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April 1st, 2006

The fire went out in the stoker today making it a good time to dig in and figure out why I've been getting partially burned coal in the ashes, and ash clinkers. What I found is the fire pot is coming apart - not good. Other than that it's been uneventful.

March 11th, 2006

Excerpted from the 2003 State of the Union speech delivered on January 28th, 2003, and available in full at the page.
... Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes. (Applause.) ...

Now we move on to this year's address from January 31st, and on line at

... In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom -- or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy -- or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting -- yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to protect our people, the only way to secure the peace, the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership -- so the United States of America will continue to lead. (Applause.)

A bit of timeline about the Dubai port deal from
When I was listening to the state of the union speech this year, and President Bush annuciated the "road to isolationism and protectionism" part of the speech it struck me oddly. I hadn't heard a lot of reportage about the US leaning in that direction, except insofar as side effects of our war on terror.

When the Dubai deal hit the airwaves it finally made sense - it suggests the Prez knew the backlash that was about to unfold.

January 20th, 2006

Everything is finally starting to fall into place. Wasn't planning on cleaning up the south side of the extruder cabinet (two north-facing bays with temperature controllers and operator controls, and two on the other side with more heat power controllers, motor starters, and other odds n' ends), but was a matter of "had to". I couldn't even see the wires - everything melded visually into a black, oily background.

January 17th, 2006

Freezing rain is the order ofthe day. Haven't done this in months, but left the CF card containing my project notes, and PIM updates on the desktop machine, and really need them to put together the task list for tomorrow, so it back out into the elements.

It is difficult to convey to someone who hasn't built or installed control cabinets just how much goes into doing it, especially the time and labor intensive decrappification of older enclosures so you can figure out how to interface the old with the new.

An interesting thing about the Abramoff scandal is how much it reminds me of an electrical cabinet that gone to seed - there's a whole bunch of crud all over everything, nobody seems to know how it got there, and everybody who's anybody is taking the fifth.

January 14th, 2006

The weather is wicked wild these days - not many times I can think of when we've had thunderstorms in January, but there was one early this morning (and temperatures in the 50's yesterday), and now there are 25 to 35 MPH winds gusting to 50 MPH,  temperatures in the low-20's, and wind chill near zero.

December 11th, 2005

Major well pump problems seem to be out of the way now. The loss of prime symptom got progressively worse, and to the point where any demand for water caused system pressure to crash even if the pump was already running. Started at the adapter flange (where I knew a leak existed) ... took it off again, banged out a cardboard gasket from an empty cereal box, laid down a film of Permatex on both sides, and bolted it back together. Problem solved ... a leak must have existed right across the delivery and return ports for the symptom to get this bad.

December 08th, 2005

Its the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death, we're getting the first heavy snowfall of the season (looks like about 8"), I'm in the process of installing a new well pump, and it could be going better. The pump ships without an adapter flange on the bottom (didn't know that when I bought it), and tried reusing the original. There is considerable corrosion where the pipe threads are, and it ate into the flange face quite a bit. Learned this only after having to drill out a rusted bolt, and finding I didn't have any 1/2-UNC x 1-1/4" cap bolts around the house, nor any gasket material. 
Went to a local plumbing supply shop, and got 1-1/2" bolts (which needed to be cut down), but they didn't have suitable gasket material either. Even though I flat-filed the flanges, and coated both faces with Permatex it is shooting  a small but steady stream of water across the well room, and I have a leak on one of the output piping ells (it must be cracked).  
Conditional victory (pump is capable of in excess of 65 PSI; the original could do maybe 45 on a good day), and it should hold together until I get more parts. Lost prime a couple of times so I probably also need to pull up the foot valve and ejector, and replace them  - they haven't been touched since about 1967, and can't be in too good a shape.

November 06th, 2005

From the archive of useless things to calculate

Due to work vs. TV scheduling, and the generally chaotic time slots close to the end of it's run I missed the last couple of episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, because on average it was the worst Trek series (although it picked up around the end).  Nevertheless, wanted to see what it would cost to pick it up.

ST:Enterprise Total $427.96 # disks $/Disk Episodes $/Episode Time (Hr) $/Hour
Season 1 Disk 1 to 7 $106.99 7 $15.28 26 $4.12 18.2 $5.88
Season 2 Disk 8 to 14 $106.99 7 $15.28 26 $4.12 18.2 $5.88
Season 3 Disk 15 to 20 $106.99 6 $17.83 24 $4.46 16.8 $6.37
Season 4 Disk 21 to 27 $106.99 7 $15.28 22 $4.86 15.4 $6.95

98 $4.39 68.6 $6.27

Figuring 42 minutes per one hour episode (30% commercials) as per imdb then this is an average of $6.27 per viewing hour using current BestBuy pricing. This means that a person needs to earn about $8.50 gross (35% taxes and such) to afford an hour of DVD entertainment, or a salary of about $17,600 per year.

While this isn't close to the 2004 national wage average of $35,650 it 'hain't beans, either, and is in the ballpark for a whole range of people including cashiers, lifeguards, home care aides, cooks, bartenders, farm labor, child care workers, and other such trades. They need to work an hour for every hour of DVD run time!

October 17th, 2005

Fall is really here

Heating system turned on for the first time this season with thermostat set for 67°F. Guess its too late to worry about spring cleaning.

September 20th, 2005

Jaw of an Ass (Tears of a Clown)

OK, so I've finally broken down, moved this site's HTML from the Win98 computer to the new XP machine, and  downloaded new tools. Using NVU as an HTML editor for now to see how that stacks up against FrontPage 2000. What prompted me to get moving was an email from Ipswitch hawking an upgrade to WS_FTP for $25 ... (and I'd been meaning to post a document regarding Indramat KVR servo power supply transformer isolation to support a thread on the Engineering Tips website for awhile now).

Ahhh, what the hell.

One thing ...  NVU seems to save out using an HTML extension regardless whether the original was HTM (noticed edited files with both extensions popping up). Decided to bite the bullet, and went through the directories batch renaming the files, then downloaded and registered FunDuc Software's Search and Replace utility to batch replace all instances of HTM links to the HTML extension.

Didn't look to see what (if anything) ended up broken, but everything seemed to go smoothly. Guess now I'm poised to ignore the site for another year!

November 6th, 2004

Car Tales

Walked to Tamaqua to get the mostly-repaired Saturn from Lehigh Tire. Instead of walking down the railroad bed, or along Rt. 309 took the scenic route along the west face of Nesquehoning Mountain, and realize I need to get out and exercise more ... running around at work isn't enough. Its been years since I've been up there - some of the traces are partially overgrown and deer runs have shifted around as well. 

I can't figure machines sometimes. A month or so ago I was waiting on fast food, and found a cassette tape in the glove box. Tried two or three times to get it to play ... it was kicking back out on jams ... but no success.

Later, when pulling out of McDonald's lot the car died flat dead. Headlights went from acceptable brightness to almost nothing, and turning the key didn't even produce a starter solenoid click. Pushed it off the highway to the adjacent lot, and had it jump started. When I got home checked the battery, saw the 'green eye' charge indicator was black, then threw a meter across the battery and saw it was charging at about 14.6 VDC. 

This seemed high, but checking around on the web showed this particular Delco battery uses calcium alloyed plates, and is charged in this voltage range. Also saw statistics showing the average life of one of these batteries is on the order of 5 to 6 years, and, insofar as the car was bought in late 1996, figured it might be due. 

Put a battery charger on it overnight, and when the hydrometer was still black it reinforced this thought, so drove it up the a local Delco garage for a new battery (wanted to get another using the Ca plates - it gave good service, and putting in a standard battery would mean toning down the regulator setpoint, or living with the effects of overcharging).  The hydrometer was back into the green range by the time I'd driven the ten or so miles to get there, but got the replacement anyway. 

About two weeks later the alternator light came on on my way back from work, and battery voltage was under 12 volts and dropping. Until I could arrange for a rental - this was in the middle of the PLC replacement project - I'd carry the charger and an extension cable, plug the car in to charge it, and repeat this after getting home. I suppose one might have considered it a short-range, poor man's hybrid!  I'm guessing the precursor to all of this was the jammed cassette tape, in conjunction with an older battery having pulled too much current through the alternator rectifier and/or regulator and weakening one or both of them. 

Been meaning to get a truck since spring, and this looked like a perfect opportunity, so went out and bought a used '03 Chevy S10 4X4 with about 14K on it. The only thing I don't like about it is mileage - about 18 MPG in 2WD mode, versus 30+ for the Saturn - but then I'm planning on driving the truck mostly when there's some advantage in doing so, and running the wheels off the Saturn the rest of the time.

Anyway, walked down to get it because, although the alternator was replaced and some other routine maintenance had been done they didn't have the parts on hand to fix another, previously nuisance problem, and I didn't want it sitting down in the lot for another week or so. Last fall a mouse built a nest under the hood, and decided to snack on wiring going to the throttle position sensor. 

The first symptom was very bad surging and power loss (it happened while driving up the Mile Hill, and I almost didn't make it). The dealer found out what had happened - the wires were shorted together - and ordered a replacement. Once the short was cleared the car was drivable again with only moderate hunting at idle, and occasionally stalling if giving it too much gas before the engine warmed up, so I blew off a couple of appointments before putting it way on the back-burner, and thence into the "next time the car needs a lot of work" bin.

Here's the weird thing ... unless the garage temporarily jacked up engine idle to prevent it from stalling I couldn't explain why it wouldn't go below 2100 to 2300 RPM, and a loud sucking sound could be heard under the hood!  Normally, this engine idles at 950 RPM (and, even when hunting before, it would seldom stray out of a 920 to 980 RPM range). Opened the hood after driving it home, and found they'd neglected to reconnect the air filter to engine intake hose and plenum, and a hose from the air plenum leading to an engine port (probably so they didn't need to get them out of the way again). Couldn't see how this would tie into the high RPM symptom, and hooking them back up didn't drop the RPMs, although the sucking sound went away ;).

US Government Musings

If we're using iconic '50s sensibilities as the ideal of how American life ought to operate (except in this iteration allowing for people of color) then we ought to go back in all respects. That means:

We're not going to do that, so why insist on calcifying our social customs and mores to suit Happy Days?

OK, so the only way to fix Social Security (a program instituted in a time when a global financial collapse showed the dire need for it) is to have people own stock? We need an ownership society?

Say again? Buddy, I hate to tell you this, but the American people ALREADY own their government, or, at least, I'd figure this was the founding fathers' intention. The fix to Social Security is to play the market? I can see how this will be good for stock brokers, money managers, and corporations in the market, but don't see how anybody's security will be guaranteed. 

What I see instead is a period of gradually increasing hooliganism in the market that'll make the S&L scandal look like a church social, and another huge government intervention (where does that money come from again ... oh yeah ... taxpayers) to straighten it out, lest we need to institutionalize euthanasia for the elderly who can't afford to live anymore, or simply throw them to other minimal life support mechanisms (i.e. - re-invent the poorhouse in 21st century garb).

November 4th, 2004

Haven't been feeling well for the last couple of days, and have been home except to go vote during the election and aftermath. 

Does G.W. Bush have a voter mandate? A 3% popular vote, and one or two electoral states away doesn't make it in my book, but I'm afraid that's the way its going to play out. The executive branch was playing 'top down' before, and to the point where even republican house and senate members were getting antsy. In engineering, it is usually cheaper, and better in other ways as well, to do work from the "bottom up".  

"Top down" engineering works, but, if everything isn't quite right from the git-go changes are expensive. The space shuttle program is an excellent example of top-down engineering ... impressive technologies, but many of them developed from scratch to get this specific job done, and just barely ready for prime time. Couple that with political needs to have the shuttle appear to be almost a commodity product (everybody have their blinders on?), and you end up with a high-maintenance and not terribly reliable craft, and a dysfunctional organization to run it.

I figure governing by edict has similar pitfalls, and consequences.

Last night it occurred to me pundit rhetoric had been fairly tame prior to the election, especially in light of the beating they gave Al Gore during the 2000 election. From what I overheard peripherally on the Chris Matthew's show last night they've now pitched over into full "weasels ripped my flesh" mode.  In their many of their voices I heard a measure of glee, and, when glancing over, it seemed several of the commentator's eyes were glazed when describing Mr. Kerry's defeat.

The press conference today reminded me of what would happen if one were to splice together President Bush's utterances from the debates, campaign stump speeches, and other sources. I heard the  " is going to be hard work..." and,  "It's going to be - it's not easy ..." lines reprised while talking about social security reform, and  I'm not the only one noticing such things. 

On John Stewart's show he picked up on the " ... Americans are expecting a bipartisan effort and results. I'll reach out to everyone who shares our goals.", and pointed out there'd be no need to make the effort to reach out to those who already agree with your positions!  That's the whole point of the democratic process ... the sharing and melding of two or more disparate points of view, and distilling this into actionable policies equally agreeable (or disagreeable, as the case may be) to all involved parties.

October 15th, 2004

Finishing up on a thermoforming machine PLC retrofit. It strikes me that there is nothing like tearing into an older, relay-based control circuit and reworking it for PLC control to understand what all the circuits actually do. I've been acquainted with this machine since 1982, and found that, even after 22 years, there were areas I didn't understand completely - in fact, I didn't know that I didn't understand them until afterwards.

One example was the interaction between cam speed control, cycle timing, and PLS (Programmable Limit Switch) operation. Not knowing wasn't a handicap for maintaining and repairing most problems - if the PLS fails then replace it, and the same goes for various 'ice cube' and mechanical control relays used for logic and interposing duties. When the plug-in cycle timer was suspect a test by substitution would either prove this to be the case or eliminate it from troubleshooting consideration.

This is the 'pro' of hardwired relay logic - parts can be ripped out and new components swapped in without a lot of fuss. I'm of the opinion this is why relay circuits still appeal to laymen and practitioners without much practical experience designing, building, and troubleshooting them.

It is also one of the cons - a machine running a 4 second cycle time at a machine efficiency of 82% (7180 hours/year) will switch power to all cycle-related components approximately 7.9 million times per year. With each cycle all the mechanical relays (especially so for larger frame control relays - they have more mass, and pack a bigger punch) slam open and closed, wear a bit more each time, and inject mechanical vibration into the enclosure backpanel.

In reflection, had I known these control circuits over the intervening years as intimately as I've now come to know them troubleshooting episodes would have taken less time.


September 8th, 2004

It is six in the morning. I need to throw on enough clothing to avoid legal prosecution, and run to McDonald's for coffee. Started waking up about an hour ago after crashing essentially since 8AM yesterday ... spent Labor Day supporting electrical power work at the plant, and the day went from "geez, we're gonna get out of here early!", to "geez!, this just can't be happening!". 

I started our emergency lighting generators, opened the secondary circuit breakers and primary switches for our PMTs (Pad Mounted Transformers), cleared PPL to start work on an air break switch, and transformer bushing replacement on the 69KV side, and cleared our high voltage service contractors to begin maintenance work on the 15KV switchgear and transformers by 7AM, and traded time between watching how things were going,  performing a walk-through inspecting for emergency lighting deficiencies, and running for supplies (getting a gallon of coffee and 2 dozen donuts in the process) until about 1:00 PM. 

Found several bulb burn-outs, and an entire string of emergency lighting which isn't working (probably wasn't reconnected when a training room was recently built in this area). We found evidence of water droplets (dissolved minerals and grime where the "drippers" hung on) on several 12470V busbars in the older lineup, and laid down silicone caulking suspecting interstitial seals between the enclosure bays are breaking down.  

PPL was done, and our contractors were wrapping up early - the day was going well, and all that remained was re-energizing the switch lineups, transformer primaries, and then switching the secondary load breakers back on. 

Closed switches on the original gear without incident, and all but one on the second lineup ... threw the last switch, noted transformer magnetization hum was louder than usual, and not decaying in the normal manner, and was about to pull the safety knob and throw the switch open again when I heard a minor explosion, and the hum abruptly went away. Continued opening the switch, and, as I started to walk toward the contractor crew to discuss the situation felt a sharp pain in the middle of my forehead - batted down an enraged wasp, and cut a quick retreat from his equally inflamed brethren.  

Described what had happened, and Pauli (one of the crew) went to investigate when he got clipped on the arm by another wasp. I suppose earlier in the morning they weren't active yet, and went unnoticed, but no longer. Sprayed down the nest, and proceeded to determine two 175 amp primary fuses were blown, transformer oil was now black, and it was now failing TTR (Turn-to-Turn Ratio) tests. 

Ended up working until early the next morning calling the original installation contractor, local transformer rep, plant engineering and maintenance managers, and others, (through our high voltage gear contractor) getting a temporary replacement transformer placed into an open area in the switch yard, having it wired, verifying operation, and re-energizing the secondary load circuits. Afterward, assisted other troubleshooting (a flow switch on one of the chilled water compressors had failed, and prevented operation, etc.), and didn't get out of the plant until quarter to two. 

Stopped by an all-night Giant supermarket to get victuals, went home to eat, and write up a field report for the day's events ... didn't get done until about 7AM. Crashed, woke at about 4 PM ... called the plant to check up on things, ate, checked email, turned on the TV, and went back to sleep until about 11PM. Watched some TV, ate, and crashed until now (and I still feel tired).

September 5th, 2004

Noticed my driver's license has expired (should have renewed it in August). Not too bad; last time I'd left both my license and registration lapse - for something like 9 months, no less - and ended up getting a lawyer and going to court to beg forgiveness. This going online stuff is great (PENNDOT offers license and registration renewals over the web now), and I've just printed out a perfectly legal temporary license.

DSL access improved a couple of weeks ago when I was finally going to tear out the modem drivers and start over. Previous to this speed had been progressively getting worse, and got to the point where, even though I had a connection, data rates were next to nil. Found there was an option to 'repair' the installation, which I tried, and DSL had at least been usable (at about 80K per Sygate Personal Firewall graphics) until last night. 

Started tearing, and found that removing Verizon's support software not only improved getting a connection, and quadrupled throughput, but also fixed problems I'd been having with Irfanview, IDM, and the latest Maxthon beta (new incarnation of MyIe2). 

Earlier in the evening I'd been watching TV, and left it on. While playing with DSL configuration a show came on regarding psychic detectives, ghostly imprints on Polaroid film, and other 'just a tad past the edge' topics. Did a Google search on "Peter James" - he was one of the psychics featured on the show, and looked the quintessential con man to me. Did a Google search phrased { "Peter James" +psychic +skeptical } thinking perhaps The Skeptical Inquirer may have done an article on him.

On first glance this guy has creds in the parapsychology community, and, although I tend to A. Einstein's credo, which I paraphrase, "Its a good thing to keep an open mind so long as your brains don't come rolling out", started to veer away from the con man image when a more interesting cite, "The Anomalist Awards for the Best Books of 1999", caught my eye, and I let this trail go cold. 

Aside: I've seen this quotation attributed also to both Arthur Sulzberger (NY Times chairman), and Bertrand Russell ... 

Any good scientist will tell you interesting stuff is in the outliers - things which don't fit the current theory, and, although likely due to a bad or "noisy" data, happen often enough to suggest something about them may be real. This generation's nut job "burn 'em at the stake" heretic may turn out to be a later generation's abused and misunderstood pioneer.

One of the titles on this list popped out, "Sex and Rockets:The Occult World of Jack Parsons", by John Carter, and, as I read more (and if the central thesis is to be believed) it turns out the co-founder of JPL in Pasadena was also heavily into the black magic aspects of occult study, and blew himself up in an off-the-cuff backyard explosives/propellant experiment gone wrong. This linked into associations with Aleister Crowley, and  L. Ron Hubbard among others.

I've read Dianetics. While some of it rings true the preponderance strikes me as rebranded horseshit rolled into a religious egg roll cover to evade the IRS, and to keep orgone generators from bugging AMA folks too much. 

Anyway, the "Sex and Rockets" book apparently is already out of print, but I just had to buy a copy to give it a critical read - $50 used, but I've blown more on textbooks, and reluctantly forked over the bucks. 

September 4th, 2004

Cable news since yesterday has been inundated with hurricane Francis, and the imbalance between the amount of air time devoted to it and it's actual news value is striking. How many shots of wind-blown surf, swaying trees, radar maps showing Francis's glacial approach, and yet another doofus standing at a 45° angle into the wind must I endure? The thought came to mind that this makes a good metaphor for this year's presidential race; both are events of importance, but poorly reported. News organizations don't comprehend quantity is not the same as quality (or perhaps they do, but quantity is cheaper ...).

It seems to me instead of regurgitating these same images FOX and MSNBC could do at least a few in-depth pieces on topics like the comparative life cycle costs between standard building practices and those used for hurricane-proof shelters, and put the sound bites away for awhile.

August 27th, 2004

An Avant Stellar keyboard (to replace the pushin'-up-daisies Ortek from work) arrived today. There are some differences between it and my Northgate Omnikey/102.

  1. the '><' key between left hand  'Ctrl' and 'Alt', and the '*' key between right hand 'Alt' and 'Ctrl' keys are now 'Windows Start Menu' keys.
  2. right hand 'Alt' and 'Ctrl' keys are both normal sized to accommodate a new 'Windows right click' key.
  3. the gray 'up arrow' key opens a scroll bar into the 'right click' and 'Start' menu lists.
  4. a row of special function keys are placed along the top (SF1 through SF12).
  5. the reset pushbutton and DIP switch (which were hidden under the 'Omnikey/102' logo access plate) aren't available on the Avant.
  6. keyboard cable is no longer detachable.
  7. it is programmable, and came with two 3-1/2" floppy disks. One contains the CVTSETUP program for Windows 3.x, Win95, and Win98 systems, and the other has SETUP2K for Win2000 and WinXP.

Thought I could feel a slight difference in heft between the two, so pulled out a postal scale, and found the Avant and cable weighs in at 4-3/4 pounds, while the Omnikey is an even 5 pounds. There is also a very slight difference in keyboard feel, and the Avant is slightly louder. 

Verdict: The Avant Stellar is superior to nearly every other keyboard I've ever used, and perhaps slightly better than the Ortek, but still a notch below my original Omnikey. Time will tell, though - who knows? I can tell the difference between a brand new Avant Stellar, and a well-pounded Northgate, but the Northgate may once have felt exactly the same; my memory isn't good enough to make so fine a discrimination. In any case they are very close to identical.

August 25th, 2004

HMI to come in later this evening. 

... and it did, but ended up working on it (except for initial planning, getting support software installed, etc.) only into the next morning. Took some time to advise on a thermoformer hydraulic problem, but mostly troubleshooting the cross table axis on our dedicated polypropylene lid machine. Went in with the big guns (scope, laptop, et al.) and eventually determined the functional problem was probably due to an incorrectly set index profile parameter. 

Only then did focus go back to the HMI. Some small panic at first, because the configuration software was puking spectacularly with error message boxes claiming it couldn't find certain DLLs, and with most of the message box text in garblese. Installed it on the Win98SE laptop instead of the XP one, and now the message box text was at least readable, and, after consulting with the software vendor's knowledgebase, figured something was wrong with the file path. Turned out this was correct - the installer was supposed to have appended a path string to the AUTOEXEC.BAT file, but, in the case of XP, no such file exists to open, and, although AUTOEXEC did get edited on the W98SE machine the syntax was incorrect, and never came into effect. Edited the path by hand and everything was jake.

August 24th, 2004

Tomorrow I start vacationing! Don't have anything planned except not planning on doing anything for a day or so. 

OK, so that's not how it's going to happen. Got a call for a non-responsive blender controller HMI, went in to certify it dead, and spent time getting things rolling for a replacement. 

August 22nd, 2004

When I ran out of easy things to do on the former drawings last night did programming for an extruder overpressure interlock, and hoping for a calm Sunday to fabricate and install it. Didn't turn out that way.

First to come up was a thermoformer oven problem, and, while in the middle of that, an extruder drive tripped it's bus circuit breaker, and blew a pair of 800A fuses. Spent the next couple of hours troubleshooting, assisting drive replacement and other repairs (an SCR had shorted; the root cause being a faulted armature power cable to the motor), bringing the machine back to life, and cleaning up ancillary duties these problems had spawned.

By the time I returned to the thermoformer dawn was breaking, and didn't get much done except to install a replacement board for the one that had blown up, and verify the computer was still operational.  

August 21st, 2004

Spent a couple of hours tweaking the drawing, writing a "commentary" explaining how several non-obvious sections of relay logic works, adding our internal part numbers, and other 'value-added' tasks. Things had been going smoothly, but knew this wasn't going to last. Went to put a copy of the print set in the line's binder, but  entire documentation binder is MIA ... (first tooth on the metaphorical ratchet in my head went "click").

Have a couple of pick-up projects to get off my desk - one of them is an improved resistor burden network for a Control Techniques M825 drive (adjustable, and using low tempco mil-spec parts, rather than needing to cherry pick resistors, et al., to solder directly onto the board). One of the extrusion lines this'll be installed in is down tonight so it looked like an ideal opportunity.

Picked up a small project box at Radio-Shack the other night so thought I was ready. Drilled holes for #2 screws (for the Dale/Vishay 5W resistors; these critters are small) and found that, although we have #2 cap screws in benchstock we do not  have nuts (no ratchet click this time, but there's some torque on the tooth now).

Lamps in the fluorescent fixture above the project bench were burned out, and I was having a hard time seeing, so grabbed a pair of bulbs from the mezzanine, and started driving a platform lift into position .... when it died mid-aisle (chalk up one ratchet click!). 

Opened up the battery access cover, and a sharp edge on one of the hold-downs tore a 3" hole in my newest pair of work jeans (steady stream of invective, and a half dozen ratchet clicks). Our lifts are rentals, and supposedly  maintained, but battery water was almost to the plates, battery tops were caked with semiconductive dirt, and one of the battery-to-battery tie leads had almost completely corroded from the terminal, and shot sparks when I tried to rotate it (good for another one or two ratchet clicks; just glad I didn't blow my head off in a hydrogen explosion).

By the time I'd cleaned and filled the batteries, and repaired the burned-off lead my jeans were starting to bleach out from kneeling in acid residue (fortunately, they were already torn ...). 

Luckily (for the lift) it ran, and I was able to replace the bulbs in short order. When I drove it back 'home' and went to plug it in saw the battery charger 'On' light didn't turn on, so grabbed a meter - no voltage. Found the circuit breaker for that extension drop had tripped (one more ratchet click), but at least now the lift was charging.

At this point I could feel my knees getting warm (with the 'hot spots' suspiciously lined up to the bleached out areas), found I'd lost all interest in what I'd been doing, and, although there were several things I wanted to do in-plant tonight figured the better part of valor was to go home, ditch the pants, down some aspirin, get a bath, and meditate.

August 20th, 2004

Its getting late, but finally winding down on the thermoformer drawings. I've been bringing the files home, and doing the bulk of it here because my Ortek MCK-142 keyboard at work died. I had a spare Northgate Omnikey purchased through an eBay auction a year ago to backup my beloved Omnikey/102 home keyboard, and took that in to the plant. Problem is, I never tested it at the time, and it turns out to have a finicky '0' key, and the layout is slightly different (the 'Esc' key isn't next to the left hand F12 key) so it still gets in the way. 

This is not an uncommon phenomena - both Moe and Rick do extensive CAD - Rick still has an Omnikey/102, and Moe has a programmable Maxi. For that matter, Moe ended up getting a Maxi for home use because a regular keyboard (functions keys across the top, rather than placed for the left hand) was driving him nuts.

Add to that I never have gotten used to the Logitech optical mouse with the combined scroll roller and middle key that replaced an ancient Logitech M-CQ38. I'll be going along then think I've pressed the middle button, but instead simply rolled the scroll wheel a bit, end up doing something other than intended, then need to backtrack and fix things up. Took a quick look around the web to see if there was a different 3 button optical mouse more suited to my needs, and will be looking again, because nothing turned up. However, I noticed during this search the scroll roller is touted for its 'performance' and 'productivity' enhancing qualities. All I can say to that is, "not for the kind of stuff I use a computer for".

A while back I bought a box of keyboards on eBay - something like 25 boards for $40; call it $2.00 a keyboard - to have on hand when those used in plant floor equipment go south. They all look decent - some Keytronics, Compaqs, Dells, and other branded keyboards. Using cheap keyboards here makes sense due to how an HMI computer is used - sporadically, to change setpoints, and other light usage. The other night I finally broke down, and ordered a replacement for my work keyboard from Creative Vision Technology for $190. It turns out their organization includes several Northgate expatriates, and, when Northgate slid beneath the waves they bought up tooling for their keyboards. That's all I needed to know ... except for the IBM 'M' series (which suffers from function keys topside) Northgate made the best keyboards this planet has ever known. 

Now, this is almost a 100:1 cost difference between perfectly functional (albeit squishy, and 'topside' function key) "grab box" keyboards, but the difference is I won't need to fight with it ... one day perhaps we'll be surgically installing interface ports into our brains, or some such to get rid of "middle hardware" like keyboards and mice, but until then these things need to be as solid, and transparent as possible. You can keep your cute mouse pointer replacements, mice trails, and other goofiness, thank you kindly. 

That enough people are willing to plonk down almost $200 for a keyboard (about a third as much as a new, low end PC package) goes to show demand is out there. Ten years ago the Northgate Omni marketed for $80-90, so there isn't any reason, with economies of scale, the CVT keyboard couldn't be built and sold for $120 and still make a profit. I suspect most people don't know what a good keyboard feels like (having been raised, so to speak, to expect so little) or demand would be greater.

It is the difference a pianist faces between a concert hall Steinway and some nameless piano salvaged from a grade school classroom. One is a joy to use, and forms a seamless conduit between the thoughts driving his fingers, and the music. While the other can be played seamless is no longer the correct adjective.

August 19th, 2004

Reminiscing about my dad, who would have been 69 this year had he not passed from this world. We used to have vigorous discussions on politics and other topics, and the upcoming presidential election would have had us yakking up a storm. It prompted me to put together a page featuring primarily political resources.

I've been thinking about the nature of technical documentation at times over the years, and more so after attending Mr. Tufte's seminar. In the process of reworking a loop control circuit between an extruder and thermoformer finally finished a task started back in 1998, namely redrawing the thermoformer OEM's schematics. 

Point one - an OEM doesn't necessarily do a good job with electrical drawings. In this instance it isn't that the schematics were wrong, and they were certainly good enough to build the machine.  However, a machine gets built once ...  and 20 or 30 years of maintenance and troubleshooting lay before it. The question is, "how much more up-front time is it worth to craft drawings so they become effective troubleshooting tools?". I'm guessing that, over the last 6 years I put in probably 50 hours redrawing them - about 30 back then, and another 20 during the last couple of days. They aren't great yet, but logic flow is clearer in several key areas.

How is it that there was so much room for improvement to begin with? My guess is time, perception, and the 70/30 rule. It takes considerable time to create a drawing good enough to build a machine, and the perception will be if it's suitable for that purpose its good enough, period. Add to that the 70/30 rule - a drawing with bare minimum detail to build from (70% done) took 30% of the time necessary to create the 100% done drawing. It will take about twice as much time as it took to produce the basic drawing to get it honed up, and time pressure  prevents this from ever happening. 

Point two - I can't complain too loudly about clumsy schematics because, after all (due to time pressure, and perception) I didn't take concerted action in the intervening years. 

The truth is, for someone experienced in the peculiarities of a particular machine, and troubleshooting in general, schematics are not absolutely necessary except for understanding the most puzzling of conditions. If an MCR won't turn on, or the machine enters into a signature mode of improper operation there are a finite number of causes that can be tracked through in short order. It is the other 20% of the time when schematics are highly desirable, and sometimes, indispensable. On the other hand, if the technician is still learning troubleshooting philosophy and practice, and/or doesn't have many on-hand hours on a particular machine a good schematic immediately cuts down both on 'training' time, and per-event troubleshooting duration.

August 15th, 2004

On the 8th decided to FTP this completely untended site up to storage on my Verizon account. This went fairly smoothly, but there is a strange problem loading pages hosted by Verizon - sometime a "Locked" error message displays instead of the desired web page. I've 'googled' around a bit, and it looks like I'm not the only one who has run into this, and none of the reports so far indicate a solution. Spent a couple of hours fixing links that have broken since 2002, but otherwise this vanity site is badly in need of a makeover. 

A couple of weeks ago I attended Edward Tufte's "Presenting Data and Information" seminar when it was down in the Philadelphia area. It was held in a rather large space, but we were packed in like sardines - remember estimating at least 400 people in attendance. Never heard of the guy before getting the flyer, but have long been interested in the topic, and figured, "why not?". Glad I went, because he's sharp, and knows what he's talking about. Part of the lecture deals with the NASA Challenger disaster (where he comments on Richard Feynman, and his ability to cut through info crap). It turns out he's a Tom Waits fan to boot!

December 15, 2002

A necessary venting of spleen lest I crack completely.

Bad day at work. Yesterday, one of our machines was acting up, and one of the potential problems has to do with a DTC drive installed to replace the original servo axis. The servo-based version wasn't bad, per se, but (when the motor encoder failed) and the bench stock replacement motor (which had been repaired by a 3rd party that apparently didn't know what they were doing) was also bad we ended up looking at excessive downtime before a replacement 30KW motor could be obtained.

The DTC drive is doing a bang-up job, but one of complications we got into was the original servo used a 8192 line encoder, and (via an internal feature) presented a 4:1 quadrature divided signal to the motion controller. The Baldor vector motor we used has a 1024 PPR encoder as standard, but it turns out (through my ignorance of encoder terminology) this is 8192 lines, and the motion controller pukes out at about 75 kHz, so simply changing the divisions in the application program only works up to a point - when running the motor at speeds where the encoder is generating 75 kHz or more, the other two axis that look at this encoder throw fits, and eventually stop reacting altogether. Unfortunately, this happens to correspond to only an RPM or so above our desired operating speed. Cripes ...

Instead of changing from the easily obtainable standard encoder to a non-standard, 2 week lead time 250 PPR  I opted to use a quadrature divider, and looked far and wide for one that could do the job. MKS makes one (model IT 251), but they have only one US distributor (although there are a load of them elsewhere in the world). Decided to go this way anyway, because theirs was the only one I found that handled the high speeds, and offered the feature set I wanted.

Installed it about 2 weeks ago, and didn't get any output. Pulled it off the line, shunted around it so we could operate as before, and started to "breadboard" a test circuit to  figure out what was going on off-line. Have been trying to get back to this since. 

Turns out the problem yesterday had more to do with mechanical issues, so bought a little bit of respite. Wanted to get this thing put to bed, so this morning got back to setting up the test circuit, and about 20 minutes farther along before I was called away again to scope out why our problem-child APET extruder was shutting down on high suction pressure.

After a quick look-see nothing jumped up as "broken", although the extruder screw motor was running hot, and didn't appear to have adequate air flow. Found the blower blades (and the motor windings themselves) clogged with dust ... blew out about 3 to 4 quarts worth when it was all said and done. The motor is still mostly clogged, and should be sent out for reconditioning. The slow burn starts here, because it indicates we need to PM the machines more often, more completely, or both.

After some additional digging learned the process setpoints in use were from a recipe made before we installed a crystallizer/dryer system, and (per our deviation paperwork) should have been using an entirely different profile. Once this altered recipe was loaded everything was OK (or, at least, as good as it gets with this machine). This turned up the wick a bit, because the biggest element in the "solution" was simply to read the process notes, and take appropriate action.

While the extruder was heating back up spent some time auto-tuning zones I hadn't gotten around to in previous troubleshooting opportunities, and refreshing the recipe with these new PID values.

Brought the high lift down (after first topping off the batteries) to an adjacent line where the dryer air delivery loop heat exchanger was dropping +15" water pressure indicating it was totally blocked. The air temperature was going about 10 degrees above setpoint, and expected it to cause a system shutdown shortly. This got me a steamed a little more, because I entered a notification for this to be cleaned during PM a couple of months ago.

Back to the problem line (which was going to be down for the evening), and took this rare opportunity to tease out why more than half of the pressure display values looked "goofy". In previous troubleshooting episodes I'd figured out the basics, and every time since when I've tried to do the necessary work ended up being called elsewhere, and/or needing to release the machine back into production.

Found the manufacturer had caused considerable confusion by mislabeling their pressure transducer conditioner channels, and also by calling them different things on the print versus their HMI nomenclature, and was about to embark on straightening out the mess when yet another machine (on the line with the dryer trouble) was having problems getting the 'controls on' circuit to seal. Took a look, and determined the guard door interlock system was at fault (probably an intermittent, because it became "OK" after I joggled through all the safety switches).

Back to the demon extruder, and was finally into the thick of things when the operator came back over to relate the guard door problem on the other machine had returned ... that's when my last remaining nerve started to saw through. Told him the thing to do was get one of our maintenance crew to dig into it.

Shortly afterward, started getting paged by the shift team leader (to a phone located only a few feet away, no less) ... and that's when the nerve snapped. Continued with what I needed to do, and when she came over had to tell her I simply wasn't available to find a faulty interlock switch. 

Normally I'm game for anything, and the line in question was  higher priority, but there comes a point where I need to actually complete something that I've started to do, and this was that point. In any case, finding and fixing a simple switch is, although time-consuming (there are 15 interlocks in the series string in question) a thing do-able by just about anybody, while the high tech quagmire I was battling isn't.

In the computer world they would call what we do "thrashing" ... when an operating system tells a hard drive controller to get "x" data, then "y" data, then "z" data, and so on, and never allows any of the requests to complete then the system will appear to lock up, and the only thing to do is stop throwing requests at the controller until it finishes some of them.

Shortly afterward I found one of the pressure transducer cables had failed, and when on my way back from the parts room noted the dryer had faulted out on high process temperature. 

Prescience isn't all it's cracked up to be ... buttoned up the extruder cabinet enough for safety, and spent the better part of a half hour trying to clean out the dryer heat exchanger. Once I was done (at least, as well as could be done in that time; it's now fouled badly enough to require extensive cleaning, and looks like it needs to be disconnected and benched to do this) saw the pressure drop was workable. It was still high (about 12"; should be 3 to 4" clean), but allowed enough flow to allow the delivery temperature to remain at setpoint. The air flow (which has been around 900 CFM, rather than +1400 CFM as is typical) was actually reading lower after cleaning (around 600 CFM) - this didn't make sense at all, and I found the air lines split at the gauge and pitot tube. Once the "split ends" were cut off, and hoses reattached the gauge was again +1400 CFM.

Didn't even get the area swept up before the operator was back again to relate a new problem on the machine - the adapter zone was running about 60 degrees above setpoint. Earlier this afternoon I heard there was a sheet width problem (although no one mentioned over-riding temperatures then), and this sounds like the cause. Took a quick look, and determined the power contactor wasn't being commanded on (so it must have failed closed), and again related that this was a job for the maintenance crew. 

I returned to the pressure transducer snafu, and ended up needing another transducer cable, and wanted to relabel then properly, so also went to get the labeling machine ... having no nerves left to snap it no longer bothered me to see all three shift techs working on a single clutch problem, but in passing did ask the electrical tech to look into the adapter zone overheat situation.

It sucked the heart right out of me, though, and I ended up not finishing the pressure snafu to my full satisfaction. All the pressure probes are connected to the proper channels, and working save for the head pressure, which is now wired correctly, the cable has been replaced, the conditioner works, and the probe is OK, but the signal is sitting at 1/2 of the supply voltage as though the bridge has failed ... the only thing I can think of is the relay base the conditioner is plugged into has an internal open.

None of this would bother me so much, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile the reality that I have a full plate of other things that need doing, but never get done because my life is frittered away with this pedestrian crap. 

I'm presently trying to:

Although day-to-day plant operations are obviously important it is also true that eating one's seed grain is a bad idea ... and that's, I'm afraid, what we end up doing far too frequently.

October 12, 2002

Dogs of war getting choker chains driven into their necks 'cause they're pulling like mad. This will get the SPCA into this mess sure can you can say Carnuba wax. It's not that S.H. isn't a diabolical madman (Stalin of the sands) with a yen for the baddest toys he can grab hold of (the deadlier the better), but more that President Bush and pals are having a hard time selling this war on it's merits. It may well be true this war is necessary, but my take on the P.R. campaign is they are: 

Post-war planning appears to be hazy and ill-conceived, and, if things go on as they are, the net effect will be to de-stabilize the region, and increase terrorist activities.

September 13, 2002

Talk about odd coincidences ... I woke up with a start on the morning of 09/11 sensing something was wrong. The ceiling fan was just coming to a stop, something was bleeping incessantly, and the lights (and TV, etc.) were off. Started thinking, "Jeez, don't tell me terrorists just hobbled the electrical grid", but a quick look out the window revealed a very windy day. Couldn't get a shower (no power; no well water past what's in the tank), so grabbed a cat bath and went to work. Turns out power was out for about 90 minutes (and was, in fact, wind-related).

Today went into work to baby-sit a machine featuring a computer-based control system that has been operating as though demon-possessed for the last couple of weeks, but it came out of set-up without a hitch. Don't mean to make it sound like inanimate objects have senses (although they do) , but figure either it knew I would clobber it were it to act up, or had something to do with it being Friday the Thirteenth.

Ended up assisting a co-worker wrasslin' with an OS-9 based TAU1200 HMI computer that didn't want to talk over the Ethernet ports. 

This is not Apple OS 9, but rather the multi-user, multi-tasking Microware RTOS OS-9 used in time-critical industrial control systems, and with a proud parentage stretching back to halcyon days of the home computer revolution when it was offered as an optional OS for various Tandy personal computers.

Neither of us has any previous experience with OS-9, and only a few people at the machine OEM work at this level, so we didn't succeed today (although we did learn a bit more about OS-9 internals and troubleshooting). 

September 10, 2002

It's been one wild sleigh ride of a year. I remember waking up to the TV in time to see a jetliner plow into a building, and thinking "... better special effects than most movies ..." as my foggy brain cleared up, and came to terms the images were terrifyingly in real time, and thousands of people were dead and dying. My condolences go out to everybody.

This time of change puts me in mind of how Altamont became a moment demarcating the beginning of the end of the "hippie" movement.  9/11 will be one of our generation's milestones, but I'm not yet certain what it is an end of. 

We Americans have long lived in a very complex and increasingly dangerous world, but I suspect few people have a clear grasp of the elements adding to the danger and complexity. I know I don't, although self-education is one of the things I do fairly well. After a year of both directed and peripheral study the answers are still far from clear, but it has solidified my opinion that intense and widespread media scrutiny doesn't necessarily add up to useful information.

Currently the hot televised news buzz is Iraq would only need 6 months or so to build nuclear weapons, and, by extension, we should jump on the current administration's war bandwagon. This is news? I hate to bust the balloon, but: 

I just hope the coming year won't have me waking up to find the TV exploding across the room from induced EMP on the utility power grid, or coughing up a bloody lung from a genetically engineered, highly lethal viral plague. 

Bottom line stuff here ... if human beings don't learn to get along with one another a future of mass death and horror is inevitable.

Preemptory action against Iraq or other nation states may one day be necessary, but I have the uncomfortable feeling our current strategy has more to do with appearance than substance, and could de-stabilize the entire globe. I wonder if that's the end these terrorists are hoping for ...

Later in the day when I checked Salon for news (wanted to find out more about the "Orange Alert" I'd heard out of the corner of my ear at 1:30 PM) ended up clicking through a link that led to Scott Rosenburg's blog, and find I'm not alone in thinking something fishy is going on here.

August 8, 2002

Anna Nicole. FOX news programs. Sweltering heat. Man, something isn't quite right in the world - just can't put my finger in it (and quite certain I don't want to).

July 10, 2002

Right. I'm going to keep this updated. Sure. 

Did see something the other day that was totally unexpected. I've lived around wooded areas all my life, but have never seen groundhogs climb up onto fence rails to sun themselves. Guess I have to start looking closer at groundhog behavior.

May 27th, 2002

Just got back from our quasi-annual Canadian fly-in fishing trip. It's been about ten years since the original fly-in, and this is the first year we've been nearly skunked in the fishing department. The weather was not kind - we arrived in time for a Friday fly-out to Upper Kat, but (due to cold rainy/snowy conditions, and poor visibility) it was Sunday before half of our party could be flown in, and (after some more bad weather) Butch and I arrived late Monday morning. 

Usually fishing is poor for a day or so after a cold-snap weather system moves through, and we only started getting some action on Tuesday. Wednesday was a little better (especially in the morning), but then a heavy wind started piling water to the NE side of the lake, and making our drifts move too fast. We did get to see a small waterspout form right off the end of the dock, and it lasted for all of 30 seconds.

Thursday was much the same (sans waterspout) until late afternoon. 

By the time our boat went between the camp to the neighborhood of a marker buoy (indicating the start of a hot spot) it started to rain like mad, and a ferocious lightening storm started up. We boogied on back to camp lest we incur the wrath of God.

Friday was cold and windy, and (although the fish started biting again) the wind was biting more, and we froze our butts off. Saturday (our scheduled departure) rose sunny and warm.

May 09th, 2002

Back around the time of the last journal entry I used FrontPage to quickly create an HTML page for something or other that wasn't part of this collections of pages, and, too late to realize what was happening, FP had changed all the navigation bar links to point to it.  I remember trying to undo the damage and failing, and shelving any site updates until figuring it out. 

Well, I never did figure it out, and haven't touched this site since. Over the last couple of months I registered the latest copy of WS_Pro onto my current computer, downloaded my old web pages onto it, and other things in preparation to getting started up again.

This time, though, I'm putting navigation into a simple header include file, and linking it manually. Not as nifty, but I understand completely how it's working now. I do recall spending several hours searching through the FP online help file, Microsoft Knowledgebase, and so on back then, and coming away from the experience almost as much in the dark as I started. 

Come to think of it, more and more computer programs I use have decreasingly useful help files, and now some of them link out directly to a website. By the time I'm online chances are I've lost my train of thought, and, even if I haven't, most online help is no better than the locally installed variety.

        I'm baaackk!

June 7th, 2000

Started  a section on PLC programming, mostly to experiment with how to document PLC programs in a way that allows both online viewing, and give a platform to point out different programming methods.

May 24th, 2000

Started adding a section on PID control.

May 6th, 2000

Curmudgeonized a few thoughts on textbooks, and one of my favorite physicists, Richard Feynman.

April 30th, 2000

A few more troubleshooting pages. Also, discovered that, while Frontpage has a 'macro' capability, it does not correspond to my vision of what a macro should be.

April 27th, 2000

Added some links to the 'Misc' section relating to the USS Tabberer, DE 418, a Destroyer Escort class ship my grandfather Jerome "Chick" Betz sailed on between May 23rd, 1944 to Jan 15th, 1946. 

April 26th, 2000

Found the links page was getting big, and was going to chop it into sections ... when I started to, looked at it using the HTML view, and realized the new MSIE browser now exports a bunch of stuff (last accessed date, etc.) along with the links when exporting bookmarks - chopping them out dropped about 20K (which I promptly added back in new links, so still need to partition this page).

April 16th, 2000

Started a general troubleshooting section, and one for my observations on Microsoft Frontpage, and computer products in general.

April 15th, 2000

Added a 'links' page with a slew of industrial control, motor, drive, lubrication, et al. references of use to maintenance technicians. 

Remember when I first used Frontpage 98 it took a bit to figure out to use Edit|Bookmark to create and edit bookmarks, but, once I did, this keystroke sequence burned itself into muscle memory. Frontpage 2000 has inexplicably changed it to Insert|Bookmark ... why? Is it because this is the way Word creates hyperlinks? If so, why wasn't it Insert|Bookmark from the beginning.? Inquiring minds want to know ...

And am I alone in thinking Microsoft applications and programming tools are becoming unnecessarily more difficult to use? 

Thinking specifically about the differences between MS Access and Lotus Approach - I could slap together a usable, and fairly complex relational database in Approach in under an hour, and the learning curve was shallow. Of course, Approach didn't have any bells and whistles, and it's macro language wasn't very powerful, but a typical end user had a chance. I'm still trying to get Access to create relations in a way that makes sense to me - I do (at least, I think I do) everything correctly, but still get a '#NAME' error message. 

Which segues into my next favorite rant - why are error messages becoming more cryptic than anything DOS, or DOS-based applications ever spit out? You'd think, what with software bloat, there'd be plenty of room for more helpful error messages.

April 2nd, 2000

It kills me to hear Microsoft complaining about the legal rulings against them. They have a desire to make their IE browser integrated into the operating system - bully for them. However, what I've found in practice is that this gives less value than before. 

A case in point ... when doing an intranet the browser used to load the program required based on the file extension, so when the hyperlink pointed to, for instance, an Excel file, a copy of Excel was run, and the user was able to use Excel's printing facilities (including Set Print Area, and Print Preview). Newer IE browsers (from IE4 on) extend the browser to view the Excel object, and all printing is done using the browser print engine, so page formatting and print preview is disabled. How is this a benefit to me? 

March 24rd, 2000

Thought that, instead of just thinking about doing it, time to slap together and post something - anything - on the Internet, and this would goad me into continuing on with something worthwhile. At least, that's the plan.

Created and maintained by Bob Welker for his own personal amusement. All trademarks, and so on that appear belong to their respective owners. None of the information contained within is guaranteed in any way.

Original work copyright 1999-2005 by Robert A. Welker.