Day 57: How to Impress a Tech Girl

To understand what happened today, you need to know this:

My muse has a mechanical engineering degree. She loves machines. Big ones. She actually worked for a while in a truck engine factory, and can usually tell you an engine’s manufacturer by listening to it run.


Here she is flirting with a combine the size of a house.

So today I’ve got a surprise for her. The Long Now Foundation has invited us to an event called MechaniCrawl. It’s a tour along the North shore of San Francisco of, well, machines.

First stop is the Long Now office. If you think this looks like an interesting place, I think you’re right. One of their main projects is a clock designed to run accurately for ten thousand years.

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There are very few things in the world that I genuinely covet. Here’s one of them:
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The Rosetta Disc is a few inches in diameter, and stores writing in over a thousand languages, with no electronics. The messages (all 15,000 pages of them) are visibly etched into the surface of the disc. The spiral words around the edge provide a clever hint to some future person who might find the disc. As the letters get smaller, you need stronger magnification to read them. At 1,000-to-1 magnification, you can read the whole thing. The disc is expensive enough that I probably won’t ever own one, but I really like it.

The next place I take her is the USS Pampanito. It’s a submarine which managed to survive World War II, where so many others did not.

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The machinery is amazing, especially the all-mechanical control systems. It looks like 20 people would feel pretty cramped in here, but the crew size was 80.

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Next is the real reason we came. The SS Jeremiah O’Brien is open, the crew is on board, and the engine is running. This 1943 ship is still fully operational.

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Brunette likes big engines. Smart boy likes brunette. Now you see.

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I name this wrench Excalibur.

This engine is so big that you literally walk around inside it while it’s running. The rules are serious:

  1. Everything is hot
  2. If it’s moving, don’t touch it.
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The crew is great fun to talk to. The only challenge is the temperature. The engine room has us both overheating, but we’re having a great time.
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At night, Jeff is headlining a show called Cross Platform Comedy, specifically filled with geek jokes and a geek audience. My muse and I park on a couch and try not to pass out from laughing. We made it, but just barely.

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Random assertion: The more elegant a machine’s design, the longer it will run.

Steganographic data: 1850/7.4

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Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 4:53 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What an awesome day. Smart boy, that Eric! 🙂

  2. Good to see you albeit briefly at the Jeff’s show! Sorry I couldn’t stick around… Let’s hang soon 🙂


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