Archive for the 'General' Category

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Expensive watches

The world of watches is a strange place. The best watches tend to be relatively inexpensive, while some rather poor watches are priced out of range of all but the very wealthy. By “best” and “poor”, I’m referring not to subjective things like aesthetics. I’m not even going to bother thinking about whether a Gucci watch is “better” than a Prada watch. I don’t give a rat’s ass about either of them. I mean the qualities that watchmakers have striven for centuries to achieve: accuracy, reliability, and useful features.

It’s pretty common knowledge that a $20 Timex is much more accurate than a $20,000 Patek Phillipe. From a purely practical point of view, the Timex is a better watch in almost every respect. So why is it that I am so drawn to look at these crazy expensive mechanical watches?

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Welding Cart

I completed an introductory welding course at Conestoga College last year, and bought myself a small oxy-acetylene torch outfit. I figured my first real project should be a welding cart. I had my gas cylinders freestanding up against a wall, and that’s just not very safe. I try to cultivate a healthy fear of compressed gas cylinders. Especially cylinders containing oxygen and quasi-stable fuel gases. There are very good reasons for being afraid of gas cylinders.

I know you can buy a welding cart, and it would probably cost a lot less than I spent on materials alone. But if I did that, I wouldn’t have learned anything. I thought it would be useful to gain more experience before I embarked onto some of the projects that I learned welding for in the first place. And good thing I did, because one of the things I learned is that I’m a piss-poor welder.

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Last year I took an evening course in Basic Welding at Conestoga College. It was just an introductory course for people who want to learn how to weld for their own projects. No credit toward welding as a profession.

It covered oxy-acetylene and a bit of GMAW (aka MIG). I like oxy-acetylene, but i didn’t really care for GMAW. With GMAW, I felt like I had no control over the process. I couldn’t get an intuitive grasp of the effects of all the variables (voltage, current, wire feed rate, arc length), and the welding gun nozzle is so big that I can’t see what’s going on in there. With oxy-acetylene, everything is right there in front of you.

Besides, when it’s time to go buy yourself some equipment, an oxy-acetylene rig is cheaper than a reasonably-capable GMAW machine. And a decent GMAW machine may require a new electrical circuit to power it. And you can cut with oxy-acetylene: it’s two tools for the price of one.

Avoiding UPS/FedEx brokerage fees

I wrote previously about the extortionate “brokerage” fees charged by UPS and FedEx for imports into Canada. That post has attracted a huge volume of response from other enraged people.  I have learned more since then, including an interesting response direct from the Canada Border Services Agency.
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Sticky snow-blower cable

I’ve had growing problems the last couple years with one of the control cables on my Sears snowblower.  One of those cables like a bicycle brake cable, with the inextensible inner wire, and the incompressible outer sheath.  I’m sure there’s a technical name for cables like that, but I don’t know what it is.  (Update: They’re called Bowden cables.)

It’s the cable that directs the discharge chute up or down.  It became very sticky, so that I could pull the lever to lower the chute, but when I pushed the lever to raise the chute, it wouldn’t go back up by itself.

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