Archive for the ‘Misc Stuff’ Category

Some Thoughts about Happiness

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, he wrote of three inalienable rights. Among the three, was the “pursuit of happiness”. While some people think that the phrase, “pursuit of happiness” is about the acquiring of material wealth, as portrayed in the recent movie by the same name. In reality, that isn’t the case. Scholars know that Jefferson admired Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, who founded a system of philosophy. The following description of Epicurianism is from Wikipedia:

The philosophy originated by Epicurus propounded an ethic of individual pleasure as the sole or chief good in life. Hence, Epicurus advocated living in such a way as to derive the greatest amount of pleasure possible during one’s lifetime, yet doing so moderately in order to avoid the suffering incurred by overindulgence in such pleasure. The emphasis was placed on pleasures of the mind rather than on physical pleasures. Therefore, according to Epicurus, with whom a person eats is of greater importance than what is eaten.

So Jefferson was advocating a pursuit of happiness as an unalienable right, he was in essence advocating a pursuit of Epicureanism philosophy as a fundamental aspect of a free man’s life.

You might wonder why I am talking about Epicureanism. Why is it so important, that I would make an effort to share these ideas with you.

Well, I think that happiness is something that you should pursue, and it is absolutely worth pursuing. Happiness does not necessarily come automatically with other goals like attaining an education, advancement at work, raising a family, or striving for any other goal. Happiness should be a goal unto itself and you should pursue it, the same way that you might pursue your other goals. Those other goals may or may not bring you happiness, and, at best, attaining those other goals most likely will only bring you temporary happiness. Therefore, you should make happiness a goal unto itself.

Make sure that whatever you do in life, make sure that you set aside a little time each week to think about what gives you happiness and make finding a little happiness each week, one of your goals for that week. You may not succeed every week, but just thinking about it and working on a plan, should provide some hope for the next week. Furthermore, I believe you should encourage and help your partners, family and friends to find a little happiness each week.

This essay was written over the spring and summer of 2016 by Mike Willegal

Where Did All The Moths Come From?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Over the last few years, we have had a plague of small moths, especially in the spring time. There are so many, that the larva from these moths defoliate certain types of trees in the spring. So far, these trees have managed to survive, but I’m wondering how many more years that they will be able to tolerate this. The moths are attacted to the lights inside the house at night. There are so many moths, that they get into the house almost every time you open a door at night.

While discussing the disapperance of the Bats with a neighbor the other day, I think I came up with the likely reason that the moth population has run amok. Bats eat moths and other similar sized flying insects, such as dragonflys. With the bats out of the picture, the moths have had little to curb their population, except the available food supply.

Note that bats typically do not eat mosquitos, since mosquitos are too small too provide much nourishment. Dragonflys do eat mosquitos, so with the bats gone, there may also be a reduction in the mosquito population as one consumer of the dragonfly population has been taken out of the picture. Come to think of it, the mosquito population does seems to be low for this time of year.

The balance of nature sure is sensitive and it’s surprising to see it out of whack in our own backyard.

PCB and kit stocking status

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

I now have everything that I normally stock on hand – except SCELBI front panels.

I was a bit behind on things, but today I shipped a few items that I owed people, so am caught up, with the exception of those SCELBI front panels.

In addition, due to popular demand, I made a new run of Brain Board kits. I tested an example earlier in the week, and except for a bad 74LS74 IC, I found they work fine. I’ll have to go through my stock of 74LS74’s and test them before finishing putting together kits. With luck, I’ll have kits ready to ship by next weekend. Watch for an update in the next few days before sending money.

Where Did My Neighborhood Bats Go?

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

One evening last summer, during an evening party, I got out my bat detector. Much to my surprise, I was unable to detect any bats. This struck me as very odd, since during previous summers, I never had any difficulty detecting plenty of bats. Well, I just found out what happened to my neighborhood bats. There is a disease, known as White Nose Syndrome, attacking colonies of bats throughout the world. In many cases, bat populations have plumeted, with some species facing possible extinction.

The real question I have, is, with such a disasterous decline in bat populations, why didn’t news of this reach me through regular news channels. I only discovered the problem, when I stumbled upon the story when I looked on the web for a link to the instructions I used to build my bat detector.

I’ve been thinking for some time that major English language news agencys have a narrow focus on a few topics, instead of covering a broad range of news. That millions of bats could die, some literally in my back yard, and that the news agencys leave me unaware seems almost criminal. Instead, we get bombarded with the news about a few wacko’s killing inocent people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Maybe, due to high costs and tremendous competition, the major news agencies are limiting news to what they can sell, not what an editor thinks we need to know. It seems, at least at major news agencies, the role of that editor, the person that promoted a point of view, has been replaced by a marketing person. To me, it’s a shame.

Apple Service Sucks

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

I have had two negative experiences.

A while back, a Powerbook trackpad failed while still under service contract and Apple didn’t want to fix it because the service person claimed something was spilled on it. Though the machine was used by other family members, I know of no actual spill. They wanted something like $900 to repair it. I ended up getting an aftermarket trackpad off of ebay and fixing it myself for $40. So much for the extended warentee. I must admit that a service manager called me after I sent negative response to their after service questionnaire. He offered to have another look at it, but by then, I decided I could handle it, myself.

My iMac hard drive was recently recalled due to a high failure rate. I made an appointment and took it in to their store. Result – after waiting around for a while, someone checked out my machine and made sure that it operatated correctly, found that they had the replacement drive in stock, then said that they would have it ready in 3 to 5 days. I asked if they were going to migrate the data. The answer was no, it was going to take so long because changing hard-drives was a “delicate” operation. 5 days to change a hard drive, without migrating data – Apple, give me a break – you can do better than that.

While waiting for help on the iMac hard drive, a woman came in complaining about intermittent WI-FI connectivity with her iPhone. I can’t imagine the Apple “genius” solving that problem.

Old School Engineering

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

I just viewed Dave Jone’s latest video blog about the Sony Walkman. For some reason, I decided to download the service manual and have a look. One thing that I immediately noticed, was the lettering on the schematic appears to be another example of Leroy Lettering.

This caused me to reflect a little bit about my first year or two of college and my first job in industry. Before discovering computer science, I started out in a mechanical engineering program. The first engineering oriented courses you took, were drafting courses. I had no trouble with perspective and different technical aspects of drawing. However, I really had trouble creating drawings that looked nice, clean and sharp. There was no mention of Leroy or any other mechanical lettering system, so we had to hand letter our work. To this day, I don’t have the hand of an artist, and I think that lack of natural artistic ability held me back in that program. The skill of an artist, developed or natural is something that is apparent in a well done engineering drawing or schematic.

In years gone by, many engineers would spend their workday at a drafting board. I started my first co-op engineering job, in the late 70’s. That first company that I worked for, still had a drafting department for creating PCB layouts, as well as an art department that did the artwork for manuals as well as marketing material. The “uniform” of many of the experienced engineers was a white shirt, dark pants, a dark tie and a pocket protector. Second level managers omitted the pocket protector and added a sport coat. It’s basically the look of the NASA mission control team for the Apollo program.

A few years later, in the early 80s, I remember going for a job interview at IBM’s small system division. That was the first home of the IBM PC which was located in Boca Raton, Florida. Almost all the engineers there still wore that “uniform”. I did see one guy wearing a colorful shirt and jeans. He stuck out like a sore thumb. The IBM employee that was with me at that moment, pointed him out, and said he didn’t really fit in to the culture.

How times have changed.

Web Page Unique Visitors

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

I’ve been using the same hosting service since 2009 and just went back and collected yearly stats for “unique visitors”.

Web Page Unique Visitors

Web Page Unique Visitors

The data for 2009 was only for 11 months so I multiplied by 12/11. The data for 2015 is for 5 months so I multiplied by 12/5.

The overall trend is for a general increase in activity, but this year could be slightly down over the past couple. However one real popular blog posting could affect the yearly results in a big way. November of 2014 had a major temporary increase in hits with my report of Steve Wozniak still thinking about improving the Apple II design generating over 26,000 visits for that month alone.

The total number of “unique visitors” over the last 6+ years is 537,704.

Reason for Lack of Posts this Month

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

I’ve been busy working on my VCF east exhibit.

It’s about the relationship between HAM radio and early personal computers. I have lots of interesting things to blog about. However I want to unveil my discoveries and experiments at VCF east, rather than reveal the exhibit contents ahead of time through blog posts.

Come to VCF east next month, and you’ll get the first look at what I’ve been busy working on. Sometime during or after VCF east, I plan on putting up some web pages and will have quite a backlog of stuff to blog about.

Familiar Sight

Friday, March 6th, 2015

B-32 Bombers under construction at Air Force Plant #4

B-32 Bombers under construction at Air Force Plant #4

I was killing some time the other day, browsing the web, finding out about the great warplanes of World War II, when I ran across this photo.

The photo was found on this blog page which contains much information about it:

After looking at it, and reading the caption, I wondered if this was the same war plane factory that I had visited in the mid 80’s. At the time, I worked for the Computer Systems Division of Gould, Inc. This company produced super-mini computers and sold a large percentage of the computers used to power commercial and military flight simulators. When introducing a new version of the computer, some of the engineering team attended a show in Fort Worth, Texas. Before the show, a local sales representative invited us to visit the General Dynamics factory outside town. At the time, General Dynamics made F-16 fighter planes at the plant. We got to walk out on the factory floor. We could see workmen constructing F-16s, one rivet at a time. No automation or moving assembly line there, those planes were practically hand-crafted. Our guide told us that it was the longest factory in the world. He said that they rolled raw material in one end and complete airplanes out the other end. It was a very cool experience. Later on, at the show, I got to “fly” a General Dynamics F-16 cockpit proceedures trainer. What a memorable trip that was.

Follow this link to see F-16s under construction in this factory.

Well it turns out that this factory was indeed the same factory as produced 3000 B-24s during World War II and over a hundred B-32s towards the end of the war. It’s official name was Air Force Factory #4. There are a number of photos of this place while B-24s Liberators were being constructed on the Library of Congress website.

B-24s Under Construction

B-24s Under Construction

Today the F-35 lighting II is produced at the facility.

Infant Mortality?

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

If a 40 year old, NOS, IC dies after a few hours usage, should it be considered infant mortality?


  • IC – integrated circuit
  • infant mortality – a term used to describe an electronic product that has a terminal failure soon after being put into use
  • NOS – new, old stock – an old part that hasn’t been used and is essentially is new condition, except for shop wear
  • shop wear – physical wear that can occur to an item that is on the shelf in a store or in storage in a warehouse
  • terminal failure – a failure that precludes using the item for it’s intended purpose
  • Corey,
    Thanks for the inspiration for this post – too bad you were bitten.