Reason and understanding are the arms of our souls

Sailboats and Plans

One of the things I’ve always loved doing is being on the water. I like floating in tubes down rivers, kayaking rapids, motoring around creeks, and sailing across bays (quick side note: I should probably learn how to swim better than I can… I mostly sink). I, recently, reached a milestone of my life, the first of two great days in a life: I bought a boat. She’s a Universal Marine Montego 25 sailboat, and she will be the boat that prepares my family for our next big life change (announcement pending).

She needs some reupholstering, a little bit of elbow grease, and some electrical tape; as she is, however, she sails, she floats, and she can keep the water out. Perfect boat to start on, in my opinion. I’m looking forward to showing my wife, and kids, the ropes of a sailboat.

In a season or two, I’m sure we’ll want to upgrade to a bigger cruiser (especially with 3 kids), but for now. I think she’ll do just fine.

I’m hoping to go through and blog the whole process of cleaning her up with pictures and videos.

Homebrewed Pants

Released for your viewing and sewing pleasure under CC-BY-NC-SA license (see the licensing page in the link bar): Flat front pants! In case you were wondering from my last post the pants were a great success!

The legs are drafted tight, I’ll re-draft one in the coming days with more leg allowance. You’ll need Valentina to read it/print it!


Flat Front Pants (Right click and “Save as…”, Valentina patterns are stored as a special Schema XML document… So your web browser will open it as a bunch of text)

Sewing machines, Patterns, and The Beginnings of Wearables

It’s no secret that I really love working on things that are practical and can be worn. The Directional Hearing Aid is an indicator of that (No, I haven’t forgotten, but projects and the world got in the way. There have been new jobs in the family, long-distance moves, and other insanities). One of the big things I’ve considered is making tech that can be worn in the form of fun clothes; there has only ever been one big factor preventing me from breaking into this world: I had absolutely NO idea how to make real clothes, other than a couple costumes in my past, I’d never really worked from solid patterns. I had definitely never drafted a pattern before.

I decided it was time to get started on this endeavor, and make some clothes. This brought forth another challenge: speed.

Recently, I had made some costume pieces for a LARP (don’t start) that I play in. These were hand stitched and took a fair bit of time to make. If I wanted to make anything practical I was going to need a sewing machine. I started asking around to family members for machines I could use, or machines I could take. I used my Grandmother’s for a piece, and that helped me get my bearings with machines again (I used one in the past to make the aforementioned costumes). It worked out, but driving to her house every time I had a small piece to stitch would be cumbersome by way of time. Luckily, my dad had an old (late 1950s, early 1960s) Kenmore 158 in the basement. It was as good as mine!

To say it needed work isn’t necessarily an understatement, but I don’t think it really captures the essence of the tedium required. This machine hadn’t run in at least 20 years. The motor needed to be cleaned out, all of the pieces needed oiling, some parts needed replacing, a couple of the pieces needed rust removed, and the timing got all sorts of messed up in the number of moves the machine had seen. Ultimately though, after about 2-3 hours of work, I had the machine purring like a very loud, industrial kitten.

I finally got to my first project: A child’s bathrobe. I went out and got a pattern, bought some plush fleece fabric, and learned that a bathrobe may not have been the best place to start. I got both bathrobes made, mind you (for my, currently, 2 kids),  but the first one took much longer than it should have. Cutting out the pattern was clumsy (I probably should have thought to pin the pattern down early on instead of halfway through), and I had to stick to the stitching instructions to the T. Putting flat pieces of fabric together to make a garment was much more complicated than I thought it would be. Woodworking, sculpture; both of those activities have some sort of rhyme and reason to how the flat pieces make a 3-dimensional object. I’m still not entirely sure I didn’t sell my soul to get these bathrobes made. Ultimately, the first bathrobe took about 3-3.5 hours. The second one, took 45-65 minutes. I had to get used to the machine, get used to the mindset of putting pattern pieces together, get comfortable with my abilities enough to move at a reasonable speed, and I had to realize that it was OK to make mistakes (If only woodworkers or metalworkers had something as simple as the seam ripper to undo and re-do mistakes).

Once I got that down, I took on a bigger project: a pair of pajama pants for my wife. This was the project where I learned that you should never trust the sizing diagrams on patterns. These pants are HUGE, they were supposed to be a large. Although they turned out well, and required only minor alteration to fit together well, I should have thought to measure and alter before making the pants. This is when I thought that if I was going to be making clothes and costumes, with or without tech embedded, I was going to need to learn how to take all of these measurements and make patterns.

Enter Valentina. I found a FLOSS pattern drafting application that I used to make a flat-front pants pattern with exterior pocket for my sons. The application makes everything super easy. Lines are made with equations based on measurements, so the same pattern can be applied to anyone you have the measurements for. It was a godsend. Trying to draft graded patterns by hand did not look, nor was it, particularly fun to do. Using Valentina, everything made sense (with a CAD background), and everything worked perfectly.

Today I’m making the pants. I’ll post an update with how things go once I get that done. When it all works out, I’ll share the pattern and measurements file too.

Anyway, expect more from me in the coming year. I’ve got light up models, I’ve got costumes, I’ve got wearables, and I’ve got a hearing aid completion planned for 2017. Hopefully, I can actually remember to get it all blogged out.

Using Haptics for Directional Hearing Part 5a: Results!

After a little bit of modification to both the circuit and the code, I HAVE RESULTS! This set up has the motor in the diagram responding to sounds. I think a little bit of calibration in the script will make it work spectacularly. I am officially at the tinkering step. I will give updates on the calibration as it goes on.

Here is the working diagram:

Microphone Test: SUCCESSFUL!

Microphone Test: SUCCESSFUL!

Here is the working code:

On second thought… Maybe I will make an adjustable calibrator for different situations…

Using Haptics for Directional Hearing Part 5: Test Set Up and Code

So, once I made the decision to move to digital I had to re-work my plan from analog to Digital. To this end I have reconfigured the circuit to use an Arduino Uno. First I am going to perform a simple microphone test to ensure that an LED will vary in brightness based on the input of a microphone. This will allow me to approximate what changes I will see from the vibration motor when I reach that stage of testing.

Here is the Fritzing diagram of the test set up.

Fritzing Diagram of Hearing Aid

The circuit: Fritz’d for your viewing pleasure.

So, a brief overview: the microphone has a 1K ohm pull up resistor and an input line to Analog pin 0. The code will then take this value and modulate it with PWM to the output of Pin 5 which will provide power to an LED via a 1K ohm resistor. For reference, the code is below:

Ideally, if set up correctly, the LED will vary in brightness based on the level of the sound the microphone picks up. I will be testing this over the next day or so; hopefully I will have some good news.

If you have any questions or ideas, leave them in the comments below.

Using Haptics for Directional Hearing part 4: Analog to Digital

After much confusion and fighting with the Analog circuit I had proposed before I, after discussion with a colleague, decided to move to a digital representation. So, now, my goal is to use an Arduino to do the circuit control. I’m currently working on a test script and fritzing diagrams to make this work better. I’ll have updates within the next couple of days, and we will see how things are going.

Hopefully, we will have a working prototype.

Pokemon Go: A Cultural Revolution

Pokemon Go has been an amazing cultural revolution. In a span of less than a week people have started moving around more, socializing, getting outside, and it has even been revitalizing smaller down towns.

Police departments across the country are encouraging safe play, and giving advice to players to make sure everything works out well. It truly is an amazing thing! My only piece of advice for anyone who wants to get out, make friends, exercise with a purpose, and have a great time doing all of that is to make sure you keep an eye and ear out for your surroundings. It doesn’t take a Pokemon Professor to know that you shouldn’t Pokemon Go and Drive, and that you should make sure you know where you are and your surroundings. If you’re unable to do that, make sure you put your phone down when you’re moving (walking, driving, biking, etc.) and just catch ’em all at stops with some Lure Modules.

Now, go join a social and health (and gaming) revolution! You’ll be glad you did.


I have heard a lot of flak given to those who say “All Lives Matter”. With analogies to fixing a broken bone before the skeletal system and feeding the least fed person at the table, which are both efforts that need solving; yet it must also be said that you don’t fix one bone by breaking others, nor do you feed one person by starving another. Both of these problems are solved by fixing the system in which the break or the starvation occurred.
I’ve heard the response that those who feel that “All Lives Matter” should respond to why they do not believe that we should have Universal Healthcare, or find a resolution to the homeless problem in our country. These are good questions for someone who would appear to believe in an egalitarian world. However, there are people claiming that “All lives matter” who are countering racism with supremacy; but this is not the way to handle the problem.
I find that there are a good number of people who believe strongly that we need Universal Healthcare, and homes and food for all. We need a society that no matter the color of your skin, your creed, your sexuality, or your appearance, nor anything for that matter, should diminish one’s right to exist, peacefully, and live in a compassionate way. All people, and I do mean ALL people, should be free to pursue a happy and prosperous existence, free from discrimination, free from prejudice, and, most of all, measured on their merits.
Each person, from birth, has the same potential to succeed, and each person should be given the tools and conditions to make that potential a reality. Different situations yield different successes; some people will be farmers and presidents, others will be engineers and groundskeepers. What we need to realize as a people is that all jobs, no matter their responsibility, are important and have their place.
We have an amazing world full of amazing people all with amazing potential, yet it seems like all we can do is shoot at each other and spread a message of hate and intolerance. No one should be shooting anyone; no one should hate anyone. We should fight to make this world what we want it to be, to make this world a paragon of equality and loving-kindness, not turn it into something worse than it already is.
Maybe a better way is to believe that all of our lives are important. We are all in need of understanding and kindness. We are all very capable of giving understanding and kindness. Perhaps this is how we should move forward into the world. With peace, and with compassion.

Game Design – Scrimmage, a Tactical Soccer Game

While waiting for a chance to get out to a lab to test some circuitry (tomorrow) for the directional hearing aid, I decided to act on a thought I have had floating around for a week or two now. I wrote up and drafted some crude graphics for a fun (I think) hex-based tactical football soccer game.

It is available here to print and play. Give some feedback on this post if you play it, I would like to know what people think. (No, that is not me, or anyone I know, in the picture on the cover).

Using Haptics for Directional Hearing Part 3 – Testing and Setbacks

Sometimes when we have a design that works really well in theory, and then we test it in simulation and it works really well, we decide to take the next step and make one in practice. That is when things tend to go terribly wrong.

I got all of the parts for the Binaural Hearing Assistance Device (B-HAD) today. I was very excited and, after a quick run to the grocery store, set to work on testing the circuit on a bread board. Well, it did not go as planned. After connecting all of the pieces, and finally connecting it to power, I was happy to see the motor buzzing intermittently.

I soon learned it was intermittent because it was shaking its own connection to the breadboard loose…

So after securing that, and it buzzed constantly. I felt like that could not be right, so I started troubleshooting.

I removed the microphone. Still buzzing…

Removed everything but the power leads to the op-amp. Still buzzing…

I do not exactly know what happened, but I feel like that is not what should have gone down. I have sent an email to a gentleman I know much smarter than I in these matters and I am hoping for some feedback to make some real progress. Please, if you have any ideas on what is going on with this circuit, let me know in the comments below.

I will let you all know how that turns out.