Sunday, November 12, 2006

MIG Welding

Learned something new about MIG welding:

* Welding with shielding gas is not practical for windy conditions.

* Flux cleans the metal and keeps it from oxidizing while you're welding.

* Welding with shielding gas keeps your weld from spattering molten metal all over and gives you a cleaner weld.

* Welding with solid core and shielding gas is best for inside work on clean metal.

* Welding with flux core and no shielding gas is good for outside work on unclean metal.

* Welding with flux core and shielding gas is good for inside work on unclean metal.

I'm still not clear on the polarity stuff and the proper gas mixtures for each type of MIG welding.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ask Ms. Dewey

A high school buddy of mine, named John Reid, just lead an effort to launch Ms. Dewey. Our entire lab group had a great time playing with her today. I think the best way to describe Ms. Dewey is to let John do it:

"She's a sassy know-it-all micro site that we've created that serves up some
hilarious video clips to your search queries. She's really smart (she has 3
brains, seriously). You can ask her anything, and she?ll not only know what
your asking, but serve up a snarky (yeh, I said snarky) response."

I personally found that she was oddly accurate with her video clips. She's also got a bunch of easter eggs that were pretty entertaining to stumble upon. I hope a lot of people stumble upon this because it really is a lot of fun to play with!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Solar Cell Efficiency Boost

Interesting approach to boosting solar cell efficiency. In a nutshell, solar cells cannot convert light from the lower end of the spectrum into energy. Some very smart people have figured out how to chemically combine two low energy photons into one high energy photon which can then be used by solar cells to generate electricity. Linked here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

log4j and UNIX syslog

I couldn't find Java code examples anywhere on how to get log4j to log to Unix syslog. I'm sure they're out there, but I'll be damned if I could find them. I spent a few hours with log4j today and managed to decode what's going on. Here it is in all it's glory:

import org.apache.log4j.Logger;
import org.apache.log4j.SimpleLayout;

class FOO {

public static void main(String args[]) {
FOO foo = new FOO();

public FOO () {
SimpleLayout layout = new SimpleLayout();
SyslogAppender appender = new SyslogAppender(layout, "localhost", SyslogAppender.LOG_DAEMON);
Logger logger = Logger.getRootLogger();
logger.addAppender(appender);"This is just a test");

I'd write more about how cool log4j is, but I'm under a deadline and have to get back to work...

P.S. If this still doesn't work, then you probably forgot to make your syslog daemon listen to a socket....

Thursday, October 05, 2006

2001 Saturn SC2 PCV Valve

I got my oil changed yesterday at one of those Grease Monkey(TM) shops. They're annoying because they always want to upsell you on stuff (and yet I keep going back). This time they wanted to sell me a PCV valve for about $17.00 and an air filter for about $20.00. I know the air filter was about 4 times cheaper if I bought it myself. As for the PCV valve, I'd never changed one out, but from the looks of it, I knew it was pretty cheap to buy. In addition, they had it out in about 30 seconds, so I knew it wasn't hard to replace either.

Today on my way home from work, I stopped into an auto parts (Auto Zone) store to get a PCV valve and an air filter. The PCV valve cost me about $5.00 and the air filter would have cost me about $5.00, but I opted for the snazzy KnR filter that lasts for the lifetime of the car. I got out of there for about $45.00. For my money, I got a new PCV valve and an air filter that will never need to be replaced. If I'd opted for the Grease Monkey(TM) parts, it would have cost me $37, but I'd still have to replace the air filter every 12,000 miles. I figure if I drive my car for 96,000 miles I'll break even on the KnR filter, although I haven't factored in inflation against the potential ROI if I'd bought the cheap filter and simply invested the other $35. If I always bought Grease Monkey(TM) filters, then the KnR filter would pay itself back in about 24,000 miles.

So anyway... Now that I had this PCV valve, I needed to install it. After a bunch of poking around, I found it sitting right next to the oil cap. It was incredibly easy to replace. I just pulled out the old one and plunked in the new one. Didn't even require any tools.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Overheard in the office today:

P: "It's 4:27am in Tehran (Iran) right now..."
S: "Which year?"


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fry's and Privacy

Bought a couple of flat panel monitors at Fry's today. Normally when you exit the store, the door person checks your receipt to make sure you're not trying to steal stuff. I'd found out a while ago that they really can't do that unless they think you're stealing something. As I left the store, instead of handing over my receipt like a "good citizen", I simply refused to give it over saying, "I don't have to show it to you". The door person looked a bit bemused, and then simply said, "Ok". And that was that. It was a good feeling. It won't change the world, but hopefully more people will start to see this as the invasion of privacy that it is and start to feel more comfortable standing up for their rights.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What really happens when you take your dog or cat to a shelter…Graphic

I found this on Craigslist "Best Of" today. I think it says a lot about the realities of animal shelters and it's worth repeating...

What really happens when you take your dog or cat to a shelter…Graphic
Date: 2006-07-06, 12:15PM PDT

I am posting this (and it is long) because I think our society needs a huge “Wake-up” call. As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all...a view from the inside if you will. First off, this is a forum to for adoption and/or rehoming as clearly stated in the rules. All of you breeders/sellers on craigslist should not only be flagged (and I hope the good people on craigslist will continue to do so with blind fury), but you should be made to work in the “back” of an animal shelter for just one day. Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don’t even know…that puppy you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it’s not a cute little puppy anymore. So how would you feel if you knew that there’s about a 90% chance that dog will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at? Purebred or not! About 50% of all of the dogs that are “owner surrenders” or “strays”, that come into my shelter are purebred dogs. The most common excuses I hear are; “We are moving and we can’t take our dog (or cat).” Really? Where are you moving too that doesn’t allow pets? Or they say “The dog got bigger than we thought it would”. How big did you think a German Shepherd would get? “We don’t have time for her…”. Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs! “She’s tearing up our yard…”. How about making her a part of your family? They always tell me “We just don’t want to have to stress about finding a place for her…we know she’ll get adopted, she’s a good dog”. Odds are your pet won’t get adopted & how stressful do you think being in a shelter is? Well, let me tell you…your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off…sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn’t full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy…if it sniffles, it dies. Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it. If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk. If I don’t, your pet won’t get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose. If your dog is big, black or any of the “Bully” breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc…) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door. Those dogs just don’t get adopted. If your dog doesn’t get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn’t full and your dog is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed…it may get a stay of execution…not for long though. Most get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression…even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment. If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles…chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don’t have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment. Here’s a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being “put-down”. First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash…they always look like they think they are going for a walk…happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to “The Room”, every one of them freaks out and puts on the breaks when we get to the door…it must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there, it’s strange, but it happens with every one of them. Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 vet techs depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process…they will find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the “pink stuff”. Hopefully your pet doesn’t panic from being restrained and jerk…I’ve seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and deafened by the yelps and screams. They all don’t just “go to sleep”, sometimes spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves. When it all ends, your pets corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back with all of the other animals that were killed…waiting to be picked up like garbage. What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You’ll never know and it probably won’t even cross your mind…it was just an animal and you can always buy another one right?

I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out and can’t get the pictures out of your head…I do everyday on the way home from work. I hate my job, I hate that it exists & I hate that it will always be there unless you people make some changes and realize that the lives you are affecting go much farther than the pets you dump at a shelter. Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I do my best to save every life I can but rescues are always full, and there are more animals coming in everyday than there are homes.


Hate me or flag me if you want to…the truth hurts and reality is what it is…I just hope I maybe changed one persons mind about breeding their dog, taking their loving pet to a shelter, or buying a dog. I hope that someone will walk into my shelter and say “I saw this thing on craigslist and it made me want adopt”…that would make it all worth it.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Network Chat

Almost 19 years ago to the day was the first time I chatted with someone else over a computer. I was 13 years old. We dialed each other up using those goofy old 300 baud phone coupler modems. I learned all sorts of cool stuff about terminal emulation that way.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

My 10th anniversary...

I just realized that it's the tenth anniversary of the very first website I ever put up.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It's that time of the year again...

Mmmmm, one of my favorite times of the year. No, I'm not talking about Spring. It's girl scout cookie time!!! Woohoo. My favorites are Thin Mints and Samoas. I bought some lemon drops and shortbread cookies, but they weren't as good.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Electronics Stores

I've been looking for some good local electronics shops that are open on the weekend. So far, the best I've found is Vetco Surplus. They've got a pretty good selection along with some quirky stuff that's fun to look at. I've heard there are others, but apparently the market is shifting on these small mom & pop shops.

I used to really like Radio Shack, but they seem to have sold their soul to consumer electronics. Pretty soon they're just going to be YACS (Yet Another Computer Shop). Fry's is pretty much the same. They used to have a great selection of discrete electronics here at the Renton, Washington store. Unfortunately their parts are disgustingly overpriced and the selection has slowly whittled down to nearly nothing.

Places I've been told about, but haven't yet checked out are Radar Electronics and Alphatronix. There's also a neat store in Tacoma called C And C Electronics, but they're only open during the week.

I'd love to see if a superstore type hobby shop is feasable in the Seattle area. It wouldn't just sell discrete electronics, but anything else hobby related. I figure something like that would take at least ten million dollars to open and about 4 or 5 million to keep running for the first few years until it made a profit. Features of the place would be fair prices, knowledgable employees, free workshop and class space, idea workshops and product incubators. It'd also have regular sales and various customer enticements, as well as work very closely with local schools to foster creative ideas. A good starting concept would be Neal Gershenfeld's book FAB. According to a recent interview by Neal on NPR's Science Friday, he's been inundated with people dying to make his vision a reality.