Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
  Awake too early.
This morning I got to watch Caillou with Oscar. Now there's nothing wrong with Caillou, I have nothing against bald, four year old Canadians, and I watch a lot of Caillou in the summertime. In the summertime the sun comes up at some ridiculously early point in the morning, and the kids just can't seem to stay in bed once the sun has been up for two or three hours. I don't know why, its a perfectly good thing to do; they just must have missed that one gene when picking characteristics from me.

But right now its not summertime, its the middle of winter. The sun isn't even really up at 7:30am, its just hinting at the brief appearance its going to make a little later. And thanks to that its also rather cold downstairs.

Oscar didn't seem to understand all this. Despite it being early, despite it being dark, despite it being cold; we got up and watched PBS. Tomorrow I'm hiding under the covers.

  These guys have the neatest toys
I would love working at Reliable Tools, they get the best stuff. It probably wouldn't work out though, I'd be playing with everything, not getting it ready for sale. Some recent items I'd love to have:

Magna Bend Roper-Whitney MBB-4181

The first tool we use in sheetmetal work is the shear which chops big sheets of metal into pieces just like a giant paper cutter. The next step after cutting is bending a flat sheet into something more resembling a box, tube, or some other 3d shape like a toolbox. (Not much call for flat metal, much more useful after its formed into something.) Now usually to bend the metal you put it in a unit called a Brake which clamps it on the top and the bottom and then has a hinged plate on the bottom that starts bending the sheet right where its sticking out from the clamp.

This works great when you're first starting out because the metal starts out flat. But start putting some bends in it and after a bit those bent sides start getting in the way of the clamp, leading to more complicated things like the box and pan finger brake where you can adjust the width of the top clamp with individual clamp pieces, but sooner or later you're still in trouble because those fingers are bolted onto some large fixed frame which gets in the way on larger projects, or some other problem arises. Happens to me all the time.

The magnabend gets around this by not having any frame or structure on top. It holds the top part of the clamp to the bottom part with magnets. I'm guessing electromagnets, pretty serious ones. Probably smash your finger if you left it in the wrong place. This solves all kinds of problems for bending because all you have to do is have about five inches of depth available inside your project somewhere, set these clamp pieces in there, turn on the magnets (whump) and you can bend away. Also, there's no hinges and structures on the ends, so your project could even hang off an end without causing any problems.

This one sold for close to a thousands dollars, which is why I didn't get it (I was saving up for a tabletop CNC), but it sure would be nice.

Hardinge Compound Cross Slide and Radius Turning Attachment

Another fun item was this lathe attachment for making doorknobs. What this does is pivot a cutting edge around the end of your spinning work piece cutting a nice round surface. Good for making ball pien hammers, babbington burners, bed knobs and other fun stuff in aluminum and brass. Unfortunately this one wouldn't fit our lathes without some major retrofit, and at $726, it was a little pricy for a nice-to-have item. Besides I've seen plans for building your own out there on the net, though of course I can't find my bookmark to the page right now (one of the hazards of having 18,000 bookmarks).

Clearing SEYI 330 Ton Straight Side Press SM1-330

Don't have any immediate use for this thing, its just so dang big. Like a 4000W laser, this is sort of a long term future kind of thing. Would be great for stamping out custom sheet metal (once I figured out how to make my own dies), or maybe crushing cans (making them really thin). Would also love to be able to drop forge serious sized tools.

Still, not on this week's shopping list, even with the reasonable closing price of $55,000.

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  Scaring people with Perl
Perl is not the language that most people think of when designing an application. Sure it can scrape web logs and turn X into Y in one line of code (where X and Y can be almost anything if you're Randall Schwartz), but beyond that its not used for much.

If you get in any further than a couple line script, perl just gets scary. Like today, my friend who aspires to greatness asked me if @$yy{key} was different than @{$yy{key}}.

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is that the first is an array slice dereferencing an anonymous hash in the scalar $yy. The second is dereferencing an anonymous array in the hash %yy under the key 'key'.

Perl lets you build so many layers of collections and lists that you just find yourself building these elaborate structures because they fit the data or how you want to use it. Pretty soon you're doing,

@{$res{$_->{channel_id}}{$_->{key_type}}[$k]}{qw(count z)}= @$_{qw(ct z)}

And thinking nothing of it. Ok, maybe you have to think about it a little bit because you get it wrong the first time, but a quick splash of Data::Dumper() and all is revealed.

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  Into the thick of it
Winter arrived. But not as bad as I expected. I fired up the wood stove with a vengeance and have been trying to keep it fed, but there's a small problem of having a bunch of 30" logs over four feet long and not owning a chainsaw.

Yes, I know, you can get chainsaws at Walmart for $99, but that doesn't include the cost of gas, oil, replacement chains, sharpening, and loss of limbs when you accidentally cut through a leg thinking it was a branch. I have a long history of doing much high dollar damage with inexpensive common every day things, so a chainsaw is not something that is going to live in my garage. Not that I haven't borrowed one once or twice, but its an item to treat with the utmost respect and to use as little as possible.

Wood hacking

It turns out with a small electric saw and about twenty wedges you can eventually mangulate the wood into smaller pieces. It helps in this case that the wood in question has been dead a long time and in some cases is so rotted that the application of a hammer will cause it to crumble apart. But I digress.

So while keeping the house well above 70°F on most days, I've managed to stay under the magic 50 bag mark at least for this month.

MonthThis year  Last year  
Januaryto be continued...2,000

  We shall see how the we fare now in the middle of winter. Back to hacking.
  What a waste, kind of.
My fourth used Maxstar 150 purchase from Ebay continues the recent trends of disasters and arrived not working. Luckily it turned out to be simplest of things to deal with: the power switch. So off to the welding shop where I ordered a replacement (Miller part number 208550) for $5. It arrived today, though of course Airgas didn't call me. Luckily I called them and they found the part, so I went and picked it up along with some new fireplace gloves.

Cherry WR switch

Staring at the lettering on the side revealed that it was a Cherry brand switch, and in fact that it was from the WR series. From there it was just a matter of decoding the option codes: circuitry, actuator, marking, housing color, function, etc. And that gave me the exact part number:WRG32F2FBBN.

Plug that into Google, and you get links to distributors, like Allied and Mouser, offering the part quantity one for $1.16 and $1.34. Looks like Miller paid about $0.75 for them in quantity. Oh well. I could have saved a few bucks, except the shipping would have probably wiped any savings out.

Well, if I ever build my own welder, I'll use a switch just like Miller, and I know where to get them.

Life in the middle of nowhere, remote programming to try and support it, startups, children, and some tinkering when I get a chance.

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Paul Graham's Essays
You may not want to write in Lisp, but his advise on software, life and business is always worth listening to.
How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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