Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Progress on the lair...

Progress on the lair...  By “lair” I mean my office in the barn, of course.  Yesterday I was suffering more than usual from a lack of sleep.  I was up at 2:30 am, and out in the part of the barn where I need to work on the fan project there is no light and no heat – so I didn't start yesterday.  Instead I worked in my office to put my desk together – another long-delayed project.  The result you can see at right.  There's a story behind this desk...

Originally we'd ordered this desk for Debbie's office, in our house.  At the time we ordered it (almost two years ago), I carefully measured the dimensions needed and sent them to the craftsman who was building that furniture.  The desk and a matching table in her office are made from black locust by a guy in Georgia.  Well, unbeknownst to me, as the craftsman was working he proposed making the desk bigger – much – bigger, with no increase in price.  He made that proposal to Debbie, through the vendor.  Debbie said “yes”, not realizing that the size was a critical factor.  I never heard about this little exchange.  We took that desk upstairs to her office, after taking it apart to negotiate all the corners.  I only realized the size was off after we'd gotten it all up there and the delivery guys had left.  That desk is heavy – I'd guess over 200 lbs all assembled.  Realizing that it wasn't going to fit was quite disheartening.  Finding out it was all our fault (and not the craftsman's) was even more disheartening – that desk was not cheap.  And it wasn't going to fit in Debbie's office, no matter what magic I tried to do.  Dang it!  There was nothing for it but to order a new desk for Debbie.  That left this giant desk with no home.  The only obvious things to do were to either keep it for me, or to try to sell it.  We decided to keep it.  So I disassembled the desk again, enlisted the aid of my brother Scott, and the two of us moved it, piece by piece, over to my office.  What a struggle that was!  It spent the last year disassembled in my office, right in the middle of the chaotic room.

So yesterday I reassembled it and moved it into place where I'd been using a folding table as a desk.  That's what you see in the photo.  It's beautiful, isn't it?  And it took me all day!

Paradise ponders: twilight zone edition...

Paradise ponders: twilight zone edition...  I'm not sure if I've blogged about Kickstarter before, even though it's a place I frequent.  I've never put a project up there, but I have backed quite a few of them over the years.  Amazingly, my experience has been uniformly good so far – every single project I've backed delivered what they promised.  Often, in fact, they over-delivered.  I do choose carefully, though: I only back projects that are something interesting to me and that look practical and competently led.  There are many that I review and dismiss because their goals look unrealistic or the project leaders look flaky.

But ... last night I ran across a new Kickstarter project that has set a new bar for both of my red-flag triggers.  To my surprise, investigating this project was like walking through a portal to another world: one populated with (if I'm being charitable) a large number of astonishingly under-informed people.

My first clue was the title of the project: Gabriel Device - Free energy for everyone.  That seems to over-promise a bit, no?  The photo at right is a screenshot of the device itself, taken from the video on the project home page.  It appears to be a simple toroidal transformer, a common enough device in modern electronics and electrical gear – one without any magical properties that I'm aware of.

My second clue was the first bit of the project description.  I'll just quote it:
How to change the world, Changing the world in of itself is a undertaking only most dream about and bicker about in early morning rush hour or afternoon coffee-shops, The United states is hapless says a Englishman, the new world is destroying our faith says a Muslim, why does my country seem to be in free-fall all the time, says a American.

Most of these issues are brought about by the media and propaganda that aspire to enrich or enslave a mind, but what if, the core issue to all of our problems stems from a power-source that just either hasn't been developed or needs to be fully developed,

If power was a source that could be transported and established across a well, a farm, a school, a vehicle, a hospital, all without moving parts and the only need to make it work is to get it initialized, that would even make Tesla himself dance in his grave.
I think Nicola Tesla may well be dancing in his grave, though perhaps not for the reasons this fellow thinks!

Further along in his description, he calls his device a “nested bi-toroidal transformer” – something I'd never heard of.  So I googled it.  It was when I started following the links that I felt like I'd entered that portal into another universe: the Universe of Perpetual Motion.  The current phrase in vogue is “above unity”, referring to devices with a ratio of output power to input power that is greater than one.  In the short intervals of coherency I found in the posts and videos, I think I figured out why the bi-toroidal transformer has entranced these folks: it's because they don't understand power factor, and this has fooled them into believing they're creating power from nothing.  This wouldn't be the first time that power factor has been a perpetual motion factor.

But ... this project is certainly the first time I've seen something so plainly loony on Kickstarter.  People are being asked to pledge a half million dollars (for what, I have trouble imagining, and the project doesn't actually say).  I'm somewhat relieved to see that as of this morning there is just one backer who has pledged $40.  I'm reasonably confident that this fellow won't get a half million dollars in pledges – but what if he did?  Would Kickstarter actually give him the money?  Kickstarter's guidelines and prohibited items list don't seem to rule out perpetual motion schemes.  Kickstarter and Stripe both make money from funded projects, so clearly both have an incentive to actually follow through with the funding, should there be sufficient pledges.  Gulp.  Part of me says “Yikes!  That shouldn’t be allowed!”  Another part of me – dominating at the moment – says “If there are enough fools willing to donate to an obviously hopeless cause, then … it’s on them. ”

But still ... oh, my!

A bad vendor experience..

A bad vendor experience...  Our old trash compactor (one that we inherited with the house) was on its last legs: rusty bin, problems with the tracks, noisy as all get out.  I'd been looking into a replacement for over a year, and I waited for a highly-rated KitchenAid model (at right) to become available – and for some of the other projects I had going to settle down.  So in early October, I selected a vendor (Lowe's) and ordered it.  They promised delivery on October 24th.  I was surprised that it would take two weeks, but that was still ok.

Well, the 24th came and I hadn't heard from Lowe's at all.  Not good.  I called, was promised a call back with a delivery date.  Never heard back.  I called again, this time got another delivery date promised: the 30th.  The 30th came and went.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  In this day and age, when vendors like Lowe's must compete with Amazon, the experience was so bad I can still scarcely believe it.  Overall it was five weeks from the time I placed the order until it arrived in my house.  I called Lowe's on six separate occasions, was promised three different delivery dates before they finally got it right on the fourth try.  There is no online service to get this information, and every employee I contacted seemed to be uncertain about how to even find my order – much less any accurate information about it.  I never received any sort of email confirmation from Lowe's (no snail mail, either).  I still don't have a receipt, though the cost was charged to my credit card.  About the only positive thing I have to report about the experience with Lowe's was that their delivery people were great: they had the right equipment, they took great care in the delivery, and they were friendly and polite.

We will never be ordering online from Lowe's again, unless convincing evidence of improvement is presented to us.  You may remember that we had a similarly disappointing experience with WalMart a few months ago.  Based on these two experiences, I'd say Amazon has little to worry about.  The bad service from Lowe's and WalMart contrasts especially keenly with the almost perfect record of great service with have with Amazon...

I should be careful to point out here that we have zero complaints about the trash compactor itself.  It is exactly as advertised.  So far we are very pleased with it.  It opens and closes effortlessly, and its operating noise is roughly half that of our old compactor.  A win on that front!