Lay-off video

Workers are Carrier Air Conditioner in Indianapolis find out production is moving to Mexico, and over a thousand jobs will be cut. Language warning: they aren’t happy about it:

It’s probably not the question uppermost in their minds, but I wonder who they’ll vote for this fall. I’m guessing not ¡Jeb!

Video about personnel management

Charles Pergiel described this as a video that looks like it’s going to be really boring, but turns out not to be. I started watching thinking about the presenter’s speaking style, use of media, et cetera. Thirty seconds in I was thinking about the topic, and how it might apply to places I’ve worked. At eight and a half minutes it’s worth watching, whether you’re a boss or a peon: The Steve Trautman Co. 3-step Knowledge Transfer Solution with Knowledge Silo Matrix Demo.

Robots

“Much of the current thinking about the future of automation adopts the viewpoint of the robot. It overstates the importance of the things computers are good at (things that tend to be easily measured) and understates the importance of the things that people are good at (things that often are not easily measured). The flaw in that view manifests itself only over the long run…”

Teachers not full-time employees?

The Majesty of the Law, 2012

Someone who should know, not just a random guy bloviating in the coffee shop, told me teachers are not full-time employees under Obamacare, and so the school district we were discussing had fewer than fifty full-time employees, et cetera. Of course, the teachers will continue to have health insurance in their contracts. And of course, if it does become an issue a Judge will ultimately decide. But it reinforces Nancy Pelosi’s observation that she had to pass the bill to know what was in it.

I do have some doubts about this. It seems like schoolteachers not being full-time workers is contrary to the understanding of the college administrators who cut the hours of adjunct faculty to put them under twenty-five hours per week to avoid Obamacare. But really, there’s no way to tell for sure.

Lorem ipsum

Now I could trawl through the web and find any number of clear unambiguous statements that public school teachers are full-time employees, or that they are not. I could even read a copy of the actual bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That would tell me exactly nothing. In America today you might be “legally” part-time even though you work fifty hours a week, or “legally” full-time even though you only work twenty-five hours a week. You might be a full-time employee for the purposes of one law, and unemployed for the purposes of another law. The law could say clearly and unambiguously that teachers are part-time, and the judge could rule that they work full time. What’s “legally” true is whatever the judge says; what’s “legally” true no longer has much connection with reality.

It seems like Congress would find it less painful simply to pass a bill that’s a collection of random words – or letters, if words are too constraining. Title it “An Act for Amelioration of Problems,” and fill it with greeking. The Republicans can say it’s a tax cut for all Americans. The Democrats can say it’s a tax increase on the rich. They can both say it balances the budget and eliminates the deficit. The courts will tell us what we must do to avoid a fine and prison.

Drafting technology

From Instapundit, video of a factory. It looks like the late 50s or early 60s. Around 30 seconds in there’s a man using a drafting machine. After learning mechanical drawing with T-square and triangles, I took a summer job where I got to use one of these, and I thought it was fantastic – amazingly faster and better than the old way. Until the late 90s I used drafting machines occasionally, and then took a job using Autocad. After drawing with pencils and pens and using things like this polar planimeter, using a real CAD package was amazingly faster and better than the old way. What’s next – a holodeck? Whatever it is, no doubt it will be amazingly faster and better than those primitive CAD packages from the turn of the century.

Choose from the middle of the range

(Of course this isn’t really about motors.)

Designing machinery, it’s a rule of thumb to choose components from the middle of each supplier’s range. Say MoCo offers industrial motors in 0.5hp, 1hp, 2hp, 8hp, 10, 12, 16, 20, 30, and 50hp. You want to stay away from the far ends of that range. Probably their motors from 8hp to 20hp are pretty good, but those at the far ends are pushing the limits of their design. Here’s how that happens.

“Make it just like the smaller model, only bigger.”

There’s an original design, say for a 12hp electric motor, that works well. The company sells a lot of them, and they make other models from 8hp to 20hp on the same design, and those are good products too. Then a customer wants a 30hp motor for some application. MoCo doesn’t make one of those, but this doesn’t stop the salesman, who promises one right away. So the engineering department has to design a 30hp motor right away. They take the 20hp design and embiggen it.

The original design relies from parts in the middle of the range of MoCo’s own suppliers. To get 30 horse power, MoCo’s engineer should use different product lines, maybe from different suppliers. There’s never enough time, people, or money for that (if there was, MoCo would lay people of until there wasn’t.) Just doing the paperwork to get a new supplier into the system would take more time than the engineer has. Instead, he has to choose parts from the far ends of existing suppliers’ products. Remarkably this works, and they put 30hp into their product line. What happens when they need a 50hp? The engineers enlarge the 30hp. This process only stops when a product fails dramatically.

The same thing can happen at the low end, as engineers try to cram stuff that doesn’t fit into a package that won’t hold it. Now sometimes you do get lucky, and the 2 is a cut-down 8. It’s over-designed, solid as a rock, won’t wear out, and never needs attention. It seems like this has become less and less common, but maybe that’s just me getting old and bitter.

So whatever you’re choosing, choose from the middle of the range.

The advocate

“We live in an age in which advocates do not believe in their own advocacy: A ‘planet is doomed’ Al Gore refuses to fly economy; a statist John Kerry won’t pay taxes on his yacht unless he is caught; an anti-war Barack Obama won’t honor the War Powers Act he once deified; and the liberal congressional and media establishment will not put their children in the D.C. schools that are the reification of their own ideology.” — Liberal Frankensteins, by Victor Davis Hanson

True enough, but to be fair there are plenty of conservatives who’d be thrilled for their kids to have good government jobs.

Magic Highway USA, 1958

This imagined highway system of the future has turned out to be mostly stunningly wrong. Instead of enumerating all the things they predicted that we don’t have, here’s what they got right.

  • Some cars have rear-view television cameras, I think. Mine does not.
  • We do more with pre-fabricated bridge components and precast concrete box culverts, so they got that kind of right.
  • There’s GPS, and that is pretty neat.
  • There is way more containerized cargo and inter-modal shipping.
  • And there is the Oresund Bridge, certainly an impressive feat of engineering.