Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for September 8th, 2011

Borough Furnace update

leave a comment »

I’m an investor in a venture-capitalist sort of way in Borough Furnace. (I sent them $25 through Kickstarter—and they were heavily oversubscribed: people seem to love the idea. I just got this progress update via email, and the videos are quite interesting. I love the Muller, and I guess that’s where Müller comes from? Here’s their update, including links to the videos:

First off, we want to thank you once again for your support and your patience as we charge ahead with our foundry. We know you’re as anxious to get your pieces as we are to make them, and we are very anxious. The bulk of the work is complete! After many long days and nights in the shop, we have a fully functional sand muller. This is a huge relief, as it was easily the most complicated machine we’ve ever had to build. It is completely finished and works like a dream. The muller mixes our sand and clay for mold making. This is a life saver. It used to take us days to mix large batches of molding sand. Now, it takes minutes! These machines cost up to $20,000, but John had the skill and determination to make one by hand.

Even better, the furnace is done! (sort of) As you can see in the videos below, the main construction is finished, and Skilletron 2.0 certainly burns the dickens out of whatever gets in its greedy little mouth. We had hoped to begin pouring bottle openers on Labor Day. After having to build a new awning to block the rain, we discovered that the waste vegetable oil is just not burning as efficiently as it should. In short, we have to improve combustion by pre-heating the vegetable oil and atomizing the fuel better. It does put us several days behind our production schedule, but we built an experimental waste vegetable oil fueled furnace, a few adjustments here and there are going to happen. Once those changes get made over the next week, we are all set to pour iron!

More exciting news, if anyone is close to the Syracuse area, we will be doing public pouring at the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. Keep an eye on the website for dates starting later this month.

Thanks so much for both your financial and moral support. Your emails and comments have been great motivation. We couldn’t get there without you.

John & Jason

Written by LeisureGuy

8 September 2011 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Business, Video

Spray bottles for sauces, dressings, etc.

with 2 comments

Cute article. I can’t believe that it would work with Sriracha, but there’s only one way to find out…

Written by LeisureGuy

8 September 2011 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Food, Technology

The new America takes shape

leave a comment »

The new America is run by Big Business for Big Business. David Sirota in Salon:

If honesty is contagious, then we may be experiencing a brief outbreak right now as America’s political and business elite seem momentarily intent on acknowledging oligarchic reality.

On Sunday, as previously noted, the New York Times quoted Tom Watkins, a top business consultant, admitting that corporate education reformers are hoping the recession continues so that nobody notices their scheme to convert public schools into high-tech companies’ private profit-making machines.

Two other similarly frank declarations from our political and financialMasters of the Universe provide candid, if brutal, insights into how the elite see the economy and democracy.

First up was Larry Summers, the hedge funder-turned-architect of the Obama administration’s economic program. In a little-noticed speech he revealed a reason the Obama administration may not have been nearly as focused on creating American jobs as many had hoped:

“There are those today who would resist the process of international integration; that is a prescription for a more contentious and less prosperous world,” stated Summers. “We should not oppose offshoring or outsourcing.” (emphasis added)

Before departing his White House perch, Summers was the Obama official who led the administration’s successful fight against congressional Democrats’ proposed “Buy American” provisions. Those provisions, which would have mandated stimulus funds actually be spent in the United States, were needed to prevent what Businessweek called “leakage,” i.e., stimulus money heading overseas to subsidize offshoring. Thanks to Summers, though, the “Buy American” proposals in the stimulus were gutted. Now we know why: because, as he made clear in his recent speech, he’s against any effort to halt the flow of American jobs offshore, even during a massive unemployment crisis. (Considering how closely this tracks to the Bush administration’s position on outsourcing, we can add Summers’ revelation to the long and growing list of similarities between the Obama and Bush White Houses.)

Then came the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, who (true to his signature contrarian form) penned a screed in the New York Times criticizing the American left for daring to question President Obama about the gap between campaign promises and governmental actions. In the process of lambasting those who had presciently argued for a bigger stimulus program, Chait exposed how he and most of his fellow elites in Washington see the general public: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 September 2011 at 4:52 pm

For the fitness crowd

leave a comment »

You probably already knew it, but this is cool.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 September 2011 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Strange encounters at the PO

with 18 comments

Yesterday I had to mail a package, and as I approached the window I said, “Package contains nothing fragile, perishable, liquid, or potentially hazardous” because I don’t like getting the question every time and because I like how I can pick any one of the four to start with and my unconscious immediately delivers the rest without my even thinking about it. (It’s as though you are telling someone about your four friends, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice: you can pick any of the four to begin with, and you have no trouble naming the rest, in any order.

To my surprise, the postal clerk then asked me the question anyway, following some prescribed order. “I just told you,” I said in surprise. She nodded sort of dolefully and told me that they had to ask me anyway: “Any time we put something on the scale, we have to ask.”

Okay. Very rule-bound, but okay. This is the only clerk I’ve encountered who is so scrupulous that she will follow a rule into absurdity, but I figure they have to exist.

So today I’m back at the PO, and I need a large Priority Mail flat-rate box. I look in their display, but the only large flat-rate Priority Mail box has this printed on it: “APO/FPO Flat Rate Box – For APO/FPO Addresses Use Only.”

I think that should properly be “Address” rather than “Addresses,” but okay. So I go to the same clerk (she was the only one free) and ask her for large flat-rate Priority box. She points to the island: “They’re right there.”

“Oh,” I say, “those I can’t use. They’re for APO/FPO addresses only.”

“You can use one of those,” she repeats.

I go get the box, thinking maybe that of the stack there, some are APO/FPO only, others are regular. Nope: all APO/FPO only. I take one to her and show her the legend printed on the box. “No,” I said, “these are only for APO/FPO addresses. It’s printed right there, on the box.”

“You can use them,” she repeats, growing angry. “We just go by the ZIP code.”

“I don’t get it,” I said. “Why is it printed ‘APO/FPO addresses use only’? That says pretty clearly that I can’t use it for other addresses.”

She became quite angry and said she didn’t know what I wanted to know. I decided the game wasn’t worth the candle, took the box, and left.

1. How on earth can the same person be so rule-bound that she asks me a question to which I had already given her the answer, and then blithely tell me to ignore quite explicit printed instructions?

2. If I do pack such a box and take it to the PO to send to a regular domestic address, will another postal clerk tell me that I can’t use the box, and say (in the tone used in speaking to a willful idiot), “That box, sir, is for APO/FPO addresses use only” with “Can’t you read?” implied? (Answer: Undoubtedly.)

Of course I could go back to the same clerk, but:

a. She’s clearly got some problems, so she might refuse the box anyway because today the rules apply.

b. I will never go to that clerk again. Once bitten, twice shy.

I’ve now ordered a pack of large flat-rate Priority Mail boxes from the USPS on-line store. (They’re free; shipping is free—just a few days’ delay.)

UPDATE: To be clear: I like the US Postal Service. In fact, I’m an enormous fan of the organization, which on the whole operates efficiently and usefully. This encounter is completely out of character with my usual dealings with postal clerks, which is why I blogged it. So I am NOT slamming the USPS. I thought that would be obvious, but I guess not. In my experience, postal clerks are generally knowledgeable, efficient, and courteous and give you their full attention when they wait on you. YMMV.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 September 2011 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Daily life

I sort of want one to drive Megs crazy

leave a comment »

Written by LeisureGuy

8 September 2011 at 11:07 am

Posted in Technology, Video

What happens when the government goes?

with 4 comments

Ronald Reagan famously said that government doesn’t solve problems, government is the problem. (On the face of it, that seems to disqualify him from working in the government.) And the modern-day GOP (since, say, Newt Gingrich, not the GOP of 150 years ago or even of 50 years ago) seems quite serious and intent on ending as many government services and regulations and activity as they possibly can, save the military, which they like.

So what will the US look like once the government is rendered ineffective? Cast your eyes south: Tim Johnson reports for McClatchy:

Out of the desert scrub, the tycoons of Monterrey have erected an industrial powerhouse that is a beacon across Latin America.

Nestled against mountains near the border with Texas, Mexico’s richest city is home to an array of steel, glass and banking industries that have earned it the nickname Sultan of the North. Its corporate ranks include the world’s largest supplier of building materials and the largest beverage company in Latin America.

But with a speed that has surprised even astute industrialists, gangsters have brought the prosperous metropolis to its knees. The news in Monterrey grows darker by the day.

The Aug. 25 firebombing of a casino in broad daylight, leaving 52 people dead, certainly brought a global spotlight to the city of 4 million. But the wave of crime that has engulfed this industrial colossus is far broader and is pulling the city into a swirling spiral of violence.

It’s now no longer unusual for mobsters to hang their victims from bridges for commuters to see on their way to and from work. The city’s old quarter, once crowded with weekend revelers along its cobbled streets, is now a ghost town, plastered with “For Sale” signs. Gunmen roam in convoys in broad daylight hunting for vehicles to carjack.

“This used to be a first-class city. Not anymore,” said Carlos Camino, a 32-year-old systems engineer, as he waited to report the theft of his silver Mazda SUV.

His wife, Daniela, was driving their 4-year-old daughter, Karen, to daycare at 7 a.m. a few days ago. Two blocks from their house, thugs in two vehicles blocked her car’s path. One approached, pistol at the ready, and bashed on her window.

“He shouted, ‘Get out of the car! Get out!'” Camino said. His wife grabbed their daughter and fled, arriving home in sobs, just one of 70 or so car owners that day to lose their vehicles in Monterrey, which has seen a tenfold increase in car thefts in a little over a year.

The criminal squeeze on Monterrey has dimmed a beacon for development for all of Latin America. The city’s tycoons, feted as heroes, have built global giants like CEMEX (cement), FEMSA (beverages), Vitro (glass), ALFA (petrochemicals), Gruma (cornmeal and tortillas) and Banorte (financial services).

Residents are more likely to brag of ties to Dallas or Houston than to the rest of Mexico. At over $17,000, per capita income here is nearly double Mexico’s average.

But the rise of crime gangs has shaken civic activists’ confidence, even as they try to put on a brave face.

“Some people say, ‘If Monterrey falls, Mexico will fall, too.’ We prefer not to put it that way,” said Miguel B. Trevino, head of the Civic Council of Nuevo Leon Institutions, a coalition of local community groups.

Trevino struggled, though, to articulate how his metropolis would deal with the underworld metastasis gnawing through its streets.

“We want to believe that the city has touched bottom,” Trevino said. . .

Continue reading. I don’t think the answer is to modify gun laws to allow every citizen to carry a firearm, though the NRA seems to believe that will solve such problems. Perhaps it’s not the government that’s the problem. Perhaps it’s the GOP.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 September 2011 at 10:56 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law

%d bloggers like this: