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Sunday, July 6th, 2008
11:43 pm - Paid my REI tax today
...and I got some camping gear. I've decided to go with an ultralight minimalist approach to camping. When I was a kid, we got hand-me-down everything, so I decided to get something nice. We went kayaking this morning and that inspired me to do more with nature sooner.

For starters, I got an ultralight backpack. It is very lightweight. I tried on several medium capacity packs, walking around the store with a bunch of weighted pillows stuffed into them. This one was not only the most comfortable of the ones I tried on, but also the cheapest. Nice when it works out that way. It is very adjustable and has a pocket for a water bladder that my camelbak bladder fits into.

I found a decent 2-person tent that I was going to buy from them, too. It was on sale, but they had run out of them. After looking around, I was thinking of just using a bivy sack, but worried about bugs bugging me all night. That's when I came across this bug hut tent. It's very light and would be excellent in the summer as long as it doesn't rain. One of the employees there was telling me about how a lot of minimalist campers love this tent and build their own rain fly for it. For now, I'll just pack a small tarp for such an emergency.

I also got a JetBoil stove system. I've been wanting one of these for a long time, and finally decided to get one. I tested it out, and it boiled 2 cups of water in about 2 minutes or so. Minimal fuel was used, too. This will be great for all the dehydrated meals they have. I picked up an envelope full of dehydrated Chana Masala and rice. I plan on trying that out this week at home.

The final piece was an inflatable bed mat that was on sale. I wasn't really sure whether I'd want something inflatable along with me, but after laying down on one at the store, then on some plain foam, it was clear to me that the inflatable mat was the clear winner. I don't know if I would have bought it if it were full price, though.

The pack, full of everything I had bought, weighed in at just under 10 lbs. Adding 1.5 gallons of water will put this over 20 lbs. Limiting my random other stuff to 5 lbs shouldn't be too much of a problem. My goal is to keep the total pack weight under 25 lbs. The good part about hiking is that the more water you drink, the less you have to carry. At first, water by itself will probably weigh more than all other pack things combined (including the pack itself). This is very different from my childhood camping experience. I had a horribly fitted pack with an ancient cotton sleeping bag and no real waist support. We never had a tent, we just used tarps, poles, rope and creativity. We also slathered ourselves up with insect repellent to make it through the night. I'm guessing my pack weighed at least 50 lbs. Carrying it sucked. I hope to replace some lame camping experiences with a bunch of good ones in the coming years.

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Thursday, July 3rd, 2008
4:36 pm - Maker's Faire in Dallas July 19th
Who's Going?

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Sunday, June 29th, 2008
1:14 pm - Flock Web Browser
Does anyone else here use the Flock web browser? It has a bunch of neat features and runs on top of the Mozilla rendering engine, so it renders similarly to firefox. It has a bunch of social networking integration features.  For instance, I'm posting this entry from the built in blog editor.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

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Saturday, June 14th, 2008
10:46 am - To Lisa Gerrard fans...
She's doing guest vocals on the next Klaus Schulze album, Farscape. It will be released the first week of July.

Photos of them from 2007

For those that don't know much about Lisa Gerrard, she was/is the main performer in Dead Can Dance.

In other news...I can't wait to go kayaking!

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Thursday, June 12th, 2008
12:33 am - The first two centuries
I've been obsessing over bikes of late. I now have 3 of them. The eldest is a Cannondale M400 (rigid hard tail mountain bike), which I've converted to a single speed bike and I've had slick tires on for a few months. The second is an Iron Horse Maverick (squishy forks, hard tail) which I bought new back in Jan. It's basically what kicked me back into biking mode. It also got me into mountain biking, which I had previously not done much of. The latest addition is an '87 Schwinn Tempo which I've built up into a single speed fixed gear commuter bike. I'm still working on getting it setup just right. Fixed gear biking is very different from normal biking for sure.

I have ridden the newest (actually, oldest) one about 150 miles in the past few weeks. I don't have an odometer on it yet, so I'm just guessing at that mileage based on google maps. So far, I've liked it. I've commuted to work (20mi round trip) a few times, and swapped out several parts as they come available via craigslist or been borrowed from another bike including the handlebars, seat, pedals and various tiny parts. I replaced the original crank that I bought on craigslist because it was slightly eccentric and was causing the chain tension to vary too much. I also got a new set of front brakes (not using rear brakes on fixed gear bike). I tried a few things that ended up not working. I now have a craigslist parts bin of my own to sell off soon. Half of what I originally bought will be replaced with new stuff eventually.

Tomorrow, I'm going to LB Houston after work to take the old Cannondale rigid bike out for some dirt riding on some big knobby tires.

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Tuesday, May 27th, 2008
11:10 pm - New bars and commuting
Yesterday, I did a test commute to work. It was a day off, and I had a new (to me) bike to ride.

It's only 10 miles each way, up Denton Rd, across Willowbrook, up Shady Trail (past the strip clubs), crossing under I35 on Manana, then back down Newkirk to California Crossing all the way into Las Colinas. My legs got a little sunburnt, but I survived it ok. I went on a little unplanned ride Sunday morning after getting the new handlebars on, and I could feel it yesterday. Now I need a rack with laptop-sized panier bags.

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Saturday, May 24th, 2008
9:15 am - Damn!
I only rode about 10 miles yesterday on the new bike, but my muscles feel as though I went on a ride twice that long. I wonder if braking by pressing the pedals backwards contributed to this. I do recall from studying weight training that most of muscle growth happens on the muscle extention phase, as opposed to the contraction phase. I wonder if this is what people are talking about when they say fixed gear riding is better exercise.

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Thursday, May 22nd, 2008
11:16 pm - Err...*Pre*-weekend project
I knew I couldn't wait for the weekend to do a weekend project! I got all of the parts you see home by 9pm tonight, and 2 hours later, here's the bike waiting on a new chain that is soaking in degreaser:)

I have it setup for a fixed gear mode now and will keep it that way until I get a front brake for it. The bike shop didn't have anything under $90, and I really don't want to spend that kinda cabbage on just one part. What's left to do is:

Buy front brake calipers
install brake, cable and caliper
wrap bars in cork handlebar tape
ride the shit out of it

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7:29 am - Weekend Project
I am acquiring the following today from Craigslist:

A decent frame (approx '87 Schwinn Tempo):

Some OK wheels with a flip/flop hubCollapse )

Misc parts from somebody else's leftover heapCollapse )

Some big tiresCollapse )

I still need to source a bottom bracket and I'm told the head set is worn and will need to be replaced. I've never messed with either of these, so I will have some learning to do. I haven't had a road bike in over a decade, so I expect this to be fun.

I meant to post this to bikepirates but accidentally posted it here in my own journal. No prob since I was going to mention it eventually.

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Friday, May 16th, 2008
7:48 pm - Neat Stuff

BTW, I'm really enjoying the Make Blog and all the nifty things it has. I'm also keen on http://toolmonger.com/ and http://www.instructables.com/

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Thursday, May 8th, 2008
5:12 pm - Whining about ailments
Monday and Tuesday morning, I woke up with high blood sugar. I went for a bike ride Monday night, just to make sure I had plenty of exercise to keep my blood sugar in check. It was still high Tuesday morning. I was a little sneezy, but didn't think much of it. Maybe I was fighting off a cold or something. I'm used to it. So, I go to kung fu class Tuesday night, and it just happens to be one of the most crowded classes I've ever seen. A large group of us did light (no pads, pulled punches) sparring for the whole class. I got dinged in the knee and my ankle caught an elbow. No biggie, I walked it off, and all was mostly fine after class when I drove home. I did notice more popping in my ankle than it normally does and a little bit of pain. I ate dinner and went to bed around 11p after some well earned TV time.

Fast forward to 1:30. I woke up with my ankle in intense pain (7 on a scale of 10). This was just laying there, not moving. Whenever I moved it or walked on it, it was extremely painful. I had to pee, so I got up and hobbled in pain to the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet, I found myself shivering uncontrollably. I got my house coat on and then checked my blood sugar. I was over 370! (normal is 75-110, but over 250 is bad bad. Over 300 is bad bad bad, etc..). I figured out that I had a fever and probably a cold of some sort, so I took some insulin and a tylenol and hobbled back to bed. Fevers make blood sugar go crazy in diabetics. I propped up pillows under my ailing foot to elevate it. After wincing at it for about an hour, I got up and contrived a ziplock bag/towel ice pack and used some gauze tape to attach it to my ankle, then returned to bed. After another half hour, I woke brindle up to help me out. She got me more tylenol and pillows. I think I finally went to sleep some time before 5am, when the pain subsided enough to let me sleep.

Lessons learned: High blood sugar will make inflammation MUCH WORSE. I've noticed this before when my back would ache whenever I got high blood sugar, but I guess my ankle invited much more pain to the party. A fever will consistently bring on high blood sugar, too. Yesterday, I could hardly walk, and found myself navigating with a trekking pole as a cane and dragging my gimp leg like a pirate. When Brindle got home, she brought me an ankle wrap, which seems to do wonders for my ankle. I can almost walk normally today. I'm not going to push it, so I'll be staying at home until maybe tomorrow night. I'm now taking advil for the inflammation and fever reduction, and that seems to do the job. I hope to be over this business by tomorrow.

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3:53 pm - We have doors
I worked from home today to supervise the installation of our new used french doors:

It only took them 2 hours to knock out the wall and get the door in place. All that's left is trim, paint and stairs.

current mood: excited

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Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
10:02 am - The Story of Stuff
Here's a general overview (video) on where stuff comes from and where it goes.


The one concept that I hadn't really pondered much before is that of Planned Obsolescence. This is where a product designer makes a product such that you will want to discard/replace it after a specified amount of time. Things really aren't built the way they used to be, and there's a lot of scheming behind that. An aside to that is Percieved Obsolescence, where fashion trends dictate that your old stuff looks embarassingly out of date, even if it works fine. Anyways, interesting video.

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Friday, April 25th, 2008
11:14 pm - Notes for next LED bike light design
Ok, after discussing my light with several people, I've decided to order parts for a small run of lights. This is more to show people how to make them than to make any sort of money off of it. I'm fronting about $100 in hard to find parts and will let people find their own batteries, cables and such.

Parts ListCollapse )

The main design that I'm considering making is a "Dinotte" style. It looks good and it's somewhat simple and easy to build, even if it's a little bit bulkier than it needs to be. An even simpler option uses 3 3/4" copper pipe end caps. It's smaller and probably a little heavier, but it will not have any overheating problems.

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Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008
12:28 am - Lessons learned
Old school recycled french doors are extremely heavy. Like, in the 300lbs range. I can lift one side with much effort, but 2 fems could not manage the other side. Under Brindle's advice and pressure, I asked our elder Spaniard neighbor to help out, and we got our score parked around the side of our house. He cut his thumb (after we offered gloves and asked him to be careful), but was acting macho and hiding the fact that he had been cut. We didn't make a big deal out of it, but over a week later, he probably has a sore there. I'm clueless when it comes to dealing with overly macho guys.

In another door related event, I learned that the $200 that Home Depot advertises for new door installation is completely worth it. Unless you would otherwise spend your time earning minimum wage, pay someone to do it - you will not profit from doing it yourself. I even like doing that kind of stuff, but we spent a whole weekend messing with the installation of a new door out in Ft. Worth, and cutting and painting trim. Putting a door into a hole that's not square presents a lot of challenges, too. Well, at least the power drill and miter saw both saw some action this weekend. We're still not done. The threshold needs some concrete under the lip of it and we need to caulk, among other things.

Tonight, I took a compensatory bike ride since I didn't get to have any fun this weekend. The Katy trail gets stupidly crowded. I started riding just before 7p, and I could hardly maintain any speed. The peds would want to walk 4 and 5-wide aross a relatively small walking/biking trail. They were barely keeping from running into each other, regardless of the occasional cyclist or skater zooming by. After about 12 miles of this stop and go congestion, it finally got dark enough for people to go home. I stopped by the car, and for the first time, tried out my new bike light. It took a minute to velcro it on, but it worked out very well. It is extemely bright. I got several comments from people who I came up behind, one of which thought for a second that a car was on the trail. After a quarter lap of gloating and burning out retinas, I turned the dimmer down to about half power. I generally had to keep it pointed at the ground, but the spill light was excellent, so you really see everything around you.

I learned/remembered that I really enjoy riding at night, with or without lights. The bugs go away for the most part and so do the people/obstacles. I am also starting to understand what the single speed cyclists are talking about when they talk about simplification. I normally spend a lot of mental effort trying to figure out what gear would be optimal for a given situation. Having only one gear makes this really easy. If you want to go faster, pedal faster. If you need a break, pedal slower. That's really easy. The only real down side for my setup is that I pretty much top out just below 20mph. Beyond that, I'm just trying to move my feet in hypothetical circles, but it's really too fast to be pedaling with the gear thar I ride in. I would need to put back on my biggest chain ring in order to use higher gears. Higher gears would make climbing hills suck, though. I'm willing to give it a try.

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2008
12:43 am - French Doors
We got French doors this weekend.

Now we just need to get them in the wall. You can see to the right of the doors in this image where the previous owners bricked over a window. We will turn this into a doorway. It will then be wicked pissah. I'd run out of adjectives, and last night I was content with awesome, but thanks to c1, I have better adjectives now. Good night.

BTW, we got these at a salvage yard. They are damn heavy (probably over 300lbs). Also, if you go to Home Depot to rent their by-the-hour truck, do not accept the "4 hour minimum for $80" that the assholes on the Lemmon ave store propose. Call another location and get the first 75 mins for $20 + 20 for each additional hour. I ended up renting a truck from Budget, and it cost me just under the 4 hour home depot charge, though I had the truck for 24 hours. Another thing, if you're local, don't rent a vehicle near an airport, as they jack the tax up to 25%. I could have had it for much cheaper.

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12:35 am - My helmet light project is pretty much done

It's damn bright. Glad it has a dimmer knob on it. Here's the rest of the story.

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Monday, April 7th, 2008
11:12 pm - Cree Q5 LED light first impressions
Today, I got the second shipment of bike light parts. At this point, I have 2 7.2v batteries, a single Cree Q5 bin LED light emitter with a 15 degree lense and a buckpuck 1000mA power driver with a potentiometer (dimmer switch). I loosely hooked everything up, just to see if it would work and all is well. I thought I had the dimmer knob turned down pretty far so that when it turned on, it wouldn't be too bright, but I guess it wasn't low enough. About an hour later and I still see spots from when it was on for less than a second.

I have copper pipe caps and already had some aluminum square stock sitting around from my WRX camera mount I previously made. It fits perfectly. I just need a power socket for it, some rugged power cable with proper end attachments and some Arctic Alumina Adhesive to glue it all together. This first light will be a helmet light. The next will mount on the handle bars.

I have 2 more emitters on order, but they are a different (cheaper) brand (SSC), but should be similarly bright. The new LEDs also have a different (cheaper) driver to go with them. This setup requires more work for me but is much more compact.

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12:28 am
Check out this awesome movie trailer!

Here's what I think about itCollapse )

(Update: brindle is apparently too clever to click on a link without first viewing the LJ cut.)

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Saturday, April 5th, 2008
8:49 pm - misc
Today, we went window shopping for french doors. We found an older pair of doors in good shape that we really like. They were the only decent pair of doors that fit our openning. If it's still there next weekend, we're buying it.

I got some bike parts in. I got a new handlebar to replace the rusty steel one on my old Cannondale. It's like 1/5 the weight of the steel bar and only cost $14. I cut it down to size before mounting it, as I prefer a short handlebar for mostly road riding. I have yet to try it out, but I expect little to change. However, this should reduce the bike's weight down to near 24lbs if I'm guessing right. I'm not much of a weight weenie, but it is nice to have a lightweight bike.

I was going to write more, but that's all I remember.

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