What's New...

March 31 2014: Jerri and I went to see God's Not Dead last Friday at Park Mall. Pretty good movie with some flaws (don't they all) - see my thoughts on the matter.

March 25 2014: I had a friend at work (and near me in the neighborhood) who was dabbling with hydraulic power, and had it in mind to build a vehicle with legs that would walk like an insect. I don't know if he ever got very far with it, but per this ECN article, there is a (well-funded non-homebrew) team who beat him to the punch. And it's submersible, to boot!


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A handy start to building a bicycle-power generator, of the sort I suppose that Asian types can charge up cellphone or laptop batteries.

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I missed it last year, but this year, right after Tucson Meet Yourself, I intend to be in Presidio Park for the Fire Fighter's Chili Cookoff. Now on the Arizona page for a reminder. Probably will have to click the "Events Calendar" button to find out details for this year's cookoff (not on the queue yet, too far out just now).

March 14 2014: I didn't see it, of course, but it seems there is an heir to the original Carl Sagan Cosmos show. Of course, any "science" show in our day in the West will be heavily secular - that is, atheistic, and therefore anti-biblical - and so it is with the new Cosmos show. However, there are some who, in spite of being secularists themselves and no friends to the literal approach to the Bible or of creationism, will recognize fallacies in the new show.

March 12 2014: An interesting ECN article about modern airships, even though the emphasis is on defense applications of having airships at very high altitudes doing long-duration surveillance or reconnaisance. I think they could do excellent service in commercial transportation or "skyhook" temporary crane work. The one comment to the article nails the real problem, though; the lack of helium. Airships will never be successful until the misguided concerns of the Hindenburg disaster fade, and hydrogen can be safely used.

Another ECN article: ten outlandish gadgets. The iWriter is especially cute, but the Harry Potter style wand/TV remote seems to be the hands-down popularity winner.

RynoMarch 10 2014: If you thought the Segway was cool (well, maybe not a lot of people... or maybe it was cool in its day), here's the Ryno Cycle. I guess I'll wait until the word comes out on how well it handles. Although it's pretty much academic for me; I won't be getting one. Not only would I not be allowed to, but I probably can think of better uses for the money.

Uno CycleA similar device, not quite available, and from the press, not quite rosy handling characteristics - the Uno Cycle.

March 8 2014: Lots of stuff happening this spring. The Southern Arizona Rocketry Association is holding the annual Desert Heat event on March 29 and 30 - way out of town, Reservation Road, beyond the Desert Museum on the other side of the Tucson Mountains (map here)

Desert Heat 2014

March 7 2014: They're doing it again this year! April 12 and 13!

Thunder and Lightning over Arizona

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The Underhanded C Contest, an exercise in exploiting the power of C and the standard libraries in unexpected (and evil) ways.

Also, some related handy links:

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Being added to the FreeDOS page - the FreeDOS store.

March 3 2014: A few more downtown restaurants on the Arizona page. I am pleased and impressed by how many restaurants there are downtown. Now if there could just be a few more "real" retail shops...

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From ECN news, a look at a very cool VTOL utility vehicle, kind of a helicopter without the deadly whirling rotors. Of course, it was developed by Israel.

AirMule vehicle

March 1 2014: Originally posted this church-related thought here on Feb 26, have now moved and expanded upon it.

Also, found out about another wildlife park in Litchfield Park in the Phoenix area. Have therefore updated the Arizona page.

February 22 2014: Various updates to the Arizona page, adding the link to the Tucson Botanical Garden, the Reid Park Zoo, and a few steakhouses.

February 3 2014: My wife and I have been watching the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, which are interesting (among other reasons) for the aspect of Jones meeting significant historical figures. At one point, he meets and assists Thomas Edison. Interestingly, just days afterwards, I see this ECN post about plans to change the Light Bulb Monument to use LED lights. Lots of people like the irony... as well as the opportunity to point out the controversy with Edison and how he got so many of his patents (from unrecognized employees).

Seems that the tower is in need of more fix-up than lighting.

Light Bulb MonumentMonument at night

February 2 2014: Finally, finished reading a dense book on theology in search of an answer to my question of "what is preaching, and is it necessary?" Took a long time, obviously, and didn't arrive at any satisfactory answer. See more here.

February 1 2014: About three weeks ago, we took our children back to NAU for the spring term. I had the intention of going to downtown Phoenix on the way, so we took the I-17 loop that goes just south of the city, rather than I-10 that runs north of the city through the "Tunnel O' Fun" (where I-10 goes under Central Avenue and a wide park). I discovered another Centennial Road Sign - and added it to my collection.

Why was I wanting to go to downtown Phoenix? To see the new World War II memorial, "Guns of the Fallen" at the Wesley Bolin Plaza.

Guns of the Fallen

On the left is a 14-inch gun from the USS Arizona (the sinking of which at Pearl Harbour brought America into the War with Japan), and on the right is a 16-inch gun from the USS Missouri (upon which Japan officially surrendered, ending the War). In the middle is an array of plaques with the names of Arizonans who died in the War. Old stuff - to our back, eastward, is the anchor of the USS Arizona. Beyond the monument is the signal topmast of the Arizona, and the copper dome of the old Capitol beyond that.

January 17 2014: I've been using Python at work rather heavily, lately, and playing with the Tk graphical interface module (Tkinter). I've also seen some Tcl ("Tool Control Language") in use in our lab. Seems Tcl/Tk is 25 years old this week! See this humorous anniversary announcement. Which includes a link to this humorous Is Tcl Dying? story.

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From this ECN post - a "super-sized" 3D printer - that "prints" houses with concrete. Amazing. Or, at least in concept; it hasn't actually been built yet. Must be licit; Slashgear has the same story.

I don't know about printing plumbing and electrical conduit in the wals, though. The lack of hackability would be very frustrating to home improvement types - or Home Automation types, like me!

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Cornwall Alliance LogoI found this interesting organization: The Cornwall Alliance which addresses environmental stewardship from a Christian Worldview perspective, particularly "global warming". They formalize at some length pretty much the same position on "global warming" that I do:

  • Maybe global warming is happening, maybe it's not (probably is)
  • Maybe humans are contributing, maybe not (but not significantly)
  • The results of global warming may not have all the catastrophic effects that the scientists' unvalidated computer simulations claim, and may actually have beneficial effects
  • But in any event, the effects of governments imposing human solutions to the "problem" will have far more devastating effects, particularly on the world's poor people, than the speculative effects of global warming.

I signed on their list. I also put the link on my Christian page. Looks like I need to clean up some on my Christian page...

January 14 2014: Hamburger-making machine. No more "minimum wage" workers required. Thanks, activists!

January 13 2014: Added links for La Pilita Museum (in the Barrio Viejo, next to El Tiradito "shrine" and up the street from where the Elysian Grove used to be) and an excellent resource for Southern Arizona, and also the Barrio Viejo property management company, which has some good history and a downtown guide map, to my Arizona page.

January 10 2014: Prominent REAL climate scientist Richard Lindzen does not disagree that global warming has taken place, or that humanity has contributed to it, but rather that the evidence for climate catastrophe is absent.

On the subject of "global warming", one of the major stories this season is how a ship loaded with scientists got stuck in the ice near Antartica. What the major news outlets fail to mention is that the scientists were on a mission to investigate vanishing polar ice due to global warming.

Frozen BubbleAnd while my European TI friends are saying that Europe (esp. Germany) is unseasonably warm, and not much snow has fallen, in North America, it is very much the opposite story, with the "arctic polar vortex" sending temperatures below zero and dumping mounds of snow in the northeast and midwest. If I were in Huntsville right now, I would be dealing with single-digit temps! I found a neat story of what happens when you blow soap bubbles in freezing weather.

Wouldn't happen in Tucson. It's in the 60s during the day, here!

December 28 2013: Updated the FreeDOS page with a link to the Garbo FTP library, and a mirror link.

December 8 2013: Two pretty good articles I've come across:

First: Answers in Genesis (perhaps the premier popular Creation Apologetics organization in America, if not the world) has a pretty good assessment of Global Warming. It's really titled "Is Man The Cause Of Global Warming?", but it goes over all the recent data, such as the 12-year cooling trend, the role of carbon dioxide in global warming (minor, compared with water vapour and other gases), the lack of consensus and the poor quality of the simulations that predict global warming and its effects, the notion that global warming may not necessarily be bad, and the high cost of attempting to slow the pace of global warming, let alone reversing it.

Second: An article about the Materialist Superstition, namely, how all things, particularly the mind, can be reduced to natural explanations. What was especially interesting was the reference to neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, who had the opportunity (in a pre-politically correct world) to experiment with people's brains and map the functions by stimulating various areas. He observed that, through all the various phenomena he could produce, the consciousness of the patient observing the phenomena was still there. In other words, there was no part of the brain associated with the conscious, with the person itself! Mind is information, and information does not reside in mere matter.

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Playing with the Raspberry Pi. Intermittently. Mostly, having discovered there is a file, config.txt (in /boot, of the "Raspbian" Linux installation) that controls which of the HDMI or NTSC (RCA jack) video outputs is used. After having installed Raspbian, it would always and only boot using the RCA video - because that's what I had connected to prior to starting the "NOOBS" boot-up utility. I then reinstalled Raspbian under NOOBS with the HDMI connected, and then it would always and only boot using HDMI. Turns out, NOOBS sets up the config.txt file to force one or the other video output. By editing the /boot/config.txt file (using "sudo", because it is owned by root), the parameters can be adusted to allow the boot process to select HDMI if it determines an HDMI monitor is connected, but if not, to default to NTSC through the RCA jack. Just what I wanted.

And now on to playing with digital I/O pins. Which I may just do myself, unguided by the tutorials at Adafruit, which seem to assume an Internet connection - which I don't have in my lab.

Another useful links: Easier GPIO tutorials at elinux, the resource for Embedded Linux

November 23 2013: A major auto manufacturer has now introduced a hydrogen-powered vehicle. But not hydrogen as a combustion fuel... rather, for electrical fuel cells. Electric vehicles, with the torque and low-maintenance of electrical motors, but with the range and refuel speed of conventional gasoline autos. I'm sure there are going to be kinks to iron out with the refueling, and the distribution network for hydrogen, but this is a step in the right direction.

The company is Hyundai. The first hydrogen fuel-cell model they are producing for sale: the Tucson!

November 19 2013: Last week was Veterans Day, and Jerri and I went to see the parade. While we were there, we picked up some information about a self-guided Walking Tour of Downtown Tucson. The following Friday, we did the tour.

November 16 2013: I have taken the plunge.

In a vain attempt to work up something with the GE addressable Christmas lights string (project is now two years old), I figured that to talk to the string, I needed a RS422 link and a level shifter. Probably, I could have run a RS422 link from a peecee at some distance (and I may yet try that), but fast serial links don't work all that well at distance, so I figured I needed something near the string - a microcontroller of some sort. And to control it from a peecee at some distance, I would want a comm link - like Ethernet. And rather than attempt to design and build one myself (one unending project at a time) (well, please, no more unending projects until I work down the backlog), I might as well buy a pre-built board. After a bit of research, it came down to:

  • PIC-WEB - a Microchip PIC-based SBC. I checked; the 18F67J60 processor is compatible with the PIC-Kit2, for which there is a Linux compatibility driver. $40.
  • BeagleBone Black - ARM Cortex-A8. I wouldn't be programming right on the "iron", like I would with a PIC, but that's okay - it runs Linux from it's onboard flash EPROM! $45
  • Raspberry Pi - ARM11 in a SOC (System on a Chip), also runs Linux. $40.

My original intent was to stick with PIC and hone my proficiency. However, I knew that the development cycle would be pretty long for doing it this way - it would definitely be more than I'd want to do in assembly, and getting the GCC PIC cross-compiler up and seeing if the Microchip-provided TCP/IP software would be compatible with GCC would be a J.O.B all by itself. But if I were going to go with BeagleBone or Raspberry Pi, I was tossed up - the BeagleBone is more "open", and has its storage on-board, while the Pi has the ARM as part of a nasty closed Broadcom chip, and uses a SD card for storage. In the end, two things swung the deal: The Pi generates RS170 video (compatible with my cheap TI composite video monitors), and I could get this nifty starter kit for doing some orientation I/O tutorial projects!

Raspberry Pi

This is my new Pi rev B (with the Ethernet; the cheaper rev A doesn't have it). Shown with a "Humble Pi" prototyping board that snaps onto the Pi somewhat like an Arduino "shield" (turns out the BeagleBone millieu has the same sort of thing, which they call "capes").

Deluxe Kit

This is the kit. Top row, left to right: Jumper wires for solderless breadboard. Bag of components for tutorial projects. Kit for building a cool plastic case for the Pi. 5V USB-style power adapter. USB-to-serial cable for connecting a host computer (via USB serial port) to a debug terminal port on the Pi. Big solderless breadboard. Next row down: Ethernet cable. Cute Raspberry Pi decal. USB cable for powering the Pi (the Pi has a dummy USB port just for power; it also has a regular USB port). Bottom row: "Pi Cobbler" cable, which breaks out the Pi's I/O connector to a header for plugging into the solderless breadboard. 4GB SD card and adapter; below it is a little SD-to-USB reader for loading software (such as the startup package, "NOOBS") on a peecee.

So now the playing begins.

November 15 2013: Clever hackers, coming up with a "smartcard" Coin Cardthat apparently works like a magnetic stripe card. Talks you your smartphone, you tell it which card you want it to be. Amazing.

The Coin card. Found on Slashgear.

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From a story in ECN: "cloaking" technology. Seems to be aimed at Radar. The idea that light could be spoofed is harder to swallow, but apparently, Radar can. This could replace "stealth" low-Radar signature technologies, but I'll bet it takes a lot of power to work.

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Found a site maintained by KOLD TV News that allows people to post their own pictures. Some real beauties on this site; here's one that caught my eye. There's no info on the site about usage restrictions or copyright or even attribution, so I'll just trust to this being a non-profit site.

Tucson Sunset

November 13 2013: This is the NR-1, a secret submarine from the Cold War era that has since been decommissioned and dismantled. This fascinating ECN story has more details about the sub and some of its crew.

NR-1The article caught my eye, because it reminded me of the time I went to New London and Groton on a Tomahawk missile job. I was working at the General Dynamics Electric Boat sub-building shipyard in a mock-up section of a submarine hull integrating a launch control system. One day at lunch with a few other Raytheon folk and one GD lady, we were sitting at an outside table overlooking the Thames River, and we saw an odd thing - a wave in the middle of the river moving rapidly upstream. "That's a secret submarine", our GD friend told us. "It never surfaces in public view". It was heading to the SUBASE facility, further up the river from Groton, where doubtless it had an enclosed dock to hide it from the ground or the air or from satellites in orbit. So the NR-1 may or may not have been the first top-secret nuclear submarine, but it seems the Navy has a few other secrets they keep in Connecticutt!

November 7 2013: For a while, there was a sintered tungsten-steel stereolithography machine at Hughes/Raytheon. It was too expensive to use, really. However, I know a few engineers who had prototype parts made on that machine, for actual use, not just the usual show-off stereolith (usually made of the waxy plastic stuff). So, (tungsten-steel sintering machine) + (3D printed plastic gun parts) = (sooner or later, someone is going to make the real thing). Well... it has happened.

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Moller SkycarA REAL flying car, now approved by the FAA - the Moller Skycar. Developed by flying-car genius and innovator Paul Moller. It does fly, but with those spindly little landing-gear style wheels, I don't think it's much of a car. Not that it matters; with VTOL capability, I don't think anybody would want to drive it anywhere!

November 6 2013: I've noted "3D printed guns" here, before. Now, Urbee Automobile how about 3D printed automobiles?

Here's the "Urbee", an ultra-economical car that some innovators have designed, built via 3D printing techniques, and are planning to drive it across the nation.

Will you see it in showrooms anytime soon? I'm thinking not, since dealers are essentially owned by the major automakers, who are unlikely to license the design for a novelty machine. But stranger things have happened, and maybe it's time for an alternative distribution system.

Unlikely that I would get one. I'm not convinced that something this economical wouldn't have the pep of a sick lizard on a warm rock. Pluse an all-plastic frame and body doesn't strike me as either safe or long-lived. But it's definitely geeky sweet.

November 5 2013: A young man implants his own circuit board under his skin, risking severe infection. This is kind of sad, that such geeky smartness Wannabe Cyborgshould be combined with such disregard for the God-created marvel and dignity of the human body. But then, this is a consequence of the atheism ("there is no meaning or value") that so often accompanies intelligent people educated in the secular West.

From EDN.

November 4 2013: Updated the Arizona Page for the current state of the Tucson Originals restaurant club (including the sad loss of El Parador, after 40 years in Tucson), taking the now-departed Padres off the Tucson attractions, adding the Sunshine Mile to the list of unique shopping venues, and (somewhat controversially) adding Cosanti and Arcosanti to the list of Arizona attractions. Well, the are attractions, and unique to Arizona, and I have every intention of visiting them!

November 2 2013: This is long overdue, but way back in April, we had the opportunity to tour some of Tucson's oldest buildings or homes in the Barrio Viejo. I've now put up a description of the tour (which unfortunately consists of photos of the outsides of the homes but none of the insides).

October 31 2013: A few weeks back, we went to Flagstaff to see a NAU play in which our older daughter Charity was acting. My fears that it was an anti-Christian play were replaced by my regret that it was merely an anti-"church culture" play. My review here.

Also, much to the bemusement of my family, I have started a mini-hobby of collecting photos of the Arizona Centennial highway signs that the state has set up all over. Take a look! I am not above accepting contributions...

October 13 2013: There seems to be three "Maker Communities" in Tucson, strangely enough all downtown.

  • Gangplank, which appears to be mostly oriented to computer, software, and robotics
  • Xerocraft, which appears to be oriented to heavier stuff, as they offer classes in welding, lathe, milling, and that sort of thing.
  • Maker House: Apparently a reaction to the other two "male dominated" hackerspaces, so this one specializes in arts/crafts, but from their "events", mostly feminized spiritual theory - yoga, meditation, "save the earth" reuse of trash items.

Tucson Meet Yourself was this weekend, so in addition to overdosing on Irish Dance and Jamaican food (the closest I will probably ever get to CeeDee Jamaican Kitchen, just up the road from us on Swan), I got to check out the three Maker hangouts.

  • Gangplank is on Pennington on the north side, right next to the Pioneer complex (maybe part of it). In a business district street-side office space, so there's no place for heavy anything, an ideal place for electronics and computer work. And parking in the Pennington Street Garage (which, of course, you pay for).
  • Xerocraft is at the corner of 6th Street and 9th Avenue, right where the railroad crosses 6th. Very nice location, very appropriate for heavy machinery, in the Warehouse District. Much more appropriate than the kooky art galleries that occupy other former warehouses in the area.
  • Maker House is in the old Bates Mansion, formerly the Mountain Oyster Club, on Stone just south of the underpass. I didn't really look in there, or go there, but them being a Maker community may be my ticket forgetting inside and looking around. Maybe.

October 12 2013: Finally finished with the Route 66 travelogue.

October 4 2013: Busy weekend: Breakfast this morning at Delectables on 4th Avenue, where we saw the streetcar doing its trials, followed by a quick visit to the newly-opened Gutierrez Bridge that carries Cushing Street across the Santa Cruz River, and then visiting some of the shops along Sunshine Mile (the Broadway merchants have formed their own informal association).

The streetcar, headed north on 4th Avenue, just past Delectables

Streetcar on 4th Avenue

A close-up.

Closeup of Streetcar

On the east end of the new Gutierrez Bridge, with "A" Mountain just beyond. The bridge is very nicely done, with story bits from Tucson's history embedded in the pedestrian walkways on either side. The Santa Cruz River Park is accessible via stairways at both ends, and there are picnic tables on the east end. There are really no parking areas... but in a few more months, it won't matter, because you can leave your car at the University in a parking garage and catch the streetcar! Which is why the bridge is here, to carry the rails over the river to the Mercado area. Which I think will really be a test case for the promise of the streetcar to stimulate urban in-fill, since (except for the under-delivering Mercado) there's nothing over there.

Gutierrez Bridge