Monday, October 23, 2017


The risk is in the rage
I believe that media figured out that outrage is as addictive as highly spiced food.  Both start out as a form of virtue signaling.  Eating Thai food confers a certain man-of-the-world aura while outrage on behalf of others confers a certain nobility.  Then  it becomes an addiction as we crave the rush and the peppers burn out the taste buds making regular food seem tasteless.  
And like highly peppered food, outrage is rarely conducive to peaceful digestion.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Three Ss

A perfectly ordinary Jeep in mid-Michigan.

And you never know when you might need a shovel.
According to the owner, the clamps are cam-shaft bearing caps from a 2.4 liter Ecotech engine.

The rack itself started life as shelving in a beverage cooler that the owner welded together.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Indian Corn

Corwin Davis of Bellevue, Michigan was an old-style truck farmer.  He sold sweetcorn, melons, squash, nuts...and "Indian Corn".

He sold directly to customers so he had constant and concrete feedback about what his customers found appealing.

Corwin said that the "magic" mix for Indian Corn, now known by the more politically correct term of "Ornamental Maize" was between 60%-and-80% yellow kernels followed by white, red and blue in decreasing amounts.

For example, 70% yellow, 15% white, 10% red and 5% blue would meet his formula.

Indian Corn is a "flint" corn.  It is primarily a hard, horny starch with a tiny nugget of puffy, opaque starch in the middle.  The horny starch is pearly/translucent.  The opaque starch is white and reflects light back through the pearly layer.

Blogging will be light this weekend due to family commitments

Friday, October 20, 2017

Another Thursday in Production

We were flying along producing about 400 units an hour when, after four uneventful hours of production, the system started faulting out.

The closest maintenance person went through the usual procedures.  He laboriously unloaded the work-in-process, lowered operating parameters to process initiation values, re-instructed the operator (me) to slow down.  After four or five minutes of effort, he got the machine fired back up.  And it promptly faulted out again.

The process was repeated and the machine faulted out AGAIN.  The old timer was at lunch.  He was called.

Over-load vs Over-temp
If you are like most folks you are going "Ah-ha! They overworked the machine.  They kept focusing on increasing throughput and broke the machine."

There are two pieces of evidence that make that root-cause unlikely.  The machine worked fine for four hours!  Why didn't the machine fault out in the 14,400 seconds that we were pouring the coal to it?

 Modern machinery measure load as current.  Approaching stall causes "in-rush" current because the inductive component of the load disappears.  In-rush currents are typically two or three times operating current.

The other piece of evidence was that the machine did not take off under zero load.  All the material had been pulled off the system.  All start-up parameters were set to zero.  And the maintenance guy still had to fiddle with it another four or five minutes.

The other possibility was an over-temperature condition in the motor.  The reason the maintenance guy's routine worked is because it gave the motor some time to cool off.

How to check it out

Well, for one thing the case of the motor was hotter than a popcorn fart.
This is a typical industrial, electric motor.  Notice that the cooling air does percolate through the stator and rotor.  Rather, it cools from the one end and through the case.  Also typical of high duty-cycle, industrial motors, this motor has cooling fins cast into the motor casing.

Another thing was that it was kicking out almost no cooling air.

The motor is in an inaccessible position.  It is difficult to see this end of the motor.
The motor in question is not in an optimal position.  Organic mud collected on the air intake and probably gummed up the fan blades.  Air flow was still weak, even after the air intake screen had been cleaned.

A couple of longer term fixes would be to clean out the cooling end of the motor, re-orient the motor so the cooling end was farther way from the cruddy mist.  A nice touch would be to find a collar of clamp-on, extruded heat sink material.  I did not measure the OD of the motor can but it looked like about 8".  Any leads from my readers will be much appreciated.

The final part of the puzzle is "Why did it run four hours?"  The probable answer is that the organic mud shrank when it dried out.  Four hours of soaking up mist caused it to swell enough to drive the final nail in the coffin.

This motor is plenty of motor, it just needs some TLC and to be spun away from the dirt.

Fake News Friday: Part II

Links found between athletic ability and poor academic performance.

A small study in France found a link between eye dominance and dyslexia.  Lack of a dominant eye was associated with dyslexia.  The researches speculate that dominance is important in discerning similar letters like "b" and "d".

Lack of eye dominance is similar to being ambidextrous, where there is no clear "handedness".  That is, the person who is ambidextrous can dribble, shoot, pass or "juke" with equal facility with either hand.  A player who can only dribble or shoot with one hand is much, much easier to defend than a player who can do so with either hand.

Malcolm Gladwell, in studying hockey, determined that competitive, team sports stratify athletes at a very young age.  The most promising 8 and 10 year olds go to "camps" and find mentors not available to less gifted 8 and 10 year olds.  While the originally less gifted 8 year old can learn to dribble with equal facility with either hand, the ambidextrous athlete can do so from day one.  The less gifted never have the opportunity to catch up.

It is unclear why "handedness" evolved.  It is clear that it would have become extinct if it did not offer a huge competitive advantage.  Some possibilities include:
  • Hygiene:  Separating the eating hand from the wiping hand.
  • Vestigial origin: Incrementally increasing brain size could only support the increased dexterity on one side of the body
  • Tool use: Tool like spears and bows put enormous demands on one side of the body.  Funneling activities to one side resulted in hypertrophy of one side allowing larger spears, longer range and deeper penetration.

Fake News Friday

Dramatic decline in flying insect biomass linked to decreases of anthropogenic atmospheric sulfur.

Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over almost 30 years.

"This confirms what everybody's been having as a gut feeling - the windscreen phenomenon where you squash fewer bugs as the decades go by," said Caspar Hallmann of Radboud University in The Netherlands.
"This is the first study that looked into the total biomass of flying insects and it confirms our worries.''

Photo credit Jan Smith
The study is based on measurements of the biomass of all insects trapped at 63 nature protection areas in Germany over 27 years since 1989.  The data includes thousands of different insects, such as bees, butterflies and moths.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Winter rye as a cover crop

Back in the 1980s and 1990s there was a huge amount of research into the use of winter rye (aka, cereal rye, rye grain) as a cover crop.  Proponents of using rye claimed it had allopathic activity that reduced weed populations, depressed nematode populations, scavenged leaching nutrients and cured male pattern baldness.

Weed control: TRUE

Cereal rye produces several compounds in its plant tissues and releases root exudates that apparently inhibit germination and growth of weed seeds. These allelopathic effects, together with cereal rye's ability to smother other plants with cool weather growth, make it an ideal choice for weed control.
However, allelopathic compounds may suppress germination of small-seeded vegetable crops as well if they are planted shortly after the incorporation of cereal rye residue. Large-seeded crops and transplants rarely are affected. There is some evidence that the amount of allelopathic compounds in tillering plants is lower than in seedlings.

Depress Nematode Population: True

Most cultivars of rye tested were relatively inhospitable to Root Knot Nematodes as measured by RKN egg production
While this is not a slam-dunk at repressing nematodes, being less hospitable means there is a lower base population for attrition by weather and biotic factors whittle down.  Lower numbers is certainly more favorable than larger numbers of viable eggs.

Other cover crops like annual ryegrass may be even more effective at suppressing nematodes.

Scavenge Leaching Nutrients:  TRUE

Male Pattern Baldness: Unproven

Trials testing rye as a cure for male pattern baldness ran into difficulties in preparing a seed bed deep enough for reliable germination and resistance of women to green hair.