Welcome! I am an engineer, programmer, designer, and all-around geek. You may be interested in some of my electrical and mechanical projects. Take everything you read here with a grain of salt and remember to wear your safety glasses.

Link Dump, March 2017

  • By now surely everyone has heard that SpaceX has accepted “significant deposits” from two private citizens for a trip around the moon, using SpaceX's Dragon capsule and Falcon Heavy rocket. The video above is some lovely footage from the last SpaceX mission, showing their reusable booster returning to a landing pad at Cape Canaveral.
  • Not to be outdone, Blue Origin have revealed completed units of its new BE-4 engine, intended for their own orbital New Glenn platform.
  • Paris-based startup Hypersuit is developing a virtual reality platform that the user lies down on, simulating bird-like flight, spacewalks, swimming, etc. I’ve got a personal story to tell about this. The first time I tried a development version of Oculus Rift with my friends Antonio Haley and Jon Lusk, one of the demos was a 360 degree video of a wingsuit flight from a cliff in some impressively vertiginous fjord someplace, probably Norway. After trying it standing up, my first instinct was to run to our warehouse area and bring over a furniture dolly (a sort of wheeled platform for moving cargo around) to lie on, belly-down as wingsuit flyers do. One of my comrades brought over a desk fan to add something to the simulation. Obviously I looked ridiculous. But I’m glad someone did something serious along these lines!
  • And another wacky idea from France: a fleet of autonomous personal hydrofoils for urban river transport? It looks cool enough but I'm skeptical of this one; it's a bit too TED-friendly if you take my meaning.
  • The port of Rotterdam has been operating some aquatic robots designed to collect floating trash. I’ve considered building something like this. In coastal south Florida there are many marine canals in residential backyards and there’s quite a bit of trash in those canals, to the point that real estate agents know that lots at the end of those canals, where trash accumulates, are less desirable. To my mind, the dealbreaker with selling a trash-collecting skimmer robot is the prosaic part of frequently having to lift a heap of gathered trash from some sort of bin in the robot, four feet up from the water surface, to the homeowner’s dock for disposal. But we’ll see what operational experience in Rotterdam reveals!

Valentine's Day Cocktail: the Boulevardier

This month's drink is a variation on the classic Negroni, with whiskey in the place of gin to make it even more suitable for winter. It's a good cocktail to make on Valentine's Day: sophisticated, sexy, and, well, red. Here's what you'll need:

  • 1 oz. whiskey
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth

Stir all ingredients in a “mixing glass” or a shaker with ice, but do NOT shake it. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass—I keep them in the freezer, but you can fill a glass with some ice and water while you build the drink to get it cold quickly. Garnish with a twist of lemon or orange.

This month I used some Redemption Rye because it's good and reasonably priced and, whether they realize it or not, so many people have the dangerous practice of treating Saint Valentine's Day as an opportunity for redemption, don't they? Using bourbon instead would be perfectly traditional as well, and might result in a sweeter or richer-tasting drink, while rye will tend to emphasize the herbal character of the Campari and vermouth.

Some variations:

  • Use bourbon instead of rye
  • Increase the whiskey to 1.5 oz. This will further deemphasize the bitterness of this drink.
  • If you really don't like Campari, and many people don't, try Aperol instead. It might help you get into this class of cocktails.

Enjoy!

Link Dump, February 2017

I think I'll try something new and share some items recently interesting to me in the form of a link dump.

  • Last year I followed with great interest youtube machinist Clickspring as he made a mechanical pendulum-timed clock from scratch in his home shop in Australia. This year he begins an ambitious new project, documenting in a series of videos his process of replicating the ancient mechanical computer known as the Antikythera mechanism. See the first episode above.
  • Neal Stephenson (one of my favorite authors) has announced, with Nicole Galland, a new Speculative Fiction novel featuring time-travel, the Victorian era, and a transition from a world in which magic works to one dominated by technology. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. will be on sale June 13.
  • There's a nice infrared thermometer made by Etekcity for sale at Amazon as of this writing. Even if you don't have any specific need for convenient no-contact temperature measurement, it's a great way to get an intuitive sense of heat transfer and great fun to point at everything you can think of.
  • Speaking of tools for STEM education, there's a project that makes it easy to enable visual programming environment Scratch, popular for teaching grade-school kids to code, to receive input from and pass control signals to things in the real world via Arduino. Scratch 4 Arduino is remarkably mature and easy to get going with.
  • In fact, I'm using it myself to build a system of musical swings (inspired by this traveling exhibit) that will be programmed by a talented student at a local school. Watch this space for more by the end of the month!

A Cocktail for January: the Rye Maple Fizz

This January I've been enjoying the Rye Maple Fizz, a fun and impressive-in-the-home-bar cocktail invented by star bartender Erick Castro at Rickhouse in San Francisco. It combines wintry flavors of maple syrup and rye whiskey with the classic fizz technique, which in this drink means reinforcing the fizziness of soda water with a foam of shaken egg white.

If that frightens you, consider: you're drinking, which I'm going to presume means you're an adult. If you're making a cocktail like this one than you're a more sophisticated adult than most and obviously already comfortable dabbling with a romantic vice and a bit of risk. So go ahead and embrace it already. Adopt an air of unconcerned magnificence and knock back a raw egg white and two ounces of rye whiskey. Nothing will happen to you (at least, nothing has happened to me), particularly if you wash the outside of the eggshell before cracking it.

With the lightweights sufficiently scared away, locate:

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey (I used Sazerac brand)
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice (squeezed fresh, of course)
  • 3/4 oz. egg white (After removing the yolk and chalaza one large egg should be enough)
  • 1/2 oz. maple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Ground cinnamon

Birthday LED Lights, with Birch Bark, Brass, and Laser-cut Acrylic

This summer I built a series of LED lamps to take the place of birthday candles for four of my family. There's 175 candle-flicker LEDs in all! Watch a video of the result on youtube:

I also added a page describing the process of making these to my projects page. Click here to read more!

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