In the Spirit of the Season: An Annual Tradition

Yuletide-full

An annual tradition:

If you’re an Atheist or Agnostic who doesn’t like “Merry Christmas.”
If you’re a Christian who doesn’t like “Happy Holidays.”
If you’re a Jew who doesn’t like “Blessed be.”
If you’re a Wiccan who doesn’t like “God Be with you.”
If you’re a Muslim who doesn’t like “Gud Yule” or “May Thor hold his hammer between you and harm.”

I have one thing to say to you: Grow. Up. Take these things in the spirit they are offered, one of well wishing, and leave it at that. And on that note, may I wish you a very merry Christmas and may Thor hold his hammer between you and harm.

This Sikh gets it:

https://fb.watch/25SBOeNd4D/

Gud Yule, everyone.

Precession of the Equinoxes.

I’ve been thinking a bit about precession of the Equinoxes. Since the Earth is slightly oblate due to rotation and the axis is tilted relative to the plane of the elliptic, solar tidal forces exerts a “torque” on it that causes it to precess, like the wobbling of a top that’s a bit off center. It works out that the “wobble” takes 25,772 years to make one complete circuit. Now, as it wobbles, the dates on which the equinoxes and solstices occur will change. As it stands now, the Northern Hemisphere is angled toward the sun in June and away from it in December (why we have Summer and Winter. In 12886 years, the Northern Hemisphere will be angled toward the sun in December and away from it in June, giving us winter in June and Summer in December.

The year, per the Gregorian Calendar is 365.2425 days long. Divide the period of precession with the length of the year and you have that the equinoxes/solstices will shift 1 day for every 70.56 years. Now, I’m not clear on which direction it changes but I wonder, if it changes toward “earlier” then, it’s been 438 years since the Gregorian Calendar was first created. That’s enough to shift the Winter Solstice 6.2 days. This leads me to wonder if perhaps Christmas was originally intended to occur on the Solstice and they missed by couple days (early) and the current date of the Solstice is the result of precession of the Equinoxes.

Edit: On reflection, I think the Gregorian calendar is synced to the solstices (although unlike some historic calendars, they don’t start the year on the Solstice, the length of the year is based on solstice to solstice, rather than the Earth’s position in its orbit around the sun per se). Which would explain why 200 years ago it was still December 21st. The switch from the solstice being on December 10 (give or take a day) to December 21st (ditto) was in 1752, the same year the Gregorian calendar was adopted in the colonies that would become the United States.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I am a geek.

Goth on Ice: Stand Tall

I have long had a particular posture issue, in particular a certain forward lean when walking. As I have discussed before, I have speculations as to why but I don’t really know. I just do. Back in Air Force basic training this caused issues. Guy behind me when we were marching in formation noted that my shoulders were in perfect line with those on either side of me but my feet were back far enough to cause him trouble.

I’ve been working on that, particularly since it’s a definite fault when it comes to ice skating. Even so, you can get away with it for a while in some of the basics. But as you advance in learning techniques you soon reach a point where it just doesn’t work. And by the time you start learning spins, even beginning two-foot spins, that postural flaw makes them undoable as we see here in one of my early efforts:

So, I’ve been working expressly on posture. When doing just general skating around the rink, I’d glance over at my reflection in the glass and see how straight I’m standing, try to adjust, and then continue. The main problem I’ve found is that when I tell myself to “straighten up” my body interprets that as “lean back”. This gets my weight too far back on the skates and I fall over backward–which is a particularly painful direction to fall on the ice.

What I’ve found working better is to think not of “shoulders back” but “head up” and not just looking up (although that’s important too) but stretching my head up toward the ceiling. The body follows along and I get a much more upright posture. You can see that I’ve made progress in this collection from this past weekend’s work:

And going back to two-foot spins, you can see here when I stay straight, I do better. When I bend at the waist, I lose it:

So, Stand tall…and don’t fall.

Goth on Ice: You Spin me Right Round, Baby

One of the two techniques I need to learn to complete “Adult 5” in the Learn to Skate USA progression is beginning two-foot spin. We worked on that in class a bit some time ago but I never really did anything with it in my practice time. Too busy working on other things. Well, this afternoon (November 14, 2020) I spent some time working on it.

First I tried turning to the left. Being right handed (mostly) that’s supposed to be my “natural” direction. That didn’t work well, so I tried to the right. That worked better. I found the same thing when working pivots some time back as well. I recorded the practice session:

If I counted correctly, I think my best in that set was 2 1/2 revolutions. If you can listen carefully, you can hear me say at the end of one spin “eyes open.” I had closed my eyes during the spin, which, of course, is a mistake. The main, persistent mistake I made though that is forward body lean. Not keeping my body straight throws off my balance and there we are.

It’s a perennial problem I have with all my skating. You can see it as well in today’s work with forward consecutive edges.

There was a bit of a false start there as a kid on hockey skates cut across my path. I did forward outside edges down (away from the camera) and forward inside edges back. I’ve done better than this session, but overall it is improving. But, as you can see, the forward lean is still an issue.

What the two-foot spin is supposed to look like:

What the forward consecutive edges are supposed to look like:

So, still a lot of work to do yet.

Kia Clutch Project

The clutch on my 2009 Kia Spectra started slipping so I had to replace the clutch. I looked at having a shop do it but estimates available online were talking the high side of $1000. This made a lot more sense once I saw that the “shop” method involves removing the front sub frame which…yeah, no.

Now I’m decent shadetree mechanic and while I haven’t done this particular project before, I have done things of similar scope…or so I thought. So, I bought a clutch kit and dove in.

First time through there were issues and the upshot was that after it was done, the car wouldn’t start. That was trepidition enough but it also looks like the throwout bearing didn’t engage the pressure plate. Read on to find out about that. The result of all that is that I’m having to tear the whole thing down again. This time I’m getting step-by-step pictures. This is the result.

Most car engine projects start by disconnecting the battery. This one starts by removing the battery and battery holder plate.

Here’s the battery in its original position. You can see the air filter box behind and to the left..

With the battery gone, you can see the battery holder plate. It is secured by three screws. You can see the battery securing clamp at the bottom of the plate, held by one of the screws. A lip at the bottom of the battery fits under that clamp and another fitst under a flange at the back of the plate. The battery is removed by loosening that screw, which releases the battery and allows it to be removed. You can remove the holder plate entirely by removing all three screws.

With the battery plate removed, I loosely screw the bolts that held it into their holes in the engine compartment. When possible, I do this both to keep track of what bolt goes where but also to prevent their loss. Failure to do this is why I lost a bolt in the first go through, but more on that later.

We now begin to remove the airbox. The first step is disconnecting the air filter box cover from the hose. There is a screw clamp at this point. Unscrew the clamp to loosen the hose.

Once the clamp is loosened, you can remove the air filter box cover by unfastening the two clips at the front of it and lifting and pulling it away from the hose.

Like the battery holder plate, the air filter box is held in place by three screws. Use a 12 mm socket to remove them.

Once removed, set the air filter box aside. In this case, I simply fit the screws into their holes to help keep track of them later.

Now we remove the hose from the the throttle body. This uses a screw-type clamp the same as the other end which connects to the air filter box.

There is another hose that connects to the hose you just removed via a barb connection. Simply pull it free.

Set this hose aside. There is a sensor cable that attaches to it which you can leave. I really tend to minimize any disconnections I don’t have to make. They save attempts to figure out what needs to be reconnected later and the risk of forgetting something.

Get the car up on jackstands before beginning work underneath it. Do not rely on just a jack to hold the car in place.

Now we crawl under the car to drain the transmission. The drain plug is on the differential portion of the transaxle on the left side of the car (facing front). Driver’s side in the US. Put a catch basin under the drain hole and remove the plug. I’m not sure exactly what size it is. It didn’t match any of my sockets or wrenches. I ended up using an adjustable wrench to loosen it and it then came off by hand.

We begin removing the axles here. Start by removing the front wheels and tires.

Remove the cotter pin and the axle nut. You’ll need a 32 mm socket for this. You probably should replace them at the end (that’s recommended). At the very least, expect to replace the cotter pin. An impact driver is a big help here. Otherwise you’ll need some way to hold the rotor and hub in place while you break loose the axle nut. The axle nut is backed up by a thick lockwasher. Set both nut and lockwasher aside for now.

Remove the brake caliper and its mounting bracket and use zip ties to hang it out of the way. You don’t need to separate the caliper from the bracket. Just unbolt the two 17 mm head bolts securing the bracket to the disk brake dust shield and remove bracket, caliper and pads as a unit.

The rotor is secured to the hub with two screws. I haven’t seen that before in other cars and didn’t notice at first resulting in my doing a lot of fruitless tugging the first time through. Use a Philips screwdriver (“+” type) to remove the screws. The rotor slides off easily after that (or maybe not if there’s significant rust sticking it to the hub).

I have seen instructions for three ways to get enough motion in the steering knuckle and hub to be able to get the axle free at this end. The first was the one in my Haynes manual to remove the nut securing the ball joint to the lower control arm and pop that loose. That did not work (and thus is not shown here). The ball joint simply would not come free of the control arm. Indeed, it didn’t budge. The second was to remove the nut securing the ball joint connected to the tie rod. Same problem there (and, again, thus not shown here). The third method, which did work, is to disconnect from the strut.

There are two bolts that secure the steering knuckle to the strut. The bolts take a 17 mm wrench or socket (socket used here). The nut, however, takes a 19 mm wrench or socket (wrench used here). (Note: picture taken before rotor removal.)

Here the hub is with the bolts out and the rotor off.

At this point you can pull the hub to the side and begin to work the axle out of it. It may take some creative prying and flexing, but it will come loose.

With the axle free, I thread the castle nut and the lockwasher onto the end for safekeeping. Then it’s under the car to remove the axle from the differential. Get a pry bar between the end of the inner CV joing and the body of the differential (in this case I just used a very large screwdriver as the pry bar.

A quick “pop” of the prybar causes it to push past the snap ring that normally keeps it in place.

You then repeat the process on the other side.

Once the axles are out, we’re almost ready to start disconnecting the transmission from the engine. There are still a couple of preliminary steps. First we need to support the engine. This is done by putting a jack underneath it with a wooden block to distribute the support. You don’t want to dent or otherwise damage the oil pan as that can crimp the oil pickup which is very bad indeed for your engine.

The manual and several online descriptions of the process recommend another jack, preferably with a proper transmission support cradle, to support the transmission. I, however, found that it was easier to support it from above with a two-by-four across the fenders. Rubber pads distribute the weight on the fenders and to protect the paint. A ratcheting tie-down strap can then support the transmission giving a bit better control of position and angle than trying to wiggle it around on a jack:

Next I need to disconnect the clutch linkage. There’s a spring clip that holds the pin between the slave cylinder and the clutch lever. Originally it was installed so that it was on the bottom of the assembly. When I first reassembled it, I reassembled it so that the spring clip is on the top. There’s a curved section that runs around the pin and a straight piece that goes through a hold in the pin. You need to pry the hook part away and then the clip slides out of the pin. I’m sure there’s a special tool for this but I just used a screwdriver to do the prying.

Once I had the slave cylinder disconnected, I wanted to double check whether the throwout bearing was engaged with the pressure plate. The reason for this is that if the throwout bearing is engaged, it is not removable and it’s not possible to put the transmission back on and engage the throwout bearing with the clutch fork with it in place. I wanted to be sure before doing that.

I used a large socket which fit over the clutch lever with an extension in the back of it as a lever to give me purchase on the lever:

I was able to move the lever against strong resistance. After a certain point the resistance let up slightly, but only slightly. This was exactly what I would expect with the throwout bearing engaged and the geometry of the “fingers” that apply pressure to the clutch.

So, whatever problem there was with the car, it wasn’t that the throwout bearing was not engaged–installed backwards or whatever–and I could console myself that I hadn’t made such a boneheaded mistake. But I still did not know why the car would not start.

Having no better ideas, I reconnected the clutch linkage, temporarily reinstalled the airbox and battery, got in the car, pressed the clutch pedal (it felt about right this time), and inserted and turned the key.

Damned if the engine didn’t start.

So, at that point it was a matter of reinstalling all the various pieces-parts of the car (mostly a reverse of the removal)–I may edit this to add those pictures in later–and try out the car.

It ran. Clutch felt great. A little “grabbier” than it was before (no great surprise) so it took a little getting used to exactly where the “grab point” was to avoid stalling the engine when starting out but otherwise running quite smoothly.

Last thing to do is to replace the transmission fluid. What’s in there right now is a mix of the “right” stuff (75W90 GL-4–do not use something that’s both GL-4 and GL-5), something that’s not quite right but I had on hand (GL-3 and…unknown weight), and the old oil put back in. I ordered a supply of the correct oil (none of the local stores I’ve see have the correct oil) and simply have to get back under the car to drain the old and put in the new.

“Just Doing my Job”: A Blast from the Past

If the various legal challenges fail and Biden is actually confirmed as our new President (with the Democrats being given a green light that even the most blatant and obvious of fraud can go unchecked ensuring their continued victory), then we can expect more from the likes of “Stevie”:

So there was this:

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“It’s my job” he says.  Which is just one step away from “I was only following orders.”

Sorry, Stevie.  May I call you “Stevie”? Don’t really care, actually.  Going to call you that anyway.

Look, Stevie. Short version:  “It’s my job” is never an excuse for doing something unethical, let alone illegal, and certainly not unconstitutional.  “It’s my job” does not make a wrong thing right.  Period.  End of short version.

Slightly longer version.  Stevie, don’t think I didn’t notice how you just breezed over things with a boss telling you to “do something.” (Like “Some people did something”?) This vague generalization allows you to mask the truly monstrous idea you are attempting to justify here.

Look, if my boss tells me to clean up the warehouse, I clean up the warehouse even if it doesn’t fall under my normal job duties but still falls under “other duties as assigned.” Oh, in many places using a Senior Analytical Scientist as a janitor might be a poor use of scarce resources that have alternative uses but we’re a small company and we have to wear a lot of “hats” so you do what needs to be done when it needs to be done and don’t worry that much about official “job titles.”

But, if my boss said “Rob the office next door” do you think that would fall under “other duties as assigned”? (Spoiler:  It doesn’t.) If my boss were to lose his mind and give me that order, I would tell him to F-off (in so many words) and I would then promptly warn the neighboring office and the police of his plans.

It’s called “ethics”, Stevie.  You, apparently, don’t know anything about that.

Let’s take that a step farther.  Suppose I, too, lost my mind and actually obeyed that ridiculous order thinking “I’m just doing my job.” Do you think that “it’s my job” would make it okay?  When the police came to arrest me (after all, I don’t think I’d make a very competent crook) and I told them I was just doing my job would they say, “well, all right then.  You can go”?

I didn’t think so.

Oh, and my first job after leaving the Air Force?  I did tell my boss to F-off (albeit not in so many words–I was more polite then) when he asked me to do something I considered unethical.  Not even illegal, just in violation of my personal ethics.  Left that job and went working elsewhere–preferred washing dishes in a restaurant to violating my ethics.

It being “your job” doesn’t make it right.  It doesn’t make it acceptable.  A hit man for the Gambino family is just “doing his job” when he pops a rival boss.  But he’s still a murderer and a criminal.  He’s still morally repugnant.

Just like you would be, Stevie, to participate in the confiscation of arms from previously law abiding (law abiding until unconstitutional laws were passed making them criminals) members of the community.

Just like you would be, Stevie, to participate in that blatant violation of the Constitution and fundamental human rights. (LifeLiberty, and Pursuit of Happiness)

Just like you would be, Stevie, as a Jack Booted Thug.

Reviewing Progress for the Goth on Ice

I’ve continued to progress in the ice skating. We’ve just started a new 8 week block of classes, so now is a good time to review where I am.

“Learn to Skate USA” has two basic skills progressions for people learning to skate.  For the children (6-14) they have the Basic 1 to Basic 6 progression.  For “Adults” (15 and up) they have the Adult 1 to Adult 6 series.  There are some differences between the two progressions, some things introduced at different levels in one compared to the other and some things included in one and not the other.

I’m currently working on things in the Adult 5 to Adult 6 range, with a few things from pre-Free-Skate as follows.  Bold indicates things I’ve more or less learned.  Italics means things I’m actively working on.  Plain text means that I’m still working up to it.  In addition to the Adult progression ranking, I’ve listed here where the various things are introduced in the Basic progression.

Adult 4

  • Forward outside edge on a circle, R and L (Basic 4)
  • Forward inside edge on a circle, R and L (Basic 4)
  • Forward crossovers, clockwise and counterclockwise (Basic 4)
  • Backward one-foot glides, R and L (Basic 4)
  • Backward half-swizzle pumps on a circle, clockwise and counterclockwise (Basic 4)
  • Hockey stop, both directions (Basic 5)

(Yes, I have now finished Adult 4)

Adult 5

  • Backward outside edge on circle, R and L (Basic 5)
  • Backward inside edge on a circle, R and L (Basic 5)
  • Backward crossovers, clockwise and counterclockwise (Basic 5)
  • Forward outside three-turn, R and L (Basic 5)
  • Forward swing rolls to a count of six (Not included in “Basic”)
  • Beginning two-foot spin (Basic 4)

Adult 6

  • Forward stroking with crossover end patterns (Not included in Basic)
  • Backward stroking with crossover end patterns (Backward stroking is Basic 6, the “crossover end patterns” is not included)
  • Forward inside three-turn, R and L (Basic 6)
  • Forward outside to inside change of edge on a line, R and L (Not included in Basic)
  • T-stop, R or L (Basic 6)
  • Lunge (Basic 4)
  • Two-foot spin into one-foot spin (Basic 6)

There are some additional skills included in the Basic progression, not included in the Adult progression.  Since I plan to continue with Free Skate once I complete Adult 6, I think it advisable to learn these as well:

Basic 5

  • Advanced two-foot spin — 4–6
  • «Bonus skill: Side toe hop — R and L

Basic 6

  • Forward inside open mohawk from a standstill (R to L and L to R)
  • Moving backward to forward two foot turn on a circle — clockwise and counterclockwise
  • Bunny hop
  • Forward spiral on a straight line — R or L
  •  «Bonus skill: Shoot the duck — R or L

In the last block of classes my instructor had me doing some pre-free skate work and free kate work as well.

Pre-Free Skate

  • Backward crossovers to a backward outside edge glide (landing position) clockwise and counterclockwise).
  • Backward Outside Edge to a forward outside edge transition on a circle.
    (Note: I am doing a backward inside to forward inside edge transition, which I don’t see specifically listed.)
  • Two forward crossovers into a forward inside mohawk, step down and cross behind, step into one backward crossover and step to a forward inside edge, repeat three times, CW and CCW.
  • On foot upright spin, minimum 3 revolutions.
  • Mazurka jump.
  • Waltz Jump.
  • Backward inside pivots.

Free Skate 1.

  • Forward power stroking, clockwise and counterclockwise
  • Basic Forward outside and inside consecutive edges (4-6)
  • Backward outside three turns (R and L)
  • Upright spin entry from back crossovers (min. four revolutions)
  • Half flip jump
  • Toe loop.
  • Waltz jump to waltz jump sequence.

My forward edges are actually coming along well. Unfortunately, when I set up to record them I accidentally had the wrong camera on my phone set so I got a nice video of empty bleachers. So here’s Coach Julia showing how they are supposed to be done:

My Three-Turns, however, are coming along nicely as well:

Forward Inside Mohawks, however, are proving a bit of a challenge:

And the backward outside edges are also presenting a challenge.

In Flander’s Fields

In honor of the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month

BY JOHN MCCRAE

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Benford’s Law

There is a statistical observation that has long been known, that in tables of numbers, statistics, etc. numbers whose first non-zero digit is “1” occur with more frequency (just under a third of the time) than other digits and the probability falls with each succeeding digit (3 is less common than 2. 4 is less common than 3. And so on.

Weisstein, Eric W. “Benford’s Law.” From MathWorld–A Wolfram Web Resource. https://mathworld.wolfram.com/BenfordsLaw.html

And this is very broadly applicable. Newcomb, in 1881, noted that the first pages in log tables (this was before calculators and electronic computers; calculating things like logarithms was a long, painstaking, laborious task, so they were compiled into large tables and bound into books so people could just look them up) were invariably more worn than succeeding pages.

Benford’s law can be an excellent indicator of whether a set of numbers occurs “naturally” or if someone has been manipulating them. Manipulation tends to throw things off. As just one example, the IRS uses Benford’s Law as one of its “red flags” to see whether an audit is needed for possible tax fraud.

Now, we come to the recent election. For the most part, results actually follow pretty closely to Benford’s Law with no more variation than you would expect from chance. Example being Miami-Dade:

But there are a few places where things are a little different. Most of the candidates results follow a normal distribution, in accordance with Benford’s Law. But, well, one of these things is not like the other:

Now, this isn’t proof of anything. But how strange that only one candidate’s results violate Benford’s Law, and only does so in a handful of places which just happen to be the places this candidate needs to swing certain states leading to that magical 270 Electoral College votes.

And this same candidate just happened to rack up large numbers of votes in the dead of night, bug chunks without a single vote for other candidates. And this candidate just happens to have a lot of ballots cast where the only vote was for President, not any of the down-ticket races. And…

Well, my friend Larry Correia, a former accountant with a great deal of experience with audits and also in recognizing the red-flags that indicate the need for an audit lists some of the many red flags here and more here.

But the media (including Fox, which appears to have sold out completely at last) is all:

And you can believe as much of that as you want to.