An interesting article about a potential space drive breakthrough that nobody can explain. This story is cropping up in the more respectable tech press and has been around a while so I’m intrigued. It looks like there might actually be something to it.
April 25, 2016
April 24, 2016
When even a (very left-leaning) Vox writer notices it, you know something has gone badly wrong in political discourse. My hope is that the people who need this the most will read it with consideration. My fear is that they will and not see themselves therein.
April 23, 2016
It’s been a busy R2 week! Feels good to get some serious time in on the build. Tonight, after spending 8 hours at Techshop (four of which were teaching a water jet class), Erin and I went out to dinner. While leaving dinner I said “I kinda feel like going to Techshop”. It’s nice that the place has such a good hold on me and I don’t get tired of it.
Now that it looks like I have a handle on the horseshoe I went ahead and cut the rest of the layers (six of them) for the other side. Then I filed off the tabs and ground down the v-grooves on the edges of each. So now I have a second stack of horseshoes all ready to weld! I might hit up Keith again to walk me through it, but this time maybe he’ll let me weld while he advises from the sidelines. I’m about ready to get started TIG welding parts.
Side story: tonight my water jet class had two people in it. Normally it has four. I really like two person classes since I can help the students more and I don’t feel as rushed. One of the men in the class was about 70 years old with a great sense of humor. Funny stories (he was a pilot as well so we could talk endlessly about planes and flying), great sense of humor, and — unusual for someone of that generation — was heavily involved in programming and microcontroller technology. We hit if off immediately and I had a great time teaching him. The only issue was that it was sometimes rather difficult to understand him on account of the fact that half of his face was missing. And one whole eye.
You see, this funny, lighthearted, intelligent septuagenarian is fighting a long battle with cancer. 8 years ago he had a tooth that wouldn’t heal and here, eight years later, he’s had one eye removed, he’s missing the teeth on one side of his head, the entire left side of his face is nearly gone from the cancer, he’s wearing two hearing aids, jokes about his lack of depth perception, and says the hardest part of his life comes every four months when he goes in for his MRI to see if the cancer has returned yet again (it keeps coming back). The hardest wait is between the MRI and waiting to see the doorknob turn and see if his doctor’s face is smiling or ashen. He calls it “getting his ticket punched for another four months”.
And now this guy chooses to spend four hours of his remaining time in my classroom learning how to use the water jet because he wants to be a Techshop member and he wants to use the tools to build cool stuff. He’s not sure if he’ll be here next year, or even six months from now. But with the time he has left he’s going to make stuff, and try to make it well. And I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed getting to know him.
Some good success today. I coated the horseshoes in JB Weld and LabMetal to fill in the little V-grooves that I ground in each side layer. It was ugly once it dried:
Next I clamped the part in the vice with some wooden shims:
Then I ground the welds and filler down with an aluminum grinding disk that Keith gave me the other night (thanks, Keith!) They looked really good after I was done. Nice and smooth and flush with the surface. Since I was using a disk and not a belt, though, it was easy to make little divots and gouges in the soft aluminum. There’s a bit of waviness on the edge of the part in this photo:
So I’m ordering some Rage Gold body filler from Amazon (the same stuff I used to make the Tri Delt clamshell prop about five years ago). I’ll do a few layers of filler on the outside so I can cover up the metal edges. But before that I still need to drill out that broken screw (you can see it in that top photo).
So in spite of the expected (and unexpected) little snags it appears that I have a clear way forward on the shoes! Really happy with the way it’s turning out.
I spent about 3 hours at TechShop this afternoon and in addition to the grinding I also did some thinking about the center leg ankle. The finished part should look like this:
with this inside (I’ve already made the rectangular part):
I had what I thought was a shoe-in idea for this and spent some time at TechShop designing a file in Fusion 360 (what a great program), but now that I look at it in the first picture above I’m not so sure it’ll work. More thought needed.
A lot of this thinking is due to the fact that I can’t TIG weld (yet). I really should get off my butt and just do it. I’ll probably ask some advice and start that process next week. So much would be easier about this project if I could just TIG. Even badly. Grinding down that aluminum results in an amazingly clean joint (see the post-ground horseshoe pics above). But the process kind of scares me.
April 20, 2016
In the great-news, slightly annoying news department, I went to Techshop today and bumped into the welding instructor (a super guy named Keith Wojcik who is one of the best welders in Austin). Great guy, great teacher, great welder.
I showed him the part and asked him if it was even possible to weld it and he said “come here” and wandered back to the welding room. Back there he set up the TIG welder, described what needed to happen, and then just welded it for me right there. I couldn’t believe it. The aluminum was pretty dirty so the welds ended up a little messy (absolutely not Keith’s fault), but at the end all seven layers were securely welded together. Success (so far).
It’s a tack weld job and will be ground down and cleaned up, but the layers are connected. I’ll also put a coating of Lab Metal between the welds to cover the layers and then grind/sand it down until it’s smooth.
Unfortunately (you knew this was coming), I think the screws were overheated when the aluminum got hot — and it got stupendously hot. It took more than 45 minutes for the aluminum to even be movable, and even then I had to wear leather gloves. Anyway, the screws got bound in the holes. I also think that the act of clamping the parts together compressed the threads in the holes and made the screws bind even tighter.
Sooooo… when I went to take the screws out they were extremely difficult to turn. Two of them came out with a little bit of effort. But that third one? The screw head just snapped right off. Nooooo!!!! Luckily there was still a little bit of thread showing so I got some Vice Grips after the little threaded leftover…… and promptly snapped that off as well, completely flush with the surface.
So I have to figure out how to remove that bloody screw. That stinking #$@#@^ screw. It’s so completely stuck in there that a normal screw remover probably won’t do the trick (though I have nothing to lose by trying). What I think I’ll end up having to do is slowly destroy the screw by drilling it out with progressively larger bits. I might have to enlarge the hole and put a #10 screw in there instead of the #8 that’s stuck, but that means enlarging the mating keyhole, which introduces alignment issues (which I’ll have to figure out a solution for). There’s also the risk of breaking the welds when I clamp it on the mill to remove the screw. UGH
But hey! One of the horseshoes is welded. Better yet, Keith told me that he’d weld whatever I need. He’s also going to teach me TIG. I took his MIG class again tonight and had fun. TIG is a whole different story. I get to learn from the master.
When I left the shop tonight one of the Techshop employees said “that’s why they call it a Herculean effort”. Every step has something go wrong.
Every. Single. Step.
It’s been a while since an R2 update. I probably need to write a lot more but I don’t have time right now (I’m actually building instead of writing about it).
About two weeks ago I decided to mill up the little leg “cups” that hold the leg hubs. It’s an easy part to overlook. Fortunately, I was able to find some aluminum tubing with an inside diameter (I.D.) that was close. I got a 12″ piece, chopped off a 5″ piece, and proceeded to very slowly mill out the I.D. on the lathe.
That wall is less than .125″ thick. It’s really delicate and I was worried about milling through it so this cut took me about 2 hours. I’m slow on the lathe but the tool scares me so I play it as safely as I can.
Once I got the I.D. correct I just cut off a piece that was the right length (two, actually). The part separated early before the cutting tool had cut completely through, which I was initially upset about (oh no! sanding a delicate part!)
but it turns out that the little edge you can see on the left was pushed in a few thousandths of an inch and so it fits perfectly inside the mating hole and acts as a guide! I’ll have to chamfer off a tiny amount on the inside of the hub when the time comes so the hub will clear it, but since it’s inside the leg you’ll never see it. And besides, the little guide ring makes alignment and gluing MUCH easier. So an unintended mistake turns into a win! Happy accident.
In the past week I’ve worked about 20 hours at Techshop on the Horseshoe parts. Well, one horseshoe. I water jet cut out the 8 layers (out of .125″ aluminum 6061) and test fit them together.
Here’s a pic of the sheet of 6061 before and after water jetting
And here are the layers stacked up on the leg (which is itself just stacked precariously and not welded yet):
Great fit. I had to file the tab from the water jet off of each layer (2 tabs actually)
I bought a set of files from Lowes since so many of the TechShop files are corrupted with steel or not in good shape. Add it to the budget.
Once I’d filed away the tabs I sandblasted each part to give each layer a bit of “bite”. My idea here was to lay down a coating of aluminum epoxy to bond the layers together. However, once I got the epoxy and did a test run on some scrap, the scrap debonded (it broke) with very little pressure. So instead I VERY carefully aligned the eight layers and clamped them together, then spent the next three hours in the machine shop drilling and tapping some holes so the layers could be held together with screws. Somewhere during this process (power washing after the sandblasting, I think) some of the layers got very slightly bent. So now my perfectly flat horseshoe ends are flayed out. Ugh. I’m going to TechShop tonight to talk to a professional welder to see if it’s possible to clamp the layers together and tack weld them. In preparation for that I spent a few hours grinding a bevel on each layer so that when they’re stacked up there’s a little “V” shaped groove on the edges between layers. Hopefully if the layers can be welded this will give the aluminum rod enough “bite” to hold the layers together after grinding off the excess material.
Keep in mind that I’ve worked about 40 hours on just this one horseshoe. I haven’t even cut the parts for the second one yet. I’ll give the welding thing a try and if it works I’ll go ahead and commit to the second one. If, however, the welding is a total bomb then I’ll step back and rethink how I’m doing the horseshoes. I really really want aluminum shoes but if it’ll delay me too much I’ll do MDF now so that I can move on. Those parts are easy to replace in the future if/when I choose to revisit them. It’s been so long since I’ve seen forward momentum that it’s easy to get discouraged. So I’m considering making some temp parts and replacing them in the future if I get stuck at a certain point. Droid building is the Everest of Nerddom, as I’ve said. So there will be some parts of the journey that feel like you’re stuck. But I don’t want to get so mired up in one part that I get discouraged and wash out.
I’m frankly terrified to weld these things. I’ve spent a lot of time (and not inconsiderable money) getting the horseshoes to this point and if they warp under the heat (something I’ve been warned about) then it’s back to square one. But if I’m so nervous about messing them up that I don’t move forward then I’ll be stuck here forever. So I guess I have to do something. Hope I don’t screw it up. I might hire a pro to do these particular parts, or at least to just tack them in five or six places so that I can come back and Lab Metal them and sand them down.
Looking forward, there are so many aluminum parts that need to be welded that I’m almost certain I’ll have to learn to TIG weld. This project is about learning new skills but TIG is extremely difficult to master and represents a major detour while I develop the skill. Probably about 40-60 hours running a mile of bead to get good. In the meantime nothing will get planned, designed, or built. But there are so many parts to weld that hiring someone to do it doesn’t make much sense. My Techshop friend Bill May gave me a pep talk the other night that helped a lot. I was getting a bit discouraged thinking about the ridiculous challenge this project represents. Bill had some really kind and encouraging words for me and encouraged me to learn to TIG and keep moving forward. Frankly, I kind of needed it and appreciated it more than I think he realized.
It seems like at every single point in this project, from major design decisions down to where to clamp a part on the mill, there is some sort of little issue that crops up. For example, while tapping the holes in the horseshoe stack I discovered that my tap was about 1/16th too short. But since the stack was already clamped and the hole drilled I had to solve the problem right then. No coming back to it later since I couldn’t take it off the mill until the holes were drilled and tapped. I managed to figure out a solution but it took a lot of seat-of-the-pants thinking. The entire project is like that: nothing easy, everything fights you. So Bill’s words were really helpful. Keep pushing ahead. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Don’t look at the summit– just look at the next step to be taken. This will take another three or four years (if I’m lucky!) and if I think of the whole project at once I’ll just get discouraged.
April 18, 2016
“It shouldn’t be hard to tell a 5’9” white guy that he’s not a 6’5” tall Chinese woman, but clearly it is. Why?
And what does that say about our culture?
And what does that say about our ability to answer the questions that actually are difficult?”
Watch the video (sorry if the link is small. Working on an issue with MarsEdit).
April 12, 2016
I was referring to the following chart for R2D2 aluminum fit tolerances. I was just looking at one of the engineering drawings that I have to reproduce in a year or so and inadvertently started giggling like a crazy person. What am I doing? I’m insane. I’m insane. Not until one of the other members at Techshop looked at me funny did I realize that I had just said everything out loud at full voice.
Oh, R2. You’re going to be the end of me.
April 9, 2016
Here is a carefully thought-through argument I have spent years forming.
But I don’t hate anybody. I just have this calm, cogent argument that addressing the issues in what I view as a proper historical and cultural context.
WHY ARE YOU SO FULL OF HATE!?!? IT IS MY DUTY TO SHAME YOU PUBLICLY TO SHUT YOU UP.
Wait, wait, wait, wait… you haven’t even heard me out. I think if people just stop for a minute and…
YOU MAKE ME SICK. HATEFUL HATER.
True story: our old pastor, one of the most caring and compassionate people you’ll ever meet, who has decades of service and pastoral experience, was told that he was “full of hate” because of his (equally compassionate and nuanced) political opinions (which he, significantly, went to great pains to avoid expressing). The exact comment was “I can’t believe someone like you could have so much hate in his heart”.
Hate has become the new weapon, to be wielded by the emotional to shut down arguments they disagree with. This is what passes for argument among a significant portion of our society (both on and off of Facebook). We’ve become such a bumper-sticker culture that the feeling seems to be if you can’t zing your opponent or get your argument out in five seconds then the other side doesn’t have to make an effort to understand you and has a right to shut you up. And if they shout louder, they win.
It’s going to be a long year.
March 29, 2016
Just upgraded my MarsEdit software so I’m taking it for a spin. Testing testing.
And here’s a picture of us on our recent trip for testing
February 9, 2016
“I learned how to think by reading the great books, boldly. It has led to financial success for me. And I’m not alone.
In a videotaped interview in 2012, billionaire inventor Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX, said a passion for original ideas was a secret to his success. Musk argued that it is essential to base one’s thoughts not on what he called ‘analogy’ — trying to invent something new by borrowing somebody else’s ideas — but rather on ‘first principles.’ ‘Boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say, ‘OK, what are we sure is true?’’ he explained. Doing so, he said, provides far greater opportunity for true innovation, even if it ‘takes a lot more mental energy.’”
Penalties for politicians: Column: “We entrust an inordinate amount of power to people who don’t feel any pain when we fall down. The best solution of all is to take a lot of that power back. When the power is in your hands, it’s in the hands of someone who feels it when you fall down. When it’s in their hands, it’s your pain, their gain. That’s no way to run a country.”
I like this idea, along with the idea of sunsets on legislation. If a politician says “let us enact this legislation! We promise that it’ll do X, Y, and Z!” and then it fails miserably, why not have an automatic rollback to the previous situation? If you’re headed down a road and see a dead end sign, it’s common sense to go back to the turnoff and try again. Congress routinely jams through partisan legislation under the assurances of extreme promises only for us to find out later that the promises were empty or the legislation was never structured or intended to do what was promised. So why not hold them accountable? It would make for more transparent, considered, and effective laws. Regardless of your political leanings, that can only be good for the country.
And while we’re at it, why not impose penalties on politicians if their promises do not come to pass? How about some accountability? The citizens have it. It’s time for our leaders to have it as well.
“The evidence continues to mount that minimum wage hikes have economic costs: A Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco review paper recently found that minimum wages had ‘directly reduced the number of jobs nationally by about 100,000 to 200,000.’ And now a new survey of recent data by Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily (h/t RCP) found that minimum wage hikes seem to have taken a toll on hiring in some of America’s major metropolitan areas:
Hiring at restaurants, hotels and other leisure and hospitality sector venues slowed markedly last year in metro areas that saw big minimum-wage hikes, new Labor Department data show [. . .]
The big shortcoming in the available data for 5 of the 6 cities is that they cover broad metro areas, far beyond the city limits where wage hikes took effect. Still, the uniform result of much slower job growth in the low-wage leisure and hospitality sector, even as the pace of job gains held steady in surrounding areas, sends a pretty powerful signal.
It’s important to remember that most of these hikes are much more modest than the $15 dollar minimum that is now officially part of the Democratic Party platform. A hike of that level is unprecedented in American history, so the real impact on job creation is anyone’s guess.”
February 3, 2016
Pretty much says it all, I think. One good thing about having Sanders get the nomination is that the choice will be very stark and clear. With his record voters won’t be able to say they weren’t warned. America will haven actively chosen the form of its’ destruction.
January 28, 2016
Partisanship aside, the article quoted below is seriously damning. Patreus got retroactively stripped of his rank and retirement benefits, was ordered to pay a $40,000 fine, and put on a 2 year probation for doing something admittedly stupid that was far, far less damaging than this. In light of Patreus’ trial, the fact that literally half of the electorate is willing to excuse these repeated and deliberate violations of top secret information speaks volumes about how much we value “our side” winning over the actual health and well-being of the country.
If I were in the intelligence community and at risk from these leaks, I would quickly reevaluate my career. If I were in our enemies’ shoes I would be positively giddy over the current state of American politics. We’ve quickly gone from mighty superpower to weak and ineffectual laughing stock. Change indeed.
“To take just the Russians: their plus-sized embassy in Washington, D.C. is conveniently located on a hill overlooking the city, with an impressive antenna field on its roof aimed downtown. That is where Ms. Clinton’s ‘unclassified’ emails went. The Russians care so much about State Department information they’ve been caught planting bugs inside a conference room just down the hall from the Secretary of State’s office. ‘Of course the SVR got it all,’ explained a high-ranking former KGB officer to me about EmailGate (the SVR is the post-Soviet successor to the KGB’s foreign intelligence arm). ‘I don’t know if we’re as good as we were in my time,’ he added, ‘but even half-drunk the SVR could get those emails, they probably couldn’t believe how easy Hillary made it for them.’
Any foreign intelligence service reading Ms. Clinton’s emails would know a great deal they’re not supposed to about American diplomacy, including classified information: readouts from sensitive meetings, secret U.S. positions on high-stakes negotiations, details of interaction between the State Department and other U.S. agencies including the White House. This would be a veritable intelligence goldmine to our enemies. Worse, access to Ms. Clinton’s personal email likely gave foreign spy agencies hints on how to crack into more sensitive information systems. Not to mention that if Clinton Inc. was engaged in any sort of illegal pay-for-play schemes, our adversaries know all about that, as well as anything else shady that Ms. Clinton and her staff were putting in those unencrypted emails….
…All this angers Americans with experience in our military and intelligence services who understand what Ms. Clinton and her staff did—and that they would be held to far harsher standards for attempting anything similar. They know that brave Americans have given their lives protecting Top Secret Codeword information. They know that in every American embassy around the world, our diplomatic outposts that worked for Hillary Clinton, Marine guards have standing orders to fight to the death to protect the classified information that’s inside those embassies. That Hillary Clinton gave similar information away, by choice, is something she needs to explain if she expects to be our next Commander-in-Chief.”
Read the whole thing.
January 27, 2016
A 17-year-old girl who was physically and sexually attacked in Sønderborg will herself face charges for using pepper spray to fend off her assailant.
The teenager told police that she was attacked in central Sønderborg on Wednesday at around 10pm by a dark-skinned English-speaking man. She said the man knocked her to the ground and then unbuttoned her pants and attempted to undress her.
The girl was able to save herself from further assault by using pepper spray on the attacker, but now she may be the one who ends up in legal trouble.
‘It is illegal to possess and use pepper spray, so she will likely be charged for that,’ local police spokesman Knud Kirsten told TV Syd.
The case has sparked a backlash among some Danes who point to increasing reports of sexual harassment in Sønderborg and other Danish cities at the same time that police say they are stretched too thin to properly carry out their duties.
Numerous readers wrote in the comments section on TV Syd’s story about the incident that they would be willing to pay the girl’s fine, which will most likely be 500 kroner.
The man who attacked the 17-year-old fled from the scene and has not been charged.
Nice knowing you, Europe.
January 26, 2016
One of the curses of being a good teacher (in all humility) is that bad teaching drives me absolutely bonkers. It’s especially bad when it’s a subject that I’m struggling with and I know I could learn easily if I could just find someone who teaches well.
Just barfing up information or racing through facts is not teaching. Teaching involves breaking down concepts and slowly building a scaffolding of knowledge in the mind of your student, then using that scaffolding to (along with the student), hang new information on the scaffolding until they gain understanding, confidence, and self-actualization. The best teachers get the students up to escape velocity so that they can in turn teach others. Repetition and restatement are critical, as is knowing how to teach to different learning styles. If the teacher simply describes the final building in disjointed detail, he or she hasn’t actually taught anything, and often the student feels like they’ll never learn anything at all.
A lot of it comes down to teaching style as well. I’m a great hands-on and visual learner. Lecture courses are about the worst way to disseminate information to visual/kinesthetic learners but some topics don’t really lend themselves to that style, unfortunately.
Anyway, bad teachers bug me.
January 10, 2016
“All education is self-education. Period. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop. We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn.
Those people who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own are the only ones who earn a real education in this world. Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of. Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.
If you’re interested in learning something new, this article is for you. Broken down by subject and/or category, here are several top-notch self-education resources I have bookmarked online over the past few years.”
December 31, 2015
“When feeding the homeless becomes an act of civil disobedience, Americans have been asleep for far too long.
Luckily, however, there are still good people who are willing to defy such arbitrary and ill-conceived laws and ordinances.
The folks over at the aptly named organization Don’t Comply, took to the streets just outside the Austin Street Shelter in Dallas this weekend to perform, what has now become a revolutionary act – feeding the homeless.
‘We are not complying with a bad law today,’ Matthew Short, PR director of Don’t Comply said. ‘Evidently the city of Dallas believes that it’s wrong, or bad, or unlawful for us to feed more than a certain number of people at a time. But, during Christmas, we want to show love to our community and give these people a chance to survive the winter, whether it be with blankets or coats, or just giving them a holiday party like today with all kinds of cookies, and goodies, turkey and dressing, and the whole nine yards.’”
Laws preventing Americans from taking care of people are stupid and should be abruptly, pointedly defied. Just because some bureaucrat (or hyper-partisan) can come up with a justification for a law does not make the law legitimate. Or moral. I wish the participants would have printed up giant posters with the names and faces of the city council members who voted in favor of this giant overreach, and posted videos of people laughing at them.
Much laughing. And pointing. With laughing. And not complying.
Our country was founded on the idea of individual liberty and it’s accompanying responsibility. I hope we see more of this.
Last December, the Dallas city council enacted Ordinance No. 29595, which makes it illegal to serve food to the homeless without jumping through a statist myriad of bureaucratic hoops, including a fee, training classes, and written notices.
Every single Dallas City Council member who voted in favor of this- regardless of party- should be loudly and embarrassingly booted from office. The citizens of Dallas should make the point that they’re tired of this level of meddling and control coming from Our Betters.
You can’t feed the homeless without a permit.
Oh yeah? Watch me.
December 30, 2015
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.