Sunday, December 28, 2008

Railroading for the Holidays

Besides doing some photo editing for mom, I've been doing some video as well. Not that I expect you to watch all of it, but I've "Youtubed" some footage I shot of railroad operations out to Hull-Oakes back in 2006. They quit running the train out there last year because the tracks were falling apart, and since WPRR leased them, they didn't want to fix them, and of course the lease holder (SP, then UP) certainly didn't want to put any money into it. Catch-22, with Hull-Oakes catching the brunt of it.

Anyway, kind of the end of an era. Maybe of interest to the cousins. I've also been working a bit on my model train, but that is a whole different post...

Part II -

Part III -

(Still working on Part IV)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Evening in Bethlehem

For our Ward Christmas party this year, they did a Bethlehem theme. Invitations were rolled scrolls. We were taxed a can of food. The girls were give small bags of gold coins, and allowed to make candles, do some carpentry, and sculpt some clay. It was an amazing event. Too bad Santa missed it.

A Real Christmas Tree Treat

Stephanie and Jeff, fearing mayhem from a combined Cuddles / Ariana assault, decided to set up their real tree in the relative safety of our home. Can't say no to that, especially when they loan the ornaments and help set it up. It is gorgeous, decked out in white lights and gold ornaments. Nearly a foot taller than our mechanical tree, which is normally done in a multicolor hodge-podge theme, it is quite a treat.

Of course, we have other trees we can decorate as well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Happy Birthday

First birthday for my first grandchild! How fun.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Two Little Kitties by Ann Marie

The two little kitties love to play
and sleep. One day it started to snow
they had never seen snow before. Soon
they were playing in it and having so much
fun than they had ever had in their life. It was so
fun that they waited for it all year ever year.
The End

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Apple of My Eye

The Activity Day girls had a sharing night for the parents. The variety of apples as compared to the variety of talents was the theme. Most girls played instruments, showed sewing, or a sport. Robin got up with a bank they had made one Activity Day and told how she was saving for a mission. She said that after the sister missionaries had spoke to her class over a year ago, she felt the spirit and decided to go. She has been reading scriptures and saying prayers faithfully to get ready. Her dedication is quite remarkable.

The First Thousand Words

Along with Lynn Rivett, I'm trying to write a book this month as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Don't ask me why. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. That doesn't sound to hard, right? That is only 1,700 words a day. I thought it would be fun to put my daily output in a blog so you can follow along, comment, and suggest. We are supposed to focus on word count, and not spelling or gramar (how lucky for me).

Here it is. You'll have to start at the bottom (Introduction) and work your way up.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Scratching the Programing Itch

There is a cool little language called "Scratch", which is build using Squeak, which is a version of SmallTalk. Got it? Good. Anyway, it is basically a "Lego" approach to programming for kids (and kids at heart) from the brains at MIT. Very easy, very fun, and very capable. Here is the result my my first attempt:

Press the space bar to hear the cat. Cool, eh? Here was how it was built:

On the left are the "building blocks". In the middle are the program steps. On the right is the output. You can actually change the program while it is running, and see the immediate results. Well, it impresses me anyway.

And, no. This is not what I'm doing at work! I'm learning Linux, Python, and something called Enterprise Available Software Applications.

And yes, I got carried away with the hyperlinks!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

These "Hot Dance" instructions were for the Dance-Dance-Revolution Game we bought for our dear old departed PlayStation several years ago. I've highlighted the highlights, but there are gems throughout (you can click on it to get a full size version if it is hard to read).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Corvallis Bicycle Picture

In line with my blog about the computers I've owned, I was thinking about doing it for my bikes as well. Here is one of my first. I'm the one the far right.

But seriously, take a look at their outfits and the flag on the wall (click on it to get a full size version). This is supposed to be on 2nd street in Corvallis. I don't think the building still exists.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blueberry as a Fall Color?

Yes! These are the blueberry fields near the Peavy Arboretum. They are gorgeous in the morning sun this time of year.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Spy Photo

If you've ever thumbed through an auto magazine, you've seen the "spy" photos of cars under development. Here is one of a new model bicycle. Note the lack of brakes and chain. They must be just checking out the handling. It has got nice lines, but I doubt that goofy looking handlebar setup will make it into production.

Wait, is that front wheel from a Bob trailer????

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sticky Friday

I saw this web on the way into work this morning. It is hard to do it justice with a camera. Truely beautiful.
This image is inverted. You can see the building I work in, framed by trees!

Third and last trip out to see the web. Self portrait a-la-web-dew! I wish I had more time and a better camera!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I've Been Framed!

I haven't had a lot of time to work on the bike, so it is progressing rather slowly. I read an interview with the original designer, and he said they were putting 80 hours into a completed bike. Now I know why they are so dang expensive! I'll probably have twice that in for half as good a bike. At least I can say I built my own bike.

I've about got the frame completed, minus paint. I just put in the brake bridges and relocated the cantilever pivots. Click on the top picture to get a better look at my wicked good brazing skills. It'll look better painted, trust me. I'm going to prime it to keep it from rusting, and build it up so I can ride. I've got to finish it before the rains set in so Sweet Polly Purebread can have her garage back!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Byte About Me

0 - My first introduction to computers was in the late 70's at the university where my dad worked. They had a room full of teletype terminals which were connected to a big computer in some other room. They had a user account that would run games if it wasn't too busy. We played a text game called "Star Trek". It would print out what the surrounding quadrants had in them, and you typed in your commands. We used a lot of yellow continuous feed paper. We made up for it by recycling the paper-punch programming cards for craft projects.

1 - In grade school, they had a Tandy TRS-80. The designers of the "Trash-80", as it became to known, thought they could sell 50,000 units. The company decided to only make 3500 because they figured if they couldn't sell them, they would use them themselves. They eventually sold 250,000 units. I programed the TRS-80 to show a WWII submarine with waves moving past it. How is that for foreshadowing?

10 - My first computer was a Sincair XZ-81. I paid $99 for a kit, but they ran out of kits, so they sent me one assembled, which would have cost $149, for the same price. Amazingly, you can still buy a new kit for $200. It had 1 kilobyte ram and ran at 3.5 MHz. It saved and loaded programs on a tape recorder. I programed it to show balls bouncing according to the effects of gravity, and simple orbital paths.

11 - It is a good thing they sent the XZ-81 assembled, because latter I paid $300 for a microcomputer kit, which, when I was done soldering it together, let the magic smoke out of the power supply and I couldn't get it to work. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone for help, so I threw it in the trash. I delivered a lot of papers for that experience.

100 - In highschool they had about a dozen Apple IIs. They were all connected to a thing called a "hard drive" which could store and retrieve 5 megabytes of data. Man that was a lot. My project was a program where you could save text messages which could be retrieved later by other users, kind of like "electronic mail". I don't think I ever got it fully working, but it was a neat idea.

101 - My next computer, which luckily wasn't available as a kit, was a Radio Shack color computer. I think I paid $399 for it. You can get one on Ebay now for $23 + shipping. It came with 4 kilobytes of ram. I got bored with programing in Basic because it was so slow. I taught myself assembly language and made a counter than ran so fast the first digit was a blur. Man that was fast. I later upgraded it to 16 kilobytes because my programs were getting larger.

110 - When I was in early in my Navy career, I bought a Commodore 64. They retailed for $595, and are now available on Ebay for about the cost of shipping. It was the first computer I owned with a "disk drive". The external drive was almost as big as the computer itself. I think I mainly played games on it. I once got so mad when playing a game that I took the disk out and cut it up on the spot. Solved that problem.

111 - When I was stationed in Hawaii, I bought my first laptop, a Toshiba T1000se. I think I payed well over $1000 for it. I don't see any listed on Ebay right now. It had 4 megabytes of memory and ran at a blazing 9.54 MHz and had MS DOS 3.11 in ROM so it booted quickly. I mainly used it to play submarine simulation games like Silent Serice II and 688 Attack Sub, which is kind of crazy considering I was living on a sub at the time. Toshiba latter sold some CNC technology to the USSR which allowed them to make advanced submarine propellers. There was some kind of boycott, and I was a bit embarrassed about owning it. I ended up selling it for $50, which is what it cost me to replace the battery to get it ready to sell.There you go. Eight bits (a byte, get it?). Catch the binary numbering? I didn't even make it into the Windows era. Oh well, tune in latter and I'll tell you about the hand-me-down 3-GHz, dual-CPU Xeon, workstation they gave me to run Linux on at work. Talk about fast . . .

Now I'm thinking about going back for another try at the ZX-81 kit. Maybe I can keep the magic smoke in this time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Modeling as a Third Career.

Actually, that is as a computer modeling technician. What does that mean? You can use a computer to model the characteristics (physical, thermal, electrical, fluidics) of just about anything. And it is cheaper and faster than building and testing the real deal. So, that makes it possible to test, refine, and narrow down design possibilities before building physical models to test. It seems everything at HP is now "faster, lighter, cheaper". Well, not lighter, unless you are talking about head count. In the recent round of restructuring we just sweated through, most groups lost positions, while the computer simulation group gained positions, me being one of them. I hope that is a good sign.

If you consider my 20's in the Navy as my first career, lasting twelve years, and my 30's at HP in chemistry as a second career, lasting twelve years, then this will be my third career. Let's hope it last as long as the others. It is interesting to note that most of the job requirements for this new position were met by either hobby interests (linux, embedded electronics, and programming) or secondary (and voluntary) job experience (database management and web applications). I guess that just points out the need to keep learning at things you enjoy.

P.S. The image is the visualization of a computer model of a bat in flight. Geeky can be cool. I'm not sure if they had any modifications in mind or went on to test the real deal.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wicked Cool Movie

I dare you to watch at least the first ten minutes of Six-String Samurai. It is on Netflix "Watch instantly". It is rated PG-13 for "martial arts and swordfight violence".

I can't believe this movie went ten years without finding me! Destined to be a classic.

See ya in Vegas.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sling Seat

The quickest way to spot a home-make recumbent is the seat. A lot of times they are made of wood with foam padding, or have a "lawn chair" look. I decided to build a version called a "sling seat" because it looked good, and more importantly, looked comfortable.

The frame is made from electrical conduit tubing, which is available in several sizes at most hardware stores. The only drawback is a zinc coating which needs to be removed before heating since it gives off toxic gas. Other than that, it is pretty easy to bend and work with. The plans on the web actually give full size printouts, which make it easy to get the right fit.

The covering is made of a material called Phifertex. It is a vinyl covered nylon mesh, and is designed for outdoor furniture. It is extremely strong and rip resistant. Its main advantage is allowing sweat to evaporate from your back while you are riding.

Instead of sewing the material onto the frame as the plans suggested, I used grommets and lacing. That will allow it to be adjusted to the right tension, and allow it to be easily replaced.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What TV Shows to Watch This Season?

Its a new season of shows on TV. What are you guys watching?
Here is what we are so far:

With the kids:
My Name is Earl (questionable)

Ken, Without the kids:
Terminator Sarah Connor Chronicles
The Unit

Looking into:
Night Rider (questionable)
Pushing Daisies

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bike Breaking

I'm building a bike. Actually, rebuilding is probably more accurate. Or maybe merging, since I'm taking two bikes to build one. So bike breaking (as in ship breaking) was the first order of business.

Why build a bike, you ask? I already have a couple. I'm getting old however, and my back hurts and my knees are shot (one of them, anyway). I want a recumbent, but they cost an arm and leg, or at least as much as knee surgery. Being a cheap and thrifty guy of many talents, I'll figure I'll can try and make one.

It almost seemed like a sin to cut into a bike frame. One of the donor frames was a freebie early eighties mountain bike frame from a missionary getting ready to go home. The other was a late seventies Japanese road bike frame I paid $20 for.

I don't think I would have tried this if it wasn't for two things. First, all the instruction are posted on the internet. I learned from Project Buggy that working the bugs out of a design is the most time consuming part of a project. I'm more than willing to let someone else do that for me.

Secondly, Smitty was next door and willing to teach me how to braze. Brazing is a lot like soldering, which I became quite proficient at doing for Project Buggy. You just need about a magnitude more heat. It is also a lot easier to do than welding, which is why it has been a preferred bike building technique from the beginning of time.

Tune in for our next episode, where we'll learn about the sling seat design and the modern miracle called Phifertex.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Broken Bride Rock Opera

Don't ask me how I stumbled onto this, but it is fascinating. It is a 27 minute "rock opera" by the band Ludo. It reminds me of Rush's 2112.

It might help if you read the storyline while listening. Here is a good link:
(it will open in a new window thanks to my wicked html skills).

If nothing else, listen to the last song (part IV). You'll still need to know the storyline to fully appreciate it.

There. Blogation over.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Following Blogs

Seems like family blogging in blooming! Here are a couple of trick to keeping up with it all:

First, the key to subscribing to a blog is getting the "subscription URL". Most of us are using Blogger, and at the bottom of the blog's home page, there is usually a link labeled "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)". If you right-click on it (sorry Mac users, you'll have to figure it out), and select "copy shortcut", you end up with something similar to this for my blog on your copy/paste clipboard (in memory):

There a a couple of things you can do with a subscription URL. If you like the the blog list I have on the right side of my page (I'm calling it "blogiptions"), you can add one to your blog in the following manner:
  1. From your blog page (while signed in), select "customize" up at the top.

  2. Select "Layout" tab, and then "Page Elements".

  3. Select "Add a Gadget" from your side bar or bottom bar.

  4. Select "Blog List", select your options.

  5. Click "Add to List" at the bottom.

  6. Add the subscription URL you copied from the blogs home page (see earlier instructions).

If you would like a central place to read postings without going to each page, you can use Google Reader ( You still need to add the subscription URLs by clicking on the "Add Subscription" link and URL like above. Actually, if you populate your Google Reader first, then you can have Blogger import the links for your Blog List and avoid the long procedure above!

There is a new feature for called "Followers". From your Dashboard ( while signed in), you have a "reading list" toward the bottom. Click "Add" and paste in the subscription URL from above. You call also add a "Followers" Gadget to invite people to follow like you see on my blog.

Finally, probably something most of you know, when you make a reply to a post, there is a box to select if you want to get follow up e-mails. It is normally unchecked. If you check it, it will send you a email whenever someone posts to that specific topic.

Good luck following. Let me know if the instructions trip you up. Blog at ya latter!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

End of the World and Pink Elephants

I'd hate the world to end before blogging about it, so I'm posting a day early.

The Large Hadron Collider is scheduled to fire up Wednesday, and may create a mini-black hole which would then swallow the earth. Man, wouldn't that be cool to watch! According to Fermilab theorist Joe Lykken, with about the same probability, it could also create a pink elephant!

Here is a entertaining and informative LHC rap song that doesn't mention pink elephants:

Kurt Vonnegut knew how the universe really ends. It is blown up by the Tralfamadorian's experimenting with new fuels for their spaceships. A test pilot presses a starter button, and the whole universe disappears (from Slaughterhouse-Five). I don't think Kurt ever wrote about pink elephants.

Do I think it the world will end? No. If it does? I think we probably deserved it. “Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt.”

P.S. Dibs on any pink elephants created tomorrow.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Buggy hits the Blogosphere!

The people over at Make Magazine blogged about the Buggy Project! Check out:

That gives me a warm fuzzy. I'm hoping they'll put it in the magazine or one of their cool books. The magazine is where I got the soda bottle rocket design from two reunions ago. They have more cool projects than I have time (or money)!

I've got a lot of good feed back on the project at the Instructables Website, but I don't know that anyone has tried to build or improve on it. I was hoping someone would take off with it. I improved the code a bit, so if you come by to visit, bring your buggy and I'll upgrad it and give you a new battery (they only last a week or so).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tree House 2.0

Stephanie's tree house underwent a refit last week. After nearly twenty years, it needed it. Smitty helped me build this down in Florida one summer back when Stephanie was about six. I think we spent about $100 for materials. It was set on stilt about six feet high in between some trees in Grandma and Grandpa Smith's back yard. This was when I really learned to appreciate Smitty's problem solving abilities. He takes the time to think things through, whereas I plow right in, usually making regrettable mistakes. We ended up with a tree house built to last twenty years or more.

When we moved to Oregon, I cut the stilts off and transported it in the back of my old big blue truck, which in turn was towed by the U-haul. It made quite a spectacle. In Oregon, it found a new spot in our back yard in between two evergreens.

Not being on stilts allowed it to be overrun by all sorts of crawly things, which in turn kept the intended inhabitants from using it much. The Oregon rains had been working on the roof, and many summers of sun had faded the paint. Jeff, my son-in-law, instigated the overhaul, which is fitting considering it started as a father-in-law project. Being quite a handy man, he didn't learn much from me on this one. Smitty played more of a consultant role, probably humored by the role reversals.

Now it has a new roof, is back up on stilts (actually a foot higher than originally), and has a front porch. It is ready for another twenty years, and a new generation of inhabitants.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Viva la Vida

Stephanie had a cool song from Coldplay on her blog that I had never heard. Apparently they put out another album and forgot to tell me. The sound is quite a bit different than their earlier albums.

I put together the album on Playlist. If nothing else, listen to Viva la Vida.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Top ten things not to worry about!

Here is an interesting article about things not to worry about:

I would add:
  • Making your bed.
  • Mowing your lawn.
  • Neil being elected president.

What else is there we shouldn't worry about?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Neil for President? Why Not!

Why haven't we heard of this before? I didn't know Neil was running for president. He must have a lot of friends!

How about Emily for VP!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Sister Missionaries, Scene 6

The final Scene. All scenes can be seen here:

Scene 6 – Final Scene – Missionaries alone at end of day.

M1 – What a day!

M2 – My feet are killing me.

M1 – Dreary Hill wasn’t as all that bad. We made a lot of great contacts!

M2 – Yea, and we didn’t get shot at.

M1 – The Lord was watching out for us. I felt the spirit several times today.

M2 – Yes, your right. I’m glad we went. I think we are going to be great companions.