The Big Think

December 31, 2014


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 3:15 pm

When The FISA Court Rejects A Surveillance Request, The FBI Just Issues A National Security Letter Instead

…the FBI had a neat way to get around a rare FISA Court rejection: just issue an NSL and ignore the First Amendment concerns.

Apparently, to some, whatever weak “oversight” there is from the FISA Court really just means “find another door in to violate the same Constitutional issues.”

Sheesh, this is reprehensible.

And He Built a Crooked House

Filed under: Maker,Woodworking — jasony @ 12:41 pm

Storybook Houses Fantastic pics of some really amazing houses. As the article says, it’s so much harder to build “wonky” than straight-and-true.

A Case of the Vapors

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:41 am

2014: The Year of the Fainting Couch:

“2014 was the year, thanks to the hack of Sony Pictures in retaliation for the spoof movie ‘The Interview,’ that even the North Koreans made the ‘do not offend’ list.

It was the year that a scientist made an abject apology for wearing a shirt that offended feminists in a TV broadcast; that Amazon Prime put a label warning of racist content on ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoons; and that various news outlets refused to say the name of the NFL team from Washington on grounds that even uttering it made them complicit in rank offensiveness.

It was a year when the nation’s colleges and law schools cemented their reputations as places where easily offended children go for a few years to become slightly older easily offended children.

Colleges canceled appearances by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Condi Rice (who technically pulled out of her scheduled Rutgers commencement) and George Will for fear students might hear something they disagree with from a figure they object to.

The University of California at Irvine offered grief counseling (‘in a constructive space’) for students upset at the grand-jury decision in the Ferguson case, and Occidental College brought in a religious counselor to comfort students who had volunteered for losing Democratic Senate campaigns.

An open letter from law students at Harvard upset at the nonindictments in the Ferguson and Eric Garner cases captured the spirit of the year, and deserves an honored place in the history of the rhetoric of plaint.”

We have a cultural problem when the exquisitely overly-sensitive minority gets to define and enforce acceptable discourse. We’re a long way from “I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

December 30, 2014


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:40 pm

Instapundit: “Obama Adviser Jonathan Gruber In 2009: Obamacare Will NOT Be Affordable.

‘Gruber said that Obamacare had no cost controls in it and would not be affordable in an October 2009 policy brief, presented here exclusively by TheDC. At the time, Gruber had already personally counseled Obama in the Oval Office and served on Obama’s presidential transition team. Obama, meanwhile, told the American people that their premiums would go down dramatically…

“The problem is it starts to go hand in hand with the mandate; you can’t mandate insurance that’s not affordable. This is going to be a major issue,” Gruber admitted in an October 2, 2009 lecture, the transcript of which comprised the policy brief.

“So what’s different this time? Why are we closer than we’ve ever been before? Because there are no cost controls in these proposals. Because this bill’s about coverage. Which is good! Why should we hold 48 million uninsured people hostage to the fact that we don’t yet know how to control costs in a politically acceptable way? Let’s get the people covered and then let’s do cost control.”

Gruber also said that the only way to control costs is to effectively deny treatment…

…”And despite the president’s pitches to the contrary, Obama also knew that his health care bill was unlikely to control costs”, Gruber said.’”

December 24, 2014

World’s Smallest Violin

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 9:07 am

Why String Theory Still Offers Hope We Can Unify Physics: “”

December 22, 2014

Sunlight is the best sanitizer

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:46 pm

IRS Targeted ‘Icky’ Conservative Groups: “Top IRS officials specifically targeted tea party groups and misled the public about its secret political targeting program led by ex-official Lois Lerner, according to a bombshell new congressional report.

The Daily Caller has obtained an advance copy of a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report set to be released Tuesday morning that definitively proves malicious intent by the IRS to improperly block conservative groups”

First we were told it didn’t happen.
Then we were told it was “rogue” agents.
Then we were assured there wasn’t a “smidgen” of corruption.
Then key people took the 5th.
Now the truth is starting to come out.

I predict the next phase will be the “move the goalposts and redefine illegal” phase.

December 16, 2014

JAG 17, JAG02

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 10:24 pm

I really need that iPhone, you know?

The last two nights I’ve gone to TechShop without a definite plan but left with two waterjet cut frame parts (JAG17 and JAG02… the “JAG” stands for the blueprint part number “James A Greene” designed).

I was messing around getting the part .dwg files exported from the completed Inventor model and then threw them into FlowPath (the waterjet pathing software). Well, I figured, I might as well take the parts back and run a (free) dryrun to see if this worked. Sure enough, they did! The part ran without a problem.

So I was standing logged in to the FlowJet with my 1/4″ plate of aluminum in my truck and I thought oh, what the heck. I got the plate, fastened it down, held my breath, and hit CUT. A few minutes late a perfectly WaterJet cut part emerged from the metal! The first one I cut last night was really easy– basically a rectangle with eight holes cut. Tonight’s part was the much more difficult “Ring 2” from R2’s body. It has 28 holes and a very distinctive “C” shape. I took calipers to it afterwards and confirmed that the cut is perfect! So far so good.

So in the last week I’ve milled up 24 rods (various lengths, 3/4″ diameter) and 4 very precise bars. I still have to tap and drill all these parts, which terrifies me since I’ll be remaking them if I break a tap. But onward we go!

I have 2 more main body rings to cut on the WaterJet and then two much thicker side pieces. Then I’ll be spending a lot of time at the mill edgefinding, drilling, tapping, etc. Tonight I got a master class from a member on lathe tool selection. There’s just so much to know. Cool tidbit: the guy I learned from helped Steve Jobs design the first iPod. He was also on the team that made the Starship Enterprise fly under early CNC control for the first Star Trek movies. An electronics genius. It’s amazing what kind of resources and people are at TechShop.

I’m building props for Sing the next few days so, ironically, I won’t be going in to to TechShop. Nope, I’ll be out in the cold and rain trying to stay dry. Cool stuff building, though. Next week I’ll be back at T.S. doing some more W.J. cutting.

Oh, and the dome (one of the few pieces I bought) should be arriving soon. Hooray!

Edward Snowden: The Untold Story

Filed under: Politics,Technology — jasony @ 1:05 pm

Absolutely worth the read:

Edward Snowden: The Untold Story | WIRED: “Snowden and his colleagues had discussed the routine deception around the breadth of the NSA’s spying many times, so it wasn’t surprising to him when they had little reaction to Clapper’s testimony. ‘It was more of just acceptance,’ he says, calling it ‘the banality of evil’—a reference to Hannah Arendt’s study of bureaucrats in Nazi Germany.

‘It’s like the boiling frog,’ Snowden tells me. ‘You get exposed to a little bit of evil, a little bit of rule-breaking, a little bit of dishonesty, a little bit of deceptiveness, a little bit of disservice to the public interest, and you can brush it off, you can come to justify it. But if you do that, it creates a slippery slope that just increases over time, and by the time you’ve been in 15 years, 20 years, 25 years, you’ve seen it all and it doesn’t shock you. And so you see it as normal. And that’s the problem, that’s what the Clapper event was all about. He saw deceiving the American people as what he does, as his job, as something completely ordinary. And he was right that he wouldn’t be punished for it, because he was revealed as having lied under oath and he didn’t even get a slap on the wrist for it. It says a lot about the system and a lot about our leaders.’ Snowden decided it was time to hop out of the water before he too was boiled alive.”

The rest of this excellent interview details even more appalling behavior that the secret organizations commit.

People say Snowden betrayed his oath to his country. I believe it’s more like he betrayed his oath to the government, and the government is the one that betrayed the country. Betraying his oath to a betrayer is simply proof that he’s back on the right side.

I’m pretty much coming to the conclusion that I’m glad he did what he did.

December 15, 2014

Christmas Present Idea

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 8:17 am

December 14, 2014

Tool Time!

Filed under: Business,Woodworking — jasony @ 8:22 am

Ha ha! I get to buy a new tool. 🙂 A drawknife. I need it for a cool prop build and nothing else will do the job.

I love it when that happens.


December 13, 2014

Lathe Work

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 1:26 am

Finally confronted the great big Machine. The King of Tools: the machine shop lathe. I took the class last night and then went back in there tonight, broke out my notes, and went over that sucker one crazy, unmarked lever at a time. After spending almost five hours on it I managed to lathe out ten simple parts for R2 (the vertical support beams). It took me almost two hours to figure out the various chucks, stops, tool rests, etc. But once I got everything set up and zeroed out to 0.0000 inches I was able to reproduce parts that were spot on accurate with each other. Took a bit of doing (and a whole lot of careful moving), but I did it! It feels great to have tackled that one. And you know, it’s not really that hard after all. Just don’t turn the wrong handle the wrong direction at the wrong time and you won’t destroy the machine. 🙂

Easy, huh?


December 11, 2014

Time Trap

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Movies — jasony @ 2:12 pm

Hilarious and really well done.

Unexpected Gifts

Filed under: Friends,Maker — jasony @ 11:45 am

It’s Christmas season! Which means getting to know the UPS driver and mailman really well. The other day the doorbell rang and I went down to see a large flat box perched next to the front door. Huh… don’t think I was expecting anything. It turns out it was a gift from an artist friend of ours along with this note:

Jason and Erin,

Just a small token to say “Merry Christmas!” and let let you know that, in spite of all the miles between us, we truly appreciate your friendship and think of you both often….

…I trust that it will still fin a place in your home and, just maybe, spark some pleasant memories of the Emerald Isle.

Tim is a fine guy, a wonderful, patient artist, a supportive husband, and one of those friends that you never get to spend as much time with as you’d like (in our case, we’ve spent maybe two hours total with him and his wife Katherine but hit it off right away. Just wish they didn’t live in Nashville). His out-of-the-blue gift just completely floored us. We’re looking forward to hanging it above our front door to catch the morning light.

Thanks, Tim.

Please read on to see the glass as well as to get insight into the (40 hour long!) creation process.

I stumbled across the original design hanging on a coworker’s wall and filed it away to work on someday when I wanted to try my hand at a Celtic knot project. After working on several stylistically similar pieces this year, I needed a creative palate cleanser, so “someday” came sooner than expected.


Getting started was as simple as printing off the picture, laying it on my light table and tracing the design onto the back of the sheet with a sharpie. (Sharpies are indispensable for stained glass. I honestly don’t know how stained glass artisans worked before they were invented!) There were a few places where I had to divide a single section into two pieces, but I don’t think they interrupted the flow of the knot too badly.

Doing the rough cuts proceeded more quickly than you’d expect. Even more than usual, this was a trade-off between making broad cuts to leave myself plenty of margin for error vs. making close cuts to minimize how much grinding I’d have to do later on. Still, coaxing the basic shapes out of sheets of glass is one of my favorite parts of the process. It’s also when the unavoidable, “Oh my, what have I gotten myself into?” moment hits.


And now begins the long, precise work of grinding and foiling. For this project I used the narrowest copper foil tape so that I’d end up with finer solder lines. (A unique challenge in and of itself.) As I think I mentioned to Jason, the intricacy of this design translated to each piece taking several times as much grinding time as an average project. Instead of doing a rough pass and then 1 or 2 shaping grinds, I’d say I went back to the grinder an average of 8-12 times for each piece. Rinse. Repeat. (About 110 times.) Well worth it, though, as I was pretty pleased with how everything came together.


I must admit that I had help with this project. In this case, it was a subtle reminder that I share my workshop with far more talented craftsman.


This is where an animated GIF would come in handy to show the progression as a time-lapse [done!]. Each new section represents an average of 4-6 hours of work. I took a few extra days off over the Thanksgiving break and immersed myself in the project, which provided a much needed mental break. Though after about the fourth day the tips of most of my fingers were badly bruised from pressing the glass into the grinder. That was a new and unique experience.


And here’s where I have to apologize for my impatience. Once I’ve completed the grinding and foiling, I always feel like I’m in the home stretch and invariably dive right into adding the soldering, frame, hangers and patina. It’s only after everything is done that I realize that I should have been taking more pictures. Still, you get the idea. Here’s the finished project next to the original design:

Anyway, that’s it. Thanks for letting me share a bit of a glimpse behind the scenes of making your piece.

UPDATE: Sorry Tim! I forgot to include a pic of the finished piece.

Finished Glass2.jpg

December 10, 2014


Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 11:38 pm

More R2 progress! I needed a mental break today so I spent 8 hours standing at a manual milling machine. Some break, huh?

But first I dropped by Metals4You here in Austin and picked up about 9 feet of 3/4″ aluminum rod (6061). Alas, I’m about 12″ short. So unless I want to go spend another $20 (not a terrible amount), I’ll be looking for a remaindered piece but if I don’t find it I’ll make do.

I started off by cutting the rod in TechShop’s metalworker, a huge press that’ll cut through 3/8″ steel. Aluminum plate is not problem. I cut a few pieces from some bar stock then tried to cut the 3/4″ rod. It cut without a problem but mangled the end pretty badly. So I ended up cutting 15 pieces on the metal band saw. Awesome machine that made short work of it.

One of the benefits to being a TechShop member is that I can just walk in and use some pretty great machinery. I absolutely couldn’t do an aluminum R2 without being a member there. A wood frame wouldn’t be a problem in my own shop, but if yer gonna build a droid, ya gotta go aluminum.

Once all the pieces were cut I went off to the machine room and spent the next 8 hours slowly milling the pieces to exact (exact!) length– down to the thousandth of an inch. Metal is a cool to work in but, wow, do you have a different level of accuracy. I could have made these parts in wood in about an hour, and 1/16th accuracy would have been fine. But in metal, if you’re going to have two threaded holes lined up, you have to get the accuracy smack on. I’m learning a lot.

One of my good TechShop friends, Tim, saw me struggling with the crummy house bits. They’re used by everybody, abused, nicked, damaged, and not very good quality to begin with. About an hour later he walked in and surprised me with $160 in brand spanking new solid carbide bits. An amazing gesture. He basically said “they’re in my locker… use them like they’re yours”. Such a nice thing. And they were incredible to use. Like a hot knife through butter with a beautiful. near-mirror finish. I got 8 rods machined to length at 7.575″ long…. exactly.

I’m going to retake the lathe class tomorrow so I can start thinking about the tapping and drilling procedures for some of these parts. That scares me quite a bit since if I screw up there I’m basically back to square one remaking the parts. Hopefully I won’t break a tap off in a hole or drill in the wrong place. Pressure!

I’m already thinking ahead to the next phase of the frame. Won’t surprise you at all to know that I’ve decided to overcomplicate it. But it’ll add even more of a coolness factor. Stay tuned.

Pics should be coming along with these posts as soon as we get the camera/phone situation worked out.

Fault Lines

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:31 am

Fault Lines:

“In each of these stories, two deep and consequential fault lines are evident. These fault lines aren’t about the usual left-right or elite-populist divides. They’re not solely about race or gender. They’re more fundamental — and more dangerous to the nation.

First, the once-honored and vital role of objective journalism in our society is at a crisis point. Members of the media know how reckless, sloppy, and partisan many in their field have become, but like a gambler going all-in, they keep tempting Americans to call their bluff.

The media wonders why a growing number of Americans no longer trust what they see in the news, but it’s not a mystery. The media’s customers have been burned over and over by bias, and by reporters with an agenda or an axe to grind. They’ve searched for news and information, only to be forced to piece it together on their own when the Official Media decides they’re going to ignore a story. Importantly, they’re exhausted by the constant lectures (disguised as news stories) that they’re ignorant racists, fatties, and hayseeds living in Free Market Jesus Paradise and killing the planet with their SUVs and their Walmart fashion sense.

Many reporters and editors loathe how aware people have become of the journalistic process…

…The left’s desire for separate legal and social standards is a mortal danger to this country. The moment we have two standards is the moment we’ve abandoned the constitutional and moral grounding of this country. So far, conservatives have largely just grunted, “no” and hoped the madness will pass. It seems unlikely, and the reason traces back to the media’s problem: the political fantasy of the Left is being granted legitimacy by a media unwilling to stop picking sides and playing favorites.

The fault lines in the Republic are real. On one side, the social justice warriors are screaming for the end of a nation where one standard applies to all. On the other, it seems their cheerleaders and enablers are willing to play along until the earthquake comes.”

I’ll say it again- fix the media and you fix the country.

Broken Badges

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:13 am

Applying ‘Broken Windows’ to the Police: “‘If tolerating broken windows leads to more broken windows and escalating crime,’ he asks, ‘what impact does tolerating police misconduct have?’ “

Interesting perspective. You can certainly argue that opposing this idea is tantamount to accepting the escalation of police misconduct. Good for the goose and all…

December 9, 2014

Worse than racism

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:55 pm

Worse than racism:

“The truly terrifying thing about Eric Garner’s death is that I don’t think the cops in that video hated anybody. They were just doing their job. And their job included strangling a man to death for having sold ‘loosies’ – untaxed cigarettes. Something he wasn’t doing when he was killed [!!]; he had just broken up a fight that the police came to investigate.

Garner had just broken up a fight. The police hassled him, based on his record as a (gasp!) vendor of untaxed cigarettes, and when he protested the force of law came down on him and snuffed him.

In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville wrote a book called Democracy In America that has been justly celebrated for its perception about the young American republic ever since. In it, he warned of the dangers of what he called ‘soft despotism’ – that ‘covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules’, all justified in soothing ways to achieve worthy objectives. Such as discouraging people from smoking by heavily taxing cigarettes.

Eric Garner died in a New York minute because ‘soft despotism’ turned hard enough to kill him in cold blood. There was no anger there, no hate; the police simply failed to grasp the moral disproportion between the ‘crimes’ he wasn’t even committing at the time and their use of force. And an investigating grand jury did no better.

Violent racists, as evil as they are, generally understand on some level that they’re doing wrong. That understanding is written all over the excuses they make. These cops didn’t need an excuse. They were doing their job. They were enforcing the law. The casual, dispassionate, machinelike brutality with which Garner was strangled reveals a moral vacuum more frightening than mere racism could ever be.”


Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 6:24 pm

aluminum – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

“Aluminum is a chemical element in the boron group with symbol Al and atomic number 13. It is a silvery white, soft, ductile metal. aluminum is the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon), and the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust. It makes up about 8% by weight of the Earth’s solid surface. aluminum metal is so chemically reactive that native specimens are rare and limited to extreme reducing environments. Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals.[5] The chief ore of aluminum is bauxite.
aluminum is remarkable for the metal’s low density and for its ability to resist corrosion due to the phenomenon of passivation. Structural components made from aluminum and its alloys are vital to the aerospace industry and are important in other areas of transportation and structural materials. The most useful compounds of aluminum, at least on a weight basis, are the oxides and sulfates.”

It is also the structural material in R2’s frame. I’m getting to know this metal very well. Currently I’m researching the different kinds of milling tools, bits, taps, and fly cutters to make R2’s frame pieces. There’s so much to know! I’ve got an 800 page SparkTech catalog that’s getting pretty dog-eared. It’s full of all kinds of arcana on tools, mills, bits, etc. Ninety percent of the catalog is stuff that I don’t even recognize and can barely pronounce. As Yoda might say, the learning curve is strong with this one.

Fortunately I don’t have to mill all that many parts, so I can get away with buying a cheap disposable cutter that’ll go dull after 50 parts. Since I’m only doing the milling from scratch on about 10 parts (the rest are waterjet and then touched up on the mills/lathes) I can get off with the cheap stuff.

Machining/milling/lathing is really cool, but it’s incredibly intimidating.


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 5:51 pm

Ten Stories NBC Nightly News Aired Instead of Covering Gruber Scandal:

“Below are ten stories that, unlike the Gruber videos, were deemed worthy of coverage by NBC Nightly News during the past month. With Gruber himself set to answer questions at a congressional hearing later today, NBC has a fresh opportunity tonight to fix the glaring omission of the past 30 days — the question is, will they once again pretend the Gruber story doesn’t exist?”

Don’t hold your breath. We have a very close family member who considers (him/her)self up-to-date because they “watch the news”. This individual had no idea who Jonathan Gruber was.

Fix the media and you fix the country.

I’m with Stupid

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:47 am

Hilarious, pointed, and on-target.

Jonathan Gruber to face hostile House panel, tea party ‘I’m with Stupid’ T-shirts – Washington Times:

“A tea party group said its members will greet Jonathan Gruber, the man at the center of Obamacare’s troubled public image, with T-shirts reading ‘I’m with Stupid’ when he shows up to defend himself Tuesday before what’s likely to be a hostile congressional panel…

The T-shirts, which were produced by Tea Party Patriots, are another symbol of how controversial Mr. Gruber has become as he prepares to face the House oversight committee.

‘With all that’s going on in the Capitol, we didn’t want Mr. Gruber’s curtain call to go unnoticed,’ said Jenny Beth Martin, Tea Party Patriots co-founder. ‘We commemorated his appearance, and in the spirit of the Season, we’d like to offer the Obamacare architect a dozen. He can use them as stocking stuffers for the economically unsophisticated.’”

Too bad we won’t see pics in the media.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress