Selling Out?

I watched a thing on Ralph Nader tonight in which he talked about fighting against corporations that are focused solely on the stock price--specifically big American automakers.

This struck a chord with me because I just read the chapter in How Toyota Became #1 ( review) that talks about the practice of ignoring the stock price, and focusing instead on what will benefit the company (i.e. its customers and employees) long-term. This is something that American automakers have shown themselves to be especially bad at, and it is a big reason Toyota has been doing so well for so long.

Also, I was recently accused of "selling out" because, though I've marched in several peace rallies and read more than my share of Gandhi's writings, I'm pursuing an opportunity to work for an outfit that would make parts for a DoD contractor.

In light of all this:
I believe in responsible small business that responds to customers, respects people, and benefits communities.
Businesses like these can set an example to inspire others and thus cause change for the common good while making a buck.
Making money is not a bad thing, but it should be done in moderation like anything else.
Though the American military is too large and used improperly, it's better that the monies paid for its maintenance and expansion go into responsible, small, American businesses than anywhere else.

And now I don't feel bad about helping to land a DoD contract.

"Dude...what a tool!"

*** UPDATE 6/11/08: I have created 3D models of the new version of this jig (described near the end) ***

The next phase of this project is to make a fixture for brazing brake mounts to a frame/fork.

I got the idea from the excellent Nicola Cycles blog (thanks for the link, dude!). This summer they hosted a free framebuilding workshop near NYC that must have been a blast.
In a batch of photos from around that time, I found this little gem:

Money shot:

This is a clever design that was likely pretty quick to machine. I started playing around with how to improve on it, with the help of a mechanical engineering student and some machinist friends.
Perhaps most importantly (for me), this design will work for both standard cantilever brake bosses/pivots and custom-made centerpull bosses/pivots.

I/we eventually decided to implement the following additional features:
- Make the dummy axle self-centering, by copying the clever Anvil dummy axle design, minus the tricky-to-machine (but oh-so-sweet) "D"-shaped ends that keep the dropouts parallel:

Don and his dad do a great job on these...they are little works of machinists' art.

- The Nicola design appears to permit the fixturing of brake pivots that are out of plane with the axle (and thus the rim). One solution is to machine a flat on the top of the "spine" bar that runs up the middle of the fork, and use a set screw to set the blocks in plane with one another. (n.b. Any error in the angle of the posts would likely be easy to correct when setting up the brake pads. I'm just anal like that.)

- Because of equipment limitations (no slitting saw), we replaced the pinch bolts on the pivot holder with another set screw and a milled flat.

- Add the ability to use this tool as a brake/fender bridge. This is achieved by tapping 2 holes for the set screws mentioned above, and leaving open the option of using a long M6 bolt to hold a bridge in place. The tricky part is that the aluminum might get too hot and deform or even melt.

- Change all materials (except the blocks, which remain aluminum) to 303 stainless, which is easier to work than other kinds of stainless, though it's still a pain to machine compared to mild steel. But I got some 303 scrap in the right sizes for free.

Thus I drafted and scanned the following:

A few notes on drafting:
- These were made for a friend who I trust as a machinist and who with whom I've discussed the design, so I'm letting him choose a few dimensions, and violating a few other rules of drafting. In theory, the drafter makes all the decisions about sizes and shapes, and the machinist makes all the decisions about methods. I've crossed those lines in a few places.
- Dashed lines indicate hidden features or edges.
- "Phantom" lines (short-short-long) indicate centerlines and imaginary features. Gear teeth are often replaced with phantom lines, as are threads, because drawing them would be repetitive and wouldn't add anything.

Exclusive Finals Coverage

The fall finals season kicked off Thursday with a strong showing on the Entrepreneurship exam, 97.8, which gives me a solid A on everything in the class.

The semester grade is pending my business plan, due this Thursday.

Then, bright and early this morning, came the main event, the Intercultural Communication final.

Despite a whole 2 hours of studying Sunday night, early setbacks were daunting: precious study/sleep time was lost due to a poorly-timed fire alarm in a freshman dorm late Sunday night. Also, procrastination is believed to have been a factor.

I awoke bright and early* this morning to read two pages on business communication in China, arriving at the exam a few minutes late, even without the usual shower.
I felt good at the end, but I knew I'd missed more than a couple questions. I felt I'd earned a B on the exam and for the semester, which seemed fair given the amount of effort I put in.

Tonight's results:
91.2% on the INTL final, for a decent A, about 10% beyond my expectations.

In a decidedly magical and possibly miraculous series of events, this bumped me up to 450 points out of a possible 500.

That's right.


Or as it says on the transcript:

A .

School: 0.

Ethan: 1.

School is expected to suffer a crushing defeat on Wednesday at the Machine Shop Practices final.

Yes, this is a personal blog sometimes.