Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

I sure don’t use this much anymore

Between work, school, and my other interests it has become difficult to put together lengthy blog posts about much of anything. In fact, it has mostly slipped my mind that I even run this thing. Most of my thoughts end up posted on G+ but even those are generally only what I can tap in from my phone.

The Fall 2012 semester went well, and I left with a 3.0 for the semester. Work is also going well.

Life is good.

I do believe this will be the last post I make here. I’ll leave it around for the sake of reflection.

School and other things

The semester has been chugging along for nearly half the term at this point, but things are going well. Fluid mechanics makes much more sense having already taken it once. Solid mechanics is a good deal easier after you’ve been exposed to materials, fluids, and experimental methods. Since I will only be taking two courses a semester, I’m also working. My job is pretty cool, and I get to see big pieces of raw material as they transform into a finished part and then get assembled into heavy lift equipment. Yesterday, I watched my first critical lift where two cranes picked up a 70+ ton test deck and set it down on top of its piled in deck legs. The crew made it look easy.

Last weekend, I went out and tried my first public land hunt. I saw a lot of mosquitoes, a very large squirrel, and a redneck named Dale. My GPS got snapped off my gear somehow so I also got a little lost for a bit. Dead reckoning skills saved me, and I found my way right back to the road. Tonight, I’m going up to the forest again and will try to get into a tree on my new tree stand early tomorrow morning. If something tasty walks by, I’ve got some broadheads for it.

Aim small

Miss small.

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Things to Come

The horrific end to my first go at fluid mechanics has shifted my graduation back an entire year. At first this seemed to be a crippling blow, but more careful analysis reveals that it is probably the best thing that could have happened. Instead of killing myself with six engineering courses in a single term, I will finish school without having to take more than two classes a semester. My GPA could use the help a lighter load will provide. A lighter load will also let me tackle some personal projects I have in mind. What are those projects you might ask?

Project 1: Digital Hydrometer

An Arduino based project to determine the specific gravity of a fluid is first on my list of things to do. No longer do I have an ounce of faith in my analog hydrometer, and instead of doing things the easy way I intend to apply some of the years of science I have studied to build a better mousetrap. This will include a datasheet with my calculated uncertainty for specific gravity values, and a calibration mode to verify that my calculations are as relevant as possible. I may include some memory features to store previous S.G. values (and temperatures) in order to present the calculated percent alcohol by volume.

Project 2: Darkroom Rebuild

The powers that be have required the deconstruction of my darkroom to facilitate the renovation of the vanity area it had occupied. Redesigning, rebuilding, and upgrading the darkroom in a standalone structure is on my list of things to do. This will have to be a carefully planned build, as I do not intend to have to go back and reinvent the wheel again when I move to my own place. Modular construction will be key, though maintaining a well insulated and light tight modular structure will present some challenges. If I am going to build another darkroom it will include a much larger sink area, and one capable of serving as a thermal bath to maintain appropriate temperatures in my development chemistry. I anticipate the use of  an Arduino based control system inside the darkroom as well. As it stands the timer for my enlarger is an Arduino project I need to re-code, creating more control systems shouldn’t be difficult at all.

Project 3: Lagering Fridge

There is already an undesired freezer in the house, and it would do nicely to serve as a lagering or cold-conditioning closet for my beer. As a bonus, if it lives in the darkroom shed, it could also store my paper and film. Its refrigeration cycle could also be used to reduce temperature in the development thermal bath with some creative plumbing and of course another Arduino control circuit. In fact, running the temperature controls for both systems in a single device should not be rocket science at all. I may even be able to fit the AC requirements of the shed into the same Arduino sketch and have a one-stop shop for temperature control of three different systems.

Project 4: Automated Brewery

One day this will happen. It may end up a senior design project, or it may just be something I tackle on my own. My goal is to increase my extraction efficiency and maintain a system that allows for precise control of my mash temperatures whether I do a single step infusion mash or use protein rests and the like. Brewing is fun, but sometimes I just want to set and forget. As of this moment I am unsure exactly how much of the process I wish to automate, but there is a lot I certainly want to actively monitor and control. Arduino may be the way I go, but I could also see a Raspberry Pi or perhaps my old Soekris net4801 pulling the control systems lifting.

My intention is to have completed each of these projects before I can finally, after way too much education, claim to have completed a degree. Stay tuned.

Finally an A

Engineering Alloys is complete, and I finally got an actual A. No curve required, I knocked that class out of the park. Perhaps my brain still has some use left in it.

Going to California

Any excuse to listen to Led Zeppelin is good enough for me, thus the post title. Really though, I figured I ought to write something about my Memorial Day weekend trip to the Los Angeles area. Frequent flyer miles got me there with minimal cost. I actually spent less on my motel room and rental car than I would have on the flight itself without frequent flyer miles. Of course, I more than made up for the difference trying to find the bottom of every bottle of Booker’s bourbon within 20 miles of Glendale.

The real reason for my trip was to visit my childhood best friend, Andrew. We figured out that it had been eight years since we had last hung out while drinking some local IPA in a bar he frequents in Burbank. Fortunately, it was like we never missed a beat. He is doing well for himself, and his family. I will not let another eight years pass between visits.

A secondary mission was to shoot a ton of film with several models who had contacted me about working together. Every single one of them flaked. I am not impressed, California. Rather than waste the 13 rolls of film I brought with me, I just finished the roll of 35mm film that was already loaded in my favorite little rangefinder on a walk around Glendale.

In the end, I enjoyed my time in California. The weather was great, and I didn’t swat at a single mosquito the entire time I was there. I got to see Andrew, and a few other people I have met online over the years. I got to experience first-hand just how awful traffic is in Los Angeles (home to some of the slowest drivers I have ever encountered, no wonder the motorcycles lane-split there). Next time I go, I will be on two wheels to enjoy the twisty bits.

Around

What a semester!

Yesterday marked the end of what I can safely call the hardest semester I have ever faced. There is always some concern about how well I did in at least one class, and in keeping with that fine tradition I will sit and worry until grades post. As it stands, I know I passed both labs. Fluid mechanics ate my lunch, dessert and all, and then stole my bicycle before it burned my comic book collection. Never before have I encountered such a demoralizing class. Never encountering another like it would be quite all right with me. Design II was a fun class, but my capacity to choke on exams is surpassed only by Tony Romo’s ability to choke in the red zone. I doubt my grade in there reflects how well I can solve those problems when I am not in the process of taking an exam.

Anyway, grades will post and I will know how things went. Hopefully, I will be a senior next semester – a full eleven years since my first attempt at a BSME. To say I am ready to be finished with school would be the understatement of my life.

Now, it’s time to enjoy myself for a little while before I get back to the grind.

Update: I didn’t make it through Fluid Mechanics. A D+ is the same as an F to the engineering department, so I won’t be graduating before I’m 30 now. B in three classes, B- in one, and D+ in the last.

Last Call for MS150 Donations

In roughly one month, I will drop everything but my Windsor Fens and pedal my way from Houston to Austin. The ride is one I’ve made with the assistance of hydrocarbons many times, but this will be the first time I’ve done it under my own power. What would drive someone to do something so seemingly insane? Raising money to help those who suffer from multiple sclerosis sounds like a good reason to me – a good enough reason that I not only paid the BP MS150 registration fee, but donated another $100 myself.

Initially, I was going to ride this event alone. As time went on, it started to make a lot more sense to join a team. Looking through the teams that were still open for new riders I came across one that caught my eye: Band Against MS. Why that team? Many years ago, when I was a young boy living in Midland, TX, my parents took me to see Alan Jackson in concert. It was a great show, and the first concert I remember attending. Clay Walker was the opening act at that show and a few years later he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Clay Walker started Band Against MS in 2003; in 2011 I joined the team.

If you have a few minutes to spare, and are willing to part with a few tax-deductible dollars, click here and then click on the donate button below my picture. As of this post, I’m 60% of the way there with a month to go. If you have more questions about what the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is about, and how the donations are used, two informational PDFs are attached below:

How the Money is Spent

How Your Money Helps

Around Vegas

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Crazier by the minute

This semester has been brutal. Things to not appear to be letting up at all. I haven’t even exposed a single frame of film in more than a week. Not fun.

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