So there I am, trapped between 70+ mph traffic and more 70+ mph traffic in a cloud of smoke. I guess someone called 911 because not only did the police show up, but two firetrucks. Fortunately the smoke was "just" just the oil that didn't drain out onto the ground burning up.
Long story short: They say it would cost $5000 (or $4200 because I'm such a nice guy) to get a new-to-me engine (plus some other work), but since this is a 10 year old car and I have another I can drive I'm thinking I'll pass. The dealer service manager wants to personally buy the car, though--the body is in perfect shape and I suppose he can get a better deal or even fix it himself.
I'll probably buy a Yaris (or, less likely, a Prius) in April when we aren't sending $N/month to Number Two's kindergarten. Just because I can drive the truck to work doesn't mean I want to spend $M/week on gas.
I'm sure The Art Of Electronics (and the Student Manual for same) is truly awesome for someone who already knows the subject and thinks they can judge it objectively, but it's ability to teach to the n00b is severely overrated. I really want to like the book since it's written so well, but it jumps in so fast and with so little explanation it's just impossible learn from.
Oscilloscope prices are crazy. New is totally out of the question ($2000 is a basic starting price). Even used is pretty crazy, with $300 being a typical junker price. So I got an old computer from freecycle (which happened to come with a pristine 17" monitor, omgwtf!) and installed Winscope. It only works in audio frequencies, but that's better than both a) nothing and b) $300.
I put a microphone on it and the Numbers and I had a good time shouting at it to make it wiggle. One lost interest pretty fast, but Two made several discoveries, such as how to make the FFT display move left and right by singing up and down the scale. Later I attached a miniplug to alligator clips and tried to drive it with a function generator. That worked...kind of. I think it will work better once I know wtf I'm doing. Like, what does "trigger" mean?
You may remember the train track AND gate:
The problem with this design is that the state of the switches encodes the bit values and reading those switches with other trains is problematic. The solution, as my officemate and I both realized, is to encode the bit values in the location of the train instead. That is, an AND switch would have 4 inputs (0 or 1 for the first bit and 0 or 1 for the second) and 2 outputs (0 or 1).
After a little messing around and a tiny bit of cheating we were able to design an AND gate that worked this way. I put it together this weekend, using exactly as many switches as our set has, and it worked. I even took pictures but I haven't posted them yet because IAAD.
I'm thinking a smaller-than-N scale train set, especially if it could represent logic gates, would be a great ThinkGeek-type desk toy.
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