Planet Money has been doing a series recently where they trace through all the steps of manufacturing a t-shirt. They follow it from Mississippi to Indonesia to Bangladesh and back to the US. All of the shows so far have been fascinating, but I really liked today’s show about the history of shipping containers. That’s probably because of our recent interaction with the shipping industry.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
One of the fun things about joining a new community is learning the lingo. The world of 7 aficionados has quite a bit of interesting vocabulary. One of current favorites is the verb “to fettle”. For an example of usage, the build manual for my Westfield contains the following sentence.
Note this is a guide and it may be necessary to fettle out the hole to suit.
It’s actually an old word but, at least in the US, it has become rather obscure. Basically, it means trimming something to get it to fit properly.
I was doing a bit of fettling last night. Westfield has recently started adding this new tube to the frames they’re making.
I expect that it makes this part of the frame stronger. The problem is that they haven’t yet started cutting a notch for it in the panel which goes behind the seats.
You can see that I've started laying out the notch which is required using a bit of blue painter's tape and a Sharpy. The lines don’t line up correctly because the panel slipped just as I snapped the picture.
I don’t have a lot of fancy sheet metal tools, but these straight cuts are simple enough using a sabre saw with a fine blade. However a sabre saw really isn’t very good for making tidy inside corners. So I found this interesting tool.
This is a hand nibbler. The part which pokes out of the top is a tiny jaw. When you work the handle, it takes tiny bites. It’s a simple, and relatively inexpensive tool, but it does a nice, quick job of cleaning up those inside corners after cutting most of the notch with the sabre saw.
Here you can see the panel in place and waiting to be riveted in.
Someday we’ll get to talk about the noun “blat”.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
I work at the MathWorks. When most people think of the MathWorks, they think of Cleve Moler. Cleve wrote MATLAB originally, and is in many ways still the heart of the company even though we don’t get to see him every day anymore.
He and I actually worked together once before this. He was at a west coast startup named Ardent, and I was at an east coast startup named Stellar. We were archrivals for a couple of years. Then, in 1989, the two companies were combined to form Stardent. The merger actually happened while Chris & I were off the grid for several weeks (it was easier to do that back then), and the office was deserted when I came in on Monday because I was still on European time. I thought that the signs around the office about the merger were an April Fool’s joke because we had been such rivals, but it turned out to be great to work together as one David against the Goliaths of the industry instead of fighting between ourselves.
Over on his blog, Cleve has started sharing some of his stories from those days. His stories brings back a lot of good memories for me. Those were fun days. We created a lot of interesting technology, and we had a really great group of people working together. A bunch of us got together a couple of years ago and had a great time catching up.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
I love this time lapse video of installing the pavement at the new Andrew Wiles building at Oxford. I bet the construction crew thought it was an interesting project.
If you’re not familiar with the pattern, it is a Penrose tiling. That’s a pattern which never repeats, but may have 5-fold rotational symmetry.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Our neighborhood turkeys are making themselves a bit scarce today. Probably because they know about this:
As you may remember, we have quite a few wild turkeys in our neighborhood. Some years more than others.
People think that Turkeys can’t fly. That’s true of the domestic turkeys. They’ve been bred to have such large breasts that they can no longer fly. But wild turkeys are another bird entirely, and they roost in trees every night which means they have to fly. Have you ever been near one when it takes off? It’s quite a production. They make a lot of noise and go up like a rocket. They don’t go very far though, and their landings tend to be less than graceful. In fact, they usually crash into bushes as they go.
Here’s a pretty good description of how they fly which was in the Washington Post the other day.
Most of my car time is still being spent stripping parts off of the old Miata. Last weekend I finally got the wiring harness out. It was a total of 30 pounds of wiring!
And it all had to squeeze through two little holes in the firewall. As you can see, I've left little tags all over it. Hopefully that will help when I start removing the parts I don't need and putting the rest of it into the new chassis. But I can tell that's going to be a slow, confusing process no matter how many tags I leave behind.
This morning I got the steering column out.
That needs a bit of modification before it goes into the new chassis. The kit comes with a different rack which is quite a bit narrower than the one in the Miata, and that bracket you can see needs to be removed.
I’m itching to start putting some of the parts together. The first thing which goes into the new chassis is the handbrake. Well, the build manual says that doesn’t go in for a while, but everyone who’s built one seems to agree that it’s a lot easier to do it first. But to attach it, I need some M8 rivnuts. They’re not the sort of thing I can find at the hardware store down the street. I’ve ordered some, but they didn’t come yesterday, so I’ll have to wait a little longer. I’m also hunting for some 22mm spacers which are supposed to be in the kit somewhere, but I haven’t found them yet. They’re probably in a bag I haven’t searched yet.
I’m also hoping to get nice enough weather that I can give the engine a good cleaning out in the driveway. We were very lucky with that storm that just swept across the country. We got some wind and rain, but most of the action when around the north and south of us.