Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some Interesting (perhaps) Facts about the Kilogram

The lowly kilogram is the only SI unit (International System of Units) that is still defined in relation to an artifact rather than to a fundamental physical property that can be reproduced in different laboratories.

For example, the meter was once defined as an artifact (a single platinum-iridium bar with two marks on it), however, it was eventually redefined in terms of invariant, fundamental constants of nature (the distance traveled by light in space in a given duration) so that it can be reproduced in different laboratories around the world.

Since 1889, the SI system defines the magnitude of the kilogram to be equal to the mass of the International Prototype Kilogram (IPK), which is a golfball size piece of platinum/iridium alloy which is kept under two bell jars in a safe in France.

The IPK replaced an all-platinum kilogram prototype made in 1799, which in turn was constructed to be the same mass as one decimeter (one liter) of pure water at 4 C (temperature of water's most stable density point).

The US "owns" two of the forty IPK replicas made from the same batch of alloy, but periodically returns them to France for verification.

Despite careful storage, cleaning, and handling, the mass of the IPK inexplicably lost 50 µg (0.00005 g) over the last century in comparison to its official copies. That is so small, I can't give you a meaningful comparison.

There are no technical means available to determine whether or not the entire worldwide ensemble of prototypes suffers from even greater long-term trends upwards or downwards because their mass relative to an invariant of nature is unknown.

And if all that isn't enough, the kilogram is the only SI base unit with an SI prefix (kilo) as part of its name.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Tour of Dawson Junction

I'm working on a video of the layout in action, but here are a few "teaser" images. Click on an image to get a closer look at the details. (I'm still learning how to photograph this type of stuff)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Power at Dawson Junction

The major discrepancy in my model railroad layout was that I didn't have a "realistic" locomotive for it. When I bought the N-scale starter set, it came with a ATSF GP-20, which I figured was "close enough" to the GP-39s that Willamette & Pacific were running to start with. In fact, most of WP's locos were previously ATSF units and retained such artifacts as the blue/yellow paint scheme until such time as they made it into the paint shop.
I had obtained a set of MicroScale decals several years ago, but hadn't been brave enough to try a conversion. The gift of the "DARE" car, and the subsequent upcoming video shoot was enough to spark me into action. (The engine was not part of the display at the Model Logger's Conference.) The first step was disassembling the engine:
Here it is after painting. I used an airbrush and GN orange for the body, and Testor's flat black with a brush for the top.
The decals realy make this sharp. They are the same type I used on model kits as a kid. You soak them in water and "float" them into position. After they dry, a couple of coats of matt clear coat protect the decals and make them look painted on! I selected WPRR 2302 "Adair Village", because that is where I live. I've never seen the real "Adair Village" in action. WPRR 2310 "Monroe" would have been perhaps a more appropriate choice, being geographically closer to Dawson, but hey, I'm the boss of this railroad.
For the perfectionists, or "rivet counters" as they are known in the modeling world, here is a picture of the "prototype". The Willamette & Pacific (WPRR) name is confusingly synonymous with Portland & Western (PNRR), but you can see the latter on the current specimen (the decals were made in 1995, and I think the name switching started in about 2000). I've also got my logo set too far back on the body, but hey, sometime "close enough" is close enough!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

DARE to be kind

I had a surprise email the other day. Someone had seen my Hull-Oakes railroad videos on Youtube and was impressed enough to want to send me a gift. He had purchased two N-scale versions of one of the chip cars in the video and sent me one!
This car, like the Duck and Beaver cars, is one of a kind. I knew someone had produced a model of it at one time, but I had only seen it in HO scale, and had given up on finding one for my layout (they only make a limited number). He told me I would have to add my own graffiti, which believe it or not, can be done with decals.
I offered to give him a personal tour of my layout, assuming based on our common interests, that he lived in the Willamette Valley. He declined, claiming he lived in Illinois, so I'm going to do a video of it staring the new addition for him.

So, many thanks, Bob from Illinois.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Favorite Humanist

Stumbled across this creative little mash-up today.

The guy who did this also does some great "electronica/ambient/rock" compositions (without a humanist bent) at http://www.colorpulsemusic.com/.

He also gave a similar treatment to Billy Mays at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpJGZ9.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Running in the Rain . . .

We drove up to Monmouth Saturday to watch another runner in the family compete in the New Balance Invitational. In true Oregon cross-country fashion, it was rainy. It didn't seem to bother Jason a bit.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Wind playing with grass

We spotted this last week when we were up in Salem.

It was, of course, much cooler in person.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How to Cancel a Credit Card

I just have to share this experience with you. Prior to our big Yellowstone trip a few years back, I applied for and got an extra credit card in case we needed it. I was afraid an identity theft would tie up an account (it had happened recently). I quit using the card after getting a charge for a late payment when it took them four days to process an electronic transfer. How come I can get money from them in seconds, but take days to get it back to them? Long story short, I had not used it in a while, and figured it was more of a liability as this point.

First, I go to their website. That is how I signed up, and how I paid. Easy and convenient (except for the time lag on payments). After several minutes of searching, I locate the "cancel card" link in the small printing at the bottom of the page. It takes me to a page with a list of reasons why the card is so beneficial and why I should keep it. Ah, there is a number to call with instructions on how to cancel. Maybe not so easy after all. I hate talking to real people on the phone.

Press option 4, then option 5. That should be simple. After entering my card number and area code, the instructions don't work, and listening through the available choices, "select other options" sounds like the best bet. Another set of menu choices. Again, "select other options" is the closest to what I want. "Press 5 to cancel your card." There it is, I might not have to talk to someone after all! A recorded voice asks for my home phone number, and the last five digits of my social security number. It takes long enough to recall that last tidbit of info that the voice on the phone takes me back a set of options. Then, a long pregnant pause, followed by the dreaded real voice, with a real name and even a provided employee number for credibility (like that is something I can type into my computer). A senior customer account representative even - strait to the big guns! I'm in trouble now.

For some reason, after all the buttons I've had to press, they still don't know my name or why I am on the phone. After providing that information again, I'm asked to wait while they check my account. "You don't have a balance. Why would you want to cancel?" The computer earlier told me I didn't have a balance, and it didn't have to ask me to wait. "I don't use the card," is my reply. "That is the lowest interest rate we offer. Why would you want to get rid of it?" "A low interest rate doesn't help me if I don't carry a balance," I explain. "I haven't made a charge since April. You should be trying to get rid of me!"

In fact, just for fun I had paid a nickel extra last time I made a payment. After two billing cycles of no activity, they had sent me a check for $0.05, spending more than that on postage, let alone paper and and printing. Of course I didn't cash it, hoping the outstanding balance on the books would cause some additional expense in accounting. "Please, I'd just like to cancel the account," I plead in voice nearing surrender. "Well, I can do that, but I still don't understand why you would want to," she replied in a disapproving motherly way that tapers off into a mutter. After reading me a required disclaimer, I tell them "you guys make it harder to close an account than open it!"

At the Stake financial workshop we attended a while back, the presenter told us that "debt is a product," and that it is "marketed heavily" to us. These guys love to loan money because it makes them money, and most people are hooked on it like caffeine!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Blessing David Cyrus

Sunday we went up to Salem for the blessing of our grandson. Jeff gave a spiritual blessing. After church we had lunch at their house. There was quite a crew.