Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Friday, October 26, 2007

Terror

Near as I can tell, Islamic terrorists are being educated in Saudi Arabia in extremist schools funded by the Saudi Government, which is a dictatorial monarchy, not a democracy. But we cannot attack Saudi, they are our "friends" and supply us with a large fraction of the oil we burn every day. Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, made no bones about being an enemy of just about everyone, and certainly an enemy of freedom. So the US government made up some excuses to justify attacking Iraq. Knocking out Saddam did not take long, but I was surprised by the chaos that ensued. A lot of other people were also surprised. Some people say they were not surprised, and they like to point out that they knew this all along. I never heard a word of it. Perhaps I blithely ignored anything that did not agree with my way of thinking, but all I heard was arguments over the excuses the administration used to justify going to war. Are there weapons of mass destruction? Who knows? Who cares? It does not matter to me whether Saddam ever had them or not. He was a scumbag who poisoned the minds of an entire society. Death is not good, but it is not the worst thing in the world. There are plenty of things that are worse, things that will drive people to desperate measures, like blowing themselves up.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Natural Gas

LNG - Liquefied Natural Gas

This is going to be more work than going to Mars:

http://www.offshore-technology.com/projects/shtokman/

My brother reports:

The Russian news station had a 10 minute piece on the [joint venture] on the "Barents sea Shtokman gas fields." Seemed to be a big deal. Can't really remember what they said about it, other than that it's like 51% Gazprom, and 25% each Total and Statoil. A complicated deal, with big engineering challenges, but everyone is optimistic that it's going to be an epoch-shattering success.

Natural gas requires more infrastructure than oil. It is inherently more dangerous. Everything is done at high pressure, like 1000 psi, or at cryogenic temperatures. By lowering the temperature to -160 degrees Celsius (halfway to absolute zero), pressure can be reduced to nil. Shipping requires special cryogenic ships. Pipelines require special pipes and compressor stations. The US government was trying to get more LNG (liquefied natural gas) ports built, including one near the mouth of the Columbia. There was some fuss about it a few months ago.

There was a high pressure main gas line running across our orchard (in Ohio). Dad paid to have a tap and a small residential line installed to the house. Tapping into the main line was like defusing a bomb: a tension filled endeavor.

On the other hand, gas used to be really cheap. Mom always preached the virtues of cheap gas for heat. So I got gas heat here. Because of cheap hydro-electric power, a lot of people have all electric homes. And now gas has gotten a lot more expensive. I now notice the gas bills in the winter.

And that business of trying to kill yourself by putting your head in the oven? Does not work so well with Natural Gas, but there used to be gas made from coal that was really deadly. Not used much anymore, though I am sure it is still used some places, probably in industrial processes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Big Stores & Little Stores

I shop at Hank's Thriftway, which is probably the smallest and most expensive grocery store in Hillsboro, other than 7-11 and some Mexican stores. I like Hank's because it is small, and because I have been going there for as long as I have lived in Hillsboro, which is like twelve years. I am sure their prices are higher than most of the other stores, except for their meat, which generally seems to be cheaper. I recognize most of the people who work there. I cannot remember their names, but I know them by sight. I think the service may be better. There are seldom long lines for anything and oftentimes if I am waiting in line, a cashier will come up to me and offer to check me out at an adjacent register. I really do not know whether their prices are higher than other stores or not. I figure if I am buying food at the grocery store, it is cheaper than buying meals at a restaurant.

I have a parking place I use consistently. It is at the very end of the sidewalk fronting the video store adjacent to Hank's. This works well for me because I visit the video store most every time I go to the grocery store. There are often other spots that are closer, but I like it because I do not have to cross the parking lot, which means I do not have to keep an eye out for cars trying to run me down.

I go to the other grocery stores occasionally, usually only because I am on a mission to get some brand of something that only the other grocery store carries. I do not like the other stores. I don't know why that is. A little bit of everything I suppose. No people I recognize, which isn't surprising since I may only go there once a year. The stores are bigger and I have to walk farther to find what I am looking for, often much farther, because I am not familiar with the layout. And there is never a parking spot at the sidewalk in front of the store.

A year or so ago we were in Sherwood looking for a place to eat dinner. We came upon a shopping center that looked it had just been plopped down. Brand new and nothing around it except empty fields. Sometime while we were there I fell into a conversation with a guy who apparently really liked this brand new shopping center. He was glad to see the big chains coming in and opening stores and forcing all the little mom and pop businesses out. I was appalled at this. I believe I concealed my disgust, but I did not continue the conversation.

I have no use for such shopping malls. They do not sell anything I want or need. I hate going to Target, it is like the worst of them all.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Big Money

For some reason I was thinking about bail bonds and policemen this morning. It is a world very far removed from everyday America. Jay Leno was making cracks about $3 a gallon gasoline and all the profits oil companies are making. Everybody likes to complain about the price of gas, but compared to Europe, it is a pittance. Of course, America is very much bigger than Europe, so land is cheaper, we are more spread out and we have farther to travel. Paying European prices for fuel would put a definite crimp in our lifestyle.

My brother was looking at stock for a Norwegian oil exploration company. I looked up their web site and realized, for the umpteenth time, how much money gets spent on drilling for oil. It must be in the billions of dollars a year. Perhaps a trillion dollars in a decade.

Computer chip factories (fabrication facilities, or fabs) cost billions of dollars to build, so they can make zillions of chips that sell for next to nothing. I imagine the life cycle of a fab goes something like this. Five years of planning, one year to build, one year to get everything sorted out, and three years to make enough money to pay for building it. After that, someone else will have built a more efficient fab and yours will be obsolete. However, it is now paid for so you can continue making money as long as you can continue to sell the chips you are making. That may be another five years. After that it will either slide into abandonment, or it will need to be overhauled. I suspect that the big expense is in the equipment that goes inside, so it may just be easier all around to build an all new facility than to try and refurbish an old building.

And don't forget about trains. They are like something from the dark ages, nothing new going on there, but the investment in infrastructure is tremendous. There are the rail lines, and the engines and rolling stock, but the really big item is the land. Thousands of miles of rail lines are sitting on thousands of miles of land. I would not be surprised if the value of all this land in America was a trillion dollars.

So what does all this have to do with bail bonds? For many Americans, a bail bond is going to the largest amount of money they will every deal with. Last I heard bail bondsmen charged ten percent of the bond. If the judge sets your bond at fifty thousand dollars, that is how much the court wants, in cash, to let you out of jail until your trial. The bondsman will put up the fifty thousand, but you have to pay him five thousand. Pay him, mind you. You do not get the five thousand back. You give him the five thousand, it's gone. You show up for trial, he gets his fifty thousand back. You don't show up, he sends a bounty hunter after you. The bounty hunter gets the five thousand to track your sorry behind down and haul you back to jail. There may be variations in the details, but that is roughly the way it works.

So a few thousand dollars is the most many Americans are going to deal with, and it is going to be under the most unpleasant circumstances.

Gone Baby Gone

Went to see "Gone Baby Gone" at the Cornelius multiplex yesterday evening. Even on opening night the theater was not even half full. It was playing in a theater at the end of a long hall, which tells me it that they were not expecting a big audience. I was surprised. Guess that shows how much I know about America's taste in movies.

It was really good, very subtle, well played characters and situations. The ending really stunk, but then it gives you something to think about. Can a drug addict reform and become a normal beer drinking American? I imagine some people think so. I have my doubts. I have heard that some people do reform. Some can stay away from the stuff as long as someone is checking on them. But I suspect most of them die addicts.

There was one good scene in a bar when things turn ugly. The hero tries to talk his way out of the situation until someone makes an overt move, and then he pulls out a gun. That settles the issue. Very straight forward, no histrionics, no grandstanding, very real.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

An OHV Engine From Two Flathead Engines

One of my favorite pastimes is thinking of ways to make a machine without having to resort to complex machinery like lathes or milling machines. What could I construct using only mechanics tools, a drill, and perhaps a welder?

Internal combustion engines are one of my favorite interests. They are used to power everything cool, like cars, motorcycles and airplanes. There are innumerable variations on the original Otto cycle piston-and-crankshaft internal combustion engine, but for our purposes they may be classified into two groups: flathead engines and overhead valve engines.

Flathead engines are simpler and more primitive. Overhead valve (OHV) engines are more complex, more sophisticated and more efficient. Flathead engines are still used for some lawn mowers and other small, powered machines. OHV engines are used for all high power applications, and are even making inroads into the smaller machines.

Here are a couple of pictures from http://auto.howstuffworks.com/hemi1.htm that show the differences between the two engine designs. The Hemi is an overhead valve design.







Flathead engines suffer from one malady that does not afflict OHV engines. That is the accumulation of carbon in the combustion chamber. Due to the shape of the combustion chamber, flathead engines tend to accumulate substantial carbon deposits directly opposite the valves. Periodically the cylinder heads must be taken off and the carbon deposits removed. Failure to do this in a timely manner will result in damage to the engine as the valves will start to impact the carbon deposits.

Apart from the unfortunate cylinder head configuration, a flathead engine is otherwise perfectly sound and, this is the important part, cheap. If there were only some way to fit an OHV arrangement to the top of an inexpensive flathead engine, you could have the benefits of both. It took me a while to come up with an idea on how this might be done without having to resort to casting and machining.

Take two single cylinder flat head engines. Remove the cylinder heads. Take a piece of plate metal and cut two oval holes in it. Each hole would be big enough to accommodate both the intake and exhaust valves. When the valves open they protrude into the combustion chamber. The plate would need to be thick enough to accommodate this motion. The plate would be set on top of one (headless) flathead engine, one hole over the valves, and the other over the piston. The second engine would be inverted over this and set on top. The valves of the second engine would be positioned within the oval that is over the piston of the lower engine, and the piston of the lower engine would be positioned above the valves of the lower engine.

In cross section the combined engines would look something like this (Please ignore the line across the middle of the drawing. My computer picture editing skills still need some work):





The crankshafts of the two engines would be connected with a chain to synchronize their rotation. We would now have a horizontally opposed, two cylinder, OHV engine!

There are numerous details that would have to be dealt with, but I think that it could be done. First would be spark plugs, or rather holes to put them in. I do not imagine our new plate would be thick enough to accommodate a spark plug hole drilled from the side, but it might. Some other device may be necessary. Head gaskets would need to be fabricated, but they could be cut from a sheet of copper. As the engines themselves would be blocking access to the former bolt holes for the head bolts, holding the whole assembly together might require running long bolts from the bottom of one engine to the bottom of the other. The chain would be rather long and might be subject to stretching. For a small engine like this it might be possible to use a toothed rubber belt. That would also eliminate the need for the a sealed chaincase. (A chain would need lubricating oil.) If horizontal shaft engines were used, internal engine lubrication would have to looked at. It would not be a problem for vertical shaft engines.

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Michael Clayton"

What movie did I go see Saturday night? "Michael Clayton". A fine film. Three movies in the theater in three days. Sensory overload, no wonder I could not think of the title right off.

It really reinforced my suspicions that assassination is a commonly used tool. The first murder was done almost to perfection, it really looked like a suicide, except to George, of course. The second one was really crude in comparison, and botched to boot. Thank our lucky stars they blew it (ha, ha, I made a funny), otherwise there would not have been a story, much less a movie. Perhaps they were in a hurry, which is why it was so crude.

Against a couple of billion dollars, what are a couple of lives?

As seen on CSI

There were two items on last Thursdays CSI TV show.
  1. The comment by Catherine that things get worse when the temperature gets above 110 (degrees Fahrenheit).
  2. License plate cameras.
I have been driving up and down the same stretch of highway ever since I got to Oregon seventeen years ago. Recently I have been thinking that it would be interesting to see how many of the cars that I encounter on my daily commute have I encountered before. Occasionally I will recognize a car when I see it several days in a row at the same time, and it is something special like a red roadster. But most do not stick in my memory.

One way to keep track would be to read the numbers off the plates into a tape recorder and then later transcribe them into computer file. After several days I would expect to see a few matches. But there is really no telling. Maybe every car is different every day. Maybe I won't encounter the same car more than once a year. Doing it this way would be way too much work for such a speculative venture. But then I thought about using a camera and maybe some image processing software to pick the license plates out of the images.

Voila! Someone has already done it, and apparently it is in use by various police departments around the country. I saw a YouTube video demonstrating the system in British Columbia. Guy was not wearing his seat belt. Bad boy!

The other deal, the comment about temperatures got me to thinking. Normal human body temperature is 98.6 (degrees Fahrenheit. Why don't we have a degree symbol on the keyboard?). People run fevers when they are ill and a temperature of 104 is serious. Now we have this comment from Catherine on CSI. And we have all those crazy people in Iraq. Temperatures in the dessert get up to 140. How the heck can anyone survive in heat like that? No wonder they have so many apparent lunatics running around over there. This is also going to take some more research.

In The Valley of Elah

John and I went to see "In The Valley of Elah" last night at 'Movies On TV'. He had a couple of passes so we got in free (!!!!). The theater was practically empty. I usually do not like going to Regal theaters because they are so crowded, so this was a shock. That is the difference between going on Saturday night and Sunday night.

It was a fine film. It fit together almost perfectly. I thought the woman detective played her part very well. I am not sure what the title has to do with the movie, except that perhaps moral tales sometimes do not hold up when they encounter the real world.

The only part that did not quit fit was the flag scene at the end. That smelt just a little like politics, but then again, maybe we are all desperate.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

ADD

ADD is an acronym for Attention Deficit Disorder and is sometimes used to describe people who have trouble paying attention. For instance: children in class. I have wondered about the "Disorder" part of this, as order is what those in power are trying to achieve, and anyone who disrupts their orderly world or does not fit into one of their arbitrary places in society disturbs the established order, and so may be called disorderly. People who are easily bored with what passes for education and/or entertainment are labeled as being deficient in their ability to pay attention, and since they do not fit in their assigned slot, it is labeled as a disorder.

None of the accounts of ADD made much sense to me until I read this one:

http://en.allexperts.com/q/Attention-Deficit-Disorder-1526/ADD-33.htm

It is from a woman who describes much of what I have been feeling. I never made the connection between what was going on in my mind and what was happening in my world until I read this.

I am still opposed to calling Attention Deficiency a Disorder. Rather, I regard the 95% of the population that do not have it as deficient. I suspect what is being labeled as Attention Deficiency is more of a survival trait. In the present day United States life is very orderly and survival is taken for granted, but fitting in is key. However, in warfare, adaptability, flexibility and the ability to instantly assess a situation and decide what action to take RIGHT NOW becomes more important for survival than the ability to stand in line and listen attentively. Nothing focuses your attention better than someone trying to kill you.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

3:10 to Yuma

Map showing the locations of the towns of Bisbee, Contention and Yuma, Arizona.


View Larger Map

Bisbee and Contention are in Southeast Arizona. Both are within 20 miles of Tombstone and Sierra Vista. Yuma is in the Southwest corner of Arizona, quite a ways away, so taking a train there makes sense.

It was a pretty good movie, good characters, some good acting, reasonable plot, but there were a whole bunch of nits that bugged me about it.

A Pinkerton man enlists four men to go with him to take their prisoner to the train station in Contention. They camp out along the way. They are being pursued by the prisoners gang and/or Apache Indians. One guy is supposed to be on watch, and where is he? Out in the dark, keeping an eye out? No, he is sitting by the fire with the rest of the bunch, looking at the fire, ruining his night vision. And when the Indians start shooting, do they get out of the light and hit the dirt? No, they run to the fire and stand around it like a bunch of ninnies. Hey, Indians, here I am! Shoot at me!

Then there is this business of laying down of guns when confronted by bad guys, and the one legged man running and leaping over the tops of buildings. And the really feeble reason for pursuing this job that is sure to get him killed uttered by the one legged guy WHILE being choked by the killer. And the fourteen times the prisoner does something that certainly justifies shooting him on the spot, and nobody ever does. And the way the Pinkerton man is too nice and fancy. Pinkertons were tough guys. You didn't get to be a Pinkerton man at $18 a day when everyone else is making $2 a day by being a pantywaist.

Oh, did I mention, the well fed, big and strong Chinese railway workers? Or the very smoothly graded roadbed? Or our gang getting in a gun fight with with another lawman's bunch over the who gets the prisoner? Or using electricity to torture the prisoner? Why bother with the wires are all that? And the prisoner did not really look like he was suffering that much from it. And was the prisoner ever tied up? No, that would have clapped a stopper over his shenanigans.

So it was a morality play. It would have played a lot better if they would have gotten the details right.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Toilet Repair

This is an absurd little story. The basement toilet has been a problem for some time. The handle misbehaved, sometimes jamming, sometimes swinging wild. Then a few weeks ago the chain connecting the flush lever to the flapper valve came loose. Since the end of the chain appeared to be intact, and I found no broken links lying around, I assumed that the chain had torn through the rubber tab on the flapper valve where it had been connected. Well, in that case, we need a new flapper valve, and since the handle is being difficult, we will get a new one of those too.

I remove the handle. This takes some doing. It is devilishly tight. I try turning it one way, but it does not loosen as expected. I try turning it other way, and that does not seem to help either. I am leery of turning it too far, I do no want to crack the porcelain. I work it back and forth a few times and it finally starts to loosen up the wrong way. The fool thing has a left handed thread!

I don't take the old valve with me. That would require closing the shut off valve, and those valves tend to be cantankerous and difficult. So I go to Home Depot and eye-ball their selection and pick out a new flapper valve that I think will fit, along with a new flush handle and lever. The old handle and lever is metal. Looking at the new ones I can see that there is a small metal tab about an 1/8" square that protrudes from the sleeve and interferes with the handle. This is what restricts the handles range of motion. On my old handle, this tab has broken off, which explains for its' unseemly behavior. Well, if this one broke, chances are a new one of the same construction (die-cast metal) will also break. So I pick up a plastic one instead.

Back at the house I install the new parts. Everything works as planned. Both the flapper valve and the lift handle fit and work together. Only problem is that the flapper valve does not quite seal. One tap with my finger and it seals. Okay, maybe it needs to operate a few times to become accustomed to the seat. Well, no, that does not help. It is just not going to work. We will have to get another valve. Back to Home Depot to pick up another valve. This time I have the original with me, so I have a better idea of which one to get. It is still a crap shoot.

Back at the house again I inspect the old valve. There is a rubber tab sticking up where the chain connects. On one side of the tab I can see a cut where the chain evidently pulled through the rubber. I pull the cut apart, but it does not separate completely. I look at the other side of the tab. There does not appear to be a cut on this side. What the devil? How did the chain get loose from the valve without cutting through the tab? The last link of the chain is quite whole. I can only surmise that the rubber valve was molded around the chain when it was made, and that the chain was not correctly positioned when this was done, and so instead of the chain going all the way through the tab, it became half way embedded. This was not as strong as it should be and so it failed. I take the old valve, connect it to the chain with a paper clip and put it back.

But now the handle sticks. The plastic arm has a bend in it that causes the end of the arm to drag very slightly against the front surface of the tank. Evidently the first replacement valve was slightly heavier than the original and this minuscule additional weight was enough to pull the arm all the way down. Not so with the original valve. Well, let us see if we can straighten this arm.

First I try just bending it with my hands. It is surprisingly rigid and I get the feeling that much more force will cause it to snap. Next I try pouring boiling water over the bend, but this has no effect. Lastly I use my wife's blow dryer. It has a narrow nozzle, perhaps 1/8" by about 2". I turn it on high and direct it at the bend for a minute. I give it a try, but it doesn't give. Put it back in the heat for another minute, and boom! It bends as easy as kiss my hand.

So now we are back in business. I imagine the paper clip will eventually corrode, or perhaps the other half of the rubber tab will fail, but I have spare parts a plenty now, and should be able to deal with it, if I remember where they are. But why should I have to go through all this? Why are the valves in toilets so archaic? Think about all the time wasted by people all over this country spent fixing these fool things. You would think somebody could come up with an economical solution to this absurd situation. Evidently you would be wrong.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

TV

My wife and I like to watch crime dramas on TV: CSI, Law & Order, Without a Trace, Cold Case, etc, but the number of ads you have to sit through is annoying, to say the least. So last year I broke down and bought a TiVo. I do not like having to pay the $14 a month subscription fee, but the price of the unit was so far below anything else that could have done the job, that I went ahead and bit the bullet. I brought it home, plugged it in, and programmed it to record all the shows my wife and I like to watch. I came in a couple of days later to watch one of these shows and it was nowhere to be found. It seems that someone else had come in after me and programmed the TiVo to record the shows THEY wanted to watch. Gol durn kids anyway. Kathryn did have a legitimate excuse. The one show she really likes is on at the same time as the one show I really like, but she also has a dance class at this time, so she cannot possibly watch her show while I record mine. So I yielded and let the children rule the TiVo.

This fall, as my son John has a surfeit of computer systems, he gallantly allowed me to use one to build a DVR (Digital Video Recorder), for the price of a mere 22" LCD display. The TV tuner card that is an essential component of this project was only $60. It is also known as a "frame grabber" and a few short years ago they were horribly expensive, as in hundreds of dollars. Then there was the remote control from Microsoft and the receiver that plugs into the USB port. That was only $35. Lastly was the cable from the video card to the TV. The video card has an S-Video output, which is very similar to Y/C (Luminance / Chrominance (is Chrominance even a word?)). Unfortunately, I blew out the Y/C input on the TV a while back while fooling around hooking up video cables while the TV was on. Someday I intend to look into it and see if I can find the problem. It is a 36" CRT and weighs close to 200 pounds. If I can fix it where it is, it would save a major moving operation.

Anyway, back to the video signal hookup. I dig through my box of collected audio/video cables and pull out an S-Video cable, which I hook up, but as expected, it does not work. I find many other interesting pieces, including S-Video to component video (RGB), but nothing in the line of S-Video to composite, which was the standard for hooking up VCR's, and which my big CRT also has. I look on the web, but I am not really finding anything until I come across an $8 cable with an S-Video connector on one end and a composite connector on the other.

http://www.buyextras.com/6febuprsmato.html?gclid=CMnfzML92o4CFQEyYQodCTnoSA


This is weird, no conversion circuitry? Just a cable? Well, $8 is no big deal, let's give it a shot. It shows up in the mail a few days later, I plug it in, and lo and behold, it works! This is very strange. Someday I may even find out what is going on here.

So now I have all the pieces in place. Let's give it a whirl. Watching live TV, while not perfect, seems to be acceptable, but watching a recorded show is painful. The picture quality is significantly worse, even unacceptable. Perhaps there is a setting that can change this. I look but the recording format seems to be set to "Best", so maybe that is all it can do. Well this sucks. What am I going to do? Some more research perhaps, or maybe my son the whiz kid can find a crucial piece of information, or maybe I will try Linux. Sadly disappointing.

DVD's

We usually rent DVD's from the little Mom & Pop rental store (Wheels Video) next door to Hank's grocery close in to downtown Hillsboro. We buy a monthly pass for $25. They do not necessarily have the best selection, but it is adequate for us. My oldest son cannot tolerate the boundaries imposed by such a limited selection, so he has a subscription to Netflix. I do not want to have to wait for a movie, so the local rental store suits me better.

My daughter wanted (needed?) a couple of movies that the local store did not have, so my wife went to the local Hollywood Video store to rent them. The week goes by and they need to go back, so I return them to Hollywood Video. Later that night we get a phone call. Seems the movies have been returned to the wrong store, so my wife has to drive to the store on the West Side of Hillsboro, the only Hollywood Video I knew of, and take them to the store on NE 25th, which I did not even know existed. OK, I knew there was a video store there, but I did not know it was Hollywood Video. What kind of crummy outfit is this? Banks have branches, libraries have branches, but Hollywood Video stores are independent of each other? Just one more reason not to deal with big corporations.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Planetary Gearsets

Digging through my old notebooks, looking for sketches of my mechanism for changing time zones on an analog clock, I came across a chart that shows the gear ratios available from a planetary gearset. I put it into a Google spreadsheet here:

http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pE93ibhhw1_hytd_VGJiHHg&hl=en

Grow Island

I came across yet another "Grow" game the other day. This one is called "Grow Island" I played with it for awhile, but I did not have the patience or inclination to work it out for myself, so I looked up the solution on Jay is Games. This game has two very different solutions (conclusions?). For some reason I transcribed the solutions to my own document:

http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dgz3q3nn_37d23sfg

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Toy Clock

You may be familiar with toy clocks, those with no working parts. Just a couple of hands fastened to the center of a clock face, used by kids when constructing buildings from blocks and by teachers when trying to teach them to tell time.

These kind of toy clocks have a short coming that could be easily rectified and would go a long way towards helping kids learn to tell time. If the hour and minute hand were connected by gears then when one hand was moved the other would move in concert with it. This would establish the rule that these hands follow.

The gears would not need to be complex. A twelve to one ratio is all that would be needed. This could be accomplished with two pairs of gears. One pair with a three to one ratio, the other with a four to one ratio. Using one pair with 15 and 45 teeth would give you the three to one ratio, another pair with 12 and 48 teeth would give you the four to one ratio. Summed together they both give 60, which means they could all use the same pitch and the distance between centers of the two pairs would be the same.

Of course someone will complain that the kids will get their fingers caught between the hands. This could be alleviated by painting the minute hand on a disk and putting it behind the hour hand. With this arrangement there would be no opportunity for pinching fingers.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Fighting Dirty

I read something in the paper the other day that was a little disturbing. The gist of the story was that while things were getting worse, financially speaking, for many of Bush's supporters during his administration, they continued to support him. I view the GOP as a gang of kleptocrats, but even if there were all proven to be criminals, that would not necessarily keep them from getting elected. The Democratic party needs some kind of philosophical club with which to beat these people over the head. Bush had a primo club maker in Karl Rove, whom I detest, but I have to admit he got the job done. I would hate to have to stoop to his level, but if that is what it is going to take to kick the criminals out of office, then so be it.