave) and the final image of Monster’s Inc (“Kitty!”). But you can be sure that each of those moments was chosen as a goal. An end-state. And the emotion that you felt as an audience member was carefully crafted and manipulated within you so that when that moment came you were able to experience it clearly. “Manipulated” in this case isn’t a bad thing. There’s an implicit agreement among creators and audience members that this sort of manipulation is okay. I like getting emotional at movies. It’s okay if I’m in on it. Often it’s so easy to lose sight of your target because you get lost in the details. Keeping your goal in mind is always, always, always the #1 thing.

2. Structural: this is the second level of execution. What are the structural elements required to reach your emotional end-state goal? Why is doing that movement or gesture or motion better than that one? This kind of knowledge and understanding comes with experience. With seeing a lot of things that don’t work and then trying something else and something else and something else until you figure out what does and then putting that thing that does work in your bag of tools to use later. With enough time, your bag of tools gets big enough that you can start to see commonalities when presented with a problem to solve. Even better, you start to see connections between things that you never thought existed and can reach into your experience and solve a problem in a unique way. Your bag of tools will look different from mine and that’s okay. This is called personal style, and is a reflection of the particular experience we’ve each been through. However, the accumulation of these tools represents a common language that we all speak, even if we’re not aware of it. Being cognizant of the tools turns you from emotional consumer into experience creator. In our culture that’s a powerful place to be.

So the structural level supports the emotional/entertainment goals (everything supports the emotional/entertainment goals). Just doing the song/move/moment/whatever in a vacuum may be cool, but you have to attach it to an overall scaffolding of elements that builds to a goal in order for the moments to be meaningful. This, in my experience, is where most people lose sight of the bigger picture when putting together a project. They often think that just putting flashy stuff in will be enough. But you need the meatier elements to be present so that the entire thing has substance. In the case of my own work, placing the cool Sing move at a certain point can be neat and make the audience yell, but putting it in a specific spot for the right reason, with the right timing, can absolutely drive the moment home. Having an amazing opening stage image relate to a relevant and focussed closing stage image (even if it’s a “YEAH!” jazz-hands moment) shows craftsmanship and forethought. It looks polished and professional.

In whatever you do, always think about each structural element and how it contributes to the larger picture. Flying buttresses are an important innovation, but people travel to Notre Dame cathedral to see the gorgeous Rose window.

Yet the window could not exist without the supports.

3. Physical (lowest level): Finally there is the physical level. Also known as “ya gotta have the moves”. Once levels 1 and 2 are nailed down, level 3 thinking means doing like this guy in the video and practicing, practicing, practicing. Every movement and gesture. Polishing until they’re all perfect, lead naturally into each other, and contribute together to build a structure that supports the overall emotion. If you don’t execute this level then the whole thing can either look amateurish or come crashing down. So get this part right. Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong. And communicate this ethos to your participants. They need to know that the goal isn’t just good execution of the physical level, but good execution of the physical level in order to support the structural and emotional levels.

An audience’s time is one of the most precious things a performer can ask for. When 2000 people trust you with four hours of their time you become responsible for almost a year of irreplaceable human experience. Treat that sacrifice with planning, respect, humility, and (above all) practice and they’ll return your investment with attention and appreciation.

And somewhere, in all of that, everybody can be changed.


November 13, 2014

Double Action

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 2:29 pm

Trigger warning: This post disparages the proliferation of trigger warnings:

“On campuses across the country, hostility toward unpopular ideas has become so irrational that many students, and some faculty members, now openly oppose freedom of speech. The hypersensitive consider the mere discussion of the topic of censorship to be potentially traumatic. Those who try to protect academic freedom and the ability of the academy to discuss the world as it is are swimming against the current. In such an atmosphere, liberal-arts education can’t survive.”

When merely talking about the idea of censorship is censored due to the potential to “trigger” hypersensitive students, I think we’re entering some sort of academic end-phase.

Fool Me Once (well, not even then)

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:16 am

Ron Fournier, admitted Obamacare cheerleader:

[Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber] called you stupid. He admitted that the White House lied to you. Its officials lied to all of us—Republicans, Democrats, and independents; rich and poor; white and brown; men and women.

Liberals should be the angriest. Not only were they personally deceived, but the administration’s dishonest approach to health care reform has helped make Obamacare unpopular while undermining the public’s faith in an activist government. A double blow to progressives.

I’ve been making this point on social media for a couple of days now. When Gruber talks about “stupid” Americans who were fooled, by definition he is not talking about conservatives. Or independents who opposed Obamacare. We were never fooled. The “stupid” ones are those who believed in Obamacare — according to Jonathan Gruber, the man paid about $400,000 to design Obamacare.

So yes, liberals ought to be the angriest. Democrats ought to be enraged. They lost their majorities because of Obamacare. They ought to be calling out for Gruber to explain himself. Instead, they have either gone silent are they are defending him.

Which makes them stupid again, no? They’re defending someone who insulted them and whose deception cost them their power. They just don’t realize it.

Fournier isn’t defending the lies.

And so even I have to admit, as a supporter, that Obamacare was built and sold on a foundation of lies. No way around it, unless you’re willing to accept a political system that colors its lies—the reds, the whites, and the blues.

Those of us saying from the beginning that the numbers didn’t add up were not fooled, and are not in the “stupid” category now. But enough with the name calling already. It’s acknowledged that the ACA has been an expensive fiasco (our health insurance has gone up by 40% this year alone). Let’s stop defending the past and go back to the drawing board, bipartisanlike, and fix it for the future.

November 12, 2014

R2 – Parts is Parts

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 5:39 pm

Now that all the parts (the body anyway) are modeled in Inventor, I have made a list of each item in a database. I noted the thickness and type of material (.75 rod, .019 sheet, .25 plate) and organized them by material. Then I went down and gave each part a totally arbitrary difficulty based on how hard each was to make. The straight-up waterjetted parts are the easiest. The WJ parts with tapped holes are next. The WJ parts that have to have some milling are the next hardest, and the fully milled (no waterjet) parts are the hardest. These last will take the longest and there’s a much higher chance that I’ll mess something up since I don’t know how to machine. At all. I took the milling machine and lathe class about a year ago and have forgotten 99% of it. Time to take it again.

The next step is to create a SketchUp mockup of each part (just approximate– no holes) and organize them by size, then lay each virtual part out and see what kind of material purchase I’m looking at. Sheet metal isn’t too expensive, but I definitely want to optimize how the .25 plate parts are nested so I don’t have to buy too much aluminum. I figure the frame its going to cost me less than $200 (which is cheap… buying one already cut? Over twothousand dollars. Thank you TechShop membership). Still, I’d like to buy as little aluminum as possible.

Now that my normal work is done for the day, tonight’s job is to do the SketchUp files. I love SketchUp (it’s what I design the Sing props in). I’ve gotten really good at it. Still, I’d love to get me one of these.


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 12:31 pm

Obamacare’s Foundation of Lies –

“A lie is apolitical, or at least it should be. If there is one thing that unites clear-headed Americans, it’s a belief that our leaders must be transparent and honest.

And yet, there seem to be two types of lies in our political discourse: Those that hurt ‘my party’ and ‘my policies’; and those that don’t. We condemn the former and forgive the latter—cheapening the bond of trust that enables a society to progress….

…”It’s hard to know what might have happened if the truth had won the day,” writes Post columnist Kathleen Parker. “But we do know that truth squandered is trust lost.”

And so even I have to admit, as a supporter, that Obamacare was built and sold on a foundation of lies. No way around it, unless you’re willing to accept a political system that colors its lies—the reds, the whites, and the blues.”

Give the people the truth, straight-up, and let us decide. Saying “we have to sign it to find out what’s in it” is the most irresponsible form of “leadership”.

And silence in the face of these sorts of revelations is tantamount to support.

UPDATE: And a third video has arisen. Jonathan Gruber, speaking in 2012 about the proposed tax on Cadillac plans:

“It’s a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter,” Gruber said to the University of Rhode Island.

He was speaking about the Cadillac tax and how it came to be when the “second hero arose” in John Kerry, who said “we’re gonna tax those evil insurance companies.”

By doing so, the general public mistook the removal of a tax break, and thought they were getting a tax increase.

“You just can’t get through, it’s just politically impossible,” Gruber continued in his speech.
The purpose of the Cadillac tax, Gruber claims, was to force the “overinsured” people to cut back from their benefits and, in doing so, save about $250 billion.

Again: if you support this, fine. If you oppose this, fine. But (and here’s my point): don’t lie to us to get it through. Especially if you admit later that telling the American voter the truth would have prevented it from passing. I honestly do not see how even supporters of the ACA/Obamacare could be comfortable with this sort of precedent being set. Is it ends-justify-the-means thinking, or shortsightedness? That they think this kind of political obfuscation won’t possibly come back to bite them in the backside when they’re in the minority?

Those of us who tend to see things farther ahead are very uncomfortable about the precedents being set right now. And ultimately, that is why I keep going on and on about this. Not the ACA in particular (bad though that has turned out to be), but the growing habit of a government “of the people” is increasingly giving way to technocrats who do things behind our back and without out understanding. This. Is. Not. Good.

November 11, 2014


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:34 pm

“IF IN DOUBT…TAKE IT!” Behind Closed Doors, Government Officials Make Shocking Comments About Civil Forfeiture:

“‘Just think what you could do as the legal department. We could be czars. We could own the city. We could be in the real estate business. We could become Houston, Texas, no zoning. Whatever, who knows. But it’s amazing that is going on.’”

The percentage of these cases that are actually crime related is shrinking versus the percentage that are against normal, helpless citizens with no recourse. These people should be in jail, not hiding behind a badge or law degree. It’s despicable.

Bonus quote:

Dick Morris: But if the jury finds that there was [no drug dealing], and finds that the person is innocent, and you forfeited the house, you don’t give it back. You keep the money.

Beth Grossman: Well, first of all, people are not found innocent, they are found not guilty, because the common law cannot achieve—

Dick Morris: That is hysterical. You’re saying that it’s okay to seize the house because they’re found not guilty? Rather than innocent? Are you really saying that?

November 10, 2014

The R2 Project

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 11:54 pm

Starting a new category for a modest little project. Actually, it’s not so modest. In fact, it kind of scares me to death.

Being a TechShop member and having access to all the amazing tools (as well as the brain trust represented by the membership there), I’ve decided to very definitely bite off more than I can chew and establish a multi-year project. You can probably tell by the title what it is. Yes, I’m going to join the ranks of the supernerds and attempt what is commonly referred to as “the Everest of Fandom”. Building a full-scale, movie accurate (down to .001″), fully electronic, R/C controlled R2D2. There aren’t many fan-made ones in existence, and some of them have actually found their way into the upcoming J.J. Abrahams sequels.

Artoo will look, and sound, exactly like the ones in the movies. Moreover, I’ve decided to go the full-monty and make it out of milled and machined aluminum. No (or very little) wood or plastic (except where needed). I’ll attempt to purchase as few parts as I can, instead opting to use the project as an opportunity to learn machining and metalworking (not to mention electronics and programming). I’ll document as much of the project here as I can. So strap in for a rather interesting, frustrating, and long-term ride!

How long? Well, I’ve divided the project up into five parts:

Step 1. The Body:

this includes the frame and support structure for the main ‘trash can’ center body. I’ll need to learn industrial design software (Inventor: learning in progress!) as well as metal lathe and mill, CNC mill, and WaterJet (which, since I teach this last one at TechShop, isn’t a problem). Estimated completion time (ECT): 1 year.

Step 2. Dome and Skin:

the, er, dome and skin. I’ll be purchasing the dome since the shape is so difficult to make, and impossible to make out of aluminum unless you have access to industrial hydro-forming machinery and four-access high-powered aluminum CNC lasers (alas, I don’t). The skin will also probably be outsourced since getting the curve right is next to impossible without special tools. I could fabricate it on the waterjet (an expensive risk), but if I messed up the calculations on the rolling procedure (to get it to fit the 18″ diameter body), I’d spend more than just buying the skin outright. Or I could cut it from styrene, but the skin takes a beating. Aluminum it is. So this’ll probably be bought, too. But never fear! Just because you buy it doesn’t mean there’s no work involved. Oh, no. There’s a ton of stuff to do to get the dome and skin working, but it’s all inside (Pitman motors, spring brackets, countersunk tapped holes, etc). Estimated completion time for step 2: 6 months to 1 year.

Step 3: Legs, ankles, feet:

Again, as much out of aluminum as possible, though doing some of the support structures buried inside from wood is an easier and lighter prospect than pure aluminum. Cheaper, too. But that’s T.B.D. later on. ECT: 1 year

Step 4: Body details. AKA “greeblies”:

They’re the dozens of little details that hang off the body, head, frame, legs, etc. Each one made from milled aluminum, metal, thermoplastic, etc. Requiring vacuum forming, metalwork, woodwork, etc. ECT: 1 year

Step 5: Electronics.

The big scary one. This is the “guts” of R2. Everything to make him live. Foot motors, dome motors, slip rings, arduinos, lights, sounds, speakers, amps, and servos, servos, servos. All connected via an electronic spaghetti bowl of wiring, circuit boards, and programming. Of which I have almost zero knowledge or experience. ECT: 1 year.

So there you have it. I’ve given myself a 4-5 year deadline. Call it Christmas of 2019. I mean, a guy’s gotta have a hobby, right?

In the meantime, here’s a photo-realistic ray trace render of R2’s frame in Inventor that I’ve spent the last six weeks cobbling together. It’s based on the famous “JAG Frame” and is screen accurate down to a thousandth of an inch. Rendered in polished 6061 Aluminum (It’ll probably be anodized blue for the final but Inventor doesn’t have an anodized metal setting). (more text below the pics):

Screen shot 2014-11-10 at 10.54.03 PM.jpg

Screen shot 2014-11-10 at 10.31.34 PM.jpg

Each individual metal part was modeled in Inventor (what a titanic, awesome, comlex program), virtual holes drilled and tapped, and then all the parts were put together in an assembly to check fit and alignment. There are something like 40 individually machined parts in the frame (lots of duplicates, thankfully). When I get time in March I’ll make an attack plan and work easiest-to-hardest. I still need to go back and double check all the holes since I don’t think I modeled the early ones correctly when I was just learning the program. I’ll run the final file through a flight check before I water jet cut the parts just to make sure they’re right. Oh, and I have to do a “hole test” on the waterjet to see what tolerances that tool is capable of. I suspect it’ll handle through holes just fine but I may be drilling and tapping the threaded holes in the traditional manner (mill, lathe, etc).

Still have to make a list that determines which parts I cut on the waterjet ($) and which ones are traditionally machined (free but I have zero experience with that…. yet). Doing it myself will take much longer but I figure I can get the frame done for a few hundred dollars.

Really excited — and much more than a little intimidated– by this project.

Why do it? If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand. 🙂 Fortunately, 100% of the people I’ve told about it so far have said “COOL!” and can’t wait to see it. I’ve avoided telling other folks because they’d either say “why spend so much money?” or “that’s too hard” or some such depressing, short-sighted, and defeatest thing. If I’m going to actually finish this monster of a project I’ll need to surround myself with as much positivity as possible. So, please, if you think it’s a silly project, I humbly welcome you to keep it to yourself. If, however, you think it’s cool, drop me an encouraging line every so often! I’ll probably need it.

I’m greatly heartened, though, by Erin’s reaction. She saw the photo renders of the frame and heard me say “I must be crazy for trying this”. She immediately said “Oh! I can’t wait to talk to my very own R2! I had a little remote control toy growing up I used to chase Sandy [her dog] around with. It was fun!”. So if you really need an answer, that’s a big part of it. I have an awesome wife.

Stay tuned.

In Their Own Words

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:17 am

Obamacare/ACA architect Jonathan Gruber:

“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure that CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes the bill dies…if you had a law that said that healthy people would pay in and sick people would get money it would not have passed. Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage and basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for getting the thing to pass…

I wish we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

“My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

— Barack Obama

November 7, 2014

Mother Wins Case to Kill Her Disabled Daughter

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 11:17 pm

Mother Wins Case to Kill Her Disabled Daughter:

“We don’t treat dogs this way. We don’t execute murderers in such a cruel manner. If a serial killer on death row was executed by forcing them to undergo starvation and dehydration, there would be widespread outrage. But because this girl, a child, is severely disabled, it’s considered acceptable. Putting a bullet in her head would have been kinder, because it at least would have been immediate. But then we can’t tap dance around the fact that what this mother did is murder.

Wise assumes, as many people do, that a person wouldn’t want to live in such a way. But no one knows how her daughter felt about her quality of life and whether or not she wanted to live. No one knows how her daughter felt in those 14 days that she was being starved and dehydrated. And no one cares. Nancy Fitzmaurice was disabled and could not speak, so she was brutally, cruelly murdered, with the permission of her government. And notice that the suffering Wise spoke of repeatedly was her own, not her daughter’s. She couldn’t bear seeing her daughter like that. She was going through ‘torture’ watching her daughter in pain. So she petitioned the court to get permission to force her daughter to die a slow, painful death instead of seeing palliative care.

It’s become appropriate in the United Kingdom to kill a person now because it’s too much of a hassle to keep them alive. It’s legal for parents to murder their children because they’re disabled, because they can’t speak for themselves, because the parent has decided that their lives are not worth living anymore. And we call it death with dignity…

The judge praised Wise for her “love and devotion” towards her daughter… which was shown by her fight to kill Nancy. The judge ruled that she had no quality of life anymore, and therefore, she should be killed by refusing to give her any food or water until she died. It took her 14 days to die. Wise claimed that she wanted to end her daughter’s suffering and give her death with dignity, but she chose to do that by making her daughter suffer a slow, agonizing, painful death. How does that make any sense?”

If you ever dare argue with me that the “slippery slope” is merely a weak logical fallacy I will call you a liar to your damn face.

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