Improvipairing mah Belt Grinder Again – New Tracking Wheels

My tracking wheels made from alu-tubing had a diameter just 30 mm, so the ball bearings were running really rough when at full speed. and they chattered and were generally noisy too. I have been thinking for a long time about how to make bigger and better wheels. I tried to glue soft PVC on the surface. That stopped the chattering and added ca. 1 cm in diameter, but when it ran at full speed, the PVC was ripped off. I tried to glue on leather, and the same happened. And now I hope I have finally found a solution – to make them from micarta.

I have used a technique that I learned from my older brother as a child when making paper car models. To get nice and sturdy wheels for those models I wound a glue-covered strip of paper around a wooden skewer until I reached the desired diameter. One could get nice, sturdy, and round-ish wheels that way. Later in university, I used the same technique to build a complete chess set (I still have it). So for the wheels for my belt grinder, I soaked strips of cloth in epoxy resin and wound them around the (scoffed and thoroughly de-greased) alu-tube that is the core of the wheel until the diameter was approximately doubled (that should halve the rotational speed of the ball bearings and thus reduce noise and prolong their life).

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After that, I put the whole thing in a plastic bag and I sucked out as much air as possible with my vacuum pump. I could not do a very good job of it and I also could not seal the bags very well, but I think it was good enough.

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After the epoxy was thoroughly hardened, I cut the excess on the sides and pressed the ball bearings in the tubes. I did not cut the sides very well on one wheel, but that should not be a problem. The wheels also were not exactly round at this stage. This was the snag that stopped me from doing this a long time ago. I knew they wouldn’t be very precise and I do not have a lathe that would allow me to make them really round. But last week I finally got an idea of how to make them round with my belt grinder.

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First I have made a fixture for the wheels from 5 mm mild steel and a piece of board. I could span the wheel on it and push it against the platen of the belt grinder, fix it with a clamp, and then with a slowly running 40 grit belt (and very carefully) I could grind it to a roughly circular shape concentric with its rotational axis. The result was a rough and round-ish wheel and I managed to not hurt myself too badly, only one fingernail is now thinner than it should be. I did not take pictures of that, because I forgot.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

To get a smoother surface I ran the wheel against a slow 100-grit belt a bit and then I changed the direction of the belt and used wood turning chisels and fine abrasive cloth to further improve the surface.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And it worked reasonably well. The wheels are not perfect, but they chatter less than the previous ones and I expect that with wear the surface will get smoother. If not, I will try to coat them with epoxy mixed with a fine sawdust and polish them again. The advantage of micarta is that It glues well so I can re-surface the wheels at any time. It is also tension-strong so there is no risk of the wheels exploding or cracking mid-work.

Now I will make a new, thicker spanning wheel this way too. And I will add a few mm micarta on the motor wheel as well because it too is not exactly concentric and that too introduces vibrations and noise. This opens a lot of opportunities to make better concentric wheels of different diameters – I still need 3 and 4-cm wheels for grinding fullers and finger grooves and I might need other diameters in the future too.

It unfortunately also means I have to make a new platen. I have jerry-rigged the old one so I can do some light work on the grinder as it is now, but It is not as stable as it used to be because it was built with smaller wheels in mind. But I am working on that problem already and I do have ideas that I think will work. I am also planning on making a new jig for grinding fullers.

A Masterclass of Whataboutism

Another YouTuber that I have unsubscribed from is Second Thought. It was after his latest video We Need To Talk About “Authoritarianism”. I am not going to link to that video because it is a piece of shit and it does not deserve views. If you are interested in its contents, I recommend Vaush’s critique (see further after I have my say).

What Second Thought is doing in this video is nothing but an elaborate form of the nonsensical syllogism (The USA = BAD)=>(The USSR = GOOD). I hate this shit with a burning passion because I have actually either first-hand or at most second-hand experience with many of the things this world-class twit talks about. I mean, however bad the US police is, however bad the US surveillance state is, it really cannot hold a candle to what the USSR has done or what China is doing.

To anyone reading this who might not be a regular on this blog, I have a whole series of blog posts “Behind the Iron Curtain” where I write about my experience with the regime. I was 13 when it collapsed, and the regime was mellowing towards the end, so I did not personally witness the worst things. Yet there is still one visceral fear that people had that I do remember personally, a fear that I feel confident is not widely spread in the USA. The fear that when kids say something wrong in front of the wrong person, their parents can go to jail. My father was in the communist party and even I was told that I must not say some things in public because it could put someone in my family in jail. Children were taught to say one thing at home and a different thing in public. Even though the time of the 1968 invasion was long in the past and the worst of the totalitarian shit did not happen anymore, people still feared to criticize the regime. One day my father came home from a local party assembly and he told my mother “I might go to jail, we will see”. And why did he fear that? Did he steal something? Did he kill anybody? No, he did what he was, in principle, supposed to do at the assembly. He raised valid points of critique at the wealthy oligarchs in the party leadership and said that they should actually listen to what people really need and want and do something about it. Luckily for him, it was towards the end of the regime and as I said, it was starting to mellow a bit at that point. Still, that he even considered that he might be going to jail, despite being a lifelong communist, says a lot about the regime and the culture of fear it fomented.

And now this sheltered, privileged WEIRD WASP asshole is equivocating between the USA and the USSR as if they were both similarly totalitarian but somehow when the USA does a thing, it is bad, but when the USSR did it, it somehow, magically, becomes good and necessary! WTF? I must have been blind to not spot the signs in his previous videos, but this is what here, in the former USSR sphere of influence, gives leftists a bad name. It is already difficult to explain to even highly educated people that the things that were bad about the previous regime were not socialism, but authoritarian oppression. Assholes like this one make it really easy for opponents of socialism here, because he actually says, albeit covertly and obliquely, what those opponents preach – that socialism is inextricably linked with authoritarianism. (I wrote about this in the Behind the Iron Curtain series too -click-).

Further, this clueless clown is using his public platform to critique (mostly validly!) the regime in which he lives and at the same time sings praises of a regime that would have him at best imprisoned and at worst outright killed for criticizing it in even much, much milder form! And he totally fails to spot the irony when he accuses the USA, where he lives, of being worse.

Alas, it is apparent now that he is a tankie and a leftie American exceptionalist I have no track with either. Saying that if the USA does a thing it is bad but when the USSR does the very same thing it is good and necessary is not a moral stance. And to top it off, I have also learned that he actually condoned Hamas attack on Israeli civilians, again applying the same “logic” – when Israel does a bad thing, thing bad, when Hamas does the same thing, thing suddenly good. The reality which this fucking piece of amoral shitstain fails to grasp is that sometimes it really is possible that both sides in a conflict can be bad and differing only in a degree. His political principle is not to help the common people around the world, his main political principle is the USA bashing and the USSR glorifying. That is not coherent leftist policy, that is edgy leftist posing. He can do that without me watching his videos.

If you have spare time, you can listen to Vaush’s excellent rebuttal. It is rather long, I listened to it whilst cleaning my room today.

I do not like everything about Vaush, for example, he uses way too many ableist slurs and comes off as arrogant, but the essence of what he is saying here is IMO sound.

Preparing for Winter

Busy, busy, busy. I am tired and there’s still more work to be done than I can manage. Currently, the theme of the day is preparing the garden for winter.

You may remember that this year I have been experimenting with growing potatoes under grass clippings, without tilling the ground or preparing it in any other way. And given that I have planted only about 1 kg of pea-sized potatoes, it was a huge success, I harvested about 40 kg of reasonably large potatoes, although the blasted voles did again do some damage. Here is a picture of a small sample.

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Because of this, I have decided to repeat the experiment on a larger scale, on our proper vegetable bed, about 40 square meters. It was several working day’s worth of work to gather all the old and recent grass clippings from piles around the garden and spread them all over.

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It would be better to dry the clippings first, but alas that was no longer possible for the last mowing of the grass since the weather is now cold and wet and the days are too short for the sun to do much even when it shines. So about half is covered in dry clippings and half in fresh ones. I do hope it won’t cause problems, it should have enough time over the winter to settle. I hope. In the spring I will probably add a few bags of woodchips and shredded reeds from the sewage cleaning facility.

All in all this year was a mixed bag, gardening-wise. We had very few tomatoes and patypans. The weather at the beginning of the summer was way too hot and the plants, although they are warmth-loving, had stunted growth despite being watered enough. And when the weather subsequently cooled in July, it was again way too cold for these. In short – most of the summer the temperatures were either above or below the tomatoes’ metabolic optimum.

The beans that grew this year on the big vegetable bed as well as behind the house were a moderate success. The voles destroyed some plants early on but the rest grew vigorously and I harvested nearly 6 kg of beans and about twice as much of green bean pods that my mother canned in vinegar for later use. It is less than we could have under better conditions, but enough for our needs.

My only apple tree fell victim to water voles and continues to slowly die. I expect that it won’t wake up next spring. But I got over 30 kg of strawberries, over 10 kg of pears, and several kg of raspberries. Most of those were dried for winter too, some were made into marmalade. The plums and figs harvest was small, only a few kg, but it was enough for me to sit one whole day and make all-natural, sugar-free plum butter and to dry a few jars of figs. Plum butter is the best filler for pies, IMO, and it too should be enough for a few years. And lastly, we got again enough walnuts to give them away. The cellar reserved for preserved food and vegetables is full.

And I also had to replace the bird feeder, since it was starting to slowly fall apart. I have made a completely new one, from a few wood offcuts sorted out of my firewood. I hope it will last at least as long as the previous one. To help it last longer, I have charred all surfaces with a propane torch and I soaked it with old boiled linseed oil. That should make it somewhat resistant to humidity and fungi.

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Basically, it is the same design as the previous one, only the central column is not round and made from plastic tubing but square and made from wood. And the roof is a bit higher so the birds have slightly more space to sit and still have a good view of their surroundings. I did not include any perches so far, maybe I will do that later.

I have also made an additional feeder, a kind of gibbet for hanging walnuts, suet dumplings, and various other things.

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The weather is still warm and I did not see very many birds on the feeder yet. But the food keeps disappearing so they are definitively coming. I hope to get some pretty bird pictures again this winter. I did not use my camera for way too long this year.

The last step in winter preparations is to move indoors all plants and flowers that cannot stay in the greenhouses and put the bonsai below the benches to protect them against frosty winds. And to re-plant in the pollard all walnuts, hazels, and oaks that sprout all around the garden from nuts hidden by jays. And several other things. Busy, busy, busy…


The Story of A Succesfull Medium Sized Company

Imagine a small metalworking business that started shortly after WW1 somewhere in Germany. Metalworking, as in making forms for the ceramics industry that the little town is known for. The business grew in the time between wars, it survived WW2 and continued to grow well into the second half of the 20th century. At that time a new market for metal forms began to emerge – injection moulded plastics. The family owning the business latched onto that new market in an ideal way that capitalism is portrayed, by investing in developing new know-how to give them an edge over the competition. And they succeeded, making a name for their company in the business that became a synonym for high quality, albeit at a high price. As a regional employer, the family business had a good reputation too, with some people literally working there from finishing school until retirement and earning wages well above average. It was said that at the end of each fiscal year, the door opened for new modern machinery and a new workforce.

Then came an international giant housed in the USA, interested in the know-how. And since the family no longer had an interest in actually running the business, they sold it to this giant wholesale. The plant became a part of a branch in this corporation, a branch that specialized in injection moulding. Things did not go well from that time on, although it still took decades to become really apparent. For one the prices for customers remained high, but the quality began to drop due to cut corners.

The international corporation had no real interest in keeping the know-how and employment local, despite saying the opposite. The wages were undercut by increasing working hours so in real terms they de-facto stagnated. It was still worth it to work at the company, but it no longer was a job to envy someone and some people started to leave – and as it is, the best ones were the first to go. Attempts to unionize to counter the slow squeeze were crushed by threats to ship the jobs to Eastern Europe and China, something that should not work in Germany but it did. And then the jobs were slowly shipped to Eastern Europe and China anyway. The know-how however is not so easily transferred, and since replacement workforce was no longer educated on-site and the older force started to retire or just leave, it started to get lost.

Then came a worldwide recession. The corporation started to cut corners again by firing thousands of employees worldwide, all the while the CEO and shareholders were despite the crisis earning more than enough money to keep these people employed and still be filthy rich (the CEO alone earned more than 150 (corrected typo) times more than an ordinary employee). The employees finally got fed up and unionized, for what it was worth. As it turns out, it was too late.

After the recession was over, the whole corporation was bought by another international corporation, this time housed in Germany. Things started to look brighter for a very short time since German corporations actually treat their employees better than American ones. But optimism did not last long. The purchase was driven by a desire to own one specific part of the corporation, and injection moulding and manufacture of metal molds were not it. So to offset the immense costs of the purchase, the whole branch was sold off, to another international company housed in the USA.

The new corporate owners swore day and night that they really, really wanted to keep the local businesses and nobody needed to fear for their jobs. There were even articles in local newspapers about how they project to grow the locally employed workforce at the plant I am writing about to more than double, over 400. Yet somehow the number of employees and contracts for this specific plant continued to only go down all the way to 60. At 60 the count stopped and the plant was finally closed, probably because with that few employees it was no longer feasible to actually make money in this business, not to mention that the know-how it took to assemble for half a century was at this point irrevocably lost.

Imagine all that. I do not need to imagine it, I lived through a significant part of the end of that story and I just a few days ago learned how it ended.

Boo Stead

Today was the day – we finally got an appointment at our GP to get our yearly COVID-19 and flu shots. One in the left shoulder, the other in the right one. I forgot which was which, but both shoulders are slowly starting to ache. I expect to be completely useless tomorrow. Last fall I got both boosters at the same time too and it was not as dreadful as the previous two COVID-19 shots were. Still, I am not looking forward to tonight and tomorrow.

Regarding other things, I did not comment on recent events for a while because I just barely manage. Just to clarify one of the latest issues – I do not support the killing of children or innocent people of any age when Hamas does it, and I do not support it when IDF does it either.

My Lucky Pear Tree

About a decade ago, a pear tree sprouted just outside my garden in a patch near the fence where the meadow owner can’t mow the grass with a tractor so he does not bother with it at all and it is up to me to keep the growth there in check. The tree did have some tiny pears last year, edible, but nothing to write home about. I thus thought the tree wouldn’t be worth anything and I left it to grow in order to fell it for firewood when it is big enough to be worth it, like I always do with trees that sprout near the outside of my fence.

This year the tree was covered in pears, many small, but also many fist-sized. I forgot to take a picture of that, so here is one with my ladder against the tree and some last pears on the topmost branches. I had to take those off with a stick, I could not safely reach them.

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The tree was so covered in fruit, that one branch unfortunately snapped under the weight before I got some time to pick it. And the fruit is dee-licious! I do not know what the odds are of getting a good-quality fruit from a pear seedling but I do strongly suspect that they are not in favor. Thus I consider this my lucky pear tree.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

When left to ripen, they become incredibly sweet. Indeed there were many -not in this picture – that were damaged by wasps. But even when still green they are very tasty. This suits me since I do in fact prefer fruits when they are still ever so slightly unripe.

There is no way to eat this many pears before they spoil so we are processing them by cutting them up and putting them in a dehumidifier. We had to buy a second one this year so we could process all the fruit from the garden and mushrooms I brought home from the forest more expediently. We will go into this winter with an overabundance of dried pears, apples, strawberries, raspberries, and prunes. And walnuts. I intend to experiment with making my own bowel-scouring müsli from all of it and also I will try and mix some of the dried fruit in teabags to see if I can manage to make tasty homemade fruit tea.

Google Keeps Pushing Scams

It is really starting to piss me off in no uncertain terms. I keep getting the same ad that I wrote about the last time. The last few times I paid more attention to who registered the ad with Google; it was always some “unverified” entity in Kazakhstan. I also looked around the CZ interwebs on the stories of people who fell for it and they reported that there usually was someone with strong Russian accent involved.

Every time I block the ad, and I report it. And that is where it becomes bizarre. Sometimes Google responds that they will take the ad down. Sometimes they respond that the ad exists no more and they cannot actually verify it. And twice they actually answered that the ad will remain because it is OK!

I am 100% sure that it is the same ad because it is the ONLY ad that I have ever reported to Google. I do not understand how this can be happening. There is something seriously wrong with Google ad vetting.

A Good Rebuttal of “Capitalism is Good” Video

Someone posted this in comments on Pharyngula a few days ago and I think it is a very good video, worth highlighting in case you did not notice it before.

It mentions amongst many other things what I alluded to in my post, i.e. that the Industrial Revolution predated capitalism and was initiated by advances in science, not that it and the scientific advances were caused by it.

No, Sabine, Capitalism Is Not Good and Your Explanation Is Nonsense.

After her misguided video about trans people, I was still willing to remain subscribed because I interpreted it more as poorly thought out than malicious, but the latest video by Sabine Hossenfelder made me unsubscribe, it is garbage and I do not want to waste my finite time on her. She might be an accomplished and competent physicist, but outside of that she talks bull – and I am not all that interested in astrophysics.

It is not garbage in the sense that it contains all invalid information (AFAIK). Still, it is definitively garbage in the sense that the conclusion – as summed up in the title – does not follow from what is being presented. It is disappointingly intellectually lazy and poorly argued.

I am not going into an in-depth analysis, I will try to be as concise as possible.

She is basically saying a bunch of good things that temporarily coincided with capitalism being the predominant economic system, declared a causal relationship between those good things and capitalism (completely failing to prove for example that it was capitalism that caused the Industrial Revolution and not the other way around), and called it a day. Several times she mentioned that there were and are bad things happening too, but she either handwaved them away with “that’s another story” or explained them away with “it means we are doing capitalism wrong”.

That is what made me so angry because the same line of reasoning can be used to prove that “socialism is good” too. In fact, that is exactly what some tankies are doing  – they point out the good things that happened in the USSR sphere of influence, handwave the genocides and human rights abuses away as “doing socialism wrong” and call it a day too. I am not willing to give them a pass for this spurious reasoning, and I am not going to give a pass for it to someone arguing against them either.

This line of reasoning could also be used to prove both that capitalism and socialism are bad, just by switching things that are talked about and that are waved away.

As someone who experienced firsthand both “badly performed” socialism and “badly performed” capitalism, I am of the opinion that both words are so broad that without excessive contextualizing they are both essentially meaningless.

This video is a study of cherrypicking.

Why is Google Promoting Scams?

These last few days Google served me several identical ads on a fake investment scheme (on YouTube). The sites these ads point to mimic the looks of a prominent Czech news service and they are written in the form of a news article about an alleged law that our president Petr Pavel signed (the fake article contains even his picture). And the investment scheme is about investing in a prominent Czech company, in which the state owns the majority of shares. Very good job, with very few grammatical errors. The site does not pass even a very cursory check – all links point to the “registration” site for the fake investment, even links that on a normal news website should lead to other articles, comments, etc. Also, a short Google search shows that the company whose name is used for this fake investment scheme filed a lawsuit over a year ago.

Police are investigating the matter, but so far they could not find who profits from these ads – several people fell for them so there is an ongoing investigation for fraud in addition to impersonating a company and abusing their logo. So far they were not able to establish who is behind the scam and stop it.

And I have to ask – how come? How can it happen, that Google continues to show people ads for illegal activity for over a year by now? And how is it possible that they cannot be traced? One would expect that when someone wants to buy an ad from Google they would have to prove that they are a legitimate company/person with a legitimate need. And that said ad would be vetted before publishing. But apparently, it is possible to buy ad space from Google without any verifications and checks and without any human being involved at any point. I do wonder how the payments are done, since in the EU anonymous bank accounts are illegal. This scammer must operate within the EU because the ad is targeted at a Czech-speaking audience only.

We are not talking about a random person using a free service to publish shit on some social networks, I do understand that those cannot be all vetted prior to publishing. Here we are talking about someone purchasing an illegal service from Google and Google subsequently providing said illegal service unless and until somebody goes through the trouble to report it.

Which I did, btw. Three times over three days. All three times I got confirmation that the ad will be taken down. On the fourth day, I got an ad for a different fraudulent scheme and I reported that too. It too was taken down.

But this is evidently a broken system since people get defrauded and the perpetrators were not caught (yet).