Saturday, January 26, 2008

Oregon State Flag

Cyber friend Michael 5000 is a bit of a flag geek - well, not really just a bit. After recognizing the extreme suckitudiness of the flag from his beloved home state of Oregon, he's issued a challenge to redesign it. Here's a great way to kill an hour on a Saturday morning. My entry:

Obvious choices of natural green and blue, with the blue signifying the ocean more so than the sky. The stand of evergreens is intended to also evoke a sense of a skyline in the Western portion of the state, recognizing growth and sophistication integrating with natural beauty.

The outline of Mt. Hood represents my dominant first thought of Oregon. I first call up natural beauty, with mountains and dense stands of trees; that is followed by images of meandering streams, which might also be hinted at in the silhouette line drawing. Then I think of Nike and Tiger Woods and how they systematically created a major presence in the golf industry, but that doesn't really matter.

Also, by way of flag design principles, it looks pretty good in reverse, too.

So there it is. Now if only Michael will forgive me and d for doubting that the Estonian consul replied to his notification that Estonia won M5K's award for Best Flag.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pinewood Derby over the Years

An exceedingly busy week and a half eliminated any chance of a blog entry here, with a huge project at the office, annual start up for the Waves swim team, and another annual activity that is a highlight in our house - the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby.

This year Alex and I made an ice cream sandwich car. This design was first considered two years ago, and I'm glad we finally built it. In fact, it would have been far easier that what we built those years, with more steps in which Alex could safely use power tools back then. Even though Alex will never win the "most likely made entirely by a scout" award, this year he did more power tool work than ever before, did some of the hand work (which was almost non-existent) and he did 100% of the painting. My contributions fell to a little band saw work (but Alex did half), routing the edges and installing wheels.

Not that this blog is going to ever be a source for Pinewood Derby tips, but we did something this year based on experience, that would help lots of people. We used purple painters tape (the lightest hold, lighter than the ubiquitous blue tape) to wrap the white parts of the car while graphite was being applied to the wheel areas and while wheels were installed.

To those not familiar with Pinewood Derby, it's a model car race, primarily conducted by Cub Scouts. It began in the early 50's in California, when a dad with a young son didn't want to wait until his kids was old enough to build a full size Soap Box Derby car (those are the ones that kids sit in and ride down a hill). He invented a small model - 6" long - and a track, to allow younger kids to get the racing bug. It took off and was quickly adopted by the Scouts. Some other organizations such as YMCA and Awana conduct similar races.

Though I was only a scout for one or two years, I recall attempting to whittle a car with a dull pocket knife. Not only is this not going to lead to much of a car, it also is dangerous for a kid. The majority of cars constructed rely on sandpaper and elbow grease, with maybe a few hand tools. The top cars from a design standpoint are closer to mini sculptures.

[ Note to those who don't know me - I've built furniture as a hobby for 15 years, and have a complete woodworking shop in the garage. Building / sculpting a small car is not too tough in our house. ]

Nearly every kid and the majority adults think that air resistance ought to be a factor in obtaining speed. Mais non, mon amis. The surface area is too small and the tops speed is too slow for this to really matter much. What does matter in Pinewood is friction and weight, not in that order.

Since the cars are started on a downward sloping incline, gravity has a say in the proceedings. Thus the heavy car develops (faulty scientific claims here - beware) the greatest initial momentum since the forces of friction are minimal among these objects heading down a steep hill. The typical weight limit for Scouts is 5.0 ounces. So it's in your best interest to get your car to the maximum limit.

But once the car reache
s the flat of the track, the forces of friction take over. This is where races are won and lost. It is not uncommon to see a lead car get passed on the flats by car that has less friction in play. Especially if the lead car is heavy with poor friction control, and the surging car has excellent friction reduction.

How to reduce friction? It's all in the wheels, axles and where the wheel hub touches the body of the car. First - the axle is a nail, which has a small burr left on the inner surface. This burr needs to be removed by sanding. Using a drill in a vise or drill press, one uses sandpaper to grind off the burr. Most people do this, but for a truly fast car, it needs to go further. I like to us
e the expression "sand it down until it shines like machine tool". Using progressively finer sand paper, keep sanding the axle until it has a mirror finish. This year we used sandpaper in the following grits: 80, 100, 180, 400, 1200, 1500. For best results, those highest grits are used wet.

Next step - and this is a secret step I've not read about anywhere else. since the wheel's hub touches the exterior of the car, we place a dab of cryano acrylic glue right next to where the axle will be inserted into the body. While it's still wet, spray graphite
dust onto the glue spot. As it dries, continue to spray graphite. This will create a surface of hardened glue and graphite flakes - much less friction for the hub to rub against than, say, painted wood, which is what everyone else has.

Final steps include some touch ups to the plastic wheels, but mostly it's about installing the wheels true to each other, not too much play, and a really excessive amount of graphite.

Prior year results:

2007 - "The Texas Penny" - 2nd place overall (about of 70 cars).

2006 - "Banana" - 4th place overall (about 100 cars). As a young up and comer, Alex's car was a surprise. Potential controversy when at the end of the night the car slowed down dramatically in the finals, and I found what appeared to be a small smudge of chewing gum on our tire. No lie.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Five Intoxications

While listening this morning to Bach's Sonatas (BWV 1001, 1003, 1005) transcribed for classical guitar, I ran across this snippet that I saved a few months ago. I don't remember where I ran across it.

According to the thinkers of the East, there are five different intoxications:
  • Of beauty, youth and strength
  • Then the intoxication of wealth
  • The third is power, command, the power of ruling
  • And there is the fourth intoxication, which is the intoxication of learning, of knowledge.

But all these four intoxications fade away just like stars before the sun in the presence of the intoxication of music. The reason is that it touches that deepest part of man’s being. Music reaches farther than any other impression from the external world can reach. And the beauty of music is that it is both the source of creation and the means of absorbing it. In other words, by music was the world created, and by music it is withdrawn again into the source which has created it.

Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927) Founder of the Sufi Order in the West

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2007 In Review - Part 2

5. A couple good and a couple memorable rounds of golf. Father in law Pete spent much of the month of February with us. We played several rounds together, as well as Pete getting a few weekday rounds in with Paul S. I think I played well - around 80 at my home course, Deerwood - as I remember saving a card for posterity. Same with my dad in December. 39 on the front side of Deerwood in 40 degree weather, soft fairways, fast greens and a double on #1.

Other top rounds of the year: Birdied 18 for a 76 at Redstone with Paul C the day before going to Alaska (also a nice surprise getaway that day). 80 at Erin Hills, beating JN - who admittedly was still recovering from a wrist injury - but that score on a tough track in high wind was great. 79 at Deerwood just after Christmas in same cold, wet conditions - birdied 10, 11 and 15, tap in par on 18 for 36 on the back.

6. NY Times crossword - moved from Mon-Thur caliber to Mon-Fri, with some Saturdays. All Sundays are now in range too. This was aided greatly by NYT providing access to premium puzzles to regular paper subscribers, and the discovery of Rex Parker. Without the analysis from Rex, I would probably stumble more often on recurring obscure words, and would not have the insight into the difficult Sat puzzles. Now getting about 1/2 of Saturday done most weeks, and have finished a few without help.

7. Classical Guitar. Got hold of a beautiful Giambattista G6b this summer, and
realized that waiting until retirement to pick up classical guitar was foolish - why wait? Using the 30 minutes or so in the late evening when M. gets ready for bed, I no longer watch the news, or whatever, and play instead. Add to that are some early weekday evening time, including bedtime songs for Amy. This holiday break I had a couple long sessions (1 to 1.5 hours) which were very enjoyable.

Working through studies assembled by Ben Bolt which include Carcassi, Sor, Guiliani, and others. Also have gotten hold of 4 tablature transcriptions of Sor's Opus 35, 25 studies for guitar. These are among my favorites. Last night while playing #1, Amy made up words to her own Opus 35 #1 song and sang along.

8. Blogs, the Thursday Quiz and some cool bloggers. I was lead to other blogs by links from the Rex Parker blog. I fell instantly for the Thursday Quiz in the Life & Times of Michael 5000. Wish I could do the Monday quiz, but the images don't render onto my office PC. From there launched into the blogs of many others around the country. Most of the more conscientious bloggers seem to be academics or artists, and many of the blogs are somewhat angst-driven by younger bloggers. But to glimpse into these people's lives is intriguing, and leads to various personal reflections: "I remember.....", "Thank god I'm past.....", "What if I had done.....". Mostly good thoughts.

9. What Tom Cooked. This here blog, Notes from the 3DBB, serves a only couple simplistic purposes. Specifically, it's an easy way to post the China Adoption articles to share them with others. Secondly, it's an outlet for a few mildly amusing stories, reportage and introspection. A few minutes at lunchtime in the office, or at home the in evening, and voila - there's a simple post for my own posterity.

What has really gotten me jazzed up about blogs is What Tom Cooked. I've always regretted not keeping a cooking journal, and can't even put my finger on why I've not done so. However, to quickly dash off a post to the cooking blog seems effortless.

The benefits:
- Capturing the non-recipe stuff - some are pretty good, but all are easily forgotten. Especially if a creation is based more on leftover ingredients, or pantry items - it's easy to never think through the same process again.
- Provide original sources for menus and recipes - too often I lose track of where a dish came from. Even if I know it was from a Gourmet issue, it may be monumental to determine which issue if I want it several years later. Though I create menus for big parties and holiday meals, I don't always note the source. This is a key purpose of my WTC

Future benefits:
- I've always wanted a forum for reviewing the recipes in Gourmet each month, and same for the limited number of cookbooks worth using. Doing a monthly review of Gourmet's offerings may be beneficial to many. And an archive with cookbook reviews may be good too.
- The day-to-day messages I've composed in my head for years on how to cook now have a home. Maybe the "Everyday Cooking" idea can take better root, by first capturing my many lessons and observations on cooking via the blog first.