Freesteel Blog » 2013 » February

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 at 7:01 pm - - Machining 2 Comments »

Work that is not productive, such as duplicating someone else’s work, subtracts from work that is productive. This matters when you are getting old and tired and no longer able to catch up on mistakes by programming all hours of the night.

I feel it is necessary to spend excessive time working out what needs to be done due to the dire shortcomings of the internal comms system. It’s easy to know where you are in a small company, because there are so few of you and the coverage is predictable. Duplication of other work (done by people in another company) takes place consciously and strategically. But in a large organization you can find 20 people smarter and younger than you each day, and there is no way that one of them hasn’t already programmed what you are about to waste the next two weeks programming. What is it again? Have I got a triangle colliding with a cone that is being swung on the end of a stick? I can easily enter a state of paralysis.

I continually look for clues everywhere. Last night I listened to the 4th quarter earnings report where the CEO read out his deadly dull prepared statements, and then got quizzed by the owners of the company.


Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 at 8:52 am - - Cave, Kayak Dive 1 Comment »

With clear weather and no caving planned, I got a chance to sneak in some kayak diving out of Bull Bay. Now that I have money from having a job, I said, Why don’t we stay in a hotel, rather than try to camp or go to a B&B? It was, after all, February. In Anglesey. The Bull Bay Hotel overlooks Bull Bay and cost only £70 for one night for the two of us. We got lucky. Especially with the meal on Saturday night.

After a whole morning of faffing, we got off in time for an evening dive at Y Cochran Rock half a km from the beach at dusk.

It’s a small reef in 8m of water very close to the cliffs with a surprising amount of life. Basically, this rock here. It was also very silty. Becka got cold in the 7 degree C water. I surfaced and got my new waterproof caving torch that’s supposed to be mounted to a helmet and went back for more. It cut the clag like ice and really brought out the colour from the murk. I’d go back to this site again.

Dive number 2 was on the wreck of the Pansy just off the headland out from the beach where the overfalls normally play. Slack water was scheduled for 7am which, as the beach was 20 yards away from the hotel, meant we were willing to get up before dawn to do it with the promise of a big breakfast afterwards. The cargo ships were still parked in Liverpool Bay from the night before.


Sunday, February 10th, 2013 at 4:54 pm - - Machining 2 Comments »

A tip-off from a Noam Chomsky interview lead me to the book Forces of Production A social history of industrial automation by David F Noble. The core of the book is a history of N/C (Numerical Control) Machining from its development at M.I.T. in the 50’s and the almost total funding of it by the US government through the Department of Defence for the next couple of decades in spite of the fact that it was economically impractical due to (a) unreliable and complicated electronics, and (b) computers for calculating the toolpaths were too expensive. It did, however, have the advantage that it promised to do away with skilled machinists who were able to bargain for better wages and so forth. Other more practical technologies, such as R/P (Record Playback of real motions onto a magnetic tape the same way industrial robots have often been programmed), were dismissed, defunded and suppressed by various measures. For example, the use of the totally over-engineered N/C programming language APT was made a precondition for government contracts. (Just to be really annoying, the specification of APT was only available to AIA members.) At least the Defence Department has form; they did it again when they standardized on the equally over-engineered programming language ADA. (I had never seen the point of APT, having only ever worked with G-code.)

Anyhow, the thesis of the book is arguably far-fetched and Marxist (though extremely well researched). But then you look up the citation on p219 for the following Exhibit of a 1963 United States Air Force promotional film on numerical control entitled: Modern Manufacturing: A Command Performance.

Be sure to watch all of it, including the part about the primitive techniques of manual machine tool operation illustrated by a black man in a grass hut.

N/C machining equals nuclear missiles equals Cold War which justified unlimited government dollars to top universities such as MIT to do their interesting advanced research, which provided no reason for their staff, who made up the intellectual elite of the nation, to ever question the insane dance of death known as the Cold War. The sad thing about the Cold War is it’s not even necessary — the public still funds unbelievable levels of spending on the same useless projects more than two decades after any viable pretext has existed. Who could have known? Maybe it’s also possible to obtain sufficient public funding for technological development not through the military budget. I bet there’s a way. And these university grant-scrabbling geniuses should be able to work it out if they weren’t so intellectually lazy and self-centred.

Friday, February 1st, 2013 at 4:23 pm - - Cave

Last weekend we headed up to Yorkshire intent on some more mud mining digging on our going lead, and only just dodged the M6 closure due to heaovy snow making it to Settle where we partook on a midnight cross-country skiing safari with Clive and co (after scraping off the concretions of dust from his dozens of skis stuffed in the loft).

Here we are crossing the A65 with the safety Earl ruining all the photos with his revolting retro-reflective vest.

The next day we went for a walk in the crisp snow-drift hills to a pub for lunch and back. If you placed two million DVD packages on their sides face to face in a long line on the ground, it would be about the distance we walked (equivalent to approximately three times the height of Mount Everest).

Then it rained and thawed and blew up a gale overnight. Becka still insisted on getting changed and going out to Leck Fell for some caving. Caves would be all flooded, so here she is making Earl laser survey between entrances of Large Pot and North End Pot in the cold.