March 12th, 2011

#2596: Well, that was exhausting.

I was in bed at 11 PM, and fell asleep reasonably quickly...and slept until 3:30 AM, when I woke up so thoroughly that I knew I'd be wasting time trying to get just one more hour of sleep before the alarm went off at 5.

Got up, intending to make bacon and eggs--spent five minutes searching the fridge for the bacon--made breakfast and ate it, then got ready.

Og came by around 6:30 and we headed south.

Got to #2 perhaps 8:30-ish, and he left me in the care of the owner's son while he went off to do roboty things.

Let me preface this by saying everything looks pretty good there. The people are really nice, the place is not lacking for work (in this economy!) and they need another robotics guy to learn on the job how they do things, and why.

I liked everyone I met there, and I saw some f-ing fascinating things, and overall I think it'd be a pretty good job.

I'm not being critical or anything, but:

That was the strangest interview I've ever been on, I have to say. Owner's son gave me the nickel tour and talked to me about all kinds of things, to the point that we both ran out of stuff to talk about. (I mean, that part was over an hour.) He handed me off to their sole robotics guy, and he gave me the nickel tour again, concentrating on the robots in a more chronological order...and asked me if I had any questions.

I had to say it: "Normally when I'm on an interview, I'm the one answering questions!" when I finally met the owner, we spent perhaps ten minutes with him asking me questions and talking about a bunch of stuff.

The company makes--among other things--knife handles, and throughout this part of the interview he was holding a steak knife that had been left on the conference room table, stropping the blade against his leg, touching the edge with his fingers, etc. It would have been disconcerting (at best) if Og had not beforehand given me a pretty thorough picture of what the guy is like. Him talking in quiet, measured tones, talking about the need for US manufacturing to excel and be better than, for example, the Chinese...while fiddling with a freakin' steak knife. Instead of being intimidated or nervous, though, I was biting my lips to keep from laughing out loud, because the guy was clearly not some kind of lunatic. You don't find many psychos running such successful businesses and this guy is obviously smart and decent. The disconcerting image was incongruous with what I knew about him, both from meeting him and from Og's preparatory remarks, so I had to bite my lips to keep from laughing.

But come on, it's like a freakin' Hollywood caricature from some movie: Guy Who Desperately Needs A Good Job interviews at a place that makes handles for knives and guns (the horror!) and interviews with the owner, who fondles a knife during the interview!

My role, in such a scene, would be to sit there in mute terror, flee at my earliest opportunity, never go back, and denounce them; but this ain't a freakin' movie and I actually thought I'd fit in pretty well there.

Og was working on his robotics stuff while I interviewed, and we ended up spending not quite five hours there. He'd advised me to be prepared to be there until 6, and I had vowed to soldier on regardless of lack of sleep or food; but when he said he couldn't go any farther with his project, sweeter words were never spoken. I was exhausted.

They even fed us. (Well, me, anyway, since Og is doing the Lent thing.) I'd brought food but I wasn't going to turn down a hot meal; and it let me take my suit jacket off and listen to other people talk rather than have to be "on" myself. And the owner told some very interesting stories about when he lived in Africa.

So after lunch I changed out of my suit and into work clothes, and prepared to help Og with his tasks, but he was finished; he was going to show me some of the basics of robot programming but I was too wiped, so we took off.

Got home around 3, and was going to flop, but my blood sugar crashed hard and I ended up eating a bunch of stuff to get it back into the green zone. I mean, I had a ham and cheese sandwich, a can of slim-fast, two bowls of ice cream (not big ones), a twinkie, and a brownie before I finally began to recover.

It has to have been the stress. It was an unusual interview, after all, and I'd done it on 3 hours of sleep. I finally got to bed 12 hours after I woke up, in fact, and slept for five hours.

So: I did not do as well on this interview as I did at #1. However, my aptitudes and skills are fairly well in line with what they're looking for; the owner told me they want to train whoever they hire because of how they do things. So I guess that would look pretty good for me.

On the minus side, it's 100 miles away from the bunker. I'd have to rent an apartment down there, at least to have crash space during the week; but if I'm spending most of my time there, then I'm going to want Internet and my computer and the blab slab and my rocking chair there...and after a while I'll stop coming up here because what am I going to do here without my computer and TV and...?

Property values are pretty depressed around there since Rantoul AFB closed. Finding a good place to live probably won't cost all that much.

The owner asked me what kind of salary I'd expect; I told him I wasn't really all that good at setting salaries but that Rockwell had paid me $XX,000. We'll see how things go, I guess!

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Extra-cool part:

They have a robotics cell set up to do laser engraving. They demonstrated it for Og and I.

So the thing starts up and the robot grabs a part and maneuvers it into the laser's beam aperture; and while the laser does its thing, the part is making this awesome rasping sound--almost a hiss, but not quite.

I knew what it was: the laser is a CO2 laser and it operates silently, but the beam vaporizes the wood it comes in contact with. It vaporizes explosively, though in a very tiny area (the boss' son said it's 400 DPI, so it's a dot about 0.0025 in diameter) and it happens so fast that the wood makes noise.

Og explained it to me, even so.

Even better: a CO2 laser produces its output in infrared, yet where the beam touched wood it was making actinic white light. That light was the black body radiation being emitted by the vaporized wood; the vapor was heated to incandescence. So I explained that part to him, even though he already knew. Heh.

And then, when finished, the robot set the part down and returned to its ready state.

400 DPI is a pretty respectable resolution, and you can change the depth of the cut by leaving the beam on a spot a little longer, or by going back and doing another layer, or some combination. The deepest cuts took two passes.

I have to wonder what kind of input the laser system requires--can it use bitmaps, or is it limited to vectors?--but damn you can do some intricate and awesome things with that equipment.

#2597: See, that's what I thought.

The biggest story coming from Japan is OH NOEZ ITS CHERNOBYL ALL OVER AGAIN and I figured there had to be more to it than that.

Ace has the facts.

Containment has not failed. The part that blew off the reactor building is, essentially, a sheetmetal building atop the actual containment vessel for the reactor. It's there to house the machinery used for servicing the core, and it acts to contain stray radiation when the core is opened (such as when fuel elements are being replaced). The core itself, however, is not open to the environment at this time.

The core is, however, far too hot. The cooling system has failed; the core got so hot that it began producing hydrogen; venting that hydrogen is what caused the destruction of the sheetmetal shack atop the containment vessel.

What we're looking at right now is, in fact, another Three Mile Island, not another Chernobyl.

They say that the area around the damaged reactor is being exposed to radiation "eight times normal" but that only amounts to an exposure of about 800 millirem per year at sea level. (Normal is around 100.) The people living nearby don't even need to skip their next chest x-ray at that kind of exposure level.

If you had camped out atop the failed TMI reactor for the entirety of that event, you would have received a total dose of 1,500 millirem. If you go get an angiogram, you're exposed to more than ten times that amount of radiation, and over a much shorter period.

800 millirem is nothing.

The biggest problem is keeping the core from melting. It's even fine if it melts partially, the way the TMI core did, as long as it stays within the containment building; and the containment building is designed specifically to keep that stuff inside under all but the most dire of circumstances.

What caused the problem? A failure of the flow of coolant. What caused that?

The tsunami inundated the grounds of the plant and contaminated the fuel supply for the emergency backup generators that are supposed to power the cooling pumps in the event of an emergency exactly like this one. The generators ran for about an hour, then quit, and that's when the problems started.

The media, of course, are all reporting this as if someone set off an atomic bomb in downtown Tokyo.


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Rod Adams has it right.

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As for me, I got up after my five-hour nap and got a bacon mofo; now I'm gonna play WoW, at least for a little bit.