StumbleUpon Back-up



I used to hang out on StumbleUpon (SU) as SchreiberBike. I decided that I wanted to archive all my reviews to keep on my own PC, but there was no obvious ways to do it.

Putting together a suggestion by Heritas from the Help Group and the use of a macro, I was able to get a backup my 964 reviews and blog postings without much work. It looks like I could similarly backup all 3753 “thumbs up” I made while I was using SU, but I don’t think I’ll bother with that.

I use the Firefox browser and installed the Scrapbook extension. That allows you to download a copy of one page with linked pictures to your PC.

One page at a time for 97 pages would be a bit boring though. I used a macro program to automate the process.

Using a macro, you can set it to:
  1. Copy the page
  2. Wait five seconds
  3. Move to the next page
  4. Wait ten seconds
  5. Repeat
It worked for me.


Shaker Workbench

I really want to put together a nice post showing my workbench and explaining why it was built the way it is, but I haven't done it. So, here are a bunch of pictures.

Click on "Workbench" to see more posts about my Shaker Workbench or "plans" to see the SketchUp model

Since these pictures, I've added the anti-wrack pad to the front vise (which works great by the way) covered the chops of the front vise with leather, added the sliding board jack, and probably other things too.

More pictures and better formatting later.


Health Care reform - # 7

Another letter to the President:

Mr. President,

I can't believe you are screwing up health care reform. You are too honorable for this. You are too wise for this. You're greatest strength is your ability to look at a problem from many sides and at many levels. You're a smart guy.

You've got to step back and take a fresh look at health care reform.

If you don't know how, try this: http://schreiberbike.blogspot.com/2009/07/health-care-reform.html. I sent it to you earlier, but clearly you didn't take it seriously. Nor are you taking your supporters seriously. We voted for change, not for the appearance of change.

If you can’t do better than this, hope fades.


John Schreiber

cc blog
I'm getting frustrated. I want so bad to believe.


Sinophobia, Factoids, and Facts

Here's a ubiquitous "factoid" I'd heard a number of times over the years. I ran into it again and thought I'd check it out.

If the population of China walked past you, 8 abreast, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction.

It presents itself as an interesting fact, but it's totally racist and hearkens back to the Sinophobia which has been a major part of American history. It is another bit of propaganda teaching us to be afraid.

I even found a reference to this being presented during the Cold War as if you lined up all of the Chinese and machine-gunned them as they walked by you you'd never kill them all because they'd reproduce too fast. Next time somebody tells you that the 50s were the good-old-days, remember this kind of racism.

Anyway, I wondered if it were true. It's repeated enough, there must be some basis in it. Right? Right? No. A Google search was unenlightening. The trivia was repeated again and again, some people didn't believe it, but no one seemed to have checked the math. I found one reference, but it was off by a factor of 60. A similar question is answered (mostly) right here.

I did the math. Based on reasonable assumptions and current population and rate of growth of China, the entire population would pass in less than 10 years. The assumptions and the math are shown in this pdf.

In 1950, when this had more currency as propaganda, it would have been less than five years. I modeled an extreme scenario" with the highest ever population and the extreme rate of population growth one year after the "great leap forward." It still takes less than 11 years for all to pass. If it's a single file line instead of eight abreast, it does take a long time, 106 years, but that's very different from never. It surprised me, but in a column 8 wide, walking slowly with reasonable space between people, 140,000,000 will walk past a point in a year. That makes quick work of the population of any country.

Conclusion: there's no basis in fact for this often repeated bit of trivia / racist propaganda.


Health Care Reform # 6

From: Joe from Philly a.k.a. Joe the Nerd a.k.a. Joe Ferraro
To: The President in a call in radio show

I'm getting a little ticked off that it feels like the knees are buckling a little bit. We have overwhelming majorities in both the House and the Senate. And we own the whole shooting match. And I'm just not getting - it's very frustrating to watch you try and compromise with a lot of these people who aren't willing to compromise with.

Joe says he was satisfied with the answer. I have been a strong supporter of Obama since the Iowa primary; I’m not satisfied.

I think Obama is throwing this away. Why is he doing that? In order, from least to most likely:

1. He’s a fraud
  • He doesn’t really believe this stuff, but it got him to be President and that’s what counts.
  • Not impossible, but I can’t stand to think it.
2. He’s overwhelmed
  • The fight and the issue and the politics are complex and he can’t adapt proactively.
  • This is what it looks like, but I don't think it can be true. Thinking at many levels at the same time is his strength. He proved this during the campaign.
3. He’s threatened
  • My most paranoid side says that he has been told by some person in a position of total trust that awful things will happen to his family or to other innocent people if he threatens corporate interests.
  • Like I said, it’s paranoid, but sometimes you can’t be paranoid enough.
4. He believes that creating a new kind of politics is more important than actually achieving any one goal.
  • The political/ideological environment in the USA is toxic. People are shouting and playing for points rather than talking to each other and solving problems. The influence of money has made democracy a cover for plutocracy.
  • Barack Obama wants to change that.
  • Perhaps he believes that compromise on principle and accommodation to those who are dedicated to his destruction is the best approach.
  • I think instead that non-violent struggle lead from the bully pulpit would be the best approach. Organization, moral persuasion, mass action and negotiation from a position of strength are tools which he knows. He can persuade us to recognize dignity in us all and demonstrate the best of progressive values. That would lead to a change in the public environment.
  • Health care (and other) reform would be a natural outgrowth.
5. He’s part of the system
  • There are two sides of American politics: 1) a savage, “beat the peasants in submission” capitalist side and 2) a realistic “keep the peasants from seeing the need for revolution” capitalist side. Another way to put it is that there is just one political party in this country, the Republican Democratic Party of Money. He’s a member of the party.
  • He was acceptable to the corporate media, ‘nuff said. This is realistic but sad.
6. He is hoodwinked by corporate interests
  • He doesn’t trust his own judgment and he has given in to pressure from inside and outside the government.
  • It seems clear that this is what happened in the finance crisis, so perhaps it’s happening here. He is to some degree part of the system, and if he is being overwhelmed by the pressures of the Presidency, then this may be what is happening. He may even be justifying his weakness and vacillation by telling himself that he is moving toward a new kind of politics.

At least # 4 puts a a kind of positive spin on this. I desperately hope he wants change and that he can get back up on his feet and lead the country.


Leather work

I used leather to cover the faces of my woodworking vise. I had extra leather and I found that I can make some very useful things without too much work.

The only tool that was really necessary was the needles. I already had them from some rope work I had done in the past, so they didn't cost anything.

I bought an overstitch wheel which marks the stitches before drilling the holes. I used it only on the second larger sheath. I think the even stitches there look much better and they certainly were easier to mark.

The chunk of scrap walnut has been smoothed on one end on a belt sander. It is used to smooth the edges and rub the leather into place.

The piece of hickory with the hook on the end is for marking where the stitches go in comparison with an edge. It is effectively a marking gauge.

I might invest in a v-gouge at some point in the future. It is used after the marking gauge to cut a thin depression for the threads. This decreases wear on the threads. It is also used to cut thin strips from the inside of the leather to make it fold more easily.

I also used contact cement, a utility knife, a straight edge, a hammer, and my belt sander. That's about it for tools.

The lower sheath was stained with walnut Watco Danish Oil. I don't really think it looks better, but it was interesting to try. It worked very well even though it's not meant for leather. It has also been heavily waxed. The upper sheath has not been treated at all. I'd like to try soaking it in hot paraffin, but haven't got that far yet.

The button is one I cut from a branch and soaked for a couple of months in boiled linseed oil.

I couldn't find any description of how one might make a draw knife sheath or a push knife sheath anywhere on the web. If I made the push knife sheath again, I'd cut it so that it was narrower where the straps come over the back so that the straps would bear directly on the back of the blade. I'd also attach the button further from the back of the blade. The draw knife sheath might be improved a little. It should fit the length of the blade more closely and the flap should be larger and looser (I'm not sure how to make it looser). That would allow the knife to be inserted without having to hold the sheath right near the very-sharp blade.

This is not sophisticated leather work, but I was quite pleased with what I was able to do without a lot of practice or training.


Rendering – Industrial Machine

Some people like to make photo-realistic images out of 3D models. It’s very cool to see something I’ve made in SketchUp turn into something which looks real.

A real photograph taken from the Grizzly catalog:

Two views of a SketchUp model which I made:

A rendering of my SketchUp model by Solo:

I enjoy making models in SketchUp. When I am modeling something which already exists, I am effectively reverse engineering the object. In doing that, often I can understand better how it works and why it works that way.

Rendering is something very different. Changing the characteristics of the surfaces and changing the light sources makes the picture more realistic, informative or interesting. The process is iterative in that a light source can create another light source in the form of a reflection. Then that reflection’s presence has to be accounted for by the program. There is judgment and subtlety involved in preparing a rendering. The computing power and time is huge, and while it’s not too hard to do a decent job, doing an excellent job is very challenging. Then, if you are doing it in a 3D animation, each frame of the animation must be rendered, and that takes even longer.

In this example, I was planning a future workshop layout and I wanted to see how I might fit a knife belt sander into the plan. I only needed a rough model for this purpose, but as I tend to do, I went overboard and made it as close to perfect as I could. I posted it as part of a contest in the SketchUcation forums.

Similarly, there’s a rendering of a wrist watch which I modeled here.


Writing -- Blogging

"I don't know what I think until I see what I say"
– attributed to Flannery O'Connor

“Every clear sentence I write removes more undergrowth of confusion from my mind.”

– attributed to Robert W. Russell

"We do not write in order to be understood, we write in order to understand."

– attributed to C. Day Lewis

I write to think. I write to learn.

Putting thoughts into sentences, and reading and editing them, lets me see each thought on its own and helps me to see how those thoughts go together. It helps me figure things out and helps me determine if an idea is significant or trivial.

I want each sentence to be defensible. I know how complex the world is and I don’t like broad statements which deny exceptions. But I also know that words like “usually,” “often,” and “mostly” make writing sound tentative. I walk a tightrope between simplification and accuracy, which can sound like the difference between confidence and mushiness.

As an example, each of the quotes above says “attributed to . . .” Quotes from famous people often have a life of their own apart from what the person actually said or believed. If it doesn’t come from an authoritative source, I don’t want to say that it’s a quote. “Attributed to . . .” is a fine compromise here.

Each word should say something, and I have to make sure that the entire piece says something. I am careful about word choice. I usually take out the unnecessary words and sometimes the unnecessary sentences. I know that I tend to leave in too many paragraphs. If I am writing for myself, it’s good to put the entire argument down to make it as clear as possible. If I am writing for others, I can let assumptions stand on their own.

My spelling is bad; my grammar is fair. Spell check takes care of most of that and grammar check helps. I like to leave a piece be for a while and come back to edit it. If I am writing something which I feel is important, I try to have it edited by someone else – but that’s a pain.

I tell myself that I don’t care if anyone reads what I write, and it’s mostly true. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be excited if other people did read what I wrote.

It is self indulgent, but that is mostly ok.