The Big Think

June 19, 2015

Skirt Work

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 9:57 pm

More work on the skirt. I thought this would take me a few days but it’s turned into over 3 weeks of design, redesign, cut, recut, mistakes, and remakes. I was pretty frustrated tonight when I tried to use the Alumaloy I got in the mail. That stuff stinks. After applying it (correctly, I might add), I put it under just a little bit of pressure and it snapped. Definitely a no-go. Plus, it made a globby mess on the outside of the skirt that I had to sand with a flap sander to remove. Yuck. I did manage (after creating a big mess) to fill the hole created by the welding mistake from last week, though, so there’s that. Still, the Alumaloy was a $17 dead end. Oh well.


So I sat and stewed and aaaalmost decided to go off-plan and just rivet the whole skirt together. But at the last second I decided that I didn’t want tiny 1/8″ rivets showing in a place that nobody will every look. This has got to be perfect and if it’s not, I darn well want it to be because of some unavoidable issue, not just laziness.

So I dumped everything on a table at TechShop and sat an looked at it for a while. And looked, and looked. And finally decided to give my bracket-and-JB Weld plan a try. It was a big goopy mess but eventually I got everything bonded together.


The brackets are inside the skirt and invisible from the outside so I really don’t care what they look like as long as they’re strong! Hopefully this’ll do the trick.

I had to apologize to the employees there as I managed to use nearly every small clamp in the entire shop. But it’s drying now and should be cured in 24 hours. I bought another couple tubes of JB Weld and will run some fillets along the inside joints for strengh once the brackets dry. Then I’ll probably degass the JB in the powdercoating oven at low temp for a few hours and check to make sure the JB doesn’t bubble so that the powder coating won’t have issues when it cures.

But before that I’ll have to cut, tap, and sand 12 vertical details. Ugh. I’m ready to be done with the skirt!

June 16, 2015


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:32 am

“America is the land of opportunity” and “America is a melting pot”
“I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”
“Affirmative action is racist.”
“Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.”
“When I look at you, I don’t see color.”

What our grandparents believed. Common sense, common decency, right? Well, if you have the misfortune of being a student at the University of California, these statements are now officially considered to be microagressions. The administration (headed by former DHS secretary Janet Napolitano) has deemed these, and other common-decency-based statements, to be expressions of microagressions. They are no longer allowed in classrooms in the California public university system.

Groseclose believes political correctness has jumped the shark when it can be considered a harmful “micro-aggression” to say something opposed to racism. He said the climate at universities is now so bad that even some liberal professors operate in fear.

“Just before I left UCLA, a liberal colleague and I talked about how disgusting the new micro-aggression policy is. I asked him if he ever worried about being dragged before some investigatory board via some trumped up charges. He responded, ‘That’s why, around here, I just try to minimize my contact with other humans.’”

Groseclose said he hopes that donors and taxpayers will wise up.

“I wonder if taxpayers realize they’re paying for this,” he said.

We live in the crazy years.

June 14, 2015

Flight of the Hobbits

Filed under: Movies,Music — jasony @ 9:15 pm

Musical Themes in “The Lord of the Rings”: “”

Great stuff here. Thanks to Matt for the link.

Glenn Reynolds: What if Pearl Harbor happened and nobody noticed?

Filed under: Computing — jasony @ 8:36 pm

Glenn Reynolds: What if Pearl Harbor happened and nobody noticed?:

“‘Hackers linked to China have gained access to the sensitive background information submitted by intelligence and military personnel for security clearances, U.S. officials said Friday, describing a cyberbreach of federal records dramatically worse than first acknowledged.’

And there are lessons in this debacle, if we are willing to learn them.

Aside from regular federal personnel records, which provide a royal route to blackmail, intimidation and identity theft for present and retired federal workers, the hackers also stole a trove of military and intelligence records that could be even more valuable. The forms stolen were Standard Form 86, in which employees in sensitive positions list their weaknesses: past arrests, bankruptcies, drug and alcohol problems, etc. The 120 plus pages of questions also include civil lawsuits, divorce information, Social Security numbers, and information on friends, roommates, spouses and relatives.

The result? About 14 million current and former federal employees are in a state of collective panic over the loss of their information.

Well this isn’t good.

It’s Me! Philae!

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 5:45 pm

Philae comet lander wakes up after 7-month hibernation:

“Scientists had lost contact with the solar-powered probe after it was dropped on the icy comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by its mothership Rosetta on Nov. 15. Philae’s battery ran out at about 60 hours after it landed next to a cliff that largely blocked sunlight from reaching the lander’s solar panels.

Scientists had hoped the probe would wake up again as the comet approached the sun, enabling Philae’s solar panels to soak up enough light to charge the craft’s main battery. But there were fears its mission would be cut short.

Any such fears ended late Saturday, when the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, received signals from the lander.

‘I’m not really surprised it happened, but if you wait for several months and then suddenly in the middle of the night you get a call saying, ‘We have a signal from Philae,’ it’s exciting,’ said Stephan Ulamec, project manager at the German Aerospace Center, or DLR. ‘We’re very happy.'”

That’s great news.

June 13, 2015

Black and White Thinking

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 12:58 pm


“What would a university do if an applicant self-identified as ‘black’ on an application but showed up looking ‘white’? And if the university made such a judgment, what on earth would that mean? How would the university defend its belief that a student didn’t ‘look’ black?  What sort of bizarre racial stereotypes would it rely upon in making such an appearance-based judgment? And if the university actually decided to take action against the student for racial misrepresentation, what on earth would that mean? How would the university judge whether the student was really ‘black’?  What percentage of blood would suffice for such a progressive institution? Fifty percent? Ten percent? One percent?

And if an individual, like Rachel Dolezal, has no black ancestry at all, would a progressive/liberal university allow her to self-identify as black, as they would (presumably) do for gender classification, if the student was born male and self-identified as a transgendered male (without yet having any surgery)? After all, the EEOC recently ruled in the Lusardi case that an individual in the Army who was born male, yet self-identified as female (but had not undergone surgery to remove his male genitalia) was to be considered a female and allowed to use the women’s bathroom.

The problem with progressive thinking is that black is white, male is female, and as Orwell observed in 1984, ‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.’ After all, if one can destroy words, ‘War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.’”

Excellent questions that put a fatal stake in the heart of progressive gender/racial/identity thinking. It’s not even reduco ad absurdum. It’s easy to imagine this happening right now in our colleges, and you don’t have to stretch current events or thinking to make it happen. When/if it happens I’m sure you’ll get all sorts of handwringing and clever obfuscatory misdirections, but the folks who espouse these lines of thought are increasingly beclowning themselves with their pretzel logic. The rest of us know. I hope “the rest of us” will soon include college administrators.

NI Featured Project

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 6:47 am

R2 has his own page on the National Instruments Labview Makerhub. I’ll be periodically updating this page with info on the electronics aspect of the build.

Since the electronics stage won’t happen for a while, updating may be a bit sparse, but I do plan on listing some thoughts there about the scope of the project soon.


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 5:27 am

Via Instapundit:

Screen shot 2015-06-13 at 6.25.24 AM.png

If I were a government worker, this would make me seriously reconsider the ability of the government to protect my medical privacy. Oh, who am I kidding….

June 11, 2015


Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 9:51 pm

“Change doesn’t happen on a familiar landscape—change has to construct the landscape itself.”
Tim Urban


Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 3:19 pm

I visited a local anodizer today and took R2’s frame in for a quote. It was much less than I thought to have the entire frame anodized. The only issue was that I really had my heart set on a vibrant blue color (think R2’s external blue but on the frame). The very helpful Bob at the anodizing place said I could have any color as long as it was black (or clear/natural). There’s one more place in town that I’m going to check on Monday to see if they can do a blue economically. My suspicion is that it would be around quadruple the price for them to do blue. At that point I have to ask myself if it’s worth it since the frame will be covered anyway.

One of the benefits of a black frame is that the laser etching will stand out much nicer against a black background than on blue. Black will also blend into the shadows much better if any part of the frame is exposed, though I think I would like to see the blue frame anyway (kind of like seeing contrasting brake calipers on a hot hatchback at the stop light). The place that does blue may not have a big enough tank to to R2’s 18″ rings, though, so it might be a moot point.

Black is nice, though. It’s just different from what I’ve been clearly pictured in my mind for a long time so I’m trying to decide if I can make the mental switch or not. Hmmm… maybe if I went to Dallas or Houston I could get blue done. How much do I want blue vs black? Gotta think a bit.

In other news, the skirt has been giving me fits. What I thought was going to be a two or three day job has turned into a month-long hassle. I designed, water jetted, and prepped the skirt pieces over a two week period. Then I carefully slip rolled the curved end pieces, sneaking up on the proper diameter until I got the pieces just right. They’re still just slightly off but they’re close enough that they will “spring” together under slight pressure to form the skirt. Here are the parts precut in wood and cardboard to check fit:


And here are the parts cut in aluminum after I slip rolled them:



Realizing that my TIG welding skills are nonexistent, I talked to a pro aluminum welder at TechShop and he agreed to try and tack a few parts together (welding aluminum is a pain and I didn’t want to burn through the thin metal) in exchange for a few bucks. I’m going to try and do just as much of this project myself as I can but my goal is verisimilitude over self-reliance, so a (very) occasional professional is okay with me if it means the difference between perfection and something that looks like a 3 year-olds’ crayon drawing on the fridge. Aluminum welding is a skill that takes years of practice and I don’t want to go down that particular rabbit hole right now. Unfortunately, the guy who did the welding kind of blew it:



He did his best but we determined that it wasn’t his fault but rather the result of very thin material (.063″) and a mating surface that wasn’t a true butt joint (look closely and you’ll see that only the corners of the edge really ever touch). It’s SUPER easy to blow through that kind of weldment, and that’s what he did. We only did this one joint and I called it off. So much for welding the thin skirt material. So what to do? After a few hours of research I found a product called Alumaloy. It’s a low temp (“low” meaning 728 degree) brazing rod for mating aluminum and filling aluminum gaps. It doesn’t get stellar reviews (2.5/5 stars) online but I think/hope that’s because people are trying to heat up giant heat sinks-worth of aluminum. Since I have thin material I hope to be able to get it hot enough with a propane/MAPP gas torch. Right now it looks like the only solution to my problem. The Alumaloy is on its’ way via Amazon Prime so I’ll tackle it next week.

Once it’s here I’ll need some way of bracketing the thin pieces together, so I did a quick test with some broken coffee stirrers:


Aha. now we’re talking. I found some scrap thin material in my TechShop locker and cut it out on the hydraulic shear/beverly shear:



And, after much trial and error, bent the small brackets to the correct angle with the bending brake:



Voila! I now have some small custom aluminum brackets at the proper angle that I can clamp onto the parts to make a lap joint. Hopefully this will be enough to form a decent base for the Alumaloy.

One more part I milled up last week was the main mounting bracket for R2’s center foot. I opted to go all manual mill on this piece instead of water jetting. It ended up taking me 10 hours since I had to thin the aluminum hunk from 1.125″ down to .75″ with a monster facing bit I borrowed from the TechShop machining instructor (who, in a very cool bit of trivia, worked on the Saturn V rocket booster 2nd stage!):


After milling, facing, tapping 8 holes, and creating an incredible mound of aluminum shavings I got this



Yeah, I’m really proud of that sucker. Most of the other parts on R2’s frame have leaned heavily on CNC techniques, and, while I can take credit for the design and pathing of the files, having a machine do most of the cutting work and just cleaning things up and tapping doesn’t feel as complete as taking a raw hunk of aluminum and shaping it like this. That part feels beautiful in my hand.

So that’s the state of things. My goal is to have the frame anodized and laser etched and the skirt assembled and powder coated by the end of August. Sept 1st is the “official” beginning of my 2nd year. It’s not a brick-wall deadline but I’d like to stay on track. I don’t think it’ll be a problem.

I’m also researching LabVIEW and my new myRIO that I was given (!) by National Instruments. They got wind of the project and wanted to be involved. They also want me to come update their engineers periodically once I enter the electronics/programming phase. Man, I’m excited about this, but a little nervous about the physical wiring and virtual programming/logic. With plans to pack R2 with sensors and make him a semi-autonomous robot I just hope my reach isn’t going to outstrip my grasp. I’m realizing that I’ve set myself kind of a ridiculous bar here. Can I meet it?

June 10, 2015

Next Big Future

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 6:08 pm

Next Big Future: Joe Eck finds superconducting transition at 141C which is above soldering temperature: “”

This is potentially huge.

The Martian

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 10:03 am

Coming to the theater! It’s one of my favorite books I read last year. Can’t wait to see it. Someone on FB recently said that Matt Damon has been having a tough time on other planets lately.


June 9, 2015

NI Contact

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 10:18 am

Just got my myRIO the other day and I’ve installed LabVIEW and played with it a bit. I got a wonderful support call from National Instruments just now. The rep asked if I had any questions about myRIO or LabVIEW and wanted to know what my project was. She offered to get me in touch with any resources that I might need to help me learn how to use their stuff.

See, this is how a great company handles consumers. I’m not only really excited about using the myRIO and LabVIEW in R2, but it feels like I have a good support group behind me if I have any questions. She was super excited about the project when I told her what I was making. I’m really looking forward to rolling R2 into the National Instruments headquarters someday.

June 8, 2015

Life is a Picture, But You Live in a Pixel

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 7:08 am

Wait But Why: “”

June 6, 2015

Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man

Filed under: Maker,Technology — jasony @ 11:03 pm

Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man | Wait But Why:

“For me, this project was one of the biggest no-brainers in history. Not just because Elon Musk is Elon Musk, but because here are two separate items that have been sitting for a while in my ‘Future Post Topics’ document, verbatim:

– ‘electric vs hybrid vs gas cars, deal with tesla, sustainable energy’

– ‘spacex, musk, mars?? how learn to do rockets??’

I already wanted to write about these topics, for the same reason I wrote about Artificial Intelligence—I knew they would be hugely important in the future but that I also didn’t understand them well enough. And Musk is leading a revolution in both of these worlds.

It would be like if you had plans to write about the process of throwing lightning bolts and then one day out of the blue Zeus called and asked if you wanted to question him about a lot of stuff.

So it was on. The plan was that I’d come out to California, see the Tesla and SpaceX factories, meet with some of the engineers at each company, and have an extended sit down with Musk. Exciting.

The first order of business was to have a full panic.”

(Via .)

June 5, 2015

There are Many Rio’s, but This One is Mine.

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 9:33 pm

Tonight I received my MyRio box from National Instruments. I had a fantastic lunch with the N.I. guy where we completely geeked out over what the MyRio box can do in the R2. Initially it was just going to be for sensor data acquisition but after talking to the rep it’s looking like the little box is going to be the main central brain.

This solves many problems: centralization, programming simplicity, power, and connection minimization. Plus, LabView looks like it’ll be just the thing for sensor/servo/motor control. It also contains some rather intriguing features regarding vision analysis, data streaming over the web, wifi/bluetooth integration, and a few other goodies.

Here’s the cool part: National Instruments got wind of my R2 project and was so excited about it that they wanted to supply the MyRio free of charge (street prics is almost $1,000)! They also want me to come to N.I. periodically and participate in their group lunches to update them on the progress. This little R2 is going places!


June 4, 2015

My MyRio

Filed under: The R2 Project — jasony @ 10:21 am

Just got an email from my contact at National Instruments. The higher-ups are impressed enough with my R2 project that they want to support it with a MyRio. Completely! Yes, they’re supplying one for free for the project!

So I guess R2 is now “sponsored” by National Instruments? That. Is. So. Cool. The only thing that my contact asked is that I write some posts about how I’m integrating it into the project. But yes, as of now (well, tomorrow when I pick it up), R2 will have a brain courtesy National Instruments. I’ll of course post info here but I’ll also be posting to Instructables and other such sites. Yeah, it’s a quid pro quo, and I’ve never really done sponsored stuff (does this mean I have to write “full disclosure” on everything?). But in all honesty I really do think the MyRio is a great solution for what I want to do. Yes, there are other boxes out there that’ll do the same thing, but at my level of Maker, learning to do the programming with a BeagleBone or similar box was going to be really limiting since I don’t want to become a programmer. The LabView/MyRio combo is perfect. Just enough graphics to make it easy and plenty of power (FPGA! FPGA!) to do some really cool stuff.

I’m still sticking to my modified 4 year plan but now I really want to start working on the electronics stuff. Can’t wait! :)

June 3, 2015

The Constant Kilo

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 7:20 pm

I love standards. It’s weird, I know. But there’s something about knowing exactly what something is, to the highest degree of perfection attainable in the universe, that’s just kind of cool to me.

The second is the duration of 9192631770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom.

The metre is the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299792458 of a second.

The ampere is that constant current which, if maintained in two straight parallel conductors of infinite length, of negligible circular cross-section, and placed 1 m apart in vacuum, would produce between these conductors a force equal to 2×10−7 newton per metre of length.

The kelvin, unit of thermodynamic temperature, is the fraction 1/273.16 of the thermodynamic temperature of the triple point of water.

The candela is the luminous intensity, in a given direction, of a source that emits monochromatic radiation of frequency 540×1012 Hz and that has a radiant intensity in that direction of 1/683 watt per steradian.

The mole is the amount of substance of a system that contains as many elementary entities as there are atoms in 0.012 kilogram of carbon-12. When the mole is used, the elementary entities must be specified and may be atoms, molecules, ions, electrons, other particles, or specified groups of such particles.


There’s a problem with the Kilogram. What is the problem? This:

What I Learned About Fear by Intentionally Stalling a Plane

Filed under: Hobbies — jasony @ 12:12 pm

What I Learned About Fear by Intentionally Stalling a Plane:

“Between my ninth and tenth flying lessons, the fever broke. I don’t know how or why. Part of it was simply accumulating time in the air. After ten or so hours, I no longer had any reason to think the plane crashed by magic. And part of it was a better technical grasp of the many aspects of flying. I gained confidence in my power to make the airplane predictable. That is the pilot’s preeminent goal.

But another part of it was a growing fatigue, even a disgust: I was sick of being scared. I was tired of not taking the initiative.

I wanted to fly. I wanted to have fun.

Before my first lesson, I asked Tom if I was going to die. Tom is a circumspect man, careful to choose his words, but never at the expense of a forthright answer.

‘Eventually, yes,’ he said. ‘Nobody gets out alive.’

Later, he added, ‘Now, are you going to live? That’s another story. That’s a subjective question. Not dying is not the same as living.'”

(Via .)

June 2, 2015


Filed under: Friends — jasony @ 11:00 pm

Phenomenal publicity picture of Erin’s best friend Anne. Wow! Photographer did a great job and Anne had fun getting the professional makeup/makeover. Yes, that really is her natural eye color.

She’ll use this photo as part of her piano performance publicity stuff.

Erin and I decided that the colors and saturation in the picture almost look like a Vermeer painting. Great picture Anne! :)


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