Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Just wrong

On my way home tonight around midnight I saw 2 bmx bikes parked outside a bar...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Work Rant

Tonight I got a call from the plant floor saying they needed to swap a printer out. Note the word swap-That would imply 2 items, one that is currently in place, one that is waiting in the wings. I tell supervisor AB (not his real initials--His name is unpronounceable to most English speakers, he goes by initials) that we need information for both printers--IP address would be best, but the barcode is enough. Since the old printer is working, we ask if it is necessary to do during production, he says this has been a problem for the last 3 shifts and needs to be fixed ASAP. "All I have is barcode". OK, let me have them. He gives me one barcode and explains in detail what is wrong with the printer--Information I don't need, we aren't even allowed to touch them. I ask for the numbers from the other printer "All I have is barcode", gives me the same barcode again, and explains what is wrong with the printer, and that they are still using it. I give up, and go the half a mile (literally) to where the printers actually are, so I can get the other barcode.

By the time I get back, get in touch with the central people who will actually make the change (somehow it is considered more efficient to have a central team who I have to get out of bed, instead of having the local people maintain their own addresses) it is too late to make the original window. I call AB again, tell him we can't guarantee we will be done in time, so we need a new window. "All I have is barcode. I'm under a lot of pressure to get this fixed" and he describes the problem again. Explain that I went to the floor and got the barcodes for both printers, and I have the information I need. He interrupts to tell me "All I have is barcode" and tell me what's wrong with the printer. I explain again that I have the information that I need to make the changes, I can't get them done before lunch is over, all I need from him is the next window when we can do it He tells me next break, I ask when that is.

Make arrangements with the central people--The woman I talk to is going to set her alarm so she can wake up and push the changes.

AB calls again, saying he is uneasy about doing this during production (which is exactly what we told him before...) and that if he can't print labels he'll be f'd up. I explain that worst case, he'd have to put the old printer back and it would work. He repeats himself again--I tell him it is his call, but if he cancels, we won't be able to reschedule again until production is over. He cancels, then tries to explain why he's uneasy--I tell him I have to wake up the person who will do the change and stop her, so I need to go.

This is typical for him. Although he's foreign, that's not the problem--when he listens, he can comprehend, and his accent is understandable. With him, everything us URGENT, and then when he changes his mind, the change is URGENT as well.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rude cheaters

This post from ERnursey reminded me of a guy in my bay when I was in Air Force tech school. He lived in the room farthest from the payphone, and he smelled funny. I lived closest to the phone. His girlfriend would call at 11 at night, when we had to be up at 4am. She'd let the phone ring continuously for 5 or 10 minutes until someone would answer and get him.

Needless to say, those of us with rooms near the phone would get irritated with this. I finally answered the phone and angrily shouted politely explained that we had to be up at 4am, goddammit please don't call so late anymore.

The phone rang again a few minutes later.

"Hi! Can you get smelly guy for me?"
"I just told you, don't call this late!"
"That wasn't me, I didn't just call"
"Well, I just told some girl to quit calling this late!"
"Damn him! (click)"


The first call for him the next night:

"How many times a night do I have to tell you to quit calling this late?"
"Wasn't me..."
"some girl..."
"Damn him (click)"

(We never did figure out how someone who smelled like him had any success with women)

Monday, August 20, 2007

2 wheel training

Jay posted about his son getting rid of training wheels. The best method for weaning a kid off training wheels I've found is this

1. When you remove the training wheels, remove the pedals as well, and make sure the seat is low enough that they can easily reach the ground with their feet.

2. Let them ride that way for a week or two, pushing with their feet hobby-horse style.

3. Put the pedals back on and raise the seat again.

That is all there is to it-They learn balance while still being able to catch themselves. This works best when they are very young--I did this for my kids just before they entirely outgrew their first bikes with 12 inch wheels. The concept works at any age, but older kids may not want to ride without pedals long enough.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Practical math

One of the things that doesn't get taught as well as it should is the practical application of math. At one time I worked for Panasonic in a still-being-built picture tube factory. One of our tasks was to measure the approximate capacity of various tanks--Probably at least 100 tanks overall.

People were using various methods. Tanks ranged from 20 liters up to 2000. We didn't have all the equipment we needed. We had unmarked buckets, 3 liter pitchers, metric scales and tape measures.

I saw various methods used-The most common was "3 liters, 6 liters, 9 liters, 12 liters....36 liters...Crap, I lost count". A few knew that a liter of water weighs a kilogram, and tared out a big bucket, filling it 10 liters at a time. A couple used the 3 liter pitcher to mark 10 liters in the bucket, then used the marked bucket.

The vast majority of tanks were either rectangular or cylindrical. To me the obvious method was to measure, and use 6th grade math (Pie are square, base times height) and metric system to calculate.

Reaction was varied. Some people didn't believe me (usually the 3/6/9 oh, crap people). Others remembered the formulas, but didn't quite understand that this is where they applied. A few had a "Duh--Why didn't I think of that" reaction. It seemed incredible to me that I was the first to think of this, with that many people spending that much time.

I think this is a failing in how things are taught. Kids should learn these things hands-on, by measuring things around the classroom. Maybe I'm strange, but I'd have an easier time learning the concepts if I was handling things, and measuring them. Have the class figure out the capacity of the wastebaskets, desk drawers, the room... I know that not all concepts can be taught this way, but wherever they can, they should.

Libertarians and education

In general, I seem to agree with libertarians more than other political views, although I'd call myself an "open source libertarian" rather than a "free software libertarian". For non-geeks, (or geeks of a different stripe) that means I'm not wedded to the ideals in their pure form, but rather believe that in most cases those ideas will have the best results.

Public infrastructure is a legitimate place for government. I think at least K-12 education is in a sense infrastructure--it is the basic core that aids progress and helps avoid tyranny. Education promotes commerce, educated soldiers are better able to defend our country. I don't think this translates to an individual right to education. Rather, it is good policy to spend education dollars as efficiently as possible, with several goals.

The first goal is to get the majority of the population to a reasonable level of education. Literacy, history, math (with a lot more practical applications--I'll do another post on that a bit later) government--How it works, and how to be involved to influence it. I think sports is over-emphasized. We worry too much about sports in school--It may benefit individuals, but I don't think sports programs benefit society. I may be biased, because I'm not an athelete and was never involved in school sports.

The second goal should be to identify Talent, and nurture it. This isn't for the benefit of Talent, but rather for the benefit of the rest of us--The more Talented people we have working on our problems, the quicker those problems will be solved.

Another reason that K-12 education is different is that kids shouldn't be held to the same standards as adults, and shouldn't be punished more than necessary for their parent's failures. By the time you can be responsible for yourself, it is essentially too late to catch up, regardless of talent or effort. I don't want generations of uneducated people, especially clustered together where the kids don't get to see the benefits.

I see some of the pitfalls of public education. I deplore most of the zero tolerance rules. It is an immense mistake to make self-defense a zero-tolerance offense, especially in cases where the truth is reasonably deciphered. I don't think it is intentional, but the result is teaching that authority is responsible for everything, don't be self-reliant.

I don't know what level of government should be responsible for education. Federal has an interest, but I don't know if it is enough to justify federal involvement in most cases. On the other hand, there are problems with education being funded entirely locally--There are cases of poor areas spending a higher percentage of total income on education, and still not having enough.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I reload for .40, and will probably eventually reload for 9mm unless I switch my IPSC gun to another caliber. I save my brass, plus whatever other reloadable brass I find at the range. This means I've got a big plastic kitty litter bucket about half full of brass. Probably about 2 gallons or so.

I made a little sifter with wood slats to separate the 9mm and smaller from the .40 and bigger. I spent a few hours perfecting it and sorting. The result was several boxes of brass in the garage--One of mostly 9mm, one of mostly .40, one of unsorted, and one of odds and ends, mostly revolver brass with a few rifle cartridges.

My wife decided to straighten up the garage. The first thing she did was clean up all these different little boxes of brass I had laying around everywhere. She didn't realize they were separate, so she just dumped them all back into the bucket...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Cheapskate car statistics

I bought my first car in 1982--A 1962 Valiant that I paid $125 for. Slant 6, 96,000 on the odometer when it finally died, and I assumed it was actually 196,000. Drove it for about 10,000 miles over about a year, then I couldn't afford insurance. Total repairs--About $6 in brake springs. A friend borrowed it for a while, gave it back with a bad rear wheel bearing. Another friend bought it, and tried to transplant it's engine into his Rambler. The Rambler is a story in itself... I've still got the hood, trunk and 2 doors from the Valiant in the loft of my parents barn. 
 Including the Valiant, I've spent a total of $15,195 on cars. 2 were given to me free, but during the tenure of each of those I had another car as well. I've collected insurance on 2 cars that I kept driving. I've junked several, and sold most of them. The total "earnings" from my various cars is $6985, which doesn't count mileage reimbursement. This leaves me with $8200 in total payout (not counting repairs and maintenance) on cars over 25 years, for an average payment of $328.40 per year, or $27.37 per month. 
The most I spent on one car was $2800 on a Nissan Sentra wagon. Drove it for 8 years. Sold it for $400.  
Worst car was a 1989 Toyota Corolla. Was buying it as a spare car. I test-drove it in the evening, I didn't see how badly it smoked for the first 5 minutes it ran. Stranded me once due to a bad battery. Had a badly-leaking radiator that cost $135 (and a couple hours of my time) to replace, then it burst a brake line. Decided that wasn't worth replacing, because the lines were covered with a plastic thing held in by about a hundred rusty screws. I don't think I drove it 400 miles over 6 months. Junked it for $130. 
The most lucrative car was my recently-deceased Pontiac Sunbird, that I found for sale while walking back from my parents' garage where I was trying to fix the Corolla. Paid $450. Collected $675 in mileage for three trips to Detroit, spent about $120 of that in gas. I was run off the road by a commercial truck, was paid $1975 to "repair" my car. Didn't repair it other than putting a junkyard wheel and tire on for $20. Wound up with what I presume was a head gasket leak and some sort of vacuum problem. When the vacuum problem started affecting the brakes, I quit driving it except to take it to the range twice to use for an IDPA range prop--We did several scenarios where we drew and fired from the car, or left the car and fired from behind it. 
 I'm currently driving my wife's Nissan Sentra with a bad transmission--When it is hot, it often doesn't want to shift into high gear. She doesn't have to go far, so she's driving the $400 S-10 with 260,000 miles I bought to haul crap for the house. The S-10 has one seatbelt, no headliner, dash lights or radio, drivers' door window doesn't roll back up--You have to lift the window with one hand, roll the handle with the other. No grill, black body, blue driver's door, red bed. These are below even my standards, so I'm actually shopping for a replacement. I hate car shopping.