Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Snow, Birthday and Now Sickness

Well it's been a fun few weeks.

Henry plays with lego.

Felice, Henry and Max enjoy the snow. It snowed about 2 inches, and lasted about a day.

Max's first snowball.

Henry turned 4, Max helped blow out the candles. We had a bunch of kids over who ran around like maniacs.

Max enjoys chocolate cake.

Nebiy has a levitating hat.

Now we all have colds, except Henry. Felice has the worst of it as she is working all her weekends at the Holiday market, and I have it nominally better taking care of the kids. Max does not like being sick and has been unpleasant about it - think a sick terrible twos and you get the idea. We think everyone may be on the mend now, although the end is not yet in sight.

The snow was wonderful, it is rare for snow to come so early and it fell in the middle of the week which worked out schedule-wise for us. The boys built a snowman (a somewhat dirty and leaf encrusted snowman) and I had fun pelting Henry with snowballs.

Henry's party was a success, and we now have even more toys underfoot.

Hugh Putnam, who ran the summer camp (South Pond Cabins) I went to as a child, has died and I found his obituary interesting. He was the kind of guy who always made you feel lazy, as he was always working hard chopping wood and doing chores.

For some reason I was surprised to learn that Leslie Charteris , author of the Saint, was 1/2 chinese, enough that the Chinese exclusion act applied to him when he tried to get US residence.

For you WW2 buffs, the Defense of Britain project.

South Bend lathe history.

Kinematic Models for Design Library

David laserscanner, open source 3D laser scanning. I need to get a laser now.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More Photographic Genius

Henry asked to come along to Kent's weekly open shop night a couple of weeks ago, and took some pictures, captions, as always, by Henry:

"Kent, he has a shop."

"George, I like him."

"It's a big thing."



"A big machine. Kent is hiding."

"It's wood."

"Kent, his cup."

We're fully in Holiday Market mode now, Felice will be out working from early in the morning until around 7:30 every night over this long weekend and I'll be going nuts with the boys. Saturday there is the local train club's open house, so I can get a hernia lifting Max up to see the trains. It is a great layout though.

I am organizing all of the Legos now, because we have so many that it gets frustrating for all of us trying to find pieces to build anything. I'm not sure how I'll sort them out, but if I can at least separate out all the non-brick parts (windows, wheels, people) it will be a lot easier. I'm hoping it will pay off over the weekend and get Henry involved in some fun building.

I bought the The Unofficial LEGO Builder's Guide and have pretty much read it cover to cover. It's a great primer in Lego technique and planning your buildings (in the sense of things one builds, not buildings per se) I'm hoping to force Felice into reaidng it as she has to spend as much time as I do with the Legos, and she suffers from not having played with them as a child.

As I sort the bricks out, I am constantly using the Brick Separator, a little known tool that will protect your fingernails, teeth and sanity when disassembling Legos. You really need a pair of them (I think I have 6, but because of the huge amount of unsorted Lego, I don't know for certain).

Here is a novel use for an Ipod, from the local paper

Medieval Technology and American History has some fun projects.

Korean Folk Tales read in Korean or English

Midwest Snips, I rarely see their tools in tool catalogs, but they have a number of unique and well made tools (ok, mostly snips).

"The South Bend Lathe Story, What Can We Learn from an ESOP Failure", the new lathe I bought was built during the period described and has a tag on it that says "An Employee Owned Company"

The Nietzsche Family Circus (via Siris) If you like Philosophy Humour...

My cousin Caleb's blog on Kumamoto Buddhist activity during Japan's Pacific War

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Belated Blogging

Well several weeks have passed since my last post. I can't believe that a lazy guy (me) can be so busy. We're working on getting ready for the Holiday Market, I've been stamping out earrings in the hydraulic press for the last few weeks, now I need to punch little holes for the ear wires, and do the finishing. My business keeps on going and I seem to spend a lot of time answering emailed questions in the morning. My 3D modelling work is on a short hiatus, the last few weeks I spent modelling the mechanism to a clicker type ballpoint pen (why? I can't tell you). Do you know how that mechanism works? I do, now.

Henry at the Davis Family Farm pumpkin patch, trying to pick a good pumpkin.

Henry jumping off of the hay castle.

Max amazes himself in front of the corn maze.

Felice, Henry, Max, Nebiy, Yodit and Adam all had a good time.

Max before bedtime.

Henry emphatically drills some holes

Henry shepherds the Alpha Rex robot.

Henry mocks the Alpha Rex.

The Lego NXT robot system is a lot of fun. It's not really intended for (almost) 4 year olds but that's not to say we don't have fun building them together. It's a good way to learn numbers ("I need a beam with 7 holes, Henry") and it might teach patience. Programming will have to wait for Henry to learn to read and write.

If you are thinking of buying it for Christmas, I would say to go for it, but it definitely requires adult input. We've built two of the 4 robots that have instructions, and I have learned how to use the Labview derived software.

The Good:
Pretty good instructions, programming is fairly easy, great group of users and lots of online sources. Technics lego construction is hybrid of regular Lego and Erector set-like construction. Lots of parts come with the kit (but having more Technic parts makes it more fun). You can build fairly complex robots that do cool things. Using the software will guarantee your child can get a job doing electro-mechanical engineering.

The Bad:
Cables are too stiff and too long (there are now aftermarket cables), leading to a messy robot. All but the first robot only have instructions in the software interface, so you have to build it near your (WinXP) computer. The "coolest" robot, the "Alpha Rex", really just shuffles along like the victim of a stroke, and isn't nearly as useful as the basic "Tribot" that you build first.

Overall it is probably one of the coolest toys ever.

In other news, my homepage got hacked on Monday, or rather the earthlink server did. I had it back up immediately (no word from Earthlink though...a customer clued me in) but I did disappear from Google for a few days which gave me several ulcers. I'm back to the same position in searches again, so I guess everything is fine. Darn kids.

Finally, our old friends Stefano and Kathleen now have a webpage up for their espresso machine repair business. If I had an espresso machine (I don't, I use a french press) I'd definitely trust them to take care of it.

More pictures taken by Henry to appear soon...and some more pictures of my new lathe, which is fully in place and able to make chips.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More Pictures By The Artist In Residence

Here's another round of pictures taken by Henry, with his comments and my translations where needed...

"It's Stanley, he's sitting down. "

"Max sitting down, too. I liked that prize." (translation: I liked his surprise)

"Mommy, she's putting garbage in the garbage can. "

"It's the clouds and the sheep." (translation: horses and cows)

"Kent, not working!"

"Different." (Henry was moving a bit fast)

"Kentses hook! Because it was great. "


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Almost Halloween

That seemed an appropriate title, for the first two pictures.

Henry tries his new costume, "Crazy guy with a pull-up on his head, now give me some candy, man"

Max scares us by eating yoghurt.

Max plays a tune.

Henry rides his bike at the base of Bald Hill.

So as you can see, we keep having fun. Henry has taken some more pictures, but we haven't taken them off his camera next - that will be in the next blog post.

My new (to me) South Bend 10K lathe. Felice helped me drag it into the shop today. Not many women would do that for a man. I need to bolt it down, wire up the motor, retrieve one part that got left at Kent's, and start making chips.

The almost perfect ways, notice that the factory scraping is still almost intact. I've been wanting a lathe that didn't have much wear for a while. My Atlas 10" had a huge gouge in the ways and always turned a taper...as well as just being worn out generally. The lathe belonged to Kent's ex-father-in-law, who bought it new in 1977. He only used the lathe to make parts for his perpetual motion machines. By the way, such a device is not generally though of as possible, and his EFL did not actually make anything that worked.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographs

Henry was having a "bad day" (his words) on Friday so I decided to cheer him up by digging out our old digital camera and letting him loose upon the world. Here are the results, with his dictated captions after the fact (a good reminder that children give unreliable testimony in court):

"Max!!! Maxi-mouse was playing"

"He's playing!"

"Going home...go-ing... "

"Skeleton, he didn't do anything. "

"I wanted to print pictures, it is green soda, you can't eat it"

"A garbage can, I wanted to take a picture of it because I love it. "

"Daddy, he's doing some work. "

"Kitty cat, he's sitting! "

"Me! Happy."

Sometimes all it takes to cheer a kid up is to give him new and exciting capabilities. Henry now loves to take pictures and already can turn the camera on and off. He's working on not getting a finger in front of the lens. What I find most interesting is the physical perspective - this is Henry's world, about 3 feet off the ground. The pictures also tell us that he can see dirt we don't see.

Here are some links:
Dave Watkins's Live Steam Page

This Lego robot (PDF) report by a 9th grader who will probably be a millionaire when he grows up. I was blown away by it, it is better than most adult work.

An excellent video Mindstorms NXT tutorial.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Henry started pre-school last week. He enjoys it. Tempus Fugit, blah, blah.

Max says "I can wear a soup bowl as a hat!"

"See! I don't care that it has soup in it, it still works!"

"I am one stylish dude in my soup hat!"

Henry shows a collage he made in pre-school

"I was cleverly hiding this stick behind my collage"

So life continues.

Felice started a much better blog last month, she writes more and is much funnier than I am.
It's part of her "build a buzz about me on Etsy" campaign and has paid off in two pairs of earrings being sold...

I finally spent some of the money lavished on my for my birthday. I bought the Lego Mindstorms NXT. I could lie and say I bought it for Henry and Max, but you would see right through that gossamer excuse.

The plan for today is to build the "Start Here" robot, so called because there is a box labelled "Start Here" that contains the parts for the fist simple robot. We'll see whether Henry can focus enough on it to withstand the boredom of a complex assembly.
Here is the boring Mindstorms official blog and here is another robot blog.

I spent some time last week perusing Corvallis blogs, here's one with lovely nature pictures from around the area.

Here are "Gary's Clocks", PDF downloads of wooden clock plans. Looks like another fun to build project to add to my list.

Lest you think the Continostat is no longer on my mind, I was sent a link to an Ebay auction of a Nupubest, which is a similar contraivance from the same era. I may bid on it...but not too much.

The previous week has been spent milling parts of the secret device, let's just say that 100 arrayed 1.25mm holes would be difficult to drill without a CNC mill. I have again learned a lot through practice. I'm getting closer to being happy with a "Nick will model parts in Rhino for you" page, but I plan on changing many things before I put a link from my main site. Any comments about this first draft of a site would be appreciated. I think the whisk model is terrible. I'm working on an animation of the steam engine model that will be posted as well, if I ever finish it.

Finally, has anyone visited an Ikea store and checked out this chair? It looks good, but I am loath to buy a chair without some sort of review/feedback, and our local Ikea is about 300 miles away.

That's all for now...