Red Echo

January 31, 2007

Finished the jacket

January 29, 2007

I started working on the laserfingers yesterday afternoon. I picked up a pair of summerweight kayaking gloves which looked like they would form a good base. They’re made of a neat silvery spandex which should breathe well. I trimmed the fingers back so they are clear of my knuckles, then removed the wrist cuff; I want these to be as lightweight as possible so they don’t trap too much heat. I’ll make battery holders out of the leftover nylon, which will be sewed onto the backs of the gloves. I haven’t completely settled on an attachment mechanism for the lasers, but I think I’m probably going to use velcro: I’ll epoxy a strip of hook-side velcro to the laser casings, then stitch a loop of loop-side velcro across the top of the finger, forming a sleeve between the glove and the velcro. This should keep the lasers in place without making it too difficult to remove them for washing.

January 28, 2007

I’m in a nice, mellow, happy, tired mood today. I’m puttering around, cleaning up the sewing machine, killing time on the web.

Dana and Carina held a weekend-long house party to celebrate Carina’s birthday, and I spent most of last night there. It was a good group of people, spread out all over the house, with little clusters forming and re-forming in different rooms. The environment fostered conversation, and I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time connecting with friends more deeply.

January 27, 2007

Thanks, Lena! This is going to be fun.

Just spent a couple hours over at Stitches, working on the jacket. It’s taking longer than I expected it would, but I haven’t been pushing very hard. I made my last few outfits for specific events, so there were deadlines to meet, but with this one I’m just trying to expand my skills. As a result I’ve been puttering away on it, an hour or two at a time. It’s fun, though, and I can feel those little neural connections forming as I work.

Today I finished sewing in the sleeves. I also used a pair of pinking shears to trim the inner seams, which will hopefully stop the corduroy from shedding fuzzies all over my shirt. Finally I sewed on the collar. It turned out that I followed the collarless “A” version directions when putting the body of the jacket together, instead of the “B” version, so I had to rip out the top seam and re-sew it with the collar in place. It didn’t take long, though, and now I’ve learned something new.

I think another two hours will do it. I have to finish the hems, which I’m going to trim with more of the burgundy fabric, then make buttonholes and sew on the buttons.

January 25, 2007

January 24, 2007

It has been a good day. I was out late last night, for Katie’s birthday party, but it was a good party and well worth being a little tired today.

At work this afternoon I implemented the last piece of a language-architecture project I’ve been working on, in slow bits and occasional pieces, for almost three years.

This evening I got together with Dawn, Collin, and Greg for our first band practice of 2007. We played much better than I expected, for having taken six weeks off, and the songs still sound good after time away. I think it’s time to record a demo and work on booking our first show.

Now it’s late, but not too late, and I’m at home with a mug of green tea working on my corduroy jacket. I pinned the sleeves into the body of the jacket yesterday, and now I’m basting them in place. Once that’s done I’ll stitch up the hems.

I skipped the State of the Union address. I can’t think of anything The Decider might have to say that I’d care to hear, save perhaps “I resign”.

January 21, 2007

A little home improvement on a Sunday afternoon

I felt like working on a project today, but couldn’t get into sewing, so I decided to replace the light fixtures in my kitchen and bedroom. The kitchen light, especially, has been annoying me since I moved in; it’s just a bare 100-watt bulb mounted in a scabby old painted-over base. It’s too bright when you’re sitting at the table, but not bright enough when you’re trying to cook.

Home Depot had a nice simple fixture with a couple of swivelling sockets, so I bought a pair. I also picked up a half-dozen compact fluorescent bulbs. I’ve been complaining about compact fluorescents for years, but while I was in Morocco, where they’re just about the only kind of light anyone uses, started to feel like it was time to stop griping about the future and just get used to it. I’m happy to report that the technology has improved significantly over the last five years, and there’s not much of an adjustment to make: these bulbs come on instantly and produce a nice clean white light, with none of the unpleasant greenish tint the older type had.

It’s not a huge energy savings, but it’s something. The 100-watt incandescent bulb in the kitchen is now a pair of 19-watt fluorescents, which actually put out more light than the old bulb did, and the swivel fixture means I can point most of the light toward the work area and away from the table. In my closet/bedroom, another pair of 19-watt bulbs have replaced the old 60-watt bulb, and again they’re pointed where the light will be useful. For good measure, I also swapped out the 60-watt hallway light with another 19-watt fluorescent. I don’t have a good way to measure overall power usage, but none of my lights consume more than 25 watts now.

January 20, 2007

Real Science / Weird Genius Fair

January 19, 2007

This afternoon I started a new sewing project. It’s a three-button jacket, made of wide-wale grey corduroy, trimmed with burgundy gabardine. So far I’ve cut out all the fabric, ironed on the interfacing, and sewed the shoulders and facings together. The pattern is simple, as jackets go, but it’s the most complex garment I’ve tried to make, and I’m having to learn some new techniques. I think it’s going to work, though; I had to rip out and re-sew one of my seams, but overall it’s coming together just like the directions say it should.

January 18, 2007

Sean from KAOS at Aurafice

January 17, 2007

January 16, 2007

It’s nine o’clock, but I can’t seem to stop working. I know there are all kinds of other things I could do with my free time, but all I really want to do is keep slugging away at this. It’s the final phase of the compiler-architecture project I spent most of last year on, and I’m within sight of the end.

I feel like I ought to be working on music instead, but I don’t have any motivation toward it right now.

Three Against One hasn’t gotten together since November; tonight was going to be a practice session, but nobody wanted to deal with loading gear and driving around in the snow. We’re going to try again next week and hope the weather is more typical for a Seattle winter.

January 15, 2007

La Bête has a new set of halogen headlights.

Other projects I want to tackle in the near future:
– build first prototype of the laser projector, for terrain contour visibility enhancement under low-contrast lighting conditions
– replace the kitchen light fixture (multiple CF bulbs instead of one big incandescent?)
– install Windows on my iMac so I can try out eMachineShop’s CAD software

January 14, 2007

January 13, 2007


Got up early, picked up Thomas and Eric S., drove up to Crystal, met Kevin, Leah, Eric L., and Erin, and spent the day sliding down fairly good snow. Not exactly fresh powder, but it was nice and crunchy, and no ice. This was my first trip of the season; it took a couple of runs to remember how everything works, but by midday I felt like I had my groove back. In fact, we did a couple of black diamond runs, and while I was thoroughly beat by the end of the second I also felt I was making progress. Shorter skis would help, I think (as Barry has been telling me since last year); my Völkl 191s are plenty fast, but the speed is actually a hindrance on the really steep slopes, and the extra length is harder work to turn. Also, I need to find some way to strengthen my quadriceps muscles.

Very cold today. I kept my hood/mask on all day, and could have used an extra fleece layer on top.

Talked to Eric S. a bit about my laser range tracker idea. He suggested making it helmet-mounted, instead of chest-mounted, so you can point it wherever you are looking. I had discarded this idea in an attempt to keep the laser below eye level, but apparently it’s less of a problem when you are using a diverging lens like this project will. It would have been great to have one of these gadgets today; plenty of foggy near-whiteout patches.

La Bête’s left headlight died on the way home. Not much fun winding down dark mountain roads that way. Oh well – it’ll be easy to fix.

January 12, 2007

Jenny Temple’s birthday party

January 11, 2007

January 10, 2007

Photos from Morocco

I have uploaded a gallery of photos from my trip to Morocco. It was as strange and surprising an adventure as I’d hoped it might be; I don’t know how much of that comes across in photos, but at least you can see what I was up to while I was gone.

I love Seattle weather

La Bête is in the shop today, getting a new set of tires. To nobody’s surprise, it turns out that Range Rovers come with an oddball tire size which costs a fortune and has to be brought in by special order. Much as I love this car’s idiosyncratic design, there are limits, and shiny new tires in a week or two do no good when I want to go skiing now. The solution is clear: I have to get bigger tires, in some standard American size. Naturally.

No, I promise, I’m not going to turn the Rover into a monster truck.

January 9, 2007

January 7, 2007

Make has a link to an article about what to look for in a microcontroller. Microcontrollers, just a few years ago, seemed exotic and high-tech; now they are so cheap, and so powerful, that plain old analog circuitry hardly seems to make sense. Why tinker with dozens of discrete components when you can just wire your peripherals onto what is effectively a single-chip computer and then throw a bunch of software at the problem? Ahh, what a world.

January 6, 2007

January 5, 2007

I felt like making music tonight, which is a clear sign that I’m almost done with this cold. (Another day of rest, I think, should put me past it.) I went straight for the drum machines and started working on some new loops. Starting with a couple of built-in patterns, I changed the drum sounds, laid in a straight-up 4/4 beat, tweaked the fills, shifted the parts around… and when I took off the headphones to give my ears a break, an hour and a half had passed. I’m not very good at this yet, but I can hear pieces of the sound I’m looking for start to come through.

January 4, 2007

It’s good to be home

I’m sipping tea, writing code, and listening to the Decemberists. Outside, in the late-afternoon half light, an unpretentious rain is steadily going about its work.

I took a little walk late last night and marvelled at the way a warm room waiting at home changes the feeling of cold air.

January 3, 2007

Hello again. I’m back home after a trip to Morocco, Christmas with family in California, skiing with siblings in Lake Tahoe, and a mellow New Year’s get-together with a dozen friends out on Whidbey Island. Life is good. I had a great time travelling, my sister and I are better friends than ever, and I spent just long enough away to completely forget what I was doing when I left, and to feel excited about digging back into it now that I’ve returned.

I’ve settled easily back into home and work. All the cold and exhaustion last month has taken its toll on my health, though, and I’m going to take it easy for another couple of days while I kick this cold. I haven’t really unpacked yet, and still have lots of laundry to do, but home feels like home, and my new Moroccan rug looks great in the living room.

It felt great to turn my music system back on and get a simple beat loop going. I haven’t felt quite well enough to start writing any real music yet, but I have a Plan, and a Schedule, and am hoping to make some real progress over the next few months.

The new year seemed as good an excuse as any to redesign my web site. I’ve wanted to update the Red Echo style and color scheme for months. The new look is perhaps a bit less brash than the old one, but I think it’s warmer and more comfortable to read. I’ve also given up, after just over three years, on hand-maintaining my HTML pages. It was so much fun seeing people leave comments while I was on the road that I’ve decided to start using a normal blog engine with a comment system (namely WordPress). This will also make life easier for the surprisingly numerous people who use RSS instead of visiting sites directly.