The Big Think

June 30, 2015

Nonprofits and Civil Society

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 4:42 pm

Nonprofits and Civil Society: “Yes, Churches that Oppose Gay Marriage Should Still Get Tax Breaks”

In a conversation the other day I suggested that it wouldn’t be too long before we started seeing the earnest call to remove churches’ tax exempt status. Just a few days later, it has begun. This article proves the unmanageability of such a suggestion.

June 29, 2015

Trust Us

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:11 pm

US Caves to Iran, Drops Key Demand to Inspect Nuclear Sites: “…the US has agreed to Iran’s demand to drop inspections of nuclear sites from any final deal over its nuclear program. The goal of the talks involving Iran and the US, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia is a deal that would limit Tehran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief.

According to the New York Times, Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word on all public matters in Iran, demanded that most sanctions be lifted before Tehran has dismantled part of its nuclear infrastructure and before international inspectors verify that the country is beginning to meet its commitments.

He also ruled out any freeze on Iran’s sensitive nuclear enrichment for as long as a decade, and he repeated his refusal to allow inspections of Iranian military sites.

Reports have also surfaced that US President Barack Obama has sent a private letter to Iran’s leadership. Its contents have yet to be disclosed.”

The entire civilized world is screaming at the top of its’ lungs to this administration: “YOU’RE BEING PLAYED! DON’T BE FOOLS!” Yet somehow, somehow, they don’t see it. Or don’t want to. This will end badly.

Sow the Wind

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 3:24 pm

Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country: “we have to accept that we really are living in a culturally post-Christian nation. The fundamental norms Christians have long been able to depend on no longer exist. To be frank, the court majority may impose on the rest of the nation a view widely shared by elites, but it is also a view shared by a majority of Americans. There will be no widespread popular resistance to Obergefell. This is the new normal.

For another, LGBT activists and their fellow travelers really will be coming after social conservatives. The Supreme Court has now, in constitutional doctrine, said that homosexuality is equivalent to race. The next goal of activists will be a long-term campaign to remove tax-exempt status from dissenting religious institutions. The more immediate goal will be the shunning and persecution of dissenters within civil society. After today, all religious conservatives are Brendan Eich, the former CEO of Mozilla who was chased out of that company for supporting California’s Proposition 8 [a legal position, remember, that was supported by a majority of Californians and only overturned by judicial decree].

Third, the Court majority wrote that gays and lesbians do not want to change the institution of marriage, but rather want to benefit from it. This is hard to believe, given more recent writing from gay activists like Dan Savage expressing a desire to loosen the strictures of monogamy in all marriages. Besides, if marriage can be redefined according to what we desire — that is, if there is no essential nature to marriage, or to gender — then there are no boundaries on marriage. Marriage inevitably loses its power.

In that sense, social and religious conservatives must recognize that the Obergefell decision did not come from nowhere. It is the logical result of the Sexual Revolution, which valorized erotic liberty. It has been widely and correctly observed that heterosexuals began to devalue marriage long before same-sex marriage became an issue. The individualism at the heart of contemporary American culture is at the core of Obergefell — and at the core of modern American life.

This is profoundly incompatible with orthodox Christianity. But this is the world we live in today.”

To the “free to be, you and me” Boomer generation, this is the result of 1960’s let-your-freak-flag-fly no-penalty thinking. Note that this is not the end result. It’s simply a stop along the journey. Where does this train lead? One thing you can be absolutely certain of: it won’t stop at your own personal definition of enough. Sooner or later society will speed past what you personally consider to be ‘far enough’ and go rocketing off into the darkness. When people say “oh! but now things are bad!”, please remember those of us that stressed rule of law and strict reading of legal language as opposed to the dangerous “intentional interpretation” that we’ve gotten lately. Laws must be interpreted according to the actual language (“lawyer speak” that, for all its obtuseness, has evolved specifically to make things clear and incontrovertible). Once judges begin interpreting and enforcing laws based not on the words but on the perceived intent of the writers, then we enter into a very dangerous area where what IS can be manufactured easily from what we WANT, not from what is clearly written (see: King v. Burwell).

From this article:

“The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent,” Roberts writes in his dissent. “Just who do we think we are?”

However, the chief justice also seemed to recognize that this was a landmark decision, which would likely be viewed positively in the future.

Writing that he has “no choice but to dissent,” Roberts made it clear that his decision was based in the “restrained conception of the judicial role,” rather than a personal view of the definition of marriage. As he writes:

Understand well what this dissent is about: It is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples. It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through their elected representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer…

…”Those who founded our country would not recognize the majority’s conception of the judicial role … They would never have imagined yielding that right on a question of social policy to unaccountable and unelected judges.”

Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration …

If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.

If you get what is to you a right result but obtain it using a terrible means, do not be surprised when that same means is used against you to further what you thought to be enough well past that point.

Wind. Whirlwind.

UPDATE: A prescient article from not too long ago.

June 25, 2015

What Once was Humor is Now Tragedy

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:59 am

Sadly, this was a punchline in 1947.


Why do we feel this is appropriate behavior now? Is it just because people want to see their side “win”, no matter what that means in the long run? Are we that short-sighted?

June 22, 2015

But I Was Told That We Solved This

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 3:37 pm

Wait Lists Grow as Many More Veterans Seek Care and Funding Falls Far Short – The New York Times: “One year after outrage about long waiting lists for health care shook the Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency is facing a new crisis: The number of veterans on waiting lists of one month or more is now 50 percent higher than it was during the height of last year’s problems, department officials say. The department is also facing a nearly $3 billion budget shortfall, which could affect care for many veterans.”

June 21, 2015

JB Fillets

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 11:24 pm

More Skirt work. I went to TechShop tonight and took a look at the skirt brackets. The JB Weld I set up a few nights ago had cured and looked pretty good. Well, it actually looked like warmed over cow manure (grey cow manure), but it was on the underside/inside of the skirt and will never be seen. As long as the brackets hold and the skirt surrounds keep their shape I’ll be good.

I squeezed a whole tube of JB Weld into a plate and mixed it up and then used a plastic spoon to shape it into fillets on the underside where the pieces met. The brackets I’d JB’d into place a few days ago were holding everything in place while the fresh adhesive filled in and supported the fillets. It was a HUGE mess on the inside but, again, nobody will see that.

So then came the clamping. When we tried to weld the pieces a few weeks ago (and subsequently burned a hole in two of the pieces), we very slightly misaligned the pieces right as the welding bead took. It’s not much (about 2mm), but it’s enough to make the whole skirt a little crooked. You can force it into flatness but it takes some pressure.

Before the JB started to set up I got some clamps and a board and flattened out the slight warping in the skirt. Just as I was tightening the last clamp — **PING!!!** — the bracket that I’d tried to braze with the Alumaloy cut loose. Complete failure.


So now I had fresh, wet JB Weld drying and a structural failure. Well, the nice thing about being backed into a corner is that there’s only one way to go. Onward! I did my best to clamp things down and align all the parts. The nice thing was that, with the failed joint, things tended to straighten out a little bit. Here’s a pic of the failure point. You can also see the great big grey mess of we JB Weld on the inside:



I let the JB set for six hours and went back in to TechShop to check it. Once I took it off the clamps I still had some minor warpage and a few alignment issues but it sat surprisingly flat.

I took out the quarter inch mounting plate and sat it on top of the skirt and, except for the opened joint and some squeeze out (which I’ll deal with later), it all looked better than I thought it would.



I’ll clean up the squeeze out and sand down the scratches before powder coating but how to deal with the failed clamp? Well, there’s a product called LabMetal. It’s a little expensive ($35 after shipping) but basically acts as a moldable, powder-coatable filler paste. You goop it into place exactly like bondo and it fills gaps and adds some structural integrity. Then you can sand and grind the dried paste until you get a good surface for coating (again, exactly like bondo). My hope is that this will not only fill the crack but also add even more stability to the joints and connection points.

My only concern (and it’s pretty minor), is that so far every single opportunity for failure on the skirt has happened, and almost every solution has either failed or added additional issues that I’ve had to deal with. It’s been a constant matter of adjustment and readjustment and fixing problems that the last solution caused. For example, once I put the 1/4″ plate on the newly JB-welded skirt pieces I suddenly realized that I have no way to attach them together except to bolt them to the undercarriage of the frame. The problem is that I want to fill the gap between the two parts and smooth it out so that you can’t see the joint. BUT this means that the parts have to be connected. Before they get attached to the frame.

So. Extra step. I have to drill and tap more holes (probably six or eight) so that I can attach the two plates together. Once I do that and the entire thing is monolithic I’ll fill the gaps with Lab Metal and smooth everything down so that it looks nice.

If this doesn’t work I’ve decided that I’ll go back to square one and recut the parts and rebuild the whole thing. I have the waterjet files and know how to use the slip roller. All-in it’ll only cost me around $30. As a friend of mine at TechShop said, it’s not a failure, it’s just a first draft. I sure hope it works, though. I still have to make and attach the 12 vertical trim pieces but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Or I’ll go back and build a new bridge.

June 19, 2015

Skirt Work

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 9:57 pm

More work on the skirt. I thought this would take me a few days but it’s turned into over 3 weeks of design, redesign, cut, recut, mistakes, and remakes. I was pretty frustrated tonight when I tried to use the Alumaloy I got in the mail. That stuff stinks. After applying it (correctly, I might add), I put it under just a little bit of pressure and it snapped. Definitely a no-go. Plus, it made a globby mess on the outside of the skirt that I had to sand with a flap sander to remove. Yuck. I did manage (after creating a big mess) to fill the hole created by the welding mistake from last week, though, so there’s that. Still, the Alumaloy was a $17 dead end. Oh well.


So I sat and stewed and aaaalmost decided to go off-plan and just rivet the whole skirt together. But at the last second I decided that I didn’t want tiny 1/8″ rivets showing in a place that nobody will every look. This has got to be perfect and if it’s not, I darn well want it to be because of some unavoidable issue, not just laziness.

So I dumped everything on a table at TechShop and sat an looked at it for a while. And looked, and looked. And finally decided to give my bracket-and-JB Weld plan a try. It was a big goopy mess but eventually I got everything bonded together.


The brackets are inside the skirt and invisible from the outside so I really don’t care what they look like as long as they’re strong! Hopefully this’ll do the trick.

I had to apologize to the employees there as I managed to use nearly every small clamp in the entire shop. But it’s drying now and should be cured in 24 hours. I bought another couple tubes of JB Weld and will run some fillets along the inside joints for strengh once the brackets dry. Then I’ll probably degass the JB in the powdercoating oven at low temp for a few hours and check to make sure the JB doesn’t bubble so that the powder coating won’t have issues when it cures.

But before that I’ll have to cut, tap, and sand 12 vertical details. Ugh. I’m ready to be done with the skirt!

June 16, 2015


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:32 am

“America is the land of opportunity” and “America is a melting pot”
“I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”
“Affirmative action is racist.”
“Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.”
“When I look at you, I don’t see color.”

What our grandparents believed. Common sense, common decency, right? Well, if you have the misfortune of being a student at the University of California, these statements are now officially considered to be microagressions. The administration (headed by former DHS secretary Janet Napolitano) has deemed these, and other common-decency-based statements, to be expressions of microagressions. They are no longer allowed in classrooms in the California public university system.

Groseclose believes political correctness has jumped the shark when it can be considered a harmful “micro-aggression” to say something opposed to racism. He said the climate at universities is now so bad that even some liberal professors operate in fear.

“Just before I left UCLA, a liberal colleague and I talked about how disgusting the new micro-aggression policy is. I asked him if he ever worried about being dragged before some investigatory board via some trumped up charges. He responded, ‘That’s why, around here, I just try to minimize my contact with other humans.’”

Groseclose said he hopes that donors and taxpayers will wise up.

“I wonder if taxpayers realize they’re paying for this,” he said.

We live in the crazy years.

June 14, 2015

Flight of the Hobbits

Filed under: Movies,Music — jasony @ 9:15 pm

Musical Themes in “The Lord of the Rings”: “”

Great stuff here. Thanks to Matt for the link.

Glenn Reynolds: What if Pearl Harbor happened and nobody noticed?

Filed under: Computing — jasony @ 8:36 pm

Glenn Reynolds: What if Pearl Harbor happened and nobody noticed?:

“‘Hackers linked to China have gained access to the sensitive background information submitted by intelligence and military personnel for security clearances, U.S. officials said Friday, describing a cyberbreach of federal records dramatically worse than first acknowledged.’

And there are lessons in this debacle, if we are willing to learn them.

Aside from regular federal personnel records, which provide a royal route to blackmail, intimidation and identity theft for present and retired federal workers, the hackers also stole a trove of military and intelligence records that could be even more valuable. The forms stolen were Standard Form 86, in which employees in sensitive positions list their weaknesses: past arrests, bankruptcies, drug and alcohol problems, etc. The 120 plus pages of questions also include civil lawsuits, divorce information, Social Security numbers, and information on friends, roommates, spouses and relatives.

The result? About 14 million current and former federal employees are in a state of collective panic over the loss of their information.

Well this isn’t good.

It’s Me! Philae!

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 5:45 pm

Philae comet lander wakes up after 7-month hibernation:

“Scientists had lost contact with the solar-powered probe after it was dropped on the icy comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by its mothership Rosetta on Nov. 15. Philae’s battery ran out at about 60 hours after it landed next to a cliff that largely blocked sunlight from reaching the lander’s solar panels.

Scientists had hoped the probe would wake up again as the comet approached the sun, enabling Philae’s solar panels to soak up enough light to charge the craft’s main battery. But there were fears its mission would be cut short.

Any such fears ended late Saturday, when the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, received signals from the lander.

‘I’m not really surprised it happened, but if you wait for several months and then suddenly in the middle of the night you get a call saying, ‘We have a signal from Philae,’ it’s exciting,’ said Stephan Ulamec, project manager at the German Aerospace Center, or DLR. ‘We’re very happy.'”

That’s great news.

June 13, 2015

Black and White Thinking

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 12:58 pm


“What would a university do if an applicant self-identified as ‘black’ on an application but showed up looking ‘white’? And if the university made such a judgment, what on earth would that mean? How would the university defend its belief that a student didn’t ‘look’ black?  What sort of bizarre racial stereotypes would it rely upon in making such an appearance-based judgment? And if the university actually decided to take action against the student for racial misrepresentation, what on earth would that mean? How would the university judge whether the student was really ‘black’?  What percentage of blood would suffice for such a progressive institution? Fifty percent? Ten percent? One percent?

And if an individual, like Rachel Dolezal, has no black ancestry at all, would a progressive/liberal university allow her to self-identify as black, as they would (presumably) do for gender classification, if the student was born male and self-identified as a transgendered male (without yet having any surgery)? After all, the EEOC recently ruled in the Lusardi case that an individual in the Army who was born male, yet self-identified as female (but had not undergone surgery to remove his male genitalia) was to be considered a female and allowed to use the women’s bathroom.

The problem with progressive thinking is that black is white, male is female, and as Orwell observed in 1984, ‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.’ After all, if one can destroy words, ‘War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.’”

Excellent questions that put a fatal stake in the heart of progressive gender/racial/identity thinking. It’s not even reduco ad absurdum. It’s easy to imagine this happening right now in our colleges, and you don’t have to stretch current events or thinking to make it happen. When/if it happens I’m sure you’ll get all sorts of handwringing and clever obfuscatory misdirections, but the folks who espouse these lines of thought are increasingly beclowning themselves with their pretzel logic. The rest of us know. I hope “the rest of us” will soon include college administrators.

NI Featured Project

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 6:47 am

R2 has his own page on the National Instruments Labview Makerhub. I’ll be periodically updating this page with info on the electronics aspect of the build.

Since the electronics stage won’t happen for a while, updating may be a bit sparse, but I do plan on listing some thoughts there about the scope of the project soon.


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 5:27 am

Via Instapundit:

Screen shot 2015-06-13 at 6.25.24 AM.png

If I were a government worker, this would make me seriously reconsider the ability of the government to protect my medical privacy. Oh, who am I kidding….

June 11, 2015


Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 9:51 pm

“Change doesn’t happen on a familiar landscape—change has to construct the landscape itself.”
Tim Urban


Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 3:19 pm

I visited a local anodizer today and took R2’s frame in for a quote. It was much less than I thought to have the entire frame anodized. The only issue was that I really had my heart set on a vibrant blue color (think R2’s external blue but on the frame). The very helpful Bob at the anodizing place said I could have any color as long as it was black (or clear/natural). There’s one more place in town that I’m going to check on Monday to see if they can do a blue economically. My suspicion is that it would be around quadruple the price for them to do blue. At that point I have to ask myself if it’s worth it since the frame will be covered anyway.

One of the benefits of a black frame is that the laser etching will stand out much nicer against a black background than on blue. Black will also blend into the shadows much better if any part of the frame is exposed, though I think I would like to see the blue frame anyway (kind of like seeing contrasting brake calipers on a hot hatchback at the stop light). The place that does blue may not have a big enough tank to to R2’s 18″ rings, though, so it might be a moot point.

Black is nice, though. It’s just different from what I’ve been clearly pictured in my mind for a long time so I’m trying to decide if I can make the mental switch or not. Hmmm… maybe if I went to Dallas or Houston I could get blue done. How much do I want blue vs black? Gotta think a bit.

In other news, the skirt has been giving me fits. What I thought was going to be a two or three day job has turned into a month-long hassle. I designed, water jetted, and prepped the skirt pieces over a two week period. Then I carefully slip rolled the curved end pieces, sneaking up on the proper diameter until I got the pieces just right. They’re still just slightly off but they’re close enough that they will “spring” together under slight pressure to form the skirt. Here are the parts precut in wood and cardboard to check fit:


And here are the parts cut in aluminum after I slip rolled them:



Realizing that my TIG welding skills are nonexistent, I talked to a pro aluminum welder at TechShop and he agreed to try and tack a few parts together (welding aluminum is a pain and I didn’t want to burn through the thin metal) in exchange for a few bucks. I’m going to try and do just as much of this project myself as I can but my goal is verisimilitude over self-reliance, so a (very) occasional professional is okay with me if it means the difference between perfection and something that looks like a 3 year-olds’ crayon drawing on the fridge. Aluminum welding is a skill that takes years of practice and I don’t want to go down that particular rabbit hole right now. Unfortunately, the guy who did the welding kind of blew it:



He did his best but we determined that it wasn’t his fault but rather the result of very thin material (.063″) and a mating surface that wasn’t a true butt joint (look closely and you’ll see that only the corners of the edge really ever touch). It’s SUPER easy to blow through that kind of weldment, and that’s what he did. We only did this one joint and I called it off. So much for welding the thin skirt material. So what to do? After a few hours of research I found a product called Alumaloy. It’s a low temp (“low” meaning 728 degree) brazing rod for mating aluminum and filling aluminum gaps. It doesn’t get stellar reviews (2.5/5 stars) online but I think/hope that’s because people are trying to heat up giant heat sinks-worth of aluminum. Since I have thin material I hope to be able to get it hot enough with a propane/MAPP gas torch. Right now it looks like the only solution to my problem. The Alumaloy is on its’ way via Amazon Prime so I’ll tackle it next week.

Once it’s here I’ll need some way of bracketing the thin pieces together, so I did a quick test with some broken coffee stirrers:


Aha. now we’re talking. I found some scrap thin material in my TechShop locker and cut it out on the hydraulic shear/beverly shear:



And, after much trial and error, bent the small brackets to the correct angle with the bending brake:



Voila! I now have some small custom aluminum brackets at the proper angle that I can clamp onto the parts to make a lap joint. Hopefully this will be enough to form a decent base for the Alumaloy.

One more part I milled up last week was the main mounting bracket for R2’s center foot. I opted to go all manual mill on this piece instead of water jetting. It ended up taking me 10 hours since I had to thin the aluminum hunk from 1.125″ down to .75″ with a monster facing bit I borrowed from the TechShop machining instructor (who, in a very cool bit of trivia, worked on the Saturn V rocket booster 2nd stage!):


After milling, facing, tapping 8 holes, and creating an incredible mound of aluminum shavings I got this



Yeah, I’m really proud of that sucker. Most of the other parts on R2’s frame have leaned heavily on CNC techniques, and, while I can take credit for the design and pathing of the files, having a machine do most of the cutting work and just cleaning things up and tapping doesn’t feel as complete as taking a raw hunk of aluminum and shaping it like this. That part feels beautiful in my hand.

So that’s the state of things. My goal is to have the frame anodized and laser etched and the skirt assembled and powder coated by the end of August. Sept 1st is the “official” beginning of my 2nd year. It’s not a brick-wall deadline but I’d like to stay on track. I don’t think it’ll be a problem.

I’m also researching LabVIEW and my new myRIO that I was given (!) by National Instruments. They got wind of the project and wanted to be involved. They also want me to come update their engineers periodically once I enter the electronics/programming phase. Man, I’m excited about this, but a little nervous about the physical wiring and virtual programming/logic. With plans to pack R2 with sensors and make him a semi-autonomous robot I just hope my reach isn’t going to outstrip my grasp. I’m realizing that I’ve set myself kind of a ridiculous bar here. Can I meet it?

June 10, 2015

Next Big Future

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 6:08 pm

Next Big Future: Joe Eck finds superconducting transition at 141C which is above soldering temperature: “”

This is potentially huge.

The Martian

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 10:03 am

Coming to the theater! It’s one of my favorite books I read last year. Can’t wait to see it. Someone on FB recently said that Matt Damon has been having a tough time on other planets lately.


June 9, 2015

NI Contact

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 10:18 am

Just got my myRIO the other day and I’ve installed LabVIEW and played with it a bit. I got a wonderful support call from National Instruments just now. The rep asked if I had any questions about myRIO or LabVIEW and wanted to know what my project was. She offered to get me in touch with any resources that I might need to help me learn how to use their stuff.

See, this is how a great company handles consumers. I’m not only really excited about using the myRIO and LabVIEW in R2, but it feels like I have a good support group behind me if I have any questions. She was super excited about the project when I told her what I was making. I’m really looking forward to rolling R2 into the National Instruments headquarters someday.

June 8, 2015

Life is a Picture, But You Live in a Pixel

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 7:08 am

Wait But Why: “”

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress