Saturday, April 29, 2017

More World War I Pictures From The New YorkTimes

Untangling The Web Of Russian Cyber Operations

Friday, April 28, 2017

In Praise Of Hydrogen-Powered Cars

Clarity of purpose

Clarity Fuel Cell_007.jpg
The 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell is an electric vehicle with a combined fuel-economy rating of 68 mpg and a driving range of up to 366 mi. 
We expected some pop and sizzle–at least something vaguely adventurous—to mark the occasion of refueling Honda’s all-new 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell sedan with compressed hydrogen pumped in at a heady 10,153 psi (700 bar).
Instead, standing under the stylish translucent sunshade protecting this hydrogen refueling station—one of about 26 such public facilities currently operating in Southern California—the overwhelming experience is exactly how Honda and hydrogen-fuel interests want it to be: nearly indistinguishable from the gas station a stone’s throw away.
Even the time to fully fill the Clarity Fuel Cell is about the same, maybe five or six minutes to fully replenish the fuel-cell car’s two-tank capacity of 141 liters (37.3 gal). Five minutes and you’re on your way in this large and comfortable sedan for another maximum of 366 miles (589 km). We cruise the California freeways and breeze through snaky backroads in utter silence and with an unassailable refinement that, if we shut our eyes, convinces us the Clarity Fuel Cell could be an all-electric Accord that Honda’s had in production for years. The EPA-estimates this all happens at a combined fuel-economy rating of 68 mpg (3.5 L/100 km).
So what’s not to like about these fuel-cell cars, anyway?
Technical challenges resolved
Kiyoshi Shimizu, chief engineer and development leader for the 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell, has led Honda’s FCV Powertrain Development Dept. since 1997. He seems almost the personification of why the new Clarity Fuel Cell need make no excuses as a fully viable “everyday” vehicle. The company’s dogged decades of R&D have progressed fuel-cell technology from 1998’s “one-and-a-half-passenger” minivan he almost sheepishly describes as a “chemical plant on wheels” to today’s Clarity that packages the entire powertrain—fuel-cell stack, drive unit and all associated power and control electronics—neatly under the hood. The entire propulsion system requires less physical space than Honda’s 3.5L V-6.
Honda claims that tidy packaging is a world-first. And considering arch-rival Toyota’s Mirai is the only other production FCV sedan on the road. Mirai locates the fuel-cell stack under the passenger-compartment floor, much like the Clarity Fuel Cell’s predecessor, the FCX Clarity, launched in 1998. The only other series-production FCV offered for sale to the public is Hyundai’s Tucson Fuel Cell, although Hyundai recently revealed a concept crossover model using fourth-generation fuel-cell technology that the company promises will impart a 2018 production version with 800 km (497 mi) of driving range.
As the Clarity Fuel Cell’s almost miraculous packaging demonstrates, the eight years between fuel-cell generations has delivered demonstrable advance in almost every sense.
The powertrain’s packaging advance—including a 34% cut in motor height—comes from several development areas, chief being a 30% reduction in the number of cells in the stack. The new cells themselves are 20% thinner. And thanks to the new stack design, the unit now can be situated horizontally rather than vertically.
Despite the decrease in the number of cells, each now has 1.5 times more electrical output, for a total of 103 kW, or a power density of 3.1 kW for each of the stack’s 33L of volume. More voltage from the stack means more power available to the traction motor.
Drivetrain: more power, less noise
But while engineers aimed to improve system power and efficiency, they were similarly bent on cutting noise, both from the “intake” portion of the fuel cell and the drive unit itself.
First, oxygen supply is critical to allow the more power-dense fuel-cell stack to do its job; a considerable advance—both technically and in terms of NVH—comes from the adoption of a new, electrically-driven two-stage air compressor to shove air into the stack. Not only does this ICE-type turbocharger produce less sound, and of a higher frequency that can be muffled by a simpler silencer than the former Roots-style compressor—but it pushes 1.7 times the air volume. The compressor body is about 40% smaller, too.
The quiet and more-powerful electric turbocharger is an energy-hungry devil, though: chief engineer Shimizu told Automotive Engineering it typically might draw between 1-2 kW of power. But the heightened energy density of the new fuel-cell stack allowed for the draw attributable to the electric turbo that is the result of a joint development between Honda and “a supplier” Shimizu smilingly would not name.
Also new to the Clarity Fuel Cell’s powertrain is a “fuel cell voltage control unit,” a 4-inch-thick booster (and the uppermost component one sees when lifting the hood), steps up power from the cell stack to a maximum of 500 volts via a silicon-carbide power semiconductor material that vastly improves switching frequency while necessitating a much-smaller heat sink than would a more-conventional silicon-only semiconductor.
The upgraded 500V input—the most power the previous FCX Clarity fuel-cell stack could deliver was 330V—to the AC synchronous electric motor means its power output is hiked by 30% to 174 hp, while torque climbs to a robust 221 lb·ft (300 N·m) compared to the previous 189 lb·ft (256 N·m). Maximum motor rpm also is increased slightly from 12,500 rpm to 13,000 rpm and top speed climbs 4 mph to 103 mph (166 km/h).
The motor itself enjoyed incisive development tweaks to cut noise. The rotor now is sliced into four sections instead of two, which Honda said reduces torque fluctuation, while the stator is optimized to reduce vibration and the motor housing has additional structural ribs. Honda calculates that motor noise transmitted to the cabin at 0.2 g of acceleration is reduced by 25%.
The quieted motor and the new electric turbocharger team to all but nullify one of the ongoing NVH bugaboos that has lingered for most FCVs: loud compressor noise and motor whine. Automotive Engineering’s hard standing-start acceleration could wring little more than a nearly inaudible high-pitched whine in the cabin with the entertainment system turned off. The same was true for floored-throttle roll-on acceleration at freeway speeds.
New underpinnings, mass-optimization innovations
The 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell’s cutting-edge driveline propels an all-new platform that Honda doesn’t seem to be calling anything in particular, but said its fundamental “straight frames” structure was designed to maximize cabin space, cut weight and deliver optimized driving dynamics for a fuel-cell vehicle (and the pending battery-electric and hybrid-electric Clarity-family variants). Designed specifically to handle the weight of the aluminum-lined carbon-fiber/fiberglass storage tank (said to be a world-first), the new platform’s center of gravity is some 4 in (10 cm) lower than an Accord Hybrid.
The four-wheel independent suspension uses a few clever lightweighting techniques: the front strut setup uses forged-aluminum lower arms that are 30% lighter than a common pressed-steel arm and hollowing the knuckle saves 10%. At the rear, the multilink arrangement’s arms all are aluminum (worth a 40% cut compared with steel) and the tie rods come from what Honda said is the world’s first high-strength aluminum forging, allowing the rods to be 20% lighter than a conventional aluminum forging.
Another world-first for the Clarity Fuel Cell: a hollow die-cast aluminum front subframe eliminates the welding of multiple pieces and saves 20% in weight; the technique, borrowed from motorcycle-frame development, also creates a seamless and exceptionally rigid structure.
Want some more claimed world-firsts? Look to the Clarity Fuel Cell’s body, where Honda has the first glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) rear bumper beam. Meanwhile, there’s a “hybrid” plastic bulkhead at the front that replaces steel and Honda said 40% of the vehicle’s platform is comprised of super-high-tensile steel and the company said the car marks the world’s first (again) use of high-formability 980 MPa-class steel for automotive application. Along with aluminum body panels and other lightweight advanced materials, the Clarity Fuel Cell’s structure is claimed to be stronger than that of a conventional midsize sedan yet is 15% lighter.
In terms of size and weight, the Clarity Fuel Cell has a 108.3-in (2750-mm) wheelbase (Honda’s Accord: 109.3) and is 192.7 in (4895 mm) in overall length, nearly the same as the Accord and also quite dimensionally similar to Toyota’s Mirai, although the Clarity seats five and the Mirai is a 4-seater. The Honda fuel-cell sedan’s interior volume is listed at 102 cubic feet and the most spacious Accord variant offers 103.2 cubic feet of passenger volume. The Clarity Fuel Cell weighs 4134 lb (1875 kg), while a typical automatic-transmission Accord is about 700 lb (318 kg) lighter.
In terms of size and utility, then, the 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell gives up nothing (okay, maybe some sheer trunk usability) to a conventional midsize sedan. But the green-oriented in California have further incentive: Honda’s opening “deal” for this FCV is compelling: a $369/month lease for 36 months with $2,500 down. But factor in a California HOV-lane sticker, the state’s instant $5000 rebate and Honda’s debit card for $15000 worth of fuel over the lease term and the monthly out-of-pocket outlay is almost laughably skimpy. Many California dealers have waiting lists for the car that for now is being built in Tochigi, Japan, but is moving to a mass-production plant somewhere (the U.S., perhaps?) early next year, said a Honda source.
Ah, that fuel, that infrastructure
You’ll find plenty of contradictory opinion about the environmental friendliness of hydrogen fuel. Critics say its production and subsequent compression is energy-intensive and balloons hydrogen’s carbon profile (one prominent study concluded, however, the well-to-wheels CO2 emissions of hydrogen produced from natural gas for an FCV is approximately half that of gasoline).Chief engineer Shimizu told us the well-to-wheels energy efficiency of hydrogen derived from natural gas is better than a hybrid-electric vehicle—and reminds that an FCV has zero tailpipe emissions.
The carbon-dioxide argument will continue, but few can argue the almost complete lack of a national refueling network makes FCVs, for now, strictly a California “compliance” play (see sidebar). Stephen Ellis, Honda’s veteran of alternative-fuel implementation, said fast refueling times, the Clarity Fuel Cell’s plump driving range and the expanding “hydrogen highway” of conveniently-located refueling stations make FCVs utterly practical in California. He then said to expect imminent news (likely at New York’s auto show in April) regarding the initiative to extend refueling strategies to the northeastern U.S., where many states have adopted California’s emissions standards.
After a full day’s sampling of the refinement and brisk performance of the 2017 Clarity Fuel Cell, few could question the car’s potential for mainstream acceptance. And Honda and other FCV proponents are correct in pointing out fuel-cell advantages over battery-electric vehicles. If and when hydrogen fuel becomes more widely available, the marvelously-developed Clarity Fuel Cell is proof the fuel-cell approach could give batteries a run for the money.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Serious Warning About North Korea

A Serious Warning About North Korea
Everyone let us forget about Korea launching an attack with missiles and miniature warheads that fit on these missiles like those the US, Russia, China, Britain, Israel, India, and Pakistan have.
What is played down in the media and by the US government is that North Korea is a criminal state. They have engaged in massive currency counterfeiting operations. They're heavily involved in heroin smuggling with events like whole freighters full of heroin being seized. They're also heavily involved in cyber crime. For example, they are a serious suspect in the recent $995 million plus cyber robbery of the Central Bank of Bangladesh.
One of my most beloved books was written by the computer terrorism expert for President Bush II. It's title is The Right of Boom. If I were a wealthy man I would buy 10,000 copies and give it away free to world leaders, law enforcement people, business leaders and government officials.
The book begins with a hypothetical attack on Washington, DC with a Hiroshima-sized bomb smuggled in by terrorists. The awful death and destruction is described in graphic detail. The books ends with officials still not able to prove who did it.
Look for North Korea to smuggle weapons into cities they wanted to hit. For example freighters could be dispatched to Tokyo, Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Nuclear weapons could be detonated in the harbor before the boats docked for customs inspections. Submarines could also be used for a dirty job like this. They could also sell nuclear weapons or deadly gas to terrorists. Their cyber crime group could bring down our power grid, for example.
Even if you were not hit with one of these weapons strikes, you would be affected. There would be panic on financial markets around the world. The value of your retirement fund, investments and your home or apartment would drop. Unemployment would spike up.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Some Thoughts On Our New Dog Alfred

Dear Lisa:

      Well done and you made a perfect choice. He's a sweet man who minds and is very domesticated. He doesn't bark much. He is nice to people and animals. His past is a mystery that we will never know. One of my most beloved books of all time is Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits set in Chile. It is a great woman's book with powerful female characters. There is also a mysterious dog with magical powers named Barabbas. Nobody knows where he came from. To this day, I can't read the ending of the book without getting tears in my eyes. The final line in the book is:

"Barabbas came to us by the sea."

   Alfred reminds me of Barabbas.

With kindest regards,

Friday, April 21, 2017

Missing "The Hungry Years"

Neil Sedaka once sang a song "The Hungry Years." He missed that simpler time when he was poor and didn't have all of the complications in life that comes when you have success.
Back in 1983 I was dead broke and living in the charming small town of 15,000 people, Albany, West Australia. It sits right on the Indian Ocean. It had once been a whaling village. My wife Maria had left me for good and gone back to San Francisco. I had a legal complication. I was not allowed to leave the state of West Australia. I lived in a rented room. I had a humble portable black and white television and an audio cassette music player. I had no car or bike. I was able to eat and barely support myself by working at a very humble job in a restaurant. The food was good. My boss was, believe it or not, a Mr.Smith and a nice man.
I would think back to my happy times in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. I would long to be back there.While I lived in Perth, I discovered an obscure shop that sold Brasilian music. I had a small collection of audio cassettes from the shop. My favorite Brasilian artist was an obscure singer named Maria Creuza. Every evening I would listen to her beautiful voice and have the happiest thoughts of Brasil.
This music collection got lost by a moving company in South Africa in 1995. I thought that part of my life was gone forever.
In my recent Brasil trip, I was able to find some vinyl records of Maria Creuza thanks to Anna Chagas and Bossa Nova Music Shop in Rio de Janeiro.
Yesterday afternoon was sunny and cool in Pacifica. I started to play the vinyl records of Maria Creuza. Her beautiful songs touched my heart just as they had 34 years ago. I thought back to those hungry years.
It's so nice when you get a part of your life back that seemed to be lost forever.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Celebrating The 100-Year Anniversary of World War I-The New York Times Stunning Photos

“The Entry of the French Into Noyon: French flags carefully hidden for two-and-a-half years soon appeared everywhere.” CreditUnderwood & Underwood/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, April 19, 1917
Times Insider is offering glimpses of some of the most memorable wartime illustrations that appeared in The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, on the 100th anniversary of each issue.
“‘The Deliverance,’ An Incident of the German Retreat: This picture typifies the deliverance of the cities of Northern France, for two years and a half under Prussian domination, from the iron rule of the conqueror. The children, quick to recognize their friends, are being given a ride by the men of an advance British bicycle corps.”CreditThe New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, April 19, 1917
The damage done to French cities and towns along the Western Front, as the German army staged a strategic retreat to the virtually impregnable Hindenburg line, was the main subject of this week’s Pictorial.
Noyon was among the towns retaken by Allied forces on March 18 after the Germans withdrew. Rotogravure reproductions in the Pictorial showed the French army entering Noyon — though scarcely in a cinematic scene of jubilation — as well as the damage done to Noyon, Bapaume, and Nesle.
“These photographs are the first to reach America showing the actual conditions in the French cities evacuated by the Germans in their hasty retreat to the Hindenburg line,” the Pictorial said. “They give ocular evidence of the destruction wrought by the Germans.”
Most stunning of all was a photo taken by Whitney Warren, one of the architects of Grand Central Terminal, who visited Arras, the scene of a prolonged and important battle. Thirteen inches tall on the printed page, it showed the 18th-century Notre Dame Cathedral with much of its roof blown off. The structure has since been restored, as seen in this contemporary view, which roughly corresponds to Warren’s photograph.
“The Present Condition of the Cathedral at Arras: The Cathedral of Notre Dame, while not so ancient as that at Rheims, being begun in 1755, was one of the most beautiful in France. Its destruction is beyond hope of its ever being repaired.”CreditWhitney Warren/The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, April 19, 1917
Continue reading the main story

The Noirth Korean Threat To America ANd Its Allies Explained

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Some Further Thoughts On Home Burglaries And Cameras

My comment about installing video cameras got a response that I was not expecting.
Elena and I are very middle class. We have no treasures in our house that would mandate turning the house into a fortress.
When a burglary happens here, it's not a team of professionals going after expensive paintings, fancy jewels, antique firearms, or other trappings of the rich. Rather someone smashes the door, runs in, grabs what they see quickly and runs out.
If you have a laptop with very confidential company information that can be a disaster. Hopefully people secure such things carefully for fear of losing their job.
Generally people lose televisions, computers, guns, and cameras. Insurance pays for most of the loss after a deductible.
The financial loss isn't an issue. Having been a victim of two burglaries in my life, I can tell you one thing. It's not the financial loss. It's the awful feeling afterwards that you have been violated. I equate it to how a woman must feel after she is raped or forced to have sex when her heart is really not in it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why People Are Stealing All Over The World

I have a quick comment this morning. As I stated earlier I was afraid to bring a camera to Rio de Janeiro because of street thefts and armed hold-ups. Over the last 40 + years, I have taken a lot of pictures of Rio but was not able to do it this time.
When I got back, burglaries continued here in Pacifica. Elena and I installed a camera system in the house. I will not discuss all of the details. But if you do break in here, rest assured, as the old saying goes, "You will be on Candid Camera."
Sadly break-ins and robberies are common all over the world in both rich and poor countries. My very liberal friends will point out that the continuing rise in inequality between the rich and the poor makes this happen.They draw scenarios where some poor and starving person breaks into your house or robs you with a weapon to get food to stave off starvation.
Studies in poor neighborhoods in South Africa and Brasil paint a different picture. Basically one person in ten works at a low-income job . They produce enough income to keep family members and friends fed. (Basic food stuffs are not that expensive, by the way.)
All of the stealing going on is by people with drug habits seeking to support their addiction.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Article That Won The New York Times A Pulitzer Prize

Tactical Nuclear Weapons Scenario-North Korea

[Analytical & Intelligence Comments ] FEEDBACK: How Tensions on the Korean Peninsula Might Play Out ( sent a message using the contact form at look at the current options for a conventional attack on North Korean nuclear facilities and give an estimate of casualties in North Korea and South Korea.Then let us take it one step further. Let us assume that General Mattias (who would plan the operation) put himself in the shoes of General US Grant in the civil war. General Grant decided that the only way to fight a war was to hit the enemy with overwhelming force. General Mattias may decide that using tactical nuclear weapons against nuclear sites, airfields, and the mountains where all of the artillery is contained. Please work up that scenario including casualties. I'm not crazy. This could very well happen in real life. Of course China would be told that this was just an operation to stop North Korean madness and that the Chinese would follow behind us to handle the regime change that would follow.

How Tensions on the Korean Peninsula Might Play Out

How Tensions on the Korean Peninsula Might Play Out

North Korea: A Red Line at the 38th Parallel

North Korea: A Red Line at the 38th Parallel