Sunday, May 28, 2006

Casting your own plastic gears

Have you ever been in one of those situations where you have a plastic part and you need to make a copy of it? For example, I have a toy that contains a plastic gear that is trashed (several teeth broken off). The toy contains another gear that is identical and is in good shape. How do you make a copy of the good gear so you can replace the bad gear?

The answer is: Make a silicone rubber mold of the good gear, and then cast a copy of it using urethane resin.

Here's a nice set of videos that shows you the entire process:

Casting plastic parts with silicone molds

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Three interesting lists

These three lists are really interesting:If you are interested in Automotive buying secrets, see also: Are you planning to buy a car, ever?

Monday, May 22, 2006


If you have ever wondered how a rubber band (or hundreds of other products) are made, here's a place to go for the answer:

I learned a lot...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Something else to worry about...

[See previous]

A little scary - a 747 needs to land immediately after takeoff, so it dumps 200,000 pounds of fuel to get down to a safe landing weight.

plane fuel release

That's maybe 30,000 gallons of fuel - enough to fill a big swimming pool.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Looking on the bright side...

[See previous]

Elephant rescue offers mud, bath, and lots of space: For details see

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

This site is getting a lot of coverage right now, and the idea is pretty interesting if you need to track someone or some thing in real time:

Video care package

[See previous]

Here's another batch of videos:

Monday, May 15, 2006

Highest mileage car

At least in this test, the highest mileage car is not the Prius hybrid. It is a normal diesel Jetta: The Jetta gets almost 50 MPG, while the Prius gets 41.

Gas-saving products

There are dozens of products on the market that claim to "save gas" and "dramatically increase your miles per gallon." This article provides a nice summary of their effectiveness in these couple of sentences:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Funding Robotic Freedom

In the May 15 issue of Time Magazine, columnist Joe Klein takes an interesting stance. The article is called A Fair Trade for Lower Gas Prices and his suggestion is simple: raise the gasoline tax to discourage consumption, and then give the money collected back to people:His idea for giving the money back, however, is convoluted.

The simple way to give the money back is through a central account that distributes money to all citizens, an idea first proposed in the article Robotic Freedom. If Klien's tax were distributed through the central account proposed in Robotic Freedom, it would be a great way to get the program started.

Americans consume something like 150 billion gallons of gasoline per year. So a tax of $1 per gallon would yield about $150 billion for distribution. $2 per gallon would yield $300 billion for distribution. The tax could be phased in over a 2 year period to minimize impact. The great thing is that people would be getting the money right back through the central account, so the net effect on the economy would be zero.

See Robotic Freedom for details on the central account, and a dozen other ways to provide additional funding for it.

If you are building a computer...

... then this is a really interesting article:

A 4.1 GHz Dual Core at $130 - Can it be True?

According to the article, it is true. Which means you can get screaming performance really cheap.

The article also offers a great intro to many of the details of overclocking if you have never tried it before.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Another video care package

[See previous]

Another video care package has arrived:

British vs. American health care

A new study finds that Americans are much sicker than the English, but why is unclear. This despite the fact that America spends approximately 2.5 times more money per person on health care.

See:From the Krugman article: "Is being an American bad for your health? That's the apparent implication of a study just published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. It's not news that something is very wrong with the state of America's health. International comparisons show that the United States has achieved a sort of inverse miracle: we spend much more per person on health care than any other nation, yet we have lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than Canada, Japan and most of Europe. But it isn't clear exactly what causes this stunningly poor performance."

The British smoke more than Americans. They drink more. Yet there is this remarkable statistic: "Americans are so much sicker that the richest third of Americans is in worse health than the poorest third of the English."

The key factor may be stress. Both Krugman and CNN point out this: "Full-time American workers work, on average, about 46 weeks per year; full-time British, French and German workers work only 41 weeks a year. I've pointed out in the past that our workaholic economy is actually more destructive of the "family values" we claim to honor than the European economies in which regulations and union power have led to shorter working hours. Maybe overwork, together with the stress of living in an economy with a minimal social safety net, damages our health as well as our families."

Something to think about.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Why kids are so smart

I have heard of Yu-Gi-Oh cards because they've been in the news for several years. Schools ban them, parents hate them, people sell them on eBay, etc. That was about all I knew until last week.

David (age 8, second grader) asked if he could get some Yu-Gi-Oh cards last week because "all the kids have them". What he meant is that the kids on the bus have them. Apparently the cards aren't allowed at school, so once you get off the bus they go into your backpack and have to stay there.

So, off we went to Wal-Mart to buy some cards.

What you find at Wal-Mart is a giant Yu-Gi-Oh display rack. To enhance the reputation of Yu-Gi-Oh, the Yu-Gi-Oh card display is located immediately adjacent to the cigarette area of the store.

We looked at this rack, and there seem to be 200 different ways to buy Yu-Gi-Oh cards - single packs of cards, double packs, bonus packs, bonus packs plus "ultra-rare" cards, Combo packs... We are staring at all of this in bewilderment when, fortunately, another kid walks up and starts looking. He is a huge expert in Yu-Gi_oh and starts talking at 100 MPH. Eventually he walks us over to another Yu-Gi-Oh display and hands us a box. It contains the complete Yu-Gi-Oh starter set. This, he tells us, is what we need, because we are complete noobs. For $10 we are ready to go.

The starter set includes a manual, so when we get home we get out the cards and start to read.

It is as I am reading this manual that I come to understand why kids are getting higher SAT scores than kids did in the past. When I was a kid, we played card games like "Go Fish" and "War". Comparing Yo-Gi-Oh to "Go Fish" would be like comparing the space shuttle to a tricycle. Yu-Gi-Oh is immensely complicated. David can't read, so I am reading the manual to him, and it is way too complicated for me. He, on the other hand, is eating it up.

At the end of the manual, I have no clue how to play the game. But the last page says, "oh, by the way, this is the abbreviated version of the manual. Go online for the full thing." I am dreading this -- the idea of reading even more detail about Yu-Gi-Oh is not appealing.

But when you go to the web and visit, what you find is the second reason why kids are getting smarter. Yes, you can get a printed manual as a PDF file, but that would be useless to David since he can't read. What they also have is a beautiful Flash presentation complete with animation and sound, where two characters walk you through an entire game step by step. David doesn't have to read at all, because the demo speaks to him. He can watch the demo multiple times to pick up the stuff he misses the first time through. It is brilliantly simple to operate. And now, even though I remain clueless, David knows how to play Yu-Gi-Oh.

Go to the site and click "Learn to play". Watch a little bit of the demo. Then compare that to the games you played as a kid.

Also compare it to the homework David had to do last night. He had a mimeographed worksheet. On the worksheet there were drawings of coins. David had to add up how much money the coins represented and write it down. The disconnect between this Flash presentation and the complexity of Yu-Gi-Oh, compared to a mimeographed sheet of coins sent home from school, is startling.

Makes me smile

[See previous]

Fantastic photos:

Harrisand sand sculpture championship

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Flight 93 movie

I have a number of friends who won't go see the Flight 93 movie because they feel that Hollywood is capitalizing on a tragedy. Also, no one really knows what happened on the flight, and they don't like the fact that much of the movie is therefore fiction or conjecture.

And there is some reason to believe that the "official version" of the story is purposefully different from reality. It is odd, for example, that the cockpit tapes from the flight were withheld for years, and then coincidentally released right before the movie. But that is a whole different discussion.

The thing I did want to mention is that the Flight 93 movie is just one step on the path to completely trivializing 9/11. How trivial will it get? For a perspective, you can look at a recent museum exhibit that came to Raleigh, NC. It dealt with the Titanic.

In the Titanic tradgedy, 1,517 people died. In other words, the number is comparable to the number of lives lost in 9/11. At the time, the loss of the Titanic and that many lives truly was a tragedy. But today it is a marketing event, as you could see when you walked through the required gift shop at the end of the exhibit. There you could buy Titanic lolipops, Titanic coal (from the boilers), Titanic stemware, and even a Titanic game. Yes, both a board game and a computer game are available based on the tragedy.

One day, you will be able to go to a local museum and experience the 9/11 traveling exhibit. It will let you see a recreation of a typical cube farm in one of the towers, stand on a recreated observation deck and look at still photos of the skyline, and probably get into an authentic recreation of one of the WTC elevators. At the end will be a gift shop complete with 9/11 lolipops.

Perhaps this is all part of the healing process after a tragedy like this. But if so, why not speed up the process? Flight 93 has opened the tragedy to commerce. Who can be first to market with the 9/11 board game?

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