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(no subject) [Feb. 22nd, 2017|10:21 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
We got a rush order for 20 of the boards I make for mad scientist hut.
I can do that!
So I soldered them all up last night, ready to test and package them tonight.
The first board, the led's that indicate a calibration setting didn't light up when I powered it up.
Second board, same thing.
Maybe I loaded the LED's backwards?
Check them with the multimeter. They look like they're in right. Put a scope on the cal output and it's wiggling the way it's supposed to. Why aren't they turning on?
I grab one and measure the current-limiting resistor. It's correct. I measure the diode drop across the led's and they're right.
There aren't any other options!
So I started looking at them under a microscope... and somehow, the one I grabbed when I went to measure the current-limiting resistor value, was the only one that had the correct value of resistor on it. It would have worked if I'd put it in the tester. All the rest of them had resistors 1000 times too large, so they worked, but the light was too dim to see. How did that happen? I go looking, and the supplier sent me the wrong parts. The package label has the right number on it, but that's not what's in the bag.
Man did that take me a while to figure out.
And then my nice oscilloscope broke, which I need to do the testing. Luckily I have a backup oscilloscope.
But, GAH.
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(no subject) [Feb. 19th, 2017|11:37 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
We watched suicide squad tonight.
What a terrible movie.
The first third of the movie was like a trailer for the movie.
There were moments at which a plot was discernible, vaguely.
I want that chunk of life back.

BUT! I welded up a new crucible for the foundry, and on a 30cm long seam had one pinhole leak. I'm getting better.
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(no subject) [Feb. 19th, 2017|06:29 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
We went to an ingress farm and caught up with friends and heard the latest about the local ingress drama.
Long-term friendships probably breaking up right now over it, which is a shame.

I stacked all the firewood I cut yesterday. Ooof we have a lot of firewood. Much of it is just riddled with borer holes, and I have thoughts about making art with it. If I had time...

Right now I'm finishing up hacksawing through pieces of 15cm steel tubing, which is zero fun.
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Gerrymandering [Feb. 16th, 2017|07:43 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
Originally posted by gfish at Gerrymandering
As it does on a regular basis, the subject of gerrymandering has come up again. And, as always, I'm seeing people make the perfectly reasonable suggestion that we deal with it algorithmically. I'm all for that... until it is claimed that this would somehow make it non-political. And that's just bullshit. Dangerous bullshit.

The Gerry-Mander Edit.png

Districting is hard because it's very hard to define an obvious set of criteria by which to rate potential districts. We have some basic parameters set for the federal level: break each state into n districts, each containing roughly 700K people, and don't allow the districting to artificially limit the political power of racial minorities. Specifically, it wants to avoid "cracking" (breaking a group's voting power over many districts, so their votes are overwhelmed everywhere) or "packing" (lumping all their voting power into a small number of districts, giving them a few safe seats but still reducing their representation far under what it should be going by population).

The problem is, obviously, that these are very squishy guidelines. So can't we firm them up with some hard mathematical definitions, write up a segmentation algorithm, and let it do its absolutely objective magic? Sure! We just need to define some kind of scoring system to judge how good or bad a potential set of districts for a state is.

Here are some factors I can think of that such a system could use for its scoring:
* District shape -- the eponymous gerrymander was a point of satire because of how strung out it was. Keeping districts reasonably compact is usually a good thing.
* Geography -- we don't want a district that extends across a mountain range or other significant barrier, since the people on either side probably have little contact with each other and don't make sense as a single political unit.
* Road/train networks -- same as above.
* Racial composition
* Cultural composition
* Age composition
* Education level
* Religion
* Types of economic activity
* Economic ties to other parts of the country/world
* Climate
* Soil types
* Favorite NFL team
* Literally a billion other possible options

But which of these factors does that is best? In what ratios? I could certainly come up with a solution I like, but it wouldn't be perfect. There isn't a perfect solution to this problem. It's not the kind of problem where "correct" even has a meaning. Given a defined algorithm, math can give you a perfectly objective answer, but it can't choose the algorithm in the first place.

And that's where I find this talk gets really dangerous. It wants to pretend we live in a world with provably perfect solutions to messy human problems. If we just let some smart math/computer types work on it, they can fix everything, and save us from the dreaded specter of politics. But that would just be putting the imprimatur of unquestionable objectivity on yet another arbitrary decision. Governments based on that kind of thinking tend to get all great-leap-forwardy and mass-starvationy.

The real error in this thinking is that it assumes politics is a bad thing. It isn't. Being political isn't a bad thing. Politics just means the process by which we come to a decision when there are conflicting human desires. You have to accept that deciding on something as hopelessly complex as districting is, yes, going to be political. And that's okay!

Personally, my solution would be to set up a framework for an official, national algorithm, running against standardized data provided by the Census Bureau. Let the politicians fight over the definition of the algorithm, let them tweak it as much as they see fit. Just use the same algorithm for the entire nation and make its definition public. Would that process be political? Fuck yeah it would be! But it would be transparent and it wouldn't undermine faith in democracy. That is what is important here.

This entry was originally posted at http://gfish.dreamwidth.org/355800.html where it has received comment count unavailable comments.
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(no subject) [Feb. 16th, 2017|07:33 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
That feeling when I come home, take out the rice cooker, fill it with rice, fill it with water, push down the cook button, take the dog out for a twenty minute walk, expecting to get back to a house that smells like fresh rice, and realize I didn't plug the cooker in.
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(no subject) [Feb. 11th, 2017|07:01 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
We drove the Spitfire downtown to meet up with basefinder and his wife and play scrabble. Two separate times people in huge SUV's attempted to merge right into us, despite us being directly beside them. Man, people really don't see that car.
I learned something about wrestling with Monty: I need to limit the extent to which we wrestle. I was smacking her stomach and blew in her face, and she turned around with her mouth open and put one of her canines up my nose, where it partially punctured my septum and gave me a pretty good nosebleed. So: not okay to get her that wound up.
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(no subject) [Feb. 9th, 2017|11:18 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
When you build an airplane in your garage, people always say you build it twice: the first part is never quite right, so you build a second one using the knowledge you learned the first time.
I modified two more circuit boards for work today, finishing both of them in less than the time it took to do the first one.
Partly that was because I bought some 4mm steel from a local steel yard (and got into an intense discussion about cnc plasma cutting with an artist who was trying to figure out how to cut text into steel gravestones) and making 1.5mm parts from 4mm parts is a huge improvement over making 1.5mm parts from 12mm parts.

anyway. I came home early and spent some quality shop time making that, then chucked Monty into the Spitfire.
That dog is too big for that car.
But we drove up the street to blow up some Ingress stuff.
She made the same face humans make the first time they get to ride in that car. "ZOMG WE ARE GOING TO DIE!" But, like humans, she was inured to the sense of impending doom after a few minutes.
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(no subject) [Feb. 6th, 2017|10:10 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
Sorry I somewhat fell off the internet for a while. I have too much going on.
I broke down and bought a small, very inexpensive 3d printer. It allows me to print motor mounts I designed:

and little circuit board enclosures.

This particular one allows me to set up a largely dustproof enclosure with a magnetic encoder and magnet inside of it, but can also be repurposed as an alignment jig for positioning the magnet with respect to the encoder for testing out the boards. I'm making about ten of these a week lately.

I went up the street to drive my friend Cody crazy through Ingress shenanigans. This particular portal I usually only visit late at night, but it sure does look good during the day.

I tried to take a sunset picture for elusis but it didn't work very well because I don't understand white balance on my cellphone.

We got new couches.
Monty likes them.
manintheboat would LIKE to like them, if there were room.

There was this DIY batmobile pickup truck down the street.

There's this place in Lyons, Colorado, selling tiny houses on wheels.
I think this is fabulous.

Fairly nearby there was a farm full of tiny donkeys and alpacas.
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Abortion vs adoption [Jan. 27th, 2017|08:31 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
Originally posted by petrona at Abortion vs adoption
Today is the March for Life in Washington DC. It's an annual event since Roe vs Wade was enacted. Most of these people marching are good people, with good intentions. They think they are promoting life. Most of them will tell you that if you only carry your baby for a few months, then there will be a grateful adoptive parent waiting eagerly. Let's look at that, shall we?

abortion vs adoption rates

I wish I had some more recent statistics, but let deal with what was available. As you can see abortions outweighed adoptions by more than 11 to 1. But take a look at the adoption rate: that's what's at the end of the wait period. There aren't 1.2 million people waiting to adopt that baby. In fact that 117, 000 adoptions include foster care and international adoptions, which means about roughly 50,000 people may want to adopt a newborn in any given year. Imagine if all those abortion did not take place, and instead those babies were given up for adoption?

There are over a 100,000 foster children eligible for and waiting to be adopted. Approximately 50,000 kids are adopted from the foster care system each year.

Every year, about 23,000 children age out of foster care without finding a permanent family. This is tragic for many reasons: Only 2% of children who age out of foster care will go on to get a college education, and 75-80% of the prison population comprises adults who were in the foster care system at some point on their childhood.


Now imagine again, if we didn't have access to abortion and women were forced to carry unwanted children to term and then leave them to be adopted. 1.2 million more children, waiting for 100,000 people to want them.

I'm not pro-abortion. I don't think anyone is. It's Pro-choice.
But how can one be pro-life, without considering what would happen to that life after birth? Are pro-lifers lining up to adopt babies? To become foster parents? Maybe volunteer at the local shelter, food bank or prison?

I think if you want to protect life you should be pro-contraceptives
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(no subject) [Jan. 26th, 2017|10:39 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
My coworker K, with whom I run mad scientist hut, is mostly a nice guy, but he picks on one of my other coworkers, P, in the clever pranks way as a result of ideology differences.
K had a fire detector in his office -- well, several, because he likes radioactive stuff. One was chirping and driving me somewhat crazy because the chirp from a distance sounded like someone ringing the doorbell at the locked front door and I'd keep walking up there to let them in. I mentioned it and K looked surprised: he can't hear very well because of years spent on loud test floors/manufacturing sites. Anyway, he got a sneaky expression and I figured he was going to hide it in P's office.
Sure enough, P was standing around yesterday staring at his office. I said "let me guess, a high pitched chirp every minute or so." He said YES! I told him that there was a fire detector hidden somewhere.
It took him six hours of off-and-on searching to find it, inside/beneath the paper filter of an unused coffee machine he had sitting under his desk waiting for him to rip out the heating element and reuse it for a warming bath for etching circuit boards.

Today, our new manager^3 showed up, and tomorrow our new manager^4 shows up. Lots of fancy clothes. Lots of people on their best behavior. I'm walking around and see our manager^2 and one of the other department managers poking around in K's office, and knowing that K is off in Phoenix for the week, and being his closest friend there, I'm kinda curious, so I go stick my head in. D, our manager^2, says "there's this odd loud irritating sound and we think it's from in here." I'm all "an intermittent high-pitched chirp?" He says "YES!" and then stares at me.
quick thinking time. I don't want to get anyone in trouble.
I say "K sometimes has some old smoke detectors in his cabinet. Maybe one of them is dying."
They're both "...why does he have old smoke detectors?"
I resist saying "because he's an engineer and keeps EVERYTHING" and instead mention that they both remember he has a geiger counter that he loans out to people for checking if their basements have lots of radon, and a smoke detector is a good way to test a geiger counter.
I also assure them that I can find and shut up the beeping. So they go away, I close the door to quiet it down, and run off to find P.
"Where did you hide the smoke alarm?"
"I hid it somewhere really annoying!"
"Well, we have to go get it asap." I explain that manager^3's temp office is right next to K's. P doesn't quite go white but he's a very, very nervous guy. So we run in there, close the door, pull out a filing cabinet, and have to turn it halfway over, where he's taped the smoke detector into a recess on the bottom of the cabinet.

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