Friday, July 30, 2010

I Think I Saw A Horror Film Like This Once

The late rains and cool weather created a bumper crop of grasshopper food--and a bumper crop of grasshoppers, many of which are covering our windows and screens, often in the process of making more little grasshoppers.  I would take pictures, but the Grasshopper Family Values Council would object.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival & Copyright Law

Yup.  An article from The Marquette Lawyer discusses Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc. (1994), in which the Supreme Court upheld the authority of the courts to require Fantasy Records to pay Fogerty's attorneys' fees for a copyright suit in which Fantasy sued Fogerty, and lost.  Thanks to Blog Law Blog for the pointer--they pointedly encourage Righthaven defendants to look at it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sure Glad We're in Post-Racial America

From the July 21, 2010 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Madison — State elections officials Wednesday narrowly rejected a Milwaukee Assembly candidate's attempt to run with the slogan "NOT the 'whiteman's bitch' " under her name on the ballot.

Ieshuh Griffin, an independent candidate with a history of feuds with local officials, said in response she would sue the state Government Accountability Board for infringing on her freedom of speech.
One board member, Thomas Barland, insisted that there wasn't a problem, saying that he didn't "interpret it as racial."  Not racial?  Wow.  There are days that I despair of this country ever getting past race--but increasingly, it's not Klansmen.  It's black people like Ieshuh Griffin, intent on keeping racial hatred stirred up.

Machining Aluminum, Getting Experience

I discovered that the beautiful parts that I made a couple of days ago are just a bit short for the tripod in question.  (Fortunately, I discovered this before shipping.)  I discovered that what had been the franchisee for Metal Supermarkets in Boise has moved to Garden City, and become Gem State Metals, and I went there to get some 2" OD, .125" wall aluminum tubing.  Instead of boring from 1.47" to 1.73", I just bought tubing that was already 1.74", and made one quick pass with the emery cloth on the inside to make it pretty.

But I also suddenly found that the easy time I had three nights ago squaring the 1/4" wall aluminum tubing didn't work with .125" wall tubing.  Why?  Same alloy: 6061 T6.  It turns out that:

1. Getting very precisely centered in the lathe is far more important with aluminum than acetal--probably because the aluminum isn't self-lubricating.

2. Boring the inside of the tube requires a relatively low speed, but a heavier cut, to avoid "chattering," which often leads to the part being pulled from the chuck.  But squaring the tubing requires a medium to medium-high speed, and at least until you get an even end, very light cuts, typically .005"-.010".  I wasted a solid hour figuring this out.

Experience, unfortunately, is among the most expensive things to get.  I just hope that this experience turns into something economically useful, unlike most everything else with which I have developed an expertise.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Voyager Mission: Fond Memories

There's been a bit of discussion of the Voyager mission of late, since these space probes are still operational, almost thirty years after launch.  My first full-time job, when I ran out of money and had to drop out of college, was writing Voyager telemetry software at Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena.  I even received this cool certificate in the mail, some years later: a "Group Achievement Award," which simply means that I was part of a big group that did our jobs really well.

I wish I could say that I did my job really well, but I was a not terribly mature 18 year old, and in retrospect, some of the telemetry filtering software I wrote in Univac 1530 assembly language wasn't very good.  Of course, if you knew much about Univac 1530 assembly language, you would wonder if anyone could write it well.

It was a fascinating experience.  I was an amateur astronomer, so working on a space mission was so cool.  I was just a kid (I turned 19 while I was working there), and in retrospect, as neat as the job was, it was about as miserable a time as I think I have ever experienced.  Friday nights, I would buy a pizza at Straw Hat in La Crescenta, drive up to an overlook on the Angeles Crest Higway, and have myself a good cry.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Manufacturing in Aluminum

I am beginning to switch over from manufacturing my casters assemblies entirely in acetal to primarily aluminum, for a variety of reasons that I have discussed previously.  I was a little unsure if I was going to get a pretty finish on the aluminum or not--but here's the first article for one of the round sleeve models.

It is gorgeous--and all I had to do was to hold some 150 emery cloth to it while it was turning it on the lathe!

The first happy customer for the aluminum version for the new Losmandy Lightweight tripod sent me these pictures.

This picture emphasizes how well the Deluxe wheels work in high grass.