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AvatarComments by Michael Cain

On “Thursday Throughput for 8/1/19

ThTh4: Here is a similar object with a viewer so you can rotate the object in 3-space and see what's going on. The page includes links to downloadable files so you can print your own.

On “If They Change The Size and Weight of the Golf Ball

At some point while I was still playing regularly, our household income reached the point where we decided we could afford for me to buy a set of clubs that really fit me and my swing. My 18-hole handicap promptly dropped by about three strokes and my scores were much more consistent. I mentioned it to the pro who had sold me the clubs and he offered his opinion that, while it wouldn't put them on the Tour, lots of people's game was limited by poorly-fitted clubs.

On “Love Will Win

This is a light-hearted version of a real problem the Democrats have to solve. Based on where the party is successful, which determines who's driving, there's two parts. There's the extended Rust Belt wing of the party in the East, where population is (relatively) shrinking (look at the number of House seats that will be lost to reapportionment), many cities are struggling, and the minority group of main concern is African-American. And there's the western wing of the party, where population is growing, cities' biggest problems are due to booming local economies, and the big minority group is Latino.

Speaking as a registered Democrat, I have no solutions to offer but believe it's a real problem.

On “Andrew Yang: Think. Different.

But Yang doesn't run everything through the one lens. His web site claims that climate change is nearly the existential threat that automation is (that's at least close to a quote). But his solution isn't UBI-ish. Inslee, OTOH, says that the solution to not enough jobs is to create millions and millions of jobs replacing infrastructure and major consumer gear with the stuff needed to eliminate fossil fuels in the near term (eg, rebuild the power grids, replace cars that use ICEs, vastly upgrade energy efficiency and fuel use in houses).

On “Weekend Plans Post: Just Subversive Enough

I promised myself that when Denver's commuter rail finally got to my suburb, I would spend time riding and visit -- or at least go by -- every station in the system. Hopefully today, but definitely this weekend, I'll start that. I may write a Tenshot on it, since this is as much for entertainment as anything. Cheap entertainment, at that. As an official oldster now, a day pass good for anywhere the trains go is $5.25. (A two-zone day pass that would get me downtown and back is $1.50. The gas to drive downtown and back is probably more than $1.50.)

On “RetConning the Tea Party

No worries, I mis-thread all the time myself!

Sigh... Do you know what I had to go through to get a reply link on EVERY SINGLE COMMENT? And to have a little daemon that runs in the wee morning hours each day to make sure the patch hasn't been overwritten by a system upgrade?

On “My Class, Their Class, Our Class

I don't know if I'm part of a group, but when you trace back the "Cain" part of my lineage, you see each generation (with one exception) growing up further west by a few/several hundred miles: Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa (two generations), Nebraska, Colorado.

(We've never spent the money to look farther back than Solomon Cain in Kentucky, but it seems likely that there was at least one generation farther east.)

On “Trump’s Useful Idiot

My perception, at least, is that Amazon today is interested in building fulfillment centers close to the airport and interstate highways in major cities.

I pay more attention to the Great Plains than to Appalachia, but there are some common features. One of those is that they are pretty much doomed to always be served from fulfillment centers in the cities along their periphery.

On “On Stealing First Base

Obviously kid’s wiffle balls do odd things in flight…

It's been a lot of years, but as I recall if you knew what you were doing you could get about three feet of sideways break with a wiffle ball.

On “RetConning the Tea Party

You left out Medicaid, federal spending on which is -- currently, at least -- somewhat larger than debt service. Probably best to lump it in with Medicare, given the number of dual-eligible people, and the amount of long-term care funded through Medicaid. Proposals to drop out of Medicaid die quickly in the states because if Medicaid goes, the state's nursing home industry almost certainly goes with it.

On “Tech Tuesday 07/22/19 – Cool Electric Motorcycles Edition

At least on the receiver end, they're doing some surprising things with software defined radio these days using a Raspberry Pi and front-end hardware that fits in a USB stick.


For a couple hundred dollars you can put together a Raspberry Pi, a motor controller, a 4G LTE cellular module, and a prepaid burner SIM from your local grocery or Wal-Mart. Add a tiny USB video camera. Palm-sized and the weight is almost insignificant compared to the battery you need for a medium- or heavy-lift drone. There's a complete open source software stack available for that hardware to build a drone controlled over the cellphone network (unlimited controller range! modest real-time video!). Completely legal from a radio frequency use perspective. The FCC takes a dim view of even the authorities jamming cell phone frequencies.

The guns are intended to stop stupid people who buy off-the-shelf drones.


Hey! There are a couple of rural communities here in my state that have had to pass laws with substantial fines to get people to stop shooting at kids' drones.


Yeah, MIS is being pretty tight-lipped about it. OTOH, it can't be all that hard. During parabolic-flight testing, MIS had modified commercial printers working successfully. China has 3D printed ceramics on their space station and the Russians successfully 3D printed living tissue on the ISS. The European Space Agency stopped their initial project after finishing the prototype in order to focus on the problem of printing objects bigger than the printer. That looks to resemble the robotic arm printer from last week's post.


TT05: This paper by Made In Space makes it sound like the major adaptations were structural, and a change in software because the thickness of the printed layers varies with changes in gravity. I have seen other articles that suggest the tougher challenge for use in the ISS was capturing the outgases and the fine particulates that result from heating the plastic.

TT10: On the Curtiss motorcycle, the big silver bullet shaped thing is the battery case.

On “Pushing On a String

The percentages are higher for more expensive metallurgical coal. For thermal coal, though, it's really hard for any part of the US to compete with Australia and Indonesia in the Asian markets. And a substantial majority of Appalachian coal is still thermal coal.

Arguably, most of the Trump administration's actions to stimulate coal usage should result in more western coal putting the thermal coal miners in Appalachia out of business.


More and more often I find myself wanting to be an historian, but for a really strange period of time and location :^)

I saw an interesting remark the other day about water, from someone at the Palo Verde nukes: "If Phoenix gets too efficient with its water, Palo Verde will have to shut down. Flush your high efficiency toilet twice."


...almost all the coal currently produced in Appalachia is going on boats to China and elsewhere overseas.

Per the EIA's latest report (2017), 24.6% of the coal produced in West Virginia was exported. For WV, VA, PA, and KY combined it was 18.0%. I think the EIA sucks at forecasts, but I trust their data collection. The large majority of Appalachian coal is being consumed domestically.

We can argue about what constitutes Appalachia. I have map-like things :^)


Yeah, I'm guilty of oversimplification -- it's always more complicated than can be put into ten paragraphs. Under the 1990 Amendments, a plant can emit as much SO2 as it wants, so long as it holds sufficient permits. As you mention, triggering capital construction events may also require emissions controls despite the number of permits. A couple of the plants in the Southwest were eventually caught up in the 1977 Amendments, which included visibility standards for the national parks (TTBOMK, no power plants have been sued on the visibility thing outside the West, but my interests are parochial).

There may be an east-west divide over the notion of sustainable coal. 15 years ago, Xcel Energy built state-of-the-art Unit 3 at the coal-fired Comanche power plant in Colorado and brought all three units up to state-of-the-art emission controls. Xcel is back before the Colorado PUC asking for permission to retire Units 1 and 2 early, despite spending all that money on them, because they can buy renewable and natural gas-fired electricity for less than running those coal-fired units. Current conventional wisdom in the West is that no one will ever build another new coal-fired plant, and will shut plants down (or convert to natural gas) rather than add new emissions gear.


It's a long list, and timing had a lot to do with it. The East had demand at the right time, and utilities big enough to finance the nukes. As I mentioned in the OP, the feds were pushing coal in the Southwest to benefit the Native Americans during the period when the East was building all those reactors. The Glen Canyon Dam came online for power generation in the mid-1960s. The Pacific DC Intertie came online in 1970, making huge amounts of hydro power available to Southern California. The LADWP built the huge Intermountain power plant in Utah in the early/mid-1980s after nuclear was a dirty word. Western utilities had bad luck early on with nukes: the Trojan power plant in Oregon had multiple major flaws; Fort St. Vrain in Colorado was overly ambitious about technology. Water is always an issue. The Palo Verde nukes in Arizona uses purified gray water for cooling and are, I believe, the third user for some of that water.


Coal mining has become a totem representing white workers.

I would qualify that with eastern coal mining, or perhaps Appalachian coal mining. No one is holding up the people who operate the enormous strip-mining equipment in the Powder River Basin from air-conditioned cabs and produce 40% of all US coal as a totem. In my experience, western coal mining and its decline plays out as an urban vs. rural thing without the race angle.


Race (a more relevant issue East than West of the Rockies) appears only at is relevant to that geographically limited number of voters

This is an interesting topic that I've thought about regularly, although I draw the line down the middle of the Great Plains rather than following the Rockies. In the 13 states in the Census Bureau's western region -- which largely follows that mid-Great Plains line -- there are none where African-Americans are the largest minority group (I'm not counting non-Hispanic whites as a minority group anywhere). There are several of those states where African-Americans aren't even the second-largest minority group.

It's been decades since I've lived in Texas, but at least then the change in predominant minority group from African-American in the eastern part of the state to Latino in the west made for some really interesting dynamics in the legislature.

On “Bigot.

Unconstitutionally vague? What about advocating for an exit-clause amendment? Or for a constitutional convention?

On “Weekend Plans Post: The Perfect Pizza

Hmmm... My wife would probably rather die. Given some time to get used to it, and assuming I never went out to eat to recall that there were other things, I could get by on my uncle the Vietnam-era Green Beret's "Charlie field rations" which he ate for weeks on end. Twice a day, rice, available vegetables or tubers, meat*, and some sort of sauce.

* Uncle Buck said that rat was almost always available. I never could decide if he was kidding or not.


The new docs want to try to fix -- or at least help -- my wife's irritable bowel. First test they want to do is no dairy for ten days. As I'm the dinner cook, I'm going through the recipes for things she likes to see if I can do dairy-free versions. Pizza's probably a challenge.