Sunday, October 5, 2008

Think Better, an Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinking by Tim Hurson

This is basically a 'self help' sort of book. According to the author, if you buy this tome, read it, and apply the contents, something great will happen.

So I bought it. And I read it. And I applied the contents.

What this book is about is thinking more creatively, not thinking more deeply, as it were.

The core premise of the book is that typical thinking relies heavily on what we've done previously. Learning by experience is what humans do. Hurson calls this 'reproductive thinking' as it reproduces the past. This is frequently a good way to do things. But no amount of reproductive thinking will turn an adding machine into a spreadsheet. To make this leap, you need "productive thinking."

The crux of the book is how to think this way. Suppose you have some problem. You assemble your team of people (works individually too, but that isn't his focus) and write down every solution the team can think of to that problem. Analysis is not allowed - just raw ideas. Within a few minutes, people have called out the obvious solutions. The leader of the group keeps writing them down and asking for more using a number of techniques in the book. Before long, people will start giving dubious solutions. This is good. Finally, at some point, the answers become bizarre. This section is what Hurson calls the "third third" of the list. He posits that the good stuff - the truly innovative solutions - are at the bottom of the list. Most of the time, they are worthless. But if you allow these fledgling ideas to live for a while, sometimes they attain flight status.

While we had our power outage, I had 9 days to try this. I am designing some software. I started making a list of the solutions to my problems (this software has many facets which constitute many problems.) I wrote down ideas, concerns, drawings - anything. What I found was that once I ran out of ideas, I'd make some connection, and I'd get 25 more ideas. Then I'd be empty. But the next day it would happen again. It was difficult, but I finally - finally - made it to 100 ideas and thoughts, an arbitrary goal designed to make me stretch. Then I saw another connection and wrote down 30 more ideas! I stopped because the ideas, if valid, were straying from the actual problem domain and started applying more to an alternative piece of software.

I ended up with 3 really good innovations. (I'm sure others would think of these things instantly, but by God they were new to me!) One of these innovations would allow the software to perform a seeming completely different function with only trivial modifications - if it's built right.

There's a lot more to the book, as it talks about how to make the ideas to concrete solutions, walking through phases of idea-to-solution. Again, posing each step a problem then using these free-flowing lists of solutions to find the most innovative answers to problems.

So, the pros:

1. The technique seems to work for me as an individual.

2. Trying it is cheap. You need a) the book and b) office supplies. You do not need a guru, a Change Process Facilitator, pure Tibetan mountain spring water, or to sacrifice a chicken.

3. There are probably 6 phases and numerous sub-phases in the full solution process. So there are other parts of the book that I didn't mention but are worthwhile. For example, he mentions that some people in the organization may work against you. Commendably honest. Such a person is treated as a problem to be solved. You write this person's name down so you can make lists of solutions to this persons behavior. This section is short and I can't help but feel he stopped short for political correctness - and perhaps legal reasons!

The cons:

1. The book is almost certainly a sales tool for the author's consulting company which he mentions repeatedly. Perhaps the book is an answer to the problem, "How can we educate people about our system and thus make more money?" in which case it's a very practical proof of concept!

2. I can't imagine a team of people using this technique because it feels 'new age.' You'd have to have a lot of trust among coworkers.

3. The book is repetitious. Make lists! Make lists! Blah.

4. TMCBSHA. I mean, Too Many Cute Business Self Help Acronyms. The industrial strength solution he discusses has many phases and sub-phases. It seems like every one of them as some hokey acronym associated with it. examples:
IF (imagined future)
DRIVE (do, restrictions, investment, values, essential outcomes)
AIM (advantages, impediments, maybes)

Now, each of these sections may be worthwhile but my god it's killing me. This is what makes me suspicious about the technique. I feel like he's putting the sizzle before the steak. I don't need sizzle to work a problem. But Hurson might need it to sell his book!

5. The numerous steps (and their acronyms!) in the full solution need to be in a diagram so I can follow them.

Finally, if you make your living by thinking (versus, say, by chopping off ninja heads) and you're in a rut, consider _Think Better, an Innovator's guide to Productive Thinking_ by Tim Hurson. I give it a 3 of 5, where no such book can possibly score a 5 due to the built-in hokiness and cheerleading of it all.

9 days without power thanks to Ike

Hurricane Ike hit Louisville like a sledgehammer leaving 350,000 people without power. Our neighborhood suffered and inordinate amount of infrastructure damage. A large tree fell onto some power lines and snapped 5 poles. With such great damage and so few people affected, we were last to be restored.

It was fun, sort of like camping, but with porcelain. Our stove is electric and our gas hot water heater has an electric component to the thermostat or heater. We lost the contents of the freezer almost immediately. But why spend $700 or more on a generator to save $100 of food?

Most essentials (ie coffee maker) were handled by our little 1000 watt Honda generator. We bought a Coleman one-burner stove and cooked out. We burned a lot of candles. I wrote by oil lamp light in the evenings. The lovely and talented wife knitted outside by day and caught up on "House" episodes by night, thanks to the Honda.

It was rather peaceful. However, by day 7 it was getting old. The cold showers were brutal. And there weren't any computers or internet access.

While roughing it, I made a little alcohol burning stove. It puts out a remarkable amount of heat. I'd make a better design if I really wanted to cook on it however. There are plans on the web for better pepsi can stoves for not much more work. Be advised, these things are reasonably dangerous as they burn uncontained alcohol. Google 'pepsi can stove' to learn more.

The lesson to take away here is that you can do a lot with a little - if you're innovative. This little stove worked - it boiled water in about 5 minutes using about half an ounce of denatured alcohol. The stove is the bottom inch or so of two coke cans. You stretch one half using a (full) can of soda. Then you can insert the first bottom into the stretched bottom. You then seal the seam with thermal tape or heat-proof epoxy. I used a small nail to poke 8 burner holes (around the rim) and a few fill holes in the center. There's a piece of fiberglass insulation inside to help contain the alcohol in case of a spill. You pour alcohol in the center, warm the whole burner with a candle until the alcohol boils, then ignite the burner. Deluxe rabbit-fence is used as a pot holder. The coin you see is a nickel used to cover the fill holes once the stove was burning. Sorry, I don't have any pics of the stove in use.

Dad's Clarinet

I've become interested in the clarinet again. I dug through the closet and found the clarinet my father played in the late 40s and early 50s. I played it from 3rd to 12th grade, through 1980. My son played it in middle school (through about 2000) before switching to the violin.

It's just a plain-jane Leblanc Normandy model. From any measure except sentimentality, it's not remarkable. That being said, 60 years later, it still plays pretty darned well!

As you can see, the keys are tarnished. I am not sure there's any plating left to polish.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Making a chessboard pt 9

Tonight, except for gluing felt on the feet, I completed the chessboard. It was an enjoyable project.

After the 2nd coat of oil dried, the board was quite rough. This surprised me. I went over it lightly with some fine steel wool and all the roughness went away - it became silky. After a good dusting, I waxed it with Johnson & Johnson's paste wax. The same stuff - down to that yellow metal can - that my mom used to use when waxing our floors back in the 60s. I must say that I like the simplicity of using tung oil and wax.

Enough talk!

Here's the board with the set I bought, and a lovely quilt made by the wife in the background. The quilt's better than the chessboard!

And that's that!

My son and I played a few games on it tonight, he nicked me for a draw! The board and set go well together. The set is the Club Series chessmen from Cajun Chess.

Perhaps I'll have additional thoughts about the chessboard later. Now it is time for bed.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Making a chessboard pt 8

I finished the sanding today (in other words, I got really tired of sanding.) A random orbital sander is sounding good right about now. If I make any more, I'll probably get one. The Wife wants more quilt racks so I can probably get one. It's really for her, you see...

Here are some pictures. The tung oil added a bit of a tint...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Making a chessboard pt 7

Well, this is really dragging on. If I would quit making mistakes I'd be done!

Anyway, I cut the miters pretty much by eye on the bandsaw and cleaned them up with a chisel. This is something a skilled craftsman can do with ease. Which is to say, I made a mess of it.

So I give you, ladies and gentlemen, BRUTALCAM (tm) ... Here are closeups of the patched/repaired miters. To see this yourself you'd have to push your eyeball up against the board - so it isn't quite as bad in person.

Obviously the one in the upper right is rough. When making the cut on the bandsaw, I cut on the wrong side of the line. Pretty serious when 1/64th of an inch in unacceptable! But as it was the 2nd miter cut on that piece, and as I cut it too short, there was nothing to be done except to deal with it and try to do better next time. The dark spot is actually glue, so this will probably look a little better (a little less bad?) after some finish sanding. I'm as pleased as punch with the other corners.

Here's the board again, this time with it's first sanding. Tomorrow I have specific rough areas to sand. Then it will time for the final sanding and the finish.

And once again, the board with the new pieces on it. Why? Because I can!

Stay tuned...

Abbey Road on the River

My son and some of his High School friends got a unique opportunity to play a gig at Louisville's Abbey Road on the River, the world's biggest Beatles festival. In the last few weeks they formed a band, selected a few songs, and worked up a set - while taking AP tests, finals, and graduating. It was nuts.

Here's a link to the band's page... It will likely change in the near future...

And here's a clip.


Needless to say, we're as proud as we can be of our son.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Making a chessboard pt 6

Tonight's adventures...

I decided that the borders of the chessboard made the it look too bulky, almost as if it was single block of oak. To remedy this, I decided to cut scallops in the bottom of the border. I'd leave "feet" at the corners but cut an arc between them.

This represents one of my four border pieces. The pink rectangular area represents the groove that the board's lip fits into. The arc at the bottom is what I want to cut. In actuality, I selected a chord of a circle, not an ellipse as drawn, but my gimp fu is weak.

Here's a pic. It's sitting on the tablesaw which might made it hard to see.

Here's another pic. Hopefully the plywood will make it easier to see.

Ok, it's a tad subtle. Compare to pictures in previous postings to see the difference. The arc/scallop is a chord of a circle with a radius of 80" or so. I didn't have a circle jig that large sitting around so I had to improvise. I decided that I wanted the arc to go from 0" deep by the feet to 3/8" deep in the center. I did all the calculations in Excel to plot several points onto my template. Then I could connect them and have a reasonable approximation of the arc I wanted. The method sucked my soul (ok, measure 3" over and 5/64" up...) I needed a less tedious way.

I marked three points on my template - the top of the arc and the point by each foot where the arc will leave the wood. I got a thin strip of plywood scrap and bent it so it passed through all three points. I made sure the strip bent evenly. I then traced the curve made by the bent strip onto the template. After cutting to the line on the bandsaw, I had a template I could use for all four borders. Worked great.

More to come!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Making a chessboard pt 5

I've cut the miters now. With the board being out of square somewhat and my lack of specialized tooling, I was forced to cut the miters on the bandsaw and clean them up with a chisel. Given that I have never done it, three of the four corners turned out well enough. The fourth, unfortunately, is a train wreck. I can disguise it at the cost of Yet More Time. Looking back, of course, it is very easy to say, if I spent half as much time being careful as fixing st00pid mistakes, I'd be done...

Oh well, I'm getting smarter by the minute... So enough with the whining, here we go.

Here's the board with the borders. All mitered. Now you can see the accent strip very well.

Here's the best corner.

And here's a closeup. The camera angle is being kind to me. There's a black line there though I expect it will fill in with sawdust. Hey, I'd prefer a perfect miter, but I'll take it where I can get it!

Finally, here's a motivational picture I took for myself. This is a set I received today. I bought it for this board. It's a decent boxwood and ebonized boxwood set with a 3 7/8" king.

Yeah, I cropped it to be a tease. ;-)

The next step is to repair the bad miter and glue the borders on. Then I'll re-evaluate the situation. Optionally, before the gluing, I may put a decorative arc in the borders so they don't look so heavy.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Making a chessboard pt 4

More chessboard progress. I spent most of my time since the last post fixing mistakes. They do seem to compound on a project like this.

Here's the board after a sanding on its plywood sheet.

This picture shows that I can't take pictures. Anyway, this shows the profile of the border. The groove will fit over the lip made by the plywood giving a lot of gluing area. The groove was made from multiple passes on the tablesaw. It's rough but it will be hidden. The accent strip has been attached but is still untrimmed. In the spirit of being a cheeseball, I've since run the borders through the planer to make the accent strip flush on both edges. :-D

I'll tell on myself a little here. Due to some error propagation, the playing area needed to be trimmed - the squares weren't perfectly aligned. But I did it poorly causing the border to fit badly at best. There was a 1/16" gap between the accent strip and the board. It doesn't sound like much but it looked like a chasm. Completely unacceptable. I filled the gap in with some scrap and planed the edge reasonably straight. As you can see, the worst of the damage is fixed. I still have some finagling to do but it will be minor.

This close-up shows how it all comes together. Obviously I still have to miter the border. The accent strip is Brazilian Cherry. Which isn't related to cherry at all. Hopefully it will stay this color! There are some gaps between the accent and the board that will disappear with sanding and finagling.

And finally, here's sort of what it will look like. Pretend the corners are mitered. The ends of the borders are a little rough. Not to worry, I'll be cutting an inch or so off when they are mitered.

I'm not too sure about the oak border. Maybe I'll use cherry on the next one.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Making a chessboard pt 3

Now I need to cut the board across the strips. The problem is, I don't have a good edge to push against the tablesaw fence. The solution is the panel jig. In the simplest case this is nothing more than a straight piece of wood that serves as a fence attached to a sheet of plywood. Now, the panel jig's fence is perpendicular to the board's direction of travel through the table saw. The board has 2 good edges for that. Here's the panel jig. As you see, there's isn't much to it.

(note - I built mine upside down and reversed. That is, most of these jigs have the fence on the side closest to the operator. And usually the jig is on the left of the blade, not the right. I don't know why I made it this way now. But it has advantages and disadvantages... )

The next two pictures show the before and after of me cleaning the edge of the first square. Note the board's good edge is against the fence. That's how I know this edge will be perpendicular.


and after...

As soon as the edge is clean, I immediately write the numbers 1 through 8 on the board, on the first maple strip, such that when the new strips are cut each has a number. This will allow me to reassemble the board in the same order. It keeps the grain matching and looking good.

Now a challenging task is ahead - I need to make 8 strips - but but how wide? The problem is that the squares aren't exactly 2 1/4" like I had planned. They are about 2 3/16". I measured across the board and found it was 17 7/16" wide. I divided by 8 to get the average width of a square. This was something bizarre, of course, something like 2 23/128ths. I could approximate it to 32nds of course... Instead, I converted the fraction to decimal... 17.96.. and set my dial caliper. Now that I know how wide these strips should be, how am I going to do it? I should be able to cut these on the table saw now that I made a good edge. But that will leave a thin piece of wood stuck between the fence and the blade. In addition to being dangerous, I don't have any wood to spare if it gets chewed up.

I decide to use the panel jig instead of the tablesaw fence. I use my calipers to measure from the leftmost edge of one of the saw blade's left-set teeth to position a wooden stop:

Note the bar clamp - the stop must absolutely not move. Now I push a clean edge against the panel jig's fence, and push a clean edge against the stop. The sets the width of the strip to be cut as accurately as I know how.

There's now nothing left to do but push wood through the saw. I make sure the chessboard doesn't slip by pushing the board against the jig's fence, but I push the jig through the saw. Better jigs have a toggle clamp that pins the work to the jig. If I used mine more often I'd add one.

So I make a few cuts, measuring each one with the calipers to make sure nothing has slipped. Here I've cut 2 with the next ready. You can just see masking tape on the trailing maple edge - I has some trouble with this splitting out as the blade passed through. The tape adds enough support to prevent this.

Ok, all 8 strips are cut and laid out in order on the panel jig.

Now what? How do you get a chessboard out of that? Simple! Rotate every other strip end-for-end!

Suddenly the game board appears!

The next steps will include a light sanding of the new edges to remove any wood splinters or burrs that could prevent a good glue-up. Then back in the clamps it goes for gluing! After the cleanup I'll glue the whole board down to a sheet of plywood to strengthen it.

I'll add a border to it to protect the outside squares and hide the plywood substrate. I consider the miters at the border's corners to be the most difficult part of the project.

Then the real finish sanding will happen. This will level the board and the border and hopefully be silky smooth. Finally, I'll apply a finish. Oil gives luster and depth, polyurethane makes it tough as nails. Maybe I'll do both. I have not decided.

More to come...

Making a chessboard pt 2

So I got my pipe clamps and, did some test fits, then glued the board together. Here's the beauty shot:

That's actually of a dry-run. When doing involved glue-ups it is important to be sure that there won't be any problems. You don't want to be surprised while the glue is drying! In this case, notice the small bits of wood between the clamps and the board. I discovered that the boards were thin enough to slip beneath some of the clamp faces. That would have been annoying had the glue been applied already.

Also important is that the boards are in the same exact order and orientation as described in the previous posting. That's why I lettered them all.

I was rewarded immediately during the real glue-up when I tightened a clamp too much and the boards flew out. I ended up getting glue where I didn't want glue which made for additional cleanup. Anyway, I was able to start over with no chance of getting the board (with their custom-matched edges) back in the wrong sequence.

The next picture fills my breast with pride and the smell of olde-world craftsmanship.

Basically, I thought the board had a bit of a bow in it, and it displeased me. I found the heaviest thing in the shop that was nearby. That vise weighs perhaps 40#, more then enough to push the board down against the pipe clamps. A good part of woodworking is dealing with the real world - such as boards that don't behave.

If you enlarge the image you can see the glue squeezing out from between the boards. That's ok. Let it dry. Don't try to wipe it off or you'll smear it into the wood. This is very important if you intend to stain the wood (which I don't) because the glue residue will inhibit the stain leaving an unsightly blemish you can't do much about. After an hour or two, the glue will be set up but not yet hard. It will peel off very easily. I had to go to work, so by the time I got back in the shop the glue was rock hard.

Here's the board after the glue-up. Now, all that dried 'squeeze-out'... To remove it, I carefully ran my narrow chisel, bevel up, down the length of the glue lines. Some of the boards weren't perfectly aligned in height leaving places where glue could hide. Unsightly! While I could have sanded it off, that makes no sense to me. So I held the chisel nearly vertically with the bevel away from me, and I pulled it down the glue lines. This popped off some globs of glue and, as it cut the wood and made gossamer shavings, it leveled the uneven glue lines. Basically, I used the chisel like a light-duty cabinet scraper. I could feel the chisel being deflected as it hit patches of glue. When I could pull the chisel without it wandering, I knew I was done. Now when I run my hand over the board, I feel minute undulations, but I don't feel any catches where the boards are glued together.

The next stop is for me to make a straight cut across all 8 boards. This will be the reference edge from which I'll make the next 8 strips. Note these will be cut 'the other way', making strips of alternating squares. This is the only operation that stresses me - I must push the board straight through the saw or I'll snipe an edge and it won't glue well. It sounds easy, and it is - until the board is almost cut through. You have to push the work through the saw, past the blade. You also have to push the work against the fence as you do this. But there's only 2" of space between the fence and the blade. You gonna put your hand in there, stumpy? I can think of two different ways to do this safely. A dry-run (unpowered!!) of each is called for.

More to come!

Making a chessboard

While procrastinating on finishing the lathe, I decided to make a chessboard. I've started playing again recently so it's been on my mind.

I have a nice set I bought many years ago. Based on its size I decided that 2.25" squares would be appropriate. I selected some maple and walnut from my racks. I resawed four slices of each type of wood each about 5/16" thick. Then I ran them through the thickness planer until the best side was very smooth and the other side was reasonably smooth. Then I cut each strip to width on the table saw.

Here's the result:

You can see that not all the pieces are the same length. That's ok, I'll be cutting across those strips soon to make 8 new strips of alternating color. The uneven ends (including that label, lolz) are destined for the scrap pile.

What you can't see is that each board is lettered on the scrap end. This allows me to know which face is up and the orientation of the end of the board.

I'm going to glue the 8 pieces together next. The table saw is pretty accurate, I could probably glue them as-is. However using a hand plane I can use and old old trick to make the edges virtually perfect, giving a superior gluing edge.

The trick is that if you get two boards and clamp them in the vise, both are oriented with their faces outward, when you hand-plane their edges your planing errors will cancel out. When the boards are laid flat again, they will fit together wonderfully. The reason is that the hand plane my be cocked to, say, 88 degrees as you plane. Planing each edge individually could cause the mating edges to be 4 degrees out of square. That's unacceptable. But when they are planed together (with both faces out - critical!), 88 degrees on one board becomes 92 on the other. Add 88 to 92 and you get 180 degrees - perfectly flat. In the picture, you can see the two boards in the vise. I've clamped them in with their edges at the same height. That hand plane is a Stanley (Bailey) #8c jointing plane. It was made in about 1922. I really enjoy using it.

Here's the mess after I jointed all the edges. You can see maple and walnut intertwined in the shavings between the plane and the vise . Those are what you want - it means the plane was cutting both pieces at the same time, and thus they will meet at 180 degrees.

More to come, this post is full ;-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Another chess outing

I played again this week. I won two reasonable games, then played this abomination with the white pieces:

Stormcrow (1705) vs. JT (1900)

1. d4 c5 2. Nf3 cxd4 3. Nxd4 a6 4. e4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Nf3 Bb4 7. Bg5 Qc7 8. Qd3 Nxe4 9. Qxe4 Bxc3+ 10. Kd1 Bxb2 11. Rb1 Qd6+ 12. Bd3 Bd4 13. Re1 f6 14. Qxd4 Qxd4 15. Nxd4 fxg5 16. Rxe5+ Kd8 17. Rxg5 g6 18. f3 Nc6 19. Nxc6+ dxc6 20. Kd2 Kc7 21. Re1 Bd7 22. Rge5 Rae8 23. Bc4 Rxe5 24. Rxe5 Re8 25.Rxe8 Bxe8 26. f4 h6 27. Bd3 Kd6 28. c3 a5 29. Ke3 b5 30. g4 g5 31. f5 Ke5 32. a3 c5 33. Kf3 b4 34. cxb4 axb4 35. axb4 cxb4 36. Bc2 Bf7 37. Ke3 0-1

There was more, but I was in time pressure and unable to record it. I got off balance in the beginning and allowed a dreadful pin. According to Crafty, however, black's 11th and 12th moves were poor. On move 13 I played Re1 - not generally bad, but too slow. White wins a bishop gratis by simply playing 13. Nxd4. The natural recapture with the queen is disastrous:

13. Nxd4 Qxd4? 14. Qxd4 exd4 15. Re1+ Kf8 16. Be7+ Kg8 (16. ... Ke8? 17. Bc5+ Kd8 18. Bc6#) 17. Bc5
(threatening Re8) g6 18. Bxd4 (closing the hole) Kf8 19. Bxh8

I believe a spare knight (or rook), two great bishops, and the e file would have been enough for the win. This was against a 1900 player (his rating floor) and would have been my best win ever. So close, and now gone forever!

The silver lining is that I see that I can recover from a poor opening and these A-player "giants" can indeed be felled. This game was a good demonstration of what can happen if you neglect your development - black's seemingly superb opening should have collapsed because his pieces sat idle on their starting squares and his King languished in the center while white's pieces flooded the board! And finally, Crafty is giving me a better grip on reality - Crafty can improve on nearly every one of my moves. If I work to improve even a fraction of these, the quality of my play should increase dramatically.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Playing chess again

Show me a good chess player and I'll show you someone with a miss-spent youth. Anyway, I'm trying to keep the noodle from calcifying as my age advances so I've started playing chess again. I haven't played a tournament game in 17 years. I found a club that plays three quick games each Monday evening. Last week I got smoked, getting 1/2 of a point out of 3 and I probably didn't deserve that. This week I did better, winning the open class with 3 out of 3 points. I scored my first victory against a USCF class "A" player.

Here's the game. It's probably the most active game I've played. My opponent is known to be fearless and aggressive. He didn't disappoint!

Stormcrow (USCF 1705) vs JB (USCF 1881)

1. d4 e6 2. c4 b6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Ba6 5. e3 Nc6 6. a3 Bb7 7. Be2 h5 8. Ng5 Ng4 9. Nge4 Na5 10. b4 f5 11. Nd2 Bd6 12. Bf3 Nxf2 13. Kxf2 f4 14. Bxb7 Nxb7 15. Nce4 O-O 16. Qxh5 Rf5 17. Qg4 fxe3+ 18. Kxe3 Bf4+ 19. Kd3 d5 20. Ng3 dxc4+ 21. Nxc4 Bxg3 22. hxg3 c5 23. Bb2 b5 24. Ne3 c4+ 25. Kc2 Rf2+ 26. Kb1 c3 27. Bxc3 Rc8 28. Rc1 Nd6 29. Qxe6+ Kf8 30. Ra2 Rf6 31. Qg4 Nc4 32. Nxc4 bxc4 33. Re1 Rc7 34. d5 Kf7 35. Bxf6 Kxf6 36. Rf2# 1-0

Black was in time trouble towards the end which explains his last few moves.

This leaves my rating at 1733 - I'm a middle "B" player. My goal is to become an "A" player which requires a rating of 1800. It's doable this year. To gain the 67 points I'll need to have 4 wins (net) against peers. And of course, I want to hold onto the rating.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Crafty chess program

I've started playing chess again. I found a delightful chess program on the innerwebs called "Crafty." It's written by Robert Hyatt, the same guy who did Cray Blitz, so the mojo is flowing.

Crafty has a mode in which it annotates games and generates an HTML file of the game, variations, and diagrams. Unfortunately, the graphics for the diagrams don't seem to be available. The board looks terrible without them ;-)

So here's a link to a page that offers public domain piece art that works well with Crafty.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Finishing the headstock

Not much more to report, repairs on the lathe are coming down to a large number of very small tasks. I decided to replace both belts with Fenner link belts. A Fenner link belt is a v-belt made of some very tough stuff. The trick is that instead of the belt being a continuous loop, Fenner uses interlocking pieces:

While the piece is 2" long or so, the adjacent pieces overlap so that adding a 2" link adds about an inch of length to the belt.

And since the belt was on I added a belt cover from an Atlas lathe. Same manufacturer, probably a different model. Fortunately it fit ok. You don't want the spinning cogs under the cover exposed.

Here's what it looks like with the cover open:

The motor needs to go on soon. It looks like I'll be mounting a 1/2 HP 3-phase. This requires some electrical work so the starting the lathe is a few weeks out yet.

Remaining biggies for the lathe include making a shim for the leadscrew mounting bracket and repairing the carriage's lateral movement gears.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

New motor for the lathe

I acquired 1/2 HP and 1 HP 3-phase motors yesterday. So that's one more issue that's resolved. I just need to decide which I want to use. The 1HP is quite heavy. I'm not sure the motor mount on the lathe was designed for a motor this large. I could mount it on the wall or a separate stand.

I also acquired appropriate oil for the ways and spindle on the lathe. Unfortunately, they come in lifetime quantities. I would have been ok with 1/4 of a lifetime supply and ordering more later! I got Mobil Vactra2 way oil and ISO 68 hydraulic oil.

I getting to the point on the lathe were there are 100 little things to do and not much worth writing about.

I did more renovations in the basement to make a nicer shop area. I removed some dog whelping pens that had been down there for 15 years. I had expanded them for my wife's dogs, but she's out of the dog scene now. It was much easier to delicately *cough* remove them with a reciprocating saw than it was to build them. They were filthy with dust and mold :-/

I'm going to use a VFD to convert single phase 220v house electricity to 3-phase for the lathe. While I'm at it I'll install a small breaker box in the lathe area. I'll have the lathe on one breaker and lights and common 110v outlets on 2 more. I'll put up two 2-light fluorescent light fixtures and make provision for some incandescent task lighting.

As far as the lathe is concerned, there isn't much to do to have it minimally running. There's a hand wheel on the apron that allows the carriage to be moved quickly up and down the lathe. There's a housing that allows a gear connected to the hand wheel to engage a rack under the ways. That housing is broken. It's about the most common failure on these lathes. In addition, I need to make a shim to reposition the extremely dubious shop-made bracket supporting the left end of the leadscrew.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My colonoscopy

You can read about the details elsewhere. I'll hit the high spots.

The doctor can't see anything if your intestines aren't clean. I was instructed to fast the day before the procedure. Sure, I could have a small amount of semi-solid food such as unflavored Jello but why bother. Starting at midnight, I ate nothing. I was free to drink clear liquids, coffee, tea, and soft drinks that had no red dye in them. In the late afternoon, I broke out the 'bowel prep kit' which I got from the pharmacy. The kit contained a plastic jug with a powdered chemical within, some flavoring packets, and 2 pills. The first thing I did was to take 2 pills. They didn't seem to do anything. Then I added enough water to the jug to create a liter of a flushing fluid. (Apparently the procedure has been improved - others tell me of having to drink a gallon of the stuff, not a liter! A gallon of anything would be very very tough to drink.)

An hour after taking the pills, I started drinking the flushing fluid at the rate of 8 oz every 10 minutes. 4 glasses total. No big deal. It doesn't taste bad but it is a little thicker than water and somehow 'wrong.' What I learned was that you chug it. The end of the glass never stops going up until the liquid is gone. And you don't just pour it in, you suck it in. Get it in and down as quick as you can. The reason is, if you stop, it is very hard to start again. Like I say, it's odd stuff.

Over the course of the evening I chased it with a few glasses of water and got the desired result. I wasn't on the toilet all night or anything like that.

Then, at 5am on the day of the procedure, I repeated the flush process with 4 more glasses of the stuff. By the time I was done, I was as clean as a that area can probably be. I felt as fresh as a country meadow. :-P

I was getting very tired of washing my hands.

The procedure itself was a breeze. First, I removed my clothing and donned a hospital gown designed to be insufficient on multiple levels. Then I sat and froze in an examination room for about 90 minutes. /fume

The next stop was the room where the procedure happens. I got an saline IV and answered some medical questions. The nurse produced the instrument which had a business end at least 120 cm long and about 15mm in diameter. It's marked every 10 cm, lol, for navigational assistance. She plugged this nozzley thing, which I assume had been previously sterilized, into a machine. When the time came, the nurse injected *something* into the IV. I got drowsy pretty quick. The nurse instigated some chit chat...

And I was done. I was awake and my wife was there. I don't remember going to sleep and I don't remember waking up. 20 minutes later I was in the car, and 30 minutes after that enjoying my first solid food in over 42 hours.

I woke up a little during my procedure, watched for a while on an LCD screen that was set up, felt some pressure and said "ow", and the nurse knocked me back out. No pain at all that I can recall.

So if you need to get it done, don't worry, it really isn't a big deal.