Category Archives: engineering

New street light

Not a huge event, but the distribution company that serves my town replaced the street light across from my apartment building.

The old one was a probably 40+ year old HPS cobra head affair that had a bad lamp or ballast and kept turning on and off all night. I put in a work order for it, and in a surprizingly short time, they not only fixed it, but replaced it with a new LED full cutoff fixture.

I like the new white light cast. To my mind, sodium yellow I always associated with ugly neighborhoods you didn’t want to be in after dark. I have no idea if there is actually any correlation or not.

Sun day in the Park with Gibbs; or, I have no life and it’s all CarnotCycle’s fault

There are many data tables out there, that are unfortunately not transcribed into usable form, but are stuck as images that cannot be searched. A thermodynamical blog, CarnotCycle, has provided some of these here.

Having no entertainments of any lasting value, I’ve decided to transcribe that one into a common format, Microsoft Excel (2007+ file format). They are here: CarnotCycle-Thermodata.

Although he claims they are in SI, they aren’t. SI does not use the calorie as a unit of energy, instead using the joule. Similarly with degree centigrade and kelvin. I have added a tab to convert the semi-SI to full SI. Digit significance has been maintained while doing this.

I do not know what book he got them out of, so I have to request you cite them as coming from his blog, for now. If you want to credit me with the transcription, that is fine. Use your preferred/recommended/required citation style to do this.

Some notes:

  • Some values were given in parenthesis. In Excel, parentheses are used to indicate a negative number in accounting. I changed this format to gray background with center-aligned numbers.
  • One value was given with a question mark. This is marked with a red background.
  • One value is suspiciously positive, I have marked this with a yellow background.
  • Where needed, scientific notation is use to maintain the correct number of significant digits.

Tree interfering with lines

On the way to work for a couple of weeks I noticed a decent diameter tree, maybe 30 cm, fallen across some non-electric lines. I think they were cable or telephone. Unfortunately, I don’t remember ever learning how you are supposed to report these things. They aren’t in an obvious municipality, so I can’t just go to the local DPW and tell them.

What I wish is that 8-1-1 wasn’t just utility marking, but a general utility number for things like downed lines (well, maybe that is covered by 9-1-1), trees in lines, service outages and similar matters. Currently you have to call the local utilities special number, which is hard to remember. It’s also hard to find out when you’re in the middle of nowhere and see something like this.

At the beep, enter your language

If you live in a country or area that is at all non-monolingual, you will encounter telephone trees where the first prompt requests you specify your language. For example, in the United States, it is usually Spanish.

Unfortunately this does not scale well. If you have to deal with even, say, the UN languages, that’s 6 possibilities. Further, they are rarely standardized, so for one firm, you key in “6” to get Spanish. For another it’s “2”, etc.

I propose this:

  1. A universally understood tone or sequence of tones that means “specify your language” (SYL). These would be tones that a computer could recognize, like SITs. In this way, a person could specify to their phone/phone company what their language was and have them automatically reply.
  2. A universally standardized mapping of languages and dialects to numbers. For example, en-US = 1033 (Microsoft LCID).

This would result in the following pass:

  1. Caller dials some number with a phone tree.
  2. Called party PBX picks up.
  3. Called party PBX plays SYL SIT.
  4. Caller (or caller’s phone/phone company) recognizes the SIT.
  5. Caller (or caller’s phone/phone company) responds with language code
    1. This would include a termination character, like # or *.
  6. Called party PBX connects the caller to the phone tree or operator of that language.

Of course, even the UN isn’t going to maintain an operator for every possible language, so in those cases, a fail-gracefully routing tree would be set up so that the nearest neighbor language would be selected instead. As an example, if en-GB (2057) wasn’t supported, but en-US was (1033), the call would be routed there. Alternately, a message could be prerecorded in that language, telling the called party that their language wasn’t supported.

What do you think?

Civil Service update

I know this blog is sort of fractured between posting strange things and personal updates. No longer having access to my grand mother’s attique I have less to do with the former now and more of the latter. Of course my cycens are gone, so that removes that source of blog fodder.

I have it in words, though not writing that I have been hired by the State to be an engineer. Come next week I will report and have work to do and be able to sign papers (I9 and W4). After about 2 years of trying to get to this stage, I’m happy.

As a side note, I will try and keep blogging and noting things that happen (if I can talk about them without violating state policy or confidentiality), but I may be too tired after work to do so. We shall see.

A new use for net lights

I have found out that, properly obtained and displayed, those “net lights” (Example) that you can buy (in the United States atleast) to drape over shrubs and small trees in December for decoration are highly useful as room lights.

I have a 8 by 5 net hanging in the room behind my PC monitor and they provide a very pleasing diffuse illumination for my work, with a regular floor lamp in the room also. You can even get them in cool white (LED) or warm white (old style/incandescent). I prefer the warm white for where I am.

I advise getting the ones that plug in to a normal NEMA/Type A outlet for easiest use and best light output. Either way they have the advantage of only slowly burning out, instead of a normal light going all at once. I had a cheap one (from Walmart) last about a year of normal use.