Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Friday, November 30, 2007

For my mother

My mother has been nagging me for ages to buy a bicycle-helmet.

Here it is.

I hope you are happy, Mum!

I don't think my girlfriend will want to be in the same building as me anymore, and let's not start talking about actual physical proximity. I'll be lucky if she even answers her phone!

Sigh. I guess I'll wear it anyway, but I will disavow any responsibility. When people point and laugh (and they will!), I'll be all: "What? What helmet? I've got a helmet? I do! Somebody must have put it there!"

Or maybe I can plead insanity?


Yeah Baby, yeah!

I delayed taking apart PADEX because I had too much fun playing around making deposits - and thanks to my colleague Ben, who knows all about depositing, I now can avoid the pesky powder problem.

The secret is to dilute the acetylene with a bit of hydrogen: And see the result on the right! All those pretty stripes are interference patterns, indicating the changing thickness of the carbon layer. What I want is an uniform layer, i.e. fringes only at the edge of the glass-plate. In this case, the carbon is thinner in the middle, so you can see fringes there as well. This is most probably a gas flow problem, and (hopefully) has nothing to do with the design of the electrode.

La science avance, as we say here in Lausanne!

Update: Played around a bit in post-processing, so now the fringes are easier to see - colours aren't natural anymore, though!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

..and he speaks fluently french

Yesterday I was watching CNN (sometimes by girlfriend forces me to watch telly), when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that former NATO commander General Jones would become her Special Advisor concerning security aspects of the Annapolis peace talks. Anyway, there she was touting his achievements as a soldier, marine, general and whatnot - and then she said proudly: "He also speaks fluently French".

Only in America. Generally, I try not to indulge too heavily in the European past-time of belittling those zany Americans (fat, ignorant, stupid, etc.), because I can count the number of Americans I know personally on the fingers of one hand, and they all were pretty decent guys. But I still think that it is only in the U.S. that you can add speaking a foreign language in the same breath as being a decorated combat veteran and having been the NATO commander - an outstanding achievement. He. speaks. French. Fluently! Gasp!


Powder in Acetylene plasma (Closeup)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Plasma picture #348820, Expensive Equipment

Could be the last for a while, because tomorrow I will be taking PADEX apart to install my new, sweet-ass electrodes.

Oh, and the the matching-box I ruined? No worries at all. It turned out it is pretty cheap, only FREAKING 10 000 EUROS! I am now hiding out in the lab for fear of somebody taking it out of my hide.

And anyway, why is it so goddamn expensive? All that's inside there is two stepping motors, some cheap current and voltage probes, an air-core coil made out of copper tubing and two (admittedly huge) capacitors. It's daylight robbery, thats what it is.

Also, I might be able to extort a replacement board out of our industrial partners. I hope.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fish Lasagne

Last weekend I tried to whip up a fish lasagna à la maison. I thought the combination of fish and spinach would be good (and give you the strength of Popeye and the mental acuity of Einstein at the same time!). And it was, only the lasagna-dough was not cooked through completely, because it was a bit too dry.

Too dry? Thing is, I normally use frozen vegetables for my vegetarian lasagna, because I am lazy. Those produce much water while thawing out in the oven, so you have to be careful to have a real thick béchamel-sauce, or else your lasagna will swim. Accordingly, my béchamel-sauce is normally thick enough to stick to the wall (don't ask), which is not good when you have drained your spinach too much.

Also, next time I will buy better fish than that of the brick variety. Still, I am quite happy that it turned out as well as it did.

Friday, November 23, 2007

How to admit that you are an idiot

Dear Sir or Madam,

we have "inherited" the above mentioned matching network (40,68 MHz, 4kW) from one of our industrial partners. Unfortunately it was damaged when 220V mains power was applied to the 24V power connector by mistake. It seems that the power supply board of the unit is damaged. Would it be possible to order a replacement?

Best regards,
Boris Legradic

New electrodes

Here are my new electrodes. Aren't they sweet? And no, you can't play with them, they are mine. I, unfortunately, cannot play with them neither, and the reason for this is magic smoke. You see, there is a new (and computer controlled!) matchbox that goes with the new electrodes. Or maybe I should say there was. Because yesterday I wanted to try it out. Since it isn't new-new, but rather one of those things inherited from the industry (who like to use affiliated groups like ours as a dumping ground for old equipment), it doesn't come with much in the way of documentation. I had to hunt up a cable for it's weird four-pole plug. I finally found one, plugged it into the mains and hey presto! Instant arcs, flashes and magic smoke goodness. It turns out that those particular kind of cables exist in two different versions: 24V DC and 220V AC. Guess which one I should have picked.

I would like to meet the imbecile who thought it would be a good idea of having one and the same form-factor for two completely different voltages. I am sure it made sense to him at that time, but I still want to punch him in the face.

All is not yet lost - I have a second of those matchboxes, only designed for 27.02 MHz and not 40.68 MHz. But when have I ever let design stop me? I am sure I can adapt it somehow...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Goddammit, I should rename this blog "hypochondriac medical reports". My newest ailment: Lockjaw. And I didn't even come by it honestly (for example defending my girlfriend from rabid Swiss - I would win, of course, but one of them could clip me with an unexpected postmortem spasm), no it just happened - suddenly I can't open my mouth more than two fingers worth. Well I can, but then it hurts, also, it seems to worsen if I do.

That is something strange I have noticed with myself, by the way: Let's say it hurts to wriggle my toes for some reason (actually, it does, but that's because my friend Serge is an evil, evil man who likes to hurt hapless Austrians), what I will proceed to do is sit there obstinately and wriggle my toes. Probably in the vain hope of convincing them to stop hurting, although that presupposes that there is cognition going on. Point in case: I chewed gum yesterday for half an hour before going to bed. What the hell was I thinking? Was I even thinking? Probably not, because my jaw hurt twice as much this morning.

Consequently, tomorrow I will experience the joy that is swiss dentistry. Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Things to avoid in future

*) Trying to hit the upper arm of your opponent with a tao phong cuoc (frontal ascending kick)

It's like this: In Võ Vietnam, the idea is to attack the limbs of your opponent first, because it is more fun to hit somebody who can't hit back anymore because of broken arms/legs. Incidentally, I was dubious whether this would actually work until this weekend, where my friend Igor (yes, he is actually called Igor, but he hasn't got a hunchback or a proclivity for digging out brains. Yet.) from Vevey removed any doubt from my mind by getting his forearm broken during training by the exact same technique.

So the tao phong cuoc is (mostly) used to attack either the forearm or upper arm of your opponent. Attacking the upper arm however, may be a Bad Idea(tm), since this brings up the possibility of a malicious foe (thanks, Serge!) blocking your kick with his elbow. Hence the swelling exhibited on my normally dainty left foot.

Another thing just struck me, when I was typing in the tags: Is it a coincidence that martial is such a close acronym to marital? I think not.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Even more plasma

the generation whereof is not to be detailed. Pretty though, isn't it?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Again with the plasma

That is the discharge responsible for the deposit I showed you on Friday. I cannot give details, because it is all new and secret, but I can show you a few pictures without scale.

Working on this was really fun, because I got to make the electrode myself, just fooling around with aluminium, drills, hammers and whatnot. It is always a real pleasure making something yourself, sticking it into the reactor and actually having it do what you meant it to do. Happens rarely enough....

Friday, November 9, 2007

Out of the rabbit-hole

Long time no post, but regular posting will recommence Monday. I would like to blame work, but then my girlfriend would laugh at me. Yes, she is that cruel ;).

Anyway, here is my first deposit - just some carbon laid down in a dirty Acetylene discharge to prove a concept. The black blob in the middle of the interference-patterns is powder generated in the discharge - hence the "dirty"