Mice and ants and the price of free trade

Machine Design readers came up with several novel complaints and questions regarding mice and ants. Meanwhile, other readers want to scrap free trade and set our economy free.

When mice invade

After spending more than 40 years designing mobile equipment, I would like to suggest that the auto companies devote just a tiny bit of the engineering time they spend on “cupholders” making their cars mouseproof. Every car I have owned has eventually ended up with mice nests in the air cleaner, cabin filter, under the dash, or some other place. They often chew holes in the air cleaner which is not good for the engine. In other instances, I am inundated with mouse-nest parts and droppings when the heater fan switches on. Mice also get caught in the blower fan and have to be fished out. I have also spent many hours trying to discover how they get in and then blocking their access.

In most cases, it is not easy to plug the holes once the car is built. But it should be simple to design components with appropriate grills and protection to prevent the problem in the first place. I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem. When I mentioned it to the car-dealer service guy, he started to tell me about all of his own mouse problems. So, auto companies, get with it.

Phil Quenzi

Maybe get a cat, a certified mouser, for the garage?

Great mileage but . . .

I thought it particularly interesting that many winners of the Progressive Insurance X-Prize of $10,000,000 were recognized for designs that are neither practical nor affordable (“Aerodynamics and Weight Key for Automotive X-prize Winners,” Jan. 13). I love the new technology, ideas, and approaches but they could’ve been more practical and affordable. I make a very good salary (better than 90% of the world’s population). For example, I cannot begin to afford a $110,000 car unless it will last 50 years.

As for the design, what kind of fuel mileage do these new designs get while providing comfort for the drivers and passengers? I live through –50°F Minnesota winters that get even colder with wind chills. How do I stay warm? How do I get through half a foot of snow, slush, ice, and water with hard, high-mileage tires? How do I keep the windows safely defrosted of human breath? And then in the scorching summers, how do I stay cool when I’m buttoned up in a highly fuel-efficient car with no windows and little to no airflow?

Joseph Kilian

Venture your own capital, please

A venture capitalist complaining about delays in receiving government grants (“Why Many New Factories Start up Off-shore,” March 2)? Am I reading this correctly? Don’t venture capitalists use their own money, or at least that of people who give them funds to invest?

Instead of spending taxpayer dollars on corporate welfare programs like this, the entire tax structure should be changed. American companies that manufacture overseas should not be tax exempt, and until this changes, the bleeding will never stop. Domestic manufacturing is the only true source of wealth generation, everything else is a shell game.

Joe Bonasses

A head-scratcher of a problem

I work in a physiology laboratory and we would like to accurately measure the force generated by the leg of an immobilised ant, dorsal side down. Any suggestions of the proper piezosensitive transducer and its amplification unit?

George Theophil

Getting out from under free trade

Reading your editorial (The Dark Side of Free Trade,” Nov. 4) reminded me of an excellent article on the perils of running trade deficits written eight years ago by Warren Buffett. (Search the Web for “Squanderville versus Thriftville”.) He called for the implementation of what he called Import Certificates (ICs). Simply put, to import a product, you need to buy an IC, which is created when a company exports a product. If there is a trade surplus, the ICs are worthless. But when there is a trade deficit, ICs would have a trade value. His ideas are as relevant today as they where in 2003.

We need manufacturing in the U. S. because as the referenced editorial points out, it is the only real source of wealth (other than farming and other extraction industries). Also, there is a social aspect to the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U. S. — not everyone is cut out to be an “information worker.”

Mark Hagen

We’ve legislated a decent standard of living for ourselves that includes minimum wage laws, environmental protections, and social security. And that’s a good thing. However, we let products come into our country from places that do not adhere to similar standards. The simplest answer would be to hold the companies in other countries that bring the goods into our country — WalMart, GM, Hyundai, GE, or whomever — to the same standards we demand of domestic manufacturers, and exact the same penalties for violating those standards.

We cannot, nor should we, impose our standards on anyone else in the world. However, we can hold those who choose to do business in our country responsible for upholding them.

Kevin Boron

I started disagreeing half-way through the first sentence of the column (A Mandate to Revitalize Manufacturing,” Jan. 13). What America needs is for the government to stop deciding what America needs and let capitalism do its job. The government’s job is to level the playing field. For example, if a country has lower (or no) minimum wage, a tariff should be added to “level” the field. If their environmental laws are lax, a tariff should be added to bring the costs up to our own. I fail to see how a bunch of bureaucrats are going to direct our economy in any meaningful, positive way. Isn’t that what the Soviets tried from 1917 through the 1980s? How’d that work out?

David Leahy

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