The 35 Best New Board Games of the Year: “Order a pizza, invite over one to three friends, and try out the best new board games.”
I love playing board games. Some of these look awesome. Oh, who am I kidding… they all do.
The 35 Best New Board Games of the Year: “Order a pizza, invite over one to three friends, and try out the best new board games.”
I love playing board games. Some of these look awesome. Oh, who am I kidding… they all do.
Faculty Focus: How Three Professors Banded Together to Beat Back a Free Speech Threat at Clemson – FIRE: “‘In the very same issue in which [the other faculty’s] full-page ad appeared, our full-page ad appeared as well, unbeknownst to them. So they opened the student newspaper and on the inside cover page, they very proudly saw their full-page ad, supporting the notion that the university should prosecute criminally defamatory speech. They turned the page, and there was our full-page ad defending Clemson students and their right to freedom of thought, conscience, inquiry, speech, et cetera, et cetera.’”
“‘At Brown, there is an underground group whose purpose is to allow kids to say what they ought to be free to say above ground.’
So begins Jay Nordlinger’s National Review profile of Reason@Brown. Christopher Robotham, 21, is the group’s founder. He tells FIRE that the by-invitation-only club is a forum where Brown students can engage in free expression in an atmosphere where open and vigorous debate is welcome and valued.”
This goes for both parties, by the way. And no, it’s not okay to support this behavior in your guy but oppose it when the other guy is in office. I’d say that we should make a law but there are already plenty on the books.
“And if Hamburger is wrong, and the Constitution’s silence on subdelegation should be taken to imply permission? Well, we should still be concerned. Seductive as it may sound, the claim that the administrative state is subject to meaningful democratic oversight is in practice rather weak. By its nature, the modern bureaucracy is a quasi-permanent force, vast swathes of which remain in operation regardless of who holds elective office and with what brief. For the administrators’ apologists to contend that our contemporary rule-makers are legitimate because they were empowered by those who were at one point elected will simply not cut the mustard. Now, as in Washington’s time, we write our laws down so that those who are bound by them know what they are bound by. There is no advantage to our doing so if the men tasked with enforcing them are permitted to suspend them or to fill out their meaning as their political desires demand.
Which is all to say that, pace Woodrow Wilson & Co., the recipe for political liberty is as it ever was. For men to be free, the law must be difficult to change, and it must be changed only by those whom we send to represent us; it must be universal and comprehensible in its application; it must be limited in its scope (by both hard rules and soft conventions); and it must be contrived, executed, and overseen by parties whose specialized functions are clearly set apart from one another. These conventions took a long time to develop, and they will take a long time to forget. But if they are circumvented often and egregiously enough, forgotten they will eventually be. There is always a crown beyond the horizon.”
Nathan Myhrvold, myth buster | Intelligent Life magazine: “‘I was totally aware of being poor…But I only wanted one thing when I was young, wealth-wise. I wanted to be able to buy any book I wanted. We lived two doors from the library in Santa Monica and I read every book, long before I went to school. Many years transpire and I’m at Microsoft and I’m buying books whenever I want [he has estimated his Amazon book habit at nearly $200,000 a year]. I realise that this is like wishing for eternal life and forgetting to ask for eternal youth, because I had tons of money but absolutely no time to read all the books.’ The books now fill two warehouses.”
‘Stars Wars’ and the End of Culture | Acculturated: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been greeted as a realty-shifting cultural phenomenon. At heart it is simply a mediocre movie. Harrison Ford looks tired and silly reprising the role of Han Solo. There is no exposition or backstory to explain the characters’ motivations. The action is relentless yet somehow boring. The destruction of yet another Death Star is particularly lazy. Our cultural muscles have atrophied, allowing works of marginal value to be praised as high art; it’s all become one big pop culture Death Star, sucking everything into its mindless orbit.
But we can resist. We can say no. We can learn to flex highbrow cultural muscles again and to take on challenging works of art. We can say: Nicki Minaj is junk, James Patterson is a hack, and Lady Gaga produces lazy provocations, not art. We can even say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is cotton candy that is forgotten seconds after you leave the theater.
Perhaps then we can get back to what Llosa sees as the truest, noblest calling of culture—nourishing our souls while examining the big questions. Despite our vast scientific and technical knowledge, Llosa argues, ‘We have never been so confused about certain basic questions such as what are we doing on this lightless planet of ours, if mere survival is the sole aim that justifies life, if concepts such as spirit, ideals, pleasure, love, solidarity, art, creation, beauty, soul, transcendence still have meaning and, if so, what these meanings might be?’”
Read the whole thing
More work on the R2 front. A lot more since my last update. The frame is pretty much finished except for the laser etching (which I’m still contemplating and, actually, reconsidering). So I’ve moved on to R2’s leg assemblies I have put a total of 43.5 hours of work into them so far (not counting stare-at-the-wall-and-think time).
Here’s what I’m trying to make this year.
and is comprised of these sub-assemblies (including the feet and battery boxes as well as some other details). I’ll need to make two of these and a shorter center leg.
The entire leg assembly has 30+ individual parts. I have to make a left leg and a mirrored right leg (as well as a less complex center leg). The part I’m working on right now is the “inside” main frame assembly of the leg that supports everything else. It’s made up of a top plate, bottom plate, four side “walls”, a curved top piece, and couple of bottom pockets that hold the side details (which I also have to make). Here is the basic structure
I designed the files in Fusion 360 and exported them as .ord files to set up on the water jet.
I took one of the two plates of 1/4″ aluminum I got for free from the anodizers (yes, they gave me about $150 in aluminum after I paid them the extremely low rate of $70 to anodize the frame (should have been $500 but they were jazzed about it being R2) and carefully positioned it on the water jet. I had to be really careful since all of the holes in the plate made it difficult to work around. In the end it took me almost an hour to get things lined up correctly.
Then I discovered that the water jet is misaligned. Whoops.
It’s actually a pretty big discovery at the shop and solves several mysteries around there. Turns out the underwater bed of the machine is off in the Y axis about 1/2″ over the 6′ front-to-back span. Seeing how the water jet has to be focussed about 1/8″ above the bed with a tolerance of around 1/16″, this was obviously not going to work. So I tore down my assembly and rotated everything 90 degrees, thus minimizing the error. I also had to regenerate a brand new water jet file. All told, I took about 2.5 hours on what should have been a 30 minute setup.
After doing a dry run to make absolutely sure everything worked, I held my breath, started up the machine, and hit “execute”.
Here are a few videos of the machine in operation. It may be a costly beast, but what it can do in a very short period of time is just amazing. I really couldn’t do this without spending weeks in the machine shop, and even then I might get it wrong with my level of skill. The water jet is truly amazing.
23 minutes later I had one of the legs! Success!
Here’s a shot of the final plate with the legs cut out (after I washed it off with some water):
Or… so I thought at the time.
Since everything was already set up and looked correct I went ahead and plopped the other plate down on the machine, calibrated and clamped it down, and cut a second set of leg plates. The pump mysteriously shut down halfway through (we think that the switch has a short in it) but a quick restart and I was back in business. Total cut time was just over 47 minutes. *whew*!
Unfortunately, upon my test assembly I realized that I had used the *wrong file* and my ‘side-wall’ rectangular pieces were cut .25″ too wide! This was a much better mistake than cutting them too short however, since I needed to mill off the taper that is introduced by the water jet anyway. Well, I thought it wasn’t going to be too big of a deal. I went back into Techshop early this morning and ended up spending about 8 hours in the shop slowly milling off that extra .25″ of width. So yeah…. lots of labor to correct a silly mistake, but ultimately I got some good manual mill practice as well as some really nicely made parts. I’m very happy with the way things are shaping up.
The next step is to decide how I’m going to make the top curved piece of the legs. I’m probably going to water jet that as well (to a man that has only a hammer, every problem….). I’ll have to come up with a 1.25″ thick piece of aluminum that’s big enough for the 6″ wide piece. It’ll be a chunk of change but I might be able to find it in the drop bin at the metal place (sold by the pound). Cutting something that will be a beast, too, but it’s the only way I can figure now.
Speaking of which, I spoke to the machining instructor, Jack Withers, at Techshop about the leg “horseshoes”:
I’ve been through three or four ideas about how to make these but the best idea I’ve come up with is to make the 1/8″ slices on the water jet (yeah, yeah) due to the fact that the inside of the hub has those offset gear pieces. My concern is that the outside of the horseshoe will show those “bread slices” through the paint. But I think that if I lay down a coat of lab metal and then wet sand (and sand, and sand) then I should be able to cover up the slices.
Of course, doing it this way means that I have to drill and tap holes so that I can screw the slices together from the backside. But…. of course… the vice in the machine shop is 1/8″ too narrow for the horseshoes. So. I’ll have to disassemble the vice and figure out some way to make it slightly bigger in order to accommodate the wider stock. Always an adventure.
But that’s for later. Now I need to spend several weeks thinking about the leg assembly. There’s an interesting inside piece that you can just barely see that looks like this:
How in the world am I going to make this? No idea yet…
Ad Blockers Will Force Reforms in Online Marketing | MIT Technology Review: “It’s telling that when the authors of the PageFair-Adobe report asked 400 Americans why they started using an ad blocker, the primary reason they gave was to avoid ‘misuse of personal information.’ Twelve months ago, the research firm Ipsos surveyed people on behalf of the marketing services company TRUSTe and found that concern about online privacy was rising. The top cause for worry: ‘Companies collecting and sharing my personal information with other companies.’ People feared that more than government surveillance. So it’s no wonder that ad blocking hockey-sticked in popularity after it became clear that other mechanisms for protecting personal privacy—such as ‘Do Not Track’ (a function you can activate in your Web browser to request that sites not compile information on you)—were mostly ignored by the online advertising business. When Do Not Track proved toothless, millions of people got their own fangs.
At this point if you’re not using an Adblocker online you’re exposing yourself to way too much intrusive tracking and risk. Glad to see the adblock tech pushing change.
Theodicy attempts to defend God’s goodness and omnipotence in light of the existence of evil. ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ the question goes. (To which a Lutheran might reply, ‘Trick question! There are no good people!’) There are various schools of thought and debate, rekindled with every hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, act of terror, and mass shooting. Progressives seem to begin their response to tragedy with the question, ‘Why do bad things happen to good governments?’
The god of good government would have been able to take care of us if only we’d given it sufficient power.
The theodicy of federal government seeks to defend the goodness of government in the face of tragedy. So just as some religious groups might blame a weather event on insufficient fealty to the relevant god, some progressives blame — before we actually know what is even going on in a given tragedy — insufficient fealty, sacrifice, and offerings to the relevant god of federal government. And so they explain that the god of good government would have been able to take care of us if only we’d given it sufficient power to do so. In this case, that power is gun control. Progressives tend to believe that government — if made to have sufficient size, scope, and proper management over the affairs of man — will fix or at least seriously mitigate the problem of evil in the world. Conservatives tend to believe that human nature is flawed and inclined toward bad things. Conservatives believe that government, being made up of humans, will also be inclined toward bad things, and therefore it must be restrained and not given a dangerous amount of power. They tend to see greater success for fixing problems in society with voluntary associations and institutions, such as families and community and organizations. Progressives tend to believe that man can be perfected, and perfected through government action. These almost cartoonish denunciations of prayer we saw yesterday, combined with the implicit praises of government action, are best understood as a sort of primitive religious reaction to the problem that growth of the state still hasn’t fixed the problem of evil in the world.
‘Something must be done!’ is a prayer.
Scott Shackford (@SShackford) December 3, 2015
@MZHemingway @NYDailyNews ‘Bad things happen to Good people b/c we don’t have the right set of regulations’ – Leftist theodicy
CJ ن (@CJHerod) December 3, 2015
‘We need some legislation for whatever it is that’s happening.’ — our dogmatically, religiously socialist friends on the left
The Scandalous DJT (@AceofSpadesHQ) December 3, 2015
And these calls for the big government god to shine upon them with mercy are frequently more ritual than anything else. The people who find hope in big government don’t seem to be terribly interested in more than the ritual of proclaiming their piety, announcing how happy they are to not be like the ‘other men,’ and half-hearted proposals of unworkable legislation that (surprise!) never solves the problem of man’s fallen condition.“
Why is English so weirdly different from other langu…: “Even in English, native roots do more than we always recognise. We will only ever know so much about the richness of even Old English’s vocabulary because the amount of writing that has survived is very limited. It’s easy to say that comprehend in French gave us a new formal way to say understand – but then, in Old English itself, there were words that, when rendered in Modern English, would look something like ‘forstand’, ‘underget’, and ‘undergrasp’. They all appear to mean ‘understand’, but surely they had different connotations, and it is likely that those distinctions involved different degrees of formality.”
The company said 10 days for the anodizing but the employees were so excited about having an R2 frame to work on that they put me at the front of the line. The big boss at the shop told me that they all took special care walking the parts through the 20 (!) tanks required for the whole anodizing process.
So today, after less than 48 hours in the shop, they called and told me that R2 was done! I was thrilled to go pick it up (and took them some pizza as a lunchtime thank you as well). Then I spent some time doing a tolerance check (that is: I assembled it!). The glossy finish I gave the parts was totally worth all the work. It looks amazing.
Here are some pics of the frame with all of my current pieces in place. I still have to design and laser etch the circuitry patterns but I’m thrilled that this part is done. Also, much relieved.
I had to get the dome out of its box and do a test fit, of course. It drew all kinds of attention at Techshop. People love R2.
Long, long way to go but this was a major milestone. Great to see it coming together.
Proud R2 papa
So I just realized that I haven’t posted any pics of the polishing process (say that five times fast). I’ll update you a bit.
Since finishing the frame a few months ago I got online and researched sanding and polishing aluminum. There’s a TON to learn when you prep for anodizing. I opted to go the cheap and easy route.
Hahahah, but seriously folks. I had you there, didn’t I?
Instead of using the TechShop buffing wheels that may have been corrupted with steel (a deadly combination when you’re anodizing aluminum), I bought several different brand new buffing wheels. I also got two different types of aluminum polish (Mother’s Aluminum polish and Mother’s Billet polish). But before I even got to that point I had to sand.
And sand. And sand.
Here are two pics of a part when it’s ready for sanding;
You can see the milling marks, scratches, dings, crud, and ink from the plant. The aluminum feels rough and the edges are sharp. Yes, it’s a completed part but it’s still a visual mess.
The vertical rods (3/4″ solid aluminum) are about the same:
Yuck. The aluminum gets beaten up and scratched during the milling, forming, and tapping process, and it doesn’t start in a very good condition when you buy it anyway.
So I bought a set (which ended up being two sets) of wet/dry aluminum sandpaper. I also got a cheap pneumatic sander. Using the sander I hit the aluminum with 400 grit w/d sandpaper until I removed all of the basic scratches. If I had to do it again I’d have probably started at 200 grit. 400 took forever to remove the scratches. This is metal, after all. I’d work on a little 6×6 section for probably ten minutes before the big dings had been replaced by 400 grit sanding marks.
Next, I repeated the process with 800 grit, then 1000, then 1500, then 2000, then finished off with a 3000 grit wet/dry pad. For all 38 pieces of the frame. Total time spent sanding was about 20 hours over several weeks. It was also a mess with wet dirty aluminum “sawdust” flying everywhere. Even wearing an air mask, shop apron, gloves, and goggle/faceshield, I still ended up coming home looking like a coal miner.
For the aluminum rods I had to first use a hard wheel to remove the worst of the scratches:
(Thanks to Sean for filming)
Once I had the parts sanded up to 3000 grit I installed a Sisal buffing wheel onto the new grinder/polisher/sander at TS. It’s a great tool! Big enough to do a project like this.
I’m simulating this pic with a non-spinning wheel:
I then put white polish on the sisal wheel and made a pass over each part to start to bring out the shine. Once all 38 parts were done I installed a soft cotton polishing wheel, put red jeweler’s rouge on it (the kind that you use on fine silver and gold), then started over and polished each piece until they sparkled. But I wasn’t done yet!
I then put the pieces into my storage box that I’d made at TechShop on the laser cutter (the box is in the “Because-I-Can” category). Then, one by one, I took each piece out and put a coating of Mother’s aluminum polish on them, followed by a final coat of Mother’s Billet Polish. These last two use a chemical reaction to get any surface oxidation off and give it a final, final polish.
If you’re keeping track, all of the above means that each coat gets ten different passes of progressively higher grits. The first grit, 400, is usually my final grit when I’m woodworking. For R2, that was the starting grit. By the end of the process I’ve polished the 6061 aircraft aluminum up to a chrome-like shine.
After a total of over 600 hours of work, here is the final result. Aluminum ain’t supposed to look like this, folks:
Finally, I brought the parts home and wiped them down with a soft rag to get any little bit of polish remaining off of them before I took them to the anodizers.
The anodizing company is doing the job for an extremely inexpensive rate. When the plant manager saw that it was an R2 frame he was really excited about it. The normal charge from another company is $500 but he’s doing it for $70 (basically cost, I think). I told him that all of his employees would get their names etched into the frame as thanks. Might even buy them pizza when I pick it up. It’s a really screamingly great price for a job like this. They even agreed to mask and plug any questionable holes that might interfere with the process. They’re going above and beyond since it’s a nice change from the generic metal unidentifiable parts that they usually do.
Why go to all that work to polish up to such a ridiculous shine if the parts are only going to be anodized black, you ask? Well, the final color will be black, but the final finish takes on the finish of whatever the unanodized surface looks like. If it’s bead-blasted then the finish is matte. A brushed aluminum finish will give you a brushed anodized look. And a stupidly-polished aluminum will look something like this:
So thats where the project stands right now! I have to admit that I’m a little nervous knowing that the box of parts is sitting in the anodizing warehouse. I’ll be glad when I get it back.
Just dropped it off at Brooks industrial coatings here in North Austin. The plant manager could see how nervous I was at turning it over. When I showed him a picture of the whole frame assembled he gestured me over to where his four employees were racking parts.
“Okay, guys, group meeting. We got a fun one here. This is Jason. Jason, take it away.”
So I took three minutes to tell the guys about the 600 hours of work, learning to machine, 20+ hours of wet sanding and polishing, etc. When I said “I’m building an aluminum R2D2 their eyes lit up and they all went “coooool”. Then Bob (the manager) said, “alright guys, treat this one like a fine lady”. So I still feel nervous but pretty good. He told me to call in a few days to see if he has any questions. Otherwise it should be ready in about 10 days.
I’m taking my box of R2 frame parts to be anodized today. Fingers crossed hard. I just want to make sure nothing happens that could ruin almost 600 hours and over a year of work. I’ll know in a week or so.
Erin wants to stage an intervention.
I’m going to take R2’s frame to the anodizer this week (I need to write up a whole post on that with pics, actually). After it’s anodized I wanted to laser etch a cool circuitry pattern into the black anodization layer. After some extensive checking around online for cool scalable vector circuit patterns, the best I could come up with was this:
Unfortunately, when you blow it up to the 18×18″ diameter of R2’s main rings you get this:
Way too fuzzy and indistinct for a good quality etch, especially considering the amount of time and work I’m putting into the frame.
So I’ve decided that I need to zoom way into that top picture in Illustrator and recreate it by hand on a separate layer. Only then can I get a really great scalable jpg. Erin couldn’t believe that I was going to do it (hence the intervention comment). Fortunately, though, it’s not all that bad. the pattern above is a 9×9 tiled image. So if I isolate the center 1/9th section and recreate it I can easily tile it. It should only take a week or so working about 30 minutes per day. No problem.
Where Are The Adults at Yale? – Tablet Magazine: “…going to college is a challenging experience. And I don’t mean to downplay the difficulties that some students from historically disadvantaged communities may encounter at an institution like Yale, which for most of its history was not a friendly place for minorities of any sort, never mind people of color. But when I hear, in 2015, students complain about feeling ‘marginalized’ at Yale due to their racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, or any other identity—and, on top of this, demanding institutional retribution against those who mildly express viewpoints they don’t agree with and sartorial injunctions on pagan bacchanal holiday garb—I can’t help but think of James Meredith. Meredith was the first black student to attend the segregated University of Mississippi and had to do so under the cover of heavily armed federal marshals. When I see photographs of Meredith and other black students of the civil rights era staring down state-sanctioned American racism—not the rumored antics of inebriated frat boys or emails from well-meaning child developmental psychologists about the propriety of certain Halloween costumes—I don’t see people pleading for Dean’s Excuses so they can huddle in a ‘safe space’ to recover from ‘traumatic racial events.’ I see unbelievably courageous young men and women who, by keeping their heads high, exposed their spittle-flecked antagonists as the bigoted Neanderthals they were and changed this country for the better.”
Compared to the turmoil of the 60’s, the bar for courageous behavior has certainly reached a new low.
“If anyone could manage to obtain treatment under the Affordable Care Act, it should have been Liz Jackson.
With a severe nerve condition that forced her out of a job, Ms. Jackson did not just qualify for a government-subsidized plan, but she also knew her way around the new system, having been trained as a volunteer ‘health care navigator’ to help others sign up.
Yet the collapse of her insurer, Health Republic Insurance of New York — the largest of 12 health care co-ops nationwide set to close this year — has left her and more than 200,000 others in a panic over medical coverage after their plan ceases on Nov. 30.
Health Republic lived a short and difficult existence, squeezed by premiums that were low by design and cut off by Republicans in Congress from government subsidies promised along with the federal health care law.
Ms. Jackson, 33, is in a situation more grim than most of those losing coverage. She said she was told by state health care officials this week that she no longer qualified for subsidies promised under the federal law. Without them, she does not know if she will be able to afford insurance after her Health Republic policy ends.
‘I’m an advocate for the health care law,’ said Ms. Jackson, who lives in Harlem. ‘And if I can’t navigate this, who can?’”
Too bad there was nobody warning that this would happen when the plan was being
responsibly debated rammed through Congress on a party line vote.
10 Reasons We Sold Our Television: “9. I’m Actively Recovering
I’m a story addict. Serial shows are my nemesis, because they rarely ever resolve in a way that is satisfying. This means I (and every other television viewer) must keep watching and watching and watching a program to get an emotional payoff. This is death to my literary spirit. The best solution? Getting rid of the television and picking up a book, instead.”
The other 9 reasons are very good as well. I confess that we have a very nice 48″ flat panel, but this is used for RedBox movies once or twice a month and pretty much stays off the rest of the time.
Breaking the TV habit was hard the first month. Now that it no longer holds sway over us I don’t miss it a bit. Actually, I would actively campaign against ever plugging in the cable again. It’s basically given me years of productive time back — time that can’t be replaced and that would, I am sure, be regretted on my deathbed. Instead, I am using that time to develop skills, build an R2D2, read, and help Erin with her business. That extra time has become precious to me. Why would I pay to have that time taken away?
After 14 years, the next season of Mythbusters will be the last. What a great run!
What We Owe the MythBusters: “The MythBusters’ delight in gonzo engineering also helped inspire the rise of the modern class of tinkerers known as ‘makers.’ When the show began, the idea that average people could build their own complex gadgets was a fringe notion at best. Today, more than 400,000 students worldwide gather to compete in FIRST Robotics competitions. Thousands of adults and kids attend Maker Faire festivals to show off their quirky inventions. ‘I feel really lucky that ‘MythBusters’ coincided with the whole D.I.Y. movement and contributed to it,’ Mr. Savage said. ‘I mean you’ve got 10-year-old girls building robots now!’
‘MythBusters’ didn’t do all this alone, of course. American culture is embracing its inner nerd on many fronts today. The cult of Steve Jobs and our fascination with tech start-ups have played a part. So have fictional TV shows like ‘CSI’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has stepped into Carl Sagan’s shoes, and ‘The Martian,’ which its star, Matt Damon, calls ‘a love letter to science,’ is one of the biggest films of 2015.
Best of all, a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the number of college freshmen enrolling in STEM majors has climbed nearly 50 percent since 2005. If a few more kids today want to grow up to be Elon Musk or settle on Mars or cure cancer, we have Jamie and Adam partly to thank.”
“the Tokyo team brewed up a method of making glass that required no container at all: they used gas to push the chemical components into the air, where they synthesized together. The result? A transparent ultra glass that’s 50% alumina and rivals the Young’s modulus of steel and iron, which measures rigidity and elasticity in solids.”
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