Adding Elastic Pockets to a Camera Strap

SonyRX100

I’m used to travelling with with a lot of camera equipment. I like having a kit of several lenses, some audio recording equipment, and at least one backup camera, just in case. However, now that Heidi and James are with me, and James requires a pretty sizable collection of accessories, support equipment, and backup clothing just of his own, I tend to carry a lot less production gear. Of course, if I’m travelling for work, I generally have a bag or two like this one, but on our last family trip, all I brought was an H2 recorder and a tiny point-and-shoot camera.

CameraStrapPocket

Of course, I still wanted to take along spare batteries and an extra memory card. The problem was that I didn’t really want to throw all this extra stuff in my pockets along with my phone, wallet, knife, and then James’ toys, pacifier, teething gel, extra socks, discarded shoes, bits of windscreen that he has chewed off of the H2, etc. And so to make all the camera gear fit into a single, easily grabbable item, Heidi made these nifty pockets for the neck strap. Each pocket is simply a loop of 3″ elastic threaded onto the strap, sewed shut on the bottom, and then sewed partly shut on the top. That little bit of stitching at the top of the pocket keeps card and batteries extremely secure inside.

CameraStrapComplete

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Two Years of Marriage in the Tennessee Jungle

TNforest

For a girl who lived in Colorado for 23 years of her life, Tennessee landscape and scenery is breathtaking. Where Colorado is strong, open, rugged, and dry bordering on barren, Tennessee is lush, humid, dense, teeming with growth and greenery, and spring comes sooner than I ever thought possible.

Last week we celebrated our second wedding anniversary. How we can have been married forever, and yet 2 whole years have flown by so quickly is a mystery I may never solve. But to celebrate this special day, I found a beautiful park about an hour away from us, near Nashville. In Colorado we would call this an “open space,” but here in Tennessee such a thing is simply unheard of. It’s only where a tree has recently fallen that there’s briefly any open space. Every square inch of ground seems to be teeming with growth; some of it wild, some of cultivated, but life pops out of every corner. Now, back to the park.

BrokenTree]

There were biking, hiking and equestrian trails, a bull frog pond where I spotted no less than twenty healthy specimens (each croaking out its unique sound that Isaac says is like a loose banjo string), little creeks and streams bubbling merrily, beautiful stone walls covered in soft moss, May apples bobbing in the small breeze (I’m sure one of these days a little fairy is going to peek out from under one of these cute little umbrella-looking plants), squirrels darting from branch to branch, cardinals chirping… with a sleeping baby in my arms, and my dear husband by my side, this idyllic afternoon in May couldn’t have gotten any better. Keep reading to see more pictures.

FrogPond

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Must-Have CNC Machine Tools

CNCtools

Now that I’ve been working with our CNC machine for a little while, I’ve begun accumulating various tools to make my various jobs easier. I’ve tested a lot of different types and makers of bits, experimented with a bunch of different ways to mount work to the table, and here are several things that I use every day:

  • Freud Straight Flute bits: great for thinner sheet plastic
  • Countersink Bolts + Wingnuts: for attaching jigs
  • MDF & HDPE: cheap machinable jig material
  • 25ft Tape: for measuring big things
  • Ruler: for measuring small things
  • Calipers: for measuring tiny things
  • Pens and Sharpies: to write on everything
  • Notebook: to write down everything
  • Wireless Keyboard: Remote control of terminal

To be perfectly honest, the most useful things on the table are those last two. I really needed a notebook to keep track of all my settings and measurements, so I could flip back a few days to see what depth I was cutting this jig at, or what that toolpath was supposed to look like, or what feedrates I’ve already tried with a certain bit – without taking the time to load up the files on my computer.

I also wanted to drive the machine without walking back to the computer. There are several options for professional CNC remote controls, but this $15 keyboard works great – once you memorize the key commands for Shopbot’s software. Now I can move, jog, and calibrate the machine from anywhere in the shop. Anyway, all of these little things things have sped up my workflow enough to have time for side projects like this:

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Art Deco Poster Design

Spotlight-Poster

A couple of weeks ago I got to design the main poster for the annual Remembering WWII event in Linden, TN. This is a local event organized by some good friends, and lots of folks from our church participate in it. Its main purpose is to honor WWII veterans, and let them teach important lessons from that war. There’s live music, lots of vintage vehicles, and an ever-growing battle re-enactment. I was really happy to get to work on this poster, and I gave it a late 1930s Art Deco style.

Obviously, actual American propaganda posters from WWII were painted in the 1940s, and the most iconic posters have a style and design elements from the 40s. There wasn’t as much Art Deco influence at that time, partly because design fads are usually short-lived, but also because of advances in printing technology. As cheap, mass poster production moved from basic screen printing to four color half-toning, poster design moved from simple geometric shapes and minimal colors to full color paintings, often by brilliant illustrators like Flagg, Barclay, and Rockwell.

ArtDecoPosters

However, an Art Deco poster is much easier to imitate than a Norman Rockwell painting, and much more retro. It’s instantly recognizable as something from the past, which is why movies like Captain America usually lean more heavily on the flamboyant and distinctive styles from the early 30s than the more utilitarian designs of the 40s. Have a look at my vector draft after the jump:

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Gun Control, Modern Manufacturing, and Arbitrary Laws

Ar15 Lower Reciever

Fact: private citizens are allowed to manufacture their own firearms, as many as they like, without having a Federal Firearms License, and without giving these firearms a serial number. It is only when transferring that firearm to someone else that it needs a serial number and paperwork, and so forth. Fact: the lower receiver is the part of the AR-15 that is legally classified as the firearm, and if that part is less than 80% finished, it is legally not a firearm. Many Americans buy these unfinished blank receivers freely on the internet, finish the machining themselves, and are technically the private manufacturers of the resulting firearm, which is perfectly legal for them to own.

Seems pretty simple, right? Not if you are the BATFE. Take the case of CA resident Daniel Crowninshield, who began renting out his CNC mill to folks that wanted to finish out their 80% lowers. In 2013, an undercover BATFE agent documented how Crowninsheild helped him build a jig for a lower, instructed him on how to fixture it in the machine and how to start and run that machine, and then (at the agent’s request) sold him more lower receivers. In 2014, Crowninsheild was charged with unlawful manufacturing and dealing of firearms, and five other charges. In 2015, the BATFE made a new ruling (2015-1) that more clearly defined Crowninsheild’s activities as unlawful firearm manufacture. Last week, he plead guilty to two charges, including unlawful manufacturing and dealing of firearms.

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Introducing the New CNC Machine

ShopBot1

This is the CNC router that I’ve been working on for the last two months; the first one I’ve ever worked on. It’s a 4×8 PRT Alpha from Shopbot, and we bought it used, which means that it’s the older model, but it did come all wired up. That means that we got it up and running quickly, but it also means that I don’t really know what I’m doing when I have to find a wiring issue. If I’d wired all the connections from scratch, I might actually remember what things are. As it is, I find that I have to talk to tech support about once a week.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with this machine. In function, price, and capability, it sits somewhere between a DIY hobbyist tool and full-fledged production machine. It’s cheap (for what it is), and you are expected to be pretty handy with a multimeter and machine code to keep it working (I am not handy with these things). There is no hand-holding or helpful software wizards or internal digital diagnostic checks on this machine. On the other hand, it is a sturdy steel table equipped with fast and powerful stepper motors and a 4hp spindle that can do a lot of serious work.

Shopbot3

Here are a few “starting-out” lessons I’ve learned that seem really obvious in hindsight. As you might guess, these are trial and error kinda lessons:

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The FBI, Apple, and Why Encryption Levels the Playing Field

PhoneGreenROM

Last December, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife murdered 14 of his San Bernadino County Dept. of Public Health co-workers at a holiday party, and wounded 21 others. After leaving crude explosive devices behind in hopes of killing emergency responders, the two Islamic terrorists fled, and were themselves killed in a gunfight with pursuing law enforcement officers.

The subsequent investigation turned up lots of physical, financial, and computer evidence, but the FBI was unable to get into Farook’s encrypted iPhone 5C. Last month, they demanded, through a U.S. Magistrate Judge, that Apple, Inc. create a custom iPhone operating system, one with all security features disabled, which the FBI would use to recover all the data on the phone. There’s lots of good reporting on this case, so I’m mostly going to talk about the attitudes involved in the ongoing debate about privacy, encryption, and surveillance.

Despite FBI Director James Comey’s previous statements that Farook and his wife were not part of a larger terrorist cell, but had “self-radicalized” using freely available internet material, the need to get into the phone is described as of utmost importance. Despite former Counterterrorism Chair Richard Clarke’s observation that the NSA could easily crack the phone, the FBI demanded that the entire weight of Federal authority instead be used to compel Apple to create a reusable phone-breaking tool.

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Making Heidi’s Engagement Ring

EngagementRing

Tomorrow is the two-year anniversary of our engagement, but since Heidi and I plan to be busy then, I thought I’d post about this ring tonight. I think I’ve gotten more questions about this ring than she has, which is a little strange, but then again, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about what Heidi might be looking for an engagement ring before she was probably ready to think about being engaged. It is, by far, the most special design project I’ve ever worked on.

When Heidi first saw this ring it marked the very special first day of our engagement. Interestingly, because I’d been working on it for so long, I more thought of it as marking the end of our wonderful but much more uncertain un-engaged relationship. I started working on it so early because I didn’t know how long it might take to learn how to make a ring like this. I only worked on it when we were apart. When things were going well, I’d sketch on it while I prayed about my hopes. When things were going not so well, I’d worry that I’d never be able to show it to her.

And two years ago, she saw it for the first time. And now, the boring technical background. This was only my second jewelry experiment (here’s the first), and I didn’t know anything about rings, but I knew what I wanted, and thanks to some undercover research that her sister Megan had done on my behalf, I thought that I had a pretty good idea of what Heidi would want.

That being said, my first design didn’t actually work. I sent drawings around to a few foundries that specialize in mechanical parts and jewelry casting, and I was told that I hadn’t made the prongs that hold the stone quite strong enough for the angle I had placed them in. I wanted a strong, practical ring that would last, so I tweaked the angle and thickness of a few parts, and ended up with this:

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Real Legislators and Mock Legislature

TNHouseFloor

Last week a bunch of families from our church organized a tour of the Tennessee Capitol. While many state homeschooling organizations have annual rallies at their respective Capitols, it can also be helpful to show up more regularly, and to spend time with elected officials in smaller groups. Developing real relationships with legislators takes one-on-one time, but provides good opportunities to offer input and hold our representatives accountable.

We were able to do the usual field-trip stuff around Legislative Plaza, but we also got to talk to Senators and Congressmen, folks from the Comptroller’s office who tried to explain what our tax money was doing, and the Director of Non-Public and Home Schools. The highlight of the day was hearing from Rep. Mark Pody, who proposed the Natural Marriage Defense Act, but I think everyone had the most fun during our mock legislative session.

Our group was able to fill almost every desk on the House floor, and thanks to the assistance of the helpful clerks, we were able to use the mics for procedure and the buttons and board for voting. Since we didn’t have much time, we jumped straight into consideration of two fake bills, presented by a couple of sneaky devil’s advocates planted in the unsuspecting crowd…

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Puritans, Witches, and PR

TheWitchPuritans

Last week, an interesting film came out. I haven’t seen it, and I don’t plan on seeing it, but I’ve been reading reviews and commentary on it for a few days. Written and directed by Robert Eggers, The Witch is a simple horror story set in the American wilderness of the 1600s. What’s more interesting than the film itself is what it reveals about film critics, audiences, and Satanists.

I had the opportunity to talk to Kevin Swanson about this film on his Generations Radio program, which you can listen to here:

The film revolves around a family of Puritan caricatures, who are building a little house in a big woods. Complications ensue when witches begin killing members of the family, starting with the baby. The film is not ambiguous about this; viewers actually see the witch sacrifice an infant and do blood ritual stuff on screen.

Things go downhill from there, with everyone mysteriously disappearing or dying horribly on screen, until only the 14-year-old daughter is left. It is bleak and horrible, and unlike the semi-triumphant endings of most horror movies where the main character finally defeats or escapes from the monster, this protagonist loses everything, and then joins the coven to become a witch herself.

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