Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sewing Storage Cabinet from IKEA Completed

Having needed a storage cabinet for sewing supplies for quite a while, I knew I had a winner while out shopping at IKEA with Amy. This cabinet is a CD storage unit, but seemed perfect for storing notions.

Got it completed today! The drawers rotate towards you from the top. Very slick design, great industrial design, easy to put together, and the materials aren't low quality.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Photography and Homeland Security

I enjoy photography. I like taking photos of pretty much whatever I want to take photos of.

This sort of keystone-cop security-addicted police-state crap has got to stop.

Vogue 2494 Black Brocade Dress Report 5 - Final Report

Hooks on back of dress installed.

30 July 2005 025

Zipper in left side installed.

30 July 2005 026

Front of dress bodice completed. Somewhat satisfied with it.

30 July 2005 005

Dress is ready to ship! Hooray!

Amateur Radio Autopatch Future, Work Update, and Plans

I've been assisting in getting our autopatch working again at my radio club's repeater site. The design is good, but 15 years old. I'm thinking about putting a team of people together to redesign the autopatch based around a PIC microcontroller.

I'm very interested in hearing from anyone that has worked on autopatch hardware, software, or protocol/feature set design.

The autopatch is used by a regular crowd of people. The system is set up to where you must register, and receive a personal identification number. The control is distributed.

Going forward, terrestrial cellular service will continue to be the first line of communication for many people, myself included. However, reading recent articles about packet radio and the need for strides forward in that arena got me to thinking about the resource of the autopatch. Having a radio link into the telephone service isn't a bad thing, especially when cellular networks don't operate terribly well under heavy loads. The way that most cellular networks are designed, failures during emergencies remain common enough to be predictable.

Now, if the cellular service was indeed bulletproof, would it still make sense to keep an autopatch up and running? My instinct is yes, that it would be good, if only to provide an area of interest and training for people that want to learn more about the phone system, and the challenges of interfacing several systems together. I would love to hear other peoples' thoughts on autopatch technology and the future of autopatch systems.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Cool Toy

27 July 2005 0071

This is one of the neatest toys I've come across lately. Magnetized plastic gears that freely spin, and a motorized gear to turn them all. The gear is well-clutched, so jams don't bother it. It's tap-on. tap-off, easy enough that the 1 year old plays with it no problem, and it makes some really neat combinations if you experiment around with it. There are different-sized gears, as you can see in the photo, and they're different colors. Not pictured are the red, orange, and purple gears. They're on the floor beside Michael. I just didn't get them all in the picture.

Two things I noticed with this toy are

1) the glue holding the magnet to the gear doesn't stand up to Full Nerdling Assault. Michael disassembled a lego bumper car while riding it at Legoland, so this is somewhat of a nitpick. I glued the magnets back on with some sort of strange white glue substance that Office Depot sold a while back. They've not come off since.

2) Geneva pulled off all the stickers and stuck them to herself. The gears are now not decorated. You put the stickers on yourself, so you can choose color combinations. However, the adhesive was apparently made out of the same stuff that the magnet glue was made out of.

Writing Journal Quote

Postatem obscuri lateris nescitis

[poh-STAH-tem ob-SKOO-ree lah-TAY-rees nes-KEE-tees]

Translation: You do not know the power of the dark side.

Panorama from three separate digital images. This massive thunderhead with anvil was photographed on 18 August 2004 at the Wild Animal Park in San Diego, CA. I'm looking forward to photographing some more thunderheads this August. Yesterday there were some amazingly impressive ones visible from Mira Mesa. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Vogue 2494 Black Brocade Dress Report 4

Hemmed skirt, sleeves, and finished seams. Worked on the hole in front. Not entirely happy with it, but it seems to be working ok.

Next step is zipper on the left-hand side, hooks on upper back, and then shipping it out!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Stem Cell Research Article

Here's a short article that illustrates why I support adult stem cell research.

Stem Cells Restore Heart Function in Pigs
-- Dennis Thompson

TUESDAY, July 26 (HealthDayNews) -- Researchers report the successful use of stem cells to treat heart attack tissue damage in pigs -- a breakthrough that is paving the way for human trials.

"There is reason for optimism about these findings, possibly leading to a first-ever cure for heart attack in humans," senior author Dr. Joshua Hare, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said in a prepared statement.

"Ultimately," he said, "the goal is to develop a widely applicable treatment to repair and reverse the damage done to heart muscle that has been infarcted, or destroyed, after losing its blood supply."

In just two months, stem cells harvested from another pig's bone marrow and injected into the animal's damaged heart restored the animal's heart function and repaired damaged heart muscle from 50 percent to 75 percent, according to the study, which was published in this week's onlie issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Two patients already have been enrolled at Johns Hopkins to participate in a Phase I clinical trial of the therapy, which will test the safety of injecting adult stem cells at varying amounts in patients who have recently suffered a heart attack.

A total of 48 patients will participate in the study. Results are not expected until mid-2006, the researchers said.

Comic-Con 2005 Science in Sci-Fi Panel Discussion Notes

I've been procrastinating on the Comic-Con writeup because I wanted to spend some time really thinking about the sorts of things that I heard and saw. Also, because I put my notebook down in a weird place and didn't find it again until today. So! Without further ado, here are some observations about Comic-Con 2005!

First, I made a list of comics I wanted. This is always an exercise in optimism, since the amount of comics for sale at Comic-con is so enormous, and the organization of those comics so whacked, that the odds of you walking out with what you wanted when you walked in are quite low. Essentially, I was looking for Lone Wolf and Cub, Grey, Shi, Vampire Miyu, Dirty Pair, Gunsmith Cats, GI Joe European Missions, GI Joe vs. Transformers, Racer X, and anything in German.

I did get a few comics, and some of them are nearly the same as what I had on my list.

Here are my notes from the Science in Sci-Fi panel discussion.

Does it really matter how good the science is in science fiction? Hard Sci-Fi requires the technology to be more correct. There is the concept of Tech-Fi vs Sci-Fi was raised. When technology is the point of the story you have ceased writing Sci-Fi.

With regards to what is known as Comic Book Science - the more you try to explain Superman, the more you end up destroying Superman. Comic Book Science is just good enough to set the stage for the human relationships that the story is "really" about. I had the same reaction to the Mitichlorians explanation of "The Force" in Star Wars. I remember being and still am totally offended that The Force was reduced to some sort of genetic mutation. This made it impossible for The Force being something that a person could train to do, and made it less mysterious, special, and human. Even though DNA is the essentiality of being human, reducing such a magical thing to something easily identified in the bloodstream made me fume. Perhaps my reaction stems from a resistence to things like being a Jedi as deterministic things. I like the idea that a person can strive and achieve, and that simple genetics isn't the underlying reason. Another example that I thought of while sitting in the panel was Peter Pan and the magic of Neverland.

Characters trump the technology. For example, Heinlein. There is a fiction of science, and you should pick your battles when you write sci-fi. Some things are not and should not be addressed in order to move the story along. When you pick up a book, there are things you accept at face value. This is just the way good stories work, and there is not anything wrong with it. When it doesn't work well, is when you are asked to accept too much at face value, or asked to accept things for little or no reason.

The question of placing your story in time came up. Events will overtake you, so choosing something in the distant future is an easy way to avoid the problem of your particular work looking dated or silly if it's too close to the present, and things don't look like what you envisioned when we all get there.

"What is your string theory story?" The next question examined was that of whether or not significant scientific discoveries make good stories. String Theory, while really cool, doesn't have (to the panel anyway) much to offer readers. Writing a story about the science often devolves into a story about Cool Toys, or a story that runs like Frankenstein - in other words, the risks or danger of technology. These stories often are simplistic and don't result in a good book. Sometimes Sci-Fi can result in things that are indistinguishable from fantasy.

A useful element in Sci-Fi is "handwavium", which allows you to make things happen with having to go into gory detailed explanation. Examples are faster than light travel, unlimited energy sources, and the like. It can, however, be fun to play with limits. For example, the new Battlestar Gallactica has limits on energy, water, and speed.

The science, no matter what, does have to be there. But, plot and character is the reason for reading. Staying ahead is a challenge, in a world where things change very rapidly, and technology almost immediately devours scientific discoveries and churns them out in the form of commoditized products. If the reader starts to pick apart the details, then you start to have some trouble no matter how good the science is. Realistic near-future writing is like trying to stand on slippery sand. Putting a story farther in the future somewhat excuses things.

The next thing discussed was the strength of science as inspiration. Graphical simulations of real physics can produce something amazingly aesthetic. For example, worlds colliding or enormous explosions. Droplets of planets reaching out to touch each other, then splashing together to create the Earth/Moon system. Imagine Mars vs Earth. The odd things that happen all over, the crazy beautiful things that make science addictive.

Mistakes and contradictions in your writing can be productive. Stretches creativity.

Good quotes from the panel

"Look at all this vertical space, unused!" when talking about the crowding in the room.
"Well, thanks. that was really helpful." Sarcastic rejoinder to the singularity question vis a vis technology speeding up to the point where it destroys itself.
"In 50 years, we might be looking out over a 150 different species of human!"
"Aren't we already?" asked another panel member, indicating the enormous variety of different looks and clothing.
"Answer for the entire industry please" moderator posing comic book question to the panel.
"Dear Diary. Stumped Marv." moderator after waiting a few moments with no response from the giggling panel.
"I have no clue about how our government works" one panel member pronounced.
"Neither does George Bush," quipped another.

Biology was considered to be by the panel where the really cool stories will be.

"All of us have politics in our stories" said the panel. This was unchallenged, which was interesting considering Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, and Jerry Ackerman insisted that politics had no place in sci-fi. I found the two different presentations to be really interesting. Is the place of politics in sci-fi different for these two panels due to age, experience, or something else?

Forecasting politics in sci-fi is often wrong. Writers almost never get the processes and such of politics correct. A little bit of research goes a long way.

Then, one of the authors said "I went to my WWI discussion group with this question..."

I sat there and thought "This guy actually attends a World War I discussion group?" I was impressed.

He said something along the lines of government collapsing at the wrong time. I wanted to raise my hand and ask if a government could collapse at the right time. However, we moved on quickly to talking about how government handles conflict, friction, and diversity of viewpoint. Violence is not so useful as a plot device because it's a simplistic way of presenting government action. This has implications for a project I'm thinking about working on.

Deal with the results, not the process. Products of sci-fi are the characters that are impinged upon by the science.With the idea of technology singularly causing change, you have to present change in a believable manner. People rioting in the streets just isn't really that believable.

Zones of change, manipulation of one group by another, rapid changes that leave whole subcultures out of the story, and conflict between various groups with axes to grind is always more complicated than knee-jerk violence.

The panel noted that sometimes it is difficult to predict the future, yet pointed out that CJ Cherryh failed to back up a supercomputer in one of her books, which is a process that has been around in data management since before the written word.

Biotech and the moral/ethical dilemmas make for great stories. This is the hot zone of writing for the future, according to this panel. All fiction is about humans.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Composite of a huge thunderhead over East County, San Diego area in late July 2005.  Posted by Picasa

Vogue 2494 Black Brocade Dress Report 3

24 July 2005 0471

Here is the dress on the dressform. It's constructed, and looks ok. There are two areas of work that need to be done on the front, the hems need to be completed, and the positioning of the drape on the left shoulder (as you are wearing the dress) needs to be finalized. The pattern is really quite easy, and I have enjoyed putting it together very much.

I really like the black brocade fabric. The gold lining works quite well. The flower pattern does camoflage the dramatic paneling of the dress a bit. However, the flowers really glow in the light. The colors are great. The pattern is on the small side, but I think will work based on the sheer length and amount of fabric that is visible.

The facing for the small hole in the front was tricky. There is a seam visible on this one that should not be visible. I goofed up. I am going to put a zipper in the side instead of snaps just to make it go together more quickly. The zipper is there it make it easier to put on and take off, since it's fitted in the waist.

The fabric is washable, but I'd recommend dry cleaning instead of washing it in a machine, unless you're good at handling delicate fabrics.

24 July 2005 0341

Here's what the facing for the hole in front looked like going in.

24 July 2005 0521

Rear view of the dress on dressform.

24 July 2005 0481

Another view from the front, with dress on dressform.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Vogue 2494 Black Brocade Dress Report #2

Drape for the black dress. Gold lining installed. I have a concern about the weight of the drape, since it's lined with satin-lined-crepe. I have a lighter-weight black polyester lining for the second dress. I like the color of the gold.

 21 July 2005 003

Back bodice facing going in under the foot of the Elna.

21 July 2005 006

Opposite view of back facing.

21 July 2005 008

Back bodice.

21 July 2005 012

Inside of back bodice. See facing?

21 July 2005 013

Sleeve and neckline, on instructions.

21 July 2005 0391

Work site!

21 July 2005 0141

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Vogue 2494 Black Brocade Dress Report #1

Above is from the front of the pattern envelope.

19 July 2005 005

Kitchen island cleared off, cleaned up, ready to cut fabric.

19 July 2005 007

Detail of the fabric used for this project.

19 July 2005 0111

Construction of the larger pieces begins.

19 July 2005 0431

Back of the bodice and top of the skirt. Putting them together involves meshing together fabric that has been darted, seamed, and eased.

19 July 2005 0451

Here it is going together. The union of the bodice and the back skirt is an important seam. The other seams up until this point were simple. The fabric is slippery, so I pinned it completely.

19 July 2005 0461

Here it is. So far so good!

19 July 2005 0501

Neck facing prepared and seamed, ready to go in.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Hamblog Still Down

Hamblog is still down with no explanation.

A fellow ham attempted to email Charles (N5PVL), the Hamblog administrator and the messages bounced.

There was no communication to the users of the site before it went down.

A frequent poster did move their blog in between outages. Here is his blog posting at his new site. Permalink included below.

"Back in the saddle again............

Well I find myself shifting gears again. For some reason the site does not currently seem to be available. I noticed today, May 29th 2005, that when I tried to get into the site I get the message “Account has been suspended” and no further explanation.

Since I can't find anyone connected with the site who can tell me what their current or future status is I am shifting back to Blogspot for my web log. I still like the idea of Hamblog since it is a focus point for amateur radio operators and seems to draw a good readership. If and when the site returns I will decide if I am going to move the blog entries from there to here or continue with new posting going to Hamblog. I really don't have time to play ping-pong with two sites. Hopefully the loss of Hamblog is short term and it will return. Until that time look for my ramblings here. posted by Ken / WA3FKG @ Monday, May 30, 2005"

I noticed that Charles posted in some threads in the forums of the QRZ website. He's still active over at QRZ. There are links in the profile to send him messages. I'm sure others have already tried. I'm going to send a short note today, expressing some hope that hamblog isn't an abandoned project. I'm sure someone out there would take it over if need be. I hope Charles knows how useful and enjoyable the site is/was, and hasn't stopped managing hamblog because of something negative or unfortunate.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Hamblog Down Again?

What's going on with hamblog? The outages continue, with no high-profile explanations. Before, I got a "this account has been suspended". Now I get " cannot be found."

Looks serious, wonder what's up. I enjoy, recommend, and use hamblog, and don't want to see it decay or deteriorate into uselessness.