Trees, Trees, and No Trees

Loggers hard at work, clearing enough ground to build a road and level part of the mountain.

This photo is epic, considering the perspective of two youngsters overlooking that much mountain and trees and streams and huge equipment that looks like toys.

(Epic, adj, Surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size”)

A view up the hill from the bottom.

And lastly, a view north where the road is planned to come in.

Felling a tall hardwood tree with Lofty Heights Logging, LLC.

UPDATE: Lofty Heights Logging LLC. Now has a website!

Lofty Heights Logging hard at work clearing some ground for us.  In this 1 minute video, you can see a tree go down.  In person, the whipping sound made by the twigs was impressive, and the crash when it impacted the ground sounded almost like an explosion. If you are anywhere near the Altoona, PA area and need any timbering, logging, or tree cutting, I highly recommend you call Earnest Ebersole at (814) 201-0331.

Detailed Assembly of Rubber Band Gun M6-002 to M6-005

A few photographs of our assembly of M6-002 to M6-005…

It all started by laying out all of the pieces for each assembly.  Quite a few when you add them all up.  Pictured below are the parts for 4 assemblies.  Receiver, Pins, Actuator, Hammer, Trigger, Washers, Springs, Bolts, and Nuts, along with some tape to hold the loose pins in (temporarily).

Refer to for more information on each piece.

Here is the receiver.  Note, the two small holes beside each other.  This is to allow for an adjustment to spring tension if needed.

These springs are tough little guys.  ~ 9 pounds per inch, with a max travel of just over 1/2 ” (if I recall correctly).  They also cost $1.29 each in quantities of 100+.

In order to use them, I needed to snip the closed loop open on one end.

Following this, the springs were hooked onto the actuators.

Using dowel pins, we placed the actuators and springs into the receiver…

… separated by red, hard fiber washers.  These washers have a very tight thickness tolerance, which is needed in this application.

Once the actuator was in place and the springs fully connected, we inserted the hammers.

The hammers had more room for spring stretch, so we opted for a cheaper, longer stretch spring (about $0.50 each in small qty).

The most interesting, and hardest to machine piece in the assembly is the trigger.  Due to an error in machining, the trigger hole was drilled to just 0.250 inches, instead of the 0.1875 the drawing called for.  I purchased a 0.2503″ reamer (accurate to +/- 0.0001″ (yes, a ten thousandth of an inch).  This made the trigger fit perfectly on the dowel pins (but only after blowing the dust out!).

Another view of the trigger.  Notice the step in the aluminum… This is what causes one hammer to release before the other.

I chose stainless steel screws to hold the mechanism into the wooden stock, although other methods could be employed.  Plus, I just like close up photographs, so I included this one.

Here are the four assemblies finished.  The tape is placed over any loose pins to keep them from falling out.  The wooden stock will retain them firmly, similar to the design of a Ruger 10/22.

A close up shot of the receiver.

And the excellent helpers…

Now we just need to make several more stocks!


Some thoughts on education and school

A couple of thoughts for thinking about…  Perhaps the whole premise of “school” as we know it is incorrect?

  • Learning is focused on K-12, plus an additional 4-8 years of college.  Then what?
  • The academics themselves have taken a front row seat.  At best, academics should be a tool to learn the things you need in life.
  • What is the main point of general education?  Whatever a competent adult needs to live an effective and productive life should be the main goal of non-specialized education.
  • This has little to do with many of the subjects that are so extensively taught, and much to do with subjects that are not little taught.

The saying “begin with the end in mind” needs applied. If you were to ask the typical person “why kids go to school”, you would get many varied answers.  Some legit, and some stupid, but I guess there would be little consistency between answers.

If you told the average adult that they need to spend the next 16 years of their life, 40 hours per week, doing a job that does not pay, doing things that they do not want to do, and having no physical end result… what would they say?  That is 1/5 of the average human life, and regardless of what you are doing, there had better be a really good reason for it.

Every learning activity should have a “end in mind”.  I think a lot of kids are also confused about why they are put through so many grueling tasks, when they have more interesting things to do.  Let’s break it down into basics…

  • Learn to Read -> so you can learn and understand things
  • Learn to Write -> so you can communicate with others
  • Learn Arithmetic -> so you can “figure” problems out
  • Learn History -> so you do not repeat the bad parts
  • Learn Government -> so you can be an effective part of it
  • Learn Language -> so you can communicate more widely
  • Learn Science -> so you understand life around you
  • Learn Physics -> so you can keep your car on the road
  • Learn Accounting -> so you can handle finances in all areas of life
  • Learn Management -> so you can handle the projects life gives you
  • Learn Attention to Detail -> so you do not drop the ball in life
  • Learn Health -> so you are able to maintain a healthy body

And so on…

If the learning is not producing the correct end result, then why waste huge amounts of time and money and life?

There need to be fundamental changes in the way leaning is handled.  Anyone with experience should know that experience cannot be taught, that experience is valuable, and that experience comes only with doing.

Therefore, the goal of education should be to impart experience.  In doing this, bookwork should be reduced, and practical projects should be emphasized.  The end goal being to impart enough experience in enough areas that the student can live life without making the huge blunders that so many people have made.

But once “graduated”, this process of learning should not stop.  In our culture, I am not aware of a place where diverse and experienced people gather to teach to those who wish to learn.  Such a mechanism was outlined in two excellent books (IIRC): “The Man who Counted”, and “The Richest Man in Babylon”.
Quite frankly, the distinction between “student” and “adult” is a flaw in the way our culture thinks.  Learning should never stop, neither should structured learning.

You can force a horse to water, but not make him drink.  You can force a child to school, and not make him learn.  And even if you do force him to learn, you will diminish his desire to learn.  Everyone is different, headed to a different path in life, and their education should reflect that.  But the best thing one can learn is the art of leaning itself.

In summary, I would like to see:

  1. Free learning centers where wise people gather to pass their knowledge and experience on to willing ears who hear.
  2. A culture that promotes the above, values wisdom, and makes learning a center of culture (rather than TV, for example).
  3. Parents who teach the above, teach their children, and form a belief in their children that learning is valuable and to be sought.  Instead of school M-F.
  4. Only part time teachers, teaching the things they heavily practice in real life.  Engineers teach math, writers teach writing, editors teach spelling, historians teach history, accountants teach accounting, scientists teach science, doctors teach health, etc…
  5. People are certified in their knowledge of general areas + specific areas by the successful execution of a challenge, teaching, or test that is a real life project, or if not, as close as possible.  Similar to how Doctorate programs are currently structured, but much more diverse.

Following such an excellent general education, colleges could be far more focused on specialized knowledge needed for different fields.

While much of this may be difficult to achieve in our current culture, there are aspects which I have implemented already in our school program.  My 3rd grader writes a real letter on real paper to a real person every day (bank teller, store owner, librarian, machine shop owner).  This has several side effects:

  1. it builds his reputation
  2. it teaches him to read, write, and spell in a very practical way
  3. it teaches him to communicate
  4. it blesses many people

Likewise, the students needed flashcards so they could memorize the arithmetic tables…  Rather than purchasing them, I had them create the cards themselves.  Many good effects:

  1. Very effective learning
  2. Penmanship
  3. Organization
  4. Diligence and Patience
  5. A physical “end product” of their education

I have specifically focused extensively on reading and writing under the premise that: “if they can effectively communicate, they can learn anything.”


How to force-drop a postgresql database by killing off connection processes

Ever need to drop a postgresql database, but it would not let you because there are open connections to it (from a webapp or whatever)?

Quite annoying.  If on a production server, and other databases are being used, restarting postgresql is a last resort, because it generates downtime for your site (even if small).

I finally took the time to scratch around and find the answer.

As a super user, to list all of the open connections to a given database:

select * from pg_stat_activity where datname='YourDatabase';

As a superuser, to drop all of the open connections to a given database:

select pg_terminate_backend(procpid) from pg_stat_activity where datname=’YourDatabase’;

Or for 9.x, change `procpid` to `pid`

select pg_terminate_backend(pid) from pg_stat_activity where datname='YourDatabase';

Here are some references to the functions: