February 2011


This was a busy weekend.  Erin had a big interview, Evan came home briefly, and I got lots of woodworking done.  It was a good weekend overall.

Erin applied for the CEAT scholarship at OSU.  This is a big chunk o’ money within the engineering school and they actually invite the students who make the final cut in for an in-person interview.  Although I didn’t realize it until I got there, the hotel and all meals were included.  Whee!

The interview part only took about an hour but since there were so many students being interviewed, it took several hours with lots of waiting.  It need not have taken an overnight stay with the associated banquet but I guess that’s their call.  At any rate, Erin thinks she did well.  She should have after all the preparation we went through.  We had her go through all her application materials to make sure she remembered what she said and then came up with some sample interview questions. 

Now we wait.

Evan came home to work at Macy’s mostly just so he could stay on the payroll.  If you don’t work during any calendar month, you fall out of the system and have to get rehired so he was just keeping his status active.  We were gone to OSU when he arrived and he was working when we got back so we never saw him until about 11:00 pm Saturday night.  We skipped church the next day and went out to breakfast just so we could all spend a little time together.  After that, he took off since he’s carrying 18 hours and had stuff to do.  According to facebook, some of that stuff involved skylarking with his buddies but that college for you.

On Sunday afternoon, I took off for my friend’s house to try and finish off my orrery.  I didn’t make it that far but almost.  But that’s something for another entry.

Erin got another phone call Monday: this time from the Tulsa engineering society (or something). She has won another scholarship. Score!

This is all very exciting. Each scholarship is typically a drop in the bucket (a very large bucket) but everything helps and everything is very flattering; not only to her but to the entire family.

Last Saturday I published my magnum opus on facebook: a video of Erin’s life up to now. It was kind of a senior year salute kind of thing. It got about 12 comments.

A cousins post on grinding pinto beans in a coffee grinder got 36 comments.

Apparently I am not the master of the new social media. This sort of worries me; if I were to have to find another job, I think social networking would be an important venue for that.

This weekend, she got a letter telling her she’d made Academic All-State.  Furthermore, she was invited to Stillwater to be interviewed for one of the CEAT scholarships.  The latter might mean a bit more financial aid plus some travel during the summer. 

On Saturday morning I finally published on Facebook a link to a video I’d been working on which showed all the cute photos and videos from her childhood.  My motivations were not entirely pure; I wanted to see if I could get as many comments and “likes” as she and her friends do.  But of course, I don’t have all that many facebook friends and so my comments were proportional to that.  Still, I did get some very kind comments which I enjoyed.

She also posted a link and got a bunch of “likes” and comments which I will adopt as my own since I made the video. 

Note to self:  learn to accept a compliment graciously and not immediately start pointing out where you’d like to make changes to the video and do it all over again.  Just go with it.  Smile, say thanks, and leave the video as it is.

My community minded friend with the CNC machine has been deeply involved with the robotics teams at two local high schools and has been totally unavailable for orrery work so my progress has been almost nil for two weeks.

This weekend I had the time to do a few things that are in the drawings.  I ripped apart the ill-fated pine board glue-up and re-glued the pieces – straight and flat this time.  When these dried, I went to the effort to smooth them (and remove the planer marks) with a hand plane and scraper rather than the usual sandpaper.  I am marginally skilled in these ancient methods and I’m not sure the final product doesn’t still need to be sanded.  But I’ll wait on that.  I do love the irony of using a CNC router to produce all my parts until the machine is unavailable and then I switch to hand tools.

Rather than wait on the CNC, I went ahead and cut the base on my bandsaw.  It is a very simple part and is easy to do.  I did pick up a spokeshave to remove the saw marks; thus bringing another hand tool to bear on the project.  I then drilled whatever holes were called for.

One of the gears actually uses the old peg-style construction; this is the easiest way to change the direction of motion by 90 degrees and so allows the crank to turn in the vertical plane (which is what humans do best rather than turning cranks in the horizontal plane) and the planet gears to rotate in the horizontal plane.  You sometimes see these in old windmills or waterwheel mills.  For this, I needed to cut a large number of pegs which was easily done.  Some time ago, I bought one of the Japanese style saws that cut on the pull stroke and became quite taken with it.  I’m not sure why it cuts so well although I suspect it’s just because it’s well sharpened straight out of the package.  Western style saws seem not to be all that well sharpened and I’ve read somewhere that in the old days, you were expected to sharpen yours when you got it according to what you were going to do with it.  I don’t know; all I know is that my Japanese saw cuts a lot faster and leaves a better cut than any other I’ve ever owned.  And it was cheap.  This made short work of all the pegs.

So I did what I could (although I took no photos).  I have everything I need now except for the rest of the planet gears.  I intend to also use the CNC to complete a base out of MDF and then another top out of pine.  I think the pine will look nicer and I’ll have the beginnings of my next orrery with the MDF parts.  I have a small amount of shellac in a jar which has clumps of junk at the bottom so I set out to filter it with a coffee filter but I made a huge mess and got it all over the place.  I guess the purchase of new shellac is in my future.

I thought of just cutting the other gears by hand but they all have little sections that get cut out of the center and I don’t have a saw that will allow me to take the blade loose and stick it into that space and cut the fine details.  I will just have to be patient.  And finally, the gear ratio necessary to move Saturn in the correct proportion is so high that one of the gears only has about six teeth – this is made in the style of a “lantern gear” which is built like a little cage rather than a disk with teeth.  Sort of a hamster wheel kind of thing.  This requires a disk of about half an inch in diameter that is drilled with 1/64 holes.  This is so small that I’m not sure how to cut it out – the plans don’t offer any hints.  My bandsaw is pretty big for that scale of work and the only blade I have is a half-inch blade with big teeth that I use for resawing; this is definitely not suited for small work. 

We’ll see.

I wasn’t able to get anything done on the orrery this past weekend since my friend was tied up with the robotics team.

Somehow he got involved with the robotics teams of two local high schools as the technical mentor. They meet at the engineering building at the university of Tulsa and on Saturday they were in the middle of their build and were woefully behind schedule due to the snows.

He asked me to come help which I did since he has been kind enough to give me free run of his shop. I don’t think I was that much help but the attentions of an outside observer from a different school district seemed to give a boost to their self esteem.

The challenge is immense. Even though they are provided with most of the parts they need, they have to do some extreme things. They have to pick up some plastic rings and hang them on pegs; one of which is nine feet high and then deploy a subrobot that will climb a pole and hit a light switch. It’s no small feat.

They’re well on their way though.

Here she comes!

Erin got the letter this yesterday telling her that she is a National Merit FINALIST!  [fist pump]

That opens up a bit more financial aid through the university. 

And yes, I do thank God daily for having two smart kids.  My life has been much easier because of it.

I have a friend who bought a snow blower about a month ago.  When he told us about it at lunch, I rolled my eyes (inwardly of course) because we rarely get enough snow to worry about. 

The joke was on us as about two weeks after that, the snowpacolypse hit us.  So he was chuckling to himself the entire time he was clearing his driveway.  He had to do it twice and then when more snow fell the following week, he had to do it again – and again was smiling to himself about how psychic he had been.

He went a bit further and took it to his favorite restaurant for lunch and offered to let them borrow it to clear their parking lot while he at lunch.  They were so grateful that they comped his lunch.  For that time and about 10 times after that!  There’s an entrepreneur for you.

The blizzard has cause my orrery project to grind to a total halt since I haven’t been able to get to my friend’s house to make the rest of the parts.  If I had chosen to make the parts here, I still wouldn’t have made any progress since I couldn’t get the cars out to get at my tools.  And it was freezing in my garage.  The forecast calls for warmer temps and lots of melting this weekend so hopefully, I’ll get back to it.

One downside of modern-day weather forecasting is that I’ve lost the hope I used to have that the weatherman would be wrong and maybe we wouldn’t get that snow.

Last week, they predicted it right down to the minute.  It began to snow on Monday night and, as predicted, became a blizzard.  Here is an excerpt from the National Weather Service Bulletin:

315 PM CST MON JAN 31 2011

…WINTER STORM WARNING IS CANCELLED…

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN TULSA HAS ISSUED A BLIZZARD

WARNING…WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM THIS EVENING TO MIDNIGHT CST

TUESDAY NIGHT…

HAZARDOUS WEATHER…

* A MIXTURE OF SLEET AND SNOW WILL SPREAD INTO NORTHEAST OKLAHOMA

   LATE THIS EVENING…AND INCREASE IN INTENSITY IN THE EARLY

   MORNING HOURS. HEAVY SNOW AND SLEET…ALONG WITH WIND GUSTS OF

   35 TO 40 MPH WILL OCCUR AFTER SUNRISE AND CONTINUE INTO THE

   AFTERNOON HOURS. SNOWFALL WILL LESSEN BY LATE AFTERNOON…AND

   DIMINISH BY MIDNIGHT TUESDAY NIGHT.

* 6 TO 12 INCHES OF SNOW…WITH LOCAL AMOUNTS NEAR 18

   INCHES…ARE EXPECTED ACROSS AREAS ALONG AND NORTH OF

   INTERSTATE 44. ADDITIONALLY…UP TO ONE INCH OF SLEET IS ALSO

   POSSIBLE. THE STRONG WINDS WILL PRODUCE SNOW DRIFTS OF 2 TO 4

   FEET.

* WIND GUSTS OF 30 TO 40 MPH WILL BE COMMON DURING THE DAY

   TUESDAY…WITH AREAS OF HEAVY SNOW AND BLOWING SNOW REDUCING

   VISIBILITIES TO NEAR ZERO AT TIMES PRODUCING WHITEOUT

   CONDITIONS. DANGEROUS WIND CHILLS WILL DEVELOP DURING THE DAY

   TUESDAY AND CONTINUE THROUGH TUESDAY NIGHT.

IMPACTS…

* TRAVEL WILL BECOME NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE EVEN ON TREATED SURFACES.

   THIS INCLUDES THE INTERSTATE 44 CORRIDOR THROUGH NORTHEAST

   OKLAHOMA. ISOLATED POWER OUTAGES WILL ALSO REMAIN POSSIBLE.

* ANY LOSS OF POWER WILL RESULT IN A HUMANITARIAN CRISIS…AS

   TEMPERATURES DROP INTO THE SINGLE DIGITS AND RESCUE EFFORTS ARE

   HAMPERED BY THE ROAD CONDITIONS.

Note the use of the term “humanitarian crisis”.  That’s pretty much exactly what happened.  We were homebound for three days and the governor asked the president to declare a state of emergency.  It all went pretty well for us though; we just stayed inside and did the sort of things we usually do on weekends and then when all those chores were done, we did fun stuff.  Mel completed our taxes, I finished up a video I’d been working on for Erin’s graduation, I did all my orrery stuff until I used up all the parts I’d built, and I got back to my old guitar tremolo effect project.  All in all it was pretty pleasant.

I thought I would never clear my driveway.  We set all sorts of records for snowfall and low temperatures.  And then to add insult to injury it all happened again this week.  On Tuesday night, it started snowing again and dumped about 4 inches on us.  The amounts varied tremendously from one place to another.  Just a bit north of here, they were getting upwards of 20 inches and Evan reported that and more over in Fayetteville.  This stuff, for whatever reason, proved much easier to clear away and to drive on so I only missed half a day on Wednesday.

So it’s been fun in a juvenile snow-day sort of way.  We experienced no damage – only a mild inconvenience so I shouldn’t complain.  My orrery project is suffering for it since I can’t get to my friend’s house to make the rest of the parts.

Next Page »