# Hyperloop – boop, boop, a-doop and a wild and crazy thought.

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I’ll disagree with Elon’s document where it states that the hyperloop tube can be a single section. (Alpha3.pdf)  Essentially, what that design doc says is that the bends will take the thermal expansion and contraction range of half a kilometer.

Hyperloop route map – That’s one long pipe.

The current plan is to use steel. Steel has an expansion coefficient of 0.000012 meters per meter-degree C.

Assuming a 65 degree C range of temperature, there will be a length range of 78 cm per 1000 meters. Assuming 640 km of tube, the tube as a whole can vary in length by 499.2 meters, approximately half a kilometer.

The plan calls for the tube to be mounted on pylons that can flex. Assuming a 10 km radius, and an arc of approximately 30 degrees for a section, this works out to a section 5235.9877 m in length. This section can shrink by 4.08 m and expand by 4.08 m from the mean. (This is actually double the change from the mean for this section. However, to use 2.04 m assumes that all installation occurs during the mean temperature, which may not be a safe assumption.) If we assume the arc remains a true radius, the radius will expand to of the tube should move a maximum of 7.79 meters outward or inward.

(I won’t do more than simply mention wildfire as a possible source of heating for sections of pipe.)

However, the tube should not maintain a smooth circular radius. Given that other, straight sections of the tube will also be expanding and contracting at the same time, and that straight tube sections will not deform, a fraction of the total tube’s expansion and contraction will be relieved at curves, and those curves will deform into ellipses. Such a deformation could easily be more than 10 meters sideways.

Designing pylons to accommodate such movements will be challenging.

A further problem is that it will be impossible to produce a completely uniform tube. Every object like this has weak points, and even if it didn’t start that way, repeated flexing will tend to create weak spots.

Yes, steel has probably the best failure mode of any practical material. And steel can cycle through flexing for so long it’s almost indefinite as long as it’s maintained and inspected. Inspection on pylons will be easy. But if it’s avoidable, why not?

Consequently, the tube should be made of sections that fit into each other with expansion joints. I do not believe that this is as big a problem as thought. There are straightforward solutions to the issues.

The joints should have a fitted joint section at least double the length of the expansion from the mean. (e.g. The fitted joins on each end should be at least length of the of the total expansion.) The joint should be beveled and the edge rounded on the female end’s internal surface where it comes back to pipe thickness.

Each tube section will need to be anchored and instrumented on each end to monitor exact location of the join to ensure it does not creep.

Because of the anchoring and monitoring safety requirement, it is desirable that the tube sections be as long as possible. Countering this is the need to make sure that the glide path of the hyperloop car is not affected to the point that it can touch down on the tube, as this will wear both the tube and the air cushion skis.

All this requires is a small increase in the size of the skis to compensate for the gaps at joints. The inertia of the flying car will do the rest. I would choose a tube length of approximately 1 km as the interval. 39 cm of expansion joint should work fine.

A problem is that each joint will introduce a small impulse to rock the car on its linear axis. Taken individually, this is not a problem. But it could be possible for this to resonate with the frequency determined by the length, mass and mass distribution of the car. Those could change. This means that the distances between joints should not be regular.

Holding vacuum in the tube sections will be a little harder, but that just means you need flexible seals outside the pipe. That’s been done for water piping for a long time.

Here’s my wild and crazy.  I know that aluminum oxynitride is way too expensive to use for this purpose. But what if a manufacturing process could be created that made it feasible? At least some of the straight sections of pipe could be clear then. And that would be popular. It would make the trip into entertainment as well as practicality.

Alon optical aluminum oxynitride

Aside from that, I’m wondering if hyperloop couldn’t be more valuable for transporting freight.

# Off the grid with Tesla PowerWall is not an environment win – On the grid is.

We are going to a world-wide grid because it makes sense. In power generation, small is not beautiful. Be clear consumers. If you want to benefit the environment – use your Powerwall PV system on-the-grid. Doing so has great benefits. Your batteries can allow power companies to load level power generation. With batteries, instead of your PVs being often a headache, your system as a whole is a big benefit to the grid.

The future of power is the global supergrid

Don’t get me wrong here. I like Tesla. I am a big fan of Elon Musk and what he has accomplished. Tesla’s claims on their site are for using the PowerWall on the grid. However, others, like Solar City, appear to be suggesting using that system off-the-grid. And Tesla fans are going for the off-the-grid idea.

There is a problem with the battery for the home off grid. If the whole system is off-grid, then the batteries will spend most of their time fully or nearly fully charged. The system has to be able to last over the longest time with little or no sun in winter. And battery packs tend to last longer when not deep cycled.

If that sysem is not connected to the grid, that means that most of the energy generated by the solar panels will be thrown away because the batteries are full.

In an optimum installation, solar panels will pay back their energy debt required to make them in 3-7 years. In a sub-optimum installation (but connected to the grid) they will pay it back slower. Add the batteries and you have a bigger energy debt for manufacture. The time to payoff of energy to manufacture and install rises to 5-10 years.

The question is not whether panels in an off-the-grid system will throw away energy. The question is how much energy that system will throw away. To have a good consumer experience, a designer would want to oversize both batteries and panels. I would expect at least half of the PV energy generated to be thrown away on average. I would expect that in the top-of-the-line installations, that the system could throw away 80% or more.

That extends the time to payoff by a factor of 2 – 5 times. So now, instead of a 5-10 year energy payoff when grid-connected, you are looking at a low of 10-20 years, and a high of 25-50 years.

Those figures get into never-will-pay-back territory. Why? Because while solar panels last a long time, batteries don’t. So you will have to add to your energy debt. Then, you won’t ever pay off the energy debt incurred by making it and installing it.

So the system becomes a sinkhole for energy.

Today, most solar panels and batteries are made using coal energy in China.

If we want to be carbon-neutral, we need to use nuclear power for that. So what this system really means is that China’s conversion to nuclear power will create the benefit for global warming.

I suspect that Musk and company are well aware of this. And I also think that the probability of a significant number of people going off-grid in our urban based world so that it really matters is very low. Consequently, I suspect that Elon and friends have just let this one go by because it will help generate buzz and sell systems. Yes, it will allow your house to have full power during outages – definitely that.

But stay on the grid unless you have an overriding reason not to. Going off grid will switch your system from an environmental benefit to an almost certain net carbon-polluting choice. When we see nuclear power taking over main-grid generation, then it won’t be a carbon-creation choice. But until then, yes.

# Ukraine: Orwellian Alice-in-Wonderland from US mainstream media continues

Let’s review facts. A revolutionary “Ukrainian” ethnic gang based in Kiev drove the democratically elected president out of the country. This precipitated the partition of the country we call Ukraine. The east called on Russia for help. Russia’s army intervened in Crimea, held a plebiscite, which was overwhelmingly approved. The Ukrainian forces were removed without bloodshed. The revolutionary government in Kiev which US mainstream media insist on calling “the legitimate government of Ukraine” then attacked the East. That unelected government recently declared the Nazi collaborators in WWII to be the only true heroes of WWII and banned the display of anything else. Given rope, the fascist revolutionaries of Kiev are showing their true colors.

So: USA media portrays the fascist junta rebels in Kiev as the “good guys” who are legitimate. While USA media portrays those who have only defended themselves against them as the “rebels” allied with “bad Russia” who are tearing apart the country. That is Alice-in-Wonderland, through the looking glass nonsense. It is repeated by every media outlet, and by every talking head on TV in the USA.

Ethno-linguistic map of Ukraine.

Since those initial attacks by the Kiev revolutionaries, the Kiev army has conducted attacks directed at civilians. (1, 2, 3, 4 )  In videos I have seen, it appears that  targeting of civilians is probably deliberate policy. It makes sense. Just look at the map showing the region of this civil war. In that part of the world, if you can drive out a different ethnic group, then you own it. It’s not just White Power racism, it’s anybody who doesn’t look exactly like us, and agree with us completely, White Power racism. It’s as if California was shelling LA and San Diego. horseshit

Civil war shown in black. Outline of California for comparison.

Killed in Ukraine by Kiev’s Army shelling civilians.

# Stacy Harris – Author, ecological disaster

Copperheads killed after plowing. Not from plowing. Those are 410 shotgun shells. https://www.facebook.com/SustainableStacy/photos/a.206569259482089.51304.162897670515915/550328048439540/?type=1&fref=nf

I don’t often branch out into conservation, but take a look at this. Anybody see the problem here with  Ms. Sustainable-Farm-to-Fork (AKA Stacy Lyn Harris)?

http://gameandgarden.com/about-stacy/ Ok. She’s a lawyer, and a mommy.  No clue about ecology though.

So, fine. Stacy”s got kids. Like most mommies, her instincts tell her to nuke anything that’s a breath of danger to her kids. See snake! Blast snake! Kill! Kill! Kill!

But folks, being a gorgeous mommy with a law degree does not excuse such moronic drivel praising and encouraging slaughter of snakes, even if they are venomous.

Let’s also get something straight about copperhead bites. Very few people die from copperhead bites. Usually, people die of anaphylaxis after their second or third copperhead bite. That’s like what happens to some people that are stung by bees. It’s not the venom. It’s the IgE immune response. Anaphylaxis is what happens to people allergic to peanuts and things.

Seriously, death by copperhead is incredibly rare. Death from copperhead happens once every 2-3 years, if that. If you look at those cases, most of them are people who picked up the snake. Bites are very common, so common that it is hard to get stats specific to copperheads. CDC keeps stats on all venomous snakebites, estimating 7,000-8,000 per year, and roughly 5 of those die.

Rodents kill people by spreading disease. Hantavirus has infected 637 people since 1993. 229 of those people died, despite medical care. Just from hantavirus, twice as many people die as die of all venomous snakebites each year. Bubonic plague (also spread by rodents) infects about 10 people a year and with antibiotics, on average, one of those dies. (Even when plague kills a mountain lion and a ranch hand gets if from skinning the carcass, the root cause is rodents.) Leptospirosis is carried by wild rodents. So is tularemia.

None of those are major causes of death. Contrast that with death by distracted driving (texting on your phone). Texting kills around 400 people a month in the USA. Lightning averages around 75 deaths per year.

I’m sorry, Stacy, but Farm to Fork is not about slaughtering snakes just because they exist. They are wild creatures, and friends of farmers, just like hawks, falcons and other predatory birds. And let’s not forget that in three states,  Iowa, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, copperheads are protected species.

# A growing startup company trap

If you want to do something right, do it yourself…  Yes. I know it well.

But this is also a trap when running a project or company. If you don’t find and develop people who can and will, you will be stuck forever in that rut. It is also an Achilles heel for those with excellent technical competence for two reasons. Both reasons have to do with the psychology of high-performing technical people and is common with engineers, scientists, and such.

First, such people are competitive, even hyper-competitive and driven. This makes it hard for the hyper-competent to find people better than or equal to themselves – both because such people aren’t common, and because competitive people tend to unconsciously dislike people who might surpass them.

Second, for people that the most competent hire, the experience can be difficult. This is because the hyper-competent boss tends to feel threatened by people who are too competent. And because of that position, the very competent boss can set himself (or herself) up to win. This is a particularly difficult problem with managers because the competitive psychology needs to win, and feels best of all when winning against a competitor the manager unconsciously feels is better than themselves.

As a result, top technical talent tends to have three management issues. A. The unconscious selection of people less competent than they are because it makes them feel better. B. Beating and finding fault with people equal to or better than they are because that makes them feel better, and they are the boss. C. Driving out the most competent because they feel threatened.

There are also mammalian endocrine issues. Mammals who are higher in the hierarchy are faster, stronger, and have better cognition. It’s automatic. Those rising in a hierarchy also display these characteristics. Those who have a negative experience will have endocrine effects to match that tends to slow cognition. At the extreme, this “beta-status” manifests as depression. These effects play out in corporations and projects as well.

This is why it is fairly common that people who have some talent as con-men, or who know they are not in the same league, but have high emotional intelligence, can be so successful. Such people don’t compete with those they hire. And they tend to be quite good at spotting talent.

So, when you find yourself in this situation, while it may be true, it is something to spend some time pondering how to change it. It’s good to ask yourself:

“Am I competing with my staff?”
“If I’m not, why did this happen – ask that question 5 times.” e.g. If someone failed, why? And why did that why occur? And why did that why of the why happen? The “5 Why’s” method was coined at Toyota, because it generally got to the root cause. Sometimes it’s deeper, sometimes not 5 deep. But it’s a good rule.
“What do I need to do to change the root cause? To change the parts of the causal chain?” e.g. Perhaps it’s training. Perhaps it’s a money problem. Perhaps it’s more sleep. This is an exploration.
“Is there something I can change? If so, how?”

It is also good to remember Edward Deming’s first rule. Everything that happens is by definition the fault of management. His philosophy of management, which was very successful, is that with rare exceptions, staff want to succeed and do excellent work. So management needs to figure out how to let them do that. On that foundation, implement continuous improvement.

# What’s wrong with “Selma”?

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. -MLK

Selma’s false history are the root of the weakness of its drama. Selma’s historical lies are serious, and its omissions robs the film of humanity and even flatters bigots.

President Johnson, was not against MLK, nor was he against civil rights. Johnson understood and hated southern bigotry, hypocrisy, lynchings, and the rest of that good old boy garbage. Johnson was a key ally, a strong progressive, the man who called for, and got, “The Great Society.” It is as great a falsehood to depict Johnson as an opponent as it would be to depict Dr. King as a terrorist. It’s just not true. The director, Ava DuVernay, excused it as necessary to provide dramatic tension.

However, J. Edgar Hoover definitely was an opponent of Dr. King, and Hoover tried to shut down the civil rights movement by using the FBI as his personal instrument of felony blackmail. We have documentation that Hoover harassed Dr. King, smeared Dr. King, and in a blackmail letter threatening to reveal King’s affairs, appears to call on MLK to commit suicide. There is reason to suspect the possibility of Hoover’s complicity in James Earl Ray’s purported murder of MLK, and the real possibility that Ray was innocent. That letter linked to above was carefully hidden for decades, and redacted in ways that prevented the finger of investigation pointing back at Hoover. What is documented of Hoover’s actions toward Dr. King is criminal, and despicable.

If DuVernay was unaware of those basic facts, that ignorance is hard to excuse. But if she is aware of them, (and it doesn’t take much to find them) then we must conclude that Ava DuVernay is unable or unwilling to face the grim reality of black history, which is Ava’s own history. J. Edgar Hoover was not only a closeted gay man, Hoover was passing for white. Those facts are also documented today.

So why didn’t Ava stick to real history?  If she had used real history, she would have hammered a nerve that is current today, and her movie would be winning awards. She would have nailed one of the key horrors of racism and lynchings in the old south that is whitewashed even today. That some of the most vile  enforcers of racial bigotry in the USA were people like J. Edgar Hoover: black ancestry, with dark-skinned relatives, and passing for white.

Ava chose not to tell the real story, that an out-of-control FBI director, a black man passing as white, led the opposition to King and quite probably killed him.

The real story would have shown how racism even poisons families based on skin color. The real story would show how some people with black ancestry choose not just to run away from their heritage, but to viciously turn on their own. The real story could have questioned whether James Earl Ray’s guilty plea was coerced, and shown that Ray tried for the rest of his life to clear his name. The real story would have shown how Dr. King had affairs, and tried to understand it. Dr. King was as human as they come. Yes, biopics tend to lie about their subjects. JFK’s affairs and the skinny-dipping starlets at the White House pool parties are left out if his profiles. I don’t think that makes it right though.

Beyond that key piece of black history there are other egregious errors that let historical activists against civil rights off the hook, and somehow ignores others who were key helpers. Selma puts the Orthodox Christian church into the marches on the side of Dr. King. But that church’s leader hated King and worked against civil rights. The movie removes the role of American Jews strong (and key) support for King and for black civil rights completely. That wholesale removal of Jewish support is like leaving France out of the story of the American revolutionary war.

So, that is how a little “dramatic license” on Ava DuVernay’s part is really not little at all. Ava’s film is so false, that if it were a white director who made a movie depicting black people so wrongly, that director would be called a bigot.

It is rare that history presents a true story with such a nemesis as J. Edgar Hoover. Great writers and directors don’t shy away from treason and treachery. These are part of the human condition. To portray how racism also infects its targets with self-hatred opens up depths inside us that need the light. Hoover is Shakespearian in power and scope, and not only for his black ancestry. Hoover was apparently a homosexual man who persecuted homosexuals.

The puzzle of why Hoover wasn’t in the film as Dr. King’s nemesis is something I will never understand. “Selma” could have been great.  I hope Ava has more courage to confront treachery and the uncomfortable next time.

# 3D printing is ridiculously hyped

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3D printed sculpture

I worked in computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) delivering the first working plantwide system for the auto business. Manufacturing must do every step in the most efficient way possible such that the overall process is optimized. Each part must also meet stringent quality standards that are different for the use each part has in the assembly. As an example, a modern automobile has 25,000 to 70,000 parts, contained in hundreds of subassemblies that go together. Customers get upset, and government agencies get involved if any of those parts don’t meet their mean time to failure (MTTF) targets, which targets are many years.
3D printing is just one method of producing a part. 3D printing is a very slow method; As a rule, it produces parts with poor hardness and strength compared to other methods of forming the same material. It produces parts with limited choices of materials. And 3D printing produces parts with lousy fit and finish characteristics. 3D printing does not produce completed assemblies. It produces parts. Parts don’t make an end product.
As a simple example, think of a steering wheel. Steering wheels are plastic, generally over metal frames. Consumers like sewn-on leather covers for them. Can you produce a steering wheel by 3D printing? You can produce something, yes. But it will not meet the strength and wear requirements. in an accident, it would probably break and penetrate the skin/body of the driver. And you can’t 3D print a luxury cover. Sure, one can compensate for a slow manufacturing process by having more production units. But that takes space on the factory floor, it takes more manpower to oversee it usually. And both of those things cost money. In manufacturing it’s all about three things:
• Cost
• Quality
• Flexibility

One of the big lessons driven home to me in CIM was exemplified by Steve Jobs decision to junk Apple’s state-of-the-art robotic manufacturing plant. Why did he do that? The Apple plant was top-notch, and had no quality problems. It was not absolutely lowest cost, but it was quite good. In a word, flexibility. Jobs found out that to make changes to a robotic plant full of software required huge lead times. If he had accepted that, we would not have iPhones, iPods, or any of the new Apple products today. They would not exist because it would take extra years to get them to market while the robotic/CIM people engineered the methods to produce them. And changes would be slower to implement.

3D printing has some flexibility. But it’s probably not as good as you would think. 3D printing’s flexibility is based on software. So backlog will be regulated by how efficiently designs can be done, implemented, and changed. But the cost per part and quality also have to be high for the production runs that repeat.

The auto business adopted 3D printing for prototyping decades ago. For that purpose it’s great. Manufacturers will rapidly adopt any method that works for them better. They have to. 3D printing in the home might happen. But I don’t see it as likely beyond hobbyists. The reason is simple. Consumers can get better manufactured items for a lot less through our industrial system. Running a printer is: A little smelly (if it’s plastic or metal), mildly toxic (if it’s plastic), requires expensive feed stock (expensive by the time the consumer gets it), prone to breakdown, and the end product is generally disappointing because products are made from multiple parts made from multiple different materials.
High-end 3D printers can be useful in vary specific situations as part of a support system. Having multiple printers that can make different material parts is very useful. Spaceships is one of those because transport/supply is either very expensive or impossible. It makes sense there. Similarly, military installations like Naval ships, submarines, or forward military bases could use that capability. Aircraft carriers have machine shops, just like universities do to support operations. 3D printing makes sense to add to that capability. Backed up by teams of engineers who can design, test and then send a completed design, it’s a great thing. That’s a killer app. Space and war-supply. Aside from that, it’s hobbyist stuff and specialty flexible machine shops like OMW who make small numbers of complex parts.

# The Irony of Calico

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Applicants must have an M.D. and/or a Ph.D., and must show evidence of an outstanding, independent research record with international recognition in their specialized area. We invite applications from preeminent scientists who have run renowned, independent labs in either academia or industry. Applicants should have a notable publication record in top-tier journals.

Sergei Brin didn’t finish grad school. Neither did Larry Page, although, unlike Facebook’s founder, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, they did finish their undergraduate degrees.

Sure, in biosciences, education matters. But at least as important in academia is intellectual theft, backstabbing, and driving some of the best people out. In fact, the closer you get to medicine, the nastier it is in academia. I know this first hand. I became very suspicious by the time I was done with grad school when someone advanced quickly, got accolades, etc. Some were deserved. More than a few were not deserved in the least.

Perhaps it is because Page and Brin came out of Stanford’s grad school that they have this idea that real innovation and really getting there in aging is going to come out of trying to hire a paper-qualified people.

I don’t think it will.

# What is Europe to do? Fiddle, fiddle and faddle

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The EU could break up and desert the Euro. That’s one idea that’s been floated a lot. Spain exit (Spexit), Greece exit (Grexit), or a north-south split that would create a united Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, (and a few others) into a south Euro (Seuro) union, with Italy leading, and leave the rest of the EU as the core are floating on the winds of bloviators. (Including moi.)

North-South Euro split South shown in Yellow.

Italy might take that deal if it could do well for Italy’s elites. And it probably would.

The EU can also move to a federal system with direct elections, similar to the United States. That would allow the income redistribution that the United States does.

Wealth transfer from the rich nations of the EU would allow the sort-of-basket-case nations of Europe to be able to buy again. (Greece, Spain, Portugal). It would draw down the coffers of the rich nations like Germany, because redistribution through taxes requires net transfer from the rich to the poor. Very Christian, that!

So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret…

The history of the current EU mess is that Germany used its dominance of the ECB to ensure huge loans went out to the periphery nations of the EU so that the periphery nations could and would buy German products. That debt held by the periphery nations is the positive balances in German banks. So wealth transfer’s not very palatable to Germany. They see it as “their money” much like most successful US citizens see their bank account positive balance as “their money” and the national debt as “those people’s problem!”

But, of course, all money in the modern world is debt money. Yes, dear. You can run, but you can’t stop spending it. Nor can you stop piling it up in your bank account.

Germans also pay their damn taxes. Italians weasel out of their damn taxes. Germany runs well and has good industrial systems humming along. Italy runs god knows how, and its families have an average net worth double that of German families. Why? Because Italians weasel out of their taxes. Their debt problem is roughly equal to the collective difference between Italian family net worth and German family net worth.

In addition, the nations of Europe are facing the demographic cliff of the baby boom. But the rich nations are benefiting from the problems of the periphery because they are getting the best workers (mostly young) from Spain, Portugal, Greece, etc. as immigrants. Germany and France are reluctant to let go of that. Lose the cream of Spain’s, Portugal’s and Greece’s young people? Also Ireland’s and Italy’s? Come now. What politician is going to tell the strongest voting group (old people vote) that to help out those deadbeats of the south, Germany has to starve its elderly retirees?

And what bureaucrat would let go of the bridle of extortion/blackmail he has on the deadbeat nations in the form of intimate knowledge of exactly what crimes were committed by the politicians running Spain, Portugal and Greece? (And to a lesser extent, Ireland.) With that sort of stranglehold over those nations, until the people of the debtor nations kick the SOBs out and there is no more stranglehold, the option of breakup is not very enticing now, is it? Not to the average bureaucrat it isn’t.

Put these factors together with the German fear of runaway inflation that makes them bow to the gods of austerity, and you have a stalemate. Germany won’t allow the EU to break up, split, or go federal until there is no other choice. France won’t want to go that direction on principle — perhaps never. It’s still true that French don’t like Germans and vice versa.

I remember walking across a bridge in Germany into France. There was shopping. My German hosts seemed put off by my wanting to walk across the river. I asked them if they did. They said never. The also said that French people didn’t walk across into Germany. It was very rare. Something about German army taking over France or something a while ago. Fusses folks.

Whatever happens, it’s not going to be easy. The politics of doing anythng at all are nearly impossible.

The EU is a bureaucracy. That means that like any bureaucracy, it will do the easiest thing possible now. As long as it kicks the can down the road, buys them more time, bureaucrats will be happy.

What’s the easy thing here? QE.

I predict QE by November.