Concerning trouble in paradise

I live in Sugarcreek, Ohio, on the border of Holmes County. This was once a tourist destination for the area, a proud Swiss community with a locally run cheese factory, blacksmith shop, steam passenger train, Amish bakery, and crafts stores. But eventually, our cheese factory closed because it could not compete with the Krafts of industry, and we became a small factory town dominated by brick manufacturing. Now, leadership here wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to beautify State Route 39, which passes through Sugarcreek. They seem to think that tourists will return to our village, and all will be prosperous again.

But spending taxpayer's money on beautification projects is not the answer. Creating jobs and not outsourcing to China is the real solution. After all, it takes money to be a tourist — but you first need a good paying job — and those seem harder and harder to find.
Ron Disler
Canton, Ohio
Unfortunately, our city leaders seem to miss the fact that people are drawn to the area not by what is produced, but by how it's produced — locally, using time-proven tools and methods — and who produces it: Locals, often carrying on family traditions. It's the intangible spirit of the community, and the byproduct of their interdependence. — Ed.

I too live a few hours from an Amish community, in the Lancaster County, Pa. area. Over the last 20 or so years, the Amish have been moving out and north to the West Branch Valley of the Susquehanna River, because farmland and taxes in Lancaster have become too expensive. For more on their culture, I recommend The Amish — In Their Own Words, by Brad Igou, who lived and worked with the Amish for a time. As for Pacific-Rim imports, that trend is driven by barons of industry profiting from labor-rate inequities for their own gain. They couldn't care less about the survival of the middle-class American worker.
Jack R. Jones
Hughesville, Pa.

I suggest you share your article Trouble in Paradise with Lou Dobbs of CNN. I think this would make an excellent point of discussion, and highlight just how ridiculous our so-called free-trade policies really are.
L. Rivers

I botanize in Holmes County, and agree with you about the Route 39 zoo. You'll see few Amish buggies around Charm, Berlin, or Sugarcreek — and at Kidron, only on Thursday, which is sale day. But I've found a pocket of Amish people on County Road 175, and I always stop off at a vegetable stand a mile or so south of U.S. 224. Wonderful people. And have you ever seen an Amish flat-belt machine shop? They are amazing.

Anyway, I hope that future columns discuss the Middlefield Amish. I fear that big money will soon buy up all their property in Geauga and Trumbull Counties.
David Gerrick
Lorain, Ohio

Just around (another) corner

I greatly appreciate your efforts in MSD magazine, which I've read since it was PTD. I find your technical and non-technical commentaries to be unusually pertinent to life in an OEM design office.

I write because in the late 1940s, there was a magazine article describing seven ways to transmit shaft power around a corner. I think it would be interesting (and educational) if you published a new study on that subject. One strange arrangement that I do remember, but have never seen commercialized, has several bent pins that engage holes at the ends of two shafts with the same angularity as the pins. When one shaft is rotated, the pins drive the second. During rotation, the pins reciprocate in their holes. In fact, I think that the old article was generally about flexible angle joints; but the bent pin configuration, which impressed me so much, was for a fixed angle …
Gabriel M. Terrenzio
Everett, Wash.
Gabe, we welcome your further input. — Ed.

From the MSD Forum

Posted by Tgage: I saw an error in your September-issue MSD 101 article on brake backlash. Actually, a gear unit divides backlash by the reduction ratio, so one degree at the brake becomes 1/10 of a degree at the reducer output.

Author's response: You're correct. Less backlash at input always makes for less backlash at output, and so less brake backlash decreases output backlash.
Rocco Dragone
Wood Dale, Ill.

Response to Motion Monitor: Good design

Usage mapping and simple ethnography would show that most people only utilize a small number of a given product's features. That's why astute design engineers know how to place primary controls up front, where they are easily understood and accessible, and allow secondary functions to settle below the surface. A good example of this type of design is most of today's digital cameras.

As technology brings increased capability at lower cost, we engineers must strive to design for our end users by understanding them. The alternative is a complex user interface accompanied by a massive user manual.
Andrew J. Barkin
Los Angeles

Who are you calling geek?

I almost take offense to the title of your Newsletter editorial, because most people in my life call on me to set up their new gadgets or tweak them — ha. But I can agree with your overall statement. I work as a motion engineer here in Michigan, selling Emerson/Control Techniques servo equipment to GM, Ford, and Chrysler plants, and their henchmen, prototype shops, and machine builders. I find that it's a full time job keeping up with my full time job, especially when designing equipment to do new things, and trying to find equipment that can be reprogrammed or reconfigured to do what the next generation of new stuff will require. It's almost a Catch 22, because if you don't have it, you can't sell it — but no one knows what's missing until it's imagined first. So to stay on top of the market, you really have to stay on top of technology.
Joe Funsch
Saginaw, Mich.

Do benefits outweigh cost?

Though I am only 22 years old, I find that technology is advancing rather quickly, too quickly, and becoming too user friendly. We are losing are ability to be creative. At work we are going through major computer-network and phone-system updates, and they're consuming much time and effort. What's more, we'll soon have to proceed with more training for it all … which will cost us many man-hours, and, well — time is money.
Kelli Simoneaux
Baton Rouge, La.

Where do designers go wrong? They make products overloaded with complicated, half-designed features included only to out-feature competitors. Where do consumers go wrong? They buy the most feature-rich items they can find, to out-gadget their friends and get their money's worth … generally in that order. Then they barely try to master these features themselves before complaining that everything's complicated nowadays, and running to the nearest nerd they know for help. In one such recent exchange, I connected a TV peripheral that had sat idle for months. Yes, it had ports upon ports, but the TV was older, so connection was easy: Video Out to a Video In port, and (clearly labeled) front, center, rear, and subwoofer ports to the speakers. Also, the TV remote had no Video or Input button, but a quick flip through channels reached the video input stations — not too complicated.

Today's culture is just lacking in patience, and drowning in a sea of useless features that marketing departments want for pretty packaging.
James Cann
Winchester, Ontario