Third (maybe fourth?) Time’s the Charm

I’ve recently taken up playing Old Time clawhammer banjo again. I’ve taken several runs at it over the last 10 years or so, but keep giving it up after a month or three, letting it lie dormant for a few years, then pulling it back out and trying again.

This time, in just about 5 weeks, I’ve gotten MUCH, MUCH further in my learning than ever before. Maybe the old stuff stays there and I DO build on it, even after 2 years of not really thinking about it much (other than with regret).

So, this time I’m making more progress and also not trying to so exclusively steep myself in Old Time music to the exclusion of all else (as I’ve done with my last attempts). I AM listening to a lot of Old Time (I DO enjoy it), but not exclusively.

I’ve only worked from tabs I’ve found online along with a number of instructional videos I’ve found online. I’m not really to the point of learning anything by ear from source material just yet, but I can definitely see that on the horizon. In the meantime, I’m enjoying learning some Old Time “standards” and working on my technique.

My History Via Google Street View (Part II: College, Grad School, Early Professional Life)

This is the second part of a post I made back when I was blogging alot. You can still read the first part. I plotted all the houses I could find that I had lived in up to when I left for college in 1987. I’m going to do a few more here, though some will be dorms and apartments where I can only show the outside of a larger building.

Continue reading My History Via Google Street View (Part II: College, Grad School, Early Professional Life)

3D Printing!

As of a few weeks ago, we have entered the world of 3D printing! Thanks to a generous gift from my in-laws, I got a PrintrBot Play 3D printer. I also ordered the Y-axis extension bed for it. I haven’t upgraded it to a heated bed to print ABS and other filaments that require a heated bed yet, but I probably will at some point.

We’ve had fun printing parts for our drones (more on that soon!) and other things. The Boy has also gotten interested in designing his own things to print, so he’s been learning about 3D design. He started out using TinkerCAD, but has progressed to Autodesk’s 123D Design app, which is pretty much TinkerCAD Pro. I’ve been a little surprised at how quickly he’s learning it. He’s designed a cool spaceship that we’ll print once he finishes the design. He’s also printed out some desk nameplates for his teachers, which has really fascinated them. He’s also been printing out stuff for his friends, too. I told him the first one’s free. I think a number of them are saving up for 3D printers of their own now! The Play is a fantastic entry-level machine (it’s only $399), and it was highly rated in the most recent 3D printer roundup from MAKE: magazine.

Stay tuned for more 3D printing content! This weekend, we’re going to build an AstroPrint server for it out of the Raspberry Pi Zero I got Daniel for Christmas. That will allow us to print to it wirelessly from any computer in the house (and even across the Intertubes!) and monitor it wirelessly from any computer or smartphone or tablet (again, also from across the Intertubes).

VU Meter Guitar Strap Project

Our latest electronics project is our first wearable electronics project. The Boy plays bass in a band, and I wanted to make him something cool to wear on stage when they perform. Looking around the web for project ideas, I came across the LED Ampli Tie on the Adafruit Learning System, which is a fantastic resource for all sorts of technology information. The Boy isn’t a tie-wearer, though, so I thought I would adapt it to a strap for his bass. It’s going to require a few small changes, but should be pretty straightforward.

The project is based around Adafruit’s Flora micro controller, which is an Arduino-compatible board designed for use in wearable electronics projects. It takes the input of a small microphone and flashes a series of NeoPixels like a VU meter.

Though the plans call for using conductive thread, the hard nylon material the strap is made out of made it very difficult to tie tight knots in the conductive thread, and I ended up with a semi-working model. So, instead, I used flexible silicone coated hookup wire to make it. Of course, that meant about a bajillion soldered connections, but I eventually got it done.

Here’s the final product:

October 2015 Scouting Update

The Boy earned his Star rank in August, topping off a great Scouting summer.

The day after school let out for the summer, he left with a crew from his troop on a self-supported, 6-day canoe trip (just over 50 miles) on the Buffalo National River. They earned the 50-miler for that trip.

The troop attended summer camp at Kia Kima Scout Reservation in northern Arkansas. The Boy took all the natural science-related Merit Badge classes he could, earning Geology, Fish and Wildlife Management, Nature, Forestry, Mammal Study (and most of Reptile and Amphibian Study), and Soil and Water Conservation. He’s planning to finish up Environmental Science this fall, and that will be all the Merit Badges he needs to earn for the Hornaday Award (I think). He has only Eagle-required Merit Badges left to earn for Life and Eagle. In addition to all the science ones, he also earned Robotics, Photography, and Emergency Preparedness this Summer.

In September, he became our troop’s first Outdoor Ethics Guide. He’s already taken the Outdoor Ethics Orientation class and completed a few more requirements for the Outdoor Ethics Awareness Award, which most of our troop is also currently working on. He plans to take a Leave No Trace Trainer course as soon as he turns 14.