Roll Your Own Mask #3

By Erik Dolson

Okay, this is my favorite so far.

An article in Business Insider described how three women who know fabric were appalled that people, including health care workers, were wrapping T-shirts around their heads as a mask against the coronavirus.

Lindsay Medoff and Heather Pavlu of  Suay Sew Shop in Los Angeles, and friend Chloe Schempf, bought a $1,400 particulate-counter device and actually tested out various potential mask materials. They discovered that blue shop towels actually have good level of resistance to particles like the coronavirus.

So, I have abandoned furnace filters in my quest for the best mask we can easily make at home. Too expensive, too complicated. But I’ve kept some of the things I’ve learned, such as, pleats allow masks to conform to our face. And, tying a bow in string behind your head in Costco is far too complicated for a man, although I have no doubt a woman could do it in 7 seconds.

But this new mask is very easy and inexpensive to make, and therefore disposable, a requirement of mine. Here’s what you need: Shop towels, string, rubber bands (4), and scissors.

 

I lay one shop towel on the counter and put another one on top of it at right angles, so the perforations that allow us to easily tear the towels apart are not lined up on the two sheets. Then I folded in the pleats. For me, it was easiest to flop the towels over for each pleat, which are about one ince wide.

When I was done pleating, I wrapped rubber bands tightly around each end, with another rubber band fed under. I pulled one end of the second rubber band through itself.

I then cut a piece of string about the width of the mask, and tied it to the ends of the rubber band loops.

I pushed on the center of the mask which gives it shape, and then put over my head, with the string above my ears.  I pull the bottom of the mask under my chin, and the top across the bridge of my nose.

On my mask, I also folded a piece of coated wire into a pleat and bent it down to bring the mask tight to my nose, but I don’t like putting a piece of wire close to my eyes and think there is probably a better solution.

Another improvement might be to use the wide elastic that “professional” masks use instead of string and rubber bands, but one goal of the project was to use items easily found, and this mask fits well.

Remember, this mask is a kludge, and you should use a proper N95 mask if you have one available. But if you can’t find one of those, or have decided to donate that mask to a nurse, a cop, a doctor, or the person who sells you groceries, then perhaps the Blue Moon mask could help you from getting sick with COVID-19, or prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to someone else.

Roll Your Own Mask, #2

By Erik Dolson

My local hardware store carries pleated furnace filters. The highest grade of these claims to have a pore size of .1 to .3 microns and be able to filter viruses. So I bought one and tore it apart, getting rid of the metal screen on both sides.

Then I cut a piece a little larger than the width of two of my hands with about seven (7) full pleats.

I wrapped a rubber band tightly around one end, and then another rubber band tightly around the other end.

Then I cut two pieces of string about double the width of one of my hands.

I fed one end of one string under a loop of one of the rubber bands, and then tied the two ends of the string together with a square knot. I did the same to the other end of the mask.

Done.

I opened the pleats, which turned the mask into a small “bowl” shape or half dome and put the mask on. I had to adjust one of the strings around my ear for a better fit, and I was finished.

I like this mask. It takes very little time to make, is disposable, should provide adquate coverage and protection. I read that some are recommending Tyvek, the white plastic they use now to sheathe houses before installing the final siding, as a filter. The furnace filter does feel like Tyvek, but I have no idea about relative effectiveness.

In fact, since I have no way of testing, I have no idea how effective my new mask is going to be. There are no guarantees.

But it fits, is easy to wear, cheap and disposable, and I’m going to leave the N-95 masks for health care workers, cops, grocery story clerks, post office employees and delivery people — those who make “shelter in place” possible for the rest of us.

Roll Your Own Mask #1


 

By Erik Dolson

There’s growing support for all of us to wear masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but N95 masks are hard to find and the ones available should probably be reserved for nurses, cops, doctors, grocery clerks and post office employees — you know, people who keep the wheels turning.

So I was looking online for DIY Covid-19 masks, and there were many good ideas. Some were more complicated than others, and some you wouldn’t want to throw away. I thought the best mask would be easy, cheap, and disposable, so I made one. I call it the “Opus.”

Here’s what I did.

one full size paper towel
two #4 cone coffee filters
two longish rubber bands
Tape
string
scissors
hole punch (optional)

Fold the two bound edges of one coffee filter about an eighth of an inch (one mm) from the pressed seam.

Put this filter inside the unmodified filter so that it fits exactly.

Run pieces of tape over the two pressed seams of the outside filter from one side to the other. This is to reinforce these pressed seams, which are not very strong. I went lengthwise, and then added two more pieces of tape, overlapping the first, on each side to further strengthen the outer cone.

Punch two holes all the way through the nested filters about an inch and a half from the wide end and through the tape (you did put enough tape there, didn’t you?) I also reenforced with those little circles you can buy at stationary stores. The tape might be adequate.

Put a rubber band through each hole. (See all the tape?)

Cut four pieces of string, about the length from elbow to extended finger tips. Tie a string to each end of the two rubberbands.

“Flag fold” a paper towel so that forms a triangle, a cone when opened (great in a coffee emergency if you’re out of filters).

Fold the pointy end of the paper towel triangle up so it will fit snugly inside your coffee filters. Tape point to itself. Push towel into the mask, and trim the excess off the wide end, maybe leaving just a little extra. You choose..

Put the mask on, and tie the “top” strings that are attached close to your nose down and behind your neck. Tie the “bottom” strings up, above your ears to the top back you your head. Make both fairly tight.

Adjust for good, snug fit. You can use paper towel trimmings to prevent air leakage on either side of your nose.

I had no way to test, have no idea what particle size will make it through all three layers, and offer no guarantees. I do know when the mask fits well, air goes through the three layers and not around, because the mask will flex on inhale and exhale. When N95 masks become available, those are what you should use.

In the mean time, my “Opus Mask” may keep you from getting the virus, or sharing your virus with others.

~ Erik

 

 

Why bailout stalled

By Erik Dolson

Republicans are using the national pandemic to enrich themselves and their friends. Democrats want to help Americans. It’s about that simple.

Trump wants to put Steve Mnuchin in charge of distributing bailout money. Mnuchin, formerly of Goldman Sachs, the company at the center of “Main Street bails out Wall Street” during the Great Recession. (see photo of Mnuchin and wife above — Chicago Tribune)

Mnuchin thinks economic health starts with big business in New York. The rest of us are expendable. Under his plan, how much money will go to Trump family hotels?

Need another example of Republican priorities? After receiving inside information that the economy was in trouble, Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, (whose husband is chair of the New York Stock Exchange) appear to have sold massive amounts of stock while reassuring America that everything was okay. 

Everything is not okay, especially because of the Republican party of oligarchs and plutocrats. This pandemic is worse because of their actions and inaction.

Democrats want to give relief to ordinary people who are out of work, those worrying how to pay rent or make house or car or insurance payments. Democrats want to make sure these people have sick leave so they don’t spread the virus. Democrats want to help Americans see a doctor!

Trump did not cause the Corona virus, but his policies and those of the Republican party have made the consequences much worse for the working men and women of America.

Those Trump insulted for the last three years — scientists, the Federal Reserve, and yes, bureaucrats, are trying to help average Americans survive.

They know their duty is to all of America, not just padding the lives of the top 1 percent.

Boeing rot again on display

By Erik Dolson

Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun has now stepped in another large pile of his own deposit. Think of it as interest on the Boeing’s inheritance from General Electric (G.E.). Just more of the same from the plane maker.

Calhoun was trained by G.E. Chairman Jack Welch, who died last week. Welch was known as “Neutron Jack,” nicknamed after neutron bombs that killed people but left buildings intact. The Welch style of management was ruthless, including termination of 10% of all employees every year.

This had consequences for morale. Several recent Boeing CEOs were from G.E. or heavily influenced by that company. Morale at Boeing suffered, as well.

Boeing’s Calhoun was quoted in an interview that appeared in the New York Times last week as laying the blame for Boeing failures on previous CEO Dennis Muilenberg. “If anybody ran over the rainbow for the pot of gold on stock, it would have been him,” Calhoun said. The problems at Boeing, he said, “speaks to the weakness of our (former) leadership.”

What Calhoun failed to say, possibly because he is incapable of it, was that as an important outside board member, his leadership was part of that weakness as yet another alumnus of General Electric, touted during the 80s and 90s as the zenith of corporate capitalism. In fact, the Welch legacy may be turning out to be a failure when not implemented by Welch.

Growth at all costs, huge payouts based on stock price, and ruthless cutting of costs (talent and expertise) in the effort to increase profits (and bonuses for management) may have resulted in destruction at Boeing and other companies where Welch protoges landed after drinking the G.E. Kool-aid.

That beverage also involves public relations at the expense of honesty. Last month, Calhoun said that emails and texts between Boeing test pilots lamenting the build quality and training of pilots on the 737 Max represented a problem with emails and texts, not the airplanes themselves or culture at the company.

It should be noted that Calhoun stands to receive a rather large fortune if he can quickly get the 737 Max approved by the FAA  and flying again.

Denying that the communications between pilots accurately represented a crumbling corporate culture, where engineering decisions were overruled by managers under the gun to cut costs, frightened they might lose thier jobs if they failed to do so, Calhoun said the emails and texts would stop.

How reassuring.

Now, Calhoun has turned on the top managers of Boeing that he supported while he was a crucial board member and they were putting profit ahead of safety.

And he has implied it was the fault of pilots who were overpowered by software that flew two of his jetliners into the ground, software that did not exist on aircraft they were trained on. These pilots apparntly did not read the fine print in manuals that accompanied the new planes. Shame on them.

The loss of 348 lives had nothing to do with greed and failure to provide adequate instrumentation and training.

His hand in the till while he is cracking the whip, Calhoun has defended his salary and is in full CYA mode, rather than being accountable. This is the G.E. way when followed by men other than the admittedly brilliant Jack Welch, who was dealing with a fat corporation in another era.

The leadership at Boeing is still in denial, which means the company has not yet hit bottom. This is not over. Even NASA recently suggested that agency no longer trusts the company.

Small wonder. Boeing will not recover until the company redevelops the honesty required to admit and then publicly correct rot caused by 40 years of misdirected leadership. Boeing builds airplanes. Airplanes need to be safe, not just profitable.

There was another capitalist icon of the 1980’s era who seems to have been forgotten in recent decades: W. Edwards Deming, who was essential to the rise of Toyota and other Japanese automakers. Like Welch, Deming was a believer in statistics and process control, and the elimination of defects in manufacturing.

But Deming also advocated team building (rather than cutthroat competition among fellow employees), distribution of responsibility and accountability (as opposed to top management collecting absurdly valuable stock options via intimidation), and listening to those actually doing the work (as opposed to firing or smothering dissenting voices).

Calhoun has to go. He is not the man for this job. No graduate from G.E.’s school of abusive management is. Perhaps Boeing could lure Dan Davis, former director of Motorsports for Ford Motor Company, out of retirement for a couple of years. Davis has a resumé and a style that Boeing needs about now.

Back to where we started

By Erik Dolson

It took a few hours but Foxy is mostly ready to make the trip up the Strait of Juan de Fuca tomorrow. Leaving Victoria is melancholy, like having dinner alone in a favorite restaurant, but we’ll be back in a couple of weeks, a month, or later in the year. It’s hard to say, there are too many factors not under my control. I’m trying to focus on what I can control and adjust to outcomes that will be what they will.

I’d like to get out of here about 7 a.m., which means 8 a.m. and I have no clue why but that’s been the case for years when starting out. It’s weird, but I’m rarely late for an arrival. But if I’m going to beat what looks like pretty strong currents against us when we arrive at Guemas Channel, an early departure is a must.

Or I’ll lay over in Friday Harbor. It’s good to have a backup plan.

The tool bag is up in the cockpit, sails are uncovered, jib sheets run. No, I don’t plan on sailing and weather for tomorrow looks calm. But the sails are my back-up propulsion in case of engine failure.

My buddy Roy gave me a good lesson the day he signed me off as competent to be out there. He sent me forward to untie the sail cover when Foxy was heaving through pretty high chop. I learned it’s hard to hold on and at the same time use both hands to untie even simple knots. Some tasks are better wrapped up when it’s calm and Foxy’s tied to the dock.

Especially when single handing.

Even so, I’ve probably forgotten some things and made decisions that could come back to bite me. The dinghy motor is still on Foxy’s transom. Mounting it on the dinghy is a tough job by myself — I’ve done it, which is why I know. So, while I made sure the dinghy is inflated in case I need a life boat, I’ll depend on oars if I do. Which reminds me, I need to charge up the hand-held radio because using oars in the Strait of Juan de Fuca seems just ridiculous.

But jack lines are tight from bow to cockpit, my harness and life vest are on the cushions above along with my heavy weather coat. I’ll practice with the somewhat-new radar and the Automatic Identification System tonight, though I doubt the radar will be required. Still, better to have a handle on it.

It’s been five months since Foxy’s been off the dock. This is our first trip of 2020. It’s not far — we (that would be Foxy and me) are just headed back to friends at Marine Servicenter in Anacortes where she was recommissioned four years ago. Or was it five? She needs another couple coats of anti-foul paint on her hull, we’ll grease and check the Maxprop, enlarge a through-hull for a new water speed sensor. Maybe reroute some plumbing. Maintenance that can only be done on the hard.

Then we’ll splash and either head back to Victoria or maybe just to the buoy at Friday Harbor. Wherever we are on the water, that will be home for at least as long as we’re there.

Trump x 2 = 0

By Erik Dolson

Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Proving he is a loathesome creature (nut doesn’t fall far from the tree), a tweet by Donald Trump Jr. about Senator Mitt Romney’s vote to impeach Donald J. Trump Sr. shows junior’s complete lack of ethical or logical constraint.

Romney had carefully explained his religion-based decision in the Senate. No one can doubt that Romney is a man of faith. But DJTjr. chose instead to substitute his own explanation, that Romney was “bitter” that he would never be president. This is no less than saying a man is a liar about his relationship with God.

Of course, DJTjr. has no logical basis for believing he knows Sen. Romney’s intentions better than Sen. Romney, except a twisted Trumpian view of the world. But logic has never been a Trump family trait.

This classic Trump malignancy, like father like son, puts on display a vile moral emptiness that damages not the intended victim but the fabric of our society.

Of course, Romney did lose the election in 2012, but probably by a smaller margin than Trump if he’d had to run against Obama. Crowds at inauguration don’t lie.

Good God, Democrats

by Erik Dolson

Seriously? This is the best Democrats can do? Goddamnit.

Where in hell is the wicked smart, 50 to 60 something, experienced enough, visionary, charasmatic man or woman (I really don’t care) to lead my America into the next half century of challenges that face us all?

Hey DNC! Don’t you watch TV or the movies?! There’s your prototype. Find a Martin Sheen or Louis-Dreyfus! Look at the GOP! Their two most popular presidents were a “B” grade movie actor and a reality TV star! Can’t you figure it out?! Liberal bona fides don’t matter. The filters are too fine.

You have the most unpoular president in recent history, one who didn’t win the popular vote and hasn’t gathered many more supporters after three years in office. You have tremendous issues to run on, and, in Clinton and Obama, two of the best politicians to advise you. Why can’t you figure this out!?

You bumbling party incompetents are going to put up a candidate to lose against a man most people recognize as deranged, who is harming America, using the constitution to clean himself and to whom you will give another four years because you can’t find, across all this great land, a woman or a man who inspires, a leader around whom Americans can come together?

Then your system is broken. It is designed to fail in some fundemental way. Please, please, fix this before it is too late.

Boeing may need a hug

by Erik Dolson

Boeing has released information to airlines on how to convince customers and crew that the 737 Max planes are “safe” after two crashed, killing 346 people. One point made was that passengers are more emotional than rational:

“Every interaction with an anxious passenger, whether face-to-face or online, is an opportunity to demonstrate our care and concern,” the presentation said. “This is as simple as recognition of a passenger’s state of mind. Research shows that emotions drive decision-making, so a human connection will be more effective than rational appeals.” 

Perhaps Boeing should focus on fixing the planes and telling the truth, rather than manipulating emotions. 

Most aircraft fly in a “balance” of forces acting on wings and tail that rotate the plane around the “center of lift.” At any given speed through the air, wings push up with a certain force, and the tail pushes with a different force. Change the speed of air over wings and the balance will change, the plane will rotate up or down, finding a new equilibrium.

If the nose rises too far and the angle of the wing to the air flow (angle of attack) is too great, the wing will stop flying. This is called a “stall.” Usually, the main wing will stall before the tail, which will cause the nose to drop, the angle of attack to improve, airspeed to increase, and the wing (and plane) plane can start flying again.

Boeing put new engines on the 737 Max, but had to move them forward on the wing. Engine pods have their own lift. Being farther forward, there was more of a “lever arm” of lift from the engines, and this changed the balance between wing and tail, especially at high angles of attack.

It’s possible that the new configuration allowed the main wing to have more lift and not stall before the tail. If the main wing does not stall before the tail, neither wing nor tail can provide control. The airplane could fall out of the sky.

Or, it’s possible that at a certain angle of attack, lift from the engine pods might overwhelm the control of the tail surfaces, causing the nose to suddenly flip up.

In designing the plane, one solution would have been to change the wing. But a new wing would have required new certification, higher costs and delay. So Boeing installed the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software that prevented the plane from approaching extremely high angles of attack.

In most planes, including the older 737s, if a plane’s nose drops one of the first things a pilot will do is pull back on controls to bring the nose up and increase power to gain more lift from the main wing. This appears to have happned in the two tragedies.

But changes Boeing made to the behavior of the new planes were not highlighted, nor were recovery procedures if the software was misbehaving. In those situations, pilots had to turn off the new software before they could regain control of their airplane because the software pushing the nose down was stronger than pilots.

It appears pilots of the two doomed 737 Max planes did not know this because Boeing did not want airlines to have to retrain pilots to fly the new Max. This would have increased airline costs and made the new plane less competitive, so Boeing downplayed the impact of the software and did what they could to avoid calling attention to this new characteristic, both with their airline customers and the FAA.

Boeing also included a single angle-of-attack sensor as standard equipment on the 737 Max, despite being required by military buyers to install three sensors. Airbus planes also have three sensors. The reason for three is that if two sensors disagree, which one is right? Boeing said the pilots themselves would be the “redundant” system, unless airlines wanted to spend the money on an additional sensor. Add-ons were a profit center for the plane maker.

One has to think that if Boeing, one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, could fix this issue with a software tweak that would have been done long ago, and 737 Max planes that were piling up before Boeing ended production a couple of weeks ago would be on their way to customers. Why hasn’t this happened?

One guess is that a software tweak won’t fix a fundamental problem with the plane and the placement of the new engines. Will it still fly if computer systems failed, the MACA system was not there to babysit, and the plane encountered a condition of extremely high angle of attack where lift of engine pods destabilized the plane to the point of loss of control?

Would a plane built to those specifications be allowed to fly passengers?

If not, remember that Boeing believes “a human connection will be more effective than rational appeals.” The company may need a hug.

(I welcome comments on this topic by professional pilots, especially test pilots and/or aeronautical engineers)